Sunday, November 30, 2008

And Larry Summers as ..."Treasury Secretary"...actually head of National Economic Council

The man who said that Africa was "Under polluted", who implemented neoliberal shock therapy for Russia. Mark Ames reports in the excellent "Larry Summers: a suicidal choice"article in "The eXile" that Summers was put in charge of Lithuania's transition from socialism to capitalism and that within that time period the suicide rate of the country doubled and the Communists were reelected, kicking Summers and company out of the country. I didn't know that it was Summers himself who oversaw Russia's dismemberment and the selling of its industries to the highest bidder....which lead to economic collapse and the average lifespan of male Russians fall more than that of any industrialized country in the post-World War II era.

I remember when the "Under Polluted" memo came out. The argument that Summers and a partner advanced was that because Africa wasn't as polluted yet as Asia or North America it could use the lure of unregulated pollution to get business to invest there. This would lead to economic development and a raise in the standard of living. I think they specifically mentioned dumps for first world toxins as one of the potential growth industries.

This is the man that Obama is appointing Secretary of the Treasury. The Secretary of the Treasury is the most important appointed economic figure next to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. There are other advisory bodies and teams, like the team Obama has tapped Paul Volcker, destroyer of the early '80s U.S. economy, to head, but the Secretary of the Treasury has executive power.

Change we can't believe Obama is initiating

*on edit: looks like Summers is heading the National Economic Council.

"Seattle WTO Shutdown 9 Year Anniversary: 5 Lessons for Today"

By David Solnit. The article is so good that I wish I could permanently post it on the website. Here are some highlights:

"We can't afford to just fight the numerous symptoms of the system or organize around single issues. We need to constantly articulate the systemic root causes of of those symptoms. The WTO and corporate globalization provided a clear anti-systemic framework for a movement of movements around the world to converge, take action and understand ourselves as a global counter-power standing up to global corporate capitalism.

The 100,000 color postcards and broadsheets that invited people to "Come to Seattle" each read: "Increasing poverty and cuts in social services while the rich get richer; low wages, sweatshops, meaningless jobs, and more prisons; deforestation, gridlocked cities and global warming; genetic engineering, gentrification and war: Despite the apparent diversity of these social and ecological troubles, their roots are the same-a global economic system based on the exploitation of people and the planet. A new world is possible and a global movement of resistance is rising to make it happen. Imagine replacing the existing social order with a just, free and ecological order based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation.""

...

" * Mass Organization and Mass Training: hundreds were directly involved in coordination and making decisions, and thousands participated in trainings to prepare. * Widely Publicized: Both movement folks and the public knew what we had planned, when and where, allowing for thousands to join. * Decentralization: Everyone involved in organizing understood the strategy, groups were self-organized and self-reliant, and the action allowed for a wide range of groups to take action in their own way.

As movements, can we develop strategy frameworks for our region, nationally or internationally, not just for one day but over time?

Most who shut down the WTO in Seattle were involved in local groups and campaigns, but some who only participated in big actions and mobilizations and saw that as the movement were lost when mobilizations became less frequent or movements switched to other tactics. Organizing for one-time actions or mobilizations or repeating our favorite or most familiar tactic (marches, conferences, direct action, educational events, etc) without ongoing campaigns that have clear long-term goals as well as short term, winnable, along-the-way-milestone goals can lead to burnout and does not build long-term movements to make change."

Fuck yeah...

Friday, November 28, 2008

People blockaded by occupying force fire missiles at their occupyers

Of course the people in question are those of Gaza, and the occupiers are the Israelis, so the normal rules don't apply. If this was any other conflict there would be sympathy for those folks who have decided to strike back at the people who are destroying their lives. Instead, the missile attacks in response to long term Israeli destruction of both Gaza's economy and Gazan society in general are perversely seen as reasons for said destruction to take place.

If this wasn't Gaza and Israel, Hamas, which was democratically elected by the Palestinians, would b seen as a legitimate force and not as something by definition illegitimate because it has used, and uses, force against the Israeli state in opposition to what it does to them.

*on edit: it's interesting how whether the U.S. and Israel recognize the democratic decisions of Palestinians depends on how the decisions the Palestinians make relate....to Israel. Which makes the idea of there being good faith on the part of Israel to increasing Palestinian sovereignty a joke. It's going to be hard to organize a new credible round of peace talks with only the defeated Fatah faction being recognized as a negotiator for the Palestinians.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nine years ago this Thanksgiving I was having dinner in Indianapolis

With friends who I knew from my school in Michigan. I had just gotten back from the SOA protest, and the WTO protests had just come to an end. I was going to a historic peace college in the general area. It turned out to be my last holiday in the Midwest for a long time. About half a month later I left to live in Florida, taking the zeitgeist and energy of the WTO protests that were now recognized for just how major they were and how much they actually accomplished, with me. And now Obama has picked Paul Volcker, damnit.....Sorry about that, just had to say it one more time. It's not an exaggeration to say that much, if not all, of the stuff I've done in the past nine years has been inspired by the spirit of the WTO protests. It literally changed my life in a profound, profound, way, even though I wasn't there personally. These nine years have been focussed on economic and social justice, politics in general, and on the Iraq war and the Bush administration in particular. It's been a never ending series of protests, and reading. Or at least it's seemed like never ending protests, with the overwhelming majority being local things. But I did march against the Iraq war before it started in Washington D.C., right in front of the White House, and I did manage to earn my "anti-globalization stripes" if you want to call it that by being at the Miami FTAA protest. Also a smaller one in Chicago.

Things may be changing, they may possibly be plateauing, but the late Clinton on to Bush the second era may in fact be over, meaning that after nine years from WTO, eight years from election 2000, and seven years from 9/11, the quantity of the chaos and dissent may have caused a qualitative change in the political landscape of the United States. And unlike quantitative changes, like poll numbers going up or down, changes in quality, like a substantial liberal realignment because of the sheer fucked upedness of the Bush administration, are harder to reverse.

Replaced "Reality Studio" Burroughs link with the DMOZ Burroughs directory link

My Burroughs link was originally DMOZ to begin with but I changed it for some reason. Anyways, Reality Studio is a site that kisses ass and offers fawning commentary, not just the facts. They would suck off Burrough's cock like it was made out of gold if he was still alive because he was a famous beatnik. So, it's back to DMOZ, which is just a directory.

Lost Highway, meet Unknown Highway

It had to happen sooner or later. Unknown Highway is a news aggregator site about fringe and weird stuff happening, partially with user driven content. "A strange journey into the offbeat, fringe, reaches of the internet". I'm going to add them to my non-political links side bar.

Now I have to get back to reading "Problems of Leninism" by Joseph Stalin....

The annual Thanksgiving Day Prayer by William S. Burroughs

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Art: blue black print of a woman

Copper print of blue nude woman

This one was very satisfying. It's a copper etching print that started life as a charcoal drawing done from a model, that was then transferred to a plate using various processes before finally being aquatinted, with black and blue ink then applied in a certain way to give it it's color.

Fuck you Obama you goddamn sellout: Obama chooses Volcker as economic advisor

I've tried to keep my head down because of the stunning victory of Obama in the elections, tried to look on the bright side and hope that the promises would be kept and that an actual Progressive administration could be in the offing, but this goes too far.
According to MarketWatch (title link), Obama has appointed Paul Volcker to head the team researching how to deal with the current economic crisis. Who is Paul Volcker? Well Paul Volcker was quite simply the man who implemented Reaganomics. He was appointed by Carter but gained fame during the Reagan administration as the guy who administered neoliberal shock therapy to the U.S. economy, exacerbating a recession already in progress and setting the ideological stage for the destruction of the U.S. social safety net from an economic point of view.

Paul Volcker is our domestic Milton Friedman, our pro-globalization, pro-free market, fundamentalist economic policy leader, and now he's been appointed by Obama as the head of Obama's research group dealing how to address the crisis. Even Bush said that he wasn't a market fundamentalist anymore, but Obama seems to not have gotten that memo.

This is a stunning betrayal, and an unfortunate confirmation of some of the anti-Obama criticism and rhetoric that I leveled at him during the drama ensuing around the Noam Chomsky quote.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pedophiles beware: Thailand protesters occupy airport

You'll have to wait a few days to have your fun. Actually a very significant pro-democracy demonstration in Thailand.

Thailand: not just providing sex for the first world anymore.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chinese Democracy by Guns and Roses---because, like, it sounds cool

And because singer Axel Rose wants to stand up for Freedom and the American Way against vile Chi-Com tyranny. What a fucking white trash loser.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Leibniz "Dialogue on Human Freedom and the Origin of Evil"

It's a really good and interesting piece that can be found in the Hackett "G,W. Leibniz: Philosophical Essays". The crux of the argument about evil is that what appears chaotic or destructive, or evil, may actually be a necessary part of the greater universe so that if God eliminated the option of destruction and doing bad things he would have sacrificed options for good that exist because of the imperfections of evil. The comparison he draws is between rational and irrational numbers, specifically between regular numbers and the square root of two. The square root of two doesn't fit into any normal fraction and so is an irrational number, but because the square root of two is possible, is present, it's possible to construct a variety of geometrical figures that wouldn't be able to exist if the square root of two wasn't there.

The basis of evil, the basic imperfection leading to it, then, could be seen as a side effect in nature of a process that ultimately leads to a bigger variety of positive goods than would possible if that process was altered to eliminate evil.

Chaos and destruction then appear as a greater part of the cosmic drama that everyone on earth participates in. Necessary imperfections for people who themselves are imperfect.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hillary Clinton Secretary of State...No no no no no, fucking god damn, no

Hillary Clinton should stay as far away from power as possible, she should fade into the background....

Iraqi government proposes plan for U.S. troop withdrawal with a good likelihood of passing!

From Here:

(by Leila Fadel)

"If Iraq's parliament endorses the agreement, in six weeks American forces would have to change the way they operate in Iraq, and all U.S. combat troops, police trainers and military advisers would have to leave the country by Dec. 31, 2011. President-elect Barack Obama's campaign plan to leave a residual force of some 30,000 American troops in Iraq would be impossible under the pact.

Unless the agreement is amended, which would require the formal written approval of both sides, in three years there no longer would be any legal basis for U.S. armed forces or civilian contractors of the Department of Defense to remain in Iraq.

If Iraq wants American forces to leave earlier, it could terminate the agreement with one year's notice. The United States has the option to do the same.

The American military now can come and go as it pleases in Iraq. It raids homes without judicial approval, controls Iraq's airspace, detains civilians without warrants for as long as it wants and conducts unilateral operations against high-value targets, including a recent cross-border attack on an al Qaida in Iraq member in Syria that was condemned by Iraq, the Arab League and Syria."

11/20---exactly two months before the fucker is out of office

Thank god for that. Tomorrow it will be less than two months. Just writing that, just being able to say truthfully that in under two months Bush will be gone gives me satisfaction.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Random funniness--"Lonesome L.A. Cowboy" by the New Rider of the Purple Sage

"I'm just a lonesome L.A. cowboy
Hanging out, and hanging on
To your window ledge, callin' your name
From midnight until dawn
I been smoking dope, snorting coke
Trying to write a song
Forgettin' everything I know
Till the next line comes along
Forgetting everything I know
Till the next line comes along

So many pretty people in this city, and I swear
Some of them are girls
I meet 'em down at Barney's Beanery
In their platform shoes and spit curls
I buy 'em drinks, we stoke our hopes
And try to make it one more night
When I'm left alone at last
I feel like I'll die from fright

[chorus]

I know Kris and Rita and Marty Mull (note 1)
Are meeting at the Troubadour
We'll get it on with the "Joy Of Cooking"
While the crowd calls out for more
Around six o'clock this morning
I'll be gettin' kind of slow
When all the shows are over, honey, tell me
Where do you think I go?

[chorus]

Till the next line comes along"

From "The Adventures of Panama Red"

Fun fact: I had the CD case of "Adventures of Panama Red" in my car when it was searched on the Mexico-Texas border, contributing to much merriment and mirth. Ho ho ho, songs like "Important' Exportin' Man" are never suspicious to border patrol!

Does class culture disappear under Socialism?

Or does it persist? I'm defining Socialism as a state where the workers' assume power over society and obtain ownership of the means of production. Marx once said that the first act of the working class upon winning would be to abolish itself, because it would be liberated, but I don't agree with that. I think the situation is more complex. You can't just ask a class to abolish itself, and there are reasons why a workers' culture would be necessary for a socialist society.

The great accomplishment of early capitalism was emancipating people from the kind of rural medievalism that they had been living under. This was forcefully done through both revolution and economic compulsion, some of which was extremely severe. The working class is generated from the bourgeois class in that people coming in from the country are hired by capitalists and are set to work at working class jobs. The capitalist facilitates their transformation into workers. Because the working class is generated as a side product of the bourgeois class it shares some of its characteristics, specifically the independence from tradition that it has established. Now, the question of ideology and thus of culture comes in because in their opposition to tradition the bourgeois class developed its own ideology explaining its origins and justifying its power in society as a class. Read about the Enlightenment and Adam Smith for details on this. Some workers end up sharing the bourgeois ideology of their superiors, seeing themselves not so much as Workers with a big 'W' as co-capitalists, after the same thing as their bosses. But other workers absorb the liberation without buying into the ideology, and these folks are the ones who would be ideal for a future society.

In this case, what makes working class culture important and a good replacement for bourgeois culture is its freedom, the idea that work is work but that when it comes down to it the bosses and the company don't control you. You have your own life, which may not fit the bill when it comes to polite society but it's your own. There's a freedom in owning your work without having to submit to ideological tests that is hard to find comparisons to. It's this intermediate idea, neither rural nor bourgeois, that gives working class culture its unique strength in this regard. It's history is not yet totally written, while that of bourgeois culture is full and on its way out.

Workers' assuming power in the United States or elsewhere would enable people to self determine themselves without reference to the past, taking elements from here and there, from middle class culture and from upper class culture, that look useful and leaving the rest behind. Because a socialist society would be more collective, the working class culture in the future would no doubt reflect that as well.

*on edit: There are two point that I should clarify, one being the relationship of working class culture under socialism to bourgeois and upper class culture, the other being the relationship between economic power and cultural ideology. The second one is easier to tackle.

Basically, I believe that although economics creates the basic culture that a person grows up with and experiences that there are large variations within that culture, so that automatic identification of a person possessing economic power with a corresponding fervor of that classes' ideology isn't automatically valid. There are working people who identify heavily with the ideology of capitalism and there are people who are in power whose class interest is more flexible than one would think. This is important because a Cultural Revolution, where socialist and working class culture would start to predominate in society would have to recognize this fact in order to be just. The Chinese Cultural Revolution penalized people who were from backgrounds other than pure worker or farmer who had in fact adapted themselves to revolutionary Chinese society, causing pain to people who would otherwise have been allies. This on top of using the Cultural Revolution to settle scores with political figures under the banner of them being 'secret capitalists'.

The other point is basically that a working class socialist culture worth its salt would not blanketly dismiss the entire products of bourgeois and upper class culture from throughout history but would instead take from them. I think that it's not education itself, which usually introduces people to these things in our society, but the form that education takes here that's the problem. In society today, at least in the U.S. but probably in many other places as well, access to high culture or to the products of bourgeois culture like literature and certain types of art is gotten through selling out to bourgeois culture. Workers who want to get the education that would allow them to approach these things more easily face having to give up their cultural identity and instead adopting the identity of whoever is teaching them. This does not have to be the case; and hopefully it won't be the case in the future----or in reading circles that can be started now. Denying that there are products of bourgeois society that are interesting and that people can benefit from, or saying that being exposed to them makes one a sell out, is a type of class chauvinism related to nationalism and something that's easily exploited by demagogues for their own purposes.
Works may be reinterpreted, but cutting ones' self off from all of history and declaring that it's cultural year zero, and attempting to start again, is not productive.

In both cases reality and the complexities of reality trump pure superficial ideology.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New housing developments, general new housing construction, at the lowest in 60 years

Yay! It seems that human stupidity is paying off for mother nature.

We need federal oversight of the auto industry

In exchange for helping it out. Some sort of restructuring is needed. We're bailing it out pretty regularly now, and not putting conditions on giving them money will guarantee that they'll be coming back again. They are in fact too big to fail but they've used that fact to justify repeated bailouts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nearly nine years after the WTO the world economic powers cave in on neoliberalism

Humbled US agrees to share world's financial top billing, from Australia via Rawstory:

"Under the plans outlined by the leaders, countries such as China, Brazil and India will gain greater roles and responsibilities in a restructuring of the international financial system, while European leaders won a commitment to new regulations and controls on banks, rating agencies and exotic financial securities.

The leaders also agreed that a dramatic failure of market checks in "some advanced countries" was among the root causes of the financial crisis, an implicit rebuke of the US.

....

The leaders agreed to set up a new regulatory body, "a college of supervisors", to examine the books of major financial institutions that operate across national borders, so regulators could begin to have a more complete picture of banks' operations. They demanded greater scrutiny of hedge funds and the completion of a clearing house system to help standardise and limit risk on some of the opaque financial derivatives that helped bring down Wall Street's investment banks.

Leaders also agreed to submit their countries' financial systems to regular, vigorous reviews by the International Monetary Fund — assessments that some countries, including the US, had long resisted. And they urged new constraints on pay schemes at financial companies that "reward excessive short-term returns or risk-taking"."

Victoria...

North Korea under Songun resembles Fascism more than Stalinism

As if Stalinism itself wasn't bad enough. Here is a PDF speech by Kim Jong-Il, the bad baddy bad guy, explaining the Songun idea. What is Songun? The work explains it as two fold: first, that the military has superseded the working class as the vanguard of North Korean politics, and secondly, that this change has been necessary in order to bring about a cultural and ideological change in North Korea in order to make it a more fully socialist country. Songun in the document means in practice that all of North Korean society is organized along the model of the People's Army, with military values and ethics rewriting North Korean culture. This is a clear echo of the military worship of Fascist regimes and movements throughout Europe, particularly that of the Romanian fascist Corneliu Codreanu, who said that the new man would be forged from the type of military discipline and culture that were present in World War I's army. Italian Fascism and Nazism also preached about the new man, who had military discipline and martial values, with both Fascist street fighters in Italy and the SS as a whole in Germany declared to consist of representative people of the new order. Extreme nationalism, which is obviously a bourgeois concept, goes hand in hand with military discipline in the document by Kim Jong-Il, or whoever wrote it for him.

In regards to Socialism and how the Songun idea fits into Socialism it's comparable with the use of the secret police, the Stasi, of East Germany in the country's early days to forcibly collectivize agriculture, the idea being that the political police were a disciplined and loyal revolutionary force. Another way of saying it would be that Songun is like what would happen if the KGB was designated as the motive force of socialist revolution. The military is loyal to the Party and so is the Party's way of effecting this cultural revolution (which isn't labeled as a Cultural Revolution because North Korea doesn't want to be officially allied with Maoism). The change to Songun happened several years after Kim Il-Sung's death, interestingly enough.

While North Korea might have been a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship under the elder Kim, under Kim Jong-Il it appears to have mutated towards a form resembling Niyazov "Turkmenbashi''s Turkmenistan, a dictatorial form of government that goes towards combining nationalist celebration of the country's culture with socialist traditions that existed before the fall of the Soviet Union. North Korea differs from Turkmenistan and other post-Soviet Central Asian states in that it still declares itself to be Socialist and hasn't officially rehabilitated some sort of mystical religion as official culture, although informally this influence is clearly present in North Korean propaganda.

(Here is a link to North Korea's official English Language propaganda organ on the web)

Ah, almost time for Christmas

Sort of. Actually not really. But with Christmas comes the tune from Russia called "Send them crack", which has this immortal verse in the lyrics:

"But say a prayer, pray for Americans
At Christmas time, they're fat and they're buying guns"

Made by the people at The eXile. Full lyrics when X-mas time approaches.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The current People magazine cover is a welcome sight

Unfortunately they haven't it up on the web. The picture is of Obama, his wife, and their three kids, with the caption "America's First Family".

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Great Satan has fallen

Because Obama was elected Ahmadinejad, Kim, and bin Laden will find it harder to justify their policies to their respective constituencies. Bush was the best friend that hardliners in countries that were authoritarian and anti-U.S. could hope for. Iran was on the way to peaceful reform and normalization under Khatami when the specter of annihilation by the U.S. caused the Iranian people to back Ahmadinejad. Kim Jong-Il was facing the total collapse of his country before the idea of North Korea being part of the Axis of Evil provided a convenient propaganda distraction from reality. Bin Laden profits from the Iraq War, he profits from the Afghanistan invasion where wedding parties are regularly bombed by U.S. forces, he profits by anti-Muslim rhetoric originating the United States. Someone more reasonable in charge undermines his thesis that the United States is a permanent decadent force in the world that can only be countered by Islamic values in predominately Muslim societies.

Everything that the hardline Bush supporters thought projected an image of American strength and commitment to democracy across the globe actually projected the opposite: a swaggering, ignorant, arrogant, bigoted, stupid, violent U.S. that probably was a threat to countries across the globe because of its qualities. Picture the Ugly American amplified and imposed on the world, piggish and venal small minded idiots determined to rewrite world politics.

Now all of that has been undermined somewhat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Iran has developed missiles capable of hitting Europe

So says an informative news bar. To that I'd say why not let the Europeans judge if that's a threat to them or not and let them counter it or engage diplomatically with Iran if they feel it's appropriate. We're not our brother's keeper and any interest we would show in 'protecting europe' would probably in reality be the kind of 'protection' that small business owners pay to the mob.

I hope that in an Obama administration we wouldn't use the ruse of 'friendship' to advance our own foreign policy interests regarding Iran.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stalin not just a totalitarian but an actual fascist?

The idea was raised by Mikhail Agursky in his book "The Third Rome: National Bolshevism in the USSR", which is way, way, out of print. Lately, I've seen surprising confirmation of it in the movie "I worked for Stalin, made in the Soviet Union in '90. The thesis that Agursky outlines is that there was a very potent strain of right wing populism that existed in Russia before during and after the Revolution, and that eventually some of its disciples looked for a middle ground with the new Soviet government. These folks were the original self declared "National Bolsheviks". They thought that anti-liberal strains as well as undemocratic decision making were positive features and didn't mind socialism so much as they were present. Most of the ideologues, however, were in exile because of siding with the Whites during the Revolution, with Ustrialov, the head of them, living south of the eastern border in Harbin China. Yet in the '30s Stalin authorized an article to be printed that praised the National Bolsheviks for coming around to the socialist cause. Agursky speculates that because it was a controversial act during a dictatorship there must have been something behind it and that that something may have been a planned rehabilitation of National Bolshevism within the Soviet Union.

"I Worked for Stalin" features extensive interviews with Andrei Malenkov, son of Georgy Malenkov, very close Stalin collaborator and brief head of the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. Andrei Malenkov states that Stalin trusted Malenkov because he came from an aristocratic family, and then stated that Stalin believed in the Imperial idea, and that everyone would be equal in an empire. Malenkov's son stated that that's why Stalin saw someone with an aristocratic background as an ally.

If that were true it would be really striking. It would give new meaning to the term "Red Tsar", because that's the role that Stalin would be literally picturing himself as occupying.

Idaho students chant "assasinate Obama" on school bus

(title link). I didn't want to say anything that would make me come off as being a naysayer in the days after the election, but I noticed something very strange the day after. Seattle, despite being in the Northwest, is a racially diverse town where there are actual black folks. They're upbeat now, but the day after were anything but. I was expecting celebrations and people virtually gushing with happiness, but instead the emotion I observed was fear. It didn't make sense to me until I figured out that what they were afraid of was a backlash by white people against them in the wake of an Obama victory. Not being black and experiencing life as a black person, this wasn't something I'd have thought about normally. Things are pretty much normal here in Seattle, but that doesn't seem to be the case everywhere. Then again, there was the homeless guy in the supermarket last night who shouted that the manager "must be a monkey" because "only a monkey would deny a beer to a white man".

In Idaho, in a town hosting Brigham Young University-Idaho, it was elementary school kids who were chanting "Assasinate Obama" on the bus, leading a parent to wonder where these kids had gotten the chant from.

There likely will be a backlash; one already seems to be brewing; but Obama won the popular vote by over 6%--52.7% to 46% with 1.3% going to independent candidates, according to the Baltimore Sun and the AP, and these cro magnons can't depend on the image of them as the silent majority anymore to ensure compliance or acquiescence with their intimidation.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

My god things are starting fast---Obama and Hu Jintao have held a phone conversation already

This is a very good sign... It's Saturday, Obama has only been the President Elect for four days, and already he's had a phone conference with one of the major heads of state of the world.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Good poem/song about Obama by Ed Sanders

Hope he won't mind me using it. I was thinking about this poem in the days before the election. Scroll down to see how this jibes or doesn't with my general cynicism.

"Song for Obama
—Edward Sanders

Like the oak tree of Lincoln
In the forever of America
Someone has come
Like a giant of promise
His name is Barack Obama

You can see him standing tall for all
With his head tilting back
Smiling at the chance to help
a great nation find its path

Like the oak tree of Lincoln
In the forever of America
Someone has come
Like a giant of promise
His name is Barack Obama

It’s hard to be cynical
When your face is full of joy
When the time is really here
to see such a happy day!

Like the oak tree of Lincoln
In the forever of America
Someone has come
Like a giant of promise
His name is Barack Obama

Sometimes you can’t perceive
that the door has opened wide
You think that it’s shut for always and always
But now his time is here

Like the oak tree of Lincoln
In the forever of America
Someone has come
Like a giant of promise
His name is Barack Obama"

For me, the key stanza is:

"Sometimes you can’t perceive
that the door has opened wide
You think that it’s shut for always and always
But now his time is here "

I know from reading his writing and listening to the songs he performed as part of the Fugs that Sanders, a Beat and then a Hippy, isn't your typical all sweetness and light guy. You don't write songs like "Kill for Peace" or "Mutant Stomp", about a guy in New Mexico who has five cocks because of the atom bomb tests, without having a good sense of the macabre. Appropriately, all of the previous stanzas, with their repetition, can be seen as being cynical, especially the one that mentions cynicism, and when you put it into song format, with the "Like the Oak Tree" being the chorus it sounds even more so....
But the thing that redeems it is the part about sometimes not realizing that a door that you've always thought was closed has swung open. That, you know, has most definitely happened, and like William Greider mentions in a recent article we probably won't realize all the ramifications of Obama's win until a couple weeks have passed.

Gorbachev actually does something useful for a change---suggests Perestroika for the U.S.

(Title Link) . Perestroika means restructuring, specifically economic restructuring in the way that Gorbachev is using it. Gorbachev is implying a move away from unfettered capitalism and neoliberalism in the wake of the economic crisis---and hoping that Barack Obama will bring it. Interestingly enough, the people at the Australian Broadcasting Company, where the article comes from, are apparently too fucking stupid to understand what Perestroika means in this context and instead make references to 'liberalisation of the economy' and 'rebuilding'. The U.S.' economy is already pretty liberal---that's the fucking problem and the reason why Gorbachev is hoping that Obama will do a Perestroika with our economy.

I say that Gorbachev has finally done something useful for a change because for the past sixteen years he's said precious little. No criticism of the United States' economy leading up to this mess came from his lips. No criticism of the U.S. itself, or again very little, came from him in this Siberia sized amount of time. Gorbachev, in my view, committed a grave error in the last days of the Soviet Union by basically giving up the idea of the Soviet Union as a viable country and instead standing by while the U.S. supported Yeltsin seized power and dismantled the whole system. This lead to a complete collapse of the Soviet economy, leading to starvation and conditions that officially decreased the average lifespan of Russian males. What Gorbachev became famous for wasn't passively sitting by and waxing idealistic while the capitalist countries sharpened their knives, it was trying to reform the Soviet system through economic restructuring and increased freedom of speech, as well as the infant implementation of more democracy in the political system.

Gorbachev let it slip away, believing possibly that George H.W. Bush and then BIll Clinton were actually people who had the well being of the Russian population at heart, instead of the basic lackeys for big business that they actually were. It isn't rocket science, and while Gorby gathered fame as a kind and gentle man, big business saw a smorgasbord of new potential markets opening up.

Here's some "Rio Grande Blood"

A song by Ministry about the current occupant of the White House:

Maybe it's time for liberal America to stand up for itself instead of being punching bags

Stand up to redneck fucks who have assumed a position of authority over us for the last seven years and put them in their place. Time to stand up to stupid idiots who approve of torture while waving the Confederate flag. The time for peace on a personal level is over. It's time to reassert our authority as the people who run the country.

Although I'm talking about not being pushed around instead of going farther, the spirit of a James Baldwin book strikes me as appropriate: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more flood--the fire next time". It's next time, motherfucker.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama hasn't just won he's cleaned the floor with McCain

Wow. This is a win that reinforces ones belief in the goodness of human nature, something that in the past eight years, especially since 9/11, has often been tried in the U.S. for a lot of people. I think that somewhere, whatever else has happened to him, Studs Terkel is smiling.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Jodorowsky, Actionists, and modern sculpture

Although the three may seem disparate, they all share common concerns and themes. That is, the film maker Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Wien or Vienna Actionist group, and modern sculptors like Jean Arp and Henry Moore.

The central concern of all of these is how to turn the human figure into an abstract object in three dimensions, or in the case of filming of four dimensions---our static three plus that of time. How to turn a human figure into an abstract object without completely abandoning the link to the form. This is important because the arts of sculpture, live performance, and filmed performance all pivot around the issue of the individual as a vehicle for creating and communicating meaning.

The Vienna Actionists, in case you don't know, were a group of folks who struck out into performance art by using the body as a canvas with which to convey meaning. They took naked forms and drenched them with blood, then with paint, then with flour, then with eggs, wrapped them in wire. They orchestrated sexual acts as living art rather than as pornography, although they were certainly that also. It was the documented Action involving participants who were not performing as actors but rather as components of a larger artistic work that was meant to be read as visual art that was the thing.

Jodorowsky was/is an independent film maker who broke with all convention by turning his players into living symbols on the screen, where their interaction was that not of one human being to another but of one symbol or idea working with another. Jodorowsky managed to stage films illustrating his ideas with people as symbols using the bare minimum of traditional dramatic devices necessary to make the whole thing comprehensible. The problem which Jodorowsky faces is the same as that that the Actionists faced: how to use three dimensional figures who can move and speak to express abstract ideas that don't have anything obviously to do with human actions.

Which brings us to modern sculptors like Jean Arp and Henry Moore. Both of these artists discarded the idea of completely disposing with all representation and going straight from total abstract shapes up. Instead, the traditional subject matter of the human figure, that sculpture had been portraying for millennia, was preserved with the challenge being how to alter the form in comprehensible ways in order to express more complex ideas than could normally be expressed with the figure. To do this they constructed sculptures that took the form of the body and melted it down into organic components that they then extended and compressed in order to add expressive qualities to them.

The question of how to do this successfully is much more difficult than that of how to do similar things on a canvas with a two dimensional representation of form. If you're working with something that inhabits three dimensional space you can't just draw glows around people or mess with shapes and colors in a free way. You no longer have a canvas to contain your work. Sculpture in the round stands as an individual self contained figure in three dimensions that cannot depend on associated objects in a background or a foreground to carry the action. This is a severe limitation, and accounts for the very different solutions needed.

Forms, human forms, bird forms, some sorts of forms, become the wire model on which you have to hang your meaning. They're non-negotiable. You may not like it, but you're forced to communicate meaning through them, through a figure of a human being, or sometimes that of an animal. Ideas, though, are much more diverse than simple figures can normally communicate. It's as though ideas belong to a completely different order of being than figures existing in space, yet these have to be brought into association somehow in order to communicate meaning in three dimensions. Distortion has to preserve the minimum of comprehensibility in order to succeed in communicating some of the idea in a way that's minimally understandable without severe preparation.

The actor in a film, the participant in performance art, the figure in modern sculpture, are all irreducible components of their worlds that have to make and communicate that connection between the world of ideas and the world of the viewer. They have to make this using themselves. An actor as symbol of a force or an idea, a display of primal mysticism concerning death and rebirth in an art action, a model who is reduced to simpler shapes that are then extended and twisted in the limbs and torso when fixed in stone, all face the same problem.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Refuting an old chestnut on globalization

Which is the often repeated argument that if the jobs in sweatshops weren't better than being a farmer people wouldn't be coming into the cities to take them. Therefore, they say, questions about labor rights and minimum wages are irrelevant. People want the jobs. Well, you know there's an analogy that can be made between that and a person in a famine: if you're in a famine a bowl of rice big enough to keep you alive is a great thing, but is it what we would consider the optimal condition? I hope not. I also hope that people wouldn't try to argue that our concern with raising the standard of living of this hypothetical person beyond the minimum number of calories needed per day to sustain life was motivated by a lack of understanding about cultural relativity, or that we were trying to impose first world standards on a third world society.

The time to move to the west coast is now.

I'm not talking about the election, either. I am talking to people thinking about moving to the West Coast, inclusive, whether it be Washington, Oregon, or California. The time to do it is whenever you read these words---whether you come across my post two years down the road or you read it today or tomorrow. Now is whenever the time is where you are.

The reason I say this is very simple: it's not as easy as it may seem to really live here and succeed. Getting out here, finding a strategy for living, is the least of your problems---in certain very crucial ways. No matter what your experience of and thoughts about the West Coast have been, unless you've spent large amounts of time here you're going to be in line for serious, serious, culture shock. Not just "Wow, look at all these insane people" culture shock, which is the nice kind, but "my god, I thought I understood this place but I don't, and I don't understand why I don't understand it. It seemed so straightforward at first."

There's a lengthy acclimatization period after you move to "The Coast", one that's often unexpected and somewhat comparable to the experience of being knocked back in status when a person moves to New York City, although not as near as severe. Because of this, every second you put off coming out here is another second that you'll have to make up for during acclimatization. For me, it took several years of living here before I started to feel that I really "got" the place and started to feel comfortable. Every month or year that you delay it is a month or year that you could have put towards getting your bearings out here.

Vote for Obama. Vote for Obama. Vote for Obama.

This message is intended for the viewers of this blog who got here via the Noam Chomsky link. Readers, go through the drama on that page, follow the comments, think about it, then Vote for Obama on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday think about it some more and talk about it.

Three good books for Halloween

Now that it's over. Better late than never. The three are "Night Church", "Wolfen", and "The Forbidden Zone", all by Whitley Strieber. All of them are out of print but easily available on the used book market since they were all issued in mass market paperback.

Night Church is about a Satanic cult that rents a Catholic Church that's virtually deserted in a desolate area in order to do their rites, and they have a plan that they're coming about trying to enact. There are murders that start the police on it and lots of fear and horror.

Wolfen is of course the book that the movie Wolfen was based off of. It's about semi-werewolf, super intelligent wolves inhabiting New York City and being discovered because of a brutal murder of people who the cops care about. Now, the story of the movie has nothing to do with the story that's being told within the book. However, it's one of those rare instances where the movie captures the sense of the novel, the sense of paranoia and foreboding, perfectly even though it deviates from the story itself. Watch the movie and read the book.

The Forbidden Zone is a crazy attempt to make a book long H.P. Lovecraft type story. And it's successful. The action centers on beings from a parallel dimension trying to infiltrate the world through portals opened by rites done by a very old and insular Dutch community in upstate New York. It's a success. I can vouch for that.

All of the books pass the 'willy factor' test; they all give you the willies, make the hairs on your spine stand up, make you afraid, and somewhat paranoid. That's what good horror should do.

Of all of them the one I like best is "Night Church". Although it's not as over the top and balls to the wall as "Forbidden Zone", so to speak, it's the most consistent and tightly written of the three.

Strieber is known for the Communion series of books, books about experiences that he had that have inadvertently lead to the complete trashing of his fictional works, which should not have happened. After literally two decades, or maybe fifteen years, since the hostility to him arose in response to Communion he's finally getting back on his feet and getting back into the publishing world. In the intervening time he lost most of his income from books, lost his cabin and ability to live in New York City, moving back to the West where he grew up.

These books should be reprinted.