Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Women are not 'Pork'" by Ruth Rosen....give me a break

I say that because the title of the article---a reference to people equating women with meat---has nothing to do with the actual content of the article. Or at least nothing nearly as sensational as you'd believe. The article is about a change in the stimulus bill that...wait for it....didn't cut contraceptive funding...but instead left contraceptive and family planning under Medicaid where it is instead of giving more money for it. She then goes on to talk about how lack of family planning effects the economy, but then comes back to frothily nail her target by suggesting that the labeling of the bill as 'pork', which is what all unnecessary spending is labeled as, with regards to women is indicative of a deeper treating of women's bodies as meat by society and congress. So I suppose that we should supply $1 Billion dollars to Ruth Rosen to dole out as she pleases because, obviously, contraceptive planning is too important to put a dollar amount on. Hell, $100 Billion, how about it? Because you're treating women like meat otherwise.

It sort of figures that she's a teacher at UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley is a boutique school where semi-radical professors can think they're changing the system by being allowed to be shrill in one or two classes.

Being political vs. partisanship, Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti

I think there is a lot of confusion outside of the progressive world about this. Howard Zinn has declared that people can't be neutral on a moving train while Michael Parenti has said that reality is political. My guess is that folks read things like this and declare that progressives aren't really independently minded, but that's actually the reverse of what's being said. Looking at the world politically means that you look at social issues, moral issues, ethical issues, as potentially having a political component to them, political in the sense of politics as a general science or area, not in the sense of very particular political structures like a particular department of a state government. Social issues, which are usually widely thought about social facts, at least perceived facts, give rise to different responses that are in themselves political. Moral and ethical issues follow the same tractk with political philosophy, like that implicitly underlying conservative, liberal, and radical thought, being engaged, which can then lead to concrete political solutions. Partisanship, on the other hand, is no more than just agreeing with whatever party or philosophy that you subscribe to in a dogmatic fashion. Partisanship can be based on vague, seemingly philosophical ideas, for instance in the case of right wing thinkers in the U.S., but it's rarely honestly philosophical because the bias implicit in it undercuts whatever claims to objectivity are present. And objectivity itself is not incompatible with being political. Being objective doesn't mean having no opinions; instead, it can mean that one has thought about things from a neutral perspective and has come to believe in a particular political philosophy, but that despite coming to this position you still honestly evaluate claims based on their merits rather than on their conflicts or lack thereof with your personal position.

Woo hoo! Purple Fingers!

All over the news today are pics of Iraqis with purple fingers who voted, so many different pictures that it's actually become somewhat funny to me. The purple finger thing, the featuring of it, started off as a propaganda device used by the Republicans to try to justify the invasion of Iraq. Because people were able to vote, therefore progress had been made over Saddam Hussein and we were successful in bringing democracy to the middle east. Very visibly, all the Republican members of Congress came into session with their index fingers died purple one day, showing what all the pictures were about. The purple is an anti-cheating device designed so that folks can't vote multiple times. Democracy will no doubt exist in Iraq until they elect someone who we really don't like, when it will be declared invalid because the candidate will have a supposedly illegitimate or radical agenda, after which we'll overthrow the new government. I mean, it's not like we're not going to put the new embassy, which is the size of several football fields, to use. We're still occupying Iraq and will still most likely have a big presence there after most of the troops are gone. If we wanted to truly support Iraqi democracy we would get the hell out of there, close down the embassy, and stop interfering.

That gesture would be worth more than all of the pictures of people with purple fingers circulating out there now.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meanwhile, in the alternate and somewhat healthier reality that is Europe...

"Massive protests across France

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets and staged strikes across France to protest the government's handling of the country's economic crisis.

Public and private sector workers are demanding greater protection for their jobs and salaries, and better efforts by the government to stimulate the economy.

Estelle Yousouffa, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Paris, said at least one million people had taken to the streets, with protests held in about 200 towns and cities.

Tens of thousands of protesters in the capital walked from the Place de la Bastille towards the city centre.

"The country is literally is on hold," Yousouffa said.

"Things are functioning, some classes in school are open, but all public offices are closed, 30 per cent of the transport and the trains are working."

'Call for help'

Francois Chereque, of the CFDT union, said the protests were "the biggest workers' rallies in 20 years".

"We refuse to pay for the capitalist crisis," read one banner at a protest in the central city of Lyon.

Another said: "The capitalist economy is sick... let's let it die"."

Talking about Guantanamo Bay recidivism is like talking about Gulag recidivism

Because the Gulag system was supposedly aimed at "rehabilitation" too. I didn't realize that rehabilitation was one of the functions of Guantanamo, considering that the term is usually applied to prisoners who are charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced for a crime. Personally, if I was a Guantanamo inmate who was freed, revenge against the system and country that put me there would be foremost on my mind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Riffing on the idea that "Terrorists have no rights"

Started in a Glen Greenwald article. The idea is that terrorists have no Due Process rights. Due Process is a term that most people are unfamiliar with but one that has an enormous amount of importance in both the American and English judicial systems. "Due Process" seems like a boring term, but you have to ask yourself: Due Process of what? The answer gives an idea of just what magnitude violating Due Process entails.

The idea is that the government cannot deprive anyone of life, liberty, or property without Due Process, that is to say without cause and an opportunity to appeal it. Due Process is a catch all term for all of the rights in the Bill of Rights. When the government infringes on a person's First Amendment rights they're denying their Due Process rights based on what statute, i.e. the Bill of Rights, has established as a recognized right that has to be respected by the government. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, on down the board are protected from infringement by the government by Due Process. Due Process also covers rights from beyond the Bill of Rights that have been enacted through legislation. For instance, gay marriage. Due Process also adapts to changing societal mores or values; for instance, segregation was struck down as a violation of Due Process by the States. With Guantanamo Bay, the idea is that they're depriving the inmates of liberty, by putting them in prison, without any sort of hearing and without any sort of adherence to either international or U.S. law. Following the imprisonment goes the violation of prisoners rights in how they're treated while in prison, i.e. torture. In other words, Due Process is a big fucking deal and when you see a denial of it being justified you should freak out.

If Due Process as a value is diluted in the United States it paves the way for totalitarian government and dictatorship, where the government can do anything to you with no protections for you from it and no way for you to fight it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In praise of Snark

Admittedly, I haven't read "Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation", by David Denby, but then he hasn't read my website. Ha. Just kidding. I've only read reviews of the book, like This One at The eXile, but I do know a thing or too about snark and so I can give a general perspective on why I like snark and why I think it's a good thing. Basically, I implemented a pro-snark policy a few months after the site started (really, I formally made the decision to put really biting, offensive, potentially libelous, humor on the blog), because of the complete blandness of mainstream political coverage.

Mainstream political coverage either on the news or in most papers stemming from the Clinton era on, with a particular emphasis on the post-9/11 age, promoted the idea that a non-conflict oriented toned down politics of consensus was the way to go. Anything that went beyond that was unreasonable. The idea carried over to today even in reporting on humanitarian tragedies like Gaza, where instead of pointing out the obvious and overwhelming inequalities of losses there the media tries to balance the carnage visited on the Palestinians with the much less traumatic pain felt by Israelis. Because if you didn't point out that, yes, Israelis have been hit by homemade rockets launched from Gaza you'd be ideologically biased. Well, I decide to say fuck that, fuck consensus, fuck being nice, fuck being polite, and instead endeavored and still endeavor to write things in an offensive tone that often mimics the level of offensiveness of what I'm writing about. I see no need to put lipstick on a pig, so to speak, when talking about non-entities cum war criminals like George W. Bush, and instead want to give back in rhetoric something that minces no words in describing the level of inhumanity that they've visited onto the world.

This leads to a lot of snark.
But a snark filled world is superior to a world of bland consensus where the abhorrent is buried under the idea of false neutrality.

Another perspective on the stuff Ossendowski talks about: Pudovkin's film "Storm over Asia"

A fiction film made in the Soviet Union in '29. About a Mongolian guy who is first cheated out of his best fur by western occupying powers/White army people, then used by them to legitimize their power because he has a piece of paper saying he's a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. It's actually a comedy, and succeeds as one. The piece of paper, for example, wasn't his but was left by a monk who tried to steal the fur at the guy's family yurt. Trust me on the funniness of this.

While the film is somewhat anti-Buddhist it's not anti-Asian, and instead gives a sensitive portrayal of Mongolian life. Fortunately, it was probably mostly made before Stalin assumed power in '29, thereby allowing much more artistic freedom in its portrayal of things than would have been possible afterwards. Not a lot of ideology besides exploitive western fur buyers and such, but it's rendered in a way that attempts to be believable.

All in all a good film.

P.S. an interesting side note is that there appears to have been a rivalry between Sergei Eisenstein, director of "The Battleship Potemkin", and Pudovkin concerning montage technique. Pudovkin puts montage to great use here, in a way that's less formalistic than some of Eisenstein's experiments. Although Eisenstein literally wrote the book, actually two books, on montage technique, it appears that the competition between the two directors yielded fruitful results.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Great book: "Men, Beasts, and Gods" by Ferdynand Ossendowski

A fascinating book about an area that seems to be very rich but has been overlooked: the upper Yenisei area of Siberia and Mongolia. It's mainly a story of adventure told by the author about his time being there during the Russian Civil War--albeit one the White side. Peoples encountered include Kalmycks, Tatars, Soyots, Buriats, Mongolians, Tibetans, Chinese, of course Russians, and miscellaneous tribal peoples of the area. The book has been criticized because it talks about the "King of the World" a figure who is supposedly the head of all the high lamas, like the Dalai Lama, and who supposedly lives in a large cavern underground. In point of fact the book only talks about this in what's an appendix, and it's pretty much proven that Ossendowski plaigarized this info from French mystic Saint-Yves d'Alveydre's book "The Mission of India". This information is just tacked on at the end and is obviously very different from the overwhelming bulk of the book, which is described in the first person in a realistic way, with verifiable people and places.

It's a treasure trove of a lost world, lost partly because of the forced settling of the nomadic tribes under the Soviet Union, something which is a black eye on that form of socialism. Available in various divers places via the web.

From inauguration to inaugration----how long this blog has been going

I just noticed that in the eight years between Bush's first inauguration in 2001 and Barack Obama's inauguration this January 20th I've been writing for about six years ten months. The blog officially started March 28th 2002. It was a little over a 14 months since the inauguration but because of 9/11 it seemed like an eternity. But all this is profoundly depressing to me. 6 Years, 10 Months of 8 years. I outlasted the Bush regime but it left fucking scars through the completely anti-intellectual tone of these times. At a time when pseudo-literate right wing authors could get shit in print that didn't make even the basic amount of sense that a college freshman class would require I was writing shit that touched on complex philosophical issues and getting totally ignored and laughed at when the someone decided to pay attention to me. The helpful people from anonymous e-mail addresses who read my posts for a long time and used to mysteriously make insulting comment after insulting comment on them once complained that my writings were making their brains hurt.

One of the reasons that the French Revolution freaked people out so much...

I think that the violence was just the icing on the cake. What happened in the radical phase of the French Revolution was that the huge feudal estates held by Lords were broken up and the land redistributed to the farmers who actually farmed it. Then the Lords were arrested and tried. The idea that radical democracy has to be bloody is less tenable once you realize that often in the cases where big excesses occurred the point wasn't simply revenge or hatred but was an underlying principle like the possession of land by the people who work it. That type of principle can be strengthened without violence, thereby short circuiting the argument against radical democracy by turning it into a question posed to the arguerers: does the underlying point make sense?

The bloody phase of the French Revolution was indeed bloody and somewhat indiscriminate in all likelihood, but the writers of the time were also thinking about their money when they registered their shock and displeasure.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An indicator of how crazy the Stalinist '30s were in the USSR: Yezhov

Yezhov was Stalin's head of the secret police before Beria. As told in Semyon Aronovich's film "I worked for Stalin" Yezhov decided to do something called "The biological model" with the members of the Communist Party. What this meant was simple: people who were members of the Communist Party had to periodically fill official biographies of themselves that were then entered into permanent files; Yezhov and his subordinates went through the files and compared the different versions of people's biographies to each other. If there were any discrepancies, like a slightly different date or a slightly different retelling of the facts, or new facts or facts that were absent, the person was called in, arrested, interrogated, and then likely either sent to a labor camp or shot. Eventually the toll became to great and Yezhov was found, of course, to have singled out people who were absolutely not guilty of anything. I think it was called "The biological model" because the vulnerable and weak were culled.

He was replaced by Lavrenty Beria, unfortunately, who was an even bigger, sadistic, monster.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Historical Mystery of Bush's Presidency" a good article by Robert Parry

Here.The mystery, literally, is why the fuck did we elect him---not once but twice, the second time after 9/11 and after his assault on people's rights and on Afghanistan and Iraq in a direct sense. It outlines in an almost painful way the key failings of Bush from the campaign in 2000 till the end.

My contribution to why exactly people did it are that on some level lots and lots of people identify with the sort of idiotic man's man cigar chomping back slapping good 'ole boys network type of guy that Bush represented. Ignorant about everything except how to make money, which is sometimes gotten by who you know, with greed and corruption flying high, the man's men mindset embodies much of the concept of the "Ugly American". We are in fact the "Ugly Americans", and a significant amount of us don't give a damn about the rest of the world, or civil rights, or human rights, or prisoner's rights, or (enemies) privacy rights, or legal arguments against starting wars with whoever the fuck we want to, on and on. It isn't some sort of flaw. That's how lots of people in the U.S. are. Bourbon drinking cretins. It's why we're in the economic crisis we're in, through the extrapolation of that ethic all across the economy, and why the world hates us. Bush is the both the natural outcome of this aspect of the capitalist system and a champion for all who are a part of it who aspire to some sort of 'greatness'.

From the article:

"Even on Inauguration Day 2009, as most Americans rejoice that Bush's disastrous presidency is finally heading into the history books, there should be reflection on how this catastrophe could have befallen the United States - and on who else was responsible.

Indeed, it may become one of the great historical mysteries, leaving future scholars to scratch their heads over how a leader with as few qualifications as George W. Bush came to lead the world's most powerful nation at the start of the 21st century.

How could a significant number of American voters have thought that an enterprise as vast and complicated as the U.S. government could be guided by a person who had failed at nearly every job he ever had, whose principal qualification was that his father, George H.W. Bush, was fondly remembered as having greater personal morality than Bill Clinton?

Why did so many Americans think that a little-traveled, incurious and inarticulate man of privilege could lead the United States in a world of daunting challenges, shifting dangers and sharpening competition?

What had transformed American politics so much that, for many Americans, personal trivia, like Al Gore's earth-tone sweaters, trumped serious policy debates, like global warming, health care for citizens, prudent fiscal policies and a responsible foreign policy? How could George W. Bush, who was born with a shiny silver spoon in his mouth, sell himself as a populist everyman?

Even taking into account the controversial outcome of Election 2000 - which saw Gore win more votes than Bush - why was the margin close enough so Bush could snatch the White House away with the help of five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court?

And why did the nation - after the 9/11 attacks - so willingly follow Bush into a radical divergence from traditional U.S. foreign policy and into violations of longstanding national principles of inalienable rights and the rule of law?

Why did the institutions designed to protect U.S. constitutional liberties, including the press and Congress, crumble so readily, allowing Bush to seize so much power that he could entangle the United States in an aggressive - and costly - war in Iraq with few questions asked?"

How strange--Valkyrie nominated for nothing and Benjamin Buttons nominated for everything

In the Oscars competition. There's no conspiracy here, as I've outlined in previous posts. Instead, there's the sheer weight of Hollywood inertial stupidity, stupidity that shies away from any controversy like it's the plague. Benjamin Buttons, which I've seen, is a nice, harmless, drama that's uplifting and happy. Valkyrie has Hitler in it. The academy, if it selects Brad Pitt as the best actor of the year for Benjamin Buttons it will confirm that the academy cares more about nice consensus than about actual talent. Pitt was decent in Benjamin Buttons, but in my opinion Tom Cruise blew him out of the water with his portrayal of Stauffenberg in Valkyrie.

In general I'm surprised that Benjamin Buttons got the amount of nominations that it did. It's really a second rate film, although a good second rate film, and it doesn't deserve the highest honors that a competitive, juried, competition could bestow on it. But it's safe! And heart warming! And it doesn't bring up any icky moral issues that people have to ruminate on! And Brad Pitt is so cute! You see where I'm going with this.

The level of reasoning here is probably something like that of a coked up executive waking up in the morning and considering the films to be nominated and saying "What? Umm. Damn that fucking light. What time is it? Shit. Okay okay, what films are out there. One about Nazis with Hitler? No fucking way. What else is there? Oh yeah, that one about the guy who ages backwards. Cool. Where's my fucking car? What the hell happened last night?"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A special blast from the past: George W. Bush after the inauguration

Based on William S. Burrough's routine "Roosevelt after the inauguration". Originally written in April of '03

A blast from the past that I wrote in 2003:

"George W. Bush after the inauguration (with apologies to William S. Burroughs)

Well it was just after the inauguration; George Bush was reclining in the oval office with a few of his choice cronies, Donald Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Cheney, and the justices who assured him his office, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.......Ashcroft is supplicating Bush by giving him a ceremonial foot bath and annointing, in the manner of the apostles to Christ in the gospels. "Ah, Ashcroft buddy, that feels so good, where'd you learn to do that?" our commander in chief says, petting the red assed baboon which he has beckoned to his side for this occasion....

"Fellas" George Bush says, "There's gonna be a new appointee in town, heading up the office of homeland security", "I want you to meet Wilbur" he says, gesturing to the red assed baboon who is by this time masturbating heavily in a corner.

"Wilbur may not look like much, and he might lack, er, some of the finer social qualities, but with him at the head of the new department our security will be tighter than ever"... he says, turning his head and nodding at Wilbur, who is screeching in ecstacy.

"But Boss...." starts out Donald Rumsfeld. Interrupting him, Bush declares "Now Donny, you and the rest of the crew are going to have to get used to Wilbur being on top, er, I mean, Wilbur, as head of the new department, has authority over all of you----he only reports back to me, see? And so you'll going to have to squelch your objection." "Your position, Donny, is in Wilbur's hands now, and I wouldn't want to make the little guy mad if I were you."

"I, I" Rumsfeld manages to blurt out of his constricted throat.....Wlibur takes a look at the spectacle before him. It seems that Rumsfeld has stopped Wilbur from finishing his business.

Wilbur takes two steps and then leaps at Rumsfeld, grabbing him by his shoulders and taking him to the ground. He stands on his back and pounds Rumsfeld's ribcage, while the Secretary yelps in horror. Ripping Rumsfeld's shirt to shreds, Wilbur then moves south, smelling the congealed semen and fecal stains in Rumsfeld's pants....Snapping his belt and ripping his trousers Wlibur decides to finish what he started internally with Rumsfeld, and proceeds to viciously sodomize him with his foot long bone hard penis.

Unlubricated and commanded by an animal who knows no bounds to cruelty Rumsfeld's sensitive anal tissue is lacerated by Wilbur's thrusting, with blood now visibly coating the simian's large, red, member.

"See Donny my boy" Bush chuckles, "It seems the office of homeland security has decided to veto your proposal." "Good boy Wilbur", he adds.

Shrieking with delight Wilbur steps up the pace and soon falls strangely quiet, having obviously deposited his primate semen into Rumsfeld's lacerated anal canal.....

Rumsfeld is semi-conscious...the primate rape was more than he was expecting from Bush.

The site of the gurgling figure of Rumsfeld on the floor makes the remaining members of the group stand back. Even Clarence Thomas, who, at the height of the Simian's sexual act could be seen stroking his own member through the cloth of his pants. He knew what could happen next.

Wilbur, by now dislodged from Rumsfeld, now retires flaccidly to a velvet backed chair which Bush has sent out for; Bush hands him a cigar and lights it for the ape.

"Was it as good for you as it was for me?" Bush asks. He looks at the simian, divining an answer, then turning to the rest of the crew in the office says "Boys, there's a new Sheriff in town. We have work to do; I think that me and you all, with Wilbur at my side, are gonna do some good things for this country."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

America becomes a true New World country

An overlooked but highly important consequence of electing a black President. You see, the United States has done its best to conceal its colonial heritage, to conceal the fact that we're not just an extension of Europe but are a country determined by the fact of our later settlement. If you go to Europe and go to some of the old towns in the cities there you'll see that they go back in some cases over a thousand years. The United States has only been settled, at the earliest, about four hundred. Before that North America was an unknown country ruled by its native inhabitants.

Whatever later innovations in things like representative government America later came up with, it was always within the colonial context. Farmers in Massachusetts who existed without slavery? Still in a colonial context and not in a European one. Farmers in Iowa? Farmers within a colonial context and not in a European one. The absence of slavery and of later contact with native american tribes in the United States does not change the fact that our country was produced by colonization. T

he New World was typified by slavery. Now we have a black man as President, as opposed to the 'good New England stock' and other fictions that people used to evaluate potential Presidents by. The United States has been typified by immigrants from all over the world coming to find better lives. Now we have a President who was the son of an immigrant. Barack Obama is more representative of what both we as a nation are and of what the New World as a whole, America north and south, is.

Toussaint L'Ouverture thou art avenged

Toussaint L'Ouverture was the key leader of the Haitian Revolution that overthrew slavery and colonialism there.

I believe we have a new President

.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Less than twelve hours left of Bush administration

12:00 EST or 9:00 Pacific time out here will be when Obama becomes the official President of the United States.

350,00 conservatives vow to fight Obama's 'Socialistic' agenda. My guess is that that's the number of people who voted for McCain and Palin

It's a petition, it turns out, from Rawstory.

Ten years ago I was in NYC listening to MLK day programming on WBAI

And being awed.

Last day of Bush administration

I hope so. The big reflections will come tomorrow. I don't doubt that everything will go as planned, but I still will not believe it until I see it. I've been following this thing since the beginning; I was living in Florida when the 2000 election happened and I voted in it (for Nader...which in all likelihood changed nothing because most people where I lived were Republicans).

Less than 24 hours Bush will be gone..

Less than 24 hours.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A crucial twist that Hegel brought to Kant's philosophy

One that I'm having an increasing appreciation of. First I'd start off by saying that going from Kant and Kantian philosophy to Hegel and what Hegel may be refracting back as a whole isn't what this post is about. Just a tiny smidgen of Kant's philosophy that Hegel changed. That change was his declaration that the Thing in Itself is really empty and that when you get to the Thing in Itself seemingly behind reality a lot of what you find is what you already had, but in a somewhat different form and context. The Kantian Thing in Itself is the thing that exists in reality beyond our perceptual filters, reality unmediated by senses or by mental constructs on what the nature of reality should be. But I think that Hegel is using it in a different sense here, actually.

Talking about what the Thing in Itself is and labeling it empty flows right into Hegel's philosophy of history, something that Kant didn't talk a lot about. If history is thought to be approaching a certain goal or point, to be getting closer to an absolute value that appears to be outside of everything, first of all that value is part of a greater whole in this way of thinking. Something bigger generates the value that it appears that we're tending towards, and the attainment of that value will not consist of a transcendental absolute but of a recapitulation of reality as we understood it in an advanced context that we did not suspect.

The Thing in Itself, in this case the transcendental absolute value outside of reality that it seems like human history is approaching, turns out to be partially vacant in that it gives a (maybe very important) formal alteration to history but does not consist of a static, concrete, point. In Hegel's philosophy there is no ultimate absolute in the way I'm using the phrase but instead there are contexts following contexts, doors following doors following doors down a straight hallway where the opening of each door represents a change in the context of the person or historical subject but does not really constitute anything more than a stop along the way. Along the way to what? Hegel argued that there indeed was an overall tendency of these wheels within wheels to be structured in a precise way, the hallway taken as a whole leading up to something, but I personally think that this is not required and that the doors open and open infinitely, with ultimately you and where you want to take whatever---yourself, something that you're part of, society as part of it----being the arbiters of where the doors lead to, where they go.

But I'm digressing.

The important thing is that people shouldn't be afraid of what's in the unknown, on the other side of reality. People always think that out there, somewhere, in some unknown area of life, things are completely and totally different. The connection here is that the Unknown is also often associated with Absolute Value and with the Thing in Itself. What is unknown is potentially greater than you, potentially is something on line with the Platonic archetypes. But Hegel's declaration of his concepts cheats all of it by declaring that indeed we've seen the unknown, we've experienced awe and wonder at our relationship between ourselves and it, but that when we've actually stepped over the line some crucial things may have altered but our basic experience wasn't any different. It may now be invested with the trace of the value of the absolute or of the archetype, as a personal meaning, but not all of our previous knowledge or ways of being are destroyed by it.

Bush spent a third of his presidency either at his ranch or at Camp David

With the Camp David time being retreat time not peace accord time. According to CBS News Bush spent 487 days at Camp David and 490 days at his ranch in Texas. That's 977 days. Eight years equals 2,920 days, 977/2920 = 0.335 or a smidgen over 1/3. Or roughly two years eight months of his eight year presidency.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I wonder who supplied the food?



From an article about the return of opposition leader Tsvangarai to Zimbabwe.

The article and the self promotion of the U.S. on its food given to starving people are unrelated.

"MLK's dream included economic justice"--so now the AP tells us!

Funny how the main stream media has suddenly found this out. They've been deliberately shutting it out of discourse for a long, long, time:

AP via Seattle PI

"Although King is best known for his civil rights work, he was a staunch advocate for economic justice. In the months before he was killed, he had been working on the Poor People's Campaign and calling for an economic bill of rights. When he was assassinated in 1968, he was in Memphis supporting a sanitation workers' strike.

"Economic empowerment and justice was always a part of Dr. King's purpose," professor King said. "Civil rights without economic parity is still imprisonment."

While the election of Barack Obama is a huge step toward King's dream of a time when people are judged on the content of their character and not their skin color, economic data shows racial disparities are still pervasive when it comes to financial equality."

This is absolutely true and, guess what, people have known about it since King was actually advocating the policies while alive. It's the mainstream media who has shut out this aspect of King's work. It doesn't take "King scholars" as the article says, to find this out: the media could have listened to WBAI's MLK day programming. WBAI, the station that Democracy Now! calls home, once said that there should be a moratorium on broadcasting the "I have a dream" speech in order to broadcast later speeches that are more reflective of what King was advocating in his later days. The Vietnam War and Poverty are key themes in that. Also, the need to both have economic disparities between blacks and whites addressed AND the disparity between workers and owners addressed. This is indeed what he was talking about when he was in Memphis.

Good old class distinctions in "the Miracle on the Hudson"

Via The eXile

How the worm has turned: from SS members marching in Latvia to protesters against neoliberalism

Here. The Baltics were famous after independence for the resurgence of far, far, right groups including parades of surviving SS members, and 100% anti Communism. Now they're protesting neoliberal austerity measures. Funny how things change.

Final death toll in Gaza: 1230 vs. 14

Thereby showing that one Israeli life is worth about a hundred Palestinian lives. It would be good to keep this ratio in mind in the future to predict how many Palestinians Israelis are going to kill in revenge for an Israeli death. *on edit: actually more like 84:1

*on edit: the actual death toll was over 1300. This post was written before the bodies had totally been counted.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Welcome Sight at the White House

Three books by Hitler available at ye local chain bookstore but none by socialist authors

The ones by Hitler being about four copies of "Mein Kampf", one copy of "Hitler's Second Book", one copy of the mammoth, over six hundred page "The essential Hitler". Also carried is a book of key speeches of the Third Reich by various Nazis. People will say "But they carry a book or two by Marx!", but that's not really a valid point because Marx was largely a theorist and not really a socialist political figure in the same way as, say, Lenin or Rosa Luxemburg. I mean, why don't they carry writings by Lenin? You might object saying that Lenin was an authoritarian who killed libertarian socialism in the USSR and who has blood on his hands from orders given during the civil war, but no one outside of hyper-ideological Fox News types suggest that there's any equivalence between Lenin and Hitler. Stalin and Hitler yes, but not Lenin and Hitler. I mean, if the bookstore, which is either Barnes & Noble or Borders Books & Music (I'm not going to say which), was really concerned about the morality of the political figures whose writing they're stocking they wouldn't stock three books by Hitler now, would they? Kill twelve million people, fine to carry speeches and writings, started a socialist revolution that was problematic, with both positive and negative aspects, that did in the process kill people, albeit in a civil war which the revolution sparked, can't carry him. People would be up in arms if a major chain bookstore started carrying multiple tomes of Lenin's speeches and writings. But Hitler, well....I mean there is the first amendment, right?

Guess the person who's from the Middle East

Two semi-related images from Al Jazeera English :



A cabinet member from Qatar



Tzipi Livni, Israeli foreign minister

On edit: it looks like Tzipi Livni could be a distant relative of me, and I'm not Jewish.

And don't you know it, three days before Obama's inauguration Israel will stop the assault on Gaza

According to This story on Al-Jazeera. Saturday is supposed to be the day they stop. Confirmation on the idea that the assault on Gaza was a brutality timed to create the most damage before the blank check given by the Bush administration to Israel expired. 1,150 dead, a third of them children, it's Israel's idea of a sendoff for Bush.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On Andrzej Wajda's "Katyn"

Which I've finally seen, on PAL, with the aspect ratio turned to 16:9 so that the English subtitles work. It's a decent movie and overtly political, although the politicization is that of non-Communist Polish patriotism. The funny thing is that there are lots and lots of movies that have been released in the U.S. that have similar hokeyness. It rubs me the wrong way, the Polish patriotism, because I dislike patriotic themes in general, but it's not to the point where the story can't be appreciated.

Briefly, the story is about a Polish officer who is captured during the Soviet invasion of Poland, and what his family goes through during and after the war regarding uncertainty about his fate. The Katyn massacre is finally recognized after the war but Soviet occupied Poland has to buy the line that the Germans committed it. Several characters struggle with the conflict between their own knowledge of the massacre and the official story. Finally, the actual killings at the Katyn forest are re-enacted and you see the officer get shot, among many others whose killing is also shown.

The Katyn massacre of Polish officers and professional and intellectual persons by the Soviets was made possible by a secret clause in the Hitler-Stalin pact that said that if the Nazis invaded Poland that the Soviets could move in and seize eastern Poland, the Baltics, and Finland. The Nazis invaded in '39, thereby starting World War II, and so the Soviets moved in. Now the question is why didn't this get released in DVD Region 1 NTSC format, U.S. format in other words, in the United States; I mean it was nominated for an academy award and Andrzej Wajda is in fact one of the leading post-war Polish directors.

The reason is simple. It's not a conspiracy but the stupidity of Hollywood and the fact that when a certain narrative or story becomes established in the movies it's hard to break through that with a story that doesn't fit into the established categories. The Holocaust and to a lesser extent World War II as a whole have established themselves in American media in a certain way that sucks the air out of the room, so to speak. There's the Holocaust on one side of it and American troops fighting the Nazis on the other, the Nazis persecuted and killed the Jews and the Americans stepped in to fight against Nazi barbarism. It's a sort of thumbnail sketch of the Second World War. It paints us in great colors by contrasting the heroic Americans, who in point of fact only entered the war two years after it started, and who did less to liberate Europe from Naziism than the Russians did, confronting the worst evil perpetrated during the second World War, even though the allies chose not to do things like bomb the train tracks leading to Auschwitz, which would have saved more people from being murdered. Complexities in the story, particularly complexities in the story that don't revolve around either the United States or the Nazis, just don't fit into the formula, and Poland, which was certainly a third party in this, divided between Soviet and Nazi and never liberated by American troops, doesn't fit into it either. Even though masses of people died and suffered who weren't rounded up and sent to death camps like jews , even though other Fascist regimes existed besides the Nazis and Italy who persecuted their own people in particularly horrible ways, the easy way out still stands. Even Mussolini's Italy is usually beyond the story.

There's a very interesting twist in the meaning of Norman Finkelstein's term "The Holocaust Industry", an excellent book, one that I'm fairly certain is intentional. "The Holocaust Industry" concept that Finkelstein refers to is akin to the "Culture Industry" of Adorno and Horkheimer, a kind of hermetically sealed media environment that does its best to stupidly distract people from the real questions of the day and fill them with bread and circuses. The bread and circuses don't have to refer to anything real. In Finkelstein's usage it's a sort of self-perpetuating media frenzy that shuts out voices and ideas that don't fit within the boundaries of established pop culture portrayals of World War II. Books and books marketed for the United States are written of memoirs, which is good, but with a high frequency of popular memoirs turning out to be complete fictions, sometimes with the authors not even being Jewish, which is less good. Yet they fit the popular script and are accepted and loved, like "The Painted Bird" by Jerzy Kosinski, a novel about inhumanity and anti-semitism among Polish villagers that has been proven to have been made up. Kosinski never had the experiences he talks about. Yet it and its brethren are justified even after the falsehood comes out because they supposedly convey the spirit or feeling of terror of the Holocaust, no matter if they've been totally made up. Recently there was a case of a memoir about a young girl who supposedly killed an SS officer, escaped from a concentration camp, and lived in the forest with wolves that was accepted and everything that's been proven to be completely, completely, false; so the pattern lives on. And it's a particularly American pattern too. According to Finkelstein, Israel focusses on uprisings and resistance to the Nazis, both of which get little press here in the U.S. Europe similarly does this although it points to non-Jewish resistance to the Nazis, for instance the French Resistance, Italian Partisans, the White Rose society in Denmark and others. But suffering in World War II is so completely and totally associated with the media construct of Jews being completely passive victims, going to camps and being murdered without resistance of any kind, making the white and black contrast that much easier to continue, that suffering of other groups has no room here.

It's like it's a zero sum game for suffering during World War II in American pop culture: if you let on that other groups suffered you're supposedly turning away from or devaluing the suffering of Jews in the Holocaust, as if there's a limited supply of suffering to go around and sides are going back and forth over it. Where are the stories of the Gypsies who died in the Holocaust? Where are the stories of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, which was as much an act of mass murder as the Holocaust itself? Nowhere in American culture, because we like our stories neat, clean, and simple. Finkelstein also points out that in the end the way the Holocaust is treated in the United States does a disservice to the Holocaust itself, because it substitutes syrupy narratives for the harsh, cold, reality of it. There's "Schindler's List", where the jews in the factory are saved in the end, but there isn't a film that portrays the death camps as places where there both was no escape and no possible saving grace or ultimate miracle.

So see Katyn, if you can, that is if you can figure out how to play PAL DVDs, figure out how to turn your player to a 16:9 ratio and manage to get a copy of it used on eBay sent to the United States from Europe.

The fact that the murder of 20,000 people can't be accommodated into our, the U.S.', picture of World War II is serves as an indictment of the way it's treated in pop culture as a whole.

I've got my hands on a copy of Wajda's "Katyn", in PAL format with English subtitles

Where the subtitles don't even work unless you adjust your DVD player. I'm not going to let this thing go. 20,000 people, Polish officers, officials, intellectuals, were massacred in the Katyn forest by the Soviets under the Hitler-Stalin pact and yet an academy award nominated picture about it by probably the most respected and important post-war Polish film director is unavailable in the United States in a format that U.S. DVD players can play. I'll give a review of it, and be more forthright about the double standard.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chavez, we really need to have a little talk

Hugo, Hugo. I realize the importance of having a regime in place that can carry through with a popular revolution, but you know, abolishing term limits is going a little too far. One of the appeals that the Bolivarian Revolution had was that you were a folksy guy with integrity, but trying to end term limits doesn't really agree with that. If you stepped down and another person in your party ran for President---and he or she was truly independent---it would show the world that you're really carrying through the social change you claim to have started. I realize that lots of concrete progress has been realized in Venezuela in many sectors, but for it to stick you need to have basic democracy....and no more of these referendums. Referendums of these sorts bring to mind the Plebiscites that Napoleon instituted, which were bread and circuses designed to give the people a feeling of popular power while the real decisions were made behind closed doors.

Over 1,000 people dead in Gaza

And you still think this is about Hamas firing rockets into Israel?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wonderful Photoshopped picture of Bush

Supreme Court legalizes homosexuality!

In 2003. I know that this is old news, but I don't think that many people realize that the case that struck down sodomy statutes also recognized homosexual relationships as being valid and on par with heterosexual ones, even if formal marriage is still illegal places. I didn't know about it either until I came across the case and read some of it. The language is beautiful, and it's something that almost makes you want to cry. Here's some of what I'm talking about:

"John Geddes Lawrence v. Texas, June 6 2003, Justice Kennedy giving the opinion of the court:

"To say that the issue in Bowers[a previous case that upheld anti-homosexual legislation] was simply the right to engage in certain sexual conduct demeans the claim the individual put forward, just as it would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse. The laws involved in bowers and here are, to be sure, statutes that purport to do no more than prohibit a particular sexual act. Their penalties and purposes, though, have more far-reaching consequences, touching upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home. The statutes do seek to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals.
...
It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice.
...

Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled.
...

the case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government. "It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter."

...

The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual. ....
The judgement of the Court of Appeals for the Texas Fourteenth District is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. It is so ordered."

Aztec Religion, human sacrifice

A semi random factoid. I'm not a scholar of Aztec religion but this is my understanding of it, which is to say that there were a few factors that made it less gruesome than people think. First of all, death and life were much more closely associated in Aztec culture than in Western culture, so that death was accepted as a normal part of life, not something to be feared but a necessary part of the cycle of life. The Aztecs also believed in reincarnation, although the process was thought to take something like twelve years between death and rebirth. So death was not the end, and death was honored as a part of the greater whole. Now, where human sacrifice figures in is this: human sacrifice was thought to be something that propitiated spirits and ensured the proper functioning of the world. When people hear the idea of human sacrifice they probably think of some sort of psychotic killer attacking a random person in a sadistic way, but the ritualization of sacrifice by the Aztecs was in all likelihood a near antithesis of that. Something that sheds more light on it is that rulers, I'm thinking rulers less than those at the very, very, top, would ritually commit suicide at regular intervals in order to ensure the functioning of the world as well, and there were rituals of mortification, like having a rope drawn through a hole in your tongue, that also served as sacrifice. Suffering, pain, death, the certainty of an afterlife, no prohibitions against taking ones life like in Hinduism and Buddhism, combine to make the idea of the sacrifice of people less tragic than may normally be thought.

Of course human sacrifice is still human sacrifice, and we don't live in the Aztec empire, but it's still interesting to look back and try to figure it out.

Monday, January 12, 2009

UN Human Rights Workers hold up UN flag with bloody handprints on it

Unique, to say the least

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) employees hold a U.N. flag stained with red paint during a protest in the West Bank city of Hebron against Israel's offensive in Gaza January 12, 2009. (Reuters/Nayef Hashlamoun/West Bank)The resolution setting up a fact-finding mission was adopted despite the lack of Western support.

"GENEVA - A divided UN Human Rights Council voted on Monday to condemn Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip and set up a probe into "grave" human rights violations by Israeli forces against the Palestinians.

Thirty-three African, Asian, Arab and Latin American countries voted for the resolution. Thirteen mainly European states abstained, while Canada was the only country to vote against.

The 47 member council -- frequently critical of Israel in the past -- normally seeks to adopt resolutions by consensus.

Western countries said the text put forward by Arab and African states was too biased and failed to clearly recognise the role that rocket attacks launched by Palestinian militants played in triggering the offensive."

Maybe the feeling of 'bias' held by the West against the African and Arab states is something that they have caused third world countries to feel time and again in actions regarding them. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nine, soon to be eight, days until Bush is gone

I used to look at all of those 1.20.09 bumper stickers as being the ultimate in defeatism: an acknowledgement by the people who bought and display it that they're not going to do much in terms of protesting except let the clock run out. Not work on campaigns, not write letters, not participate in protests, just have that bumper sticker on their car and hope for the best. Of course, these people could also have been volunteering for the Obama campaign, but the ethic embodied in that sticker was profoundly depressing. Now that 1.20.09 is less than ten days away it's a little different.

I have a prediction, and it concerns Gaza: the conflict in Gaza will mysteriously end a day or two before Obama is inaugurated. It's been in the back of my mind that part of the reason for the assault on Gaza now is that Bush is still in office and still able to offer cover to the Israelis to do whatever they want, so they're aiming at the most brutality they can inflict on the Palestinians in Gaza while their blank check is still good. I'm not sure what Obama's position is going to be but it likely won't be the kind of blanket acceptance of fascist far right policies that Bush has given his assent to, both in Israel and around the world. 1.20.09 may be around the day when Israel announces that their 'military objectives' have been met in Gaza.

One thing I'm hoping will be a result in the Seattle area of the recession...

Is that IT workers will be introduced to some of the same standards that the rest of the world lives by. What I mean by that is this: around here there are companies that offer their computer people benefits beyond anything that is even conceivable elsewhere in an effort to make them as creative as they can. One company, profiled in Seattle Living, had masseurs on hand, a weekly party with alcohol provided by the company on Fridays, and a property in the Caribbean that people who worked there got a set amount of days they could go to. I've also ran into people whose companies have monthly optional concerts where the employees who are in bands on the weekends can bring their instruments into the company and play for folks. On top of that you have the most informal work environments that you could imagine, with all sorts of craziness and wittiness being not grounds for dismissal but instead being thought of as not a big deal if the payoff is productive and creative employees. It seems that with some of these companies the employees have everything but a stable of hookers who give out free blow jobs at lunch in order to defuse tension. But, ah, with the economy going south all of that may change.

No more free massages, no more parties. "We have to think of the bottom line you know and times are tough now....You don't like it? That's sort of tough. If you want to be an employee here you're going to have to accept it." Point being that people get fired for much, much less than these people are allowed and encouraged to engage in at work. Now they may get a reality check.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What would you call a 64 to 1 ratio of deaths?

Because currently the Palestinian death toll stands at 831 and the Israeli death toll is 16. 3,350 Palestinians have been wounded, according to Al Jazeera. I'm sure that slightly more than 16 people have been injured in rocket attacks, but I'd be surprised if it even rose beyond the lower half of the two digit range.

Breast Cancer, looking for a cure....

Maybe a cure isn't as desirable as effective treatment that's much less harmful and invasive. The reason I say that is that it seems likely that one of the causes of breast cancer is the enormous amount of pollutants in the environment. This may combine with genetic predisposition, but judging by the huge numbers of women now suffering from breast cancer it seems that genetic factors aren't the only ones contributing. If it had been, the idea of widespread breast cancer would not have just appeared in the last couple of years but would have been present for a long, long, time. So to find a cure would mean cleaning up the environment and somehow lessening the toxic load that people in general have in their bodies. This is a much more ambitious project than just finding a 'cure', which implies a drug or a treatment that will stop women from getting breast cancer forever. There may not even be a possible cure for breast cancer if the environmental toxins are strong enough. That's why I think that better treatment, treatment that doesn't destroy people's bodies and require mastectomies, is maybe a more attainable goal.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Israel herded 110 people into a house and then shelled it.

Killing 30. The shelling happened twenty four hours after the people were ordered into the single family house and told to stay put. Supposedly, according to the propaganda put out, the Israeli army is a fully modern and competent military machine, so it's hard to believe that this World Class bunch of people lost track of the fact that they'd corralled 110 people into the house.

'Mass execution', 'War crime', 'Mass murder', are terms that come to mind.

I was right: civilian casualties in Gaza is code for women and children

From Al Jazeera English:

"More than 50 air raids were reported to have hit across the Gaza Strip on Friday as the death passed 800 Palestinians over the 14 days of the Israeli assault.

More than 250 Palestinian children and nearly 60 women are among the dead, according to the UN."

If the 70-30% estimate still holds, 30% of 800 is 266. Percentage of civilian casualties have likely increased. However, it's likely, and this is the point, that every man killed is being labeled a member of Hamas, and therefore not labeled a civilian casualty.

Am I dreaming? Wal-Mart to cut 1,000 management jobs?

According to Raw Story. Unfortunately, since it's Wal-Mart it's a pretty safe bet that there's lots more regular people being fired than this.

Spelling Nietzsche in Russian

Because Nietzsche is actually a Polish name. I don't know if this is how it's officially spelled in Russian but Nietzsche can be phonetically spelled Нища. *on edit: an alternate spelling would be Нищэ.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The U.S.-Israeli relationship is in an advanced state of perverse decadence

And not decadence and perversion in a good way. Writing a lot of these things I'm aware that if Israel was just a peaceful society occupying a place in the desert where there were no previous people, just doing its thing, that alleging that pro-Israeli bias in the U.S. news had grown to the point where the media is almost a stenographer for Israel would be anti-Semitic. But in the present time that isn't how Israel is. That isn't how the situation with the Palestinians is either: a few people who happened to be there. The cozy relationship between the U.S. government and Israel, constituting automatic approval and a constant flow of money and weapons, is something corrupt that should not have started. Now that decades and decades have passed, at least since the early '70s, what started out wrong has grown to such huge proportions that increasingly perverse outcomes are being produced. What I mean by that is that certain profoundly fucked up situations can only come into existence if the system that produced them has been broken for a long time. You don't get to certain levels of wrongness in one go, they have to be built.
The U.S.-Israeli relationship has taken on such tremendous levels of dishonesty that black is now effectively white and white now black in the media.

Mainstream U.S. media portrayal of the conflict is mostly approving of Israel, portraying the Israelis as pure victims responding to threats on their lives. The reality is the opposite. Everyone else knows it but us, because we've built bullshit on top of bullshit regarding the Palestinians and Israel up so much that we can't see the ground below it. When you puncture that wound, or that boil, lots and lots of bile comes out, bile that at first glance may appear to be anti-Semitic but that in fact is a basic statement on how the U.S.-Israel relationship has become.

Palestine has nothing to do with the religion of Judaism. Israel does not equal Judaism, no matter how hard they try to promote that link. Israel also does not equal the community of people who designate themselves as being jewish. Israel does not have the authority to invoke the Holocaust as a valid reason to do what it wants to to the Palestinians. Israel is simply a settler state that drove the original inhabitants either out or into small areas, took their land, broke the rules and took more and more land that they were not even legally allowed to take under a UN agreement, and has been both enforcing its claims to the place it exists in by arms and is trying to expand its borders even farther. Depopulating the region of its original inhabitants as it goes.
The Palestinians are rightfully resisting this. They contest the original election that gave the signal that the formation of Israel was approved of by the Palestinians. Judaism and Jewish identity don't have anything to do with it. It's power.

The only factor that informed Israel from ethnic and religious considerations was the notion that after the Holocaust people of jewish background deserved a safe haven from further persecution. While that may have been a good point in theory, in practice the piece of land that they wanted said homeland to be built was already occupied by people who had lived their for millenia.....and who were probably relatives of the Israelis although they were Muslim. The next step was racism. Although I haven't looked into the founding of Israel as much as I should, I think that one of the reasons it came about is because the people who lived there, the Palestinians, were regarded as an inferior race. This racism was commonly held both by European Jewish settlers and the British occupiers. The struggle for Israeli independence, then, was thought of not in terms of Israelis and Palestinians but in terms of Israel vs. the British, two white groups....European for all purposes...fighting over who possessed the right to the land that the Palestinians lived on.

The invocations of the Holocaust are grotesque. The suggestion that Hamas better stop because their actions may lead to a wave of anti-semitism in Europe, with the subtext of a potential new Holocaust, is beyond grotesque and perverse when you consider that 700 real people, not abstract people possibly located twenty years in the future, have died as a result of Israeli attacks. Which is more important---people being killed now or the abstract possibility that all this may lead to increased anti-semitism which may include more threats to Jews in Europe, which may escalate into mass persecution. People are dying, being killed, maimed, injured, at this moment and Israel is invoking specters from sixty years ago in the past in order to justify the killing, the maiming, and the injuring going on right now.

You be the judge of it all.

Over 700 killed in Gaza, estimated 30% civilians, but what does that mean?

I started questioning the rationale behind who is and is not a civilian when I saw that policemen in Gaza--who admittedly work for the Hamas government there--were being labeled Hamas combatants when they were killed. I suspect that the 30% who are civilian casualties are people of whom there can be no doubt that they weren't Hamas members, or terrorists. Women and children most likely make up a big percentage of the civilian killed, although there probably are men killed of whom no mental gymnastics can make them into combatants. 30% of 700 is 210, so an estimated two hundred and ten civilians, with women and children likely making up a great deal of them, have been confirmed killed so far.

And four Israelis have been killed.

When the Red Cross takes Israel to task over using overwhelming force against Gaza in light of what Hamas is actually doing they're not just putting hot air out there. Hamas is firing rockets at southern settlements, which are illegal, near Gaza. Ignoring the conditions that Gazans have been living under during the blockade that preceded the attacks and the invasion, Israel is only entitled to use comparable force to stop Hamas from firing their rockets. Bombing and invasion go way beyond that. It's sort of like laying siege to Fallujah after the two "contractors" from Blackwater were publicly killed and burned. Not exactly a comparable response. Think about it this way: if a group of U.S. soldiers was hiding in brush and mountains, firing mortar shells now and then at an enemy when they think they can get away with it, were caught.....then all of them, lets say there's ten of them, were executed by firing squad, people would freak out. People would be beside themselves talking about how this was not just and how these guys have families back home who now are deprived of them, and that the enemy was barbaric for executing all of them instead of taking them hostage.

Another example would be kids throwing rocks at Israeli tanks getting shot and killed by machine gun fire directed at them in response, which has happened in Rafah.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Biographical sketch of site for Anarchoblogs

Anarchoblogs is back and up running at: http://anarchoblogs.org

If you're a blogger who wants to join, the address to go to is http://anarchoblogs.org/how-to-join

RadGeek has asked people who listed to give a short paragraph or two about their site. This is mine.

Lost Highway Times is an eclectic mix of anarcho-communism, left Marxism, and the ethos of individualist anarchism. In addition to these topics, Lost Highway is carrying out a re-evaluation of State Socialist societies and history free from both anti-Communist and Capitalist bias, with discussion of these societies, and possible positive features of them here and there, not implying endorsement of the systems as a whole. Particular interest is given to the type of ultra-left Bolshevism associated with the "Vpered Group" and the Otzovists, related groups of people who rejected large portions of what we think of today as Leninism. The Socialist Revolutionary Party of Russia is also an interest of the blog. This blog also aims to introduce readers to philosophical ideas and history that while well known outside of the U.S. are either completely unknown inside of it or are known only to a very, very, small group of people. This includes exotic leftist currents and political philosophy, not necessarily strictly anarchist, as well. The blog covers a diverse range of news and ideas from film, music, art and culture, to current events, and more directly political issues. It's located in Seattle.

Cowardly Obama to wait until inauguration to express view on Gaza

Probably because it'll likely be over by then. If you really believe in change, pressure Obama to say something about Gaza instead of putting all responsibility off on Bush and hoping that it ends before he has to deal with it directly.

Very good article on biased news coverage from Al Jazeera.com

This article, "In the US, Gaza is a different war" by Habib Battah, is a good analysis of what the difference in coverage is between the U.S. and the rest of the world.

"The images of two women on the front page of an edition of The Washington Post last week illustrates how mainstream US media has been reporting Israel's war on Gaza.

On the left was a Palestinian mother who had lost five children. On the right was a nearly equally sized picture of an Israeli woman who was distressed by the fighting, according to the caption.

As the Palestinian woman cradled the dead body of one child, another infant son, his face blackened and disfigured with bruises, cried beside her.

The Israeli woman did not appear to be wounded in any way but also wept.

Arab frustration

To understand the frustration often felt in the Arab world over US media coverage, one only needs to imagine the same front page had the situation been reversed.

If an Israeli woman had lost five daughters in a Palestinian attack, would The Washington Post run an equally sized photograph of a relatively unharmed Palestinian woman, who was merely distraught over Israeli missile fire?

When the front page photographs of the two women were published on December 30, over 350 Palestinians had reportedly been killed compared to just four Israelis. "

Monday, January 05, 2009

An old joke: The U.S. Embassy in Iraq has just opened

You know, the one costing over half a billion dollars and takes up forty acres? The joke is this: Why has the U.S. government never been overthrown? Because there isn't a U.S. embassy in Washington.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The lie that Hamas violently seized power in Gaza from Fatah

It's being reported in every story in an attempt to de-legitimatize Hamas. The truth of the matter is that the Palestinian people elected Hamas as their government but Fatah, the moderate force that had possessed the government previously, refused to let Hamas be seated in the Palestinian Authority. They refused to accept a legally elected Hamas government and refused to give up power. This lead to clashes between Hamas and Fatah that culminated in Hamas taking over Gaza from Fatah by violent force, thereby letting the people who were elected gain control. Fatah still rules the West Bank. It's a different kind of seizure if you take something that's legally your but has been denied you by both your legal opposition, your occupier, and the international community.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Support your local terrorists: Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces

Here












Your donations are tax deductible.

According to the Red Cross, combatants in occupied areas are legally recognized under international law

Meaning that Hamas has a legal right to resist Israeli incursions with comparable force as long as the force usage is not indiscriminate.

"Unlawful Combatants" in peace time are criminals, end of story

There has to be a real conflict for their to be unlawful combatants. You have to have combat to have either combatants who are lawful or combatants who aren't. If someone does something like 9/11 without the context being a war they have committed a crime but have not engaged in war. As such they should be tried as criminals and punished. Simple as that. Here's another example: if a group of people declares that they're fighting society, but have no popular support, and commit terrorist acts against people, they're supposed to be tried as criminals, not as combatants of any sort, because their actions and their group together don't qualify them as entities who can credibly initiate a war. There's a big difference between an entire army and Al Qaeda.

Friday, January 02, 2009

War according to John Locke

It's interesting in light of the current wars going on to consider what's regarded in Lockean theory as a state of war and what that implies. Basically, people are protected by their engaging in society. Their rights are safeguarded by the association known as society, which should exist not for plunder or expansion but to facilitate a peaceful existence. My rights balance yours and if you don't infringe on my rights I won't infringe on yours. I won't break into your home if you don't steal my car, because in the end mutual respect for rights benefits everyone. But if someone or some entity breaks away and declares war on society---and follows through on it--systematically violating those rights and disregarding them for their own purposes, then it's permissible to break certain peacetime rules in order to stop the violation of those rights. Once the threat is gone and rights are restored, the war should end, and it should always be defensive.

In a state of war, legally recognized combatants have certain rights that can't be ignored. It's not ok to murder people in society--in certain circumstances in war it is legal, although there still are rules, and consequently people who fight in war cannot be tried for murder. Which brings up, on a side note, the Bush administration's idea of "Unlawful Combatants". This is a legal fiction because there's no war that these people can be lawful combatants of. In normal practice unrecognized combatants receive much heavier penalties for actions engaged in war time, yet they still have human rights.

The idea of legally recognized combatants is that if someone declares war on you, or somehow you become involved in a war, you have a right to resist with comparable violence. Despite the pretensions of some liberal pacifist circles, resistance to invasion is recognized as completely legal and justifiable, no matter if you disapprove of it or not. Fighting should be conducted with the minimal of casualties and no atrocities because the goal is to restore some state of affairs where basic human rights can exist for the citizens of the society.

The fact is that pacifism is a luxury for the well off, and rich liberals---either literally rich or extraordinarily rich compared to the people of the third world--who crow about people doing largely low level resistance to invasion and assault, and complain about the rhetoric accompanying it, have no fucking clue what's actually goingon on the ground floor. They expect people who are being shot and bombed to kneel, pray, and engage in passive resistance, not wanting to confront their oppressors because that would be dirty or tainted in some way. If they don't hold hands and sing cumbaya while they're being slaughtered they're evil evil evil and are unworthy of sympathy--and of course an actual history of violent acts is grist for the mill. The sum total is a pile of lies that justify never being sympathetic to any struggle because no one is pure enough for you. No one is as pacifist as you want or as pretty as you want, they don't have the political rhetoric that you like, their organization is not what you'd put together (you think) . So you can't be in sympathy with them, even if they represent the will of the people, for better or for worse.

This thinking is ignorant of the real problems of war, of its seriousness, how things are different during a state of war, likely because they have never either directly or indirectly experienced it, or are even just unaware of history. It's unpopular because the Bush administration testosterone ball jockeys have commandeered it and used it to justify two invasions plus the illegal imprisonment of over a thousand people, but a state of war cannot be judged according to the standards of the regular, civil, world.

So what's the alternative, what's there if pure pacifism fails? Well, you know there have been meetings after meetings, treaty after treaty, and much ink spilled and much thinking applied to the problem of what's permissible and what's not during war. It's not like people have never considered the question.

End of ramble.

Polish slavery under the Nazis strangely omitted from American history

And I'm not using slavery euphemistically but in a literal sense. The Nazi plan for Poland and elsewhere was to establish slave labor plantations where the local population would belong to new German lords and would work for them. This plan was implemented. Here is a good article about it from Remember.org, a site commemorating the Holocaust. The official term is Polish forced laborers. Here's an excerpt from the article, which is titled "The Question of the Polish Forced Labourer during and in the Aftermath of World War II: The Example of the Warthegau Forced Labourers"

"The group of Polish forced labourers with which I am familiar with come from the "Gau Wartheland", one of four administrative districts which the Nazis cut out of the part of Western Poland which they annected in l939. The "Warthegau", as many Nazis referred to this district, was a Nazi creation with little or no bearing on the historical realities of the region. It was to become an experimental laboratory, where the economic, cultural and social supremacy of the German people would inevitably lead to the extermination of all other indigenous peoples in the region (most Poles and all Jews).

In a complicated system of burocratically determined ethniticity, "Volksdeutsche" (Germans by descent, but not by citizenship) were to be segregated from the rest of the population. Jews were to be crowded into local and then consolidated regional gettos. Following the Wannsee Conference (January 20, l942), the Nazis planned the industrial murder of these and all other European Jews en masse. The Poles were to be used as an inexhaustible source of slave labour for the colonisation of this and other regions of Poland and were then to be eventually exterminated. Germans from all parts of Eastern and Western Europe were to be brought in to take their place in the biggest colonisation project ever planned in Europe.

***

While more than 360,000 Poles from this "Warthegau" were deported to other parts of Germany to do forced labour, many more Poles were made to do forced labour in their home country during World War II. How many is a question of definition: Who is a forced labourer in a war situation? Are all native workers in an occupied country "forced labourers"? Or are only those who are deported "forced labourers"? How does one define this concept? And how can one define this concept and still do justice to the victims of these horrendous crimes to humanity without overreaching the bounds of common sense? A reasonable educated guess is that somewhere around l to l l/2 Million Poles in this "Warthegau", above and beyond those who were deported, were engaged in some sort of forced labour in the course of the war. (The pre-war population in the region that became the "Warthegau" was around 4 Million.)"

So here we have the situation of millions of Poles not only in this area but in Poland as a whole facing forced labor including deportation to Germany itself as slave labor for German industry under the Nazis, yet here in the U.S.A. there's absolutely no recognition that this happened, or that it mattered.

It wasn't just Poland either. In the book "Hitler's Table Talk", a record of conversations (Hitler's part of them at least) that took place informally with the inner circle during the war, Hitler makes a comment that the schools in the Ukraine should all be shut down and Ukrainians only taught how to read road signs and other basics in order to help them serve their new masters.

Interestingly enough, even severe tragedies that happened during war time, that happen to be documented by top level foreign directors, don't make an impact. The film I'm talking about is "Katyn" by Andrzej Wajda. Wajda is possibly the most prominent film maker in post-World War II Poland. Katyn was a massacre of thousands of Polish Army officers by the Soviets in the area of Poland given to them under the Nazi-Soviet pact of '39. "Katyn" was released in 2007 and was nominated for an Academy Award. Yet although it's been released in Europe, and been available for some time, it's unavailable in the U.S. The only versions that have subtitles are European region DVDs that are being sold used on eBay. Strange treatment for an academy award nominated movie. I guess that the Polish Army victims at Katyn, one of which was Wajda's father, had the misfortune to be born Polish.

*on edit: ah, the actual number of people killed at Katyn is 21,768. From Wikipedia:

"The Katyn massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, 'Katyń crime'), was a mass murder of thousands Polish military officers, policemen, intellectuals and civilian prisoners of war by Soviet NKVD, based on a proposal from Lavrentiy Beria to execute all members the Polish Officer Corps dated March 5 1940."

A fuller review of Valkyrie

Valkyrie is one of the best films to come out of America in a long time. The story is about the plot to assassinate Hitler executed by military commanders that was coupled with a full scale coup attempt, in which the entire SS headquarters was arrested. Hitler survived the bomb and the officers were arrested and shot, but they gained control of large parts of strategic points in Nazi Germany before they were stopped. I didn't know about the "Valkyrie", the overall coup attempt above and beyond the bomb, until I saw the movie.

It's a mystery why the film isn't being critically acclaimed. The direction is very good, the acting is very good, the writing is superb, and the cinematography is excellent. The only thing that isn't good in some people's books is that it portrays there being resistance to Hitler and to Naziism, and not just on the ground floor but in circles that were actually part of the Nazi military, and to a lesser extent the lower levels of the Nazi government in general. This cannot be said, or suggested. That Stauffenberg and company planned the coup so that the entire SS, the people who ran the death camps and the concentration camps, would be thrown out of power, thereby ending the concentration camp regime, also cannot be said. It's either one or the other, you're either with us or against us, and the fact that a great movie that involves moral ambiguity has been made doesn't change this simplistic paradigm; so it has to be condemned.