Sunday, November 29, 2009

Well, Seattle plus 10 was good

I only went to part of Saturday's presentation but what I sat in on was good. Got to see David Korten speak, which was interesting. I think I've already been through the "Gee, has it really been ten years?" thing about a hundred times here, but it still kind of gets me. Although I wasn't there, the WTO protests became one of the pivotal events in my life, and have had such an impact on me personally that I probably wouldn't be living in the Northwest, wouldn't really be writing as much on politics, possibly would be doing slightly different stuff if they hadn't happened. I had been following radical politics since I was 17, in '97, and had already lived in NYC, listened to WBAI, read Marx, and then gone to a Quaker peace college with a large radical contingent by the time the protests happened, so they didn't take me by surprise, but the success of them was so inspiring that it propelled me forward in a way similar to adding nitroglycerin to an engine. I dropped out of college roughly two weeks after the protests, and while that decision had basically been preordained before Thanksgiving weekend, the protest certainly gave me confidence to strike out on my own without the support of an institution in order to figure out the world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

If Republicans and Tea Party-ers want to know who's been destroying values in this country they should look in the mirror

I mean, what would you call approving of torture, the concept of wiretapping your neighbors, flaunting the rule of law in other countries, inflicting pain on a wide scale without caring about the impact of it? To me all of these things hit at the basic values that any sane society should have, and their public erosion took us closer to a state where people who are brutal gain power over people who are non-brutal but who are moral.

Friday, November 27, 2009

And life imitates art: Church turned into a strip club in Hungary

Funny in relation to the below post referencing Przybyszewski: Vatican condemns 'immoral' church conversions:"The head of the culture department, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravisi, cited a church in Hungary which was deconsecrated and sold off to become a strip club.

"It has now become a nightclub and a stripper performs her finale on the altar each evening," he said."

Ha ha ha. Of course, everyone should have the right to worship in whatever way they choose, but this is entertaining.

In true decadent romantic fashion, my religious beliefs are close to those of Stanislaw Przybyszewski

Which if you have no idea what I'm talking about, just let it be. If you do, I'd like to think that this will promote a sly smile.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Test TEst

Test

A blast from the past: Neo-Romantic, a post that for some reason has been deleted, 2003

"My philosophy.
Here ye, Here ye, all doyens of countercultural and youth trends, for I have declared what
exactly my philosophy and the philosophy of a whole lot of young people my age (early
twenties, y'all), is.
I call it Neo-Romanticism.
How much is this just my own BS and how much of it is really a cultural movement is for you
to judge.
The Neo-Romanticist movement is based on the rejection of the prevailing Positivistic and
Scientistic worldview, and the substitution of a worldview based on the idea that things
which go on in the mental and social spheres obey totally separate rules than do the
physical sciences.
Therefore, the humanities and quality of life things are valued over slick tech toys and
mechanistic explanations about how the world works. They don't apply, pure and simple,
no matter what the conventional wisdom says.
Why now? You may ask.... where did it come from, where's it going? Well, Neo-
Romanticism is an outgrowth of the vaunted Generation X movement, one which is the
product of the factors which caused Generation X, (or individuals thereof) to drop out and
create an alternative society being brought to a fever pitch.
Neo-Romanticism is more aggressive than Generation X because the opponent is stronger
now, or was stronger during my "generation's" formative years. It's positively monstrous
now, for those unfortunate enough to be undergoing adolescence at this historical juncture.
Generation X was saved from becoming an activist group because they had a tangible
memory of how things were before the Reagan Revolution; consequently, they didn't
HAVE to react strongly in order to save their sanity; they had the firm memory that things
had been different, and probably would be different in the future

Instead of Generation X's view of the world as a culture slowly decaying, Neo-Romanticists
have grown up in a world where the decay has advanced so far due to conservative control
of institutions that they believe there's nothing to save and latch onto via nostalgia, but that
new cultural productions are required to revivify America and American culture. Again, this
isn't a matter of choice, it's a reflection of a culture where if we want anything satisfying we're
going to have to make it ourselves.
Sad, but true.
This is why the Romanticist viewpoint is emphasized, as the Romanticists were people
reacting consciously against a decayed conception of Enlightenment liberalism which stifled
any and all human instincts not explainable by 'reason'.
A good parallel, and indeed a formative influence in this counterculture is the fact that the
Situationists from the sixties and seventies, who advocated radical solutions in order to
produce a new culture, have been adopted by many people as an admiral movement the
time of whose ideas has come. Crimethinc advocates producing your own new culture
instead of just pawing over old things that might provide some satisfaction.

We are Neo-Romanticists not only culturally but politically; the Romanticists were the first
people who seriously suggested a Socialist alternative to pure Enlightenment liberalism,
who put forward the view that people had collective rights on top of individual rights.
Politically, we are like this because the United States has refused to honor or take notice of
any trend to expand the reach of rights and social programs to areas such as health care and
universal pensions, not to mention hostility to the labor movement.
In this aspect we are true heirs of the Romanticists, because, on topic after topic, the things
that they dissented against have not been dealt with in this country, even though continental
Europe has been familiar with these ideas for approaching 200 years.
We praise the individual advocating learning and critical thought against a technocratic state,
and look forward to the restoration of the individual freedom present in the '70s, and to
taking that farther than the seventies ever did.
The monolith, however, is not Ginsburg's Moloch, or precisely the thing that anti-positivistic
people were dissenting against in the sixties and seventies. In those cases the machine
was still on the outside of society; it had grown up in the preceding decades, and alarmed
people, but it did not own society lock stock and barrel. It does now.
Dissent against the educational, cultural, capitalistic, scientific, militaristic, monolith these days
isn't just a protest against a troubling trend but a fight for the very life of our society, and for
our personal quality of life.
It's a choice between honoring the individual and developing cultural uniqueness and
submitting to a grind of anonymous McDonalds-esque work and life which becomes a black
hole with nothing at the end of the tunnel.
Technocratic society has progressed to the point where it aims to deprive people of their
individual will and make them dependent on the machine and the machine culture for
everything.
Anton Szandor LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, in one of his later writings, called this
the "Invisible War" against individual freedom, caused by people wanting to control, drug,
and manipulate the populace into submission.
The aim of Neo-Romanticism is to reverse this procesIf you buy into a machine culture,
don't be surprised if all you get at the end of your life is a dead imitation of satisfaction, which
has been brought to you by all the right companies.
Positivism has even given rise to a particular strand of neo-conservatism, which, even as
Rome is burning outside it's windows, laughs at everyone who would be so stupid as to
think that the "Conventional Wisdom" brought to you by science indoctrinated elites is a
fraud. It laughs while it endorses more and more senseless wasting of lives, caused by the
cultural vacuum of nothingness we live in, to drugs, alcohol, and sex used not as a fulfilling
act but as an attempt to dull the pain of nothingness for a little while.
People are drugging themselves on prescribed medications, on CNN, on sex, on porn, on
hero worship, on alcohol, on anything that can convince them for a little while that they have a
decent stake in this life, anything that can avoid the alienation of the present and the hard
truth that they've missed the boat, as we all have.
Neo-Romanticism seeks to reverse this by revivifying normal life, by taking ourselves out
of the machine and creating a viable alternative, which is not just a stopgap function but the beginning of a construction of a new, viable, humane, type of society, which will eventually
make it's way into the mainstream and effect it.
Bring back what's important in life, give up your toys, your little cell phones, your pursuit of
bigger and bigger machines, and greater integration into the machine hive, through video
games etc... and discover the human in life; discover the connection between a living being
and a living being, pursuing goals which come out of the human experience and not out of a
factory. Practice being, and doing, instead of having, and existing.
Cultural stagnation can't end by itself. We've moved into a decadent phase where it
becomes clear daily that the machine can't produce anything truly new or original. Culture
has stopped; the musicians and stars of the past have not been superseded by anyone or
anything new in a long time.
Time to drop out and forge something new. Not founded on ideology, but founded on
humanity.
Before Castro became a dictator, he famously declared that he didn't stand for Communism
but for Revolutionary Humanism; I think that's a good summary of what Neo-Romanticism is
after.
Will this declaration be heralded by nothing at all but silence and irrelevance? Will it resonate
with people and inform them of trends in their own lives? I can't say; but I do know that I'm
not the only freak out there, and that there are a great many others who agree with my rough
philosophy and roughly live the same type of life that I'm living.
Whether we constitute a real social movement, or will someday, is another matter.
Again, History will decide.

In the process of restoring all the old links to the essential articles to the blog

Writing the recent post on Fascism, the one right below this one, the question struck me "Why don't people read the links I put up talking about its relationship to American society?", and then the answer hit me: because the links are no longer there. In late 2006 Blogger took everyone over to a new system, and in the process of this move all of my links were deleted as well as all of the changes that I had made to my template to customize the site in the way I wanted it. Instead of putting the links back up, I just put an offsite link to the PDF I'd made of a lot of them called "Spirit of the Times", which isn't the same as having them right there on the sidebar. So, now I'm in the process of putting them back in. I'm about half way done at the moment and am just getting to the core posts about totalitarianism and fascism. Watch the sidebar in the days (or possibly in the week) to come and you'll see them pop back up, along with a lot of articles that are traditionally more Left focused than normal.

Ayn Rand and Fascism Part II

I'm making this post because I have no more interest in continuing the thread that's been developing on the original "Ayn Rand and Fascism" post. My final word on it is that Rand's notions have a lot in common with Fascist ideology even though the corporatization of society that Fascism in practice implemented goes against some of her beliefs. Fascism praised the heroic, superior, individual while regarding many workers, at least those who were pro-Communist and who were left wing socialists, as being a sort of stupid mass that wanted to bring down creative geniuses who were thought to be the motor of society. They incorporated this into their state as well, although they substituted patriotism for workers' ideology. The Nazis racialized it, putting Aryans in the place of general superior individuals and the ideas of subhuman Communist Slavs and subversive Jews in the place of inferior workers, while again promoting unity through a racialized patriotism. That the Nazis were called National Socialists doesn't mean that they were Communists; instead, Hitler himself explained that they meant Socialist in the model of Social Democrats, not in the sense of confiscating property.

The ideas of Rand, particularly the idea that superior individuals should be able to do whatever they like and that without them society would collapse, clearly echoes Fascist ideology in my mind.

Happy Thanksgiving....LLIK Your Idols

Hope everyone is having a secular and non-threatening holiday experience, even though things have in fact been distorted regarding the first Thanksgiving. Anyways, finished up watching the interesting documentary "LLIK Your Idols", "Kill Your Idols", the Sonic Youth song, backwards, about the Cinema of Transgression movement in New York City in the 1980s-early '90s. The film is a very good examination of all of it, focusing on Richard Kern but also on Nick Zedd and many lesser known film makers of that time. I tend to like Nick Zedd better than Richard Kern, but I have to admit that his films are hit and miss, with some of them being really creative and insightful and some of them being kind of the opposite. Although "Totem of the Depraved", Zedd's autobiographical book, was a nice one he doesn't come off well in the interviews conducted with him, sounding like he was well high on heroin at the time that they were doing it. Anyways.

One thing that the film confirms for me is that Lydia Lunch, extensively interviewed because of her involvement in Kern's films, in her spoken word and writing, doesn't have anything to say that couldn't be fitted onto the back of a postage stamp. The continuing attraction to her mystifies me. Her music may be different, but everything I've heard by her is so cliched and obvious that it's not worth my time to investigate. Maybe teenage girls are impressed by her but that doesn't fit my demographic. Anyways.

Ironically, it's a much better film than the No Wave music documentary "Kill Your Idols", which left me not much enlightened beyond knowing more about DNA through some interviews. Having actual content and meat in it helps.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We were fiddling while Rome burned

The economic crisis could have been averted if something called the Iraq war hadn't been in existence. Iraq and Bush's domestic and foreign policy in general after 9/11 were great diversions to keep people away from looking behind the curtain about how they were being looted. While Bush took us to crazy land and killed several hundred thousand people--or more, up to nearly 1,000,000 according to some estimates--the subprime crisis and the housing bubble just kept growing and growing. Neoliberalism didn't end with 9/11 it just was provided with a front that kept attention away from it while it chugged along and possibly waved a flag with everyone else.

Worker retraining? How about rebuilding our job base?

Lots of people who are laid off are surviving with worker retraining programs....but the thing is that a reason why unemployment is so high is that the industries that generated the money that fueled and usually fuels the rest of the economy were exported to Asia. China is undergoing an economic resurgence due to our jobs now being over there. The whole thing of offshoring was a house of cards just waiting to fall and fall it did, and now that it's collapsed there's no easy way out of it. This economic crisis is deepened by globalization, and was started because of neoliberal deregulation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good old Central Florida where Beck spoke...

Beck spoke at "The Villages", which is north of Orlando and south of Ocala. I used to live in the general area, far enough north of The Villages to make it something I didn't encounter every day but still in the general vicinity of many retirement communities. What I can say about the area is that first off it's mostly rural and proudly Southern, and Republican, and second that its conservatism is boosted by the presence of the mass of retirees that are there. These people live out their patriotic fantasies unbounded by any sense of reason or proportion. They're old, they have their views, they have lots of time and money, and they want their agendas realized now. Back in this area patriotic holidays are something like a religion, with American Legion and VFW halls being filled to the brim with people wanting to turn what should be non-partisan days into the most conservative days of them all.

I lived in this area when 9/11 happened, and if you ever wanted to see fundamentalist crazies getting together with near fascist retirees rabid in their patriotism this was the place to be in. The American flag became a symbol of oppression so thick in the air that you could cut the atmosphere the praise made with a knife. They went completely fucking crazy down there, that's the only way to describe it, and it lead me to leaving the area and moving north to Gainesville, which is a college town home to the University of Florida and quite a bit more liberal than this area.

The whole place could be renamed "Nightmare land" and it wouldn't be too off target.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Polyamory, Mormons

Although they practice a kind of male centered polygamy, I guess poly-gymy is by definition male centered, the Mormon idea of plural marriage involves the concept that creating a community like this is the ultimate realization of divine love on earth, a concept that according to "The Refiner's Fire" by has quite a pedigree. This concept appeals to me from a sort of community standpoint, or communal standpoint, with free love as it once was called somehow leading to a more cohesive group by breaking down the barriers set up by monogamous relationships, and by the culture that created them. Potentially a good form of social organization, a reconciliation of instinct with the mind in the carrying out of safe, sane, consensual and negotiated relationships.

The SOA protest: it was ten years ago this weekend...

That I went to it, during the last semester of four year college before January '04. Was an inspiring time, carpooled down with lots of nice people in an industrial sized van from the school in Indiana, and crossed the line. Crossing the line was the civil disobedience that used to be possible by walking onto the SOA property and going until they stopped everyone, either processing them and letting them go or just letting them go. Wasn't like there was a small group--there were several hundred people who crossed the line that year. Ten years ago was probably the last year that the authorities decided to ignore the protesters and instead just put them onto buses and release them outside of the base. The next weekend the WTO happened, and after both that and the protests at the IMF, the World Bank, then the two conventions leading up to the 2000 election the authorities were no longer saying 'Fuck you, we don't care about you'. Then of course 9/11 happened less than a year after the 2000 SOA protest, and things changed more considerably from what I understand.

Yes, those were interesting times, and I was 19 and taking a radical political economy class that focused on globalization at the Quaker peace school I was going to at the time.

"Glenn Beck promises 100-year plan to undo progress"

From RawStory.Gave a speech, YouTube video link in the article, at a retirement community called "The Villages" in Florida, saying that there's this big socialist plan that's been going on for a hundred years to create the sort of socialist utopia that we're seeing now....and that the Jews have been manipulating us all from the start. Wait, no, that last part wasn't what Glenn Beck said. That was Hitler. Sorry, I get the two confused sometimes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

And a good one with some quotes by David Sirota: "Anti-Obama Billboard Stirs Controversy"

This one about a racist billboard portraying Obama as a cartoon smiling black man who might be a jihadi, with most of the sign taken up by the words "Birth Certificate?"

Excerpt follows, but Sirota is quite an interesting person in that he once bragged in an article, or should I say heavily implied in an article, that he was down with the working class and average Americans because he owns a golden retriever. Yeah. That sentiment alone is so far outside of reality that it negates the whole concept.

Says the man who put up the sign:

""Since Fort Hood, I've had it," owner Phil West told FOX 31 News Friday. "You can't suggest things. You can't profile. You gotta call a spade a spade."

[Even when the person you're talking about is black, I suppose]

"Everything I have read about Mr. Obama points right to the fact that he is a Muslim. And that is the agenda of what Muslim is all about. It's about anti-American, it's about anti-Christianity," West said."

Then the on target remarks from Sirota:

""It's out of control," Sirota said. "This conservative hatred of Barack Obama is out of contol, and this brings together all those strands of it: the racism, the anti-Muslim fervor. It's one thing to criticise the president on health care, or Wall Street reform, or immigration. But this is outrageous. And I think it's a fair question to ask why these questions about religion and ancestry are being directed so viciously at the first African-American President of the United States."

While the ADL issued a statement calling the billboard an exploitation of the Ft. Hood shootings that is "divisive and offensive, and perpetuates hateful and harmful stereotypes about Muslims", prominent conservatives have been silent thus far."

Nice Glenn Greenwald article: "Rule-of-Law Extremism Engulfs Primitive Eastern Europe

About Lithuania investigating torture. The commentary is priceless:

"What sort of a newly elected President would get into office and then start demanding that actions From the Past -- rather than the Future -- be investigated, just because they might be "criminal"? This deeply irresponsible Lithuanian leader apparently doesn't care about inflaming partisan divisions, and worse, appears blind to the dangers of criminalizing policy disputes. Even more outrageously, Lithuania faces one of the steepest recessions in all of Europe; obviously, this is a time, more than ever, that Lithuanians should be Looking to the Future, Not the Past. .."

Like many things, writing this blog began in earnest because of a crisis.

The crisis came out of the first anti-globalization protest that I went to. It wasn't big. In fact, I don't think that many people know about it. It took place in Chicago in 2002. I went up there with a few friends who were from Chicago and who were friends with the people organizing it. The expectations that I had for it went far and wide because previously I had been very isolated geographically, living in the extreme south of Florida, and had been unable to get to many of the events that went on in the years following the WTO protest. What I found instead of a hopeful experience was a discouraging one that made me question my whole commitment to the scene itself.

The folks who were organizing it were more anarchist and punk oriented than I was, the friends that I went up with sharing the same culture. Because I didn't share a lot of the same outward values there was immense distrust of me, even eventually by my friends themselves, so much so that I got into a large argument with my companions leading to the dissolution of our friendships permanently. I had been cut out from helping altogether, instead just dumped in the plaza where the protest was happening and left for hours until my friends showed up for the main march. In general it sucked beyond belief.

I had trusted in the good will of these folks and had been let down severely, and what I experienced in the wake of it was a profound sense of disease relating to the whole anti-globalization movement. Was this really it? Was this what it was actually about? Or was this some sort of an aberration? If it was an aberration in the anti-globalization movement, then was this still representative of anarchist subculture as a whole? In the end I found my answer in a greater skepticism of self appointed leaders, and didn't give up the values that I'd been working on for years before. But I was still alienated from a culture that I had put lots of work into.

It was the reckoning with that alienation that persisted that gave rise to an acceleration of the rate of writing done for this website, as I went on my own trip to find my own answers instead of depending on an outward movement of some kind to provide them....if I could only locate them, right? I had located some of them and they had profoundly disappointed me, leaving me with a sort of vacuum that had to be filled somehow if I was to go forward with being a radical.

That's when the really weird ideas, ideas that I'm proud of, started coming into play and why they started appearing in the first place: unconventional answers to fill that very vacuum and put me on what I considered to be a surer radical footing than I obviously had before.

My other experiences with anti-globalization protests and personalities were much better, by the way.

"Emotion as life term sought for US student in Italy"

Title fromRawStory article. I'm just waiting for Seattlers to go over the edge and basically, in a polite and passive aggressive way, insinuate that the Italian court system is made up of guinea wops who don't know what they're doing. I mean, Amanda Knox went to Seattle Prep, private school supreme. That makes her unimpeachable, no? I mean, we all know that those Italians aren't as smart as us anglo and nordic people living in one of the whitest cities in America. Shoot, we even have a "Nordic Heritage Museum" in Ballard to commemorate the Norwegian population here....sure beats Perugia, right?

UC protesters---good for them

Students in the University of California system of colleges are protesting over tuition hikes that will likely make them unaffordable to many students who attend. Universities and colleges are the last official route in the United States to upward mobility. It's no longer possible to "work your way up" in a company or otherwise find a path from point A to point B like that when you start off pretty far down in the social ladder. Education remains the equalizer that everyone points to, although of course there are lots of problems with our educational system as well. State schools were specifically created so that regular people could go to college. Without this method for social advancement people at the bottom are basically fucked, and the last vestiges of the claim that the U.S. is a meritocracy go out the window.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Just a thought about Obama's declaration about Khalid Sheik Muhammad:

Usually, if a political figure makes a statement like that it's thought to prejudice the jury to the point where a mistrial is in order. But of course that won't happen, in part because liberals love Obama and are willing to overlook things like a President declaring the verdict to a trial that has yet to happen.

Another strange juxtaposition:

Just put a sheaf of Monthly Review's in a bookshelf that contains, among other things, Scientology pamphlets about faith healing that I got from the "L. Ron Hubbard Life Experience Museum" in L.A. It was hot, the thing was air conditioned, and I have somewhat of an interest in Scientology, although not really to the level of actually being part of it. The museum itself was schlocky in the extreme, an example of what unbridled hero worship produces.

Personally, I'm getting to the age where it's no longer possible to just eat what I want without suffering consequences, so I'm more concerned with "Dietetics: the modern science of physical health" than with Dianetics.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An interesting thing, ideology wise, would be...

A synthesis of Dostoevsky's positivity with Nietzsche's nihilistic perspective. Despite being concerned with profoundly messed up situations, Dostoevsky had an overwhelming hopefulness about the human condition and the possibility of love overcoming the fuckedupness of life. He located this love not in interpersonal love but in divine, religious, Christian love and saw the coming of this sort of redemption as being kind of the resurrection or at least the coming at the end times. I'm not either a Christian or an Orthodox Christian, but there's something about this sense of transcendent love in Dostoevsky's thought and the possibility of reconciling man with man through it that's very interesting. Maybe if this sense of the possibilities of love was combined with Nietzsche's general critique of things there'd be some sort of positive doctrine that could be built on and worked with and applied to things in outside, social, life.

The original Lost Highway Times Logo


From circa spring 2003.

Offered on Cafe Press with a variety of items to choose from, including cups.
Was more of a small time capitalist in those days, I guess, since I also had an Amazon Affiliate thing going that offered a combination of fucked up books and political ones. But then I dissolved that and went to linking exclusively through Powells or small presses or distros. The Cafe Press store may come back one of these days.

Yes, my Amazon Affiliate site connected with this blog was probably one of the few places that you could see a sex manual trans. by Sir Richard Francis Burton called "The Scented Garden", and a book by De Sade next to books by Chomsky and Marx.

Worth a repost--Stars and Stripes of Corruption by the Dead Kennedys

10 most and 10 least corrupt countries

From the Seattle PI:

The world's ten most corrupt countries:

1. Somalia

2. Afghanistan

3. Myanmar

4. Sudan

5. Iraq

6. Chad

7. Uzbekistan

8. Turkmenistan

9. Iran

10. Haiti

[notice #s two and five there?]

The world's ten least corrupt countries:

1. New Zealand

2. Denmark

3. Singapore

4. Sweden

5. Switzerland

6. Finland

7. Netherlands

8. Australia

9. Canada

10. Iceland

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A little poetry:

Men can come and men can go but the goddess lives forever.

"San Diego panda cub gets new name"

It's Yun Zi, son of cloud!. I bring this up as a joke based on "Anchorman" with Will Ferrel, where one of the absurd stories that the San Diego based broadcaster covered, the penultimate story, was the birth of a baby panda at the San Diego zoo. I wonder if the reporter covering it was snickering to his or her self over covering the panda beat in San Diego.

And following up on Christian Schwägerl's article, the suburbs are a large problem ecologically speaking

American fossil fuel consumption is goaded on by the expansion out from the cities into areas that were previously country that happened in the post-war era that created the system of suburbs that we have today. Often times, there were either only small towns or no towns at all in the places where the suburbs were located, meaning that they were largely the creation of developers and business interests who moved in and took over. As a result, suburbs are a nightmare when it comes to land use and general efficiency, with many if not most of them making no sense from either a human standpoint or a resource standpoint. Many look like they were designed on the back of a postage stamp, with businesses randomly put next to neighborhoods, that are randomly put next to industrial districts, that are all connected by systems of streets that make no sense and are hard to navigate, to say nothing of the impossibility of walking any place to get what you need. The construction of the suburbs, often accompanied by deforestation and the destruction of wetlands, has created a situation where cars are needed to get even the basics of life, neighborhoods often isolated from grocery stores by quite a distance and public transportation being for the most part non-existent. The construction of tract houses themselves as opposed to more efficient apartment buildings, thought to give everybody a piece of the good life through owning something a modest house with a tiny yard, duplicate capacity in resource use to the point where energy efficiency in residential areas is a nice dream. The same could be said of the proliferation of strip malls, rows of small businesses next to each other in one story tracts, each with their own parking lots, only accessible by car, randomly located throughout suburbs, not confined to any one business district. The dream of owning a small business is what I guess the strip mall was an ode to, but like single family dwellings, single story buildings containing businesses, and with strips of four or five isolated from each other, are a nightmare when energy use enters the picture. The irony is that while small businesses in strip malls proliferate, so do mega stores that go to the other extreme, corporate goliaths that provided just as alienated and disconnected an experience as the strip malls and lack of planning, but have large big business regulated stocks of supplies on offer.

Suburbs aren't pleasant places to live in, providing an alienated and disconnected existence that is nevertheless the product of free market fantasies put into action. The small capitalist's paradise, the suburbs are prime examples of why we need to get beyond a traditional market economy and into something with more planning and decision making done by society as a whole.

"Obama has failed the world on climate change" by Christian Schwägerl

Via Common Dreams, originally from Der Spiegel:

"Only if the US manages to reduce its excessive energy consumption, commit itself to mandatory CO2 emission reduction targets and help finance the move away from oil for poorer countries, is there still a chance that countries like China and India will do the same and that a dangerous warming of the Earth can be stopped. On the weekend, Obama announced that there would be no agreement on binding rules in Copenhagen. It was the admission of a massive failing -- and the prelude to a truly dramatic phase of international climate policy.

...

Dreamt Up by Hollywood

For most Americans, the world beyond the US's borders is nothing more than an irritating nuisance. Hence arguments based on appeals about drowning Bangladeshis, starving Africans and flooded islands in Indonesia have little effect. In Hollywood, the United States has an industry that continually pushes the materialistic ideal of Western prosperity to billions of people around the world, while at the same time bombarding them with apocalyptic visions in the form of disaster movies.

Many Americans clearly also believe that real climate change is just something dreamt up by the entertainment industry.

Obama has proven himself to be unable to put an end to the lies that modern American society is based on. He is unable to overcome the entrenched lobbyists of the oil and coal industries and make the reality clear to his compatriots: They are the worst energy wasters on the planet -- and are thus indirectly a major threat to world peace in the 21st century. Although they do not enjoy a higher quality of life than Europeans, Americans consume twice as much fossil fuel per capita. Their cars are too big, their homes are not energy efficient and they have yet to focus their talents for innovation away from trivial entertainment gadgets and toward renewable energy technologies."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pissing off a guy in Des Moines by not responding to his comment

You see, I can tell where people are coming to this site from, and I can tell that one of the people who commented on the TSA post from a couple of days ago has been obsessively reloading the page wanting to see if I've responded to him yet. I'm getting a lot of satisfaction just by watching this. Of course, if he's still reloading the page he'll see this post's headline, which will be even more delicious.

Intersections, classical atonal music and avant-garde experimental stuff

I'm learning a very short piece by Shostakovich for a class and am impressed yet again by how it is that people who challenged tonality came up with ideas that influenced people like Sonic Youth and that through them percolated through society in ways that the composers themselves probably couldn't imagine would be possible. Atonality has actually influenced popular music now.

More irony...isn't it all Irony?....Frank Rich's "The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul"

Although he doesn't actually say what the Missing Link Is (perhaps it should have been titled differently) he does give some good insight into how our actual policy in Afghanistan is differing from hawks' fantasies of what it is. But the thing that really caught my attention is the replaying of one of the most telling statistics about Al Qaeda and Afghanistan: "What we do know is that American intelligence continues to say that fewer than 100 Qaeda operatives can still be found in Afghanistan."

When we talk about some sort of Muslim conspiracy, the thing is that at the beginning of the war there was one but it wasn't something that the U.S. wanted to follow up on. That is, Saudi Arabia, our great oil ally, was funding Al Qaeda. Maybe not the Saudi Arabian state itself but the prominent members of it. Bin Laden was part of the Saudi royalty. Money flowed from Saudi Arabia to Al Qaeda, and then to Al Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan, where it was then distributed to terrorist groups operating under the Al Qaeda umbrella. But now that that's been broken up, the conspiracy as it was doesn't exist anymore. Even though Saudi Arabia is still in place and likely still supporting terrorist groups with oil money gotten from selling it to the U.S. Maybe if we were actually concerned with fighting terrorism as opposed to kicking ass and getting our patriotic jollies off we would have reacted differently in the face of 9/11, in a way that targeted through cutting off support the people who really are responsible for this terrorism.

Amazing article by Bill Maher about vaccines: "Vaccination: A Conversation Worth Having"

I wasn't aware of the whole vaccine and Bill Maher issue but then again I walk the line between despising most of the mass media and having to use it to find out what's going on in the world. Anyways, the article is one of the few recent ones by a celebrity that actually stands on its own as a well written opinion piece. Here are some excerpts:

"So yes, I get it, we learned how to trick our immune systems. And maybe sometimes, you gotta do it. But maybe the immune system doesn't like being tricked so many times. Maybe we should be studying that instead of shouting down debate.

.....

Is it worth it to get vaccines for every bug that goes around? Injecting something into my bloodstream? I'd like to reserve that for emergencies. This is the flu, and there's always a flu. I've said it before, America is a panicky country. It's like we look for things to panic about.The reports from Australia, where they're over their flu season, is that its not a terribly virulent flu. The worldwide numbers support that. But you'd never get that impression from the media in this country.

....

And it's precisely because I am a Darwinist that I fear the overuse of antibiotics, since that is what has allowed nasty killer bugs like MRE to adapt so effectively that they are often resistant to any antibiotic we can throw at it. There are consequences to vaccines and antibiotics. Some people want to study that, and some, it seems, want to call off the debate.

....

Am I a conspiracy theorist if I suggest that since the network's nightly news broadcasts are sponsored almost entirely by prescription drug ads, that you might have to hold your breath a long time before you hear the alternative point of view to using pharmaceuticals to cure all our ailments?"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

From "The Onion: "Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be"

Here. "ESCONDIDO, CA—Spurred by an administration he believes to be guilty of numerous transgressions, self-described American patriot Kyle Mortensen, 47, is a vehement defender of ideas he seems to think are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and principles that brave men have fought and died for solely in his head.

"Our very way of life is under siege," said Mortensen, whose understanding of the Constitution derives not from a close reading of the document but from talk-show pundits, books by television personalities, and the limitless expanse of his own colorful imagination. "It's time for true Americans to stand up and protect the values that make us who we are."

According to Mortensen—an otherwise mild-mannered husband, father, and small-business owner—the most serious threat to his fanciful version of the 222-year-old Constitution is the attempt by far-left "traitors" to strip it of its religious foundation."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Power and skill

Looking through history, it appears to me that the times when skill has actually meant something are the times when power has been either absent or in a vacuum. Power establishes itself and its order over everything. It determines who it wants to ascend and who it wants to stay on the bottom. In situations where that power is no longer in existence a reshuffling of folks where people who are actually able and willing to do good work can ascend can actually take place. But in this case those who through skill get position inevitably get power themselves and start to perpetuate the system of power and ascent through being power's servant rather than through skill themselves. How can we avoid this?

Perhaps by a situation where the previous people who are able to have their voices heard and their skills appreciated are not able to make themselves a new ruling class, or to establish their influence in such a way that it conflicts with the natural liberty of people to have themselves recognized on their merits as opposed to whether or not they buy into a particular ideology. But how is this possible?

Every tyrant comes in thinking that he or she has the answer, comes in wanting to remake the entire world in the image of some city on the hill that they possess, and it always seems to end up with a repetition of the old with not a lot of new creativity established.

Hegel reduced this to the Master/Slave dialectic, and others such as Raul Vaneigem have suggested that the solution would be to make everyone a master, so that there are no real slaves in the population.

What they mean, in the most part, is this: once someone ascends to the top of the heap they get access to a world above the scope of normal people that is reserved for those who dominate society. By occupying this position they get defacto respect as people have been trained to revere or at least to honor those people in this ascendency, no matter how subconscious the impulse may be. People have been trained to think that folks who are in these positions have the natural authority to dominate over everyone else. It's natural. They're the political class, or the class of people whose opinion supposedly matters more than that of others. So this thin layer of folks ends up having severely disproportional influence over the mass of humanity in the societies in which they live.

The solution, or a solution, is to extend this realm of influence to include most people in society itself, so that you don't have a thin layer of folks giving orders and making decisions but people in general making decisions and issuing not orders so much as meaningful statements about life as they see fit.

Once we have a situation like that we can begin to talk about true democracy. Until then, we have sporadic movements of people coupled with a lot of bread and circuses as people watch what the political class above does while staying passive below.

Another September 11th

On September 11th in the year 363 the Christian Roman Emperor Jovian declared that the worship of ancestral gods would entail the death penalty.

Dipping into a book about Dagny Juel

Am dipping into a lot of books these days, but this one is interesting, about the wife of Stanislaw Przybyszewski. She was a Norwegian who was part of the circle of her husband, Edvard Munch, and August Strindberg, all interesting figures. I ironically know the least about Munch although his work "The Scream" is everywhere. Strindberg and Przybyszewski are two of my heroes.
Dagny is being argued for as an person of independent significance in the work I'm reading, not as they say as an appendage to Munch, Strindberg, or to her husband. Very interesting stuff indeed.

A side note: Edvard Munch turns out to be one of the Symbolists. This is news to me, because I thought that he was one of the Expressionists, but he preceded them by decades. Time to make a trip to the library to look up some Munch plates beyond "The Scream" to see what he was really about.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Obscenity and the internet

An interesting thing about the internet is that there are defacto no community standards, since the world of the internet cannot be considered a community, and therefore anything that's not illegal can be sold via it, no matter if it would have no chance of being actually sold in a store. The reason is that obscenity mostly relates to community standards these days in the United States, although maybe not totally. Stores get in trouble for selling things because the communities that they're in don't approve of them, even if what they're selling is perfectly okay in a more liberal area. Therefore, when people have specifically gone to a place online to buy something, where there's no question about them knowing what's being sold, there's much less room to argue against whatever it is being sold. I think that this is a wonderful development because it deals a blow to censorship in the United States as a whole, with censorship including materials that are considered extreme. If it was against the law, it would be illegal, to use a Yogi Berra like phrase. If not, then it shouldn't be.

Inglorious Basterds, or why Germany hates the U.S.

I'll start out by saying that I haven't actually seen the movie. However, the Tarantino beat fest comes highly recommended. From what I understand it's an example of good ole' America kicking some Nazi ass, despite the fact that the story is about a Jewish guerrilla force. I mean it stars Brad Pitt for crying out loud. I see that as evidence that it's just a pretext used in order to make the movie less obviously about kicking Nazi ass and little else. The only thing is that ultra-violent movies about Nazism coming from a country that's just spent the last eight years plastering its flag everywhere, declaring "God bless America" over and over again, and trumpeting "Proud to be an American" seems a little inconsistent. I mean, World War II was sixty years ago but it's us who have invaded two countries without good reason, us who have engaged in torture recently, us who have infringed on our own citizens' civil liberties, not current Germany.

And it gets better. Take a look at the Indiana Jones franchise, at least the first two from the '80s. Here we have a similar dynamic, only the President at that time was promoting militant nationalism, hardcore anti-Communism, worship of the military, and illegal building of arms (Star Wars). Can you say pot calling the kettle black? The truth of the matter is that we continue to get a charge out of movies pitting righteous Americans against evil Germans while we ignore the same features that are present in our own culture that resemble theirs from that era.

And that's why, or at least one reason why, Germans hate U.S. culture. It's impossible to say "I'm proud to be German" in Germany because it'll be looked on as being a pro-Nazi sentiment, while we say "I'm proud to be an American" over and over and over while making movies like these. You don't find the Flag displayed much in Europe as a whole and specifically not in Germany, yet flags proliferate around the United States. We feel that God has blessed us and has accorded us a special destiny in the world, yet could you imagine a German president saying this without a firestorm of controversy being stirred up? It's the Germans, though, who we continue to portray as the eternal, unthinkably evil, enemy.

Frustration, death, sex

Okay, so the death and sex part are superfluous, but the frustration is still there. Frustration with what? With the world not changing as fast as I'd like it to. You have to remember that in a lot of ways we had a do nothing president for the last eight years, one who refused any sort of domestic compromise whatsoever and who nonetheless did his thing with foreign policy to the fullest. The Bush years were filled with an alternating awareness that things were fucked up and that despite this, propaganda was repeating the idea that nothing at all was wrong whatsoever. The Bush years were simultaneously dark and demoralizing, with all of us who opposed Bush being labeled crazy, as being moonbats from another world, because we didn't buy the official line. So the pace of change was glacial. Now that we have a president who got elected through a commitment to change, the stasis is breaking up but there's still so much of that 'nothing is going on or wrong' attitude around that it feels to me like we're still immobilized.

This feeling of immobilization contains seeds of isolation, an awareness that whatever is going on out there is completely separate from my interior life here, and that my life here won't necessarily ever have that much to do directly with that life out there. Of course, the feeling is decreasing, but still the wall is inside me. The awareness is there that life is a sort of thing where futility brought on by stasis could kill a person and make them leave no trace despite the fact that within the sphere that is left they've created an interesting world that they hope to share with the rest of the world one day.

I want that day to come, and I define it not really by personal standards but instead by the ability of me or anyone else who's been laboring behind a computer screen these years or has been sharing moments of bitterness with other politically minded friends, to be able to walk out that door and be able to present all of it publicly, not furtively but in the mainstream of society. Once the exterior reality changes enough to let the interior reality of people who have been pissed off during the Bush years come through I'll be happy, because it will mean that large parts of the stasis that causes my frustration will be gone and that I'll be able to communicate in a non-futile or concealed way with people.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just realized something: Terrence McKenna and 2012

I just realized that I'm 29 now and I first started reading Terrence McKenna in '94, when I was 14, meaning that I've been aware of his ideas for more than half of my life at this point.

Ha-ha, Lou Dobbs is gone

Talk about consequences for people spreading anti-Immigration conspiracy theories. Lou Dobbs is now off the air to pursue other ventures as reported by Yahoo. We wish you, strike that. Oh fair champion of the Aryan race, Lou Dobbs, what will we do without you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And increasing anti-semitism in Germany

Following on the post debunking the idea of a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy, it's interesting that in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th century there was a huge Jewish emigration from Poland and Russia because of the liberation of jews from official civil rights restrictions....that then fueled anti-semitism in Germany. That then had the effect of radicalizing jews in Germany against both anti-semitism and to a certain extent capitalism. That was then labeled a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy brought on by emigres from outside the country.

Examining the possible anti-immigration contributions to anti-semitism in Germany and to the notion of having to preserve 'German culture' would be a huge topic for another time, but it's probably worth it in order to see what parallels there are with the rhetoric of the current anti-Mexican sentiment growing up in response to the perceived plague of 'Illegal immigrants'. A threat to 'American culture'...which is to say white American culture. They're coming here for more opportunity and for more political freedom as well.

Another myth would be that of a Bolshevik-Jewish conspiracy

Which despite the implausibility on the face of it could also be debunked in a more thorough fashion. There were a number of people of Jewish descent who were high up in the Bolshevik party, but I take this to be a reflection of the fact that the Bolsheviks and the socialist movement in Russia in general did represent the oppressed, and jews in Russia were certainly oppressed, with Russia also having a very large jewish population in general. People who are oppressed probably want to join parties that represent liberation from oppression. Specifically Jewish socialist organizations in Russia were dismissed by the Bolsheviks as representing a kind of earlier stage of socialist thinking that was regressive in that it combined a kind of nationalism with socialism , as opposed to recognizing socialism and socialist thought as completely coming first with the status of minorities in Russia coming in second. Also, the Zionist movement, which these conspiracy theories want to pin down as being the way through which the plot went, was not something that was really a socialist movement although there were certainly lots of socialist elements within it. And beyond that, Zionism was more concerned with going back to Israel than with trying to assert any sort of influence over the world in general. The only people the Zionists oppressed, with the possible exception of some of their own people through collaboration of extreme elements with Fascism, were the Palestinians.

If the Bolsheviks were popular with Jewish communities abroad it was probably because they represented liberation from traditional oppression.

The picture was not so completely rosy as that however in that during the Revolution, according to Mikhail Agursky in his book "The Third Rome", some rural areas that didn't have a big socialist presence decided that the way to liberate themselves from the oppressors was to persecute the Jews in their villages.

Then of course there was Stalinism afterwards and the legitimation of anti-semitism in the USSR that followed Stalin's death.

The funny thing about the idea of a Bolshevik-Freemasonic conspiracy theory

The kind of non-sensical thing about it is that the Bolsheviks were actually hostile to Freemasonry not because they were anti-liberal but because Freemasonry in Russia was identified with the court and specifically with the Emperor (Tsar). The Freemasonry that was practiced in Russia was a far cry from the sort of moderate liberal Enlightenment belief system practiced before the French Revolution. Instead, by that time Freemasonry had taken on all sort of mystical high degrees and these were what were popular in the Imperial court, along with allied systems like Martinism and species of Rosicrucianism. Nothing wrong with these things at all, but the Bolsheviks saw them as evidence of belief in an idealist and religious worldview on the part of the upper classes as apart from something rooted in material reality, further going on to label them as a kind of feudal or bourgeois decadence. Rasputin was cited by the Bolsheviks as emblematic of how divorced the Imperial court was from reality.

The Bolsheviks belief in absolute materialism, although not mechanical materialism, as laid down by Lenin, consigned Freemasonry to the same dustbin as religion.

Which isn't to say that people associated with the Bolsheviks didn't at some point have mystical beliefs, or that none of these infiltrated into the Party and into the Bolshevik state, but just to say that Freemasonry as it existed then was way too far beyond the beliefs that partially informed 1789 in France to make the idea of a Freemasonic-Bolshevik conspiracy tenable.

If you want to read about the small ways that these ideas really did infiltrate Bolshevik culture as well as how they circulated in pre-Revolutionary Russia a good book to consult is The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, edited by Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal.

Ft. Hood

Quite frankly, I'm surprised that more people in the U.S. military who are Muslims, Middle Eastern Muslims, don't go on rampages like this. The idea that this was something more than the product of frustration and potential mental imbalance is only tenable if you buy into the notion that there's a secret Muslim conspiracy at work seeking to disrupt American democracy. Which is about as likely as a secret Jewish conspiracy to control the world, which this sort of thinking resembles, as well as other likely candidates like Communism and Freemasonry. Despite all the hype, my guess is that this guy just extraordinarily pissed off about the situation in Iraq and channeled it through his religion, making him think that he was sort of some sort of terrorist ally. But there's quite a difference between yelling "Allahu Akbar!" and actually being connected with something like Al-Qaida, or more likely one of the more numerous terrorist groups operating in Iraq.

But then again, maybe there's a Muslim-Judaic-Bolshevik-Freemasonic conspiracy out there to control the world, with the Queen of England funding it all through drug sales.

Monday, November 09, 2009

TSA monitors behavior....and catches drug smugglers

Sort of an old story but one that's been given another Treatment. According to this South Florida Sun Sentinel article there are lots of TSA employees with a whopping five days worth of training, including one day of on the job shadowing, who are now monitoring travelers in order to determine whether they're acting suspiciously or not. If they are, then they get a secondary screening and possibly detention. According to the story, they don't have to have any qualifications with being familiar with psychology to get the job, just "intelligence, maturity and ability to work with people", according to the TSA itself. So Billy Bob from the mall can get the job if he can demonstrate enough intelligence and maturity to satisfy the TSA. Interestingly, the article doesn't mention being a high school graduate, although they may have just left that out. TSA agents already don't have to have a high school degree to get hired in general, but of course these folks are specialized agents with five days of training.

Not surprisingly, with nervousness as being the main thing they're looking for, they've made some spectacular arrests of drug traffickers as well as people who have arrest warrants out for them, but so far, according to another article that's buried out there somewhere (trust me, right?), there hasn't been a single terrorism related arrest. Even though the article is from South Florida and so obviously biased towards its local scene, it's interesting that it reports dozens of weekly screenings coming out of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. I'm betting that those screenings had more to do with white powder than they did terrorism.

If this was actually catching terrorists TSA would be crowing about it instead of citing things like a big bust of a guy carrying loads of raw ecstasy with him. According to the article, the program has been going on for six years. You'd think that in that time they'd have something better to brag about, but I guess those terrorists know to take some sort of pill to calm them down before boarding planes....and it's all academic anyways.

Besides the famous "shoe bomber" there hasn't been a case of someone trying to blow up a plane found. All the TSA stuff that was created to stop more hijackings has done is to inconvenience people. There may be an effect of discouraging people from trying, and of course we don't know how many people on the "no fly list" that have been denied the ability to fly over American airspace may have had some sort of plan, but the security in general in order to fly is a good example of American brutalism in action.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Wall came down 20 years ago Friday,(er, today), people have nostalgia for Communism today

It could be very effectively argued that the two are completely separate issues, and I agree to a certain extent. But the thing is that with the break up of the Eastern Bloc came a buying into the Republican talking points as well as freedom from Russian domination imposed after World War II. The talking points haven't worked out so well.
For proof of the want for socialism to come back see In Eastern Europe, People Pine for Socialism, a Reuters story. I guess the difference is that now that folks aren't living in a society where socialism has been implemented by an occupying force they can appreciate the good things that also existed during that time, which were likely many.

Now you too can become a fan of mine of Facebook

The permalink to my fanpage is Here. It's sort of a funny, self deprecating thing, posing as egomania. The picture I use is one with me looking like I'm in a Renaissance painting with flowing hair that I've dubbed the Fabio picture.

Rap stars as minstrels

Wynton Marsalis made the comparison in a recent interview. I think he's right, but that most people wouldn't really understand why. Black face minstrelsy wasn't all about demeaning blacks pure and simple. Lots of themes within it had to do with blacks in the South supposedly having a happy existence living close to nature in freedom. The life of blacks in the South was unlikely romanticized by some minstrels, providing an imaginative outlet for whites unsatisfied with their own lives. Rap stars do a similar thing, although the life they present is dystopic in many ways. The core of it, though, is idea of the happy gangster doing drugs, having lots of women, and fighting and being tough. All the rest about struggle and the like have secondary importance in mainstream rap, are there more to legitimize what's going on than to contribute to it. The gangster rapper of today is the embodiment of the happy black in the South in today's world, and he dresses the exaggerated part and speaks it too. Trying to keep it real, no matter what his actual background may have been*. Acting gangsta'. It's all entertainment for frustrated male white kids, and has the effect of legitimizing the worst impulses they already have and making it so that they have no qualms about acting like even bigger assholes than they already are.

*You know, like having a business degree from Morehouse College in the case of Sean "Puffy" Combs.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Another reason why it sucks to only speak one language: Stanisław Przybyszewski, and others.

Przybyszewski was a Polish writer who wrote mostly in German in the late 19th century but who was in many ways the Decadent's Decadent. Both his lifestyle and his work were some of the boldest moves that I think, to my knowledge at least, have been made on that score, rivaling the Decadence that was going on in Paris at the time. Unfortunately, his work has overwhelmingly not been translated into English. There's only one novel available--Homo Sapiens--that's long, long out of print and not even possessed by all university libraries, and two plays--plays that were printed in the '20s and in the 1910s that are held onto by some college and university libraries. While Homo Sapiens might be more available now that Google Books has transcribed a copy into PDF format, the total output that's been translated into English is a drop in the bucket compared to his total output of literature.

Similar musings about inaccessibility could be had about Zygmunt Krasiński and Juliusz Słowacki, two of the major 19th century poets of Poland whose work is nonetheless not really available in English, probably because as people who believed in an independent Poland they chose to write in their own language. Though less Decadent, they were high Romanticists.

Pier Paolo Pasolini is another one who's produced works that are of interest but are largely inaccessible, this time possibly more because absolutely no bookstore carries anything by him and it's difficult to even order translated works than anything else. Pasolini is known mostly as the great film director he was, directing works that universally pushed boundaries, but he also wrote poetry, some prose, and wrote a weekly column for the Communist newspaper "Il Manifesto". In Italy, my understanding is, Pasolini is recognized for his diverse talents in all areas of life.

But here in the U.S. we are of course mono-lingual, despite the fact that in our two continental sphere there are actually four main languages: English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, with a few very small enclaves speaking Dutch; all on top of the Native languages. But taking the New World to the side for a moment, you know the world didn't start with the phrase "And then God created the English". Germany, Poland, Austria, Italy, of course France, Holland, Scandinavia, Russia, on and on have their own literary traditions that in many cases go far back before England and Great Britain, as it prefers to be known now, got on the literary scene. But all of it is beyond our language barrier and so is conveniently ignored, unless something of value breaks through and people are amazed, amazed! that things like it existed in that 'heathen' country out there where all the Jerries live.

England is in many ways the heathen, not Continental Europe. Shakespeare, yes, of course, but beyond that...there seems to be a void, or at least a void as far as we dumb Americans are concerned until the early 19th century and the Romantics. There are no doubt unexploited resources there, particularly I think in the 17th century, but why not look to what the rest of Europe was doing during that time? We need a rediscovery of Europe here in the U.S., because currently our literary horizons are pretty damned circumscribed. And we need to read more in general too, instead of eating junk food and drinking soda. There, I've expressed the requisite Continental European stereotyping and disdain for fat and lazy Americans. Satisfied?

Olympia and my experience in Olympia

In sum total I found that most of the people my age and younger in Olympia weren't doing much of interest to me. Until the people who later would form PMR really started to get here and coalesce it was slim pickings indeed, such that I found it hard to really get any traction in Olympia at all. The environment, if it wasn't so isolated, would have been great: progressive culture, a very progressive college with extremely good professors, but the meat of it beyond the sheer environment just wasn't there for me. Too often I tried to connect but only found emptiness, people who were from some other planet than the one I was on when it came to our perspectives on the world--even, and maybe most especially when we were supposed to be similar in our politics. When I lived in the Southeast, in north Florida, I was hooked into virtually everything going on with progressive culture nationwide, a situation brought on by living in one of the great progressive centers there. I came out here to Olympia and found a vacuum where the people who were supposed to be the hippest and most with it were in point of fact completely ignorant of everything that had been going on outside of their little region for years. When I used concepts or made references to things that were familiar for almost anyone in the greater progressive and radical culture of the United States I would get blank looks back, with people more content to pursue their own low level trash and call it perfection than they were to look at what folks outside of their realm had been doing lately.

I don't want to talk about this more but am glad to get it off of my chest. Olympia has gotten better, but for a while there it sucked royally, like I was chasing ghosts that had long since moved on.

Friday, November 06, 2009

"Patriots Unbound" by Abbey Zimet of Commondreams.org

Hard to say "This is a great article, two thumbs up!" when the topic is damn depressing, but it's a good article, with a link to a longer article by David Corn that's also good.. All about the recent demonstration in Washington D.C. of the Tea Party folks, ostensibly because of health care reform but in fact, well, we all know that health care is just a pretext for all of this....

Excerpt:

"The crazinesss is one thing; the ugliness, another. Obama as Sambo, Pelosi as damned, the Rothschilds, still, as the great conspirators, the government as "evil" because it wants to help those who need help, "National Socialist Health Care" as "Dachau Germany 1945," complete with photos of mountains of death camp corpses – what does one do with such poison dreams?"

Talk about cognitive dissonance. It reminds me of descriptions of what happened when disillusions vets in Germany returned home from World War I and started turning to the increasingly rancorous politics that gave birth to Nazism. I said in 2004 that it looked to me like Bush himself and his supporters weren't a fascist movement but that the action that could lead to one would likely take place after the Republicans lost. It unfortunately seems that some of that could be coming through. But, hey, if this movement comes to that I'm resting assured that we can be prepared to do what's necessary to stop them.

Seattle happened nearly ten years ago...but until about four years ago the hotspots wern't doing anything particularly insightful

It changed when Olympia's PMR, Port Militarization Resistance, got on the scene, but when I showed up here New Years Day 2004 the folks around my age who were protesting were some of the scummiest shit bags that I'd seen be involved with protests. These folks, it seems, were people who had come to Olympia and possibly Seattle in the wake of the WTO protests, usually though something like three or more years after them, whose idea of what protesting was was breaking shit for no reason and having absolutely no concept of what they were doing. This is as opposed to breaking shit for actual reasons and knowing what you're doing. Thank god another generation came up who actually took an interest in demonstrating that went beyond dressing in black and eating vegan cooking, that's all I can say.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Something I'd to see: a parallel between France after the Revolution was over and the outcome of a Communist or Libertarian Communist revolution

People are aware to one degree or another about the French Revolution, how it started out, was radicalized, then replaced by the Directorate that lead to Napoleon...and we could go further from there. What many people aren't aware of is what happened in France after the Revolution had been successfully overthrown and a Bourbon Monarchy restored. The overthrow of the Revolution spurred nearly a century of back and forth of more revolutions, counter-revolutions, you name it, that had their object in determining once and for all where France would go with relation to being either a Republic or a Monarchy, and if one of the two, which type would it be. France eventually settled on a Republic but one not as radical as that of the Jacobins. The point is this: I would much rather see a Revolution happen and then see it fall, leading to a century of back and forth about whether or not it was a good idea than see a Revolution happen that eventually has to resort to ruthless force to keep its own people from rising up against it.

Well well well this is what is called the majority rules--Ref 71. passed in Washington State

Referendum 71 was the item on the ballot asking people to either affirm or deny the bill passed earlier this year here in Washington giving domestic partners basically all the rights of married couples without the word marriage being used. The people filing the challenge to it, lead by groups with names like the "Faith & Freedom Coalition", felt that the people of Washington State had not really been heard, that elitist representatives in Olympia (the State Capitol) had buckled under to special interest politics and that if the people of Washington were really allowed to have their say they would of course reject the measure. Now that it's November 5th 100% of the ballots have been counted and, surprise!, the measure passed 52.34% to 47.66%. The map of the counties where it passed along with how much it passed by is Here, the official Secretary of State site for 71 results. Now the argument will be that because all of the counties where it passed have substantial numbers of urban or former urban dwellers in them that somehow the referendum was not representative of the "real Washington", but that's neither here nor there since it's one person, one vote and not a situation where "real Washingtonians" voices count more than the scores of people who oppose them who roughly live in the Seattle metropolitan area.

Incidentally, "Faith & Freedom Coalition"? It sounds like a group that would be praising Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Führer, but maybe that's just me.

*update. Turns out that despite heavily implying that the vote is counted 100% the link above is only to provisional results of the votes that have been counted so far. You'll have to keep checking it to get the up-to-date info.

Update II Here's a link to the number ofvotes to be processed, h/t to Viv.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The South...plus some analysis of Southern economics in both the antebellum and post slavery era at the end.

At times I've really got down on the South, which is strange because when I actually lived there I sort of learned to appreciate some of its particular features as a regional grouping within the U.S. But, it seems that when I left and moved to the Northwest, back to the North, all of the really bad shit that I'd been ignoring came into my consciousness. Now, after about six years of time passing, I'm starting to get a little bit more of a balanced perspective. An interesting example of the difference between how the South actually is and how people in the North tend to perceive it has to do with Christianity.

Namely, Christianity and even fundamentalist Christianity play a different role in the South than in the North. In the North, being Christian and openly Christian is a sort of weird thing unless you're either a kind of denatured Protestant like Presbyterian or are Catholic. In the South, on the other hand, religiosity in general is more prevalent, at all levels and gradations. There are more fundamentalist Christians, but in between hard core conservative Christians and normal people there are many different shades, so that being Christian in the South doesn't necessarily mean that you're either conservative or insane, especially if you actually believe in it. Church in the North in the Protestant denominations is more like therapy; Church in the South in most denominations is something that people are more serious about. Having that attitude doesn't mean that you're either a fundamentalist or that you're part of the Christian Right. And while we're on the subject, Southern conservatism in general has many different shades as well. It goes from hardcore Christian Republican to a sort of Rockefeller Republicanism, although people down there would never use that term. The Rockefeller Republicans were moderate conservatives in the North who despite still generally believing in conservative values were actually pretty liberal in the types of things that they thought were okay for society. People tend to stick to some sort of Christianity and some sort of moderate conservatism as sort of cultural values, even if in practice they're really open and accepting of different things. It tends to be the open expression of them that gets people into trouble. There are actually gay centers in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Houston, all of which are part of the South (even though Texas is usually considered the West), where people live openly and don't usually have that many problems. Certain areas of the South, particularly in bigger, more stately cities with a lot of history, have a tradition of understated tolerance provided that people publicly keep things within certain bounds, or even if they don't as long as they don't try to be too publicly noisy about it. All of which is of course a problem in and of itself, but there are rural areas in the North where even private beliefs and activities that deviate from the norm are not tolerated at all. Unfortunately, the in your face strategy of a lot of organizing faces an uphill battle in even the most open large Southern cities.

An interesting fact brought up by Eugene Genovese, an ex-Communist scholar from Atlanta who decided to join what could be called "High Southern Conservatism", meaning the type of conservatism that rich people who are harder core about it believe, made the claim that before the issue of slavery heated up in the years before the Civil War, Southern colleges were among the most radical on many issues in the country. This could be so, and it could even have been that abolition of slavery was more openly discussed before the run up, however slavery persisted and it didn't somehow moderate itself or be kinder and gentler before the Civil War.

The Civil War as well is another story. The common complaint is something that's echoed by more lefty scholars of the civil war as well, which is that the core motivations behind it were economic, meaning that when all of the controversy really lead to the South seceding the reason that the North didn't just let it go was because it provided a valuable resource that Northern industry needed. Not because the people in charge were absolute Abolitionists by any means. If the South had been an isolated area with no resources the story may have turned out differently, and the "House Divided" may have been allowed to stay that way. Of course the raw resources were developed with human capital. Which brings me to an interesting side conversation off of the general topic of misconceptions about the South.

It's interesting to me that the people in the North after the Civil War who controlled the South under military government didn't pursue land reform, i.e. breaking up the plantations and giving the land that was farmed by the slaves to the slaves themselves. If you want to take an economic view of things, having the plantation system totally broken up would have meant quite a lot of disruption in the flow of cotton to the North. What happened to the freed slaves is never talked about. They stayed by the plantations and became tenant farmers, transferred from actual slavery to virtual slavery. Segregation as well takes on a different face when the importance of the South for providing a steady flow of resources is taken into account. Full equality may have meant a social revolution in the South, with state governments controlled by blacks who might not have liked the policies of the North regarding themselves. State power would have translated into power in Congress, with black Representatives and Senators, who would most likely have been former slaves. This would be a scenario that despite the rhetoric of emancipation following the Civil War would most likely have been feared and sought to be avoided at all costs by the white capitalist establishment.

Interestingly enough, it's interesting as well that when segregation was finally successfully challenged, when the government finally started to recognize equality in the entire country, the economy of the South had moved from one that was intensely based on human capital to one that was more mechanized. Cotton production was revolutionized by new technology in the era a little before the Second World War and after. This was the reason why large numbers of black people headed north to find jobs. They were no longer needed for cotton production. The Civil Rights movement, like the Abolitionists before them, were absolutely and totally the real thing. It was the government that acted, or possibly acted, for more opportunistic reasons.

That's it for now.

Bob Dylan--Nietzschean tragic genius

Nietzsche once wrote that most great men weren't purely great but were instead beautiful failures injured by society who produced great things nonetheless. In my mind Bob Dylan falls into that category. Even though he's one of the greats, there's a tragic but somewhat under the radar theme in his music that suggests that whatever constitutes truly escaping from one's own problems was something that he never quite achieved. One of the easiest ways to see this is to look at his songs relating to women.

The political songs, the songs about society, the philosophical songs, are all wonderful and varied, but it seems like every song about women was in his '60s to mid '70s stage tainted with a real undercurrent of resentment. Not outright misogyny, or even overt blues like sentiments of women just having done him wrong, but just under the radar resentment, for example "Like A Rolling Stone", "Just Like a Woman", "Queen Jane Approximately". Few songs about straight out love, most of them about flaws in women. I take this to mean a flaw of some sort in Dylan himself, something relating to the way his relationships with women went that he never quite got over and instead translated out into his song lyrics. It should be noted, though that the albums just before his withdrawal from public life in the mid-'70s were much more even on this score.

His withdrawal and subsequent conversion to Christianity, first fundamentalist Christianity then more moderate forms, was likely a last gasp before he hit a dead end. The albums of the early '80s in particular were really not good, and Dylan was rumored to be an alcoholic wandering aimlessly through Manhattan. One of the pictures of him from this time shows him in a hoodie with the hood so tightly drawn that you can't see his face at all, something more associated with mentally disturbed homeless people. Whatever problem he felt he had with his career and its direction, it seems that after putting his faith in Christianity to save it he found that that wasn't the kind of solution that would change everything that he thought it would be, and feeling that he exhausted his options he gradually sunk down into a deep alienation from life.

This alienation in a more developed and less shocking form would manifest in the creative outputs foreshadowing his current success, particularly '89's "Oh, Mercy", "Good as I been to you" from '92 and '93's "World Gone Wrong", all of them incorporating either sounds and/or themes that would crop up in the more familiar "Time Out of Mind" and " "Love and Theft" ", not to mention his more recent releases. A blend of traditional pre-modern southern folk and blues music, lyrics about the pointlessness of the world and of personal tragedy, and strangely modern jazz influences and recording techniques, they provide a sort of development of the weltschmerz that Dylan had become afflicted with in the 1980s. Women figure into these later recordings as well.

However, the perspective on relationships has deepened in them from the underlying current of resentment in his earlier works to a developed philosophy based on a mild conservatism relating to traditional gender roles. This was foreshadowed by songs like "Sweetheart like you" from '83s "Infidels" album where Dylan presented the woman who didn't work and stayed at home as getting more respect and leading a better life than women who go into the workplace. Although this might be seen as reactionary, the song itself is more nuanced than that, even if it was mightily out of step when it was released. The current albums are less political statements now than albums where a milder support of the same sentiments is incorporated as one of the elements that make up the general worldview of the songs themselves. However, the fact that one of the biggest songwriters of our age has ended up in a depressing view of the world that turns its back on our current society is tragic in and of itself.

Dylan, it seems, has either transmuted the earlier flaws that informed his work into something more constructive, or his personal demons have still not let him escape the trap of himself and of whatever put him there.

Seattle Weekly has a great series of article on Nirvana's "Bleach", 20 years old now, this week

I happen to like it a lot. I remember when Bleach came out, I was nine and had a mohawk. Just kidding. But I do remember when I found Bleach. I was either 13 or 14 and had gone into a record store looking at the cassette tapes and was amazed that there was a Nirvana album before "Nevermind". I got it, took it home, and it became my favorite Nirvana album, although Nevermind is a classic and "Unplugged" is really good too. The way that I found out about Nirvana and alternative rock is interesting in and of itself.

As a kid of 13, living out in the country, going to a small school, new cultural trends were hard to come by. Early on in '93, though, I became temporarily indisposed and ended up living away from home for a short while. During this time I met a guy, hyper with ADD, who was into all of these bands that I had either never heard of or had vaguely heard songs that turned out to be by them once on the radio. When I met him I was completely into the neo-hippie business that was percolating in the early '90s. The Doors and the Grateful Dead were favorites, and I'm still a fan of them even though my musical tastes are much more abrasive and industrial these days. Blind Melon, on the other hand, can now go to hell, but that's neither here nor there. Anyways, we talked a lot and he would bombard me with songs and band names that I'd never heard of. I'd ask him if he could repeat some lyrics or a describe what it sounded like and a vague switch would click in my head and I'd say "Oh yeah, I know this one." There was a high bullshit content in all of this, with most of it being me nodding my head and agreeing in order to sound cool and like I was in the know about all of this stuff. When I got back home I started checking out these bands and my exposure to music other than the Dead had begun. Thankfully, although I continued with that sort of music for a while, the more annoying aspects of frankly bourgeois neo-hippie culture were discarded.

Monday, November 02, 2009

I wonder what it would take to put on a Bataille-ian spectacle

I'm reading through a book about Vienna Aktionist Hermann Nitsch's "Orgies Mystery Theater" productions, which involve getting slaughtered carcasses of hogs, hanging them from the ceiling, then having Nitsch and the audience members cut it open, drain it of blood, throw the blood on each other, take out the organs, and throw them around as well, with the possibility of drenching yourself in blood and going over to a large white sheet and making a blood impression a possibility. The book says, though, that Nitsch has always kept it open ended, without trying to impose any final meaning on it. On the other hand, George Bataille in his book "The Theory of Religion", maintains that sacrifice has a fundamental social function, a function of communion with the archetypal, mythic realm beyond normal experience. That might be another author, but you get the point. Bataille recognized the power of all of this even though some of his own formulations about erotic and violence centered liberation may have not at first taken this into account. But I wonder if a sort of Orgies Mystery Theater performance integrated with a kind of play theme, with an explicitly ritualistic setting representing some sort of sacred drama reenacting myth and using mythological archetypes as well as audience participation, maybe a Greek chorus a la Nietzsche there too, and some nudity on the part of the audience participants and sex integrated into the performance in order to primarily make the connection between sex and death, with erotic activity between the audience participants encouraged along with the blood throwing and disembowling, I wonder if such a thing could be a possibility and how it could be brought into being.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Why Obama's change might stick, and maybe why Roosevelt's didn't end up doing so

Despite being extremely critical of Obama before the election and before the inauguration I do think that despite his compromises, compromises that were foreshadowed in the details of his speeches, he is in fact sticking to his guns and trying to put forward change above and beyond the centrism of Clinton/Gore. That said, I think, I conjecture, that the support for Obama's general type of policies, the main curve of them, will have the possibility of being enduring for one good reason.

The welfare state in Europe was something rather different than that which existed here in that over there it was explicitly socialist while over here it was a kind fiddling new liberalism that was associated with the British Liberal Democrats in the pre-war years. The big, huge, enormous reason why socialism was cemented after the war in Europe is simple: the experience of Nazism, Fascism, and having both of those forces knocking on your door threatening to take you over in the case of Great Britain. It seems strange to think of it, but the welfare state in those countries was far from being typical established politics in the pre-war era; right wing domination pushed people over the edge to it. We, on the other hand, didn't experience any of it first hand. Instead, our welfare state system that came out of the Great Depression with both socialist and non-socialist features was allowed to be deradicalized by a McCarthyism that in its essence seems to have resembled movements that would have been viewed aghast by Europeans of that time. Bush and our fellow citizens have delivered us from the sort of ignorance that allowed this pullback to happen.

While the sheer destruction of human life that happened during World War II and in the years of Fascism didn't happen here, the concepts that legitimized it and eventually let it happen were suddenly adopted in embryonic form by lots and lots of people as well as our administration during the Bush years. This is significant in that I doubt that at any time in our nation's history since the cult that grew up around Andrew Jackson people in the U.S. demonstrated that they could be swayed by hyper nationalism and the worship of a leader, with torture, loss of civil liberties, wars for no reason other than that we want them, and racial and religious profiling thrown into the mix. It didn't lead to the horrors experienced in Europe--yet--but I think that it left an impression on the minds of many of just why progressive programs and attitudes are in fact good things.

It can happen here. We know that now. And the people who supported the ideas that the Bush administration and post-9/11 conservatives put forward are still with us. But enough people have learned that in Jim Hightower's words "There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow lines and dead armadillos" that it's unlikely that we'll respond to future events like 9/11 in a way that resembles sheep and zombies as much as we did the first time. The shock and horror that people felt realizing what their fellow citizens would support, combined with the absolute intransigence of the Bush administration in the face of all attempts to get them to moderate what they were doing have cut a swath of pain through American society that's going to persist for a long time to come. When the Sarah Palin's and Michele Bachmann's get ready to try to make a show of force we'll be ready them and won't just stand by while they try to rip the democratic institutions of this country to shreds. Hopefully our experience in the last eight years will make it so the authoritarianism that we got a preview of will not turn into a feature film.

Speaking of John Stewart and the outcry about him having activists on his show who gave a more pro-Palestinian viewpoint..,

You know I'd like to do documentary work in the Occupied Territories too, but my feeling is that even if I got footage of an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian child it would be discounted because I'm not Jewish. To me, murder is murder, but in the world we live in murder and torture aren't considered to be just that unless the person documenting it in Israel is Jewish, and even then they're accused of being 'self hating' or some such thing.

Israel, and Jewish responses to Israel, are the great stain on Jewish-American history in the United States. People of Jewish descent have been on the front lines of things like the civil rights movement and on that of progressive reform here in general, but uncharacteristically Israel brings people out of the closet who are absolute fanatics who don't listen to reason and who don't care about anyone else's viewpoint but their own.

Only in Seattle

Went to a Halloween party at a venue that shall remain nameless, and found that they had two bars open: one serving liquor, the other serving espresso drinks. This was after 10 o'clock at night, and people were making use of the coffee bar to get their caffeine on, which I think is awesome personally.