Friday, February 26, 2010

What the Tea Party anti-deficit rhetoric means in practice: unemployment benefits cut off starting in March (via Huffington Post)

This article, by Arthur Delaney, is about a Senator from Kentucky who blocked a bill extending unemployment benefits from coming to a vote, repeatedly. The reason?

"Bunning says he doesn't oppose extending benefits -- he just doesn't want the money that's required added to the deficit. He proposes paying for the 30-day extension with stimulus funds. The Senate's GOP leadership did not support him in his objections."

interesting considering that the article states "The unemployment rate in Kentucky is 10.7 percent."

He was supported in his obstruction: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) took the floor after Reid to stick up for Bunning. He noted that their is broad bipartisan support for extending benefits, but said Bunning was right to take a stand against adding $10 billion to the deficit. He also pointed out that the jobs bill that Reid scrapped two weeks ago, crafted by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), contained an extension of UI and COBRA.

"I admire the courage of the junior senator from Kentucky," he said. "Somebody has to stand up finally and say, 'No more inter-generational theft!'"

Tea Party rhetoric right there. No theft, and an argument about hypocrisy overshadowing the actual issues. Only this time the consequences of the rhetoric are going to be more than just some vague pressure felt by Republicans. It's going to mean people having their last lifeline cut in half.

The article is hopeful about unemployment being extended after the Senate resumes its work on Monday:

"Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the NELP, said that even when Bunning is eventually thwarted and the extension is passed, state governments will still have to deal with the extra administrative costs of shutting down and restarting the extended benefits programs."

I hope that that happens.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A review of "Overboard", the first novel in the Homo Sapiens trilogy by Stanisław Przybyszewski

Sometimes worthwhile reads are inaccessible. Certainly this is the case with Homo Sapiens. The books, or the book I should say because the three novels are collected into one volume, are very much out of print nowadays and only available in university libraries. They were printed in the U.S. in 1915 and then reprinted in the '70s in library hardcover. It was in The Evergreen State College's library that I found Homo Sapiens. Lately, though I've been able to finish the first book due to Third Place Books in the Lake Forest Park suburb of Seattle getting a print on demand book machine capable of producing anything that Google Books scanned into its system.

Overboard has a simple enough premise. The main character Falk's best friend from college is coming back to Berlin with his bride to be and wants to introduce her to him. So far so good. What follows is a psychological narrative that takes place over the course of three days, and then over a few days that take place about a week later. Falk, of course, falls in love with Ysa, his friend Mikita's fiance. And not just in love but in the sort of love that usually happens with first love. Endless debate happens in Falk's mind about whether or not he should pursue Ysa, followed by smaller bits of Ysa considering whether or not she should go with Falk and bigger bits of Mikita considering whether or not Falk is going after Ysa and whether Ysa loves him or not. What happens is that Falk decides to chuck his friendship overboard and go with Ysa, and Mikita kills himself.

That's the biggest, grossest, level. Down below is a story where psychological desires and drives are portrayed in ways that are rarely seen. Przybyszewski is great at rendering the irrational aspects of normal psychology realistically, with contact we have with an objective reality outside of our psychological filters coming and going in strength. And it's important to realize that even though Falk is desperately in love there's nothing really pathological about him, or about Ysa and Mikita. Mikita at one point is driven by an internal breakdown brought on by all of this to do some unpleasant things, but is in general normal. So the psychological ebb and flow takes place in relatively normal individuals, with the extreme states experienced by the characters being simply abstractions off of what Przybyszewski seems to be saying all of us experience regularly.

The only thing that puts a fly in the ointment, that changes the whole meaning in fact, are the last four pages. In them Falk has finally won Ysa and they're on their way to Paris in a train car and Falk meditates on the preceding events, including Mikita's suicide. Falk comes out as not caring about his friend's death, thinking that he himself won the struggle for existence and Mikita lost it, that Ysa is now his possession by right of his having the superior will, that he has power over her and that's all that's important. All of this comes as somewhat of a shock because Falk has been portrayed as an extremely sentimental romantic up to this point. What it does is cast everything that Falk has done previously in another light. Now all of the deliberation with himself about whether he's in love or not, or whether it's right for him to take her from Mikita comes from the mind of someone for whom naked power and possession are also strands of their personality.

All in all a good book, one that you should buy if you live in a place with an Espresso Book Machine, that you should read in person if you live near a college library, and that you should read by PDF via Google Books if neither one of the other two are open to you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

So when the next nut destroys a federal building, remember, it's not terrorism

Because people acting alone without a Muslim sounding conspiracy behind them are not terrorists. They're just criminals. And probably misunderstood.

Suffering in the Auto Industry

This is a good story about four people who lost their GM jobs in a town in Wisconsin and who have all moved long distances to new GM jobs. Two of them commutes to Kansas, another one commutes to Indiana. The last now lives in Texas and doesn't get home much.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A poll dealing with who the Tea Baggers are, from CNN

Here. As the article puts it, they're more likely to be male, rural and better off. "According to the survey, roughly 11 percent of all Americans say they have actively supported the Tea Party movement, either by donating money, attending a rally, or taking some other active step to support the movement. Of this core group of Tea Party activists, 6 of 10 are male and half live in rural areas.

Nearly three-quarters of Tea Party activists attended college, compared to 54 percent of all Americans, and more than 3 in 4 call themselves conservatives.

...

According to the survey, most Tea Party activists describe themselves as Independents.

"But that's slightly misleading, because 87 percent say they would vote for the GOP candidate in their congressional district if there were no third-party candidate endorsed by the Tea Party," Holland said."

According to the PDF of the data itself, the Tea Partiers are both whiter and less black than the other respondents: Tea Partiers: White 80%, African-American 2%, Latino 10%, other people surveyed:White 71%, African-American 11%, Latino 11%. The Latino thing is a little bit inexplicable considering the Tea Partiers anti-immigration stands, but whatever floats their boat I suppose.

The income data is in the PDF, and it amazingly shows that only 8% of respondents who said they were active Tea Partiers made under $30,000, as opposed to 28% of the rest of the poll. $30,000-$50,000 was more in line with the rest of the respondents, 18% vs. 19%, but the $50,000-$75,000 bracket was way out of sync, with the Tea Partiers registering 32% vs 17% for the rest of the respondents. And in the top income bracket, $75,000 dollars or more, 34% of Tea Partiers put themselves in the category as opposed to 25% of other respondents.

I don't know what to make of this. Other info I've seen, such as the recent extensive New York Times article on the Tea Partiers, leads me to think that these folks aren't the richest people in the world.

Arianna Huffington has a good "Sunday Roundup" blog

Here "The White House served up a blast from the past this week with word that it was planning to rebrand the Iraq war -- something the Bushies did quite often. Come Sept. 1, it will be good-bye "Operation Iraqi Freedom," hello "Operation New Dawn"! This New Dawn will, incidentally, still see 50,000 U.S. troops left in Iraq. So we started with 2001's "Gathering Threat" and 2002's "Axis of Evil," moved to 2003's "Shock and Awe" and "Mission Accomplished," then pinballed from "Fight 'em There, Not Here" ('04) to "Last Throes" ('05) to "Stay the Course" ('05) to "The New Way Forward" ('06). "Operation New Dawn" sounds like "A New Way of Forgetting This Ever Happened." It's time to brand the war what it always was -- "A Huge, Tragic Mistake" -- and get the hell out."

Ten animals with the longest lifespans via Mother Nature Network

Here. The one with the potentially longest lifespan of all is a jellyfish, where: "Turritopsis nutricula jellyfish

This species of jellyfish might be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth. Since it is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may be no natural limit to its life span. Because they are able to bypass death, the number of individuals is spiking. "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion," says Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Constitution and change

It's interesting to note that the ultra-conservative interpretations of the Constitution, the ones that allow for no change whatsoever to have taken place in the intervening two hundred and twenty years, are most likely out of touch even with the thought of the conservatives within the framers themselves. My understanding is that most of the conservatives were in line with the sort of moderate Whigism that would later come out in Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France". This line of thought tended to strike a middle ground between complete deference to authority, complete support of monarchy, complete stasis, and progressive change in institutions. The Tories are who Burke was opposing on this, as well as folks who he considered to be dangerous radicals. The people who made the American Revolution were not likely to be swayed by Tory arguments, considering that those were the people who they'd fought the war against and who made up the Loyalists. But it's Tory like sentiments that those who favor strict constructionism put forward. If these people had been alive during the American Revolution they'd never have supported it because they would have felt that it violated the traditional English constitution. They are the party of No par excellance. Yet they get to define where present day America goes on so many issues, due to the fact that our legal system serves as a substitute for legislation many times.

Our political society is completely dominated by obstructionists, obstructionists who often wrap themselves in the Constitution in order to seem more legitimate. But their Constitution is a construct that they've created that doesn't seem to have much in common with the reality on the ground. Yes, every time you want a cheap patriotic bump in the legitimacy of your writing invoke the Constitution, you're sure to get a few tears from the faithful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

When it comes to a white man, the term 'terrorism' is used with care

Interestingly enough. The title comes from the NY Times' Media Blog story In Plane Crash Coverage, Networks Use the Word ‘Terrorism’ With Care. How is it that this isn't terrorism? Because Al-Qaida didn't do it? Because he's not an Arab? What sort of phenomenological deduction has to be going on in peoples' minds in order to not label the act of someone crashing a plane into a building in order to get back at the government agency the building houses terrorism? Well, uh, uh, it just isn't. It's different. Somehow. My instinct is to label any media personalities who continue to not label this terrorism hypocrites outright.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And now a Tea Party activist wants to hang Washington Senator Patty Murray

From MSNBC via RawStory:

"They say it's all about traditional values and pushing back against the government.

And there were some strong words spoken at Saturday's Tea Party in Asotin.

"How many of you have watched the movie Lonesome Dove?," asked one speaker from the podium. "What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd? What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd. He got hung. And that's what I want to do with Patty Murray.""

Olbermann

Keith Olbermann is all right in that he provides a good liberal/progressive counterweight to folks like Glenn Beck and to Fox News in general, but a non middle of the road middle path is needed as well. What I mean by that is that while bias may be something that's part of all writing whether it's acknowledged or not, it's important to strike some sort of balance between real reporting or at least disinterested commentary and pure, total, advocacy. Olbermann goes far in the direction of unbridled advocacy, which while entertaining is somewhat useless from the point of view of news.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

...and Beck advocates just "Shoot them in the head"

If you want an example of why I think the Tea Party movement is dangerous, here it is from the head of the 9/12 movement. Video of the outburst in the linked page.

From Raw Story:

"The Taliban may be disputing that their number-two, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was captured by US and Pakistani intelligence earlier this month, but that hasn't stopped Glenn Beck from passing judgment on how the US should handle the situation.

"Shoot him in the head," the radio and TV personality declared on Fox & Friends Tuesday.

"We've just captured the second most wanted guy in Al Qaeda," Beck said, evidently referring to the Taliban leader. "The first thing out of my mind -- shoot him in the head. Shoot him in the head before it goes into a court and we're doing all this nonsense back and forth. He's a bad guy. Shoot him in the head."

"You would shoot him before they even try to get information?" co-host Gretchen Carlson asked.

"If I were in charge, we'd be interrogating him," Beck replied. "And we'd interrogate him, and interrogate him, and interrogate him and then we'd shoot him in the head. ... Shoot him in the head before we all of a sudden release him into, what? Primary schools in New York City? What are we going to do with this guy?""

Monday, February 15, 2010

Przybyszewski, interesting fellow

Stanisław Przybyszewski to be exact. Writer, lived from 1868 to 1927. Great writer, but also severe alcoholic and compulsive liar. According to Wiki introduced his daughter to morphine while she was a college student, and she became hooked for the rest of her life. I wish more of his stuff was translated into English, despite his personal life, which also included a lot of interesting bohemian living and wasn't just self destructive.

An excerpt from "Homo Sapiens" by Stanisław Przybyszewski

Which is a great book and a book that's available through Google books, although it hasn't been in print since the '60s and is totally unavailable.

Talking about love:

"You see," Falk smiled, "I have good cause to be silent and meditate deeply upon myself." She was listening intently. "You see, the situation is unusual, it is strange. You mustn't misunderstand me. I'm talking to you about it simply as of a riddle, a mystery, a miracle, like resurrection from the dead."
Falk coughed. There was a slight tremor in his voice.
"I remember when still at high school being struck by an idea of Plato's. He holds that our earthly life is but a reflection of another life lived by us in some past time as an idea. All we see is merely a recollection, a reminiscence of what we have seen before entering this existence. The idea then appealed to me simply for its poetical beauty. Now I am constantly reminded of it because I see it realised in myself. I'm telling you this quite objectively, as when I spoke of the insensibility of fakirs last night. You mustn't take it in a bad way. I know I'm nothing to you but a stranger."
"You are not a stranger to me."
"No, really not? Ah, that makes me happy, I can't tell you how happy. Of all the people in the world you are the only one to whom I should not like to be a stranger, the only person in the world. You see, no one knows me. That's why none of them understands me, why they all hate me and are distrustful and suspicious. But to you I should like to open my whole soul."
He wavered. Had he not gone too far?She made no reply, which meant that he was permitted to continue.
"Yes, what was it I was going to say? -- Yesterday -- strange it should have happened only yesterday -- when I saw you yesterday, I knew I had known you long before. I must have seen you somewhere. Of course, I had never seen you before, but still I've known you for aeons. That's why I'm saying all this to you. I've got to say it to you. -- Yes, and the. --As a rule I'm able to hold myself in check but yesterday in the cab I could not resist. I had to kiss your hand, and I am profoundly thankful that you didn't withdraw it."

Of course nowadays we'd possibly raise an eyebrow at that--maybe it was legit maybe it was imposing--but of course this was written around the turn of the last century.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"How Christian Were the Founders?" in the New York Times, makes me think of how insane our dialogue on the Constitution has become

Here. Why? Because the story is all about the Texas board of education, who get to amend curriculum and textbook guidelines, and how a large block of hardcore Christians on it want to impose a Christian reading of the Constitution, a Christian reading of American history, and a Christian interpretation of the founding fathers.

I think all of their arguments are bullshit, quite frankly. The founding fathers wanted America to be a beacon of Christianity. The founding fathers only intended the first amendment to prohibit the establishment of a single State church. The U.S. itself was colonized through the motivation of Christianity.

Personally, my feeling is that people should think about principles in terms of what they feel is right and wrong, in the present, instead of fighting over past documents. If you believe something and you have a good argument behind your position it should be true regardless of what someone established two hundred and twenty years ago. But arguments are just what the Christian right wants to avoid. On some level they must know that they'd fare bad in an open debate about principles themselves, so they hide behind convoluted and often hysterical arguments about the Constitution.

It's not just individual voices on the right who put their heads in the sand rather than engage in honest debate. Fox News as an entity is designed to give conservatives with viewpoints that have nothing behind them a bully pulpit to spew out whatever comes to mind to viewers across our great nation.

The Christian right is an echo chamber, but the thing is that chambers like that amplify the sound, so that something loud and affirming turns into a whisper once the walls are taken away.

Ah, the British tell it like it is: "All-time box office - for teens only"

Here. Joe Queenan in The Guardian points out that action films are really adolescent and not serious adult movies. I agree with this, and think that writing a smarmy column based on the fact that all of the top 20 grossing films of all time are action films is inspired; even if it's something not likely to be said in America any time soon.

"Of course, since Hollywood's top 20 list is not adjusted for inflation, the most recent films will always dominate. (The list is a convenient way of making it seem that contemporary films are far more popular than the blockbusters of the past.) So instead of Gone with the Wind, we now have Avatar, Titanic, two Pirates of the ­Caribbean, five Harry Potters, all three Lord of the Rings, two recent Star Wars sequel-prequels, and the free-standing Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Finding Nemo, The Dark Knight, Jurassic Park, Shrek II and Spider-Man 3. In place of some of the slightly more adult-oriented classics of the past, the list is now filled to overflowing with films for teenagers, small children, and people who don't want to grow up (The Lord of the Rings, Avatar). Hollywood doesn't mind if grown-ups come in and see the films they make. But they'd much prefer it if they arrived with a bunch of kids. Theirs, or somebody else's. Strays even, orphans: the industry is not fussy.

The list is both predictable and strange. Spider-Man, which spawned Spider-Man 3, is not on the list, even though it is a much better film. Shrek II, a very entertaining film, is here, but Shrek, an equally entertaining film, is not. On a positive note, there are no films that are explicitly sexist or racist or stupid or evil. This suggests that mankind is moving in a positive ­direction, at least in this sphere of ­intellectual endeavour. Still, at least half of the films look like motion ­pictures that will not be on the list a few years down the road. I, for one, doubt that Spider-Man 3 has legs. I can easily see it being deposed by Harry Potter XXVI; The Curse of the ­Tungsten Goblet."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Finally, an honest account of the Tea Partiers--by a Canadian conservative who hasn't drunk the kool aid.

Here. Of course this means that the article agrees with my own bias, but you know I found it hard to believe that Tea Party rallies could feature all of this stuff and yet the convention would be a conspiracy free zone.

"Black Helicopters Over Nashville" by Jonathan Kay

"[talking about a man in a three cornered hat] It's a charming act, which makes the tea-party movement seem no more unnerving than the people who spend their weekends reenacting the Civil War. But the 18th-century getups mask something disturbing. After I spent the weekend at the Tea Party National Convention in Nashville, Tenn., it has become clear to me that the movement is dominated by people whose vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached from reality. It's more John Birch than John Adams.

Like all populists, tea partiers are suspicious of power and influence, and anyone who wields them. Their villain list includes the big banks; bailed-out corporations; James Cameron, whose Avatar is seen as a veiled denunciation of the U.S. military; Republican Party institutional figures they feel ignored by, such as chairman Michael Steele; colleges and universities (the more prestigious, the more evil); TheWashington Post; Anderson Cooper; and even FOX News pundits, such as Bill O'Reilly, who have heaped scorn on the tea-party movement's more militant oddballs.

One of the most bizarre moments of the recent tea-party convention came when blogger Andrew Breitbart delivered a particularly vicious fulmination against the mainstream media, prompting everyone to get up, turn toward the media section at the back of the conference room, and scream, "USA! USA! USA!" But the tea partiers' well-documented obsession with President Obama has hardly been diffused by their knack for finding new enemies."

"Caring for Pets Left Behind by the Rapture"

HereA service where they'll be taken care of by atheists, where the guy who founded it says that it started out as a way of making money off of religious folks. But they're very serious about it and they do give some of the income away to charity.

"Many people in the U.S.—perhaps 20 million to 40 million—believe there will be a Second Coming in their lifetimes, followed by the Rapture . In this event, they say, the righteous will be spirited away to a better place while the godless remain on Earth. But what will become of all the pets?

...

Promoted on the Web as "the next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World," the service has attracted more than 100 clients, who pay $110 for a 10-year contract ($15 for each additional pet.) If the Rapture happens in that time, the pets left behind will have homes—with atheists. Centre has set up a national network of godless humans to carry out the mission. "If you love your pets, I can't understand how you could not consider this," he says.

Centre came up with the idea while working on his book, The Atheist Camel Chronicles, written under the pseudonym Dromedary Hump. In it, he says many unkind things about the devout and confesses that "I'm trying to figure out how to cash in on this hysteria to supplement my income.""

Yes, we might believe in all sorts of Jungian weirdness here but the Rapture? Please, come on.

Meaning in a dessicated media environment

I'm going to preface this by saying that I haven't had much interaction with mainstream media in years, actually more than just a few years, years and years almost, and so what I'm about to say may be out of date--or maybe nothing has changed whatsoever. Here's a quote from Jung from John P. Conger's book "Jung & Reich, The Body as Shadow":

"Whether he understands them or not, man must remain conscious of the world of the archetypes, because in it he is still a part of nature and is connected with his own roots. A view of the world or a social order that cuts him off from the primordial images of life not only is no culture at all but, in increasing degree, is a prison or a stable. If the primordial images remain conscious in some form or other, the energy that belongs to them can flow freely into man."(pg.124)

Many people have talked about the archetypes in various capacities and contexts, but for me, for my purpose, I see the archetypes as primordial bearers of meaning, the recurrence of which helps people make basic sense out of the world around them. We're talking about archetypal meaning in books, archetypal meaning in t.v. shows and movies, as well as serious content in news programs that goes beyond just the superficial. To my knowledge, the media of today fails on all of these fields except that of books, which, like music, are sort of their own thing. Instead of content that cuts to the heart of life there's lightweight generic content that doesn't really go much, doesn't really do anything except set a new record for how far not having anything to say can be pushed before it breaks. The vital circulation of meaning in society is dried up, creating the sort of prison that Jung talks about, necessitating almost a new movement that would restore meaning through challenging the media stasis.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Heaven and Hell as us.

If I myself am both heaven and hell, in that through my mind my life can be either heavenly or horrible, then what exactly is the outside world beyond my mind? I think that there can be better and worse situations, and really worse situations, but at what point does the mental framework end and the objective reality begin? This sounds too new agey, like we create everything no matter how horrible our situation is but that's not what I'm getting at.

Instead, I know I've been in situations where my mental state has so clouded everything else that it made it seem worse than it actually was, much worse, and not just for a short period of time but days at time. When the mental state broke and things became less cloudy the situation presented itself as being nowhere near as terrible as I thought, to an extreme degree. When big differences like that pop up it makes you think about just how much of what we perceive of the world around us is just a mental construct, just something that we're imposing on the facts of the situation.

Organic concept of nature vs. hostile concept of nature

As outlined in Romantic philosophy. This post is largely inspired by Beiser's book "The Romantic Imperative". The organic concept of nature says that everything is connected in a sort of overall unity, that nature has a main purpose that's realized through many sub-purposes embodied in internal divisions in her. Human beings form an essential part of the natural world, an essential purpose, in face the true purpose of nature is realized through human beings, particularly through the reflective mind of humanity. In response to the question of what exactly is this highest purpose it seems that in their thought the purpose was transmitted through philosophical and artistic reflection on nature, that the contemplation of nature and the production of artifacts, either through the production of philosophy or art, raised the natural world to a higher state. This higher state might be thought of reintegrating nature with itself as manifested through the nature of which human beings are an emanation of. It could also be thought that human use of the natural world ennobles it through the releasing of its inherent possibilities, possibilities that wouldn't be transformed into actualities without human intervention.

Although parts of this philosophy might be seen as naive, for instance the idea that the use of nature by human beings can be contained within natural harmony, there's an interesting ethic here that contrasts with what I could call the hostile theory of nature or the paranoid theory of nature. While some folks view nature as unremittingly harsh, a theater for the struggle for survival, the Romantics, as framed in Beiser, see humanity as enmeshed in the natural world with a purpose that doesn't contradict that of nature as a whole. Humanity's conduct at its best is an emanation of the same natural order that all animals and plants participate in as well as sub purposes of the whole. Humans in the hostile concept of nature are thought to be almost exiles from some other star living on the earth, completely unique, completely opposed on all levels by alien nature that has no place for them. Humans in it are thought to be able to use nature in whatever way they want because of the lack of kinship with it, because of the otherness of nature to humanity. Take away that sharp division and a path for more sensitive intervention opens.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another interesting thing that's likely a misunderstanding: the "I" creates itself through self knowledge

I got this from reading the description of Fichte's philosopher in Frederick Beiser's "The Romantic Imperative". It's not outlined there as such, but through some creative application of the ideas I produced it. Nonetheless, it's probably somewhat wrong with regards to Fichte's ideas themselves, albeit not in ways that I'm currently aware of. Or maybe so. In any case the mess up is likely to be as interesting as the full thing, at least on a limited basis. So without further ado here we go.

If the 'I' has to know itself in order to really create itself, what could this mean? Possibly that the 'I' isn't really a full 'I' unless the cycle of production where the potential 'I' is produced by the body completes itself by reflecting on its own psychological processes. The 'I' as 'I' isn't a fully aware transcendental consciousness unless it's self reflecting, reflecting on both itself and on the rest of the mind in general. This could be the case in that nature does not necessarily provide us with all of the connections in our head that we need. Certain of them may have to be developed. Or, maybe more likely, the connections are made as people develop and grow, so that self reflection and self knowledge come at a certain time and age. How could this work? Taking self knowledge away from the mechanics of the mind and applying it in a more conventional manner, the 'I' that has knowledge of itself also has self criticism, even if the knowledge in and of itself at a particular time is not overtly critical. Self knowledge as self criticism allows the 'I' to go from an undeveloped state of innocents to a deeper and more nuanced state of being. In that self knowledge marks and directs the 'I' through implicit criticism it also contributes to the creation of the 'I' as a true entity. The only controversial point, or at least the only point that wouldn't be obvious in regards to what others have said about the evolution of the 'I' would be does the self as a whole change from self knowledge?

I define self as existing apart from the 'I', the 'I' as I'm using it in this particular context being the core spark of identity and the self being the greater construct of habits, attitudes, inclinations, that the 'I' exists within. I can see my essential 'I' as changing, but what about the constellation of other tendencies that make up who I am? What type of food I've liked has changed a little bit, but not much. I still like spicy food, have liked Thai food since high school, Indian food as well. We're talking something like almost fourteen years now for these particular types of eats. Can self knowledge really change what I like to eat? I'd allow that some variation might happen, that I may go from liking one dish to liking another one, but how much would self knowledge really have to do with it? Maybe being more self conscious about what it is I'm ordering and trying out new things based on what I know that I like would be one way that self knowledge could cause an aspect of the self to develop and change. I suppose that taste as a whole and the development of taste could be put down to questions of self knowledge, meaning that self knowledge could have lots of impact on the self. Anyhow, the whole question is interesting, especially the unasked questions of when the self becomes the 'I' and is the 'I' really as autonomous as it seems...and if not what's up with it? Also, the connection between the self and the body, a la Wilhelm Reich, where feeling becomes embodied. *

*This would be something gone over in "Jung & Reich: the Body as Shadow" by John P. Conger, which I still have to get through. I know some of the general thought about how this works but not nearly enough, so I don't want to give the impression that I'm an expert in this area through that statement.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Populist outrage against Obama

I think it's clear that there is a growing wave of resentment against the Obama administration, but it looks to me like it's ill founded. It's not founded on the basis of stuff that he's actually done that's wrong but on the fact that in one year he hasn't completely reversed the economic decline and reduced unemployment to zero. The problem with this is that it's such a big job that it wouldn't likely produce huge results like this overnight, and that the results which are showing up, even though they're helping people, are largely invisible on the grand scale. So it may appear to people like the stimulus bill hasn't been doing anything while in reality it has. The proposal to stop spending all together will be worse than what people perceive the actions of Obama as achieving. But then I took two classes in economics and a bunch of classes in political economy so what do I know.

Unfortunate proposals put the lie to the notion that all French politicians, and all French people, are liberal

Or effete liberals or cheese eating wimps, whatever rancid stereotype the right wants to use at any particular moment. The article is France Unveils National Identity Plans from the BBC.

"Newcomers to France will be made to sign a declaration of values as part of a new campaign to define national identity, France's Prime Minister says.

...

Other measures include the flying of the French flag and the singing of the national anthem - La Marseilleise - at schools, to promote patriotism.

...

"The emphasis will be put on the respect for the values of the republic… notably the principle of equality between men and women… and the level of knowledge of the French language," said Mr Fillon.

...

Under the scheme, newly arrived immigrants will have to undertake classes in French and gender equality, ...

...

Other proposals include keeping a copy of France's 1789 declaration of rights in every classroom and introducing a young citizens' book in which students can record progress in their instruction in civic duties.

...

Many of the proposals were put forward by French Immigration Minister Eric Besson.

Monday's announcement came a week after Mr Besson refused to grant citizenship to a foreign national on the grounds that he forced his wife to wear the full Islamic veil.

Late last month a French parliamentary committee recommended a ban on women wearing Islamic face veils in hospitals, schools, government offices and on public transport.

It also recommended that anyone showing visible signs of "radical religious practice" should be refused residence cards and citizenship"

Although the article says that Sarkozy is distancing himself from the findings, he's still the President, has power over the Prime Minister and the immigration minister, and is on the right himself, famously so.

The point is that these are the same sorts of policies that right wingers in the United States want to impose on immigrants here although the particular religious bias isn't present. The odd imposition of civic values that are liberal on folks in a right wing manner is another point in common, with the Rights of Man being one of the foundational documents for 19th and 20th century European liberalism. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, with guarantees of freedom, are fully appropriated by folks who are pretty anti-freedom on a regular basis in this country, most recently by Sarah Palin in her Tea Party speech when she used the sacredness of the Constitution to argue that it shouldn't apply to terrorists. It's a strange tradition, both here and in Europe, but the difference is that in Europe there are actual Fascist traditions that oppose the Right of Man outright, and the Sarkozy regime isn't going that far. In the U.S. a conservative movement openly contemptuous of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution never developed so all the nuts are basically forced to appeal to it even if they don't really believe in what it actually stands for. Makes you wonder who the real 'enemy' is.

Politics are always contests between various ideologies, a kind of push and pull over various strands of beliefs manifested through parties and figures who correspond imperfectly to the will of citizens as manifested through them. It's no different in France than in the United States.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Palin uses notes on hand during Tea Party speech?

Who knew that she could write? I for one am impressed at her mental dexterity.

Sometimes it's interesting to have consistently used a word wrong

Case in point: picaresque. Picaresque means rakish or rascally, and is used to describe a genre of adventure fiction, according to many online dictionaries. In the past, though, I've taken the word picaresque and used it to mean something different, something, though, that there isn't really a satisfactory word for in English. And so the misuse, in its wrongness, is interesting in and of itself. In the way I was using it, picaresque referred to specifically to situations that were macabre, ironic, humorous, and edgy, all at the same time. Maybe with some tragedy mixed in there. Sort of like black humor but not quite so black, more with an edge of the horrific in them but not so much that it overpowers everything. Grotesque comes close to the meaning I was giving it but doesn't really capture it in that it too is to heavy handed. A picaresque situation in the way I was using it would be something like a political or social situation where despite people trying to do good, something bad coming out of it that's truly bad, and where the people involved are only superficially good but are corrupt in and of themselves--even if they don't realize it. And where a dark laugh could be had at the situation in question. Maybe it would be better to say that the political humor of Hunter S. Thompson and the general humor of William S. Burroughs are examples of what I meant when I used the term picaresque.

In any case, provided that a person knows that they've been doing whatever it is wrong, sometimes the failures or errors that folks produce can be just as interesting as the successes, because the underlying intent and meanings are still there, albeit imperfectly realized.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A sunday afternoon: reading the New York Times, BBC, and Washington Post online

As well as stuff like the Huffington Post. Relaxing. I guess this makes me one of the big effete lefties with a large resume in my back pocket, a la what the Tea Party believes its enemies are.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Nice. From a report on the Tea Party people by the Washington Post

In the article a guy is interviewed at their convention who says that many amendments would have to be scrapped to take the Constitution back to the intent of the Founders. Not included in the ones he'd save are the first amendment and the fourth amendment, guaranteeing the right to free speech, assembly, and religious belief as well as against unreasonable search and seizure. Also not mentioned was the fifth amendment, against self incrimination. But don't worry, the second amendment is fine.

Interestingly enough, the article doesn't spend almost any time talking about the tea party people's actual beliefs. The majority of it is so generic that it could be about either side of the political arena, with the only factor really mentioned being a generic lack of trust in government. Issues that the tea party people believe in are brought up and then dismissed, with weak counter examples. The playing one side off the other makes a person wonder just what they actually believe in. But I'm guessing that that's actually a lot easier to find out than would be apparent from this article. If the authors had just reported some of what people said regarding the core issues that were discussed, much of the ambiguity of the article would be cleared up. But then the nature of the tea partiers would come into clearer focus and it would not seem so benevolent.

A ray of light:"Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans"

Article by Craig Brown ("It's Something to Build On: Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans"):

"A new Gallup poll is out:

PRINCETON, NJ -- More than one-third of Americans (36%) have a positive image of "socialism," while 58% have a negative image. Views differ by party and ideology, with a majority of Democrats and liberals saying they have a positive view of socialism, compared to a minority of Republicans and conservatives."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Man, did I ever mess that one up: the Schlegel post from a few days ago

Talking about More ideas from Friedrich Schlegel, that talks about the section devoted to him in "The Romantic Imperative" by Friedrich Beiser.
In it, I said that asked in a note he wrote why not have the non-ego posit itself as absolute? This is in reference to the philosopher Fichte, who started out with the idea that the ego posits itself as absolute. I made a distinction between parts of the mind that we'd recognize as the ego or self and parts of the mind that we'd recognize as the non-ego, saying that the mental processes that aren't directly concerned with the self are what Schlegel was putting forward as being absolute in his one off note. It appears that by non-ego he meant things outside of the mind and outside of personal subjectivity. Next, there's a problem with what is meant by positing. Fichte seems to mean by positing that what's posited could be seen as absolute reality. This is different from what I was talking about in that my concept was more along the lines of what's most fundamental in reality, or what's the essential basis for reality. Fichte additionally bases all of this in Kantian philosophy such that taking something as the Absolute has a different meaning than it might otherwise have. What Fichte seems to mean, and I'm leaning on Beiser here, is that interior mental activity, both the kind I labeled ego based and the kind I labeled non-egoic, is how our knowledge of the exterior world is transmitted to us. All of our senses plus our self awareness constitute the 'I'. Therefore, since our knowledge of the exterior world is filtered through our senses, and since we ourselves, in our interior self awareness are the only example of an object sensing itself from the inside out, our awareness of our self and our 'I' is primary. That last takes some explanation. Kant points out that if our senses transmit (to an unknown degree of veracity) information about the exterior world to us it's impossible to really and truly know the nature of something outside of our senses. But there's one thing whose nature we can know, and that's ourselves. So if we take what we can look at our interior realities it may be possible to generalize from that to how exterior realities operate. If our experience of our selves is primary, then no matter what we experience, our personal knowledge of how our interior universe reacts to it will always be the ultimate standard for assessing the total meaning of it.

A picture designed to make right wing conspiracists tremble in the boots

From the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle:

 

It's kind of hard to see but the thing in the upper right corner is a large Masonic symbol. 
Here's a picture of the symbol itself:



It's easier to see the whole thing from the street, but harder to get a photo. I'll try for a better one. But there you go: the unity of Bolshevism with Masonry, and right in the heart of liberal Seattle. While Bolshevism I have a complicated relationship with, one that involves lots of criticism, Masonry is something that I more unambiguously like, even though most Masons are really conservative. So I'm guilty of being in on the conspiracy too, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

More ideas from Friedrich Schlegel via "The Romantic Imperative" by Frederick Beiser

Schlegel has a unique idea, that philosophers and poets were united in that both of them depended on creation and destruction in alternating phases. According to Beiser, the task of creation was coming up with ideas or poems that approached the absolute, that approached the truth of life and the universe, and the task of destruction was the self criticism that's inherent in evaluating how close the attempts come to reality. The destruction follows the realization and the application of the realization that we're limited beings who cannot reach the absolute even though we try; so we take apart what we've done and try to do better, to reach even closer despite our limitations. The spiral of creation and then destruction, the creating again based on the criticism, then destroying again, appears to be the vital pulse of life itself, at least life that's striving to go forward and to go beyond where it already is. Implicit in it is the idea that some sort of plateau exists, some state that while not the goal is at least a substantial breakthrough to a world of more truth than the one in which you started, something where there's a payoff for all the striving. At least that's my take on it, but I'm possibly reading both Hegel and my own interests into it. Hegel would point to temporary plateaus that form bases for further striving, so that even though (departing from him a little bit here) the Absolute might not be fully realizable there would at least be a procession of steps that would increasingly be closer to the goal. Hegel did believe that you could realize the Absolute, though. In any case there's a difference between striving and having that striving have a pattern that can be conceptualized as a series of graded breakthroughs. On the other hand you can say that it's a little facile to divide up a process in these terms because it's not like breakthroughs completely change the whole thing. The impulse and striving is still built up and refined, and one set of insights doesn't eliminate the accumulated wisdom and skill that came before. One could see insights as melding with the process of striving and not replacing the slow process of knowledge but complementing it. Of course it's always questionable just how much room for insights there can be in a particular subject, but Hegel trades on the idea that you can't know in advance what might be out there.

The cycle of creation and destruction endures, or can be thought to endure, no matter what context you put it in. If we only would choose to pursue the infinite the world would be a much better place.

Stéphane Mallarmé

I recently read two poems by Mallarmé, "Salut" and "The Saint", and whew talk about intense. Mallarmé expresses in three or four stanzas what other poets express in a solid page. I'd love to comment on the texts themselves but I can't find any public domain English translations of them, and I'm unwilling to copy the poems from the collection I have. But his imagery is extremely dense, and in verse, and predictably (because he's a symbolist) full of interesting symbols juxtaposed right next to each other.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

B Mashina by Laibach

Nice video accompanying the Yugoslav industrial/art collective's song B Mashina from their WAT album.

A reflection from Goethe

"My relationship with Schiller was based on the decisive bent of both of us towards one object; our shared activity rested on our differing ways of striving to achieve this object,
On a slight disagreement between us which we once discussed and of which I am reminded by a passage in his letter, I made the following reflections.
There is a great difference whether a poet is looking for the particular that goes with the general, or sees the general in the particular. The first gives rise to allegory where the particular only counts as an example, an illustration of the particular; but the latter in fact constitutes the nature of poetry, expressing something particular without any thought of the general, and without indicating it. Now whoever has this living grasp of the particular is at the same time in possession of the general, without realizing it, or else only realizing it later on."

From "Maxims and Relections", Penguin edition.

I think this is pretty good, and that it applies not just to poetry but to all writing, including non-fiction creative essay writing. Finding the general in the particular is the true way to get closer to the reality behind things, to generate ideas through extracting them from Nature, as it were. Allegories, if they're only done first and not following the extraction of the general from the particular, are of limited use because reality hasn't touched them. When the general that rises from the particular is in turn used to generate a standard that you need a further particular to illustrate, then you have something that's based not on pure abstraction without reference to reality but something connected to the world around us.

The idea that because some folks held at Guantanamo become involved in terror after being released they shouldn't be released at all

Pisses me off. In the United States if someone charged with a crime is convicted, and is then found to have been beaten by police and to have had a trial that was full of gross misconduct by the judge and the prosecutor he's released. If he goes out and commits another crime, and is convicted for it, it has no bearing on the wrongness of his previous conviction. Yet in Guantanamo we have people who have sat in cages, being tortured, without being charged, for years, who are then cleared by biased military tribunals as opposed to civilian judges. When some of these people are released they go and join terrorist organizations. Their actions after their release do not mean that it was wrong to overlook all of it and do what was right and let them go. It doesn't mean that all of the miscarriages of justice that happened were justified because they really were real bad guys. What it could mean is that people subjected to torture and indefinite detention are likely to be pissed off at the people who did it to them, possibly leading them to join terrorist groups.

If you care about basic rightness and justice you won't join folks who point out that most of the people accused of having joined terrorist groups after their release from Guantanamo Bay were cleared under Bush. That's not the point. The point is right and wrong.

The working class and Fox News

It's common for a lot of liberal writers to implicitly write off workers, even if they don't go so far as to go all the way with it. Usually there's some sort of euphemism used, like right wingers or ultra conservatives, but the sentiment is there. I don't, of course, write off workers, but I will say that there's been a steady campaign by the right, done from the most elite levels down, to woo workers away from liberal and left causes and into far right beliefs. Fox News is a great example of this. Their whole programming schedule is filled with commentary against 'liberal elites', railing that everyone who supports them is un-American, deluded, out of touch. A similar initiative is in place by Regnery Press, which used to be a conservative publisher of the William F. Buckley type, that is to say elitist and academic, before it turned over to publishing folks like Ann Coulter and other folks following in the same vein, now including Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh and right wing talk radio does the same thing as well. All of these institutions I would argue serve to try to keep the working class in line and away from radical causes that might disrupt the status quo. Like anything else, trying is not the same as succeeding. There's no rational reason why folks who are workers wouldn't support liberal causes or be attracted to socialism. Adopting the idea that what Fox News wants to make the norm is how workers really are concedes the field without a fight.
That said, media manipulation doesn't get people off the hook for decisions that impact the rest of the country. I have yet to see a breakdown of the 2004 election by social class, but the campaign that rode to power used right wing populist rhetoric over and over. In this case the real actions and decisions of people had extreme consequences, and folks should be held accountable for them. But workers and the working class as a whole, and the country in general, can do better than this. The effects of all of these institutions have to be countered somehow, and if that can be done something better can develop and hopefully come to pass.

Monday, February 01, 2010

OK, here's my take on David Brooks' article "The Populist Addiction"

Which is Here. In short, Brooks is arguing that politicians make simplistic divisions based on class when they advocate populist policies, and that they do this in order to woo average, non elite people, to their side. Additionally, he argues that populism doesn't succeed, which is doubtful, and that even if it did its take on how society is structured is wrong and so any policies based on populism would be counter productive economically and socially.

I've just condensed it and cleaned it up a bit. What I want to look at is his use of the idea of populism. He outlines it in this series of passages, two paragraphs of which are pure definition and two of which are application of the defs to real world issues:

"Politics, some believe, is the organization of hatreds. The people who try to divide society on the basis of ethnicity we call racists. The people who try to divide it on the basis of religion we call sectarians. The people who try to divide it on the basis of social class we call either populists or elitists.

These two attitudes — populism and elitism — seem different, but they’re really mirror images of one another. They both assume a country fundamentally divided. They both describe politics as a class struggle between the enlightened and the corrupt, the pure and the betrayers.

Both attitudes will always be with us, but these days populism is in vogue. The Republicans have their populists. Sarah Palin has been known to divide the country between the real Americans and the cultural elites. And the Democrats have their populists. Since the defeat in Massachusetts, many Democrats have apparently decided that their party has to mimic the rhetoric of John Edwards’s presidential campaign. They’ve taken to dividing the country into two supposedly separate groups — real Americans who live on Main Street and the insidious interests of Wall Street.

It’s easy to see why politicians would be drawn to the populist pose. First, it makes everything so simple. The economic crisis was caused by a complex web of factors, including global imbalances caused by the rise of China. But with the populist narrative, you can just blame Goldman Sachs."

The problem, besides the question of the validity of his arguments, is that his definition of populism is pretty arbitrary, as well as formalistic, and yet he applies it consistently throughout the article as if it were an established fact.
What it looks like is that he came up with an abstract theory and just started plugging it in without trying to either explain it beyond two brief statements or justify it. So it comes out biased, biased, biased because Brooks has translated his personal opinion into a theory, which he never elaborates, then applies it to politics in a one sided way. I could do that all day long but it wouldn't be good writing or good commentary. You generally need examples to prove something. As it stands, it's just Brooks hiding behind a theory he made up.

*It could be argued that the applications of his theory to facts, like in the two paragraphs in the example cited, are really examples themselves. However, I don't think so. They don't really justify the theory. Instead, they're just vehicles for the theory to play itself out. They're not inductive, they're deductive. Rationalist applications of the theory rather than attempts at empirical explanations.

Another Taibbi article, responding to David Brooks article "The Populist Addiction", which argues that people criticize Goldman Sachs because they're jealous--or they want to stir up jealousy in people

Taibbi's column, "Populism: Just Like Racism!" is right Here. I'll reproduce some excerpts and then in my next post I'll take apart Brooks' idea in general. But Taibbi's article is comprehensive, good, insightful. But read Brooks' column in tandem with it.

"[Brooks quote] 'It’s easy to see why politicians would be drawn to the populist pose. First, it makes everything so simple. The economic crisis was caused by a complex web of factors, including global imbalances caused by the rise of China. But with the populist narrative, you can just blame Goldman Sachs.'

...

[More Brooks] 'Politics, some believe, is the organization of hatreds. The people who try to divide society on the basis of ethnicity we call racists. The people who try to divide it on the basis of religion we call sectarians. The people who try to divide it on the basis of social class we call either populists or elitists. ...'

Now, there’s bullshit all up and down this lede. The first lie he tells involves describing everyone who is a critic of Wall Street as a populist. It’s sort of a syllogism he’s getting into here:

All people who criticize Wall Street are populists.

All populists think of themselves as enlightened and pure, and are primarily interested in dividing society, the same way racists do.

Therefore, all people who criticize Wall Street are primarily interested in dividing society, just like racists.

This is obnoxious on so many levels it’s almost difficult to know where to start. As for the populism label, let me quote the Alison Porchnik character from Annie Hall (Woody’s first wife, in the movie): “I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.”

Brooks here is trying to say that by criticizing, say, Goldman Sachs for mass thievery — criticizing a bank for selling billions of dollars worth of worthless subprime mortgage-backed securities mismarked as investment grade deals, for getting the taxpayer to pay them 100 cents on the dollar for their billions in crap investments with AIG, for forcing hundreds of millions of people to pay inflated gas and food prices when they manipulated the commodities market and helped push oil to a preposterous $149 a barrel, and for paying massive bonuses after receiving billions upon billions in public support even beyond the TARP — that in criticizing the bank for doing these things, people like me are primarily interested in being divisive and “organizing hatreds.”