Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rice defends President's right to decide what's legal and what's not

Here:
“By definition,” she repeated, “if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”

Since if the President authorizes it it isn't illegal, surely Ms. Rice wouldn't object to being arrested without probable cause by order of President Obama. I mean, by definition, that has to be legal, right?

Couple has sex on Queen Elizabeth's lawn

It looks like Some people aren't hiding scared of swine flu. Or maybe they thought the end of the world was at hand. More likely, they wanted to make a very cool statement, a kind of two fingers in the air as the British say, to the monarchy.

And it lasted between ten and fifteen minutes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An interesting thing

The band COIL, composed of Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson and the late Jhonn Balance, once made an album called "Backwards" that was made solely of sampled sounds and keyboards run backwards. The music wasn't backwards, but the elements it was composed of where the backwards samples.

*on edit: Years before the term "Glitch Music" was ever invented, COIL also produced an album called "Worship the Glitch" that, while not solely comprised of recorded glitches from analog synths and others nevertheless used samples of them as the central stuff that the songs were built around.

Pandemic!

I'm half convinced that people are freaking out about the 'Swine Flu' because they're bored and want something to use as an excuse to have some drama. We don't have terrorist color coded alarms now and we need something to keep us occupied.

*on edit: "Well shucks boss, there has to be something to keep decent white churchgoin' women busy."

Monday, April 27, 2009

World War 4 Report: interesting in its own right, also interesting personally because of Bill Weinberg

The site is at http://ww4report.com/ and its byline is "Defending the Fourth World, Deconstructing Overseas Contingency Operations". The Fourth World is the indigenous world, which in practice bleeds over into the Third World somewhat (including in coverage here), and the Deconstructing part is explained by the site as being the Obama administration's new term for the former Global War on Terror. Very interesting.

The personal part has to do with the likelihood that if Bill Weinberg is who I think he is he played an indirect role in getting me onto the Left many years ago. Back in '93 and '94 I was a regular High Times reader and a regular imbiber of the substance they focus on. I found, through my naive glorifying everything that was '60s way, something in High Times that I hadn't expected: politics. First, there were articles about the potential of hemp and hemp suppression, then articles on the unjustness of forfeiture laws and carrier weight laws, but in early '94 there was something else as well: first hand coverage of the Zapatista rebellion by a person who was down there on a story and got caught up with it. For several months, maybe three?, High Times ran in depth stories about the Zapatistas and their struggle, why they were doing what they were doing, etc... I highly suspect that it was Bill Weinberg who was down there reporting, and that it wasn't just a coincidence he was there; instead, it turns out that he's a long time reporter on indigenous issues, hence the World War 4 Report, and was possibly well equipped to cover what was happening.

That's my story. World War 4 Report's "Our Mission" page talks about them being on the side of autonomous communities who either don't fit into or who question the framework of the nation-state.

Utilitarianism and the Puritan/Protestant middle class work ethic

This is mostly speculative. I think that these tendencies are implicit in Utilitarianism, and suspect that they may have been brought out in 19th century Britain, but I can't prove that they were, although someone familiar with 19th century popular history there could prove or disprove it. Basically, criticisms of Utilitarianism, the idea that pleasure is good and pain bad and that we should set up society to maximize pleasure while minimizing pain, stemming from the "greatest good for the greatest numbers" doctrine, seem to miss the point because they don't examine how the general philosophy worked on an individual level. If you do that, the meaning of "the greatest good for the greatest number" takes on a different cast.

One of the first things that people usually point out as a flaw in Utilitarianism on the face of it is that life is about more than just basic pleasure and basic pain. There are lots of things that give pleasure but that we don't see as being the most important things in our lives, and the same goes for pain: there are certain types of pain that we don't mind and others that we really do. The usual response is to point out that what gives you the most pleasure may not be just total hedonism, but achieving objectives that are important to you in life. So far so good. We also may not mind pain if it ultimately leads to a goal that gives us pleasure, things like mountain climbing, for instance.

But although this is an advancement over just pure pleasure and pain, the hierarchy of pleasures and pains that's established if you examine your life and sort things into different levels of importance can be configured by yourself or others in different ways, and some of those ways can serve the purposes of particular ideologies.

You could say that drinking gives you pleasure, but if you drink all the time you'll sabotage other areas of your life that you depend on to give you the means, the money, to pursue all sorts of pleasures generally. Therefore, it could be said to be better to be less hedonistic in the present so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labors in the future. You can also say that running around and having affairs with lots of girls is maximizing pleasure in the immediate timeframe whereas if you delayed that by looking for someone to marry you'd ultimately get more pleasure because of the deeper relationship of married life. It may seem nice to drop out of society and wander around pursuing your ideals, but in the end working hard and building for a stable future may be a surer thing, something that would give true pleasure. Masturbation and watching pornography may seem fun in the immediate, but this sort of sexual gratification poisons your relationship to women and to the finer things of life, things that you would appreciate if you weren't whacking off so much.

Buying loud clothes may give you pleasure right now, but is ultimately folly because fads come and go: a straight brown or black suit, or formal clothes--a white shirt, khaki slacks, and an interesting tie, are things that never go out of style and that give you more pleasure in the long run.

Being irreligious in the short run may seem attractive, but even within this life, irrespective of what comes after, the sound moral principles of religion as applied to conduct have been proven to ensure a lasting pleasure that will endure after your irreligious fun making have lead you to be drunk, in the gutter, and suffering from venereal disease you wastrel!

I know. And so the doctrine of Utilitarianism, the hedonic "maximizing pleasure, minimizing pain" can be hitched to traditional middle class values. So also, you could say that the "greatest good for the greatest number" would likely come if everyone adopted the Protestant work ethic and lead upright, moral, and godly lives.

It matters, then, how you arrange the hierarchical list of priorities, and these priorities could not only differ from person to person but can be produced by historical forces as well.

So diverting a plane to land because of a "No Fly List" passenger is a matter of opinion?

This is what the Obama regime at the Department of Homeland Security seems to think. In This article from "The Progressive" entitled "U.S. Diverts Plane Because of Journalist" we're told how a flight from Paris to Mexico City carrying a Columbian journalist in exile was diverted to Martinique in the Caribbean. The journalist was then questioned, then let go several hours later. Interestingly enough, Homeland Security has denied that it ordered the plane to stop, “If it’s not bound for the United States, we’re not going to receive that manifest information to see whether someone is on the No Fly list or not.” Now, the problem here is that either a plane going to Mexico City was diverted to Martinique because of a passenger or it wasn't. This isn't something that's subjective, and it isn't something where there were no witnesses. It's pretty cut and dry. In fact, the article states that the pilots announced the detour to the passengers by saying that it was because there was someone considered a security risk on board. That means that there are quite a few people who either heard or who didn't hear the announcement. There's no in between.

Yet, we appear to have entered the world of "unknown knowns" that typified the Bush administration, where something was deemed false not because there was no evidence for it but because the department in question decided it was false in order for the action to be palatable for public consumption.

The smart money is on the incident actually taking place, and on the officials in Obama's Department of Homeland Security being liars.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The "Essential Articles" PDF is under revision

For reasons like that the FAQ included has an explanation of why I posted under a pseudonym, what significance the pseudonym had, and why I changed the name from "Lost Highway Times" to "Times of Hate, Times of Joy". Obviously I'm not anonymous and the site is back to "Lost Highway Times". This is preceding a much larger revision of the big PDF itself, reorganizing it in order to make it more comprehensible and user friendly.

The Ugly Secret of Seattle: Racism

Seattle, the capitol of cool, one of the most progressive cities in the United States, sophisticated, smart, where everyone wants to move, also home of racism beyond that experienced in most large cities in the United States. Seattle is more racist than San Francisco, certainly more racist than L.A., and more racist than any city out east. People may think of Seattle as rivaling New York, but when it comes to basic day to day treatment of racial minorities Seattle comes out closer to a backwater than to anything present in the New York area. There is no excuse for it. Originally it may have been caused by the geographic isolation of the Northwest and the lack of immigration to it by folks who weren't Scandinavian, English, Scottish, German, or Irish, but it lingers on in an era where it has no place. Not only that, but the secret shame of Seattle, the most hidden flaw, is that the brain trust that came in with Microsoft and company, that continually replenishes itself with smart people from around the country, has largely adopted the same racist attitude as their neighbors. The alternative, counter-culture people in Seattle aren't racist, but the tech people outnumber them by a large proportion. They come here and adopt the sort of hardline that would have normally gone out of practice several decades ago, and then when they procreate their parental instincts become an excuse to deepen their racial attitudes---all in the name of protecting their children.

So in that sense, Seattle is a sham. You can't be the capitol of hip and progressive people if you ride a bike everywhere and eat organic and yet snarl at every brown face you see. But money insulates these people from having to face the consequences of their hypocrisy.

Well, what the fuck?

Nothing is going on. At home I'm debating what to research and read. I've got "The Real Work" by Gary Snyder and a book by B. Traven, but also lots and lots of weird stuff, which is another staple here. Cleaning out and organizing the book collection. From where I'm sitting right now I can see a shelf that contains the following "The Cities of the Red Night" by William S. Burroughs, "The future of socialism: perspectives from the left" ed. by William K. Tabb, "Classic, Romantic, and Modern" by Jacques Barzun, which I have yet to seriously read, "Atala and Rene" by Chateaubriand, "Freedom, Equality, Solidarity", writings by Lucy Parsons, "The politics of anti-semitism" ed. by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, "The theory of capitalist development" by Paul Sweezy, "Earl Browder: the failure of american communism" by James Ryan, "From Hegel to Marx" by Sidney Hook, "Paradigm Lost" by Stokes, "Soliloquies in England and Later soliloquies" by Santayana, "The Storm" by Ilya Ehrenberg, "A Guide to Learning" by Mortimer Adler", "The Twilight of the Idols/The Anti-Christ" by Nietzsche, "The Crooked Timber of Humanity" by Isaiah Berlin, "Foundations of Leninism" by Stalin, "Symbolic Logic" by Sophia Langer, still have to work on that one, "The Age of Ideology", a collection of philosophical writings from the 19th century, "introduction to Positive Philosophy" by Comte, "Character Analysis" by Wilhelm Reich, "Culture and Anarchy" by Matthew Arnold, "My Past & Thoughts" by Alexander Herzen, "Under Satan's Sun" by George Bernannos, "Problems of Knowledge and Freedom" by Noam Chomsky, "Theory of Religion" by Georges Bataille, "Walden and Civil Disobedience" by Thoreau, "Bowie: Loving the Alien" by Christopher Sanders", "Crooked Little Vein" by Warren Ellis, "H.P. Lovecraft: Against the world, Against life" by Michel Houllebcq, "The Soft Machine" by William S. Burroughs, "Crimes of Culture" by Richard Kostelanetz, and "Johnson: Rasselas, poems, and selected prose", by Samuel Johnson.

One shelf out of many, hard to believe I've accumulated it all, but it's unreplaceable because it's so obscure.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It looks like it's unfortunately coming to pass---the Bushites are morphing into actual Fascists

This article in the Washington Independent outlines the steady conversion of Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs from offensive right wing extremist to slightly less offensive, contrite, right wing extremist who's unhappy with the movement he sparked. According the article, from the Washington Independent, the conversion started a convenient month before the election, when right wing figures from the U.S. went to a "Counter Jihad" conference in Belgium that featured neo-fascist participants, particularly the Vlaams Bloc. The Vlaams Bloc, now Vlaams Belang, former vice president made some headlines in 2002 when he questioned the reality of gas chambers in the Holocaust. He was forced to resign. If you go to the links that the Washington Independent provides you'll see that the people who sponsored the conference are still in with the same crowd.

On of the ideas I floated in 2003 and restated was that the people in the hardcore far right massed around anti-Islam and anti-Civil Liberties sentiment may not be the actual fascists. An interesting thing is that the people who gave birth to Fascism in Germany weren't hardcore Nazis themselves, or even Nazis in any real sense. They were, instead, people who had been shocked by the defeat of Germany in World War I and the dismemberment of the German Empire, and its replacement with a Parliamentary Republic-based political system. But as time went by and the general condition of people in Germany worsened because of the Versailles sanctions, the Conservative Revolutionaries, as they called themselves, people like Ernst Jünger, were superseded by the forces that eventually gave birth to Adolph Hitler as a political figure and the Nazi Party as a political force. I hope that Obama's election and the defeat of the Bush system of politics does not give rise to the same sorts of virulent alliances, fed by a steady stream of right wing---but not quite outright fascist---hate put out by sites like Little Green Footballs.

Village meetings, taxes, and the right of rebellion

This came about because of the post about taxation and coercion. The question was whether or not people had a right to be totally free from a sort of coercion that I argued was part of basic decision making. If you democratically participate in, or give your assent to, decisions regarding what people should do with their resources, on the one hand you should be bound by it, and such a thing may be essential to an ordinarily operating society, but....On the other hand there's the question of your view of the legitimacy of the system you live under as well as the organs of collective decision making. I think that people always possess the inalienable right to decide that the system they live under is unjust and try to alter its structure to become more just. People, in my opinion, always have the right to defect from the society they live under and to form a new one operating according to rules that they feel are more just, as well as to try to get parts of the society who generally disagree with things to secede from the greater political entity. Of course there are issues regarding minimum human rights, but I don't think that that invalidates the concepts. People may argue that a setup like this would cause unceasing revolution, and maybe they're right, but that's the price that we may have to pay for liberty.

All of this too is easier said than done; society is very complex and if you want to fundamentally alter it it's a long term project and not something that can just happen in a day. Founding your own community in the wilderness is something that takes a long time to really make viable as well. So does secession.

Anyways, wanted to correct the impression that if society agrees on something that you have no right to oppose it or object to it. Rousseau's Social Contract, where he famously wrote in response to people who may want out of it that others should "force them to be free" is subject to constant revision by people who are either born into it by chance or by folks who though living under it fundamentally come to oppose certain features of it. The idea of a near omnipotent legislator who can found a Constitution, taken in this instance to mean a basic political structure of society, that will be close to ideal and that will last forever is a figment of the imagination. The basic set up of society, political as well as social, is always up for questioning, and ultimately it's the people themselves who serve as the legislators.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I initially misread the title of Naomi Klein's new article

Instead of "Why we should banish Larry Summers from public life" I thought she said "Why we shouldn't banish Larry Summers from public life" When I saw that I thought to myself, you know, that's an interesting perspective--maybe instead of banishing him from public life we should put silly hats on him and have him perform tricks in public on command, something useful. Just have a small square roped off in DC where you'd be able to see Larry in his clown suit performing, under armed guards, who would also prod him a little bit if he slackened his pace. It could be a new tourist attraction.

Updated profile pic to be more current

...

An individual was waterboarded 183 times in one month

Or on average six times a day, every day, for a month. You still don't want to prosecute CIA torturers, Mr. President?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Damnit, J.G. Ballard died today

One of my favorite authors. Although I haven't read lots of his books the ones I have read have had a lasting impression on me; I'm thinking of the collection of short stories, Rushing to Paradise, and High-Rise. Will have to get to "The Day of Creation" and "Crash". The short stories are awe inspiring. High-Rise is a wonderful comment on modernistic society and the idea of artificially constructed, self contained, living spaces, like a high rise that has a grocery store, pool, shops, etc.. in it. Rushing to Paradise is a funny jab at environmentalism where a disgraced doctor creates a media spectacle about saving a bird in the south pacific and more. It's something that I appreciate in a sort of collegial way; if we can't laugh at ourselves....

When I first started reading J.G. Ballard, when I found his short stories, I was seriously reading Baudrillard at the same time. This produced very interesting cross over ideas since Ballard focusses on artificiality, the media, and the follies of modernistic society while Baudrillard criticizes the media and capitalism in general as creating a simulacra of real life that we all participate in, something totally mediated while we're exploited behind our backs. The failure of the modern western utopia to manifest itself, instead creating a false, oppressive, behemoth. Ballard and Baudrillard have some things in common.

He'll be missed, one of the few truly righteous writers out there who stuck it to the man in all the right places.

Why the nationalization of the banks would be a good idea

Basically, because that's the only way that things like executives giving themselves multi-million dollar bonuses after their companies have had to be rescued will not happen. One of the most anger inducing headlines I've read recently said that lots of the TARP money was flowing back into Washington in the form of political donations to the Republicans. Banks, the people whose greed got us into this situation, along with AIG and hedge funds, cannot be trusted to use the money that they get in an honest way. To ensure that real change happens and that no fraud occurs there needs to be a level of direct involvement by the government in the administration of the banks that can only be accomplished through nationalization. Only by taking over the banks will the government truly be able to restructure them and create a measure of honesty within them. The government needs broad authority to fire executives, discipline executives and other managerial workers, and the ability to do this without the companies doing an end run around the legislation and actions, sabotaging and undermining them.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Obama shakes Ortega's hand at summit

This is really historic, more so than him shaking Chavez' hand although that's important too. Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua was one of the top people of the Sandinista government that the U.S. spent millions of dollars destroying. The Contras were forces directed against Nicaragua and El Salvador, opposing a socialist government that had already come into being in Nicaragua and the potential of one coming into existence in El Salvador. Now he's not only head of the current government of Nicaragua but Obama has sent a strong signal through shaking his hand. People who are activists with Nicaragua issues tend to think that Ortega has sold out his country through moving his politics substantially to the right of where they were during the Sandinista government, but it's still a historic moment.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Interested in non-Italian organized crime

Because it exists or existed much more prevalently. Some of the propaganda surrounding the Mafia and Italians goes back to anti-Italian sentiments, and anti-ethnic American sentiments in general, sort of a "there goes the neighborhood" vibe. But good 'ole Anglos had their own organized crime too. The question is just what is organized crime?

Who controlled the houses of prostitution? Who offered pornography for sale before it was legal and acceptable? Who controlled illegal gambling operations? The answers to those questions would bring out some what the organized crime structure looked like in the given area. Also, do elected officials on the local level require bribes for action? Is there corruption regarding contracts? What about a political machine, possibly connected with this stuff in some way?

What our great President approves of

From the torture memos:

"The waterboard may be used simultaneously with two other techniques: it may be used during a course of sleep deprivation, and as explained above, a detainee subjected to the waterboard must be under dietary manipulation, because a fluid diet reduces the risks of the technique. Furthermore, although the insult slap, abdominal slap, attention grasp, facial hold, walling, water dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement cannot be employed during the actual session when the waterboard is being employed, they may be used at a point in time close to the waterboard, including on the same day."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Now hail the torturer in chief.

Two significant events happened today regarding the horrors that the Bush administration visited on people who fell into its web via Afghanistan: the memos detailing the torture that the Bush administration used were released and Obama said that he wasn't going to prosecute the CIA people who applied the torture techniques to detainees. Obama's decision is shameful and is contrary to what he claims his regime stands for. Torture is a bigger issue than Bush. Any U.S. President who refuses to take the necessary steps to right the wrongs that have been perpetrated is an accessory to them, is complicit in the crimes, and is as disgraceful morally on the world stage.

Why the argument that marijuana shouldn't be decriminalized because of super weed is bullshit

I'm sure you've heard the new propaganda that says that marijuana these days contains 30% THC while marijuana back in the '60s only contained 5% and that they're now different drugs. The new pot is crazy and makes people do crazy things. The only flaw, well not the only flaw, is that countries that have legalized pot, particularly the Netherlands, have had this super weed for years and years and years and they haven't gone overboard yet. Where do you think some of this super weed came from? Breeders in the Netherlands made up a huge portion of the strains that are potent today, as did folks here on the West Coast and in Canada. Although I haven't been to the Netherlands, my impression is that you can walk into any smoker's cafe and buy the super weed, and day of the week, fifty two weeks a year. Not only that but there's the little matter of hashish...

Hashish is another argument against the idea that there's this new super weed that makes people do bad stuff or instantly destroy themselves. You see, hashish is the traditional way folks have of taking said low potency weed and concentrating it to the point where it has the same level of THC as the super weed. Hashish has been manufactured for over a thousand years, and arguably the manufacture of hashish goes much further back then that, back to when people figured out you could take the glands off a pot plant and concentrate them to make a better high. And places that use hashish haven't freaked out and gone self destructive. Hashish is the preferred method of smoking for North Africa, including Morocco, and for the Middle East in general, Egypt, Lebanon, you name it.

So....the argument that kids today have a high that was inaccessible to their parents turns out to be propaganda to get people who have smoked weed and who know that weed doesn't necessarily destroy your life to become anti-marijuana and anti-marijuana legalization.

I hope I've touched thousands of people with this blog

And that they recovered from the rash quickly.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I don't see what people are objecting to with Thailand's protests

Although after the silly posts below this may not be taken seriously, I mean it. The Red Shirted people are the supporters of a populist president who they feel was ousted unfairly. The truth, that I've never forgot after hearing about it, is that it's very convenient for people in the first world to pass judgment on the tactics used by folks in the third world while they never have to deal with those situations themselves. They're not living in Thailand, I'm not living into Thailand, it looks like there's a progressive populist uprising happen, and yet there's tut tutting, even from Progressive sites. Sky News, a network not identified as Progressive that's based on the UK, has had fairer coverage of the protests than U.S. progressive outlets. You know, people, particularly truckers, were practically rioting last summer over high gas prices. If people in the U.S. had to work in sweatshops they'd be going through the roof, yet they're taking a sanctimonious 'high ground' over the actions of the protesters.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon de-ranking gay books---a Seattle perspective

I actually have heard some stuff about this by people who know a little bit about the state of Amazon's computer service. They aren't Amazon employees but folks who have done work for them in the past. Basically, what they say is that it's likely that the de-ranking came at the behest of fundamentalist Christians who registered complaints about the books en-masse on Easter Sunday. According to them, Amazon wouldn't do something like this consciously. Instead, the consensus seems to be that while the financial info of people who use Amazon is well secured the more abstract features like page rankings and beyond are inefficient and buggy beyond belief.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Monotheism is absurd

Especially anthropomorphic monotheism. The idea of a God who acts like a pissed off, often stupid, individual, intervening in human affairs is pretty preposterous. Now if it was polytheistic, with a multiplicity of gods, that would be different. But Mr. Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient who also sits on a throne and judges people, who makes covenants and such, is a seriously deficient concept. At least in Islam God is much more of a non-anthropomorphized force.

Robert Anton Wilson once had a routine where he tried to find out how big God's cock was. He used different passages from the Bible that talk about god walking on earth, estimated his height, and then went through a process of deduction; Given that God would be well endowed, and he would be something like five hundred feet tall, how big would that make his cock, both flaccid and erect? What would the girth of God's cock be? Does it hang to the left or to the right? Veiny? Kinked?

Let's all give honor to the cock of God on this holy Easter Sunday.

*on edit: it's actually easy to tentatively determine how long God's cock would be. Let's take an easy ratio as our starting point: someone six feet tall who has a six inch cock. If you divide six feet by six inches you get twelve, since every foot is made up of twelve inches. This means that a six inch cock on a six foot man would be 1/12 of his height. Taking Robert Anton Wilson's 500 feet for God's height, the same proportion would be forty one feet, because 500/12 is forty one. But God is hung in our example. Really hung. So, let's just double that figure to make God have the equivalent of a twelve inch cock. That would mean that God's cock would be 82 feet long at full extension.

*on edit 2: "Phallus Dei" is also the name of a seminal album by Krautrock band Amon Düül II.

Happy Easter

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A funny, funny, LA Times misinterpretation of Cuba

Willingly or otherwise. In This story the LA Times reporter Tracy Wilkinson tries real hard to try to portray the opening up of Cuba to Americans as a potentially revolutionary act that the rulers of the island fear. Here's the relevant quote:

"The big question on both sides of the Florida Straits is how much change in Cuba policy will President Obama risk, and how much change will Cuba's communist rulers tolerate? Both sides have reason to move slowly."

Allow me to laugh hysterically at this. Quite simply, there's a major flaw in the underlying premise, and that is that Canadians, the French, Argentines, Germans, English, Chileans, Brazilians, Italians, Spanish, can already travel to Cuba. They've been able to travel to Cuba for quite some time. In fact, Cuba is a popular destination with Canadian tourists. It's kind of unbelievable that exposure to folks from the U.S. would seriously undermine the regime by exposing the peasant masses of Cuba to ideas of freedom and democracy. The benighted, cowering, Cubans, in need of enlightenment by the Yanquis exist only in the minds of folks in Miami, where newspapers regularly run stories praising the ultra-right in Latin America.

The U.S. restrictions on travel have been more about keeping people in the U.S. in and less about Cuba keeping people out. People have consistently traveled to Cuba from the U.S. during the blockade and been welcomed, with folks independently sailing for Cuba from Florida without notifying the Cubans that they were going to do this being welcomed and encouraged to spend money.

So, will the poor Cuban people and the blood thirsty government, that regularly crucifies priests and hits kittens, come out from the encounter with the Americans unchanged? Time will tell.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ah, so the G20 death was likely caused by Police, but the damage is done

Why? Because during the protest RawStory linked to a story by a conservative London paper that implied that the protesters were responsible for the death and that it was reflective of the things like breaking windows. The Guardian has the revised story. It's interesting that a putatively Progressive news aggregation service would run a story that was suspect from the beginning, that was in fact suspect on the face of it, as one of the few stories about the G20 that they linked to. During the same period they linked to several medical marijuana stories. While surely marijuana is somewhat important it's hard to see how it trumps protests of the top 20 most important countries in the world over the global economic crisis and other issues. Maybe it's more convenient to toke up at home than to engage in global politics.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Bush administration demonstrated the weakness of the Constitutional system

That is the weakness of the system to protect people from a tyrannical central government. There's a tension in the Constitution between the power that the Federal government can take (as is necessary) and the idea of powers not delegated in the Constitution belong to the States. Historically, whether the central government is able to have lots of powers of if it isn't has depended on who controls the executive. The Federalist Party, who agitated for the Constitution and who assumed power after it was enacted, actually had a very expansive notion of what powers the Federal government had, the tenth amendment talking about the States' rights being considered to really refer to less than what we think it refers to now. Well, this went on for a few terms and then an opposition party to the Federalists, the Democrats, developed and elected Thomas Jefferson President on the platform of reversing Federalist centralization of power. This he did, by interpreting the tenth amendment as referring to many more things than the Federalists believed it did. After Jefferson, though there were attempts at a compromise between the two views, Jefferson's view destroyed the other side until after the Civil War, when the Republicans ran on the platform of a strong central government protecting capitalism. But what can you do when you disagree with an administration's interpretation of the balance between the Federal government and the States?

Well, the reasoning of the tenth amendment is fine and dandy, but the Supreme Court does not give what are known as "advisory opinions". That means that State legislators can't ask the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of a proposed measure that Congress may pass, or preemptively challenge a proposed policy by the administration. Instead, for the tenth amendment to be enforced in a dispute, a lawsuit has to be filed and make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, starting at the Federal level. The Supreme Court has the option of denying it being heard, which overall it does in the vast majority of all cases that come before it, and if they do that then the policy or the law stands without there being a day in court. If the Supreme Court does hear it, well, who appointed the majority of justices on the Supreme Court? If a Party has been in power for a while they may have appointed all of the Supreme Court justices. So the Supreme Court of the Federal Government rules on whether or not the Federal Government has overstepped its bounds with regards to the States or not. Sometimes, like during the Roosevelt administration, the partisanship leads to the administration being denied their laws, other times not.

In the recent past, during the Bush administration, Congress was a rubber stamp, Bush was proposing and enacting outrageous laws, and the Supreme Court was in his pocket. How would you challenge something like that based on States' rights? If the Federal government just decides that it doesn't give a damn about the balance of power between itself and the States there really isn't a whole lot that people in the States can do about it. Therefore, the way the Constitution handles the distribution of power between the States and the Federal government is seriously flawed, to say the least.

There need to be amendments that give States more direct control of the Federal government, that increase its veto power over the Executive branch, and that clearly make the Federal government subservient to the States and not the other way around. If some mechanism isn't devised to keep the Federal government in check the only thing stopping another Bush administration from coming into power will be a "trust us" attitude on the part of the people who work for the government, who happen at this point in time to not want to extend their power in the way the Bush administration did (although they may want to extend it in other ways).

*on edit: and the Senate is no remedy. It doesn't have power over the Executive beyond a few trivial things. Otherwise, it's a glorified House of Representatives. The reason is that even though two Senators come from each state none of them work for the State government they come out of or are accountable to the State government they come out of. The best thing with regards to the Senate would be to have them popularly elected but legally accountable to the State government, not just the citizens of the State but the State government, that they come from. Otherwise their function in Congress isn't any different from the House of Lords.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Post-industrial industry, or an idea relating to Detroit and company

Richard Florida, author of the book "The Rise of the Creative Class" has a long article in the latest Atlantic Monthly that's well worth reading. It expands on his concept of the future of the U.S. being in more abstract creative industries like computers and media, and suggests that these, along with a general retooling of American culture to respect the idea that unlimited fossil fuels and unlimited products of industry like cars will probably be part of the future for the U.S. I agree with a lot of it, but the idea of a truly post-industrial economy, taken literally as an economy without industry, is impossible. There were always have to be manufacturing, even if the main products are high speed and high efficiency trains for public transport. But, I don't think the question of an industrial or post-industrial economy is an either or question.

There are two very good reasons to doubt that moving to a more knowledge based economy will make industry obsolete, or that industry will not be able to work with knowledge based industries: Germany and Japan. While America largely innovated based on the British system of industrial production, introducing better organized factory processes, Germany and Japan were faced with developing their whole economies without much of a basis for reference. So what they did was to invest in scientific research in order to open up both new fields and radically new processes for industry. Germany went through what was known as the second industrial revolution, which relied on the use of light metals that weren't previously used, alloys, and synthetic products. Japan invested in R&D regarding chip construction as well as automobile design, with Japanese automobiles coming out more computerized and complex than their American counterparts. Both of these ways of innovating involved working smarter in a more "knowledge based" economy, and we can do a similar thing here.

Industry will always exist, but it doesn't have to be inefficient. Instead, we could take the initiative to help develop smarter industry, whose products function better, are produced better, and can compete on the world stage. This could happen by a cross fertilization of the centers of creative people that Florida refers to with more traditional forms of engineering. A feature of truly working smarter instead of harder would also be a re-skilling of American industrial workers to bring folks more into the rarified section of "skilled trades" than they were before, and to accompany it with more responsibility on the part of work teams on the bottom and less managerial domination. Some sort of workers' council could be present as well.

If industrial America can regenerate itself by adopting the same sort of techniques that once were thought to herald the demise of industry itself it can spread the benefits of a "new economy" from places like Seattle and Portland to places like Detroit and Buffalo.

Detroit misconceptions, David Zirin article on the Spartans

Zirin's article is really good, about the MSU Spartans making it to the NCAA finals, but the end of it contains a false perspective on Detroit.

"But a city can't walk away from itself. Even some of the surrounding suburbs on the other side of 8 Mile are in tough straits. That could have been said any time in the last twenty years. What makes now different is that the pockets of gentrification that developed in the 1990s also seeing shuttered boutiques, coffee shops and galleries. For working people, it's been a generational journey from union jobs to service jobs, to no jobs."

True enough, and it's a sad story, but one thing that you have to understand is that "Suburbs" have a different meaning in Detroit than they do elsewhere. When I mention being from the Detroit suburbs up here people automatically think of the thin layer of 'burbs around Seattle like Kent, Renton, Everett, Shoreline. It's not that way in Detroit. The metro Detroit area has four million people in it. Detroit itself only has one million people in it. Detroit is 81% black and only 12.1% white, while according to Wikipedia 80% of the black people in the Detroit area live in Detroit. Because Detroit's one million population is a nice round number that means this: although one million black people live in the Detroit area, only 200,000 are among the 3,000,000 people living outside of the city of Detroit in the Detroit area, or in other words Metro Detroit is only 6.6% black.

With demographics like that, the city is clearly not where the action is in the Detroit area. The suburbs in Detroit have many, many features of cities elsewhere, and if they were someplace else many of them would have been annexed and become part of the city of Detroit itself. The white flight of the Detroit suburbs is not just wealthy people wanting to get out of the city but virtually the entire white population of Detroit previous to the riots, working class and well off alike.

Most, if not all, of the new auto factories that went up post-riots were outside of the city limits, meaning that places like Pontiac and Sterling Heights, places that are technically suburbs, are in point of fact dense industrial areas. The workers live around the plants, their kids go to school around the plants, they shop in the area, go to movies in the area, etc... there's everything that a city would have without there being a city, and with their being the terrible lack of urban planning that is the areas' evidence of suburban origin.

Sterling Heights, Wixom, Lake Orion, Auburn Hills, Pontiac, as well as Dearborn, these are just the industrial areas outside of the city of Detroit that I can think of off the top of my head.

Not only that but there's virtually no reason to go down to the city of Detroit. There are no cool stores down there, the are virtually no night clubs down there, only a few scattered interesting businesses that are few and far between. The suburbs are where the innovative culture has moved to, with fashions coming out of Ferndale and Royal Oak being the hip alternative mecca of the Detroit area. When I was a teenager no one said "Let's go down to Detroit!", it was more "Let's go to Royal Oak!". It wasn't because we weren't tough enough to down to Detroit, it was because we weren't masochists: didn't want to go to a high crime environment in order to get a few crumbs that we could get elsewhere. It's no doubt different if you go to school down there, say to Wayne State, because you probably live there and know what interesting spots there are in the city, but for someone outside of it it's more like 'why bother?' There stereotype some Detroiters have is that there are people in the suburbs that have never in their entire lives been in Detroit, and while that is overstating it a little bit they do have a point. It is possible to totally cut the city of Detroit out of your loop and not miss all that much, unlike, say, Seattle, where if you refuse to go into the city itself you're missing out on an insane amount of opportunities and would have to be, I don't know, missing part of your brain, to do that.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Court lets Mumia Abu-Jamal conviction stand....I'm tempted to say "Good!"

The main reason he's in prison today is his own stupidity. What people don't often mention is that he represented himself in court and instead of putting on a real defense he grandstanded on the MOVE house bombing by the Philadelphia police. And he could very well have committed the crime. The stuff about him being under surveillance since he was a teenager is bullshit; yes, he was in fact monitored because he was a member of the Black Panther Party, but so were many other people. Mumia has distinguished himself while in prison by writing several shitty books and casting himself as a martyr. If you really want to free a political prisoner, free Leonard Peltier. And commute Mumia's sentence to life in prison.

*on edit: ok, Mumia didn't represent himself throughout the trial although he did it at the beginning. I still maintain that Mumia did things at his trial that sabotaged it.

The ironies of American society

It's kind of funny: extremist groups derived from Meir Kahane, at least one of them provide more insight on their websites about why they believe what they believe than does the ADL. I'm trying to talk about them without actually using their names so that I don't get spam comments from them. The Jewish ******* Organization's website, where there's a picture of an orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn where all of them, including kids, are carrying automatic weapons, actually has a good anti-Nazi section. They recently threatened a speaker associated with the International Solidarity Movement (article here). Yet there are actual humans behind the site, unlike the ADL's site, which could be written by a sophisticated robotic computer program---you feed in the news, you get out press releases.

Obama supports warrantless wiretapping

Wow, it seems that some people just can't let go of all the executive power that was claimed by the Bush White House. Here's the RawStory article about Obama's Justice Department moving to dismiss a lawsuit dealing with warrantless wiretapping on the idea that the companies have immunity granted by Congress and that FISA essentially exempts the U.S. government from oversight of wiretapping:

"President Barack Obama invoked "state secrets" to prevent a court from reviewing the legality of the National Security Agency's warantless wiretapping program, moving late Friday to have a lawsuit that challenged the program dismissed.

...

The Friday brief involves a lawsuit filed by the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is suing the NSA for the wiretapping program. The agency monitored the telephone calls and emails of thousands of people within the United States without a court's approval in an effort to thwart terrorist attacks.

...

The Justice Department also holds that the lawsuit can't proceed because of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They assert that the US government has "sovereign immunity" against statutory claims that it illegally wiretapped or accessed communications data."

Deeper reasons why the French hate NATO

Beyond just opposing the expansion of an alliance used to further the interests of American domination. France has a very important tradition of being independent, especially with regards to the U.S., and has expressed this in various ways, the biggest in this case being De Gaulle's withdrawal of France from NATO in the '60s. The reason for objecting to the U.S. and to the U.S.' expanding role in the world is quite simple: while Americans trumpet the virtues of their revolution all over the globe as promoting freedom, democracy, and opportunity, France too had a little Revolution of their own, the consequences of which were just as broad, if not broader for Europe. At one point in time the majority of Europe was under French control during the Napoleonic era, and the ideas of the Revolution were exported to the countries that France gained control over. So the French see no need to join in the chorus of America as the city on the hill, chosen by destiny to liberate the world. In point of fact the French Revolution was more thoroughgoing and deeper than the American Revolution was, so much so that large parts of the American public and certainly of the American political establishment, suddenly found themselves in sympathy with British moderate conservatives like Edmund Burke, conservatives from the same country that they so vocally despised in their calls for independence and liberty.

Which is part of why the French resent becoming a member of an American dominated 'defense' force that depends on recruiting former Communist states to keep it in the American pocket.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I'm glad that the Heidelberg project still exists

The Heidelberg Project is a outside art creation in the heart of Detroit where the guy responsible has done something that the Situationists and the Surrealists could really go for: he transformed the environment through covering everything with brightly colored dots and collections of salvaged objects like telephones and shoes that are in turn painted bright colors. I say I'm glad that it's still around because when I left Michigan, in 1999, it was slated for destruction.

In fact, I visited it and then went to an amazing benefit for it put on by Detroit techno artists. I actually got to hear Derrick May, one of the inventors of techno, do a complete remix of the entire "Computer World" album by Kraftwerk, which was like nothing I'd ever heard before, which still ranks with some of the best live music I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. But then I read that Mayor Dennis Archer, the Clinton-esque reformer, ordered it bulldozed. Apparently, though, they only partially destroyed it and then the people behind it filed suit and won.

I'm happy to have incidentally found that out nearly ten years later, which shows you how out of the loop with current Detroit stuff I am.

On reading "On the Road"

It's interesting because I've had the book in my possession for sixteen years and yet hadn't read much more than the first couple pages before. Maybe it helped that I actually have been 'On the Road' for years, that that made me more willing to read it. Back when I got it, in the early '90s, there was a Beat-o-philiac moment going on in the mainstream culture, where Kerouac was featured in Khaki ads, Burroughs suddenly got publicity, and Ginsberg experiencing a Renaissance as well, in other words they were co-opted. Marketed, packaged, sold, becoming part of the 'official' culture. So I ended up not reading my copy of "On the Road" even though I bought it. Now that I'm working on it a couple of observations are in order:

First, there's no way that Kerouac wrote this thing on amphetamines, and there is no way that this was just a stream of consciousness book, no matter how fast Kerouac could type. There's a very defined structure and order to it, and the tone is reflective and slow paced. I buy that the final draft of it was written all at once, but even then I'm sure that he was looking at his notes when he was typing it out. I've written stuff flying high in the sky with my mind going a mile a minute and know that it just doesn't come out looking like "On the Road". Structurally, it's not all that innovative; it's more the content of the book that's interesting and innovative.

I'm surprised by this. Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" and "Tropic of Capricorn" are both much more experimental both in form and content than "On the Road". Both are personal favorites.

In any case, there's some satisfaction in reading "On the Road" after doing a significant amount of traveling on one's own initiative as opposed to starting traveling because you've read a book about people doing it. We're trapped in such a media-saturated consciousness that we follow examples in books, thereby putting one more layer between ourselves and reality, as opposed to just going out and doing it. Books can be inspiring, but ultimately no one should wait for permission from some other source before deciding on how to live their life. They can, but it'll always be one step removed from what the experience could have been if you went at it without a map.

"Obama to call for nuclear free world"

Here. At least he's consistent. The big flaw in the opposition to Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons and North Korea's continued possession of them during the Bush administration was that Bush and company supported nuclear weapons for the U.S., and nuclear weapons in general. It was just these countries who they decided couldn't pursue them. By putting anti-nuclear sentiment against Iran in the context of general disarmament he's establishing at least a moral basis for the action.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A positive suggestion of where to go next w/U.S. and global socialism by Hilary Wainwright

From The Nation's socialism forum: There is an Alternative. I like this article because it breaks down the snotty tone of Ehrenreich's and Fletcher's article "Rising to the occasion", which ridicules socialists who have ideas about where society should go next and praises the endlessly self promoting Michael Albert and his ParEcon ®™ idea, which can be yours too for a low low price. Doug Henwood's article, which I'll get to in a second, is another good antidote to this kind of snobbery.

"What's certain, however, is that the credibility of the mantra "there is no alternative" is at its end. We now have an opening to generalize from the myriad experiments driven by socialist values, to develop a sense of direction that can persuade the majority to join. Some of these are national and continental, as in Latin America; but most are local. There must be a conscious effort to investigate these stories, reflect on them and promote them in the context of capitalism's disarray.

I'm thinking here of two kinds of examples. First, there is the phenomenon in countries with a developed public sector where public-service trade unionists, together with citizens' organizations, have successfully resisted privatization. They have combined militant action with collaboration with a chastened public sector management, demonstrating how a democratization of public administration, releasing the skills of its staff, can drive improvements in public service far more effectively than privatization. In Norway and in northern cities in the UK, for example, such experiences have renewed socialist values in a living way and built confidence that socialism is practical. This also applies to whole sectors, most notably water, where in vast parts of the globe the private sector has had to retreat in the face of successful public sector alternatives."

From Doug Henwood's A Post-Capitalist Future is Possible:

"I also want to dissent from another prescription: Rebecca Solnit's contention that the revolution is already happening, via "gardens and childcare co-ops and bicycle lanes and farmers' markets and countless ways of doing things differently and better." While many of these things are very nice, they're well short of a transformative vision. The package draws heavily on an ancient American fantasy of self-reliance and back-to-the land escapism. It's no model for running a complex industrial society. Such a system couldn't make computers or locomotives, and it probably couldn't feed 6 billion earthlings either. Maybe Solnit wants to give all that up. If so, she should tell us.

So, not to coin a phrase, what is to be done? I don't think off-the-shelf utopias like Parecon are very helpful; there's just no imaginable roadmap from here to there. We have to work with what we have rather than invent finished products de novo. If we don't have a model of how a socialist economy would work, we do have some principles, like a more egalitarian distribution of income, greater economic security, a friendlier relationship with the earth, more popular control over investment and technology, and worker control of the workplace."

I would suggest also looking at models that have the dreaded 'O' and 'C' words, the 'O' word being organizational, as in organizational anarchist, the type that set up liberated spaces during the Spanish Civil War, and the 'C' word being Communist, as in examples from Communist Yugoslavia and other socialist states that developed institutional innovations in their societies that we can take ideas from. Hungary and some socialist movements in Africa such as that associated with Amilcar Cabral. Current Cuban society is another candidate for this, as are also militant Social Democracies.


Finally, I'll leave off with Mike Davis' argument in The Necessary Eloquence of Protest:

"I realize that is not fashionable these days to praise the CPUSA in its sectarian heyday or to applaud highly confrontational tactics that provoke violent official responses. But if these are near-to-the-end times, when social change risks being "too late," as our new president repeatedly emphasized in a brilliant campaign speech that quoted Martin Luther King Jr. from 1967, then we must be as forthright about the need for disorder ("raise less corn and more hell") as were our populist and socialist ancestors.

From my point of view, this starts with the recognition that there are no realistic solutions to the current planetary crisis. None. A peaceful, just-in-time transition toward low-carbon, rationally regulated state capitalism is about as likely as a spontaneous connecting-the-dots of neighborhood anarchism across the world. Simply extrapolating from the present balance of forces, one most likely arrives at an equilibrium of triaged barbarism, founded on the extinction of the poorest part of humanity.

I believe that socialism/anarcho-communism--the rule of labor upon and for the earth--remains our only hope, but the necessary epistemological condition for serious strategic and programmatic debate on the left is a rising global temperature in the streets. Resistance alone will clear the conceptual space needed to synthesize the meaning of Rebecca Solnit's small, stateless utopias with the huge, confusing, soiled but heroic heritage bequeathed by two centuries of working-class and anticolonial struggles against the empire of capital."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bumper crop of articles on socialism from The Nation

The Forum includes a virtual Who's Who of non-dogmatic U.S. socialists, with an English person or two thrown in, including Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, David Zirin, Doug Henwood, Robert Pollin, John Bellamy Foster, Tariq Ali, Christian Parenti, Immanuel Wallerstein,Michael Albert.

Here is the entierety of David Zirin's nice article:

"I'll never forget interviewing Lester "Red" Rodney, the 96-year-old former sports editor of the Communist Party's newspaper, the Daily Worker. Speaking about the Great Depression, Rodney said, "People who weren't around during the 1930s can't fully grasp what it was like politically. If you weren't some kind of radical or socialist...you were considered brain-dead, and you probably were!"

As we enter another period defined by electric currents of crisis and hope, Rodney's words come back to hit me like a left hook. The fact that The Nation is publishing this remarkable forum is a testament to the moment. It's time to come out of our political closets and say openly that another world is not only possible but necessary. If we weren't living in these troubled times, the urgency would not be so acute. But we are, and therefore it is.
Ehrenreich and Fletcher are spot on when they write, "...we do understand--and this is one of the things that make us 'socialists' --that the absence of a plan, or at least some sort of deliberative process for figuring out what to do, is no longer an option."

Let the process begin.

As the great historian Howard Zinn wrote on socialism, "There are people fearful of the word, all along the political spectrum. What is important, I think, is not the word, but a determination to hold up before a troubled public those ideas that are both bold and inviting--the more bold, the more inviting."

Of course, we have learned from President Obama's early days that even the most incremental calls for change put you at risk of being labeled a red menace. (My favorite moment was probably when the utterly unhinged Michele Bachmann said that Obama's policies represented "the final leap to socialism.") The right uses it as an all-purpose insult precisely to keep those calling for change skittish and fearful. Stick a red "S" on their chest and watch them squirm. If that is going to be their frayed last line of defense as they defend a sclerotic system, then we shouldn't run from the label but reclaim it.
We reclaim it as Zinn said, by holding up ideas, amidst profound insecurity, that are bold and inviting.
Let's boldly speak about the possibility of living in a country where bankers don't make out like bandits while people lose their homes; where prisons aren't seen as a "growth industry" and healthcare is a right instead of a privilege.
Let's boldly say that ordinary people have the capacity for extraordinary deeds and can run society far more effectively than those who have been looting their pensions and destroying their jobs.

Let's boldly proclaim that teachers are the best people to run schools, that nurses and doctors are the best people to run hospitals and that we can wield the remarkable tools of capital for human need instead of corporate greed. As Jack London wrote, we can "Take these mighty machines and make them ours."

Let's reintroduce a new generation to the dynamic hidden history of radical change from below. Socialism has been associated with top-down, smothering bureaucracies, but there is a different tradition that threads through the defining struggles of the last century: the battles for the eight-hour workday, women's rights, desegregation, LGBT rights and global justice.
The fact that Stalinism and McCarthyism wrecked the Communist Party in this country should not blind us to the fact that it built an organization of 80,000 activists by 1938, without which there would have been no 1934 San Francisco general strike, no UAW, no CIO. The American left's fear of creating its own political party, built on radical principles, remains an obstacle that we must find a way to overcome.

There is no question this will take work. We are talking about reclaiming a proud history of struggle from below while rejecting the part of that history that aligned itself with dictatorial change from on high. But if our ideas are going to have any kind of currency, then we will need more unions, more community groups and more people joined arm in arm that openly stand in the best of the socialist tradition. We will need to be out and proud in the battles to come.

This isn't about crudely calling for socialism at every turn like a broken clock waiting patiently to be right twice a day. That's a great way to not receive a return invitation to the next community meeting. But it is about recognizing that those day-to-day campaigns--whether for the Employee Free Choice Act, marriage rights or racial justice--become more potent if we are animated, as Woody Guthrie sang, by the idea that "There's better world that's a-comin'/ Don't you see.""

Very good Robert Scheer article from The Nation on the bailout

In for a Penny, In for $2.98 Trillion:

"Now Summers and the other finance gurus who move so easily from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue assure us that those professionals who made the toxic swap deals are too big to fail and must be entrusted with 3 trillion of our dollars to save themselves from disaster. And thanks to the laws they wrote, the bankers are likely to be covered for their socially destructive behavior by a get-out-of-jail-free card."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Good article from The Nation, written today, on the London protests

Here. Excerpts:

"we waited under an eggshell sky for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: red against war, green against climate chaos, silver against financial crime and black (the website said) against borders and land enclosures, in memory of the Diggers.

War got there first, escorted by a small crowd offering the usual British cocktail of whimsy ("Queers against capitalism and other nasty things" "Eat the bankers") and testosterone ("We are fucking angry"). There were fists in the air, and singing, to the tune of "Clementine": "Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, Put the bankers on the top…" Small knots of anarchists in black drummed up a rapid rhythm; police in day-glo green formed equally rapid cordons; the last red double-deckers tried to nose through the crowd. Everyone was taking pictures, with cameras and mobile phones: if it isn't mediated, it isn't happening. "Jump! Jump!" people shouted up at the windowless bank, and "Where's our money?" and "Shame!"

The protest seemed a broad bricolage of causes: a young man waving a red flag allowed that we're not in a revolutionary situation yet, "but I think we might be soon"; three feet away, a woman holding one end of a banner ("Capitalism isn't working") said she was furious with Gordon Brown for saddling her children with debt and may well vote for the Tories in the next election. But Mary--retired, with a "Wage Slave" label on--rebuked my cynicism. "I refute the idea that we're all talking about different things," she said. "The kind of world we want to see is the same world---a world where money is used to help people. We're all just talking about different bits of it."

The whole article is really good.

About the broken windows: it's odd that the mainstream Progressive 'New Media', particularly RawStory, are still only focusing on broken windows, with links being posted during the day to the most over the top anti-protester coverage and now a big headline declaring "Multiple Videos: London banks attacked" No other stories about the protests are on Rawstory currently. What hypocrisy. Rawstory has been posting anti-bank and anti-AIG stories for months, railing against banks, bank bonuses, and bankers in general, publishing articles calling for the nationalization of banks. Now that some windows have been broken they're acting like the Wall Street Journal. Let me tell you: personally, I don't give a damn whether people break bank windows or if they don't, but you know you've got to dance with them that brung you, and Rawstory has been giving vent to pissed off sentiment about banks. I'm guessing that a number of people in the U.S. pissed off about and maybe personally hurt by banks and mortgages aren't shedding many tears that a few bank windows were broken in London, and more than a couple probably would like to do the same in the U.S. Yet, instead of understanding, suddenly Rawstory serves up moralizing.

How about that.

I could talk about the difference between pre-9/11 progressive media on the Internet and Bush era progressive internet media, but I'll save that for another day; I'll just say that it's interesting to examine them and see how deep their perspective on the world runs.

The Öbersturmbannführer's new initiative: The 9/12 project



Jesus, I was going to parody Glenn Beck's new project but it's enough of another sub-literate conservative knuckle drag that I don't in fact have to do much, if anything. Here are the "9 Principles", you see 9/12 not only refers to the day after 9/11 but to nine principles and twelve values that make our country great and can make our country great again:

The thing that gets me, that make me want to fall over laughing, are the quotes from past Presidents that Beck uses to justify his principles, quotes that are largely incoherent and random.

"1. America Is Good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
God “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the external rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” from George Washington’s first Inaugural address.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
Honesty “I hope that I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider to be the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” George Washington

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
Marriage/Family “It is in the love of one’s family only that heartfelt happiness is known. By a law of our nature, we cannot be happy without the endearing connections of a family.” Thomas Jefferson

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
Justice “I deem one of the essential principles of our government… equal and exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political.” Thomas Jefferson

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
Life, Liberty, & The Pursuit of Happiness “Everyone has a natural right to choose that vocation in life which he thinks most likely to give him comfortable subsistence.” Thomas Jefferson

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
Charity “It is not everyone who asketh that deserveth charity; all however, are worth of the inquiry or the deserving may suffer.” George Washington

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
On your right to disagree “In a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude; every man will speak as he thinks, or more properly without thinking.” George Washington

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
Who works for whom? “I consider the people who constitute a society or a nation as the source of all authority in that nation.” Thomas Jefferson

Being upset about taxation a luxury, and not just a luxury for the rich.

I've always been puzzled by the self satisfied anti-tax rhetoric in the U.S., where resisting taxes is looked upon as patriotism. For most of the industrialized world taxation is looked at as a necessity, a necessity ensuring that people don't die of starvation, live in the streets in mass numbers, have a decent standard of living, as well as good schools. Coincidentally, we in the U.S. who put on our virtual powdered wigs and invoke George Washington on taxes, even if we don't know a thing that Washington actually said or wrote, have lots of people who are "food insecure" and are only getting by because food stamps remains an "entitlement" program, meaning that if you're hungry and qualify you can get food; the homeless population is growing, people are being thrown out of their market financed homes, general standards of living are well below those of most European countries, and whether or not you get a decent education depends solely on whether you live in a rich community or not. And food stamps are always under attack by Republicans. The fact is that taxation is needed for collective survival and it always has been.

Take this example: a village council decides that the farmers who live there have to give a certain percentage of their grain crops for a common grain storehouse for use in emergencies. The chief and elders request it and it's done by the citizens. This is an example of taxation. Because of the tax on wheat, or corn, the village has something to fall back on during a particularly harsh winter or during a time with less crops than were forecast. Market fundamentalism, which is what anti-tax doctrine is, strips away all the possible protections for individuals when bad times hit, and then blames the victims for things that are out of their control.

But, forsooth, we need none of these Kingly and Popish devices.

Interesting revelations about Tupac Shakur

And his early Thug Life, courtesy of his Wikipedia Page:

"At the age of twelve, Shakur enrolled in Harlem's famous "127th Street Ensemble." His first major role with this acting troupe was as Travis in A Raisin in the Sun. In 1984, his family relocated to Baltimore, Maryland,[11] After completing his second year at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School he transferred to the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet. He performed in Shakespeare plays, and in the role of the Mouse King in The Nutcracker.[10] Shakur, accompanied by one of his friends, Dana "Mouse" Smith, as his beatbox, won most of the many rap competitions that he participated in and was considered to be the best rapper in his school.[12]

....

In June 1988, Shakur and his family moved once again, this time to Marin City, California,[1] where he attended Tamalpais High School. Shakur began attending the poetry classes of Leila Steinberg in 1989.[14] In 1989, Steinberg organized a concert with Shakur's former group, Strictly Dope. The concert lead to him being signed with Atron Gregory who set him up with the up-and-coming rap group Digital Underground. In 1990, he was hired as the band's backup dancer and roadie.[4][5]"

Marin being in the Bay Area. It seems that Mr. Thug Life was more busy acting in "The Nutcracker Suite" than being part of an actual gang or engaging in actual criminal behavior, that he lived most of his life growing up on the East Coast, and that he never lived in LA growing up. All things not really emphasized during the time he was alive.

Another page on the web talks about his dealing drugs directly before hooking up with Digital Underground, which was not a gangster rap group by the way (although a group of talented artists). Be that as it may, his high school poetry teacher was the one who got him started in professional music.

You have to question just how much of the Tupac image was just that, how much of it was a front or an exaggeration by someone who acted in Shakespeare plays as a teenager and who was exposed to high (white) culture in the arts throughout his school career.

"Riots" hit London with G20 meeting.

RawStory is focusing on broken windows, complete with a picture of a scary activist, Here. A real time report of the days events by London Indymedia is Here.

Confirmation of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog watering down rap

Coming from Eazy-E. When I originally wrote about this I didn't realize that Dr. Dre was a former member of NWA with Eazy-E.
Dre and Snoop Dog took the tooth out of hard edged rap, made it less violent and less criminal, focussed on the drug use (marijuana and alcohol) that most appealed to white people, dropped references to the less pleasant aspects of life in general, and packaged it in a "gangster" veneer, made bank doing it. Became millionaires several times over. Eazy-E turns out to have made a whole album, It's On(Dr Dre) 187um killa, about the issue.

The album is really funny; it's a takedown an a parody of Snoop Dog's music. Making fun of the arabesque keyboards, making fun of the praise of marijuana, gin and juice, Snoop Dog in general as a person claiming to be a gangster. Sample lyric "Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie ya, suck on my nuts n***** suck on my nuts, n*****", "Gettin' high as a motherfucker, high as a motherfucker, high as a mother fucker, gettin' high as a motherfucker, high as a motherfucker, high as a motherfucker."

Frat boys wouldn't like the regular rap that directly preceded it. Here's a song "Nobody Move" by, probably written by Ice Cube, but performed by Eazy-E on "Eazy Duz It". Not an endorsement of the lyrics but just an example. Let's see what's here: killing, beating up people, attempted rape. He also makes at least three references to hitting women on "Eazy Duz It". It's not pretty, but it's more honest about crime and gangsterdom than what's been packaged since the early '90s.

"Allright...
Empty your pockets, but do it slow
Take everything you got and lay it on the fuckin floor
Don't make me have to set an example today
and blow one of you crazy motherfuckers away
I'm in a bank, and it's a little bit funny
takin all you stupid motherfuckers' money
Peepin at a bitch cause my dick's on hard
Laughin at the dumb ass security guard
who's tied up for the moment, not sayin' a word
I should have known it before, the motherfucker's a nerd
But back to the bitches I'm peepin
and then untie the hoe, so I can start creepin
Took her to the backroom, about to jack
Cold trailed the bitch, with a gun in the back
I said: "Lay down, and unbutton your bra!"
There was the biggest titties that a nigga ever saw
I said: "Damn", then the air got thinner
Only thought in my mind, was goin' up in her
The suspense was makin' me sick
She took her panties down and the bitch had a dick!
I said: "Damn", dropped the gat from my hand
[What I thought was a bitch, was nothing but a man]
Put the gat to his legs, all the way up his skirt
because this is one faggot that I had to hurt, so

[Chorus]

[I said get down. I want you all face-down on the floor
Anybody moves and I shoot]

Stackin up the money and there's more to collect
cause I don't give a fuck, I take traveler's checks
Yo, Ren, peep out the window, and tell me what you see
[Three motherfuckin police starin at me; what to do now?]
Hurry up and get on
Allright, tell me, who is the motherfuckin alarm?
I'm a give ya a chance, and count to three
or else five of ya bitches are comin with me
[Police: Allright, Allright, come out niggaz, or we're coming in
This is the only chance to turn yourself in]
Fuck you! We got hostages, and plenty of loot
and don't give a damn and not afraid to shoot
We're sendin out the hostages, all except five
and if you don't meet our demands, they won't stay alive
We want a copter, so we can get away clean
and take some pussy along, if you know what I mean
One hostage got brave, and got off the floor
but I smoked his ass before he got to the door
[Police: They shot a hostage, they shot a hostage!]
[MC Ren: You stupid motherfucker tryin' to run
now you're dead as fuck tryin' to race a gun]
[Police: Allright, this is the last chance to get off your ass
or else the tear gas is about to blast]
I ran to the back and Ren followed behind
to a hell of a spot that was hard to find
The bank was fucked up, the shit was smokin
with screamin hostages, runnin and chokin
Gettin away, but I was suddenly stopped
at point blank range, by a motherfuckin cop
And I hope they don't think that a lesson was taught
cause a nigga like the E was finally caught
My gat wouldn't fire, the shit wouldn't work
So, y'all know what time it is "