Saturday, February 28, 2009

Goebbels and Saul Bellow on Poles

Here's Saul Bellow from "Ravelstein":

'To Wadja,[his servant] Ravelstein was just another loud Jew--her savage imagination had pictured the money he controlled, and he was rowdy, incomprehensible
...
It was Wadja who moved the furniture, cleaned the toilets, ran the vacuum, scoured the pots, washed the crystal. Easily overheated, she took off her dress and her slip. She worked in a giant bra and swelling Zouave bloomers.

At the sight of him in the wheelchair Wadja's face was torn between compassion and irony--a cocked eyebrow. A mass of suspended comment slid down the pug-nosed slope of her face. Well, it was very bad! But then, he was a Jew as well." 91-92

"The Führer's verdict on the Poles is damning. more like animals than human beings, completely primitive, stupid and amorphous. And a ruling class that is an unsatisfactory result of a mingling between the lower orders and an Aryan master-race. The Poles' dirtiness is unimaginable. Their capacity for intelligent judgement is absolutely nil."

Goebbels, diary entry from October 10, 1939.

What now after Obama? Independent Socialist Politics

Now that Obama's in office one of the questions is what do we do, because he has features of progressivism in his approach. My answer to this is that it would be good to start up an independent socialist sphere of politics again, to try and build something up independent of the Democratic Party that could potentially be a player in local, state, and national politics. When I say 'player' I don't automatically mean either a kind of party or something purely electorally focussed, but instead a movement that includes lots of features but is more self conscious of itself than just a collection of random individuals. I think we have to build a sphere that includes proposals, discussion, our own media, our own local experiments, our own take on legislation, our own campaigns for change (in the sense of non-electoral campaigns), as well as possibly electoral participation on several different levels. Maybe ad hoc groups founded and broadly associated with one another.

The Bush administration put lots of us on the defensive, favoring trying to stop the world from going over the edge into ultimate destruction rather than pushing for positive progressive and socialist alternatives. Now that Obama is in office the time seems right to come back with the types of positive proposals for change that were shelved for years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Washington: strange mix of West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, and Old West

True. Washington State, specifically Puget Sound, Western Washington in general and Seattle in particular, have an interesting synthetic feel to them. The first element in the synthesis is upper midwest and old west culture. Both, especially the upper midwest element, are very present and form a kind of foundation that everything else is based off of. The reason why its there is simple: Washington is straight across the country from Minnesota. People who started off in Minnesota steadily migrated west, first through North and South Dakota, then into Montana, then into northern Idaho and finally into Washington, ending in western Washington. After folks began to get settled in each of these places, people from elsewhere, mostly Scandinavia, who would otherwise have gone to Minnesota went directly to the other stops along the way, with western Washington being a popular area because of its milder climate and extensive natural resources as against the Great Plains. Through the trek they absorbed some of the culture of the wild west, which truth be told was the first claimant on Washington culture. You can still see the Scandinavian/cowboy culture mix throughout Montana and North Dakota. Sometimes this situation leads to some cultural conservatism of an extreme type in the smaller towns that isn't pleasant if you happen to be on the receiving end of it though.

Now, even though the rest of the west coast is physically closer, it's the east coast culture, by which I mean the rest of the Great Lakes region and the orthodox east coast that makes up the next biggest element in the mix. I think the reason for that is that it was probably easier physically to get to Washington from the east than it was to get into Oregon and then Washington from the south for a long period of time. Sure, you have the Cascades, but there are passes, and the mountain range isn't that broad, while the mountains of southern Oregon and northern California are extremely complex and basically take up the western half of Oregon and the entire breadth of northern California. One mountain range that's comparatively narrow versus mountain ranges that go on for hundreds of miles meant that migration from the east was easier, even though to get to the Pacific Northwest itself you had to cross the Great Plains.

And finally there's the influence from California. This is comparatively new, based on the interstate system and better roads. Specifically, there's the counter culture influence from California along with the Yuppie influence, with the two strangely coming together at odd junctures, that has colored the Pacific Northwest as well. In Washington, the east coast and midwest influence prevailed against California in what I understand was a very nasty culture war in the 1980s, while in Oregon the California influence won out. This brings with it organic produce, ecological awareness and responsibility, a trend for decentralization and citizen involvement on a local level, health trends, eastern mysticism, drugs, basically all of the really cool shit that you associate with California. But it's also brought snobbery and a kind of very unpleasant Haute Couture produced originally by rich people in northern California, whose watchword is inflexibility and shrillness, as well as a kind of ignorant self righteousness and superficial sense of entitlement. On the whole, the influence has been good, and I hope that the economic downturn wipes the smiles off of the products of the negative aspects of California's faces. But be that as it may, the idiotic, superficial, and nasty still have seemingly found their niche in Washington State.

Add it all together and you get a unique mix that makes up lots of what Pacific Northwest culture is. There are of course other influences, for example the history of the people of the state itself who lived there in the entire 20th century as opposed to those of new immigrants, but that's a story for another time.

*on edit: me, I'm a mix of the best of both worlds. I'm originally from the midwest but was significantly influenced by being on the East Coast, then moved to Florida and participated in a pseudo-hippie California-esque alternative lifestyle before moving here.

I'm still in awe over the things in general that Obama has been doing.

It's sort of hard to process it, but I'm attempting to. This includes the speech last night. Part of it is no doubt being stunned after eight years of Bush that there's someone in the White House who isn't a person who everyday enacts a counter-intuitive outrage, part of it is being stunned that on top of that there's a person in there who's a real liberal in the good sense of the word. I've had to sort of look twice at headlines to reassure myself that I'm not imagining things.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

$900 Million in aid to Gaza!

Holy shit! From Rawstory.

A Renaissance in Turkish films?

The signs may be pointing towards 'yes', but more info needs to be collected. Turkish filmmaking in the past has been known more for making knock offs of U.S. films, but some films that have come out of Turkey lately have been anything but derivative.

I'm thinking particularly of two films: Gen ("Gene") and Takva ("A Man's fear of God"). Gen is a horror movie set in an insane asylum while Takva is a dramatic film about a religious man who has a crisis of faith after being tasked with collecting rents for a Bektashi seminary house. Despite being different story wise they're extremely similar in terms of the cinematography and editing style that are used. Both are ultra-modern, slick, polished, and smart. Both present an image of Turkish society that has both traditional and modern elements, although Gen of necessity focusses less on it. Both are worth seeing. Hopefully this trend will continue since the different strands in Turkish society make it a unique place with a potentially unique voice.

I was going to recommend a third film, one about a killer who severed people's legs, but t disappointed me. Instead of living up to regular standards it turned out to be a cheap B movie.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Imperial competition or hegemony

Two perspectives on the world economic system today are that globalization has produced a stateless system where flows of money and capital go across borders freely according to the global market and that while globalization is real, the national origin of the corporations involved, whether that's Europe, the United States, or Japan, still matter and that states attempt to break the rules with relation to particular countries. An example of the latter in the U.S.' back yard would be the influence we exert on Central America, which seems more about promoting the interests of United States than absolute free trade. But is there a third option?

There's an idea out there called Hegemony theory that says that in all eras international politics and economics have been shaped by Great Powers that have been strong enough to dictate the ground rules to other countries. This could be applied to the United States in the era of globalization by saying that while free trade is supposed to be stateless, it's really the support of the idea by the U.S., working through the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, and on its own accord, that anchors the system of free trade in place. Or anchored I should say, since we really aren't in a place to dictate too many terms now. It's not too unreasonable to say that a Hegemon in formulating its ideological doctrine manages to include features that are specifically beneficial to them, like in the case of the U.S. where our limited social safety net made advocating free trade and less government intrusion more believable than, say, if Europe had done it. Now that the U.S. has fallen in power it might be a good thing to try and identify the features of the new economic outlook.

Also, all three perspectives could be right if you see them not as absolutes but as ideas that certain interest groups are trying to get across. There are companies vying for absolute free trade, companies linked with nation states who want a sort of imperialist relationship with countries, and U.S. firms who want to have it both ways.

Corporatization, you can't go back. Or can you?

The selection from Lenin below says among other things that large trusts and essentially multinational or semi-multinational corporations are the inevitable precursor of a socialist society and that socialism would involve taking these concerns over instead of going backwards to a free market, smaller business, economy. While history shows that Lenin and company did in fact transform the functioning of existing corporations in Russia instead of just taking them over, creating a revolution in their organization, the idea of whether or not returning to a previous state is a good question to ask.

I think that it's illuminating to look at what people are seeking when they advocate a return to a smaller economy. Mostly, it seems to be wanting to get rid of oppressive, large, unaccountable entities that run their lives or have a very large impact on them. Instead of big, smallness that's manageable, that can act to mutually keep the businesses in check so that they don't overpower society is what's proposed. Though it's hard to imagine large corporations suddenly not existing any more in any form, the intent here is a good one and one that points to a more anarchistic reorganization of corporations and of the economy in the event of revolutionary, socialist, change. A transition to socialism that has anarchistic concerns could in fact implement some of the smallness through direct democratic control of the corporations by workers and by consumers on both a local scale and on a larger scale.

Globalization defined 92 years ago. Guess the author of the quote

"We must now try to sum up, to draw together the threads of what has been said above on the subject of imperialism. Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental characteristics of capitalism in general. But capitalism only became capitalist imperialism at a definite and very high stage of its development, when certain of its fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites, when the features of the epoch of transition from capitalism to a higher social and economic system had taken shape and revealed themselves in all spheres. Economically, the main thing in this process is the displacement of capitalist free competition by capitalist monopoly. Free competition is the basic feature of capitalism, and of commodity production generally; monopoly is the exact opposite of free competition, but we have seen the latter being transformed into monopoly before our eyes, creating large-scale industry and forcing out small industry, replacing large-scale by still larger-scale industry, and carrying concentration of production and capital to the point where out of it has grown and is growing monopoly: cartels, syndicates and trusts, and merging with them, the capital of a dozen or so banks, which manipulate thousands of millions. At the same time the monopolies, which have grown out of free competition, do not eliminate the latter, but exist above it and alongside it, and thereby give rise to a number of very acute, intense antagonisms, frictions and conflicts. Monopoly is the transition from capitalism to a higher system."

It's Lenin, from "Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism", proving that you should read everything because there is wisdom in much of what's considered to be out of bounds.

In fact, in this chapter, chapter VII, Lenin goes on to outline what has become an underlying tension in the process of globalization: that between a world where corporations are really attached to no particular country and a world where every country is up for grabs for the movement of production but where the companies themselves are attached to their home countries and the foreign policy of their home countries.

Here's another section; one that could be applied directly to Iraq:

From Chapter IX

In the United States, the imperialist war waged against Spain in 1898 stirred up the opposition of the “anti-imperialists”, the last of the Mohicans of bourgeois democracy who declared this war to be “criminal”, regarded the annexation of foreign territories as a violation of the Constitution, declared that the treatment of Aguinaldo, leader of the Filipinos (the Americans promised him the independence of his country, but later landed troops and annexed it), was “jingo treachery”, and quoted the words of Lincoln: “When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs others, it is no longer self-government; it is despotism.” [2] But as long, as all this criticism shrank from recognising the inseverable bond between imperialism and the trusts, and, therefore, between imperialism and the foundations of capitalism, while it shrank from joining the forces engendered by large-scale capitalism and its development-it remained a “pious wish”.

Another quote, this time from Chapter X (the fourth reason excluded because outdated):

"We have seen that in its economic essence imperialism is monopoly capitalism. This in itself determines its place in history, for monopoly that grows out of the soil of free competition, and precisely out of free competition, is the transition from the capitalist system to a higher socio-economic order. We must take special note of the four principal types of monopoly, or principal manifestations of monopoly capitalism, which are characteristic of the epoch we are examining.

Firstly, monopoly arose out of the concentration of production at a very high stage. This refers to the monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicatess, and trusts. We have seen the important part these play in present-day economic life. At the beginning of the twentieth century, monopolies had acquired complete supremacy in the advanced countries, and although the first steps towards the formation of the cartels were taken by countries enjoying the protection of high tariffs (Germany, America), Great Britain, with her system of free trade, revealed the same basic phenomenon, only a little later, namely, the birth of monopoly out of the concentration of production.

Secondly, monopolies have stimulated the seizure of the most important sources of raw materials, especially for the basic and most highly cartelised industries in capitalist society: the coal and iron industries. The monopoly of the most important sources of raw materials has enormously increased the power of big capital, and has sharpened the antagonism between cartelised and non-cartelised industry.

Thirdly, monopoly has sprung from the banks. The banks have developed from modest middleman enterprises into the monopolists of finance capital. Some three to five of the biggest banks in each of the foremost capitalist countries have achieved the “personal link-up” between industrial and bank capital, and have concentrated in their hands the control of thousands upon thousands of millions which form the greater part of the capital and income of entire countries. A financial oligarchy, which throws a close network of dependence relationships over all the economic and political institutions of present-day bourgeois society without exception—such is the most striking manifestation of this monopoly."


Here is a very significant one, one that talks about the transition from corporatism to socialism and brings up questions regarding anarchism vs. other types of socialism. Also from Chapter X

"When a big enterprise assumes gigantic proportions, and, on the basis of an exact computation of mass data, organises according to plan the supply of primary raw materials to the extent of two-thirds, or three-fourths, of all that is necessary for tens of millions of people; when the raw materials are transported in a systematic and organised manner to the most suitable places of production, sometimes situated hundreds or thousands of miles from each other; when a single centre directs all the consecutive stages of processing the material right up to the manufacture of numerous varieties of finished articles; when these products are distributed according to a single plan among tens and hundreds of millions of consumers (the marketing of oil in America and Germany by the American oil trust)—then it becomes evident that we have socialisation of production, and not mere “interlocking”, that private economic and private property relations constitute a shell which no longer fits its contents, a shell which must inevitably decay if its removal is artificially delayed, a shell which may remain in a state of decay for a fairly long period (if, at the worst, the cure of the opportunist abscess is protracted), but which will inevitably be removed."

Personally, I think that there needs to be a concerted effort to decentralize corporate control instead of just taking it over. There has to be a revolutionary restructuring of corporate power in order to make it democratic, non-oppressive, and for it to truly serve the interests of society instead of its own interests, whether those interests are contained in corporatism or in a bureaucracy running it under some sort of ministry. It's possible and is very inevitable that the way back to small scale production is closed and that the only way is forward, but within the forward push there are a range of options for social transformation, ones that are worse and ones that are better.

Here's a definition of Finance Capital, from Chapter III:

"Finance capital, concentrated in a few hands and exercising a virtual monopoly, exacts enormous and ever-increasing profits from the floating of companies, issue of stock, state loans, etc., strengthens the domination of the financial oligarchy and levies tribute upon the whole of society for the benefit of monopolists. Here is an example, taken from a multitude of others, of the “business” methods of the American trusts, quoted by Hilferding. In 1887, Havemeyer founded the Sugar Trust by amalgamating fifteen small firms, whose total capital amounted to 6,500,000 dollars. Suitably “watered”, as the Americans say, the capital of the trust was declared to be 50 million dollars. This “overcapitalisation” anticipated the monopoly profits, in the same way as the United States Steel Corporation anticipates its monopoly profits in buying up as many iron ore fields as possible. In fact, the Sugar Trust set up monopoly prices, which secured it such profits that it could pay 10 per cent dividend on capital “watered” sevenfold, or about 70 per cent on the capital actually invested at the time the trust was formed! In 1909, the capital of the Sugar Trust amounted to 90 million dollars. In twenty-two years, it had increased its capital more than tenfold."

This is the rational kernel. Lenin goes onto attribute things to Finance Capital that I think are only epiphenomenon, not directly connected with production although they certainly have the potential to influence production and consumption as our current economic crisis demonstrates.

*on edit again: a concentration on finance capital as opposed to industrial capital in the form of interest from loans etc.. raises the specter of anti-semitism. These sort of normal banking practices are transitory phenomenon, things that conceal the actual motor of the economy, the businesses that set the tone and really control things. By paying attention to the apparent, surface, truth instead of digging deeper into the real causes your critique loses validity and becomes pandering to whatever section of the populace believes in conspiracy theories regarding banks, which includes anti-semitic conspiracy theories.

Yay! Kyrgyzstan base closed!

Hopefully signaling an end to an emerging imperialist relationship with the country, and possibly setting the stage for a bigger Central Asian rebellion against these things. Now if only Russia would get out of the neo-colonial game...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thank god Benjamin Buttons didn't win all the Academy Awards.

Just saying.

America is the big refutation of the race idea

Not racism, because we're certainly still a racist society, but the idea that there are specific races out there who have different inborn capabilities and proclivities, that make them fundamentally unequal. Back decades ago it may have been easy to put down the capabilities of different races because either discrimination had prevented them from having the opportunity to prove themselves or they simply weren't present in the United States in any great number. But times have changed, and although we're still a racist society, a society that's in fact based on the oppression of several races, there are at least people both in public positions of power and in private positions of power who are basically of whatever race you can think of. It's pretty hard for people to dispute that there are successful black and hispanic people, and asian people, although they may try to invent fictions like the idea that the reason these folks are in those positions is because of affirmative action. Affirmative action is a bogey used to distract people from the fact of success of these groups. Affirmative action, the setting aside of a specific portion of either contracts, jobs, or college seats to people of color, is only in force within government entities or public colleges and universities. It's not this overarching thing going on all over, and my guess is that it mostly works to get people's feet in the doors of either jobs with the state or college education. With affirmative action out of the way as a mitigating reason for the success of some people of races that are discriminated against it becomes harder to dismiss these folks. Especially because as time has gone on there has been an increase in the number of people of color in important positions, strongly suggesting that it's the reforms of the Civil Rights movement that allowed people who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity chances to succeed. Increased opportunity leads to increased success, success that if the race idea had been correct would not be possible. It used to be common during times when racism was legally established to say that every once and a while there's an exception to the rule, someone of a given race who was uniquely talented, but it appears that there's no 'fluke' going on. Pure biological race as a factor is hopefully on its way out as something to evaluate people. This appears to be the case.

Unfortunately, semi-biological semi-cultural racist arguments are out there and probably represent an increasing amount of real racism. By semi-biological I mean automatically evaluating people by the color of their skin, something familiar; however cultural racism is something much less familiar as a term. Cultural racism is the belief that while there is nothing inherently inferior about blacks or other groups that culturally, in family life and in community life, they have serious problems that prevent them from achieving higher status and that as a whole the community is responsible for this state. Statements about not discriminating against blacks, but then talking about how 'they' act and justifying their views based on the behavior of a subset of people are cultural racism.

Anyways, I've gotten off topic here although maybe into fruitful territory for further exploration. Point is, I feel that race as the sort of concept that was used in the senses that 19th century thought and thought in the first half of the 20th century meant it has been objectively proven to not exist.

Interesting: a different take on the Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland from the Official IRA

Which, while still being a terrorist group, is interesting. I was shocked to read that they refer to the Provisional IRA, the one people think of when they hear the name, as the 'Rosary Brigade'. Their position is that a unified Ireland shouldn't be based on confessional principles, i.e. Catholics vs. Protestants, but should instead include both of them together. Also, the belief was there that the movement should be based in the working class. In a way this makes a lot more sense than seemingly going backwards from a secular movement to one based on religion, especially religious traditions that include lots of ultra-right wing people. I suppose that ultra-rightists are present on both sides of the issue along with the Anglican church in Northern Ireland. But that just goes to show you that religion is probably not the way to go to promote a united Ireland. The legitimacy that the Provisional IRA gets in the U.S. and in Northern Ireland itself seems to go back to the suppression of the Catholic Church in Ireland by the British. The Church was suppressed, therefore the Church became a rallying point. But unfortunately there are lots and lots of Protestants who live in Northern Ireland, and who may actually make up a majority of the people there. If you go by confessional lines alone it seems unlikely that there's going to be a win any time soon.

Should hate speech be outlawed? Inspired by a headline seen elsewhere

My thoughts on this are as follows: having someone come up to you and shout a derogatory term in your face, or post something in your personal space that demeans a certain aspect of you, should have a penalty because it's direct harassment and intimidation. Writing, or cartoons for the matter, or speeches, or demonstrations, or art, should be exempt from the idea of hate speech because it doesn't directly target any one individual and only targets broad groups. The Obama cartoon, by the way, should be considered hate speech because it turns someone specifically Obama into a monkey and then shoots him. But the denial of Fred Phelps, the extreme anti-gay pastor, into England because of his views is in my mind not justified. It would maybe be justified if someone could prove that he was coming to England to get people to attack others, but if he's just showing up to be obnoxious and to continue his "God Hates Fags" routine I don't see any particular reason why that should not be all right. England seems to be sliding down a slope to increased authoritarianism with regard to people's viewpoints, and in this case I'd be afraid that sooner or later these tactics are going to be turned on the Left itself.

Rockstar energy drink is designed by Michael Savage and the company is run by his son and wife

Here.This is the same Michael Savage who told a phone caller that he was a 'sodomite' and that he wished he would get AIDS and die. Think about where you spend your money. Pass this info on to your friends and encourage them to think about whether they wish to support Rockstar.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An answer to why NPR is so liberal

It's pretty easy actually. Despite being called "National" NPR is really driven by its member stations, that serve as community radio. Over the past forty or so years conservatives have showed zero interest in getting involved with community radio, thereby making community radio the province of the people who actually cared about it and wanted to do stuff with it. Fast forward down the line and you have the appearance that something that's supposedly "National" as in sponsored by the Federal Government is really liberal, and that the Federal Government is actually subsidizing liberalism! The truth is that if conservatives would have gotten off their dead asses and become involved with NPR member stations they could have had an influence.

Seattle PI just too damn squishy for me

And what I mean by that is that when I read it there's no resistence, nothing that would seriously contradict my worldview and challenge me by either making me mad or stop in a thoughtful pose. I find that reading more popular sources of news provides the stone for me to push against. Seattle PI, New York Times, more like news aggregators that have stories from ABC and CBS on them. This was one of the problems with living in Olympia. Plenty of progressive stuff going on, but after a certain point you're pretty much preaching to the choir constantly. Seattle is better on that score, but reminding ones self of what portions of the rest of the country are thinking is becoming a necessary way for me to guide myself in an effort to make meaning out of current events.

The real funny thing about Ayn Rand is...

That she seems to feel that Stalin and folks who ordered executions and sent people to Gulags were bleeding heart liberals concerned with compassion. She should have been more attentive during her childhood. Because she feels that this is the case, and that arguments and policy dealing with forced collectivization came ultimately from bleeding heart liberalism, her ideas have almost no connection with reality and are pretty much useless as a framework for analyzing the world.

Friday, February 20, 2009

How the Oscars, Academy Awards started

Useful to remember. The Academy Awards were started by the motion picture industry in the U.S. itself because of the perception that Hollywood films were just sensationalistic garbage without any redeeming artistic or social value. So, a fictional "Academy" made up of folks in the industry was created with awards given out to films thought to excel in some category. At its heart it's a public relations game by the industry, and still serves the function of legitimating crap that Hollywood has produced. This is in opposition to Europe, where from the start films were seen as legitimate artistic vehicles.

Have you ever wondered just what the "Academy" is? You can't take classes there, there are no lectures, no professors, no students. Instead, it's a cheap rip off in name of things like the Academies existing under the umbrella of the Insitut de France, which are the highest and most prestigious bodies of learned people in all of France.

*on edit: the Academy, according to Wiki, gives out some trivial scholarships every year, but beyond that, a film archive, and a library, it's activity is nil.

Not exactly the "Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres" in France.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chattel slavery and wage slavery

Often there's confusion about the two. Basically, a few people out there have over the years said that chattel slavery was better than wage slavery because the owner had the obligation to feed and clothe slaves and to not have them die. Well, things aren't quite that simple. Chattel slavery and the process of proletarianization both reduced people to the most basic sort of existence possible, with people eaten up by capitalism having in the past and in the present literally nothing except what they need to keep on existing, i.e. food, some sort of shelter, clothing. Despite claims to the contrary, slave owners didn't exactly lavish money on their slaves. Instead, they provided the absolute minimum that they needed to live, the minimum they needed to be clothed, the minimum they needed to have shelter in the form of slave barracks. They didn't really need to prevent slaves from dying if the market for slaves could provide cheap replacements. And of course slaves were whipped, beaten, sold and resold, husband's were separated from wives, children were separated from parents and sold.

It seems that capitalism at its absolute worst has some features common to the treatment of slaves, but besides not going into all the brutality of slavery you can argue that even though there aren't formal obligations to keep people alive, the thing that's supposed to separate chattel slavery from wage slavery, that it's still in the best interest of the capitalists to do it, unless they don't care about working their employees to death.

So chattel slavery still comes out as being much more brutal than wage slavery, but at its worst the sort of Dickensian model of capitalism, something that capitalism tends to want to go to always and that is actually still in place in sweatshops in the third world as well as in migrant labor camps in the U.S., the Dickensian model does share some of its aspects with chattel slavery.

More in depth article on jailing kids for cash scandal

Amy Goodman's Piece is a nice presentation of the issue.She mentions a girl getting three months in prison for a web page parodying an assistant principle.
Juvenile justice and the U.S. school system are two prongs of a pitchfork that a lot of kids get speared with, the reason being that school boards are often controlled by conservative Christians and in many areas judges defer to the schools. Although juvenile crime in cities is punished by the same inequities that are present in prosecution of minorities who are adults, the areas that I'm talking about, that are more rural than others, are legal black holes that people can't do much about. "In loco parentis", the doctrine that in a school setting the school authorities have the power of the parent, means that depending on where you are you may get a liberal parent, a conservative parent, a parent who's a fundamentalist Christian, and an authoritarian parent obsessed with disciplining people.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Preliminary comment on the jailing kids for cash scandal

Which is that I'm surprised that it took place in a relatively urbanized region. Some of the penalties, as stated in Amy Goodman's article that I'll get back to in another post, like sending a girl to prison for eleven months for slapping another girl, seem to be things that no one in their right mind outside of an ignorant backwater would consider even remotely normal. I'm sure that folks in Philadelphia don't send people away for 11 months because of that. They have real crime to contend with.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More moral equivalency questions: Israel/slavery in the U.S.

Recently, an Israeli politician made headlines by saying that for each Israeil killed by Palestinians there would be a definite and overwhelming price to pay. Which made me wonder, partly because he himself expressed it in this way, just what the exchange rate between Jewish lives and Palestinian lives is? 1:10? 1:100? It must go retroactively back to World War II since no country in the world would tolerate another one inflicting 100:1 ratios of death on an internal opponent without raising a stink. Israeli lives are looked at as being worth more than Palestinian lives because of the Holocaust. How many Holocaust deaths equal the worth of one Palestinian death? 100:1? 1000:1? Does the Holocaust make Israeli lives so special that if 1300 Palestinians are killed and only 14 Israelis the outrage should go to the Israelis killed instead of the Arabs?

How does this relate to blacks and slavery in the United States? Pretty simple: if Israelis get to kill Palestinians because of the Holocaust then surely blacks in this country have the right to kill white folks without any moral right to retribution on the part of the white community as a whole. Think of how many blacks died on the Middle Passage over from Africa to the United States and the conditions of chattel slavery, worse than most slavery in the Old World, that inflicted cruelty on people for hundreds of years in the United States. Surely this wrong done to former slaves equals in many ways the horrors of the Holocaust. So why the fear when black people start arming themselves? Why the fear when folks who are black start talking about militant challenges to the white, European, United States?

After all, when Israelis use the rhetoric of nationalism with reference to past traumas people in the U.S. support them even when they murder hundreds of civilians. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

People hide behind Israel and a love of Israel while they won't even face or look at the problems existing in the country that they actually live in. When it comes to systemic problems like racism against blacks supporters of Israel's right to self determination suddenly get quiet and switch the questioning.

So....back to the question at hand: if you believe that Israel is justified in killing over 1300 Palestinians for 14 Israeli deaths, surely you support blacks killing a same number of whites in return for racist killings of black people, or is there something here I'm missing?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nietzsche-Stalin

An interesting thing happened in the '60s, probably introduced by Louis Althusser, and that is the confluence of Nietzschean doubt with Stalinist arguments. These would be unrepentant Stalinist arguments about things. It was a match that was in a sense destined to be. Nietzsche's radical doubt, which doubts reason itself by arguing that all reason is historical and that therefore no one formulation of it can be true, dovetails with the twists and turns in ideology that Stalinist communism developed in the '30s. It should be noted that if folks really accepted the level of irrationality in the universe that Nietzsche suggests exists that we wouldn't be able to get out of bed and start our car because we'd be afraid that it would blow up. Why would we think that? Well, what's to prevent it from blowing up? Your argument that my car won't likely blow up out of the blue depends on logic and reason that's socially constructed and so does not necessarily have any connection to the real, possible, facts. There are knowns, unknowns, and unknown knowns, as Donald Rumsfeld once said; absence of proof isn't proof of absence.

Now, the type of argument used by folks in the various Communist parties about different crimes being committed against people, including the show trials, was that on the one hand the capitalist press was biased and committed to spreading lies about the Soviet Union, which was true to a certain extent, and that when evidence was presented that there was always some logic stretching way of dismissing it based on a sort of radical doubt as to its validity. When people who had been central figures in the Russian Revolution were accused of being English spies the argument was reversed: how do you know that it's not true? Couldn't there be some way that folks like Bukharin could have been in on a conspiracy to undermine the Soviet Union? How are you so sure that the evidence isn't true?

It's disgraceful that this happened, and thankfully only a few smalish groups exist who use these kinds of arguments, but it appears to have prefigured the trend of radical, total, skepticism that came to the foreground with post-structuralism and deconstruction, the sort of thing that Alan Sokal exposed. Calling critical theory people Stalinists is just silly, though, because although lots of people who went on to write and create post-structuralism read Louis Althusser, who was a dedicated (although heterodox) member of the French Communist Party, very few of them shared his political commitments, with Deleuze and Guattari specifically arguing for a more anarchistic radical politics, for example. But I think that's where the trend of trying to completely discredit people based not on any serious evidence but because they come from a particular class, race, gender, national origin, etc...in this world of pseudo-philosophy comes from. There are plenty of reasons to suggest that folks may not understand something because of their race, class, gender, national origin, but most of them involve actual evidence that a person isn't considering an essential fact or facts that they otherwise would be aware of.

In other words, you don't have to resort to a sort of attempt at a Nietzschean impeachment of a person's credibility to argue for radical causes.

*on edit: I realized that I don't make something that's very essential clear here: on the one hand, the only left groups that actually practice this sort of thing are small, marginalized groups that don't really have that much influence, on the other, the academics who practice this and are shrill about it have about zero presence in actual communities. I've yet seen hardcore professors using semi-Stalinist arguments actually doing something in the real world. But, because academics have more influence in the United States than community organizers or people who are active in their communities they get more attention. Also, they don't seem to be having that much of an effect on students. The folks that I know or have known that really go in for the critical theory stuff nine times out of ten spin off into obscure literary fields, where the influence of the teachers is pretty deflated and the 'radicalness' of it all pretty much pro-forma. The other one out of ten are out there but are usually regarded as fucking crazy by other progressives, lefties, radicals, and concerned community members who they come in contact with.So they aren't indoctrinating us all into being Commie Socialists bwa ha ha ha ha ha! In fact, they're shooting themselves in the foot by being so rigid and unconnected to daily life.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An interesting fact about Volkswagen

It turns out that despite the propaganda effort by the Hitler regime announcing the Volkswagen as the "People's Car", no one actually received a Volkswagen through the program they were supposed to be provided by. Search Wikipedia for "Kraft durch Freude", which was the program that the Volkswagen's were going to be distributed through.

Great Newsweek cover: "We are all socialists now"

Amazing. I'm sure that socialists who are a lot older than me can't believe it either. Personally, I've been a socialist since 1998, and it's still something that I can't believe is actually happening.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

At almost 6 years, 11 months of writing, here are the three basic stages of writing a blog

Pretty simple. For the first couple of years you're carried by your enthusiasm and the stuff you have to say. The next phase starts when you realize that despite your enthusiasm and the fact that you've been writing and writing for several years, the world may have another opinion, most likely it doesn't know you exist. This lasts for several years as well, during which you have to sort of push yourself and not give up. Finally, the third stage comes when you've been doing it for so long you no longer care whether or not anyone out there knows you exist. This is aided if, ironically, you have a hit counter and at least know that some people are viewing your site. Simple, short, and sweet. Nietzsche had his "Will to Power", I think that it's useful to have a "WIll to Spite" if you're going to be writing a blog for any period of time.

Bankers threaten brain drain over executive pay caps

HereWhere are they going to go, Europe? Even Canada has a more rational tax system than the United States, and since these people most likely know a lot about money but little about anything else non-English speaking countries are pretty much out for them. Funny, he calls multimillion dollar bonuses "commissions", trying to get on the side of people who make less than $1.5 Million a year. Also threatens that they'll leave and join Hedge Funds. Right. Go on off to Canada, try England, try elsewhere, you have no options.

California to free 55,000 inmates because of overcrowding

About time. California represents the regressive and the progressive at the same time. It has a huge prison population made up, just like most other places, of lots and lots of people there for drug crimes among other things. The racial composition is the same as in other places, so that while you have mostly white people living in semi-legal marijuana growing communes up in Humboldt county you have black kids from LA and Oakland in jail for selling weed. It's very likely that they'll release people thought to be the least dangerous for society, and that's going to be them.

A maxim about the U.S.: you shall have as much freedom as you want as long as you don't try to influence anyone

By trying to create effective change in the mainstream of society. People are totally fine with folks retiring to an organic farm in northern California and living out the rest of their lives pursuing mind blowing drug and mystical experiences as well as communal living, but the second that you get off the farm, so to speak, and try to change the greater culture to resemble that which you've been pursuing they come after you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Obama nominees and Bush nominees

I find it interesting that under the Bush administration the American Bar Association, the organization that certifies lawyers as being competent and able to legally practice law, was labeled as a partisan organization for the purpose of discrediting its objections to nominees, and that Republicans had no problem with this. But now that Obama's in, well, that's a different story.

How can sex be torture? Well, if you're a devout religious person and it's done against your will...

Which appears to have to a person implicated in the Mumbai terror attacks, with the people in question working for the FBI. We tend to take a cavalier approach to things here, but picture a person who is a fundamentalist Christian, who is married, who struggles against thoughts about other women and tries to separate himself from things like pornography, or even films with content that's not Christian, in order to keep himself on the straight and narrow. If he were really serious about it, and under interrogation the agents made him cheat on his wife, when they know of course that this would break a key ethical value that he holds that's really important to him, it would be abuse. Depending on what went on it could even be considered sexual abuse because you're forcing a person to engage in activity not only non-consensually but against their will. It's something that's most likely in use against people because the FBI and the CIA, and whoever else, parts of the military, who use the techniques know that many, many guys in the U.S. will laugh at it.

But it's abuse nonetheless, and the reversal of the typical roles do not make it less of an abusive act.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guess who's responsible for a good deal of the pollution in China?

People in the U.S. China is home to some of the most polluted cities on earth, cities that go even beyond notorious places like Mexico City and Bangkok. Most of them appear to be newly booming industrial centers. Pollution in China is an unfortunate legacy of the Stalinist type of socialism that privileged economic industrial development over anything else, with the environment seen as something expendable compared to the importance of building up heavy industry and infrastructure. However, these boom towns appear to be booming through manufacture and export of goods to the United States and elsewhere. Maybe "appeared to have boomed" would be a better description because of the economic crisis in the U.S., but the relationship is still there. While China may argue that it needs to be able to pollute beyond Western standards because it's still a developing country, it's the U.S. market that's ultimately funding that development, so that our buying habits and the fact that our industry has relocated to China are directly influencing the health of the planet, and of the Chinese people.

Even if we in the U.S. have strict pollution controls, if our industry is offloaded through globalization to countries where no one cares about pollution we're still polluting.

More underlying racism in the Northwest: a brawl between an urban basketball team and Redmond fans

Here. What appears to have happened is that at a high school basketball game that featured a mostly black team playing in Redmond, a Redmond fan went onto the court and punched a black player, leading to a brawl between players and fans on both sides. The article makes really good points about tensions that aren't acknowledged here in the Northwest, but I'd go further than that. What I'd say is that there's a concerted effort to cover up the racism that exists here in order to promote the image of Seattle as a progressive utopia. Racism up here in fact can be vicious. There's a history of it, through Sundown Towns, the forcible expulsion of Chinese residents from Seattle and Tacoma, and the Japanese internment. But you almost never hear about it in the press, which instead tends to use euphemisms about 'safety' and public perceptions of how a neighborhood is doing. If you live in Greenwood, a Seattle neighborhood, the fact that a few places were tagged with graffiti is enough to land a story in the PI, if you live virtually any place below the shipping canal, a huge area that includes downtown, Capitol Hill, and Queen Anne as well as poorer areas like the Central District and Rainier Beach, the idea that one or two tags is the end of the world is a laughable proposition.

Different places in Bellevue, Redmonds very rich neighbor, use euphemisms like "It's just different here", but you'd have to look close to find any major media outlet in the Seattle area calling them out for the racism they contain.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guantanamo/Sibera, if you really want to prevent terrorism...

There's an interesting parallel there that suggests that long, long detentions and torture do not work. Basically, in the Russian Revolution, every single person who was a leader and came to hold important posts in the Bolshevik government had been a party activist who had been arrested and sent to Siberia for long periods of time. During their time there they were either in labor camps, specially designated professions, or were just exiled, with a common sequence of events being harshest punishment first going out into lighter ones later while having to things like serve in the Army as well. To get to Siberia you didn't take a train. You walked there in a prison convoy. The experience of walking to Siberia, working in labor camps, then receiving lighter punishments and just being exiled before being allowed back didn't break them; instead, it made them more pissed off than ever before and transformed them from just being party activists to people who had the drive to become the leaders of the Party. Within, say, roughly twenty years from the start of the mother party of the Bolsheviks they had not only won but owned the whole country.

This should give one pause. I don't want to compare right wing Islamic terrorists with the people in the Russian Revolution, because I think there were a lot of positive things that came out of it, but you know a person who survived Guantanamo Bay who wasn't completely destroyed forever by the experience may not decide to just go out and become a suicide bomber. He may take it upon himself to organize the suicide bombers.

Why all SS members were required to serve in concentration camps

It was a requirement, except possibly at the end of the war. The reason is because your livelihood changes you. If you're put in a position where you have to oversea the abuse and killing of people you probably will adjust to it after a little while and become the sort of person who takes a sadistic thrill in it and who believes that it's perfectly right to do it. The Buddhists talk about "right livelihood" and I think it's sort of for this reason. If you want to develop into a right wing asshole who believes everyone is corrupt, become a collections agent. If you want to get a similar perspective, become a process server. There's a reason why police develop into paranoid ultra-conservatives, and it's because of the job they do. It brings them in contact with so much of the worst of people, and commands them to enforce unjust policies on people, and so if they didn't have it before they learn to adopt the belief system attached to the police department. There's no way to stop the influence of what you do on shaping you, the only thing you can do is to choose something that you think won't bring out the worst in you and bias you against normal standards of humanity.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Altruism, Charity, and self interest

It's often said that charitable acts really aren't charitable acts because the person doing them expects to get something out of them, whether it's the respect of the community or a feeling of moral superiority. But the idea doesn't really hold up under scrutiny.

You can look at the gains gotten from charity in a cost-benefit utilitarian way. If a person gives $1000 to a charity, for example, do they get a feeling of moral superiority, or recognition in the community that truly compensates for the $1000 they gave? Are they equal quantities? I think that while it's easy to point to small donations to charity as being done for selfish or self centered reasons, when you get into amounts of money that take an increasing bite out a person's income, affecting the money they have to live their life, the argument is less tenable. What if a person donated small amounts to five different charities that added up to $1000? Or take serious time out of their schedules to volunteer for a cause? The idea of increased social standing and a good feeling in your heart are both very intangible things, with increased social status being something that you really don't know is going to happen if you publicly donate to charities. On the other hand, the sacrifices are very tangible and much less vague than personal psychological well being, for instance. I think that if a person really wanted to do something to make themselves feel better, do something for themselves, in a selfish way that they'd find more cost effective ways to do it than giving lots of money to charity or donating their time.

Because there are better ways to increase one's status without sacrifice of the kind people make for charity, it suggests to me that there's something else going on than ego stroking, like actually caring about the cause. It's very true, though, that mainstream, kind of harmless, charities who don't challenge the status quo too much get the most donations, while the ones that really question the premises of our society see their money go down precipitously in comparison, but I think that's not evidence that people don't want to help out so much as that they want to help out within certain boundaries. Maybe that has to do with a fear of losing social standing if it's found that they give to radical charities, but I think it's a mixed bag between actual care and a kind of skittish paranoia about an issue cutting too close to home.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I'm actually impressed with Obama

As it is. There are things that make me profoundly sad, like today's story about him using the argument of State Secrets to prevent a Guantanamo Bay case from being discussed, but in general the balance has been good. How can I say that? I can say that because I didn't go into this believing that Obama is a religious figure who will do no wrong. For an American President, he seems Progressive, but he's still an American President, with all of the caveats that go with that.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Building on the below post about Totalitarianism and Fascism: applying it to the post-9/11 years in the U.S.

I think one could see the source of the ultra-reactionary trends in post-9/11 America as being a continuation of the Reagan years and the Reagan "revolution". There you had reaction against substantial liberalization of society that was combined with economic dislocation and resentment. From the time that George H.W. Bush was put into office to the time George W. Bush assumed office there were constant complaints about the country becoming too liberal, with Clinton being literally dogged almost every day of his time in office by conservatives who could not admit that large parts of the country had turned against Reaganism and had embraced a new found liberalism. The economy continued to hollow out during Clinton as well, although not as drastically as in the late Carter years and although offset by the dot com boom. 9/11 was the perfect excuse for the simmering resentments of conservatives against liberals, of Fundamentalist Christians against secular society, to be telegraphed into a bid for power and a bid to essentially take back the country that they thought they'd lost during the Clinton years. Hopefully the election of Obama and this particular economic crisis, produced under the Bush administration (although ultimately set on course by Clinton's neoliberalism), has put the Reagan era to rest once and for all.

Totalitarianism, Fascism, Dictatorship, Left and Right

Readers of this blog may be familiar with the writings I did several years ago analyzing Fascism and the social conditions that seem to favor it. I expanded the idea to a general one of Totalitarianism that included both Stalinism and Naziism in the same category, both as examples of the total State. The totalitarian idea that I worked from resembled more the work of people like Claude Lefort and Castoriadis than people like Hannah Arendt and the various neo-conservatives who latched onto the concept during the Cold War. In truth, in actuality I guess, the idea of totalitarianism that I went from came more from anti-civilization oriented anarchists like Freddy Perlman, author of "Against His-Story, against Leviathan", John Zerzan, and maybe David Watson, author of "Against the Megamachine" and associated with "The FIfth Estate", now that I think of it. Be that as it may, I took the ideas in different directions than they did. Well, I've come to some more conclusions on the subject, and those conclusions change some of the previous ones and affirm others.

Basically, I think that Totalitarianism is a 20th century concept, something historically bound to societies that had the peculiar features of Stalinism and Naziism, and that it has no independent existence, sort of. Instead, I think that the societies called Totalitarian can be collapsed into Fascism, with Fascism being the bigger concept that Totalitarianism is a part of, rather than the other way around. People have usually thought of Fascism as being a form of Totalitarianism; I think that Totalitarianism is a least common denominator between different varieties of Fascism. If you look at Stalinism in its flowering, i.e. after 1929 when Stalin fully played his hand and introduced forced collectivization as well as mass imprisonment, it seems like he's drawing on right wing Russian traditions that praised the peasantry for his general ethics. Right wing Socialist Revolutionary doctrine, which praises the conservative features of peasant society while advocating a kind of equality within them. One may ask how it is that the interests of Russian peasants could be the thing that Stalin was concerned with because of the forced collectivization, but there were actually two phases to that: first, the relatively rich peasants, called by the term 'kulak', were arrested, stripped of their land, and sent to gulags in Siberia, second, after the rich peasants were gone private property was forcefully abolished. That the suffering of the peasantry through increased requisitions of grain and vegetables for the cities increased quite a bit is something that doesn't seem to have been balanced by more rights and privileges for workers in the cities. They were under the same sort of discipline, and the same sort of fundamental anti-liberalism that Stalin instituted was present their too. The sort of freedom that regular Bolsheviks advocated, which fit in with the schema of socialism as being an extension of liberty via the French Revolution instead of the negation of it, was quashed when Stalin assumed total power.

It's for that reason that I see Stalin's regime as being a kind of Russian pseudo-Fascism, that in fact had large right wing components, that was Totalitarian rather than a left wing regime that was totalitarian. Fascism itself is necessarily Totalitarian; Mussolini came up with the term itself, declaring that the Fascist State in Italy was going to be a Total State, with all sections of society integrated into it. Dictatorships in general may integrate some sections of society into the State but do not necessarily integrate all of it into it. The definition that totalitarian states care about what you think while dictatorships just care if you obey applies to this as well. Not only was every section of society tied into a kind of monolith, but the monolith intruded into people's lives even if outwardly they seemed to agree with the society they were a part of. Not enough to just on the surface appear to be pro-Fascist or pro-Stalinist, as many people unfortunately found out. Dictatorship is a continuum of which Fascism is a part, of course, and these things run into each other. I think, though, that although there can be left-wing dictatorships that Fascist dictatorships are necessarily right wing, or at the very, very, least, have origins in right wing thought--even if they've adopted some forms of leftism.

The truth is that Left Wing dictatorship is not Fascist and while it may have some features in common with Totalitarianism, in general it respects liberal principles, even if those principles are denied in practice, while Totalitarian state justify their invasion into the lives of their citizens through the wholesale rejection of liberal principles both on the surface and in practice, for example in Stalin's references to bourgeois liberty as opposed to socialist liberty, which served as a put down to the validity of a whole class of freedoms rather than just a partial criticism of them, which was what both Marxist and socialist writers usually meant when attacking it.

All this is tentative and needs lots of evidence to back it up but that's the basic idea. Now, what about Fascism in what leads to it? It may be an oversimplification, but in Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and Mussolini's Italy it seems that the combination of a sudden increase in social liberty with economic dislocation caused a conservative revolt that sought a solution to the economic problems and a reversal of the new liberties through the installation of authoritarian regimes. The regime that I need to know more about is Italy in that if this is true it would be an indicator of the failure of the new, unified, Italian State that lead to the rise of Mussolini. Putting the question of left wing dictatorship back out of the realm of Fascism and into that of the conflict between liberty and social freedom changes the question considerably.

Democracy and Liberty don't necessarily always go together, and neither do Democracy, Liberty, and Socialist liberties, but just because they might not always be present together does not mean that the countries are Totalitarian as I've defined it, or Fascist.

Changes made for increased readability

Hope that these slight alterations make things easier on the eyes.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A revealing piece of writing by Stalin about policies that he himself supported several years later

It's possible to find both the writings of the people opposed to Stalin and those of Stalin himself on the web. In fact, it's possible to collate the two and sometimes find the direct writings that each are responding to. So it goes with Stalin's criticism of the "Left Opposition"'s platform* [On edit: this is actually not the Left Opposition Platform but the Joint Opposition Platform, a later document that was produced by an alliance of left wing Bolsheviks lead by Trotsky with centrist Bolsheviks lead by Zinoviev.] The Left Opposition was formed by left wing Bolsheviks, lead by Trotsky, and advocated a more direct transition to socialism than what was going on at the time. Stalin was in the opposition, along with Bukharin, who Stalin would later arrest and have killed. After the Left Opposition was defeated, Stalin in turn started policies and rhetoric that echoed those of the the Left Opposition. So here you have Stalin defending the NEP, the New Economic Program and opposing hostility to the peasantry, which he would implement with an iron fist himself in '29. The Left Opposition's platform is Here. Stalin responded to it in a speech entitled "The Party and the Opposition", located Here.

Knowing that he would involuntarily collectivize the peasantry of Russia and requisition amounts of produce from them leading to outright famine it's interesting to see Stalin say this:

"Not to go far for proof of this, I could refer to Pre-
obrazhensky, the opposition’s chief economist, who
regards the peasantry as a “colony” for our industry,
as an object to be exploited to the utmost.

I could also refer to a number of the opposition’s
documents in favour of raising the prices of manufac-
tured goods, which would inevitably cause our industry
to wilt, would strengthen the kulaks, ruin the middle
peasants and force the poor peasants into bondage to
the kulaks.

****

What does a policy of discord with the middle peas-
ants mean? The policy of discord with the middle peas-
ants is a policy of discord with the majority of the
peasants, for the middle peasants constitute not less
than 60 per cent of the entire peasantry. That is precise-
ly why the policy of discord with the middle peasants
leads to the majority of the peasants being driven in-
to the arms of the kulaks. And a policy of driving
the majority of the peasants into the arms of the
kulaks means strengthening the kulaks, isolating the
poor peasants, weakening Soviet rule in the country-
side and helping the kulaks to throttle the poor peas-
ants.

But the matter does not end here. To pursue a poli-
cy of discord with the majority of the peasantry means
starting civil war in the countryside, making it difficult
for our industry to be supplied with the raw materials
produced by the peasants (cotton, sugar-beet, flax,
hides, wool, etc.), disorganising the supply of agricul-
tural produce for the working class, shattering the very
foundations of our light industry, disrupting our entire
work of construction, disrupting our whole plan of in-
dustrialising the country."

Then, a few years later, there's this(from "Bukharin's Group and the Right Deviation"):

"This group, as is seen from their statement, has its own separate platform, which it counterposes to the Party's policy. It demands, firstly -- in opposition to the existing policy of the Party -- a slower rate of development of our industry, asserting that the present rate of industrial development is "fatal." It demands, secondly -- also in opposition to the policy of the Party -- curtailment of the formation of state farms and collective farms, asserting that they do not and cannot play any serious part in the development of our agriculture. It demands, thirdly -- also in opposition to the policy of the Party -- the granting of full freedom to private trade and renunciation of the regulating function of the state in the sphere of trade, asserting that the regulating function of the state renders the development of trade impossible.

In other words, Bukharin's group is a group of Right deviators and capitulators who advocate not the elimination, but the free development of the capitalist elements in town and country.

At the same time, Bukharin's group opposes the emergency measures against the kulaks and "excessive" taxation of the kulaks, and unceremoniously levels against the Party the accusation that, in applying such measures, it is in point of fact conducting a policy of "military and feudal exploitation of the peasantry." Bukharin needed this ludicrous accusation in order to take the kulaks under his protection, and in doing so he confused and lumped together the labouring peasants and the kulaks."

A lot of the current problems facing the U.S. economy could be traced back to Nixon abandoning the gold standard

But not in the way that people usually think. I'm just an armchair observer of these things but here are my ideas: in the wake of World War II two institutions and one comprehensive treaty were created. These would be the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or GATT. Originally all these things were purposed for helping international development, preventing another depression, and providing general rules about trade so that trade wars would be less likely to break out. The last served capitalism, of course, and would later be turned into the WTO, but at the beginning it contained enough flexibility that countries could engage in limited socialist activities while still being in compliance. Stability was paramount. They didn't want the world financial system to be able to run out of control.

One of the methods that they used to try and do this was the gold standard. By international agreement countries were required to have a certain amount of gold held somewhere that would back up the value of their currency. This was not a one to one correspondence but a situation where the gold was held as something like collateral for the currency. Reportedly, most of the gold was stored in the U.S. with different markers signifying who owned it.

There isn't really any intrinsic quality of gold that makes it valuable. It's shiny, it's nice, you can make great jewelry from it, and it's relatively rare, and needs processing. It's a kind of place holder, something that's been commonly agreed on as a stable standard, where no gold rush is foreseen that will drastically change the price. When used to back up currency it functions as a brake on bubble producing activity since more money printed would require more gold to be bought and held. In this way it anchors the value of currency to something stable, so that it can't erratically float up and down. There can in fact be changes where the amount of gold is added to and the amount of gold is reduced, but they have to be deliberate decisions, not automatic ones.

Nixon freed the requirement that U.S. currency be backed up with gold, thereby allowing the dollar to float and to fluctuate in value according to both general estimates of productivity and the workings of international markets. Uncontrolled currencies lead to unstable financial situations where speculation goes on top of speculation and the desire for short term gains without any thought of the future becomes a controlling force. When the foundation of this house of cards is shaken it all comes tumbling down, like it did in the U.S.

The Gold Standard, as a convenient way of managing the overall health of the economy on a very broad level, has given way to unregulated chaos. We need a return to regulation and a return to the management of the economy somehow.

As for personal reserves of gold, they won't do you much good because the things that matter are government decisions taken on a country wide level and not whether or not you have some gold stashed away.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Just sinking in that Bush is really gone

It's one of those delayed responses: Bush gone, but really? Personally, I haven't even gotten to the gloating stage as I realize that hack, truly hack, right wing commentators who got their works in print due solely to a combination of massive right wing funding and the Bush administration now are shut out of influence. If you don't agree with the notion that many of the people releasing book after book are hacks, or think that this is writerly sour grapes on my part, just cruise over to Regnery Publishing and take a look, or better yet look for their books at your local chain bookstore. Truly, the only reason anyone gave a damn about these people was political patronage, and now that's gone gone gone. No more barely literate missing links pounding out crap packaged as gold because these folks publish anything. No more of obstructionist government officials.

My use of the word "obstructionist" probably qualifies me as more literate than 90% of the new conservative authors published in the last couple of years.

You know, it didn't used to be like that. There have probably always been obnoxious conservative authors, but until the '90s in the United States, and the rise of right wing talk radio, there was a strain of conservatism that tried to respond to critics by portraying itself as more thoughtful, literate, and philosophically savvy than them. While they may have been wrong, their contributions (as read in retrospect decades and even centuries later) were at least thought provoking and provided something to chew on mentally.

Anyways, Bush is gone, Obama is in, and I think not just me but the country in general is just starting to feel its oats, is just realizing that this cancer on the United States is gone and that we can reassert ourselves with some dignity and sanity.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fox host Gretchen Carlson: capping executives' pay "Slippery Slope" to socialism, to which I say...

And that is a slope we need to slide down! In fact, we should take a toboggan down that slope.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

More "Maxims from the Real World ™" #5 People aren't always honest

Adding to profound Real World ™ knowledge like "you should show up to work on time" and "you should wear formal clothes", "People aren't always honest" supplies yet another insight into life that you couldn't ever learn at school or elsewhere, something that you would have to be part of the Real World ™ in order to understand. Yes, sometimes people cheat other people and sometimes they do it while claiming that they're not really doing it. Added to this maxim are two others: 1) sometimes panhandlers use the money you give them to buy booze, and 2) sometimes people charged and convicted for crimes actually have committed them. Bet you thought you were in a world where no one ever lied or deceived other people, eh, eh?

Until next time, this has been an authentic Real World ™ maxim.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Real World Skills

Adding to the post about the utter inanity regarding what job consultants consider to be "Real World Skills", I think that it's safe to say that in the Real World you're expected to listen to instructions....and carry them out. In the Real World you're expected to arrive at your work site...at the time they want you there. You're also expected to show initiative...and to work hard. Also, it can be fairly ascertained that you should probably take care of your appearance....and be sure to wear formal shirts and slacks.

These, my friends, are some of the Real World skills that being a so-called "student", that parasitic state out in la la land, does not teach you. Listen to the great wisdom and complexity of them.

The Australeopithicus from Ruben Bolling's strip "Tom the Dancing Bug" is well qualified to do these Real World jobs. In reality, during tight job times things aren't competitive because the jobs are suddenly hard: they're competitive because there are few of them and a lot of applicants. If there's a lot of competition for lower level jobs it's fairly certain that many of the people applying will be overqualified, some grossly overqualified others not quite so grossly, so that it becomes a resume thing instead of something based on possessing necessary skills, or being really really good at doing the job in question.

Yay for Iranian satellites!

I mean that sincerely. The U.S.' fears are bullshit considering that the stated purpose is telecommunications. You know, we have thousands of satellites up there, and our own extensive space program, but the second a third world country like Iran that has first world ambitions launches one it's a big deal. So we can add no presence in space to the list of things that Iran is now not allowed to do, the other one being establishing nuclear reactors and possibly nuclear weapons, which are things possessed by France, Germany, the U.S., India, Pakistan, China, and Russia...and Israel. But Iran, well, they're a threat. Never mind what goes on at Dimona. Iran's crime is wanting to act like they're something other than colonial subjects who can be dominated by first world powers.

Monday, February 02, 2009

"Is a GED more valuable than a PhD?" by Kai Ma

Here. I think that the article overlooks something very obvious, which is that between entry level jobs and academic jobs there's a whole strata of positions, but that these won't likely hire PhDs because they don't have the qualified "real world" skills on their resumes. No matter that they completed a doctoral dissertation, in the world of corporate America they're just people who have been students for a long time. Meaning that, yes, someone who has a GED and has worked at a company for a while will possibly be seen as more valuable than a PhD, which is a symptom of how fucked up our system is. The funny thing is that I was in school for an extended length of time, although I don't have an advanced degree, and I've found that the "Real World" experience that employers talk about being so valuable are things that trained monkeys can do. Like "Follow Directions". I've read Fichte, you think I can't follow directions? "Follow Directions" was actually what a person giving a talk about jobs said that responding to an online job posting in the exact way they want shows them you can do. While it is important to follow directions, it's quite an insult to tell people who have likely done things of several magnitudes greater complexity than what this person has done that they're being tested to see if they can "follow directions". Like I said, I've voluntarily read Kant in my free time for no other reason than just knowledge and understanding the world, you think I'm so undisciplined that I can't "Follow Directions"?

Corporate America rewards morons who are obedient and who have smooth, superficial, uncomplicated lives and punishes people who have skills but who have taken a somewhat different track to get there, including in this case a college education.

I guess the Superbowl competition was extra hard this year

From YouTube:



*on edit: My god! This is a family blog! What am I doing?

Blog name comes from Hank Williams via Bob Dylan

And is a product of my general Dylan-philia. I saw Dylan play "Lost Highway" by Hank Williams in the film "Don't Look Back", with Joan Baez sort of nervously singing along, and was really impressed, so found the Hank Williams recording of it. The lyrics resonated with me, going down a Lost HIghway down to perdition, not knowing what the destination was. And, in fact, I was just a lad, merely twenty two, when I started my blog.

The lyrics:

"I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost,
For a life of sin, I have paid the cost.
When I pass by, all the people say
"Just another guy on the lost highway."

Just a deck of cards and a jug of wine
And a woman's lies make a life like mine.
Oh, the day we met, I went astray,
I started rollin' down that lost highway.

I was just a lad, nearly twenty-two,
Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you,
And now I'm lost, too late to pray,
Lord, I've paid the cost on the lost highway.

Now, boys, don't start your ramblin' round,
On this road of sin or you're sorrow bound.
Take my advice or you'll curse the day
You started rollin' down that lost highway"

Sunday, February 01, 2009

States rights post-civil war, one reason why they aren't so scary

It's actually somewhat perverse that the notion of local democracy has a bad name in the United States, but it turns out that there's a significant reason why the arguments against States' Rights are mostly wrongheaded, and that reason is called the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment modifies Due Process from being a concept that dealt with the relationship between Federal and State government to one that also dealt with the relation of individuals to State government. Due Process says that a person can't be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law. When applied to the Federal government it's meaning deals with the validity of federal legislation, but with respect to the States it deals with whether or not basic rights of individuals are being respected. Even if a statue on the Federal level is defeated as encroaching too much on States' rights the States still are obligated in turn not to encroach on the basic civil rights of their citizens. And those civil rights can be established by statute as well by case law or legal tradition, meaning that the basic scope of rights on the State level can be expanded significantly. What this means is that there is in fact a fail safe measure in place to protect people from abuse by States who decide to object to and to defeat Federal statutes and decisions that may enlarge the scope of civil liberties.

In fact, as Wikipedia notes, segregation was defeated on the basis of the 14th amendment. What right did the Federal Government have to send people down into Mississippi and to Alabama? They were acting to prevent a gross violation of State level due process rights, under which one law has to be applicable to all people.

So the argument that if we just let local democracy decide everything, at least in the U.S. system, people will automatically destroy other folks' rights by passing oppressive legislation isn't quite accurate. They might try, but there are mechanisms in place to defeat that. On the other hand, I'm curious about why it is that folks feel that an extended federal government guaranteeing extended rights on a federal level, and enforcing them, is a good thing? By taking away power from the States and putting it instead in a centralized Federal bureaucracy, with a single congress instead of fifty, and a single executive on top of all of it instead of fifty, you create the conditions for a sort of Orwellian total state. Our experience in the Bush years should tell us that giving power to a federal bureaucracy, whether in the name of 'security' or otherwise is a dangerous enterprise. The Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration are examples of what happens when you trust and entrust too much in and too the Federal government. People who feel that because of some presumed enlightened sensibility they would be exempt from persecution by such an entity are completely mistaken. If you create the apparatus it will eventually be used against you, no matter who 'you' are.

Football, the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is now in progress. U.S. football two fatal, interconnected, flaws. Neither of them has anything to do with the game of football itself but instead in how players are selected. To put it out there directly, the connection between college football and professional football should be severed entirely. College football should not be the minor leagues for pro football. Doing so takes the focus, and the money, of colleges off of academics and onto something that contributes nothing to colleges in their role as centers of education. It promotes dishonesty in higher education, where the best potential players are given the kid gloves treatment academically in order to keep them at the school, and it promotes the partying, binge drinking, lifestyle among students that's gotten attention in the last few years. Huge sports complexes are built while programs starve.

Additionally, sports scholarships for college are inherently unfair. The students who I'm talking about in this case are folks who do have some academic talent and who in most likelihood won't go on to play professionally. For these folks, it's awfully fortunate that they have a genetic endowment that has allowed them to be able to compete and be successful in sports. The guy who's six and a half feet tall and has a wiry body, who plays basketball as well as study, is not responsible for being six and a half feet tall. His being that height was the luck of the genetic draw, and this thing for which he was not responsible shouldn't be the factor that gives him a scholarship and denies a scholarship to people similarly talented academically who do not have his good fortune.

This inequality cuts across all groups. What happens when you have two guys who are black, one of which is really good at school but short and not really athletic, while the other one is good at school and is also husky and on the football team? Would it really be fair for the latter person's athletic ability to push him over into a scholarship for college while the other person potentially has more problems getting economic support for his education?

All of this feeds into the college system, which then gives rise to the pro system. What should happen is that a minor league should be established for football outside of the college system and scholarships expanded to include more people who are just good at school instead of good at school and good athletes as well. College football and sports aren't bad if they're kept collegial and not turned into semi-professional training grounds.

Israel declares it will enact a "disproportionate response" to Gaza rocket fire---therefore admitting it will commit a war crime

Because under the Geneva accords disproportionate responses are specifically forbidden. You do not have the right to go in and level houses and massacre civilians because a rocket was fired...and maybe hit a field, maybe hit a place causing major damage, maybe hurting someone, maybe not...oh, it turns out that ten rockets hurt three people. Here's the story: ""We've said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a severe and disproportionate Israeli response," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned at a weekly cabinet meeting."

"Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, infrastructure minister and a member of Israel's powerful security cabinet, said the Islamists had to pay for each rocket fired.

"We have set a price for each rocket fired and now Hamas has to pay," he told army radio."

I'm curious about that price. What's the exchange rate there, for a hundred jews killed in the Holocaust Israel gets to kill one Palestinian? Can they be more specific about how many murders past Jewish suffering allows them to commit?

on edit: some may say that the idea of an exchange rate between people killed in the Holocaust and Palestinian lives is itself anti-semitic because it implies a connection between jews and money, but that's not the way it's being used here. Instead, it's pretty clear that Israel justifies the crimes it commits by reference to the Holocaust, the underlying meaning being that they've suffered and so they have a right to stop people from threatening them. Kill over 1300 Palestinians in Gaza while only losing 13 people on your side, a ration of 100:1? Well, remember how many died in the Holocaust. It's more than time to stop taking this bullshit. And bullshit is what it is. No amount of suffering justifies revenge on third parties who had absolutely nothing to do with the original suffering, beyond some colorful comments made by a high placed Muslim cleric in Palestine during World War II.

If jewish suffering counts this much we should start to ask how many Germans, Romanians, Italians, Hungarians, Slovakians should the Roma people be able to kill now, and how many Turks are Armenians entitled to massacre because of their respective genocides?