Thursday, July 30, 2009

All right, managerial compensation and executive compensation in relation to workers...some basic ideas

I've heard the argument that people who work in management or are white collar professionals deserve the money they get because, unlike manual labor workers, they work hours and hours above the forty hour work week. But, you know, the way this is usually phrased is vague, so let's quantize it a little bit: let's say that someone working in a managerial, white collar, or executive position works eighty hours a week, twice what the normal work week without overtime is for most workers. Now, if that's the case, and we're talking about working six days a week with about fourteen hour days, then surely it's not unreasonable to suggest that the people in question should get twice the amount of money than manual laborers? Even allowing for education, and some experience, surely there's no justification for the extreme wealth disparity that exists between, say, a welder and a corporate accountant. The "work" produced is produced as an honest counterpart to the compensation given. Instead, the compensation given to these people stems from their position in the company, from the fact that they're working, in one way another, with the boss and so are compensated according to the boss's standards. I mean, like I said, if it's equal pay for equal work, then we wouldn't have these huge disparities in income. Something else is most definitely going on, and that something is class.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A better stimulus package than sponsoring work with debt

The flaw in that plan is that by pumping more dollars into the economy we devalue the dollar itself, in other words causing inflation and generally causing prices to rise. The theory behind sponsoring public works and employment programs is that, on top of putting people who are unemployed to work, it will lead to a higher output of industry, which will erase some of the inflation. Then, people would have dollars that could be spent on real goods, so the supply of money would parallel the supply of goods, whereas inflation has commonly been described as too many dollars chasing too few goods. The only problem is that there's no guarantee that the one will truly offset the other. A better way would be to redistribute wealth.

If we taxed the rich heavily, and used the money to fund the public works and employment programs, there would be no new money created. Instead, money that was likely being underutilized would be in the hands of people who are very likely to spend all or most of it. This would "prime the pump" of industry and cause it to start functioning at a higher rate. Because of the different utilization patterns more money would be chasing more goods. The trick would be to continue the wealth redistribution and not end it once the recession was over.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

And, amazingly, the revising of the Bush administration by Republicans has already started

As evidenced by articles detailing the possible use of U.S. troops against the Lackawanna Six. The basic theme seems to be that Bush was a moderating force and Cheney was the one pushing for extra-constitutional measures. I think this discounts reams and reams of evidence that Bush was enthusiastic about all of the crimes that he committed. Not pardoning Scooter Libby was a minor grace after the full out assault on democracy in the U.S. and on the world in general at large that he committed during his eight years as President.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Am I the only one who's floored that Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested for breaking into his own house?

I mean, quite frankly, Gates is the foremost professor of black studies in the entire United States, someone who's at the empyrean heights of his profession. But, as other people have noted, to some folks he's just another black man.

Facebookers in the UK planning to invade Lichtenstein

I thought that this was amusing: from The Guardian, "Liechtenstein braces itself for a Facebook invasion"

"Lizzie Palmer, Sheffield University student and self-proclaimed future queen of Liechtenstein, co-launched the group "The Facebook Army – Let's Get 1m People And Then Invade Liechtenstein". Although enthused by the idea of limitless false teeth, she insists that Liechtenstein was chosen for more pragmatic reasons.

...

Palmer took encouragement from the muted reaction but says detailed invasion plans are still being drawn up, subject to careful consultation with the group's other 7,000 members.

Liechtenstein's concern is understandable though, given it has little or no military history. The army was abolished soon after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, in which Liechtenstein fielded a fighting force of just 80."

New operation in Afghanistan: "Panther's Claw"

I think that the propaganda wizards are trying too hard with this. They might as well call it "Buck Roger's really cool spaceship explosion mission---with lots of pussy". It reminds me of the cologne the guy used in "Anchorman": Sex Panther, made from real panther parts. Sure to attract women. Panther's Claw, or Tiger's Cock, same thing.

Double talk: intelligence fusion missions

= domestic spying. The fusion in question is the fusion of military intelligence and the CIA with more conventional intelligence, like that of the FBI, which then coordinates operations with State and local police agencies for particular missions.

Interesting book found at the Seattle public library

"Contrabandista", a book outlining a true story about how a Gestapo agent who escaped to Paraguay became the head of one of the largest heroin smuggling syndicates in Latin America. Funny how things like that episode just seem to have kept on happening. It's like, well, it's almost like the U.S. didn't give a damn that Nazis were in South America as long as there were Communists to oppose.

And John makes the right choice again...

What I mean by that is dropping out of society, or at least committing to an alternative way of life while living in society. The first time I made that choice I was 19 years old and it was fairly easy to do, now, ten years later, at 29 years of age, it's a different story. Lo I have traveled through the valley of wanting a career, of wanting stability, hopefully in an industry where my talents would be appreciated, and I felt much fear. Now, that's mostly in the past. There's something about growing older that prompts these sorts of ideas of needing stability. But that's behind me and once more I'm stepping into the unknown, not sure of where it's going to take me. Seattle understands the proposition of living your life---and then working, rather than having your work life be your life, very well, so I'm in good company.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tetsuo: the Iron Man

Wow.This is possibly one of the best movies I've ever seen. Japanese art house, avant garde dealing with metal fetishes...spoiler alert....the story is about a regular salary man who commits a hit and run against a metal fetishist, who lives in an industrial jungle of bits and pieces of cast metal, with pipes and machinery surrounding him. In revenge, the fetishist commands the metal to take over the body of the salary man. It's a virtual pornography of industry, with the salary man encountering a manifestation of Kali as a metal encrusted sexual demon, who eventually fucks him in the ass with a pipe. Steel=sex in this, and the man in question is confronted with the repressed sexual urges that he has. Shot in grainy black and white, with no dialogue, or at least little dialogue, and that dubbed in, and with insanely good special effects, Tetsuo: the Iron Man is one of the few films that I've seen on DVD that I've actually felt like clapping after.

Cheney wanted to send troops to Buffalo....so that people could be made Enemy Combatants

Because the case for a conventional arrest was shaky. This just keeps getting better, these revelations of what the Bush administration was privately up to. Next we'll find Cheney wanting to invade Poland and annex the Sudentenland. Story Here:

"According to a story in Friday’s New York Times, Vice-President Cheney advocated in 2002 for the Bush administration to send military troops to Buffalo to arrest the so-called Lackawanna Six as enemy combatants.

This would have violated both Fourth Amendment guarantees against search and seizure without probable cause and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which makes it illegal to use the military for law enforcement.

...

According to Salon, all six were very ordinary young men who had been led to believe they were traveling to Afghanistan for religious studies. The evidence against them was tenuous — which was one reason Cheney pressed for them to be held as enemy combatants instead of being arrested — and many of their Muslim neighbors told Salon they believed the entire case against them was a scam."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Holly Sklar: "Minimum Wage Stuck in the 1950s"

From Common Dreams:

"It would take $9.92 today to match the buying power of the minimum wage at its peak in 1968, the year Martin Luther King died fighting for living wages for sanitation workers.

In today's dollars, the 1968 hourly minimum wage adds up to $20,634 a year working full time. The new federal minimum wage of $7.25 comes to just $15,080. That's $ 5,554 in lost wages.

"It is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis ... getting part-time income," King told workers in Memphis, Tenn., days before his murder. King said, "We are tired of working our hands off and laboring every day and not even making a wage adequate with daily basic necessities of life."

Imagine what King would say today.

The minimum wage is stuck in the 1950s. With the raise, the minimum wage is higher than 1950's inflation-adjusted $6.71, but lower than the 1956 minimum wage of $7.93 in today's dollars."

Sklar points out something that I hadn't thought about in a while: that the lack of buying power on the part of greater and greater numbers of people may lead to a Keynesian crisis of demand, where there aren't enough consumer dollars flowing into general industry to keep it going. I'm talking about basics as opposed to luxuries. If there isn't enough demand for regular, working class, goods, then factories will go idle and the entire economy will experience a crisis, whereas if there's enough money flowing in to power it it'll keep going. More money going in means more wages being paid out.

This is the fallacy of consumer confidence polls. People can be as confident as they want but if they don't have the money to spend to satisfy that demand it doesn't matter much whether they're enthusiastic about consumption.

As Sklar notes later in her article, the money that used to go the vast base of people in society is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. This isn't Marxist rhetoric, it's reality:

"In 1968, the richest 1 percent of Americans had 11 percent of national income. By 2006, they had 23 percent - the highest share since 1928, right before the Great Depression."

Beyond being unjust, the significance of this increasing disparity is the following: rich people don't spend all their money, and much of what is spent is spent on custom luxuries that are outside the realm of the real economy. Because of this, there's a tendency for the money that gets into their hands not to be recycled back into the economy. The source of their money is the producing and selling of goods used by society as a whole, not luxuries. The big car companies didn't get rich because they only sold custom made Rolls Royce types of cars. But executives who get more of the money tend not to spend it on the proletarian, modest, cars that they oversea the production of. This takes the money out of the essential cycle of production and consumption that powers the economy, if you multiply what's going on over most industries. Working people, on the other hand, do spend most of what they earn, and they do spend it on the basics that keep the economy running.

If you undercut that base the real economy experiences a crisis, with no one having enough money to buy anything, leading to people getting laid off, leading to more people not being able to afford things, leading to more people getting laid off.

The truth of the matter is that the economy cannot survive on custom woodworkers. The essence of the economy has always been the working class and the middle class, which of course overlap. Take that out and you might as well be living in the woods.

Ichi the killer

Funny movie. Not as violent as I thought it was going to be. Standard story: Japanese mafia, an unknown brutal killer, guy turns out to be an introverted nutcase, love, murder, not a lot of sex, revenge. I'm surprised that some people have been freaked out by it; the really violent scenes are all done in a campy way that's not realistic. This is because the main way that Ichi the killer kills people is through blades attached to his feet that split people in half and take body parts off so cleanly that the people themselves don't know what's happened until they've split in two etc...it's not portrayed realistically. Entertaining, but at the end I want to know more about Ichi: who he is, where he comes from? As it is, the movie gives us some tantalizing clues but leaves us hanging. No pun intended.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Memories, school.

The High School that I graduated from was designed to identify gifted individuals and give them advanced education. Sort of like "Real Genius", but limited to the Detroit area, not a boarding school, and open to literature and the arts as well. I was extremely lucky to get in there, because I was on the brink of self-immolating as a teenager. And it changed my life profoundly. I'm not going to say the name of it, but it's not exactly hard to find. Anyways, I became a determined student and a devoted advocate of the school itself and of its philosophy.

The school was based on the German Gymnasium model and was founded by two Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Socialism, the third period: Rome, the Middle Ages, and now

I look at the establishment of a socialist society as providing the resolution to historical and social problems that have been in place since the decline of the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages, although unjust and unequal, represented a resurrection of society into some recognizable form from the chaos that was the Dark Ages. It represented stability after a chaotic period that saw the decline and destruction of the Roman Empire followed by a period of total flux in the sense of both peoples and political dynasties, cultures and belief systems. Now, I see society in a similar state. Rome presented a workable model of society until it gradually was undermined and fell completely, replaced by a sort of negative chaos, but the Middle Ages were replaced by what I consider to be a positive chaos, one rooted in the new ideals of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, with the Protestant Reformation thrown in there for good measure. Although, of all three forces, the Renaissance was the most overarchingly productive of them, providing all the elements for a potentially new culture and social system, it was unfortunately overshadowed by the destructive power of the other two. The Enlightenment streamlined ideas that were birthed in the Renaissance and attempted to make them into a workable whole, but in my opinion failed profoundly.

The Enlightenment's focus on individualism to the exclusion of everything else has been a corrosive force on society, causing the remaining social relationships that we've had outside of the atomized individual to come under fire, with the result being profound alienation in general. The sovereign individual is also an individual who is more unhappy than ever before and more cut off from the world around him or her than ever before. As a culture, this model fails, as does the economic system that was based on this philosophy of complete individualism, only in this case greed was listed as one of the positive features of individuality that should be praised. So we have greedy bastards who don't care about anything or anyone other than themselves being put forward as the model by which society should work. The Enlightenment, in trying to make a comprehensive new society, also jettisoned much of the knowledge of the past that people from the Renaissance on were expected to know in order to be literate people. In its place has come a profoundly weakened mechanical and formal philosophy that spurns the need or the value of things from the past. In my opinion Socialism is the way to overcome all of this and to create a truly stable society once more.

While the Enlightenment was in many cases shortsighted it nonetheless provides a general groundwork on which a stable civilization can be based. The requirement is that the notion of the atomized individual be dropped and replaced by a notion of man that is at once individual and collective. Man, or woman, doesn't step into a collective void but instead finds themselves confronted both by their self and by the social relationships that they naturally are part of. And if an economics has been based off of the individualism of the Enlightenment then an economics can be based on the recognition that we're all involved in things beyond ourselves, whether we acknowledge them or not. But it has to be just if it's not going to be arbitrary and hurtful. Social relationships are profoundly part of our lives, yet in a sense some of them are more incidental than others. The fundamental ones, on a social level, are the ones relating to economic life, to work and to the enjoyment of life, as well. Those social relationships and the mainenance, if acknowledged, should become public issues, with the standard of justice applied to them just as it would be applied to relationships between individuals. There needs to be a social justice in society for there to be social stability.

Now, just as in the poem, two roads diverge: there are several ways that a socialist society could be established. The first, the one I'm describing, which acknowledges Enlightenment principles like liberty and freedom of expression as good things albeit incomplete (it helps to own a printing press), is regular good old socialism. The attempt at socialism that rejects the Enlightenment but purports to create a socialist society that's integrated and stable, with a heavy dose of conservatism, is Fascism. Fascism and socialism have similar goals, on a superficial level, but extremely different overall world visions and ideas of what constitutes the sort of post-Enlightenment society we should live in.

With socialism, the future is unwritten. There will no doubt be advances after socialism is established that deal with aspects of the human will to self realization and to self actualization that are obscure right now. Socialism doesn't forbid that, but it establishes a base that's equitable and just that the future of society can grow off of.

Maybe that will be the end state, where society is swayed by the pursuit of self realization in the direction it goes in.

*on edit: the Fascists and the neo-fascists promise everything: they promise the moon and the stars above, promise a social state going back to premodern times where everyone lived happily together under pagan and folk doctrines, but in practice, aside from the obvious brutality that's been involved with States like that, it all turns out to be bullshit. We live in the modern world and the clock cannot be turned back to what existed before. What you get if you try that is a stale State doctrine that imposes a simulation of what they think people need in terms of culture and existence that doesn't actually function. You have enforced pre-modern pagan and folk ideas for people who have no roots and no actual connections to the things that they describe.

Great for people who are dislocated, particularly because of the collapse (or sellout) of socialist systems in the former "Eastern Europe", which includes East Germany. People can go out and play Viking and make themselves feel better, but it's all an act in the end.

*on edit: all of this isn't meant to suggest that paganism and non-christian ways of looking at things can't be integrated into society, just that, to put it bluntly, Fascism is not the way to do it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Like, that's just your opinion": The Big Lebowski Festival is coming to Seattle

"Break out the White Russians; 'Big Lebowski' fest comes to Seattle", starting tomorrow. I've always loved the movie but I can't say that I truly understood it until I spent a week in L.A. a few years ago. In that setting, the life of the Dude seems perfectly plausible. And also the intersection of the Dude with strange figures from the L.A. power structure. They're showing it at Fremont Outdoor Cinema. but maybe I'll just go to a bar and order White Russians. After being in the classic Barney's Beanery (burrito shop) in West Hollywood I could completely understand how a person could just sort of vegetate in L.A. in a sort of narcotic/alcoholic haze. It's a good restaurant, but extremely possessed of Dude-itude as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Made two rubber molds of statues I made today

Took hours and hours but I finally did it. Now I can replicate those statues in bronze or resin.

*on edit: TA-333 is now my dear, dear, friend, and the dear friend of my liver as well. Good stuff, but chemically pungent.

Alex Constantine, a conspiracy theorist worth checking out.

Alex Constantine's Blacklist is the online home of this interesting person. Probably the first conspiracy theorist to have multiple books published by Feral House, as opposed to Redneck Let's Masturbate to the Constitution Books Limited. His theories are actually really well researched, and are ones that kind of make you crawl in your chair because you have a feeling that there's an uncomfortable element of truth to all of it. "Psychic Dictatorship in the USA" was one of the primal books in my development as a political person. It provided a framework that could be shifted more and more towards the left until it eventually morphed into full on Marxism, where I've sort of been since (with a-typical alterations). I still have my copy, that I bought when I was 15.

He appears to be one of the few people who take the threat of Fascism seriously. Alex Cockburn, who I like and respect, recently went off about folks like the Southern Poverty Law Center and then mutated it into a criticism of all people who are afraid of a right wing resurgence in the U.S., specifically naming Chip Berlet as one of the offenders. Chip Berlet happens to be one of the other honest, insightful, anti-Fascist writers out there, and Public Eye, his website, should be essential reading for people concerned about all of this. I think that Cockburn's critique of the SPLC as being purveyors of constant, imminent, danger from the Right that needs to be countered, exaggerating things, is right on. Sure, the Intelligence Report is insightful, but I became suspicious about them when I received a solicitation as a teenager to have my name put on their "Wall of Tolerance" for being a person who opposed hate. I was in high school and they had got my name from my subscription to Mother Jones, and now I was being offered a place on their Wall of Tolerance for a small, small donation. But the flakiness of the SPLC doesn't reduce the real threat of right wing violence in the U.S., as the past eight years have more than demonstrated.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Masks and Mind

It has been said that we all wear masks, and Kant in his philosophy reduced the essential person to a generic sense of consciousness that mediated between will, cognition, judgment, and action. It could be true that we're all generic manifestations of what one may generally call spirit with different masks on, interacting with one another. But if this is the case then the masks we have have a transcendental meaning. Personality and persona in and of itself becomes something not established from the generic ego self consciousness and at the same time not established by the world out there beyond the mind, but almost belonging to a third world.

Where does personality come from? I didn't establish how I wanted my personality to be. I'm perfectly aware of how I think, and I can look at myself while I'm thinking, figuring out what I'm doing at this moment or that moment, but none it is my personality. The world outside me has surely influenced how I am and what exactly my personality is, but it didn't determine it. I can go through things that happened in my life, examine them, and still be left with something out there that is beyond all of it. I can try to influence my personality too, and have tried quite a bit, but I can only do so much before I run into a wall that I can't get beyond. So where does it come from?

We can look at all of this through a lens that reduces it down to animal behavior, pack behavior, evolutionary advantages, or even to hormones, but at the root of it I think that people feel their personality, who in a sense they are, at such a root level that it means much more to them than any of these tools for understanding it could capture.

The stock characters of types of theater like the Commedia dell'Arte come from stock understandings of particular types of people who recur over and over again. When a person acts in something like that, they literally put on a mask and give will and life to a type who appears in society. Maybe the mask and the acts and foibles associated with the personality attached to that mask are more important than the individual actors themselves. But who generates the set of masks that are worn by people?

"The play's the thing." and "All life's a stage and we are only actors", in the immortal words of the bard, but who establishes the play and the characters who play on it? Where does it all come from?

Wisdom from D.H. Lawrence's book "Apocalypse"

"The strange thing is that even true scholars, who write scholarly and impartial books about the early Greeks, as soon as they mention the autochthonous races of the Mediterranean, or the Egyptians, or the Chaldeans, insist on the childishness of these peoples, their perfectly trivial achievement, their necessary Urdumheit. These great civilised peoples know nothing: all true knowledge started with Thales and Anaximander and Pythagoras, with the Greeks. The Chaldeans knew no true astronomy, the Egyptians knew no mathematics or science, and the poor Hindus, who for centuries were supposed to have invented that highly important reality, the arithmetical zero, or naught, are now not allowed even this merit. The Arabs, who are almost "us". invented it.

It is most strange. We can understand the Christian fear of the pagan way of knowledge. But why the scientific feat? Why should science betray its fear in a phrase like Urdummheit [primal stupidity]? We look at the wonderful remains of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, and old India and we repeat to ourselves: Urdummheit! Urdummheit? We look at the Etruscan tombs and ask ourselves again, Urdummheit? primal stupidity! Whit, in the oldest of peoples, in the Egyptian friezes and the Assyrian, in the Etruscan paintings and the Hindu carvings we see a splendour, a beauty, and very often a joyous, sensitive intelligence which is certainly lost in our world of Neufreichhiet. [....]"

On edit: I should point out something that some editions of Apocalypse omit but that some include, and that is that the book really isn't D.H. Lawrence's work. In the Penguin edition there's a short note where Lawrence explains that what the book really is is a rewrite of a book called "The Dragon of the Alchemists" by an occultist named Frederick Carter.

Brüno, eh. Disappointing, but for a good reason.

The reason being that despite all of the homophobia that's out there it appears that Sacha Baron Cohen had to search really hard for folks who would give the sort of response that he wanted. A lot of it seemed forced, and a lot of the second half apparently took place in rural Alabama, where he had to do things like try to get into the tents of the members of the hunting group he was with in order for them to really let it fly. The part with the toilet brush harness is another example of it: Bruno and his assistant were chained to each other in an elaborate BDSM harness with lots of straps and chains, with his partner having the brush on. The joke was that they were chained together but he had lost the key, so they called room service to help out, and they predictably freaked out, which was made even worse by their statements to them after they were there. The scene didn't even appear to really be anti-BDSM, just a transgression of common sense.

An example of how it came out forced is the scene at the swingers' party, that happened when Bruno was trying to be straight, which likewise looked like it took place in the rural deep south. First, he tried hitting on the guys while they were actually having lots of kinky sexy, keeping it up until they got pissed off. Then, one of the people there literally dragged Bruno into a room, stripped him, and ordered him to have sex with her, and when he refused disciplined him with a belt, over and over. Assuming that the scene wasn't staged, this would indicate that, indeed, there wasn't much discrimination against Bruno if he was there to do what the party was about. Which is probably an understatement.

In general, the beginning was strong, with funny sex scenes and cringe inducing portrayals of Bruno in his natural habitat, but it petered out about a third of the way through. Those scenes kind of carried it, or at least made it so that it wasn't mind numbingly boring. I mean, who can argue with a focus group scene where the people have to review a pilot show by Bruno that features him mostly dancing, with the last scene being nothing else than him swinging his dick around...and ending with his dick facing the camera and his dick hole mouthing "Bruno". And the show featuring a review of Brittany Spears' sister's fetus ending with a verdict that she should abort it.

But I digress.

Not offensive, just kind of pointless.

An example of a terrible article: "Lethally Blonde" in this week's "Seattle Weekly"

Yes, it's true, which is why I read them for restaurant reviews instead of for their stories. "Lethally Blonde" is a cover story about a former Seattle area native named Shawna Ford who since leaving Seattle became the head of a vicious anti-immigrant militia in Arizona and has been arrested for the murder of an immigrant there. The thing is that while she lived in the Seattle metro area she went from being a teen prostitute to a shoplifter and burglar, to being first a beautician then protesting a beauty school, and allegedly being a grunge music promoter. The connection between all of this and the later turning of her into a Minuteman affiliated militia member is touted from the cover on down, but a strange thing seemed to have happened: despite all of this there's barely any information on what she did in Seattle. One prostitution arrest is covered, yet the things like working as a beautician and then protesting beauticians get absolutely no more coverage than the teaser mentions. The vast majority of the article deals with her time in Arizona.

Which is very strange because, you know, I hate to point this out but we live in the Seattle area and not in Arizona, so it would have been pretty easy for the writer of the article for the Weekly to interview folks associated with her....in Seattle...and incorporate that information into the article. But it was not to be. What that means is that despite being a cover story sold as emphasizing a local connection there's no local connection whatsoever, and all of those teasers are just lies. People don't enjoy being lied to.

This isn't the first time a vast oversight like this has happened in Seattle Weekly stories. At times, articles will pop up that seem to have a lobe of their brain removed, that are normal are even really good on most counts but that inexplicably miss something essential that they should in fact know they should include.

Wait, aha, looking at the web version of it instead of the print version the confusion is resolved: the article was originally written for a Phoenix alt. weekly and then brought up here because of the Seattle angle. Yet the print version doesn't give any indication, except maybe at the very end, that this article wasn't written by someone in Seattle but by someone in Phoenix, and it's a cover story. Which is more than just deceptive or bad journalism. I mean, hey, why not print a story about the UK that mentions a guy who lived in Seattle once in one sentence and then put it on the cover of the mag. and call the story "Controversy in the UK, the Seattle connection!". (Broderick Axworthy, who went to the University of Washington early on, and who then came back and settled in Islington, was apprehended yesterday for a...)

That's fucking pathetic, quite frankly.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things that make you suspicious

While eating lunch at a 24-hour diner in Seattle that shall remain nameless, but whose name begins with a 'B' I noticed something really peculiar. At the table next to mine there were two African-American women who ordered at exactly the same time I did. I got my food fast, but noticed time and time going by without them getting theirs. The waitress made trip after trip to another room with food, but did not bring them theirs until I was one bite away from being done with my lunch. Now, allowing for complexity in a kitchen, and even allowing for the fact that my order was less complex than theirs, it still struck me as awfully odd that the order of orders delivered went in the way it did. My thinking is that stuff happening in the kitchen is often an excuse used to cover up racism. And the place has a harder edged biker atmosphere...

Genesis P-Orridge goes for the gold

Literally. It's disappointing. What I'm referring to is his essay in the very good book about The Process Church of the Final Judgment put out recently by Feral House. Genesis was a very big Process booster, but in this little essay his interest in it is sanitized and made more acceptable to the public at large. For example, he completely ignores and downplays his interest in the intersection between The Process and Charles Manson. This was one of the reasons that he was interested in The Process in the first place, even though everyone and their brother denies that there was a connection between the two. Not only that, but he integrated both Process and Manson material into Psychic TV, playing a sample of Manson saying "I was a Beatnik, not a Hippy" over and over during performances, sometimes referencing the Process in the same show, other times doing things like chanting the names of the Process gods over and over again (Satan, Lucifer, Jehovah, Satan, Lucifer, Jehovah). But times seem to have changed and his interest in Manson is now relegated to just another cult leader that he was interested in.

An indication of what's to come? Possibly, because a collection of writings called "Thee Psychick Bible" is going to be reissued by Feral House within 9 months. I say a collection of writings instead of a collection of his writings because the original "Psychick Bible" was a reissued series of TOPY associated writings that weren't all written by him, but by a lot of other people, that he then took credit for.

It'll be interesting to see if "Thee Psychick Bible" is going to be a McDonalds version of all of this or if will be truly controversial.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"In every casa branca do 'Danube Azul"

Start of Gilberto Gil's song "Chuck Berry Fields Forever", explaining the birth of rock and roll and what things were like before hand. The English/Portuguese phrase means "In every white household was the 'Blue Danube'" English from Eletracústico

"From Africa to both Americas, North and Latin, a jungle drum was brought and got the white god to get in. A pagan dance until he had the other chance, unless to sin, a black and white, day and night, solely by magic. The European goddess fainted on the jungle drum sound, she spiritualized it back to Afro-god while on the ground, so, the begotten sons of Samba, Mambo, Rhumba, Rhythm and Blues, became the ancestors of what today we call rock 'n' roll. Rock and roll is magic, rock and roll is mixture, chuck berry fields forever, the joyful English four knights of the post-calypso, in the post-calypso age rock 'n' roll the opening page. What is to come next? We don't know the text, no one knows precisely. It's onto progress in the west frontier in the next century."

Bastille Day

When outraged French citizens stormed the infamous prison and released the prisoners, many of whom were political. Start of the French Revolution proper. The Estates-General had already met, but a true social revolution was not yet in the offing before this.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wisdom from VNV Nation, darkness and light

There was a great point made by the singer in between the first couple of songs. Even though they do serious, depressing songs, the guy was happy and joking with the crowd all through it. He gave an explanation that was roughly the following: even though we do depressing songs we're complex people who have multiple sides. We're not all depressed all the time, we have friends, we go out and do stuff, so why do we have to be totally serious during shows? I agree about the multifaceted, more complex, engagement with things. I ruminate on dark themes all the time, but I'm not a shut in who does nothing but write on the internet.

All of this reminds me of Yukio Mishima's long essay, mediation entitled "Sun and Steel", which is superficially about his relationship, as a writer, to his body. Mishima was always a sort of morbid writer, but was frustrated with words and with their disconnection from life, and so he started to work on his body as a way of getting back in touch with the physical reality around us. What he found was way to break through very dark nihilism into something beyond it, something positive. The metaphor of the sun is used to great effect in the beginning, where he talks about making friends with the sun and absorbing it into his body instead of hiding from it. The rebirth of a physical, embodied, connection to things lead to a resurrection of the ideal of beauty in his life, with a very interesting doctrine linking the Beautiful with truth, something that could pierce the cloud of nihilism and provide a positive ideal.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Prisoner forbidden to read two Obama books because of "National Security threat"

Here:

"McLEAN, Va. (AP) — The federal government's most secure prison has determined that two books written by President Barack Obama contain material "potentially detrimental to national security" and rejected an inmate's request to read them. [...]

Prison officials cite specific pages — but not specific passages — in the books that they deem objectionable. They include one page in Obama's 1995 book, "Dreams from My Father," and 22 separate pages in his policy-oriented 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope." It was not immediately obvious what passages might have been deemed problematic, though nearly half of the pages cited are in a chapter devoted to foreign affairs."

Besides the irony that two books authored by the current President of the United States constitute a threat to national security in the wrong hands, I think that the FBI, if it has a collective brain cell in its head, should be aware that the train has probably already left the station on this one.

The nefarious agents of Al Qaeda don't need a prison administration to get a hold of these books; they can walk down to the local grocery store and get them, or go to a chain bookstore, or order them from Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk, or wherever they're located. I don't think that Al Qaeda right now is saying "Curses! We cannot get our hands on this information, getting it to the Supermax prisoner was our only hope!"

Seattle is coming back.

Although people won't admit it easily, it's common knowledge that since the crest of '90s X-er culture Seattle has been in a decline with relation to interesting movements going on. For a while, Portland seemed to be the in, happening place. Now though, I feel that the groundwork is being set for a Seattle resurgence. The explanation is generational: the X-ers are fading into the woodwork and a group of people is coming up who weren't part of that culture who also feel confident in putting their own ideas forward instead of just parroting the older, 'cooler', kids. I can see it happening in front of me, although it may not be obvious to people outside of the city. The new generation, by which I mean folks in their '20s and not simply ultra-young people, is coming up here and will be establishing their place soon.

So no need to go to Portland to get in touch with the zeitgeist. In fact, I'd say that Portland is spending itself out, with the sort of hippy/crunchy alternativeness stuff sort of getting old. One person I talked to a while ago put it something like this, that in Portland you can go to yet another play or performance involving fire and people fucking on stage that your friends are putting on, but in the end where's any of it going? What does it all add up to, in other words, beyond another transgressive/hip assault on the system, which, if you're doing it all the time and you're getting polite reviews, doesn't seem like much of an assault on the system anymore.

Seattle Weekly, The Stranger

These are the two alternative weeklies in Seattle. What I've found in reading both of them for years is the following: The Stranger has better general articles, but if you want to find out what's actually going on in Seattle in terms of music, movies, art, special events, the Seattle Weekly is the place to go. They may ebb and flow with the interesting articles, but they do a good job of reviewing stuff. The Stranger, on the other hand, is a nightmare when you're looking to find out what's new, often compressing lots and lots of information into really small blurbs that don't distinguish between good bands and forgettable ones, for example.

The 'black mob' in Akron

Although it's being framed in racial terms, you know the thing about a few people being reportedly attacked by a 'mob' of fifty people is that it's most likely a gross oversimplification of what happened. Fifty people don't just randomly assemble and go walking through the streets looking to beat people up, and isolated victims are rarely really that isolated. And folks who (reportedly) say 'it's a black world' are most likely meaning something along the lines of 'get out of my neighborhood', with a rhetorical flourish.

Maybe writers on the Right have never actually encountered black people and so aren't aware that many of them do not like white people, even you, no matter who you are. This is their right, and an understandable feeling based on the history of slavery, racism, and segregation that we have in this country. Most people who live in urban areas, including white-landia Seattle, know that lots of black folks may not like them, accept it, and try not to step on people's toes or to go to neighborhoods and areas where they're not wanted.

"It's a black world", fourth of July speech celebrating Obama's winning? Sure, and if unprovoked violence happened to those people I feel sorry for them, but this wasn't the secret signal for the start of a race war, unless right wing commentators and their allies turn it into one.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A scene from Evergreen...a failing of the place

From The Evergreen State College in Olympia. I was in a year long program designed to give a more theoretical background to activists who were on the ground level and to give a practical background to people who had mostly theoretical or academic experience; there was also a video/media component to it. Anyways, a strange thing happened, which was that the people who were in it with practical experience who were supposed to be learning to think about that experience critically constantly objected that the theoretical concepts were irrelevant, that the people who knew them well were rich spoiled brats, and that their knowledge of things on the ground level trumped all of that. They then parlayed this attitude into not doing any of the work everyone else was doing and justifying it through shaming all the rest of the people with all of this. Yet for all of their complaints they didn't drop out of the program and in fact received lots and lots of college credit for it, while being almost open in class discussions themselves that they hadn't read the books and didn't care. In private they were a lot more forthcoming about not having done any of the work. So something that started out with potential ended up as another exercise in futility.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Just passed post # 5,000 a little while ago

5,000 posts in 7 years.

A wry, revealing quote by a neo-con in an article about WIlliam Appleman Williams

Williams was a very interesting lefty foreign policy guy. The article is Here, and is very comprehensive and good.

The Quote: " "Can a generation raised on the teachings of William Appleman Williams and Walter LaFeber believe that the alleged sins of neoconservatism--excessive idealism, blinding self-righteousness, utopianism, hubris, militarism, and overweening ambition, and throw in if you want selfishness and greed--are somehow new sins?"

Exactly. Neoconservatives in the wake of 9/11 played their hand, came right out and said what they believed, what they wanted, how they thought about the world, but people didn't recognize it for what it was. The writer, Robert Kagan, is in this quote linking Neoconservatism with a long history of American imperialism, writing approvingly of it, and writing that, yes, that's what they're fully consciously putting out there. Only, of course, they don't see anything wrong with it.

The post-9/11 flurry of conservative commentary revealed what was always concealed behind the velvet glove: the pro-capitalist, anti-democratic, autocratic, expansionist agenda...with religion thrown in to add some spice, and ultra-patriotism of course as well.

It's we, or at least you guys (and gals), the American public in general that was surprised when they came right out and said it. Folks familiar with the true history of the United States weren't all that shocked, were shocked if it all by the force they pushed it with rather than with the sentiments themselves.

And as a consequence, after eight years of Bush, the American public decided that it was time for a change.

And now Obama won't release people acquitted of crimes in Guantanamo

From the Wall Street Journal:

"By JESS BRAVIN

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration said Tuesday it may continue to imprison non-U.S. citizens indefinitely even if they have been acquitted of terrorism charges by a U.S. military commission.

Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department's chief lawyer, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that releasing a detainee who has been tried and found not guilty was a policy decision officials would make based on their estimate of whether the prisoner posed a future threat. The Bush administration took the same position, but its legality was never tested."

So lets see: you've been arrested, gone to trial, been acquitted of committing whatever crime that you're charged with, then the government decides to keep you locked up until they make a "threat assessment" about you committing the act that you've been cleared of committing in the future.

Wow, the creativity of the computer class: the Force Quit Won't Work threads

I'm having this problem on my Mac, which is that Force Quit will not quit applications. The applications disappear but cannot be restarted without restarting the entire computer. This rather sucks when you're working on a long document and suddenly Microsoft Word freezes, can't be force quitted, and can't be restarted without restarting the whole computer. But the kicker is the response of the Mac community to the many complaints that this is happening with folks: instead of asking what was going on when the applications froze up and wouldn't force quit, the standard responses are a) use the command line function 'kill' to stop them, and b) when kill doesn't work accuse the person of just having a messed up system whose problems have absolutely nothing to do with Apple software then go on a rant about how Leopard is the best thing that could ever happen to computing and how it never causes problems.

Well folks, when it comes to solving problems that have non-obvious solutions you fail. So much for the vaunted creative powers of the computer class.

*and just to prove the point, my copy of Microsoft Word just froze up as I was trying to save a copy of this entry. Thanks Apple!

Monday, July 06, 2009

I'm curious if anyone ever made a connection between the two. 'pataphysics is a concept created by writer and troublemaker Alfred Jarry that describes a sort of (often humorous) science of impossible solutions. Or imaginary solutions. An example would be a Rube Goldberg-esque construction that's complex, has absolutely no potential of working in the real world, but that according to imagined principles works fine. Or maybe I'm describing a lot of Science Fiction in general? No, 'pataphysics is different. There's an interesting scene from Jarry's posthumously published "The Exploits of Dr. Faustroll, 'pataphysician", where the doctor, a companion, and a baboon pilot a large bed made out of brass rods over the streets of Paris like a gondola, with something like electrostatic energy propelling it.

Of course, since this is Jarry, the baboon has a pair of buttocks surgically connected to his face, and swears constantly, but that's another topic.

Well, we seem to have gotten off the point here, ok, so here's an example, although it removes some of the humor that's the essential component of Jarry's work:

Practical Construction of the Time Machine.

"Since Space around us is fixed, when we wish to travel in it we employ a vehicle: Duration. The role it plays in kinematics is that of an independent variable like any other and which determines the co-ordinates of the points that are being observed. Kinematics is a form of geometry. Phenomena described in it have neither before nor after, and the fact that we create such a distinction proves that we are carried through Time along with them.

We move in the same direction and with the same speed as Time, since we ourselves are part and parcel of the present. Were we able to remain immobile in the Flow of Time, in absolute Space, i.e. suddenly lock ourselves away in a Machine that could isolate us from Time (bar the small amount of the normal "speed of duration" which would remain with us by dint of its inertia), then we should be able to travel through all future and past instants successively (late we shall see that the Past lies beyond the Future, from the Machine's point of view), just as the sedentary spectator watching a panorama is under the impression that he is journeying rapidly through successive landscapes"

I don't know if that captured it. Here's a more typical example of Jarry's work:

From "Visions of the Present and Future"

"... And how much wiser when face to face with one's enemy to choose a scalpel with one's Index from the arsenal carried by three leporine slaves, and to slice off the protruding ears and nose. But the plural today is the American-style duel, a game of hide-and-seek, a fulgurating meteor which bursts and is gone, the triangular blade of the guillotine cradled back to sleep by its two blood-red arms. The sudden drop. And then the dark. Better than the guillotine: the gallows. Permanently visible and elegant: picture the worm-eaten corpses in the gibblets after the crows have passed, and their own aerial navigation. Better than the banal, dull-threatening Bomb is the Disembraining Machine: the grand-daughter of Moloch and iron Maidens, whirring away on a hillock, dashing out the brains coram populo every Lord's day. You could have one in every village, all you need is a little local Caesar. Having three obedient servants helps, to do the dirty business and to oil the machine (I prefer rubber slaves -- you can deflate them afterwards and put them away in a drawer). It heralds a renaissance of the arts: the whirling gurgling of a specially adapted organ lends a certain charm to the victims' last moments. Phynance, the justi- and puri-fication of everything, flows from a tap. The populace and his family, spattered white with brains from standing too close to the fence, return home happy and morally edified by this democratic spectacle. But such a scene of the Golden Age lies far in the future..."

Quotations taken from "Alfred Jarry: Adventures in 'Pataphysics" published by Atlas Press.

Odds and ends of writings in my library

There's a large book about mystical Shi'ite theology printed in Iran, the "Rukhnamah" by Supramat Turkmenbashi, who was the complete totalitarian dictator of Turkmenistan and who required questions from the Rukhnamah to be on drivers' tests, then the St. Petersburg dialogues by Joseph de Maistre, which are much less violently reactionary than his writings on the French Revolution and are actually interesting, if out of print. Another one is "Dust: a Creation Books Reader", which is a decadent and extreme collection of fiction stories from the fringe literature publisher. What else is either picturesque or picaresque?

I don't know. I do know, however, that when I'm depressed or life isn't going so well I retreat to the company of severely misanthropic writers. Early 2007 was one of those times and during it I read "Fable for Another Time" by Celine, written in prison in Denmark, "Mysteries" by Knut Hamsun, the crime novel "Fantomas" by Allain and Souvestre, "The Exploits of Doctor Faustroll, 'Pataphysician" by Alfred Jarry (which is a fun book), "The Wild Ass's Skin" by Balzac, read a lot of "The Banquet Years", about the early 20th century French Avant-Garde by Roger Shattuck, which was depressing because of the grinding poverty that they all lived in, Did I read "Moravagine" by Blaise Cendrars during that time? Maybe, but it's not all dark...

Maybe I should memorize "A season in hell" by Rimbaud like Robert Mapplethorpe did. Maybe I should read the poem(s) in the first place.

:Oh yes, during that time I also read "In the Realms of the Unreal: 'Insane' writings", which is a compendium of writings by people who are Schizophrenic or have other, similarly extreme, mental disorders. Interesting stuff.

*on edit: I get thinking about all this stuff and I get ideas like writing a story that's composed purely of punctuation marks and single, double, triple, etc... combinations of letters that don't form words but who suggest different syllables and associations.

?!Fucoooolllalalalsheennnmarark

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Several Hundred Tea Baggers Descended on Olympia for 4th of July Tea Parties

I find this interesting because two weeks earlier 8,000 people turned out for the Olympia Pride march. 8,000 vs. 200 or so.
But who am I to judge. The call and response chants of "Freiheit, Heil! Freiheit, Heil!" must have their own special charm, as must affirming your loyalty to Konstitutional Sozialismus in front of large bonfires and many large flags.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

I find it very amusing that Palin struck back at critics using her Facebook page

Over her resignation. It just shows how juvenile she is. I mean, people everywhere have Facebook pages, but for the governor of one of the United States to counter her critics on one is kind of head and shoulders above simple social networking. I wonder which of the Jonas Brothers she likes.

It seemed that in the late '90s the remaining counter culture heroes were dropping like flies

I was fortunate enough to see the original Grateful Dead on their last tour in Detroit. Saw both shows, which in the scheme of things weren't particularly good, but beggars cannot be choosers. Then there was a mini-riot in Indiana over people without tickets wanting in to a concert, then Jerry Garcia died. Later, in '97 again, Timothy Leary passed away from prostate cancer. I had mixed feelings about him then and have even more mixed feelings about him now, but the early stuff he wrote, that people around him put on the internet, particularly the pamphlet "Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out", was very insightful.

"I saw the best minds of my generation" catchy tune by the Fugs

It's Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" set to music, only it's a pop/folk/country tune that's not depressing at all. I found myself yesterday with it going through my head while I was doing stuff, like "Moloch a Moloch the nightmare of Moloch, Moloch Moloch the nightmare of Moloch, da da da da da, Moloch to heaven, da da da da da, Carl Solomon!"

Obligatory backstory: not only have I seen some of the best minds of my generation destroyed bad madness, that is to say the madness of the stasis of the Bush administration and the seven years since 9/11 that were occupied by him, I also saw Allen Ginsberg read Howl in '96. He read his stuff w/harmonium and backup band every year at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. Opening for him was the Patti Smith band, their first live performance in a long time. I have to say that I saw them in Tampa in 2002 and they were greatly improved by then. Ginsberg died the next year just before (?) giving his last performance there of liver failure; Burroughs followed several months after. Highlights: besides Howl, a poem/song called "Father Death", plus the Tibetan Buddhism that was integrated into it. One of the Rinpoches gave a talk before the performances started.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Don't let the Authoritarians win by default

Being in Seattle, and seeing the calendar for activist events, it's striking to me that groups connected to Workers' World, the RCP, and the ISO, are in existence partially for the face that they organize stuff while many other groups and associations don't do much until there's an actual protest planned. The authoritarian groups have speakers that come through town, they have movie nights, the organize panel discussions, sometimes have study groups. All of these things are actions that democratic and non-authoritarian socialist groups, as well as anarchist, anarcho-syndicalist, and anarcho-communist, ones could in fact be doing. I know that there's some really good stuff happening in the Seattle area regarding anarcho-communist ideas, but as for the rest, I don't think that there's really anything publicly going on. And it's sad.

The thing that turns most people in the U.S. off to the Left is that they look out on vast field of political ideas in American society and they see the representatives of the Left being people who either think that Stalin was a cool guy, that Mao was completely right on, or that Trotsky and whatever duly deputized successor were and are the representatives of God on earth. It turns people off.

In most other countries the situation is not like this. In most other places you go to sane organizations representing different facets of the socialist idea are in existence and can provide support for people who agree with the ideas of the left, want to do something with them, but don't want to buy into authoritarian craziness and cult like behavior. We need that here in the United States.

We need to start those organizations, find the speakers that fit the bill and bring them here, show our own movies, have our own discussion groups--that will be honest discussion groups and not just recruiting grounds or attempts at indoctrination--meet, greet, eat, and organize campaigns that include both advocacy and marches.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

...And Slovaks (in their films) reveal themselves as backwoods rednecks and racists

Talking about "Landscape", a film not widely available in the U.S. but available at good video stores in major cities. My god, I can understand why the "Velvet Divorce" happened now, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia going their separate ways. Anti-Hungarian, aggressively rural.

VNV Nation concert Seattle

I thoroughly enjoyed it. They put on a great show. During it, the lead singer was joking around with the crowd, being upbeat and happy for an Industrial artist, and just nailing point after point about online culture, about different subculture features, and I was wondering to myself "How is he doing it"? Then they mentioned that they're from Ireland and it suddenly made sense: they're in the Anglosphere, even though the U.S. isn't part of the British Commonwealth. They most likely know us better than we know ourselves, which is how he was able to nail all of our foibles. It was very good. Wanted to shout out at the end "United Ireland!" but I wasn't sure how well that would go over, or if the other people there would just get pissed off at me.

I came in late and missed most of Ayria, the first opening act, but from what I heard she was pretty good. The second opening act though, and they shall remain nameless, was something else. They weren't an Industrial band at all but were a standard two guitars, one bass, one drummer alterna-pop L.A. pseudo-Bad Religion take off. I didn't come to the VNV Nation concert to hear that. If I wanted that I would have gone to that kind of show. I mean, one of the people in it was wearing a sweater vest and the singer was trying to act like Jim Morrison, even though, well...But besides them, it was a good one.

*on edit: My suspicion is that a promoter lined up the opening acts and not VNV Nation itself.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Seattle Pride 2009

It was an amazing, amazing, experience. I actually walked in the parade, although I'm not going to tell you which float I was with. The sheer number and diversity of groups participating in it was humbling--we're talking gay labor groups, advocacy groups, church groups, small businesses that wanted to be on record as supporting gay rights, fun groups that didn't really have much of an agenda, dancers, marching bands, gay and lesbian cheerleading squads, parents' groups, friends who just got together, got a concept, and marched, trans folks, youth groups, college groups, supporting politicos, clubs, gay cruise events and camp outs, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It was massive, a true big city gay pride parade, and there were people lining the streets from start to finish, which was maybe a mile in length.