Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stars and Stripes of Corruption by the Dead Kennedys

Good stuff, youtube video

Reading Stokely Carmichael in Seattle, or, ah, Seattle this is how you really are

A memorable experience today reading "Stokely Speaks" in a coffee shop in Seattle. Stokely speaks has a cover with a picture of him angrily gesturing on it. Wonderful book. Anyways, here I am sitting at a coffee shop on Pike and Broadway in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, the gay and entertainment center of the city, and I pull out the book and start reading it, and one of the baristas, a girl who looked to be in high school or just out of it, starts staring at me. Then, she starts loudly making vaguely anti-liberal comments and does so until her boyfriend picks her up. Her shift had ended. How nice. This is liberal Seattle, eh? The place is surrounded by redneck-ia, and lots of those folks work in the city. To give you some context about how absurd this response was, right next door to this coffee shop there's a gay men's community center, and next to that is one of the biggest gay nightclubs in the city. On the other side of it, around the corner since it's on the corner, is an art gallery.

Even here, with liberal Seattle virtually on the door step, fucking conservative morons are there making comments about people and about their reading material when it doesn't float their boat--or when it makes them personally uncomfortable because of racist or otherwise discriminatory tendencies on their part.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gabriel Kolko: "The United States in Afghanistan"

Good article from CounterPunch Here. An insight from the beginning of the article, an aside really, is that Afghanistan is an artificial creation of the British. Like many African nations, most notably the Congo, that were not actually cohesive countries before colonialism and have since degenerated into chaos, that Afghanistan is synthetic means that there are problems and internal fractures that we in the U.S. are scarcely aware of. Sure, there's tribalism, but right up to the Soviet invasion there was also lots of high culture, with Afghanistan also being a country containing lots of ancient cities and centers. Pakistan was the same way, although the massive immigration of folks from India prior to partition changed that somewhat. But, be that as it may, if there's no historical Afghanistan then there's likely to be not a lot of solutions to internal problems within the context of that nation state. Well, and an unprovoked U.S. invasion too..

Awesome video--American Ruse by the MC5

Political genius of the MC5 on show:


Also, the just in general high quality of the band. Stuff is both good lyrically and tight as hell musically.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fed

Being the word scrawled on the murdered census worker in Kentucky. Like Tom Tomorrow, I was sort of leery about writing on this before the story solidified. Even so, he may not have been murdered just because he was an employee of the federal government. The thing is that national forests like the one this guy was found in aren't just the province of left and right wingers who want to get back to nature. They're also where people making meth and growing weed are setting up shop, with the folks growing weed in Kentucky probably not as potentially laid back as people in northern California. Even people in northern California are likely armed to the teeth, but since weed is semi-legal there the pressure isn't the same. And it appears that Kentucky is a sort of boom state for marijuana growing, for some reason. Anyways.

Someone who came up to a door in a national forest where the people involved were making meth, identifying themselves as a census worker from the federal government, may not get a favorable response. The paranoia of the people involved might be fueled by right wing propaganda, but that isn't necessarily the only thing fueling it.

Ted Rall's experience with Swine Flu and the insurance company

Here


"An hour passed after my doctor and pharmacist exchanged the required bureaucratic pleasantries. She returned to the counter. "I'm sorry, Mr. Rall," she said, "but your doctor is going to have to call HIP to get their advance approval. It will take him quite a bit of time...it's complicated, especially for doctors."

...

I was getting sicker and sicker, just sitting there. My head reeled; an invisible C-clamp tightened behind each ear. I could barely breathe. It felt as though there were shards of glass stuck in my lungs. Every breath hurt. I barely had enough energy to stand up and take a step. My fingers were bluish-gray (an early sign that breakdown of the cardio-pulmonary system is imminent.) I coughed and caught a ball of phlegm in a napkin. It was soaked in blood.

Four hours and 12 phone calls after I arrived at the pharmacy, I went home empty-handed. HIP's approval still hadn't appeared in the pharmacy's computer system."

Did you know that we've been under a "National Emergency" for eight years and that Obama has renewed it?

From here

"On Thursday night, the president sent to Congress an official notification of the continuation of the national emergency that was declared after the attacks in 2001. Federal law requires termination of a national emergency before the anniversary of its declaration, unless it is continued. Obama has posted in the Federal Register a declaration that the emergency declared after the attacks, will remain in effect for another year.

"The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues," the president's letter to Congress states. "For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2009, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.""

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Polski Smak



Not Polish heroin but smoked sprats, bought in Hamtramck Michigan.

Tarkovsky (ex)mini review:

It grew a bit from what I planned.

Verdict: Solaris abominable, Stalker excellent. Haven't seen Andrei Rublev. Russian director. I hear they made a remake of "Solaris" lately. If so, I hope it's better than the monotonous, boring, 2001 rip off that the first Solaris was. Solaris deals with a mysterious planet with mysterious qualities that a space station orbits around. There have been weird things happening on the space station, so a psychologist is sent up there. Turns out that something from the planet below is able to project itself onto the space ship and make copies of people contained in the memories of the people aboard. The psychologist gets his late wife back, who died young of suicide after they broke up. A romance ensues, even though they all know that it's not her. There. I summarized most of the movie in just a few sentences, but it takes two hours to communicate that information.

When I picture the genesis of Solaris I picture a Central Committee meeting where the leaders are discussing how this Western movie called 2001 directed by this Stanley Kubrick guy is being revered as a work of art, and how the Soviet Union needs to come up with something comparable in order to save face. Enter Andrei Tarkovsky.

Ambient music, long scenes of nothing consisting of empty corridors, no sound in many places besides the characters talking....always talking softly and understated, with lots of pregnant pauses to make you think.

It would work with some originality, but Tarkovsky in this case isn't being original and applying Kubrick's techniques in an original fashion but is portraying the story in a clearly derivative way.

Ah, but Stalker, Stalker is good.

I'll get to it in the next post.

Based on a novella type thing by the Strugatsky brothers called "Roadside Picnic"....which is available online due to there being no copyright over Soviet era works (if they were translated into English by people within Soviet officialdom).

Just a reminder: comparison of wing nuts outside Obama speeches to people arrested at the G-20 meeting

Particularly the assembly yesterday. If you're a right wing opponent of health care you can walk around with a rifle on your back and/or display "Watering the tree of liberty" signs advocating killing the President and the cops just stand by the sidelines saying that it's your Constitutional right to do so, but if you're assembling on a college campus to protest mistreatment of protesters by police you get dispersed, randomly arrested, and have your ass kicked while you're being arrested? Man, it's good to be a Fascist in this country.

*on edit: Oh, and of course both this assembly and the march where people were arrested were dispersed because they were labeled 'illegal' by the police. Yet it's not illegal to have a handgun on your belt and a sign advocating killing the President when you're outside the venue where he's speaking.

Joy Division

Listening to "Unknown Pleasures" again. I listened to it while in High School and just couldn't figure out what the attraction was to these people. Now I can appreciate them better, but I also appreciate that one of the reasons that they seem so familiar is that everyone and their brother was influenced by them, making it somewhat hard to envision a pre-Joy Division world.

Love and its ignorance

I believe in love and in falling in love. I also believe that most of what's portrayed as love on the silver screen and on TV isn't really anything but people with no qualities falling for each other for trivial reasons. The strange thing, and I didn't come up with this and I forgot where I heard it first, is that people talk about love all the time and yet many, many people who don't go to college fall in love with someone from their town or possibly from the subsection of their city. This suggests that the concept of automatic true love is somewhat off. After all, if you're supposed to hook up with The One shouldn't he or she statistically be someplace else than in your immediate environment? I mean there are close to 300,000,000 people in the United States alone and yet The One is someone who you either grew up with or met possibly through people who you grew up with? College changes the equation some, as do cities, which truth be told do offer greater variety of folks to choose from although I'm not sure that the parochial nature of it all is really voided by them. But four year colleges that recruit from a wide range either from your state or from your region, or even from the entire U.S. itself are probably the best bet short of moving to a better city or state to finding a One, maybe not The One but someone closer. However, there is a price and that is that while there's more variety of people there's more homogeneity in terms of socio-economic background. I think that the United States is one of the worst countries when it comes to really getting folks into higher education who are talented but who aren't rich or well off. If you're working class you may find a One, but that One is likely to be from a different class background than you are, and being in a four year school means that you're likely to be on a career track that is not working class to begin with, meaning that you're not just giving up your class background romantically to find the One but are also of course wedding yourself to bourgeois society in the process of school. And it gets worse the more variety of people from different areas are there. The schools that recruit from across the whole of the U.S. are the ones at the top that are also most likely to have the most elite people in them. Then you go down through regional schools to state schools, that still possess less variety even if they're the best in the state, down to schools that focus on a particular region of a state. The more doable for people without lots of money that a school is the more restricted the variety of people it's likely to have. And of course the higher up in education folks without lots of means get the more strings attached there are likely to be, restricting courses taken in general.

The trend is for working people to get degrees having to do with the sciences, while the more interesting humanities degrees are gotten by folks with more means, even though there are just as many working class folks as non-working class folks who excell at the more right brain creative subjects.

And just to round things off, all this is true despite the much cited figure that loads and loads of people are going to college these days, more than have ever gone in the past in the United States. This may be true but I think based on anecdotal evidence that lots of that enrollment happens in the lower tier state schools.

But love, yeah, love. Maybe the best thing to do is to move to a fertile area for finding the right type of person that you're looking for and see what happens.

Am reading "Memoirs of the Devil" by Roger Vadim right now

Roger Vadim being a filmmaker who was married to Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda, and Catherine Deveuve, and who made sexploitation films like Barbarella. Vadim was a noted Decadent, and his personal take on himself is entertaining. I first saw the book at Book Beat in Oak Park, MI, on my trip, and was going to buy it but their copy cost $35. After getting home I thought to myself that like many obscure but valuable books that have had large print runs this one would be offered online for next to nothing by people who didn't realize how sort of desirable it was. I was right, and got it for next to nothing through ABE.

I think that I've come to the realization that my digital camera

Is in Butte Montana right now. Oh well. Did I mention that I spent about a day in Bozeman on my way back? Nice college town but unfortunately too "New West" for me. New West refers to a kind of yuppie-fied West, sort of the same trend as that of rich people who fly into Montana, rent SUVs, and then buy a thousand dollars of camping equipment that they don't need and don't know how to use. Who then proceed to explore the wilderness. Seriously, there shouldn't be a frickin' wine bar in a Western town. But surprisingly, or maybe not, the hippie current in Bozeman was strong. Putting a plug out there, "Vargo's Jazz City and Books" proved to be an excellent independent bookstore that could go toe to toe with many of the same in much bigger college towns. I randomly found a memoir by Cinema of Transgression author Nick Zedd there, which says a lot about it (considering that it's more hippy than decadent).

Friday, September 25, 2009

I like to think of myself as Ilya Ehrenburg to the socialist movement's Maxim Gorky

Both writers, Ehrenburg and Gorky were both socialists but took to it from different tracks. Gorky despised Ehrenburg for being sort of intellectual and abstract, and possibly for being associated strongly with the artistic avant-garde in Paris before the First World War. Ehrenburg was much less bound to Socialist Realism than Gorky was, and interjected some more flexibility into his works.

*on edit: So I don't want to act like I'm getting down on Gorky. I'd recommend reading his three (short) volume autobiography, based on having read the middle volume "My Universities", which is superb and stylistically distinct from lots that was going on in world literature at the time.

Fucking Swans, DNA

Why did I buy that Swans double album? I've found DNA, a fellow No Wave band that shows just how terribly shitty The Swans actually are. Those folks basically have one song, it's from "Kill Your Idols", it's played over and over, and it's played badly.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Obama and Socialist propaganda

This isn't another "Obama isn't a real socialist" post but instead a digestion of the idea that Obama is putting out socialist propaganda with various efforts like the address to school children and the new volunteer programs. The way I look at it, Obama putting out Progressive ideas isn't some sort of socialist propaganda because any liberal or Progressive group that wanted to put something out there beyond centrism would come off the same way. It might shock some people because it's been a long, long, time since the Democrats actually put a platform out there that offered something instead of compromising on everything.

The Clinton years were a time of great selling out by the Democrats, where free market economics and social liberalism carried the day. Neoliberalism really. Because of supporting the free market, that meant that government didn't have to do anything, and because of supporting social liberalism like feminism and gay rights, government didn't have to do anything except pass some laws and maybe enforce them. In general, Clinton and Gore were missing in action when it came to doing anything really positive. Instead, they dismantled what small entitlement programs we had and promoted free trade and the destruction of the U.S. economy. But, they didn't have to have any sort of coherent platform to do it. They didn't have to put anything new out there to accomplish this. Obama, on the other hand, because he has a positive platform, that is a platform that doesn't just say "No" but says "Yes" to different ideas, has to be proactive to promote it.

Promotion of values isn't subjecting people or the country to socialist propaganda. Bush did the same damn thing. In fact, the more intellectual conservatives in the Bush era saw 9/11 as a wonderful way to reorder society according to their ideas of what positive values should follow the value vacuum of the Clinton years. What we have is ideology against ideology, not propaganda against some imaginary land where there hasn't been any partisanship in the last eight years or so.

The same people complaining about propaganda issuing from the President now are the same people who were cheering Bush and Cheney making propagandistic statements on a daily basis. They should be more consistent in their beliefs, or at least admit that they're not really a silent majority but instead a very vocal minority who are at the heart pissed because the conservatives lost the election, not because Obama is spreading propaganda.

Anyone who has ideas and wants to put them forward runs the risk of being labeled someone who is spreading propaganda. I'd rather folks had ideas and promote them while running that risk than have folks either have no ideas or have some ideas but never act on them or put them into action.

I've learned something very important through this extended trip back home to Michigan and Detroit

The trip, which could be called "Highway M-53 Revisited" (after the Bob Dylan album), has told me that what makes my life work isn't living in Seattle, or having had the good fortune to be around lots of interesting politics, but that what makes it work is me. I've spent a lot of the last ten years on the trail of the best creme de la creme of what I perceive to be the zeitgeist, traveling all across the United States and even to Vienna, visiting really interesting places, convinced that somewhere out there there was this sort of paradise of coolness or higher reality where everyone was in tune with what I was looking for. The truth is that although Seattle is great, that coolness and higher reality is something that I myself have to make, and that there really isn't this paradise out there some place. This is actually a very freeing realization, because it means that I'm not chained to Seattle but can go wherever I want and still do the sort of Work that I want to do. In the end, what folks consider the pinnacle, what their self image of what the pinnacle is, is really something contained in their minds that they have to do the work of realizing themselves.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Holy fucking Christ...a photo essay of a 9/12 protest in South Carolina

Here. Hat tip to AK Press for sending a link out via social networking. It's pretty hard to top these in terms of bile kicked up into high, high, gear, with lots of racist undertones present...and overtones, many signs asking Obama to go home to Kenya, just on and on and on. People sometimes complain about the Angry Left, but these folks got all left protests beat. They also beat this website on one of its more vitriolic weeks, and that's not necessarily a good thing. I guess that one should not underestimate the cunning of spite when people get started up, especially that of conservative white southerners. These people are fucking nuts, plain and simple, and are a reason why the U.S. is a laughing stock many times because of having zany denizens. They're up with the folks who started the Creationism museum, and when it comes to fascists, well, these people can probably go toe to toe with your average bone head idiot in a vitriol contest.

Two Seattle dates to remember: Octobor 10th and 12th

On the 10th Lydia Lunch performs at the Showbox and on the 12th KMFDM shows up at the Moore Theater.

I'm looking forward to KMFDM, as well as Lunch of course, in part because their lyrical content adds a lot to their already good industrial sound. I saw Front 242 at the Phoenix Underground, or I guess Aboveground now, about four years ago and it was one of the worst shows I've ever been to. One of the reasons no doubt was their lack of any but the most vague and ambiguous lyrics to their songs. The show mostly sucked because it was composed of the two guys who sing doing nothing but sing and one guy in the background triggering MIDI events on a single keyboard. In other words, it wasn't really that much of a live show. There was little innovation or actual variation in the songs and it sounded like I could have gotten a similar experience by buying their new record and listening to it at home. Besides, they had these absurd eurotrash white jumpsuits on. In any case, the ambiguous lyrics didn't help things.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The funny thing is that most white supremacists would have been outcasts in Nazi Germany

Because in large part they would have been seen as too stupid and unsophisticated to be worth anything. The actual Nazi regime, after it seized power, put out a huge propaganda campaign to try to convince the German people that it wasn't composed of thugs like our racist skinheads. Racism was rebranded, as was hatred of democracy and opposition. For example, I'm slowly in the process of translating an official SS publication that presents their official race theory, and it's presented like a high school science textbook. * There aren't any of the vile cartoons and propaganda associated with "Der Stürmer", but instead it tries to make the idea of Nordic supremacy as acceptable as possible. And this was for the people who administered the death camps.

Nazism came out of Fascism, and it used the rhetorical and political strategies of that movement to sell itself. Most neo-nazis in the U.S. are just that way out of shock value, because, hey, the Nazis were really bad people so why not imitate them? Therefore, they're not the threat some people bill them as. The real threat are the neo-Fascists, the people who have really studied the Fascist stream of thought and are capable of articulating it, as opposed to looking like neanderthals while wearing swastika armbands. Folks who are neo-Fascist have a much broader pool of information out there to draw on, with semi-well known intellectuals from the past supporting their ideas. Right wing nativism and ultra-conservatism are threats as well, but there's nothing like a threat that has an ideological underpinning.




* It's being translated slowly because I don't really speak German and am relying on working with dictionaries and online translators in an attempt to get it right

Friday, September 18, 2009

Some different types of Totalitarianism, Corporate Totalitarianism

I put forward the idea that totalitarianism is more a tendency in societies than a social system into itself. The feature typifying it being the uniting of all aspects of society, all social groups, religions, into one cohesive whole with a basic message and ideology uniting them all. Throw education into the mix, as well as proclamations by folks who are at the head of the State, as well as police, etc... One vision, one people, one leader, you get the picture. The thing is that this could describe a Leftist society, it could describe a Right wing society, a Fascist society, a Theocracy, or even a pure Corporatist society. The last is especially important, as is the idea of a Leftist society possibly being totalitarian and how to avoid that possibility.

Corporate totalitarianism could be described basically as where we were tending towards when 9/11 hit and the forces of big money, of big business, shifted gears and decided to support a fascist totalitarian current instead. Imagine all the resources of the media concentrated in a few hands, with cross ownership between newspapers, magazines, television stations, radio stations. Then replace all of the local businesses with huge conglomerates like Walmart, food on the go with places like McDonalds, malls instead of downtowns, where all the businesses are the same. Advertising links these stores and their wares with the media conglomerates. The state acts as a midwife a la Clinton, declaring that doing anything to restrain all this would hurt the economy because the market supposedly rules. Schools get informational packets from the same industries, videos played in classes to captive audiences, soda and bullshit sold in the halls. Real World examples using the same brand names are put in textbooks.

All the while that life becomes more corporatized on the consumption side the quality of life on the production side gets worse and worse, with more marginal, shitty, jobs becoming standard. Consumption and corporatism becomes a convenient fantasy land to kill the reality of what the other aspects of life are life, as well bribes to keep people from doing anything to change things. After all, look at all the cool products we give you, why would you object to us, and who are you anyways? People want Walmart, you goddamn elitist. But they can't delete the actual experience of folks behind the happy corporate masks. Neither can they delete the increasingly shitty tract houses and unplanned chaos surrounding and making up the personal space where this illusion is indulged in.

So Sieg Heil to our corporate state, where companies have even taken to making up their own flags and flying them next to the American one, I shit you not...

At least that's where we were going before 9/11, to a sort of ideologically neutral destruction of civil society. Maybe we're going back to that now that Bush and Bushism is mostly out.

As regards to Leftist societies that are totalitarian, it's easy to see how places like Stalinist Russia or even aspects of Bolshevik Russia were totalitarian. The vaguard party is a wonderful device for destroying individual, grass roots, initiative in socialist societies. But on balance, certain socialist societies have been less dominated by their vanguard parties, even if they were present and therefore in and of themselves objectionable. However, the biggest misconception with regards to totalitarianism and leftist societies is that moving away from capitalism and towards specifically socialist formations is necessarily totalitarian because much of what's constructed has specifically socialist characteristics.

The solution in my mind is to have the revolution happen not by the actions of a group directing any of it but instead growing through massive grass roots organizing on every level so that the institutions that are constructed have the mark of popular participation, with the importance of the highest levels of the social hierarchy having drastically less power in decision making then before. I should say that objecting to small groups directing things applies both to Leninists and to Anarchists, since there have emerged tendencies in Anarchism that identify themselves as Vanguards in everything but name, and basically run themselves like Leninist political parties.

Political participation is a a tough one, because it offers the potential of power with the abuse of the State. I appreciate the fact that Obama is our President, and I appreciate the fact that Chavez is President of Venezuela, but I don't know how to reconcile all this. Possibly, a way out would be to link a social movement with a political movement, so that there wouldn't just be a political party out there pushing for Progressive change, on hopefully more local levels than the Presidency, but also a movement fighting day by day for positive change in peoples' lives through activist campaigns. And when I say local level for political participation I also mean medium level. I think that focussing on municipalities only is a great way to avoid responsibility for taking Progressive change to the next level, a level that would require more organizing than just a bunch of people in a hippy town controlling city council, to be blunt about it.

But I don't think, like some folks, that just because there's a possibility of totalitarianism with any sort of political change, left or right, that there should therefore not be any change whatsoever, or that some sort of Libertarian free market ideology is the only antidote to the possibility of a totalitarian state.

Something where people have done the organizing themselves and where nothing has been decreed from on high and trickled down to the bottom is not part of a totalitarian apparatus, which is a concept that the Tea Baggers and Health Care Fascists don't seem to understand. Projection, thy name is the fringe right who believes that Obama and the Democrats are secretly creating the support for universal health care. Astroturf is what you guys invented, and it's no less astro-turf because Bill O'Reilly or Glen Beck told you to do something and you made your own signs instead of getting them from a grass roots organization that had the marvelous capability to have a guy make a sign on his computer and take it to a Kinkos and get copies made.

*on edit: I want to get away from the notion that all things are black or white with regards to this stuff. For example, some aspects of Bolshevik society were very Progressive and liberating even though there were aspects with regards to the Party and the State that were somewhat oppressive in the beginning and became increasingly oppressive as time went on until you get Stalinism, which could be interpreted as a coup by the Party apparatus from above.

Totalitarianism index.

I've been going back and forth on this, on whether totalitarianism is a thing in and of itself or whether it's a variant of Fascism. Currently, I'm contradicting myself in that I believe that it's a tendency that societies can exhibit rather than a discrete form of society itself. So, for instance, we can talk about how totalitarian the United States is in comparison to other countries.

I think that the best definition of totalitarianism was given by Mussolini, who declared that his society would embody the total state, that is everything, every club, every civil association, everything having to do with religion, every political grouping, every business, every union, would be part of the State, which would contain all of them. Many totalitarian regimes have dispensed with the rhetoric of all of it being united specifically in a State, but have kept the idea of a total integration of all aspects of life under the guiding light of one ideology.

After 9/11 there was a great push and integration between all media, really all sectors of society, to come together and be 100% American. Bush and friends encouraged this to the hilt, encouraging not just group think but patriotic, right wing, group think in order to serve their own agendas. In doing so, they moved the U.S. closer to being a totalitarian country.

The consent of the governed...to accept capitalism

Chomsky very usefully talks about the consent of the governed to accept the actions of the government with regards to foreign policy, saying that this consent has to be engineered through the media and other propaganda outlets. What's less commented on is that the media also provides the engineering of consent of folks to accept capitalism as an economic system. There are rarely shows that offer characters that even mildly question whether things in society are just or not. Rich and poor do not get discussed on regular non-news television. Instead, what we see are usually people in glamorous upper class lives living those lives with no commentary on the idea that all of this is abnormal compared to normal life, or that folks are suffering with situations that the people who the characters correspond with will most likely never know about. Folks working hard and yet being unable to find jobs in their field after college because they don't have connections, because they grew up without access to the world that could give them connections, will not be featured. Things happening to folks that they didn't cause themselves, but that are caused by bigger social phenomenon will never be dealt with. Instead, just a bunch of happy people for whom the system works will be covered. This goes far towards selling people capitalism as a viable economic system. If the media reflected a little bit of the other reality the natives might get restless, but we can depend on our corporate masters never to let that stuff impact on our personal TV fed illusions.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Video Time

Progresive videos from the Dead Kennedys, Ministry, and KMFDM:







Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No, Venezuela shouldn't be transparent in their arms deals

Because Venezuela is not the U.S' prison bitch. It's a sovereign country who is not obligated to defer to us whatsoever, especially in the condescending way that Clinton is implying. She's very concerned about Venezuela buying weapons. I'm very concerned about the U.S. being in Iraq and Afghanistan, could we please do something about that?

No, Venezuela shouldn't be

Now my windshield has a new addition

That would be spit on the inside to match insect carcasses on the outside generated from singing "Stars and Stripes of Corruption" by the Dead Kennedys really loud in the style of Henry Rollins.

A question:

What the feasibility of mic-ing an accordion and putting the sound through distortion pedals is?

Working class surrealist revolution? Could be...

Stranger things have happened.

More on Romanticism, American Tropicalia, and Magical Realism

The goal of all of them, as applied to culture, is to reinscribe culture back onto itself. The truth of the matter is that we've been on the anti-thesis side of things for a long time, negating everything, and now the pieces should be picked up and forged into a new positive series of ideas. But this ain't going to be the Hegelian dialectic but a Nietzschean one, where the products of the negation are themselves used to create positivity. The trick is to find what in the past or in the present is valuable and work with that to produce something new. Culturally, musically, philosophically, what still matters after the sort of withering critique that Nietzschean doubt has unleashed on it all? What do you think survives the test? What's still interesting after radical doubt? There are things, I can guarantee it. There needs to be a surrealist revolution, at least culturally....on top of working class culture.

Socialism, anarchism, the working class

Personally, my thought is that although I would prefer something more anarchistic, whatever leftist ideology the working class adopts is good for me. Provided it's not authoritarian stalinism. Having the working class become self conscious leftists is more important to me than having them adopt something that's closer to what I would ideally want.

Socialist and working class culture

I'm completely convinced that workers' culture is the seed from which a new society will grow. That therefore it's really important for working class folks not to give it up if they want to do things like go to college. I have a mixed class background, but spent most of my life growing up as a working class person. The attractions of bourgeois culture, if they look at you as a candidate for being allowed into the club, are very enticing, but we need to keep true to our roots and not give it up for the promise of recognition in the bourgeois world.

Monday, September 14, 2009

12 year old Yemeni girl dies in labor--why the fuck do we care?

Indeed, this "child bride" story should never have gotten any press. Are we now cherry picking all of the fucked up stuff that happens in corners of the world that we are normally not even cogniscent of and being outraged? A 12 year old girl gets married in Yemen, which is a largely rural, isolated, country south of Saudi Arabia. So what? Are we going to find out that some sort of tribal practice that offensive to us is being practiced by indigenous people in the rainforest of Brazil and suddenly start thumping our chests about the outrage of it? There are people dying right here in the United States, women dying from lack of adequate health care. The child mortality rate in the Bronx is a shameful mark on American society. Yet, what the hell, get upset about a girl dying in Yemen. I don't really care. It's your choice where you want to put your energy.

It's sort of like objecting to clitoridectomy in Africa....which is done and overseen by the elder women of the groups, at least in Senegal. The image of bad men forcing women down and removing their clitori is somewhat of a misnomer, although surely few people in the west would make the choice if they had it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ok, here's a simple solution to the problem of Guantanamo: close the fucking thing

It's entertaining to watch mainstream journalists for serious, serious, papers wring their hands over the dilemma of Guantanamo Bay, injecting faked bathos into the mix to make them seem profound. Guantanamo Bay should never have been founded to begin with. If folks were serious, they'd take a look at how these folks would have been treated if Bush hadn't created this black hole for them to slip down. Closing Guantanamo means integrating these folks into the established legal systems that have been established according to international norms. This means admitting that what went on their went way beyond those norms and is in fact reprehensible. I vote for a new war crimes tribunal to investigate the people at Guantanamo Bay who did the interrogations, with justice being served. Ideally, it would be the International Criminal Court, but we've decided not to recognize its authority because, and this is almost an exact quote, Bush and the Congress were afraid that it might prosecute American troops, who would no doubt be unjustly accused by countries harboring some grudge against us. Somehow I don't think that waterboarding people and beating them half to death is something that's being objected to because of some animus towards the U.S. ... unless that animus is in fact generated by our beating people half to death, waterboarding them, and throwing them against walls.

*on edit: when people talk about the dilemma of Guantanamo I sense the covering of one's ass instinct going as strong as can be. Because there's only a dilemma if you believe that some of the basic premises of Guantanamo Bay were legitimate to begin with. If not, then the thing has been illegal from the start and there's therefore much less of a dilemma involved with closing it.

The relativity of a 'bad hotel'

I'm staying at a chain hotel in Minneapolis that's been rated as being terrible online. The funny thing is, I look atound and there's a nice queen size bed, a TV, a desk, a table, chair, and lots of space. It's not like there are roaches crawling around. Instead, it's just not tip top compared to other hotels. The desk is kind of flimsy. People in the third world, or what used to be called the third world, live their lives in houses that are smaller than this room, sharing them with relatives, and they aren't clean and nice. But here in the U.S. staying in a room that would be much desired by a good portion of the globe is not enough.

Wisconsin--possibly the Ur-Michigan

The source from where it all comes form. Or, not literallly, but the sort of primal culture that would be around Southeast Lower Michigan if we didn't have some of the pretense that we have. People in Detroit are not pretentious at all, but that's different from not having some kind of accretion of different things going on. If instead of one large city there were instead several smaller ones on the model of Flint and Saginaw I'm convinced that the culture in them would be much more similar to that of Wisconsin than Detroit currently is. We have a little thing called 'history', which changes people's attitudes towards all of culture, we have a Detroit identity. If we were just folks living in the country we would probably be like Wisconsinites, where the slogan goes that it's a land where Harleys roar, Eagles soar, and Packers score.

Another road trip finds my left arm charred yet again

Am back in Minneapolis for the night after leaving western Michigan and going across the lake via the car ferry. My arm is charred because of my habit of resting it in the window while steering for long periods of time. I should take bets on when the melanoma clusters are going to start appearing: one year, two years, six months? Maybe a long shot of four to six?

Anyways, am yet again enjoying the city and will be in North Dakota, hopefully near the Montana border, tomorrow night.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

More on Romanticism, American Tropicalia, and Magical Realism as an alternative to empty nihilistic society to come

I think we need a positive alternative after so many years of antis, which has existed since the '90s. After enough negation of culture, what's necessary is to craft some sort of positive doctrine. All of the stuff mentioned above are suggestions about where to go from here.

And the MC5 from Detroit

Got the "Best of" from a shop in the area. Unlike many Best Ofs it's actually good, because the MC5 are still an underground band and it's being issued by Rhino and not the main part of a mainstream label. Very good stuff. It turns out that John Sinclair really meant all of that stuff about combining sex and dope with revolution. When I was growing up, the whole White Panthers stuff that I found out about seemed to me to be juvenile and not really profound at all, but now looking at it it seems kind of kindred to the Yippie party. And that's something that appears to be different from what it appeared to be as well. I'm not a fan of Abbie Hoffman, thinking that he was a show boating egotist, but the Yippie ideas presented by Jerry Rubin in his book "Do It!" are really good. Maybe with the White Panthers and Detroit there was more of an idea of social justice there, but they look like they're on the same track---combining social change with counter culture, politicizing the counter culture and, at least in the case of Jerry Rubin, counter-culture-izing the politicos. Which doesn't mean that their understanding of society and of social change was lacking.

I could say that a similar difference between the perception and reality exists with the Weathermen as well. First, when I encountered them, they were presented as insane, then, when I encountered them from books again they were presented as immature. Next, they were presented by people who knew them as being stupid rich kids indulging in militant fantasies. Then, after actually reading what they wrote at the time and books like "Fugitive Days", as well as"Outlaws of America" from AK Press by Dan about them....and hearing Bill Ayres talk about his experiences...my impression of what they were about changed drastically.

As far as being rich kids indulging in revolutionary fantasies, it appears that their theoretical orientation wasn't all that more hardcore than some of the other groups that fragmented from SDS, the difference being that unlike the others they engaged in armed struggle, which is what I think is ultimately why people labeled them that. In Europe, they would have been labeled as just being leftists, since what they did is not unheard of over there.

Got from Book Beat

A book by Henry Rollins and a book by the dude from Crass. This among other things. I have to admit that I had some minor consumption at the store, but I get out here once every few years, and the place is awesome.

Leaving a nice present for a not nice Hotelier

At a hotel that should remain nameless, had some conflict. Checked out today and left behind a few tokens. First off, a used razor. Second off, the form for VD testing in Seattle that I took with me in order to call for results. So in the part of it called "Tests run" it checks off syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, herpes, hepatitis A, B, and C. However, it's not clear from a first glance that it's just tests that have been run and not positive results from them. Left it on the desk. Have fun with that, folks.

Note to self: Degas

Degas, reverse chiaroscuro. Uses patches of light paint to reveal instead of dark or black paint to focus things.

What I was listening to the day before 9/11, and maybe it's time to bring it back

That would be "Stars and Stripes of Corruption" by the Dead Kennedys from their Frankenchrist album. After 9/11 hit I thought to myself, well won't be blasting that in my car for a while. So here are the lyrics:

""Stars And Stripes Of Corruption"

Finally got to Washington in the middle of the night
I couldn't wait
I headed straight for the Capitol Mall
My heart began to pound
Yahoo! It really exists
The American International Pictures logo

I looked up at that Capitol Building
Couldn't help but wonder why
I felt like saying "Hello, old friend"

Walked up the hill to touch it
Then I unzipped my pants
And pissed on it when nobody was looking

Like a great eternal Klansman
With his two flashing red eyes
Turn around he's always watching
The Washington monument pricks the sky
With flags like pubic hair ringed 'round the bottom

The symbols of our heritage
Lit up proudly in the night
Somehow fits to see the homeless people
Passed out on the lawn

So this is where it happens
The power games and bribes
All lobbying for a piece of ass

Of the stars and stripes of corruption
Makes me feel so ashamed
To be an American
When we're too stuck up to learn from our mistakes
Trying to start another Viet Nam
Whilke fiddling while Rome burns at home
The Boss says, "You're laid off. Blame the Japanese"
"America's back," alright
At the game it plays the worst
Strip mining the world like a slave plantation

No wonder others hate us
And the Hitlers we handpick
To bleed their people dry
For our evil empire

The drug we're fed
To make us like it
Is God and country with a band

People we know who should know better
Howl, "America riles. Let's go to war!"
Business scams are what's worth dying for

Are the Soviets our worst enemy?
We're destroying ourselves instead
Who cares about our civil rights
As long as I get paid?

The blind Me-Generation
Doesn't care if life's a lie

so easily used, so proud to enforce

The stars and stripes of corruption
Let's bring it all down!
Tell me who's the real patriots
The Archie Bunker slobs waving flags?
Or the people with the guts to work
For some real change
Rednecks and bombs don't make us strong
We loot the world, yet we can't even feed ourselves
Our real test of strength is caring
Not the toys of war we sell the world
Just carry on, thankful to be farmed like worms
Old glory for a blanket
As you suck on your thumbs

Real freedom scares you
'Cos it means responsibility

So you chicken out and threaten me

Saying, "Love it or leave it"
I'll get beat up if I criticize it
You say you'll fight to the death
To save your worthless flag

If you want a banana republic that bad
Why don't you go move to one
But what can just one of us do?
Against all that money and power
Trying to crush us into roaches?

We don't destroy society in a day
Until we change ourselves first
From the inside out

We can start by not lying so much
And treating other people like dirt
It's easy not to base our lives
On how much we can scam

And you know
It feels good to lift that monkey off our backs

I'm thankful I live in a place
Where I can say the things I do
Without being taken out and shot
So I'm on guard against the goons
Trying to take my rights away
We've got to rise above the need for cops and laws

Let kids learn communication
Instead of schools pushing competition
How about more art and theater instead of sports?

People will always do drugs
Let's legalize them
Crime drops when the mob can't price them
Budget's in the red?
Let's tax religion

No one will do it for us
We'll just have to fix ourselves
Honesty ain't all that hard
Just put Rambo back inside your pants
Causing trouble for the system is much more fun

Thank you for the toilet paper
But your flag is meaningless to me
Look around, we're all people
Who needs countries anyway?

Our land, I love it too
I think I love it more than you
I care enough to fight

The stars and stripes of corruption
Let's bring it all down!
If we don't try
If we just lie
If we can't find
A way to do it better than this
Who will?"

A quintessentially Detroit style thing--King Books

King Books is a bookstore in downtown Detroit that's roughly half the size of Powells in Portland. Huge. The only thing is that they don't list their stock online and in fact don't seem oriented to even doing things by phone. In order to see what they carry you have to actually go into the City of Detroit, park in their parking lot, and see them in person. It's a weeding out process, in that people who are scared of Detroit don't go there. Anyways, I found lots and lots of Sovietica there, including a book of speeches given by Stalin's inner core after he decisively won, which is a treasure trove of primary documents relating to the rise of the totalitarian state that was Stalinism.

Friday, September 11, 2009

...and a wonderful week in Detroit ends with an unexpected event: Alloy Orchestra and Dziga Vertov

Went to the Detroit Film Theater, or DFT, which is part of the Art Institute, meaning the actual main museum in Detroit and not a school called "The Art Institute". Tonight they had a new 35 mm print of Dziga Vertov's movie "Man with a movie camera", and it was accompanied by the actual Alloy Orchestra. Had no idea that this would be going on when I decided to come, it was just serendipity. Wonderful performance, first time I had seen it all the way through. The reason for that is that when I rented "Man with a movie camera" a while ago I got a copy with a really, really, bad score. The movie is silent and doesn't have dialogue, so the accompaniment is really important. So of course whoever did that copy added this really cheesy semi-psychedelic guitar music to it, ruining the whole thing. Suffice it to say that with the Alloy Orchestra in attendance things were different.

Thank you Detroit!

Anyways, "Man with a movie camera" was interesting on top of its general theme because it included a series of shots of people doing sports that covered the same territory that Leni Riefenstahl shot in "Olympia", but with a different take. In fact, it looked like Riefenstahl had ripped off some of the montage techniques of slow motion film of the athletes interspersed with normal speed crowd reactions that Vertov used. Of course not too much Fascist heroic portrayals here, but I think that the sight of someone half naked doing track and field sports is semi-heroic anyways, without any Fascism being implied.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Something funny, or at least entertaining

I went to a working class gay bar oriented towards Bears in the City of Detroit last night and found something going on that was so quintessentially Michigan that it touched me. I got there and the big husky guys were engaged in a very competitive game of bowling via the Nintendo Wii, where a large projection screen had been set up on one wall of the bar. Bowling is a central part of Detroit and Michigan life, as well as Illinois and Wisconsin life, so it figures that these guys would enjoy playing a bowling game at a bar, but it still struck me as being mildly amusing. I mean, my conception of the place before I went there was that it was a sort of bad ass leather bar, and for all I know the guys there were in fact into leather, but they were also normal dudes doing a normal thing in their regular bar.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dismantle another Bush legacy---leave Afghanistan

There was never a reason to go into Afghanistan in the first place. Afghanistan was the product of revenge pure and simple. The idea that it was just about getting Osama bin Laden is laughable considering that we invaded the country and overthrew its government, then captured anyone we thought was Al Qaeda, tortured them at Bagram, then sent them to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. We rammed it through NATO to give it an air of legitimacy, but it remained a case of kicking ass in response to 9/11. Theoretically, it could have been a police action, and it could have been focused on apprehending Osama bin Laden and prosecuting those people responsible for 9/11, but that would have required some thought and planning, as well as more limited aims, and none of that happened. On top of it, the Afghanistan focus turned attention away from the people in Germany who were involved in 9/11 in a way that was greater than the top rungs of Al Qaeda. To pay attention to them, with the goal of bringing them to justice by putting them on trial, would have required thought as well and a willingness to obey norms of international conduct that we threw out the window after 9/11 happened.

So amidst all of the hand wringing about "Losing Afghanistan" going on in the media right now I suggest that we just cut our losses and get the hell out of there.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Thank God Obama hasn't rolled over on health care

Reports say that Obama made a really forceful speech arguing for a public option on health care today. If the speech is what folks say it was, and I'll read it some time.....I'm lazy at the moment....then it will signal a liberal President who doesn't cave at the first sign of opposition from the other side. Or from the same side. This would be something of an accomplishment.

The usual 'If you don't buy American you're a traitor' vibe at a Labor Day parade in Macomb County

Macomb County Michigan. I find this interesting because it was promoted most heavily by a Republican representative in the parade who was running for re-election. Very convenient of him. The truth is that the buy American campaign has always been misguided and semi-racist. It started in the early '80s when Japanese car companies were catching up to those in the U.S. in quality, and was part of a bigger campaign by 'Reagan Democrats' to focus on the Japanese as a kind of Yellow Peril instead of on what the car companies themselves were doing to sabotage their sales. The truth is that the Big Three were lazy coming out of World War II. The workers certainly weren't, but the designers and the executives found themselves essentially unchallenged in the world market because their traditional competitors had been destroyed by the war. So instead of keeping up with the various money saving and quality increasing innovations that came about in subsequent decades they stuck to the past, and then paid the price when Europe and Japan had recovered enough of their industrial infrastructure to challenge the U.S. for supremacy.

The current bout of 'If you don't buy American, you're a traitor' rings hollow. It's a lot harder now to argue that people buying foreign cars are responsible for GM and the others failing. It's fairly obvious that this was part of a broader economic trend triggered by the bank failures, that were in turn triggered by sub-prime lending in the housing market. But the old slogan is being trotted out again, with the same misdirection, only this time the bosses face the unwashed workers seeing what's going on a lot more clearly than before, and so have more to lose.

*I have to qualify all this a bit. A big reason why people in the Detroit area don't like folks around them buying foreign cars is that many of them have made the cars that are on the lots themselves. It's sort of a point of pride---you made these cars, your family's livelihood comes from making these cars, so it's not really cool to buy the competitor's cars. But I think there's some confusion between taking personal pride in the auto industry and giving a blank check to whatever the management of the auto industry does. The reason why people outside of Detroit started to buy foreign cars en masse, despite the best of campaigns to keep buying American, was that the quality of the product decreased and decreased, and folks were faced with the choice of either buying a shitty car out of some sort of patriotic duty or buying cars that actually ran well and lasted long.

In relation to the current economic downturn, the idea that folks buying foreign cars either in the Detroit area or outside of it are responsible for jobs at the Big Three going away, is a null concept. It might make people upset to see folks buying foreign cars while they've been fired or laid off, but there's no real connection between the two.

Book Beat!

Oh. My. God. Holy Shit. Book Beat! The famous, or should be famous, book store in the Oak Park suburb of Detroit run by Destory All Monsters member Carey Loren gets better and better the more counter culture bookstores I go to. Last time I was in Detroit was four years ago, and since then I've spent time in Berkeley, visited L.A. and generally stayed on top of political and counter culture trends as best as I can, and BookBeat this time around is still the furthest ahead of the pack in terms of the ideas they've got floating around there, the authors they carry, and the subjects they focus on. You can find stuff from workers' self organization leftism to beat poetry, french avant-garde literature and radical history, to stuff about UFOs and underground comix.

I would hasten to say that they're one of the best bookstores in the U.S. for this kind of thing. And this is after seeing bookstores of this type in New York, New Orleans, Portland, Seattle, the Bay Area, Austin TX, all over Florida, on and on. They normally have a mail order thing linked to their website but their site is currently down because of some technical problem.

That's http://www.thebookbeat.com 248-968-1190 Book Beat, 26010 Greenfield, Oak Park, MI 48237

Working class Macomb County

A long, long time ago I lived in the country in northern Macomb County in Michigan, which is the county just north of Detroit, and hung out with wanna be gangsters. They were all white and were reacting against the redneck culture around them by embracing what they felt was the sort of culture that people in the inner city liked. I say 'liked' because they didn't seem to understand that folks in the inner city might not have enjoyed living in an environment where there was lots of drugs and gang violence, and that of course the g-lifestyle of the folks that they idolized came at the expense of those same communities. So far so good, right? I mean that this could be said about many white people of various socio-economic groups who idolized rappers. But in the case of folks living within driving distance of working class suburbs of Detroit, like Warren, that have crime problems, the flawed conception of what life in inner cities is like can and is put into action through the establishment of ties with real drug dealers and gangs in these areas, and the patronage of said persons. Unlike just thinking about it, actually going down into areas that at least in working class Macomb County are still intact in many respects contributes to urban decay. Fucking idiots from the country cruising down to places like Warren and finding drugs pushes the city that much further in the wrong direction. Warren, as well as places like Roseville to the east, are populated by honest working people who want their communities to be safe and prosperous. That is at the heart of what these particular groups of gang and drug tourists don't see.

Detroit, detroit, detroit

I'm at an undisclosed location in the Detroit area, and have been having a good time checking out the city itself. It's not scary, it's a normal city, with lots of interesting architecture and some interesting stuff going on. Of course there are bad neighborhoods, and very, very, scary bad neighborhoods, but if you stay to the major thoroughfares and activities around there it's not that bad.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

This may be a gross generalization, but rebellion:

In kids, not countries, rebellion seems to happen among people who have either too few or too many resources. The people with too few are condemned to a life that's not very interesting or rewarding, and can only change it with extreme effort, so rebellion is attractive. The folks with too many resources think that the concept of rebelling and doing cool things is interesting, and they feel comfortable enough in their situations where they think they can do it without seriously fucking up their lives. Maybe "too many resources" is a misnomer, because these are bourgeois people and not in the main part flighty upper class folks, even though these too do the same thing.

Punk rock...to kind of add to the generalization, I've been listening to a lot of punk lately, and it strikes me that lots of it can be boiled down to kids with few resources who wanted to have the same kind of counter culture adventures as their more wealthy brethren of the hippy generation.

Friday, September 04, 2009

It's one of those ironies of life

That The eXile, a publication that while located in Russia employed the semi-Fascist Edward Limonov, and was gleefully against any and all academic west coast style PC, is now one of the most unashamedly left online publications out there. It just goes to show you: they claimed all the time that they weren't really against the basic ideas of justice, but just had a problem with the academic pseudo-Stalinists who took over in Berkeley and similar places, and it appears that they weren't lying or covering their asses to justify their writings. Anyways, check it out. There's a link on the sidebar as well.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

How to find the hip places in any city you want

I was actually asked to find cool things in a city that I'd never been to for a trip. Well, more like I volunteered after people who lived around it came up blank. They're a little older than I and don't get out as much. Via the internet and Google maps I've found that if you want to come up with the happenin' places you should search for high concentrations of three things: coffee shops, independent bookstores, and gay bars. Secondarily, indie music stores. Once you've found what look like high concentrations of the first three, check to see how many interesting restaurants are in the area. If you find lots of them, then you've probably found one of the hip places in the town in question.

Visiting relatives in Michigan

I forgot that I wasn't in Seattle for a little while. When talking to relatives someone brought up the fires in California that were/are destroying houses. In response, I said that maybe the wildfires year after year are a sign that they shouldn't build there. The response was shock.

The wisdom of Muhammad Yunus

Who is a banker who is more concerned with market solutions than with social justice. The solution to the current situation in the U.S. is...not progressive taxation or investment in jobs, but microlending. And partnering with big business to do it. Big business, for its part has not minded Grameen since it fundamentally doesn't challenge their power in poor countries.

from Commondreams"The failure of traditional banks to provide this kind of credit is a "big hole" in the American financial system where millions cannot open bank accounts [?], according to Yunus.

The global financial meltdown "has given us an opportunity to create a financial system that is more inclusive," said Yunus, who was in Bangkok to launch the Yunus Center in partnership with the Asian Institute of Technology, a university, aimed at poverty reduction in the region.

Yunus' latest project is advocating what he calls "social business," which combine altruism with business models to bring corporate efficiency and innovation to help the poor. The goal is to solve social issues and not to maximize profits.

But unlike charity which has no mechanism to regenerate its funding, the business must recover its full costs and recoup its investment.

Joining with multinational companies, Grameen has successfully launched a yogurt business, Grameen Danone, which provides malnourished children with a low-cost source of nutrition. Grameen Veolia has built several water treatment plants that provide clean drinking water to the poorest in Bangladesh, where some groundwater is contaminated by arsenic. BASF Grameen provides cheap treated mosquito nets to help prevent malaria."

Something to be thankful to Ted Kennedy for

Ending the Immigration Act of 1924, which prohibited almost all immigration by Italians, Poles, and other Southern and Eastern Europeans while totally prohibited Asians from coming to this country. Critics of the repealing of it aren't keen to point out that pro-German eugenicist policies were behind the act itself, with Madison Grant being one of the inspirations for it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Minneapolis

Yay I have experienced now the place up north that I'd never been to but that has produced lots of people that I know. In Minneapolis but leaving early tomorrow morning. Went to Dinkytown by the University of Minnesota and then checked out Uptown, looking through Cheapo records. Wanted to check out Electric Fetus too, but not enough time. Anyways, what I've discovered is shocking: Minneapolis is almost as hip as Seattle, and pretty much as sophisticated. We're more cutting edge in certain ways it seems, like having Thai restaurants on every block, but Minneapolis holds its own. While the two cities aren't quite comparable, it seems that the University of Minnesota kicks the University of Washington's ass academically. UW is at best a good regional school, while UM is a major research university. There may be lots of readers in Seattle, but from certain stores I went to it looks like some folks in Minneapolis read deeper than folks in Seattle.

I'm not trashing Seattle, I'm just suggesting that it doesn't walk on water as some godlike city on a hill in each and every aspect--and that other cities have things going for them as well.

Resurrecting the past: Agrarianism and Guild Socialism attempt #2

I wrote the first attempt six years ago, did a really huge, extensive post, didn't save it, and of course my computer ate it and it was totally gone. Now, after all this time, I'm still reflecting on the issues, although I don't agree with some of the premises of agrarianism or of guild socialism. So this post is an attempt to extract what I thought was valuable from those ideas from the ideologies that they were based on.

Primarily, the idea was an alliance between agricultural communities and towns and cities, where the rural character of the agricultural communities was preserved and where anarcho-syndicalist like guild socialism provided a form of social organization that was an alternative to capitalism. I thought that rural life, whatever we may think of the values that some rural people have occasionally, deserves to continue to exist as a distinct cultural entity, something that is threatened by capitalism. But the economic underpinnings of it were extremely important as well, actually the framework that I think makes the idea work. Capitalist agriculture destroys communities, ushering in agribusiness, as does the concentration of farm land into fewer and fewer hands. What would be better would be to have the land communally administered by the communities themselves. Not collectively administered like in the sense of Collective Farms in the Stalinist era but instead administered as a sort of commune where everyone has their plot of land, and where everyone contributes to community land use, but where normal capitalist small holding principles governing the buying and selling of land didn't apply. Neither would the idea prevalent in Anglo-American countries of people being able to do whatever they wanted with the land with minimal interference from the outside apply.

That would have been the first prong.

The second, guild socialism, has similar aims. The reason that guilds were attractive as opposed to straight anarcho-syndicalism was that the guild system as presented by the guild socialists incorporated resistance to the proletarianization of labor. By that I mean the tendency to deskill jobs and crafts and make people more or less cogs in complex manufacturing processes. Guilds would resurrect trades and would provide a sort of self management for the industries that they oversaw. I don't believe in guilds anymore, but I think that the basic ideas, reskilling and self management, can be incorporated into anarcho-syndicalism with not a lot of problem. Even within a complex manufacturing economy work can be retooled to give workers more initiative and self control over their jobs and what they do, to make what they do more meaningful and fulfilling.

An alliance of country and city, of communal agriculture and anarcho-syndicalist self management, would be ideal. There would be some participatory process that would govern what is now decided by municipal and city government, maybe involving neighborhood councils and general funds contributed by folks. Gunnar Myrdal's idea of consumer cooperatives existing as well as councils having to do with housing, would also be good.

That's a thumb nail of some of the ideas that the agrarian/guild socialist post embodied, albeit expressed in a different way.

*on edit: a manifestation of guild socialism in the restatement would be a transformation of the job itself into a profession instead of being generic work. And having confederations in the trade to regulate it.