Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rodin, controversy, direct carving

Towards the end of the 19th century there was a big to do regarding the fact that Rodin didn't do all of his work on stone sculptures himself. Instead, he had assistants rough them out and went in and did the finishing touches afterwards. People were concerned that they weren't getting 100% Rodin's.

Sounds straightforward, right? After all, what are finishing touches anyways? It's not that simple, not at all.

I come at this from a unique perspective. I work in stone. I carve stone. I can also tell you that finishing touches are anything but that.

To understand why authenticity isn't compromised through a process where the Artist only does part of the work you have to understand the mechanics of sculpting in stone. Typically, you get a block of marble that looks more or less like that: a solid block, no indication that it could possibly be used for a sculpture except some general characteristics like extensions here and there that could make limbs or what have you easier. From the solid block you have to rough out a shape of a general figure. Think a three dimensional chalk outline, something with an egg for a head, two tubes connected to each other for the arms, a set of blobs for the hands, another tube for the body, two tubes for the legs, and some flattened blobs for the feet. To get even there is a big undertaking that involves hacking away at the stone for a long time. Once you're there you can start to add some specific characteristics to the general shape, like roughing out a little bit of the specific qualities of the arms, or of the head, or of the body itself. However, even this stage doesn't take you to the end. It's just another step closer, something that turns the chalk outline into a general three dimensional draft of how this figure should be posed.

It's only when this stage is complete that the real artistry starts. This would be the stage that Rodin would have entered the picture and started carving the stone himself. The difference between the previous stage and this one is that here the figure is transformed first into a person and secondly into a particular person with particular characteristics. Here is where outlines of how the muscles are enter into the picture, how the face is structured, if they're smiling or not, how their hair looks. It's here that the particular characteristics of their body enter the picture; how it is that their ribcage and chest is structured, if they're flabby or muscular, what their stomach looks like. All of this constitutes the real artistic accomplishment of sculpture, the three dimensional counterpart to drawing and painting figures where the decisions of the artist, the feel that he or she has for the subject, and the personal techniques that he or she employs to try to get there come into play. It's anything but detail work. This is where Rodin as Rodin came into play and where the sculptures became more than just generic shapes but authentic sculptures by Rodin.

Of course, this argument appears to not of swayed people, and that most of the great sculptors who work on monumental pieces use a system like this seems to have been ignored. I haven't read the stories in the papers related to it in France so I can't definitively say so, though. Anyways, the reaction to this was a movement called Direct Carving, where the artist would discard maquettes, clay or plaster models of the model used in lieu of the person actually being there, as well as assistants and do it all themselves. Maquettes help focus the artist(s); they're there because a person can't sit through a stone carving session from beginning to end. Without them you've got to rely either on memory or on the person or creature being in front of you. What came out of direct carving are sculptures that looked drastically different from what we consider to be normal, figurative sculpture. Although they may have integrity in and of themselves, as compared to figurative sculptors in the 19th century who were concerned with a type of expressive romanticism in stone they're really, really, undeveloped. If that's what you're going for, it's fine, but as a substitute for more conventional figurative sculpting it doesn't really work well.

The moral of the story, or the point of it, is that in reality there are no short cuts in sculpting around the process that Rodin and others used. Whether or not assistants are employed to rough things out largely depends on the scale of the piece and on the other pieces a sculptor is working on at the time, if any, or if the sculptor is lucky enough to be in demand with commissioned pieces it depends on what else is likely waiting down the line. Of course sculptors can do it all themselves, but even though those employed contribute to the general artistry of the piece, and should be recognized as more than just technicians, the particular core artistry of the piece remains even if they're employed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"South Carolina State Attorney caught with stripper in graveyard"

Normally the words "sex", "graveyard", and "lunch hour" used in combination would get a "Rock On!" from me, but the man was a State Attorney and so had professional responsibilities to live up to. It's still funny as hell though.

From Rawstory

"A deputy assistant attorney general who said he was on his lunch break when an officer found him with a stripper and sex toys in his sport utility vehicle has been fired, his boss said Wednesday

Roland Corning, 66, a former state legislator, was in a secluded part of a downtown cemetery when an officer spotted him Monday, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

As the officer approached, Corning sped off, then pulled over a few blocks away. He and the 18-year-old woman with him, an employee of the Platinum Plus Gentleman's Club, gave conflicting stories about what they were doing in the cemetery, Officer Michael Wines wrote in his report, though he did not elaborate."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yay! Hate crimes bill signed!

No irony in this one, just positivity. increasingly educated population

Buried in an otherwise good story published in the Seattle PI about migration to high tech cities like Seattle and Portland is the observation that the U.S. is "becoming increasingly educated." I dispute that. The United States is becoming a place where lots of people have a smattering of education, not a place that's very educated, and many of those college graduates don't know shit, quite frankly. American higher education has been dumbed down by the push to get absolutely everyone and his brother into college. Professors were complaining about this over a decade ago, and it most likely hasn't gotten any better. College is now a surrogate in some sense for the last year of high school, and in Europe the first year of college stands for the traditional second year of college here, meaning that some college freshman in our soon to be educated population are three years behind their European counterparts. You can wrap it up and call it college, and give someone a diploma, but that doesn't mean that they're really educated.

The reason for it, in my opinion, is money money money. Anyone with any cash wants their child to go to college, and they're willing to lie and cheat to get them in there, whether it means paying for courses on how to cheat on the SAT and ACT or even trying to go the distance and manufacture a learning disability that will allow their kid to take an easier version of all the tests. Money speaks to colleges, too, and although these scions of bourgeois idiocy, of people as dumb as stumps with pockets full of cash, don't have much going for them smarts wise they can enrich the schools they go to mightily. So they're admitted, people are subjected to outrageous idiots who don't care about anything besides drinking and partying in their classrooms, and everyone graduates with a degree that means nothing.

Happy higher education, folks. The philistine bourgeoisie triumphed over actual standards, creating a "Triumph of the Swill" more powerful than whatever illusions people once had about "The Masses" gaining power. Never underestimate the power of a hundred thousand small business owners whose idea of intellectual culture is the comics section in the paper. "The Masses" are not and have not ever really been the problem, it's these fucks. The petty bourgeois lifestyle is an anachronism that needs to be skewered on a stake and let die slowly and publicly. The workers deserve the power in society. The power to be Decadent if they want as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What I have hanging above my desk:

It's a picture of a sculpture by Jean Dubuffet from his later "l'hourloupe" phase. I'm a great, great, fan of Dubuffet's. Read his writings as well as appreciated his paintings and sculptures. Dubuffet was great at capturing a sort of primitive savage essence behind his subjects, often taking cues from naive art made by mental patients as well as using lots and lots of non-traditional impasto techniques that destroyed the conventional notions of what painting should be made out of.

"l'hourloupe" was Dubuffet's vision of an alternate universe, a sort of alien, weird thing that fought its way into normal reality. I doubt that the major corporations that have Dubuffet sculptures outside of their headquarters really know or appreciate this.

Think of all of this, having a poster of one of his works up, as a sort of more grown up version of having a Francis Bacon poster, you know, the ones with hunks of beef hanging on hooks and people screaming on black backgrounds.

Monday, October 26, 2009

SEIU American Banking Association protest

We need more things like this in the U.S. Finally, people are the gumption up to directly confront these people.


After many hours of studying Nietzsche and who knows who else, thinking, etc... my basic objection to it as a cultural value independent of whatever truth there is or isn't in it is that it requires everyone in society to have the purity of a monk. This is not new with me, I'm just repeating it from someplace else, but I can't quite locate who said it. Nietzsche seems to be too vitriolic to have done so, but you never know, he might have. The sort of thing that Christianity preaches as how you should act is a mini-model of going out in the desert and living very frugally and not doing anything else. There doesn't seem to be any sort of middle way that takes into account the actual complexities of the world, not to mention the complexities of human desire among other things. Either you're with Mr. JC or you're against him. Everything else is just straw. Sure, there are Christian socialists and even Christian anarchists, but my guess is that if you really got down there with them they'd be a heck of a lot more liberal than most Christians, even though what they're proposing is an application of Christian ethics to society. Otherwise, they'd be the most extreme of them all, and this is definitely not the case.

I don't want to live in a cave separate from The World and Worldly things. I don't want to resign myself to isolation. I don't see my choices as being complete withdrawal on the one hand and crass materialism on the other.

All this is modified by wealth and power too as well. Once Christianity became a State religion and got followers who were both powerful and wealthy the hypocrisy started, so that now lots of rich people become superficial Christians while breaking every non-convenient commandment they can, acting superior to everyone else in the process hoping that their Christian faith will prevent people from objecting to what they're really doing in the world.

The power aspect feeds into the conservatism of contemporary U.S. Christianity. I'm convinced that one of the reasons that poorer white folks in the South and elsewhere are more likely to be Christian is that they feel they can vicariously become powerful by associating themselves with it. Same thing with patriotism and nationalism when a conservative whack job president like Bush is in office. Christianity is a way for folks who don't have much to feel like they're better than their neighbors, particularly if some of their neighbors are black and brown and don't follow their particular sect. Fundamentalism Christianity of the kind associated with white people is a great feeder into white supremacy.

Seattle and cities that are 'it'.

Strange to write this, but Seattle is actually #2 to Portland at the moment as the top "with it" city in the Northwest, that is if you discount Vancouver. But they didn't let me into Canada last time I tried to go, so let's not talk about that....the details of which I've discussed elsewhere....not mainly political, at least not at first....anyways, Portland is currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts. But I stay in Seattle because besides liking the place I feel that it's ultimately not a good idea to move and move in order to be right where the action is happening right now. It'll always move on, leaving a nice city or town behind that's still mostly cool, still mostly with it, but just isn't where the very tip of the zeitgeist is. I though it was bullshit earlier in life, but there's truth to the idea that you have to eventually pick a place, stick there, believe in it, and try to organize and do things there instead of being constantly on the move. Of course, most of the time when people say things like that they're talking about organizing where you're originally from, which in my case would be the Detroit area, which surely is a fertile ground for radical culture, but it still applies to adopted homes as well.

I know exactly where the current will go after Portland: to the West itself. Maybe after Portland it'll move to Bend, Oregon, then to some place in Montana or Colorado. After that, who knows. Oklahoma. We'll have a Tulsa-core movement.

But, more practically, if you keep on living somewhere, then moving, then living somewhere, then moving, over and over, are you really building enough to make intelligent choices on where to go next?

That's ultimately the case with many kinds of consumption. Going to a new place is somewhat like getting more to consume on your platter. You can do it, just like you can buy books or CDs, but even if you're able to, the question is how good a use are you putting them towards? Do you have a closet's worth of trendy crap that you never listen to or do you have music that has enduring value that stays in rotation? I suppose the internet has changed this somewhat....

I believe, although I haven't been the best exemplar of this, that after you go broad for long enough you've got to go deep. It's not frivolous to cast a wide net, exploring everything within all kinds of consumption and experience, letting the spirit move you, but after a while there's a need to go down further below what you've explored and really get into the nitty-gritty of it. It's not that doing nice exploration isn't good or enjoyable so much as that ultimately there's a different kind of knowledge that you can get by going deep, such as you'll never get by only going broad.

At a certain point the ideas related to consumption also relate back to general experience in that even if you explore a topic somewhat thoroughly, if you don't go the extra mile how do you know that you're something other than a tourist? Or a simple consumer who doesn't get the underlying pattern of things?

It's always easy to consume, even if that consumption is intellectual. The real depth always seems to resemble the edge of work more than it does pure consumption. A transition happens somewhere along the way to where the activity starts to resemble productive action rather than just passive consumption.

And if you're obeying an external zeitgeist instead of determining things and interests yourself you're doubly in debt to passivity in that it only takes a smidgen more effort than just going along with the stream of life to jump from trend to trend, from emerging style to emerging style. Making style, creating things that become trends, now that takes more work.

My philosophy, such as it is, is to do what seems interesting to you and have faith that if you think it's interesting there are probably other people out there who will think it's interesting too.

I've yet to see how that works out, and sometimes have visions of one of my books being found by archeologists far in the future who think that it's cool stuff, while in the meantime I've disintegrated into dust dying as an alcoholic living in an SRO hotel, but that's a sentiment for another day.

Hopefully if you go deep it'll help to produce trends in some way and won't just..


Stay in school kids, do your homework, and get good grades. Develop a Protestant work ethic that early New Englanders would be proud of and always tell the truth, and someday good things will come.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another real shocker in the works: that embedded journalists are given a biased view of Iraq

I still can't get over what's billed as an important revelation, that Pentagon spokesfigures who were retired who were hired as commentators were really part of a propaganda program. This seems so self evident that it just floors me that folks can still think that it's a real shocker. Like I said, next thing you know there'll be revelations that the practice of embedding journalists with troops is really a strategy by the Pentagon to spin news their way. And then shocking news that, well, that sometimes governments lie.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Post Office that started it all

Here's a picture of the Royal Oak Post Office outside of Detroit, that was the scene of the first armed rampage by an employee that gave us our term "Going Postal". Also the name of a nifty book on the subject by Mark Ames.

University of Washington vs. University of Oregon football today

Strange thing is that unlike many rivalries up here the two teams are from the same basic background: mainstream liberal institutions of higher learning. No great cultural divide, then, especially with most people from the Oregon side coming up from Portland as opposed to coming all the way up from Eugene. Not town vs. country. In practice, this means more folks who don't know their way around the area and are too polite in their driving to make timely decisions, and zero on street parking for me. Maybe I'm bitter about the on street parking thing.

Since when did people from Seattle and Portland care about football?

I kid, I kid. However, you have to remember that in Michigan we riot when college football games are lost to the opposing team.

..And John Stossel goes over to Fox News. Another non-surprise

John Stossel is the corporate world's answer to Andy Rooney, someone who adopts the sort of "Give me a break" attitude that Rooney has while always managing to have the outrages be challenges to corporate power.

I remember seeing his show on trade and business in 2000, which was a joke.  I mean, give me a break, everyone knows that corporate capitalism is the most productive system, except for a couple of moonbats from Pluto.

Awesome Wynton Marsalis interview from CNN

Marsalis: Racism and greed put blues at the back of the bus

. Does talk about racism, but puts it specifically in the context of slavery in a way that doesn't often get heard in the mainstream.

"CNN: Why was blues not regarded as something of value in this country?

MARSALIS: It came from who we didn't like. That's what it was -- it wasn't that we couldn't see it. Who it came from, we did not like them.

CNN: So do you include African-Americans in that? So black people didn't appreciate it?

MARSALIS: They didn't appreciate it. They don't now. That's part of the whole kind of self-hatred that comes from that type of slavery that the black American still labors under. That racism was heavy.

The legacy of it -- it wasn't just 50 years. It was seven generations, and if a generation is 33 years, ... seven or eight [generations]. That's a long time. And to recover from it has proven to be very difficult.

CNN: So is that what's going on with rap?

MARSALIS: No question. Rap is the repetition of the minstrel show.

But it's not going to go away, it was too many people. If it had been 100,000 people, it can go away. ... But it can't be millions of people and their descendants. [Slavery] was a very powerful and successful system. And it went on for a long time.

In the aftermath of slavery ... there was a retrenching, and [it turned into] the type of racism that was experienced by people who came to the North.

That consciousness has begun to shift, in the last 30 years. And that's 20 or 30 years of just thawing and shifting that's attached to 330 years [of slavery], and the thought you can get up and you will be better ... that's just asinine, it's absurd."

LIke we couldn't and didn't see this coming: Military analyst service a psychological operation aimed at the American public

According to Raw Story, surprise surprise surprise, the generals and other high up military brass who offered and offer their services as commentators to cable news really spread Pentagon propaganda. When this phenomenon, which put forward people who are involved with the U.S. war machine on deep levels as objective sources about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, when it first started there was plenty of outcry on the blatant conflicts of interest in it. I even think Tom Tomorrow wrote a couple of cartoons on it. Now, ok, so maybe I'm crazy, but the story appears to have been almost written but for the hard proof that some formally organized activity was going on, which Raw Story has almost miraculously been able to provide. I say miraculously because stories like these generate lots of pretty damn certain to be true conclusions but they almost always leave little or no official paper trail.

So, kudos to Raw Story for dredging that up. But let's be honest here: it's not like the idea was super out of the blue to anyone who had really been paying basic attention to things.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Glenn Beck is the future of literary fiction" by Steve Almond

Funny piece from

"For the past nine months, ever since a certain somebody seized the White House, conservative pundits have dominated the ranks of nonfiction. 
It would be easy enough, and rather predictable, to lament this state of affairs and to find in it evidence of an anemic literary culture, a dangerously aggrieved minority, or at the very least the diabolical efficacy of bulk sales.

But such liberal cant totally misses the point. Having spent the past two weeks in what I might call a spiritual communion with these authors, I can assure you that these texts are not the psychotic, fact-challenged rants of the mad, but carefully crafted metafictions in which the mundane terrors of cultural dislocation are recast as riveting epics of paranoia.
As such, they fit into a long literary tradition, one that extends from the rhapsodic delusions of "Don Quixote" to the airborne toxic events of Don DeLillo, from the surreal prophecy of Revelation to the post-apocalyptic visions of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." ..."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fun site: is a site documenting strange and sort of badly made things found on, the online exchange place for handmade crafts and other art objects.

A sample from today's lot:

"Go Directly to Fail"

"On sale pop tab and safety pin get out of jail free white crochet choker"

"Can you believe this shit? This is like crap you find in the vacuum bag at the community center."

Funny stuff. 

*Update: fixed the link

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Seattle: world class or a regional city? Strange that we're still having this conversation

So I filled out the absentee ballot for Washington, King County, and Seattle elections, flipping through the official voters' guide to make sure that I actually understood what and who it was I was casting my votes for. Although most of the offices were non-partisan, the differences in ideology between the candidates stood out in clear contrast. On the one hand you had people who were originally from all over the country, who had been to elite schools, and who had impressive resumés. On the other, candidates after candidate who made the fact that they'd been born and grew up here a central feature of their campaigns, with lots of anti-tax and anti-government sentiment usually following. What they were saying couldn't have been clearer.

Quite frankly, the reason that Seattle is considered one of the best places in the country to move to is the atmosphere that welcomes smart and talented people and values them. Everything else follows. Some of this has come about as a result of the airplane industry, some of it came about because of Microsoft, and some of it just came about because of individual citizens believing in Seattle. Without those three factors Seattle would probably still be a town based on the lumber industry and on its Port, one of the busiest on the west coast. And if that was the case, it would unfortunately be considered one of a second string of cities that may be important regionally, but that don't have tons of nation wide significance.

Yet here we are fighting this sort of culture war that I've found out has been percolating since the '80s, between folks who want Seattle to be more isolated, closed, and less prominent, and people who want to continue its status as a world class destination point in the U.S., encouraging the sophistication and cutting edge features that make it so. I wonder if the people who want xenophobia towards newcomers--a trend that increases exponentially the farther outside of the city limits people get--have an inkling that more people from the outside ultimately benefits them in that they get better schools, better urban infrastructure, interesting stores (even nice chain stores) that otherwise wouldn't be attracted, and business opportunities that similarly wouldn't be present if Seattle wasn't a magnet for cutting edge folks in multiple fields.

The logic plays itself out in different ways, in different places. In Olympia, about an hour and a half south of Seattle and surrounded by small rural towns, people rose up in the wake of 9/11 and the protests against war by the faculty of The Evergreen State College---where I graduated from--and demanded that the place be closed. Evergreen of course is a progressive institution not just in atmosphere but in educational approach. They didn't succeed, but it's telling that their response was to try to close an institution of higher learning.

The broadening of a pool of talent both in government and in society in general is a process that all big cities have gone through at some point in their lives. It's just too bad that some of the people who make a big deal about being lifelong natives prefer their city to be more like Fargo than San Francisco.

Maybe they're finally admitting that Afghanistan is a lost cause.

Talking about Rahm Emanuel's recent comments. Here:

"Emanuel again rebuffed those criticisms on Sunday, and he blamed the need for such intensive strategy discussions on the Bush administration. The chief of staff also noted the Obama administration was "literally working from scratch," and that any attempt to rush a troop decision without a "thorough analysis" would be "reckless."

"The strategic review of whether to send more troops is only one piece of the puzzle," Emanuel told CBS. "An important piece, but the puzzle is much more complicated than that.""

In other words, Bush had no idea what he was doing, had no grip on the situation, etc...

My hope is that this realization will lead to one that comes clean about the whole thing being an adventuristic war done for nothing except revenge and maybe a natural gas pipeline or two. Which means we've done a horrible thing, a stand that some of us have taken from the beginning.

See also Ted Rall's Column about this.

Wonderful, tolerant, Martin Luther: "On the Jews and their lies"

Here. The Catholic Church has long maintained that Luther was an unstable nut job, something that's harder to say about other Reformation figures, and they may have been partially onto something with that.

..."The Idea of Obama" by Tom Tomorrow

Great little cartoon. I'm not going to hotlink to it because that's a no-no and besides the width of the main column of this blog is too small to make a reproduction of the image readable. But you can see the real thing Here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Some thoughts and ramblings about an alternative economics

Cycle of the economy: work-production-distribution-buying-consumption. People consume, they also work. They work and get paid in dollars. The products that they work on are sold by the company they work for to a store or other distribution path. People buy whatever it is from the store and then take it home and consume it. All of it is a stand in for the basic relationship between a person who makes something selling it to another person, who in turn has also made something of his or her own that they've sold in turn. Money, companies, distribution, then, are all stand ins for the exchange of goods. In a mediated world, the core of the buying and selling that used to go on is between companies that produce and companies that distribute. It's not directly between consumers and production oriented companies or simply between stores and consumers but between the buying and selling between companies themselves. Even though stores, lets use the example of grocery stores, raise and lower their prices, decide to stock items or not stock items, what they sell doesn't appear out of nowhere. By the time it reaches the shelves it's already been bought and paid for. What happens when consumption patterns change is that it ultimately sends signals to the producers to either cut back production, increase production, or to possibly think about concentrating production in another area. Production also pushes forward onto the distributors, in this case the grocery store. Prices in raw materials may increase, necessitating a rise in cost that's passed onto the distributor that they can't do much about. New products come on the line to distribute, new ways of doing things are discovered by producers that lead to lower prices.

So you have workers who are also consumers. There are natural constraints on what can be made, natural needs that humans have, skills that folks have, and technology and ways of organization that make use of the skills and the resources. It all seems so straightforward.

Something gets in the way of this happy exchange, though, and that is the division of labor. In the example given above there's no discussion of management or specific reference to ownership. The production/distribution/consumption idea could be done with workers owning the place that they worked at and serving as their own agents in selling products to distributors. The modern world isn't like that. Historically, what I think happened is that the people who bought the goods from producers and sold them in turn took over and gained control of the producers themselves.

Early on you had market towns where there were established traders that had monopolies on certain goods, acting as the exclusive agents for distribution of them. Then, the traders and distributors started to set up workshops owned by them instead of by the workers. For instance in fabric production, the independent workshops were now competing with weavers who worked making fabric directly for the trader and for no one else. This control of the process ensured more money would be made, and it's a strategy that you can see in grocery stores when they produce store brands that they sell next to brands made by other companies. The trade off for the workers was some insulation from the pure market forces that they sometimes confronted. But it got out of hand.

Eventually, the process of people on the distributor end of the line gaining control over the people on the production end of the line lead to a split in how work was organized: on one side you had (and have) the laborers, on the other you have managers and owners. And of course on the side of consumption the reality of people working to produce the things that you use receded into the background as the world view of the distributors took over, producing the bourgeois worldview.

Then, what was born was the idea that capitalists, owners, didn't have to be chained to any particular industry, but that a natural thing to do would be to research an industry and start up a business in it. In this case, the folks with the money purely set out to establish a shop where the workers had no control and purely represented it as what's normal to do. The link between the work that is being done and the management of that work was severed and became a more abstract relationship. It makes sense that if you want to do something in a particular industry you should have experience of it as a worker. The people who do the work understand what's being done, and it seems natural that a worker would step up and start a new enterprise with a host of other workers to help him or her out. But increasingly this became not the case. The division between work on the one hand and management and ownership on the other stuck and became the model we know today, to the extent to where a person who does get to know an industry by working in it is expected to act like a capitalist if he or she decides to found a shop. It's expected that the way businesses are set up will be the way that this newly coined businessman/woman will behave, with organizing things on a collective or cooperative manner not even being considered.

But this way of organizing things is inherently exploitative. Instead of working for yourself you work for someone else who takes what you make and sells it to other people, to people who are very much like themselves in function, that is to say not dealing with work itself but only with the exchange of the products of labor that has already been produced.

You can already imagine what happens when this new mode of production takes over and replaces the more cooperative structures that preceded it. The more established it gets the harder it is to object to the terms of the work and expect to get results. Find a place that will accept what you demand, I dare you.

The control of production by folks associated with distribution also flows the other way, where those who sell get more and more concentrated. We find chain stores proliferating, independent distributors going out of business, and the same type of power relationship that we find in production popping up in distribution and consumption: if a chain store dominates in an area, and there are no alternatives, where are you going to go if they start doing things that take advantage of that situation? The crux or final development of it all may be something along the lines of Wal-Mart, where concentrated distribution is coupled with the sponsoring of Wal-Mart brands made exclusively for the store in China and elsewhere in the developing world. Wal-Mart in this scenario absorbs all of the model of how the economy flows, being the exclusive middle man managing the basic relationship of production with distribution/consumption. In actuality Wal-Mart sometimes has competitive bids on its products from multiple producers in China, but what Wal-Mart says goes.

The solution is to take over the beast itself and to dismantle it. Not dismantle it into small parts that can't work with each other but dismantle the control over production by those who do not produce and dismantle the hold on distribution/consumption by other elites who dominate it without serving the consumer's best interest.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The difference between Mao and Hitler, re: Glenn beck

Is fairly straightforward, in that Mao and company professed to be following the same sorts of principles, with the same goals, that had been percolating both in Europe and in the United States since the American Revolution, while Hitler flatly and very publicly renounced and attacked those same principles. Notice the word I used in relation to Mao was 'professed'. There was no possible justification for the Holocaust, not even the often given Stalinist and then Maoist justification of development and industrialization. It was purely murder to end the existence of a hated minority. While Mao and company committed outrages, their actions do have more ambiguity to them than those of the Nazis do. Notice, before you start salivating, that some ambiguity doesn't mean absolution, just another layer of complexity. Stalin never set up death camps, neither did Mao. The Khmer Rouge basically did, but the White House spokesman wasn't quoting Pol Pot. With both Stalin and Mao the end result was not something that was clearly ordained from the start. In fact, both Bolshevik Russia and Communist China went through considerable struggle before Stalinism and Maoism became ascendent, struggle that involved folks who didn't want it to happen trying to prevent it from coming to pass. There doesn't seem to be any sort of similar ambiguity with the Nazis.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More unintentional humor, this time from the American Family Association

About the Playboy cover with Marge Simpson on it:

"Most American dads know the dangers that porn represents to young males," American Family Association Special Projects Director Randy Sharp said in a press release. "It’s irresponsible of 7-Eleven to display porn in front of boys who pop into 7-11s for a hot dog or a Slurpee."

While there are plenty of issues regarding gender and patriarchy relating to porn, I can't imagine that there are seriously lots of American dads out there who "know the dangers that porn represents to young males" or are afraid that their sons will succumb to the scourge of porn addiction. Quite frankly, it's probably the other way around. The idea of a porn addiction that's one step on the way to hell is really funny, considering that porn sells and sells and sells in the United States and we haven't degenerated yet. Or at least no further than we were degenerated before. Speaking of which, it does appear that the most dire predictions of feminist writers and activists regarding porn have not come to pass. The idea was that with lots of access to porn and porn 'use', a rape culture would be sparked that would dwarf anything that existed before. Sexual assault does not appear to have bloomed in the era of easy porn access, and I would challenge anyone to demonstrate that there's been a spike because of it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lost Highway Times: now capable of ruining your innocence in 52 languages

Thanks to Google Translate.

Butthole Surfers. Veni, Vidi, Vici

Butthole Surfers show in Seattle was way good. One of my favorite bands. A top thing about it was what they didn't play: not a single song from Electriclarryland. Thank god for that. Larryland was their breakthrough album that most probably became a stone around their necks. Calling it breakthrough though isn't quite accurate because they'd been around for about fifteen years before it came out, making their mark with really experimental hardcore psychedelia, noise, and punkish rock. But it was the album that hit the big time coming on the wave of Grunge and alternative rock that broke then, and no doubt playing stuff from it at shows came to be sort of a hassle, with fans liking this stuff but not really caring about the more experimental stuff that they'd been doing. Now, with thirteen years between then and now the push by record labels to play the popular stuff has long subsided and they're free to play what they really want to play now.

So...lots of stuff from Locust Abortion Technician, the PCP/EP, Rembrandt Pussyhorse, and Independent Worm Saloon, with "Who was in my room last night?" from Worm Saloon being the closest thing they got to playing hits from Larryland.

And their visual show was really great as well. Lots of sex and death, transgression, gore. On balance, more sex would have added to it, but it's no doubt easier to get approval for violence at shows, unfortunately. I do believe that it's possible to show sex without thereby contributing to the objectification of women, even though our culture tends to want to pigeon hole representations of sex into repressive categories. Awesome ending where they filled the stage with smoke and then did a strobe light into it so that it looked like a wall that was pulsing on and off.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Man, what a dishonest argument: Tammy Bruce explaining away posting a raccoon under the title "Nobel Committee Announces Another Peace Prize Winner"

The cop out is that the raccoon in question is her pet. And he's looking through a cracker jack box where they put prizes. Her original post is Here, her explanation is here ("When a raccoon is just a raccoon"), and the orignal "Sadly, No!" post is here . Man, I must be missing something here because I always thought that the word 'coon' was known to just about everyone as a derogatory word for black people, especially to people of Bruce's generation. Who would have thought that posting a picture of a 'coon and calling him/her the next Nobel Prize winner would be construed as racism? Silly me. I mean, if I had a pet monkey and I posted a picture of it under the title "Breaking: Nobel Committee Announces Another Peace Prize Winner", after Obama won the prize, it would be flat out wingnuttery to suggest that I was implying anything other than they were giving it to people who unqualified. I mean, sometimes and ape is just an ape, you know? And if I had my monkey eating a piece of watermelon it would just be an example of him eating his favorite food, no racial implications meant. Tammy says she's going to play the Rolling Stones song "Paint it Black" tomorrow to drive the Obama fans nuts, because her 'coon picture of course is just as inconsequential to race as white people using the word black in a song.

Then again, with her website displaying an animated gif standing for Muhammad showing pigs flying into its mouth and waving an Israeli flag, we already knew that Tammy Bruce was a pillar of tolerance.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The thing about blogs and the White House criticism of them is that it's not just blogs who are objecting to the President

Blogs are a convenient straw man. The same criticisms have come from progressive magazines and progressive websites that are attached to magazines as well as from pure web based media that can't really be called blogs like Salon. You can add to that Pacifica radio stations and programs on it like Democracy Now! But without even making that allowance it's sort of hard to believe that the Obama administration would go after blogs like this considering that bloggers and their influence were one of the main forces that got Obama elected. Even if they weren't actually stumping for him the blogosphere created the anti-Bush sentiment that set the stage for the Obama campaign's success. It was the blogosphere, more than progressive magazines unfortunately, that opened up mass appeal for the kinds of things Obama campaigned on. Established progressive magazines may have fed into it with columns cross posted to blogs, but large communities like Daily Kos and Atrios provided the momentum. I say this as a matter of fact, not because I have much sympathy for either of those sites, which are more moderate than either I am or that politics in this country should be.

Glenn Greenwald, a blogger who became a professional journalist for has Really Great Column about the whole thing.


"Just this weekend, a "top gay Democrat close to Obama" was granted anonymity by Politico to dismiss administration critics on gay issues as "naive." Just six weeks ago, an equally cowardly "senior White House adviser" hiding behind anonymity told told The Washington Post that the only people who cared about the public option in health care were "the left of the left" -- those same fringe, irrational extremists. In June, an anonymous "friend of John Brennan's" told Jane Mayer in The New Yorker that the people who prevented Brennan's nomination as CIA Director (because of his support for some of the most radical Bush Terrorism policies) were nothing more than "a few Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear who write blogs." Last year, "Democrats on the Hill" anonymously dismissed opposition to telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping as nothing more than a fringe issue being exploited by Chris Dodd for his presidential campaign, and then anonymously warned Dodd to abandon his left-wing obstructionism if he wanted to resume good standing in the Democratic caucus. Can anyone miss the pattern?


[bullet point]Pretty words and inspiring pageantry from the President, accompanied by endless inaction or contradictory policies;

[bullet point] Hordes of people who believe in their heart of hearts that the administration is led by such a nice, just and likable man that it couldn't possibly be guilty of anything worse than a little benign political calculation (just as the evangelical, Texas-swaggering Bush did for Red State loyalists, the urbane, charming and highly intelligent Obama possesses all the cultural markers of a good and decent person for Blue State loyalists, and thus simply can't be capable of anything malicious or destructive -- there's a reason Bill Maher tried to remind liberals: "He's your president, not your boyfriend"); "

Another American innovation designed to help the environment: mobile advertising

Which if people don't know consists of a small truck where the truck bed has been cut out and a billboard has been put in its place. The truck then drives around the city or town aimlessly, burning gas and invading yet another private space with marketing and capitalism. Strange that we criticize developing countries so much and yet we see not a lot of problems with indulging in things like this that are tremendous extravagances, wastes of money, and anti-nature in the extreme.

I feel happy for Os Mutantes

They've made it in the U.S. I remember going to see them in Seattle in 2006 when they were playing their initial reunion tour. They only played about five gigs total, and there was little publicity about this particular show. Although the place I saw them at was packed it appeared to mostly be made up of the hard core of fans combined with some folks who saw a little column about them in either the Seattle Weekly or The Stranger and who were curious, not really realizing what night had in store. Now, they've played Bumbershoot, one of the biggest music festivals in Seattle, and are playing lots and lots and lots of gigs all over the country. The breakthrough has been forty years in the making.

I take it as a minor miracle because so often the U.S. music industry and even music fans in general here favor shit over stuff with real substance.

So, thank you Os Mutantes. I hope that you go on to greater successes here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

....and the Butthole Surfers are playing in Seattle on Tuesday

Couldn't go to the Lydia Lunch concert because it was canceled, can't go to the KMFDM concert tomorrow because of stuff I'm busy doing tomorrow night, so maybe "the Surfers" are an option for live music in Seattle this week.

Nice phrase from the Angelic Upstarts

Anti-fascist Oi! band. From the song "Solidarity", which was about the movement Solidarity and wasn't a rendition of "Solidarity Forever":

"In unity there's each other and your friend becomes your brother and in the tyrant's heart will be a lesson learned."

Current cover of Newsweek titled "After Iran gets the bomb" has a picture of a mushroom cloud on it

How subtle. No bias there, nope. Sort of like entitling an issue "After the Civil Rights movement" that shows a black man putting a knife to a white woman's throat.

Hope he does end Don't Ask, Don't Tell

And sooner rather than later.

Liberals don't know how to engage the Right

While the rabid health care people and company may be a small movement now, eventually we're going to have to learn to engage them in order to counter them. Regular liberal rhetoric won't work because these folks are steeped in a right wing culture that has dealt with many, many, liberal arguments and provided stock answers to them. Granted, these stock answers are flawed, but they're still there. What this means is that just ramping up the volume without trying to proactively argue against their arguments will not work. Progressive folks stood out from mainstream liberals in the '90s by being willing to take on hypocrisy of nominally liberal institutions like the media through exposing how they compromised their fundamental values. In the process, Progressives became adept at formulating new and innovative arguments to make their case. The same creativity is now needed to oppose the far right movement that's making its voice disproportionately heard right now. It's not a sure thing that these folks will even grow, and in fact the mainstream Republican Party has been gently shooing them off with its official positions, but in any case perfecting those tools is something that can only help us and not hinder us.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

When it rains it pours: Klaus Barbie was behind a coup in Bolivia in 1980

I seem to be finding lots of books in libraries dealing with post-war Nazi activity in South America, first one at the Seattle Public Library outlining how a former French Gestapo agent in Paraguay became one of the world's top heroin traffickers, now "The Fourth Reich", not to be confused with the recent book of the same name, by Magnus Linklater, Isabel Hilton, and Neal Ascherson. This one deals specifically with Klaus Barbie and his activities in South America before his capture and extradition to Europe. Barbie was the head of internal security for Bolivia, and in 1980 organized a coup in Bolivia along with Italian terrorist Stefano delle Chiaie , and other terrorists from Argentina and Italy that put a military dictatorship in power. Lest you think this is a conspiracy theory, ye olde Wiki has an interesting article about the leader of the military government, Luis Garcia de Meza that gives an outline and mentions Barbie's role. If you don't believe that, the google "Luis Garcia de Meza", like This and read about him for yourself. The coup appears to have happened because Bolivia had gone back to civilian rule after being a military dictatorship for an extended amount of time and because not surprisingly the left won 38% of the vote in the elections. The book goes into extreme detail about how it happened and what their goals were, the primary goal being a straight out transformation of Bolivia into an Italian style Fascist state.

The book outlines assassinations and death squad activity that the people working for Barbie committed. Also outlines how the Fascist members of the group, which operated out of Bolivian Military Intelligence, acted as unofficial ambassadors to Europe with the goal of hooking up with neo-fascist groups there, and adds interesting tidbits like the fact that Argentina and South Africa immediately recognized the coup government as official. Also, that Stefano delle Chiaie attended an ultra-right congress of Central and South American governments and met Salvadoran death squad organizer Roberto D'Aubuisson, who called him a professional and said that his armed forces could learn from him. Deals were struck with cocaine traffickers for a cut of the money.

To give a kind of taste of the depth of all of this, here's a passage from the book describing the extravagantly named "Fiances of Death" paramilitary squad that Barbie helped found:

"Jose recalled some of the members:

There was Manfred Kuhlmann, a Rhodesian mercenary, who came from Paraguay with Fiebelkorn and Fiebelkorn's wife, Linda. He was Fiebelkorn's favourite. Hans Stellfeld, a former SS man and an old friend of Klaus Barbie. Then there was Ike Kopplin, an old Nazi and a sadist who enjoyed beating prisoners with the butt of his revolver. Ike liked living in the wilds. He was a tactical genius in open country. he was a Nazi too.

And then there was Napo -- Jean "Napoleon" Le Clerc -- who used to think everybody was a Communist and would talk about killing all the time." (The Fourth Reich, pg 273)

From, which is an online version of the Country Studies books put out by the U.S. government:

From the article "Bolivia--Transition to Democracy"

"The process was disrupted on July 17, 1980, however, by the ruthless military coup of General Luis García Meza. Reportedly financed by cocaine traffickers and supported by European mercenaries recruited by Klaus Barbie, former Gestapo chief in Lyons, the coup began one of the darkest periods in Bolivian history. Arbitrary arrest by paramilitary units, torture, and disappearances--with the assistance of Argentine advisers-- destroyed the opposition. Government involvement in cocaine trafficking resulted in international isolation for Bolivia. Cocaine exports reportedly totaled US$850 million in the 1980-81 period of the García Meza regime, twice the value of official government exports. The "coca dollars" were used to buy the silence or active support of military officers. But García Meza, who failed to gain support in the military, faced repeated coup attempts and was pressured to resign on August 4, 1981."

An idea: sexual liberation as an antidote to advertising

This one I didn't come up with by myself but learned from an acquaintance. A lot of advertising depends on simmering the sexual tension to where it's just under the surface, letting enough of it through to entice a person into looking at the products. This partial sexualization of life is more of a wink and a nod transformation of life, because it isn't really sex as is experienced by people in general. Sex as it is is remarkably free; there's so much tension built up around it that the act itself is overpowered by the hype, but the act itself also is its own thing, pure in its own way. It's sort of like finally paying the piper. You can dance around it, use it to sell products, make yourself seem saucy with it, but the act itself is beyond all of that. Sex existed before advertising and will exist after it is gone. It cannot be co-opted because it's something that precedes spin. When you have a relatively unrepressed sexual life that's oriented around actual sexual relations with people as opposed to the images on the screen the factor of control based on repression and the ritualized transgression of repression for capitalistic ends lessens in your life. Sort of like "Yeah yeah yeah, breasts, double entendres, sensuality, seen it, done it, got the t-shirt, doesn't impress me anymore". I would also hope that more honest sexual relations with folks would lessen sexism and the appeal of sexism through forcing people to reckon with actual flesh and blood women instead of images and representations of how women are supposed to be.

*on edit: Sex could be seen as a Kantian thing in itself. I'm not using hyperbole here but using the term technically. According to Kant whle we can't know external things in themselves we can get an idea of what at least one thing in itself is by introspection. What Kant found when he looked inward where all sorts of mental structures that were there because we're human, and that didn't follow from a purely reasonable or rational standpoint. The real existing human being does not have the characteristics of a perfect rational mental computer but is instead conditioned by its species-being. This forms the basis for Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason".

One of the things that Kant found was the Will. How we Will something, how we make decisions, why we make the decisions we make, were areas that Kant found didn't play ball with pure abstract reason but that derived their rules from other sorts of computation that are hardwired into our brains. Sounds straightforward, right? We're animals so we behave in animal ways...but the trick comes in that Kant believed that these biological categories were actually closer to truth than the rational categories and thoughts that we normally create and come up with.

If I am an end in myself, and reason is just a faculty that's second order, then I must belong to a world that's beyond the capability of reason alone to comprehend. If I can look at myself and figure out where my interior experience transcends abstract thought then I can get at a better idea of what life is all about, what the world is all about.

Volition is one thing that's beyond reason's ability alone to explain, and so is a clue to all this. Similarly, sexual attraction and the experience of love come from a super rational order. By studying sex as it actually exists between real people, and by studying love, we can potentially get at the meaning of the world in a way that transcends conventional means.

Of course there are complications. There is never just instinct, there's also the working out of that instinct in the world and between two people, which provides depth and profundity to the process in general.

Friday, October 09, 2009

A funny local thing: Redmond and The Apple Store

It turns out that The Apple Store in Redmond is within sight of an unmarked office building that's a Microsoft campus of some sort. They're both located in Redmond Town Center, which is an open air mall complex, not the actual city center of Redmond. Very interesting. Admittedly, The Apple Store isn't directly facing it and is on a side street, but it's still there. I found out that it was a Microsoft complex by accidentally trying to use their parking garage, finding that you had to have some sort of key fob to get the gates to open, and then circling around and seeing "Microsoft Parking Only" handicapped parking spots. Otherwise, it was completely anonymous and just looked like an unoccupied building that was part of the mall.

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

Basically for being sane, progressive, and not being Bush. There's a little more to that, like the stated wish to end the Iraq war, but in general I think that he's being given it because he's making the U.S. non-insane.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A reason why '70s liberalism failed

I was going through the Wiki page on the Rainbow/PUSH coalition when I saw that what it was about was uniting, exhaustively, every minority group including sexual orientation and identity, including generic poor people, except white workers. You can look at it here. Now, while the idea of a Rainbow coalition is a good one, excluding what's possibly the biggest group that could help probably doomed the project. Race and racism by whites is in my mind a kind of red herring for what was really going on, which had to do with the terms by which liberalism in the '70s thought about itself. And eventually this thing fueled the backlash of the '80s.

My understanding of things is that white workers, or just workers thought of as a class in general, were excluded because they were a group of folks who took conservative opinions on the Vietnam War, and who seriously opposed the counter culture. Or so it seemed. This opposition was conveniently equated with race. People in general don't consider that the difference in living standards between the World War II and pre-war Depression era and that enjoyed in the '50s and '60s could have accounted for the seeming conservatism by white workers.

During the post-war expansion workers in general in the U.S. experienced a staggering increase in quality of life. Life was good, the same government who supported the mainstream union movement supported anti-Communism and identified American prosperity with American patriotism.
All this was in the minds of folks who were working when the Baby Boom generation appeared on the scene.

It's trite to say it, but the post-war Baby Boom grew up only knowing the good times, only knowing the society in which they lived as one that generally provided stability to regular people, with the working class and what is known sometimes as the small bourgeois class merging into the idea of a middle class. From their perspective prosperity was normalcy, and so those who couldn't partake in that normalcy had priority with their grievances, because the grievances of workers had seemingly been resolved.

What this lead to was a reinvigoration of the liberal idea, where individuals are presumed to be free agents normally but where certain defects of society cause groups to no longer be able to exercise that agency effectively. Therefore, all that's necessary to make society really good is to empower those people through social movements, civil rights, women's rights, recognition of different religions in the U.S. like judaism and the contributions of jewish-americans to american culture, rights relating to sexual orientation and issues regarding the theft of the U.S. and Native American rights. All of these things are great, and the radical culture that existed prior to McCarthyism in the '50s erred severely in not giving each of these issues the space that they were due. However, by counting on the mainstream to be stable, the idea of underlying economic contradictions that could lead to a more complex situation was submerged, just waiting to destabilize the whole thing when the terrain shifted. And shift it did.

In the middle of the '70s the economic nicety of the '50s and '60s began to collapse. Economic issues now pressed on people. Large parts of the majority culture, mostly white, began to experience serious problem of their own. The white workers who were once dismissed now had grievances that should have been integrated into some sort of liberal framework but weren't. The model of '70s liberalism that had come about was now obsolete as an idea that meaningfully explained reality. All of the grievances and movements were still there, but the realignment of things meant that the mainstream could no longer be counted on just to accept what was being offered. Instead, finding few friends among the folks of '70s liberalism they pushed back with reaction. And ultimately they won because truth be told they outnumbered the minority groups and possessed more power in American society than they did, even though they themselves were oppressed. Ronald Reagan was able to coast through two terms with lots of support while eviscerating jobs and carrying out a right-wing cultural revolution of sorts because of this resentment.

The resentment, then, was not caused by some kind of inherent conservative prejudice in workers, especially in workers who are white, but was caused by objective conditions that were not being addressed in a meaningful way. To address them, in fact, would require something that went beyond liberalism as thought of in the '70s model and into socialism of some sort. The economic framework of oppression of minorities would have to be evaluated, and awareness of the commonalities in framework between the situation of white workers and that of black and brown ones would suggest new ways for cooperation, ways that weren't taken.

Cross race solidarity between workers, where the situation of oppression experienced by black and brown workers that is rooted deep in our history is brought to consciousness but wedded with awareness of class, would have been, and still is, the way to go.

If we want to resurrect the ideals of the era of the '60s and '70s, something like this will have to happen.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


According to Robert Scheer in a new article the government itself is saying that there are less than 100 members of Al Qaida in Afghanistan. Which sort of means that fighting the Taliban is pointless if the point is to defeat Al Qaida.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Strange personal connections: Project Paperclip

It turns out that growing up my mother's family lived next to a Paperclip engineer in Centerline, which is a small city surrounded by Warren Michigan. There were several major defense contractors in Warren on top of the auto industry at the Warren Tech. Center. I guess that at one point he displayed a photograph of himself in an S.S. uniform in his house, and all contact was broken off between the two houses when during a dinner party he got drunk and started making some very bad statements. Paperclip was how Nazi scientists were recruited for work on government projects in the U.S.

Unintentional humor from Yahoo: "Is SNL right that Obama's accomplished 'nothing'?"

It's rare that an article encapsulates liberal compromise making as fully as this one. Written in order to rebut a sketch on Saturday Night Live where Obama said that he's done nothing since becoming President, the point by point accidentally illustrates the idea that while Obama has not literally done nothing he's compromised on many, many promises he made on the campaign trail. While it's obvious that nothing he's done is remotely close to what Bush did on a daily basis, it's still far from accomplishing everything that he set out as his positions during the campaign. Some examples:

"7. Changing the military's policies on gay soldiers: In his first week in the Oval Office, President Obama announced that his Administration would have to study the "implications for national security" before he could attempt to repeal the present "don't ask, don't tell" policy initiated by the Clinton administration in 1993. On Sunday, White House National Security Adviser James Jones reiterated Obama's commitment to fulfilling this campaign promise, but added that the president has "a lot on his plate" and would get around to addressing the issue at the "right time.""

Aha. A lot on his plate. Too busy.

"1. Close the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay: In one of his first acts as president, Obama signed an order mandating the close of the notorious lockup by January 2010. On Sunday, White House National Security Adviser James Jones said that he was "hopeful" that the White House would meet that deadline. Several legal and logistical questions remained to be answered, however, including the fate of the remaining detainees."

In actuality, it's extremely likely that that deadline won't be met. Those legal and logistical questions are the key terms here, because those are the weasel words that allow liberals to still believe that Obama is committed to ending Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible. Give me a ring when he actually closes it.

"4. Reform the nation's health care system: This year's health care reform debate has been one of the more contentious debates in American history. Originally, the president set an August deadline for Congress to pass legislation for him to sign. That obviously didn't happen. However, on Friday night the Senate Finance Committee finally released its mammoth health care bill -- the last panel to do so, with a committee vote potentially coming as early as the middle of this week -- setting the stage for an even more intense national debate as the full Senate and House finalize legislation."

No comment there whatsoever on the compromises that Obama has made during the health care debate, with the public option, which is essentially what his health care plan was about, being steadily diluted until the meaning of the health care reform has become the residual reforms that were originally secondary.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Middle class ideology

One of the interesting things that Marx insisted on, particularly in his earlier writings that are more explicitly libertarian, was that bourgeois or middle class life was not devoid of ideology even though it was liberal. This is very significant because the liberalism of Marx's day was based on classical liberal ideas closer to today's right wing libertarianism and claimed that there wasn't any sort of ideology attached to it. Liberalism as it's used today was not what Marx and company were referring to. Liberalism back then took off right from Locke and claimed that it was against statism, against traditional ways of social organization and for freedom of labor and of trade.

But in opposing an old order the middle class liberals formed an ideology of their own. Where the conservative order supported inherited social status, the liberals believed that people should come into whatever they have through hard work. Where the aristocracy was seen as decadent, the middle class defined itself as more balanced and realistic, more personally responsible in their actions. The arts went in for similar treatment. In opposing state sponsored companies like those connected to imperialistic policies by great European powers they supported the right of people to become small business owners, as well as associating virtue with the process. Labor wasn't seen as oppressed but as liberated by the introduction of competition. In religion they favored non-comformist sects in England, that dispensed with the high church model that was too close to Catholicism, favoring things like the Congregational church and Presbyterianism. Salvation, like work, became individual. So an ostensibly non-ideological libertarianism gave birth to a set of morals and attitudes of its own, that is with us still today.

Now most of those attitudes are identified with conservatism if they're explicitly stated and advocated for, but as an undercurrent they exist in middle class communities everywhere. So what's the point? The point is that there are no social groups without some ideological interest attached to them. Ideology and society reinforce one another and the choice isn't whether or not you belief in an ideology so much as which ideology you believe in and whether or not you explicitly realize that this is what you do believe in.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What appears to be Naziistic fetishism in Industrial culture

I'm a proud fan of and participant in industrial culture here in Seattle. Lots of people mistake the dressing in black with militaristic sorts of clothing as being pro-fascist. Instead, there's another explanation for it that works very well: Industrial music is about having a face to face head on encounter with reality. It's not about escapism, it's about immersion in what's around you. As these things go, war is one of the most pure encounters with reality that you can have, and war has typified the 20th century with the sort of collective blood lust that raged on and on.
Nazism, or possibly Fascism as well, is one of the most pivotal episodes in 20th century history, the sort of embodiment of cruelty and brutality of the period, its sort of culmination. So I think that the folks who dress in black militaristically aren't either consciously or subconsciously connected with fascism, but are instead in their own way reflecting the severity of the universe. If you want the ground zero of the horrifying nature of the world we live in, the swastika is where you should look.

The Unbearables, authors of the book "Crimes of the Beats", one of the group at least, talked about beatniks wearing all black by saying that Priests wear black, Orthodox Jews wear black, black is the color of utter conformity. Possibly, yes, but so much more a reason to wear it. Reflect society back onto itself by dressing in a way that hypes up how human society really is underneath it all.

Laibach applied all of this to great benefit, mirroring the essence of Slovene society back to itself through ambiguous fashion choices.

But truly, if you listen to violent fucked up music, when you look out at the world and see fashion trends and stuff marketed as fads, you don't want to participate in it, and would rather wear fashion that severely negates all of that then to 'fit in' to whatever is going on.

Industrial militaristic fashion, or military chic, doesn't condone fascism, but in that it may make people nervous that something like that is coming back it may be a good thing. Folks in military chic industrial clothing are like archetypes from way down deep in the repressed unconscious come to life.

Interesting thing about Mormons and Polygamy

Is that it's not something that just happens because people want it to happen, because they want more women to sleep with, but because group marriage is associated with the final stage of attainment in Mormon theology. The Telestial marriage is kind of an ultimate sacrifice, I gather, for folks to be reborn into a sort of loving restored Christian community. Folks who are called to it and do it are entitled to the top part of the Mormon cosmos in the afterlife. I'm not Mormon and so could be wrong on some of this, but I'm confident that in broad details this is an accurate statement.

*on edit: doing a quick search, wow, I was wrong about the terminology there. It turns out that Telestial Marriages in Mormonism are general marriages that are really bad and abusive, and so are on the bottom of the heap. Celestial marriage would be the one I'm talking about.

...And Polanski falls victim to the same hysteria about sex crimes that the whole U.S. has adopted

With Cokie Roberts suggesting that he be taken out and shot. It's interesting that neither Mexico, nor Canada, nor the EU, has the death penalty, but here in the U.S. it's mainstream to advocate summary execution of someone who has committed a particularly bad crime. Polanski is guilty, and like the article says Katrina van den Heuval suggested I don't believe that his status as a great director or as a person who grew up in the Krakow ghetto and had his parents murdered by the Nazis should excuse his behavior. But it seems that folks are willing to set up a regular Volks Court to judge him, the Volks Court being a special court established by Hitler because he believed that even under the Nazi system trials of anti-social elements were too skewed towards the accused. Many of the Volks Court decisions were execution, making sure that justice was being done to those condemned by the State ideology.

The fact that it's pedophilia that Polanski committed, as well as rape, doesn't mean that he shouldn't have rights, like the right not to be treated like he was being held in Asuncion, Paraguay, where the police can beat and hold people without any sort of effective process in place to stop it. And honestly, you know, I think that some of the defense of Polanski isn't special pleading on the part of people who feel that he shouldn't be condemned because he's a great director. Instead, because Polanski is a public figure we're more sensitive to the injustice in our system with regards to these issues, whereas nameless folks fucked over by the system because of the severity of their crimes go mostly unnoticed.

Pedophilia in the U.S. is just another way of promoting paranoia about the bogeyman being out there, some sort of threatening force that justifies people being utterly reactionary in their responses to crime and to society in general. It's easier to complain about pedophiles and the supposed reign of terror created by them than it is to admit that you're really a small minded pseudo-fascist who hides behind your children to justify your opinions.

At one time it was black people who filled the role of paranoia other. And isn't Willie Horton a sex criminal?

Without some devious other lurking out there folks would have to honestly take a look at the world outside of their church, kitchen, and living room and actually address social problems that exist out there instead of in their heads.

And we can't have that.

To sort of top this with a quote, "Real freedom scares you because it means responsibility", so why not dodge that responsibility and instead call for the nuts of the cause celebre of the week?

A truth about math and science education in the U.S.

There are constant campaigns in the U.S. trumpeting the power of math and the need for science education, even as music and art has been on the chopping block time and time again. You'd think from seeing these advertisements on busses, posters, and occasionally billboards that we really respected science here and appreciated the natural world. But even before the ascendency of Christian fundamentalists who disbelieve in evolution this was not the case. Instead, I think that the push for science and math education in the U.S. is motivated by much more mercenary objectives, namely money.

Much of the science emphasis started in the post-war era as part of the space race with the Soviet Union, where folks promoted science education as a patriotic thing to do in order to fight Communism. But there was a problem there and that was that while all the scientists and engineers in the Soviet Union by necessity worked for the State and for State issues, not everyone who graduated with science related degrees in the post-war period worked for the Department of Defense. Defense contractors didn't absorb all of the graduates, and the percentage of folks going on to pursue pure research was likely low as well. Instead, lots of people then as now found work in the private sector designing new products for corporations.

While people who love science and math and are good at it may see a good physical and intellectual challenge in their work, corporations see dollar signs. Engineers mean new products and that means more money. Engineers are good cash cows for people who honestly don't give a fuck.

The thing, my belief, is that the business people only care about themselves. Science is just a tool to make money, get rich, and to grow their company with. If English literature made as much money as science there'd be posters telling us about the necessity of studying English too.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ok, here's a guideline that tells you when you're onto something

In relation to how I personally got onto the Left, there's this idea that I think Chomsky talked about in one of his many, many books and talks that goes that a question that leads to lots more questions is probably a direction to explore. With the Left, I was dealing with all of these constellation of conspiracy theories, all of which had some element of truth but that didn't add up to much when taken together. I think this is a common frustration. You have all of these isolated things going on but there's no convincing context in which all of them could operate. When I started gravitating to ones that were more Leftist suddenly the stuff that I was reading started to offer some insight into how society in general functioned. Not how it was that a particular group of people associated with a particular organization did fucked up things but how all of it might fit into a bigger picture that's not dependent on lizard people or that didn't evoke the Pentarchy...meaning the grand conspiracy of the Queen of England, the Pope, and Colonel Sanders along with a few others (which is from the movie "I married an axe murderer, the thing that the father believes in). Instead, it lead on to stuff that was more and more verifiable, stuff that was less conspiratorial and more sociological. Then, once it came to that point, the world opened up and lots and lots of questions started to present themselves, so much so that not only am I still dealing with it all but quite a few academics have spent their entire careers looking at these things and haven't exhausted them.

Moving from random politics in alternative culture a la the '90s to affirmative Leftism is one of the things I'm proud of, even though I don't condemn alternative culture whatsoever.

A difference between me (along with a lot of other people) and many of the '60s activists

Well, a difference is that there have been lots of people who have expressed the opinion that they were clean cut all American kids until they became adults and like a revelation the truth of society came to them, causing them to chuck all of that and become hippies and activists. That doesn't reflect my life. I haven't been a clean cut American kid since I was in elementary school. My experience reflects a position within society that's been either marginal or oppositional since virtually middle school. I didn't have an aha moment, a sort of Buddha moment or a Saul on the the way to Tarsus phenomenon, where I sort of realized just what was going on and got pissed off. Instead, I was pissed off and pissed off and pissed off and gradually moved towards a position where the things that I was studying started to explain things in a more coherent way than before. Sounds hackneyed, like some sort of leftist illusion or bullshit, but hey, I started with alternative culture just like anyone else. I followed conspiracy theories and lots of other things that are more typical and gradually, really gradually, started moving towards less right wing sources, or at least towards conspiracy theories that were more linked to liberalism and then to radicalism until after a while I wasn't dealing with conspiracies anymore but with power and class in society and in the world. Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, Council on Foreign Relations, the CIA, the CIA and drugs and mind control.It's all real to some extent, but just these things taken alone don't explain the world. I never believed in any of the illuminati bullshit, because beyond the idea of an age old conspiracy of lizard people i sympathized, and sympathize, with a lot of the groups labeled as part of the illuminati like the Masons. Only the sort of Masonry I like is probably unlike what grandpa practices in the lodge. Robert Anton Wilson, who wrote lots of really superfluous books late in life, nailed it in Illuminatus! and other books in saying that a lot of the groups identified with The Conspiracy are actually liberal or progressive in their own way, although neither he nor I lump in the sort of weird occult groups with folks like the Trilateral Commission, at least I hope he wouldn't since I don't think he ever actually mentioned them.

It's funny, Peter Sotos, a guy who writes fiction that's so extreme that lots of folks who normally defend that sort of thing throw up their hands at it...not wanting to sully themselves with being associated with it....has written that he's tried to find these extreme conspiracies that do horrible things to people in order to join them but can't find them.


Friday, October 02, 2009

The interesting thing about disliking most of humanity at many points of the day

Is that while I feel it I don't feel particularly superior to anyone. I suppose that if you hate folks you must feel superior to them on some level, but that's only implicit with me. I don't go around thinking about myself as being an elite or belonging to some sort of elite class a la the Church of Satan for instance. They hate lots of humanity too. Instead, if you turned the tables around and focussed on my life I think that lots of the same people I despise in mainstream culture would look at me as a complete fuck up, and I know this, and it impacts the way I think about myself even though I may say that I don't care occasionally. I'm almost 30, have no career, have no really established track record of anything that people from that world really care about. I went to college, but left two four year schools within a year and a half and then finished up my degree at Evergreen, a hippy school with no grades, graduating when I was 26. Of course, I worked my ass off at Evergreen and really did earn my degree, by any measure, but the folks who are paying attention to what college you went to etc.. don't really care about that stuff. Throw in prolonged periods of unemployment, from way before the current economic crisis started, into the mix and I look like a real winner to them. It's not like I'm unaware of these things. But the fact is that while they may view me in absolute terms I tend to view them and everyone else in relative terms, thinking about what cultural influences they came under as well as what power relationships they participate in.

I dislike most of humanity not because I think that they're inferior but because they could be nice, normal, responsible citizens and for whatever reason they've chosen not to be that. Our culture here in America condones unconsciousness. Choice though, I guess that sort of puts a twist on the whole cultural influences thing, but only a little. We can talk until the cows come home about the choices that x, y, and z person or people should have made, what choices it would have been good for them to have made, but in the end we're not really responsible for every little action or preference that we've arrived at. This points to one of the key problems with existentialism as Jean-Paul Sartre defines it. Sure, in the next minute or so I could do something completely and totally out of character, there's nothing literally holding a gun to my head telling me not to, but the accumulated weight of experience and cultural programming makes those sorts of actions that much harder to do. So talking about personal responsibility in those terms, which is what that form of existentialism does under a different name, doesn't really help as much as it could, and frequently becomes an excuse for the person talking about it to evade the weight of life itself. I'm a Marxist, I believe that people are shaped by the circumstances that they find themselves in and that therefore they're not totally responsible for what they do or don't do.

Currently listening to: "I'm not a human being", show on Sun Ra from

The show, from a series called "The Chill Room" is a mixture of jazz musician Sun Ra's music/performances and a lecture he gave at Berkeley as part of his "The Black Man in the Cosmos" class. A book I was leafing through gave a great summary of Sun Ra, when it said that in saying that he was from Saturn, Sun Ra was announcing his total and complete revolt against a racist society.

So what's to say?

Lots. I don't know. Personally, I go between hating most of humanity and wishing that it could just fuck off and die and liking parts of humanity. Not going between total hate and total love but between total hatred and partial hatred mixed with love. Often, pure hatred comes out of realizing that despite Obama or whatever land mark that you want to talk about Americans are still intellectually incurious and somewhat lazy. Changing this is going to be a long term project, to be sure, but fuck I sure wish that as many people cared about the outside world as care about getting large screen LCD HDTVs. We're still living in Day Dream Nation, as Sonic Youth titled it. I try to live outside of that daydream as much as possible, but what my fellow humans do matters a lot to me in that my own choices are nowhere near enough. But I feel like I have no obligations to this society as a whole, no obligations to the mainstream certainly, and don't fly off the handle not out of respect for it but because such actions violate my own personal code of morality. I have no excuses.

I feel like shit and going to get eye protection, that's what's new in my world

How about yours? I need safety glasses for an art related things that I'm doing over the weekend. The feeling like shit, well, a combination of the changing seasons and general exhaustion is responsible for that. The Northwest does in fact have four seasons, not just rain, and a few days ago Seattle went from summer to fall in one day. From not wearing a coat to having the heaters on, the seasons changed in a serious way this week.

Has Glenn Beck stopped beating his wife?

Inquiring minds want to know. The site is here, Excerpts:

"This site exists to try and help examine the rumour that Glenn Beck does, in fact, beat his wife. We're not claiming that we know the truth- only that the rumour floating around saying that Glenn Beck beats his wife should be discussed. We just want to do our part to shed some light and try to get the bottom of this rumor that Glenn Beck hasn't stopped beating his wife.

Why does this rumor persist? Well, some people claim that Glenn seems overly emotional and aggressive, and that he has a tendency to be violent. He yells at callers on his radio show, and had a very public meltdown with at least one caller.

As another dangerously unstable person said, let me make one thing perfectly clear: We don't know if Glenn Beck has stopped beating his wife or not, but Glenn refuses to comment."