Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Private Property a Socially Constructed Illusion

Which is where the Libertarian crowd get it wrong, wrong, wrong. What is property? Well, there are the physical things that we own, for one....but I think a better question to ask is "what makes it your property?". Because things are just things. A car is just a car, a machined collection of metal, glass, and plastic. Nothing in the car itself says "This is x's car". The same car can be possessed by different people, different owners, and it's still the same car. Nothing physical has changed. The only thing that's changed is the nebulous ideas of social rights and privileges that are associated with this particular car. Why is it your car? Because you paid for it, and society recognizes that if you pay for it you possess it. Why should buying something entitle you to a right to it? Because someone else had possession of the object and gave you their rights to it in exchange for money. Why is money valuable? Because it's a standardized unit of exchange for various goods. So money stands for goods? But who decides what people get what money for what goods, and who decides what general value goods are priced by? A combination of societal norms and economic necessity. But, nevertheless, why do some people own so much stuff and others own so little? Because society has recognized that those who own a lot have a right to it and has recognized that those who own little don't have rights to it. But this is a social convention. Another society, based on other principles, could recognize that the social contribution of those who have the rights to much property doesn't entitle them to these rights, and could decide that the work of those who have few rights actually entitles them to much more.

**on edit: the bottom line is that things just exist, but what makes them property is a nexus and agglomeration of property rights that exist in a complex system involving production, exchange, and work. However, no matter the economic factors, and Marx in particular has run the subject of the connection of money, work, property, and production, into the ground with his interesting though exhaustive discussions on the concept of 'value', no matter the economic factors, the privileges of property rights are more 'ideas' than static 'things', something codified by law as opposed to something that's been existent since the beginning of time and will be in place till the end of time. Although certain ideas of property have been fairly common throughout history, much of our approach to the idea of property rights is socially and historically constructed, and can very likely be broadly changed in the future, although stuff like "Is it right to let you borrow my saw in exchange for me letting you borrow my lawnmower?" will probably continue to be issues.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Christian Zionism--an interesting way for Evangelicals to dodge something that's a traditional source of anti-semitism

Anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages had several bases. If we dismiss the crude accusations of sacrificing children and poisoning wells, or of people who are Jewish having horns, we're left with two major ones, i.e. the idea of deicide, or that the idea that, quote "The Jews Killed Christ", and a more subtle one that nevertheless impacted folks in the Middle Ages quite severely, and also on through the Renaissance. It's this latter basis of Anti-Semitism that Evangelicals dodge the bullet on through adhering to Christian Zionism.

Put simply, the question in the Christian Middle Ages, once notions of collective guilt for something that happened centuries ago were put aside, was why people who were Jewish had not become Christian? After all, Christ was supposedly the Jewish Messiah, and yet the people expected to welcome him had not recognized him as such, and continued not to despite living in the midst of a Christian society.

By seeking to retain their traditions and culture, and religion, people who were Jewish living in the Middle Ages became a challenge to society in the eyes of ecclesiastical authority.

Today you have folks who believe that it's immoral not to suffer a witch to live, although they rarely act on their beliefs, and who believe that absolute Biblical law should be imposed on society. What, then, would they make of people who are Jewish who don't want to be part of the theocracy? They use the Old Testament, want to implement Old Testament law, worship Christ who was the Messiah to the Jews, what would they really think when it came down to it about folks who decided that they didn't want Christian law despite being Jesus' target audience?

So it's lucky that the Christian Zionists have fixed this idea in their minds that the establishment of the State of Israel was necessary for the coming of the Apocalpyse, because if they didn't have it the consequences of their theocratic beliefs would be worked out much sooner.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You should really read this, re: who's organizing the Tea Party:"Covert Operations The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama."

Here. By Jane Mayer
From the New Yorker:

few weeks after the Lincoln Center gala, the advocacy wing of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—an organization that David Koch started, in 2004—held a different kind of gathering. Over the July 4th weekend, a summit called Texas Defending the American Dream took place in a chilly hotel ballroom in Austin. Though Koch freely promotes his philanthropic ventures, he did not attend the summit, and his name was not in evidence. And on this occasion the audience was roused not by a dance performance but by a series of speakers denouncing President Barack Obama. Peggy Venable, the organizer of the summit, warned that Administration officials “have a socialist vision for this country.”

Five hundred people attended the summit, which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas. An advertisement cast the event as a populist uprising against vested corporate power. “Today, the voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests,” it said. “But you can do something about it.” The pitch made no mention of its corporate funders. The White House has expressed frustration that such sponsors have largely eluded public notice. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

In April, 2009, Melissa Cohlmia, a company spokesperson, denied that the Kochs had direct links to the Tea Party, saying that Americans for Prosperity is “an independent organization and Koch companies do not in any way direct their activities.” Later, she issued a statement: “No funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, or Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties.” David Koch told New York, “I’ve never been to a tea-party event. No one representing the tea party has ever even approached me.”

At the lectern in Austin, however, Venable—a longtime political operative who draws a salary from Americans for Prosperity, and who has worked for Koch-funded political groups since 1994—spoke less warily. “We love what the Tea Parties are doing, because that’s how we’re going to take back America!” she declared, as the crowd cheered. In a subsequent interview, she described herself as an early member of the movement, joking, “I was part of the Tea Party before it was cool!” She explained that the role of Americans for Prosperity was to help “educate” Tea Party activists on policy details, and to give them “next-step training” after their rallies, so that their political energy could be channelled “more effectively.” And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target. She said of the Kochs, “They’re certainly our people. David’s the chairman of our board. I’ve certainly met with them, and I’m very appreciative of what they do.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nietzsche and "Christian Morality"

And how, wait for it, some of what he labels as "Christian Morality" has nothing to do with Christianity but was and is just some of the common morality in the Western world. It's always interesting to read philosophy, especially the classics, because it always sheds light on unexpected problems and issues. Right now I'm working my way through the "Nicomachean Ethics" of Aristotle, and the funny thing is that though it was written 500 years before the birth of Christ it contains lots of sentiments that Nietzschean people have since identified with "Christian Morality". Aristotle likes charity, thinks it's good to be kind to people, thinks that rising above petty conflict with reason is a good thing, and that self control and the restraint of the passions is a positive discipline. He also approves of some things that Christianity is harsh on, like being okay with a semi-martial attitude towards life and the idea that the pursuit of pleasure is ok when done in the proper way, but there are more obvious commonalities between what Aristotle thinks of as basically good morality and ethics and our modern ideas of "Christian morality" than there are serious differences. Which means that much of Nietzsche's argument, that it was just Christianity that messed everything up, isn't necessarily valid. These values predated Christianity, and Nietzsche uses Christianity as a straw man onto which he can project everything that he dislikes, and then uses it as a reference point to formulate his "Anti-Christian" alternative. The only problem is that it's not just "Anti-Christian", it's anti-human, unless your idea of the only alternative to Christianity is one that resembles the social philosophy of people in the Roman Legion. For everyone else, this sort of harshness is most likely not viewed as a good thing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

So Zionists in Israel hold a specific seminar talking about how to edit Wikipedia to promote a Zionist point of view

Hmm... You know, despite not being Jewish, I heard somewhere that there's a concept out there which goes "Is it good for the Jews?", which is used in reference to happenings and events which have the potential to either make a positive or negative impact with regards to public perception of people who are Jewish, particularly those who don't have strong opinions either way. May I suggest that having a fucking conference about how to influence the media to be Zionist is possibly the worst god damn idea on the planet if you want to convince right wing folks, in the Middle East, Europe, and to some extent elsewhere, that, no there isn't a Jewish conspiracy to control the media?

Think this is exaggeration of the event? Here's the YouTube video:



And if that's not enough here's the source of the YouTube link, a story from the front page of the New York Times about it:

Wikipedia Editing for Zionists, by Robert Mackey, which quotes a Ha'aretz article about the conference that includes this paragraph:

The Yesha Council also announced a prize for the “Best Zionist Editor” — the person who over the next four years incorporates the most “Zionist” changes in the encyclopedia. That lucky encyclopedist will receive a trip in a hot-air balloon over Israel.

Quite amazing. You'd think that if a person was Jewish they would possibly think twice about doing something that beyond being blatantly unethical in that the point is to give a specific "Zionist" rendering of history as opposed to an objective rendering of history also plays into the idea of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. But I suppose the arrogance that comes with being a pro-Israeli activist is so great that this sort of basic self awareness is not present.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Very good video address by Obama about corporations, election spending, and democracy

Glad that there's someone in the Whitehouse who has an understanding of these things.

Weekly Address: No Corporate Takeover of Our Democracy from The White House on Vimeo.

"Taking Afghanistan Seriously", comic by Tom Tomorrow

Here. I don't think that Credo Action would approve of me hotlinking to the comic, but here's a description of it: we have Serious Man and Frivolous Boy. Serious Man says in the first cell that $300 Billion dollars on a war is well spent, even if there isn't really that much of a point, which you would understand....if you were as serious as he was. Frivolous boy in the next cell says that gee it would be great if that money were spent on infrastructure.....but that he's a frivolous nincompoop, and probably would have spent it on ice cream, so what does he know? It goes on from there with the Serious/Frivolous point/counterpoint. I especially like the cell were they talk about the justification for killing civilians of the "Fog of War", one of the stupidest and most pernicious American ideas with regards to responsibility for your actions. Kill a bunch of civilians, women and children? Gosh darn, these things just happen, you know, I mean, it's like something reached out and made those soldiers fire on them, they can't be held responsible. War is confusing, and sometimes that confusion extends to gender and age. But, when it comes to welfare in the home country....personal responsibility folks, can't let people get off the hook with a couple hundred dollars of government money every month or it will sap their moral principles.

The tricky, insidious, and convoluted conspiracy of Fox News giving the Republicans $1 Million Dollars, as covered by John Stewart

With more Glenn Beck.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
News Corp. Gives Money to Republicans
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Seattle Times: When you say that "New Yorkers" are opposed to Ground Zero "mosque", do you mean people who live in the State or people who live in the City?

Here.Because people who live in the city don't disapprove. Conflating the two terms by saying that "New Yorkers", meaning people living all across the state of New York, oppose the "mosque", which is really a community center with a space for prayer, is dishonest and misleading. It's people in New York City, not in the greater state of New York and not in the whole United States whose voices should count here. The folks building the community center have the right to build it and New Yorkers--who live in the City, tend to approve, so folks from outside of it should mind their own business.

More on Kennedy: he helped bring us Saddam Hussein

When looking at the record of a U.S. President it helps to see the foreign interventions that they undertook during their presidency. For Kennedy, a main one was the overthrow of Qasim in Iraq and the installation of the Ba'ath party as the ruling power, which would lead to Saddam Hussein as President, through the actions of the CIA in partnership with British intelligence. Interesting New York Times article about it Here. A couple of paragraphs:
From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem's harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington's Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt -- much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980's against the common foe of Iran. By 1961, the Kassem regime had grown more assertive. Seeking new arms rivaling Israel's arsenal, threatening Western oil interests, resuming his country's old quarrel with Kuwait, talking openly of challenging the dominance of America in the Middle East -- all steps Saddam Hussein was to repeat in some form -- Kassem was regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed.

In 1963 Britain and Israel backed American intervention in Iraq, while other United States allies -- chiefly France and Germany -- resisted. But without significant opposition within the government, Kennedy, like President Bush today, pressed on. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshaled opponents of the Iraqi regime. Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents. The C.I.A.'s ''Health Alteration Committee,'' as it was tactfully called, sent Kassem a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief, though the potentially lethal gift either failed to work or never reached its victim.

Then, on Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. ''Almost certainly a gain for our side,'' Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day of the takeover.


This was under Kennedy, and interestingly enough it was two years after Kennedy had assumed the Presidency, unlike the Bay of Pigs, which happened three months after he had done so. To say that the CIA was somehow a rogue agency that Kennedy didn't control, and so that he didn't have responsibility for this, doesn't jibe with the facts at all. My own thoughts about the Kennedy assassination are elsewhere, but to give a thumbnail sketch I believe it was about an internecine fight between political elites within the U.S. government.

Kennedy, then, approved of the overthrow of a leader considered to be not sufficiently pro-Washington, which lead to a business friendly authoritarian regime being installed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Psychedelics, Jung, and Reich

Before talking about the connections between psychedelics and Jung, and Wilhelm Reich, I'd like to say a little bit about their responsible use.

Psychedelics, while not as dangerous as drug warriors say there are, can both create very pleasant experiences and lead people off psychic cliffs, into very negative states that can have effects that are long lasting and sometimes lifelong. People have in fact had their lives ruined by psychedelics through becoming psychologically crippled by them. Let's not sugarcoat the dangers or mince words.

However, there are ways to reduce the possibility that bad trips into hell leading to serious damage will happen. One way is honestly taking a look at yourself and your psychology, and honestly assessing whether or not you're a fairly stable, well grounded, person, at least at the time, before making the personal decision to use them. Do you have major psychological issues? If so it might be better to try experimenting with psychedelics when your issues are either resolved or under very good control, and if they're serious enough, not using them at all. Are you taking medications and if so are there known interactions between them and psychedelics? Think carefully about how your brain works and how you respond to stress. If you're on anti-depressants, know that psychedelics deplete serotonin and often lead to a temporary depression in the days afterwards.

Of course, part of being safe is using basic skills in evaluating what you're taking and what you do while you're on a trip. Know what you're taking and don't too much of it. Do it in a safe and quiet environment. Tell people that you're going to take psychedelics and keep the numbers of a few friends handy so that you can call them if something starts to go wrong. For that matter, try to have people near. Know that after the trip ends your brain will still be processing the experience for several days, and that there's the possibility that in that period of time unexpected emotions will come up, some due to the experience itself and some due to the chemical change in your brain.

But, for all of the potential doom and gloom, the most important thing is to go into the trip with a positive attitude and a sense of happiness, having the expectation that something really good will be able to happen.

Taking, buying, and possessing psychedelic drugs of many kinds is currently illegal in the United States and elsewhere, and I'm not advocating breaking these laws. Instead, I'm making information available. I'm also not a therapist, a counselor, or a psychologist, and am certainly not a psychiatrist. The following writing is not intended as medical advice, just as personal interpretation and reflection.

With that out of the way, let's look at Jung and Reich.

The psychedelic experience is an interesting way to access the mythic substratum of the unconscious mind, the collective unconscious that Jung writes about. The mind enters what could be called a mythic or epic consciousness, where conventional thought processes change into thought processes that work with the logic of myth and symbols, the same logic that often accompanies both fairy tales and epics that blend real action with that of heroes and gods. The archetypes and myths living in the collective unconscious come alive and interact with you during the psychedelic experience. Psychedelics open the door to that level of meaning and logic, allowing a kind of deep therapy between the conscious and the deep unconscious mind, acting in dialogue, to take place.

Reich's ideas intersect with the psychedelic experience through the apparent link between the collective unconscious and Reich's orgonomic core, or core being. The orgonomic core is the core person who exists beyond the layer of repressions and neuroses, Reich's secondary layer, that in turn lives behind the surface consciousness. The secondary layer is made up of our character armor, of the tensions, neuroses, and traumas recorded in both our minds and embodied in our muscles. The experience of the core self is often gotten through different states of sensual and sexual ecstasy, and orgone, Reich's life energy, is thought to be fully appreciated at peak experiences following the moment of orgasm.

Taking psychedelics appears to let us go down beyond the secondary layer to experience a fresh, less restricted, self, in a way that allows the normal self to see the core that's been hidden and bring back some of that perspective with it when it surfaces again. Whether that is due to mental reprogramming or to some other change is beside the point. Bringing the core back to the surface, integrating core self with surface self, often brings a fresh perspective embodied by "The Byrds" immortal phrase "I was so much older then I'm younger than that now". The consensus, however,is that it's very hard to keep the consciousness of the core self at the front of the mind constantly, and that eventually the overwhelming sensations of core self following the experience will subside back into a somewhat changed constant state. This suggests that more work, of a non-substance related kind, has to be done after the experience in order to make the most of what's brought up. Incidentally, experience of core self, which is beyond the negativity of repressions, appears to be sexually liberating as well in a positive way. Nature itself is thought to be sexual.

Through Jung's collective unconscious we can go even beyond our personal issues and archetypes and go into dialogue with the archetypes of the collective unconscious, bringing up mythic material that comes from unclear sources, perhaps primal cultural material that we're not even aware of that lives in our unconscious mind, perhaps in some case from somewhere else. Through communing with our energetic core selves it may be possible to commune also with the greater positive field of life force surrounding us at all times in nature, which provides a divine substratum to mythic existence, as well as a sexually charged one, whether sublimated or not. Reich alludes to universal sea of energy, a positive correlation to the 'oceanic experience' of Freud, in his later writings, where he suggests among other things that Jesus was a martyr to free simple living with the life force, thought to encourage a more generous perspective as well, and that his mysticism was the mysticism of the life that was out the around him and within his body, existing in a guilt free, natural, way. In my opinion, the compassion part is up for grabs, although many people have reported becoming more compassionate after using psychedelics.

It should also be possible to use mythic texts to understand or program your experience, as Leary did with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, making a differentiation between possible religious contents and the core ecstatic experience. Although the Book of the Dead has been recommended many times, I think that the more positive mythic texts, like those making up the Rig Veda and the Upanishads, have more potential, in that they're not personal journeys but raw, core, experience of the world. In my opinion, and I know that many people will object to it, the chapter "Frogs" from the Rig Veda is a direct reference to the psychedelic experience, and not a criticism of certain Brahmins as is usually thought to be. The stories of the Gods and Goddesses, epic supernatural adventures as well as creation hymns can also be used. But be sure to moderate everything so that you don't get into a mythic tunnel and never come out of it. It's essential to ground back to reality, although reality is not as hard a stone as some people think it is.

Anti-Kennedy

A heretical thought, I know, is to be down on JFK, but if you look at the record there's some justification for it. Specifically, I'm thinking of his Inaugural Speech, where he devoted most of it to the topic of containing the dreaded Soviet menace in the Third World. Only problem: it was actually the western countries who were exploiting those countries and were committed to keeping control of them post decolonization. The Soviet Union, compared to that collective force, was rather weak, and instead helped these countries where it could as opposed to waging an all out war on the west. In fact, during the Cold War it was the west who wanted to destroy all opposition, whether Soviet, non-aligned, or Chinese, in order to put in business friendly regimes.
Kennedy essentially puts forward that he wants the Third World integrated into a capitalist lead model, and in fact the United States made war on much of the Third World in order to keep that model intact, which in its fully manifested form meant business as usual, a continuation of dependency that started with colonialism.

Ted Rall: "The Libertarian War on Free Speech"

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Libertarian War on Free Speech Awesome, check it out.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

AK Press' love letter to Glenn Beck, or, why not side with a fascist against socialists?

From Revolution by the Book, the AK Press weblog.

**Clarification: I just realized that I didn't, in fact, put in the context in which the open letter came about. The open letter wasn't just something that AK decided to do out of nowhere, it was in response to Beck's holding up of the book "We are an image of the future", about Anarchists in Greece, and calling it a Communist book, with a big 'c'.

After the obligatory 'we're not really with you' paragraph they get down to business, which is saying that yes, literally, they really are with him, or at least think that Beck is a sort of proto-Anarchist, which is interesting considering that he wants a theocracy and trashes people who are out there in the Union movement, like Andy Stern and SEIU, the Change to Win coalition, was partially responsible for destroying ACORN, a group that did real work to improve people's lives. But, what do I know.

"We don’t blame you, Glenn. When we sift through your rants, we realize that there’s a lot of overlap between you and anarchists. The difference is that anarchists are more honest, aren’t part of the same elites they criticize, and they make a lot more sense. They see you, and raise you one.

Like you, we believe that people’s lives would be much better off without government intervention. Centralized power suppresses individual and community initiative and keeps people from achieving their full potential. Like you, we don’t think the solution to our current economic crisis lies in socialized industry or new layers of well-paid government bureaucrats. And, like you and many of your tea party pals, we agree that bankers and fat-cat corporate elites aren’t exactly concerned with our best interests. As you put it, it’s time to take down the folks who “line their pockets with wealth gained from enslaving a whole group of people.” And, although you seemed a bit confused on this point, that means putting “people before profits,” which is pretty much the central concern of the protesters in Greece right now. And we mean all people, regardless of income, race, gender, sexuality, or immigration status.

You’re right: we’re revolutionaries. But aren’t you? Remember the part of the Declaration of Independence that says that when a government starts screwing with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”? As anarchists, we’re dedicated to the idea of abolishing the state and capitalism altogether. We believe that without the coercive relations and competition imposed by governments and markets, people would be free to create a more just society in which resources are controlled collectively and decisions are made by the people who are affected by them. We don’t want a government (revolutionary or otherwise); we want a society based on cooperation and common sense instead of arbitrary power and exploitation.

From what sense we can make of your show, you seem happy with “altering” rather than “abolishing” a screwed-up system. For you, replacing the old boss with a new one (Sarah Palin?) is good enough. We understand that you’re confused—these are confusing times. But, deep down, you and the tea partiers know that you can’t trust any politician, or banker, or corporate hack, or union bureaucrat…or anyone who makes their living sucking power and profit from ordinary people. Which, unfortunately, probably includes multi-millionaires like you.

So, Glenn, we’re guessing that’s why you’re so afraid of us. We don’t fit neatly into your black-and-white formula. You simply borrow some of the best ideas from our 150-year-old anti-authoritarian tradition. We take those same ideas and not only run with them, but improve on them. We follow the logic to its ethical conclusion. And we include corporate media moguls like you in our Hall of Infamy."

I mean, hey, what's wrong with a guy who supports radical John Birch anti-Communists anyways, like Skousen? They're anti-Communist too, so even though they're radically opposed to all not just progressive values but human values unless you believe in a kind of right wing nationalistic patriotic capitalism, I guess they're OK. Just a little....imperfect.

Way to side with someone coming down on the wrong side of history on virtually every level because he dislikes Communists and you put your Anarchy brand so far in estimation that you don't give a damn about people actually working for social change who don't fit your personal bill.

Remind me of this next time you folks want some kind of support, because folks who find themselves thrown under the wheel at the least convenience of some other group are very willing to help out.

*on edit: funny I should write this after saying that the mainstream labor movement isn't radical enough to put forward socialism from within it. This, at the current time, is true, but I would never disparage 'union' bureaucrats' in an open letter, especially not in a letter to an ultra-right political commentator who wants to see all unions gone. It's something called 'Solidarity', a word that the people at AK Press should look up.

So why study socialist theory?

Not as simple a question as you'd think. I'm not referring to studying 'theory' in the sense of French critical theory or studying 'theory' in the sense of literally memorizing the collected works of Marx & Engels, but instead studying socialism, socialist arguments, and the development of socialist ideology through the 19th and into the 20th century. The thing is that ideally we'd have a labor movement that would push these things into the public sphere, where people could discuss them, find out about them, and act on them, but the fact of the matter that the radical labor movement does not exist in this country. There's the IWW, but their impact is severely limited and there are some problems with the organization, which I won't get into, which in effect keep it from getting mass appeal. So we have no force in the United States based in the labor movement who can really put forward socialist ideas, which leaves us with two options: either we let socialist ideas wither even more on the vine while waiting for the labor movement to rebuild or we, folks who like the ideas, advocate for them ourselves and take our arguments from both today's issues and from arguments and ideas about society that folks in vital socialist movements have developed in the past. It's a question of either obscurity, or getting something out there. And, in point of fact, while some in the sectors where folks dismiss 'talk' pooh-pooh this idea, Socialism in the countries where it's really manifested, and I'm talking about Social Democracy as well as other forms, was a public issue actively talked about and discussed in the public sphere as one of the most important issues of the day. Many times it was workers themselves who wrote and discussed it, so 'talk' doesn't seem to have been useless.

Talk, the actual communication of ideas between people, is necessary if radical ideas of social justice are ever going to get a big hearing in this country. Otherwise, you can relegate yourself to small scale projects that make you feel better but in the end change very little.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

For some artists, fascism is the socialism of defeat

That comes from having a too high opinion of the goodness of humanity in general and then being disappointed when they don't live up to expectations. Many, it would seem, go from extreme adulation and compassion to utter hatred and the rejection of compassion, from a belief in equality to a belief in inequality. It doesn't matter much to be bitter on a personal level, but when that bitterness is linked up to a political movement very bad consequences happen, and the impact is no longer just a personal one. Better to have a balanced view of humanity and to fight for equality in light of it than to have an unrealistic expectation of humanity as being purely good, get disillusioned, and spent the rest of your time fighting for anti-human concepts.

Had to reproduce this: " Special Report: Starbucks To Begin Sinister 'Phase Two' Of Operation"

From "The Onion":

"Starbucks has completed the coffee-distribution and location establishment phase of its operation, and is now ready to move into Phase Two," read a statement from Cynthia Vahlkamp, Starbucks' chief marketing officer. "We have enjoyed furnishing you with coffee-related beverages and are excited about the important role you play in our future plans. Please pardon the inconvenience while we fortify the second wave of our corporate strategy."

Though the coffee chain's specific plans are not known, existing Starbucks franchises across the nation have been locked down with titanium shutters across all windows. In each coffee shop's door hangs the familiar Starbucks logo, slightly altered to present the familiar mermaid figure as a cyclopean mermaid whose all-seeing eye forms the apex of a world-spanning pyramid.

Those living near one of the closed Starbucks outlets have reported strange glowing mists, howling and/or cowering on the part of dogs that pass by, and electromagnetic effects that cause haunting, unearthly images to appear on TV and computer screens within a one-mile radius. Experts have few theories as to what may be causing the low-frequency rumblings, half-glimpsed flashes of light, and periodic electronic beeps emanating from the once-busy shops.

More at the title link.

Wow, do Gibbs disrespects a sitting member of Congress, re:Kucinich and the 'professional left'

Suggesting that an elected representative doesn't matter. Hard to see past the country club snobbery on this one, as well as the sense of Student Government acolyte privilege that Gibbs seems to embody as a politico.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A funny thing about college in the United States: employers seem to want you to have studied less

That's what I gather from various manuals and advice guides about looking for work. What I mean by that is simple: companies prefer it if you've held a job with lots of hours during college, or have also participated in lots of extra-curricular activities, and if you manage to do both while staying in school so much the better. Working in college is a point of pride for many people, showing that they were able to do it despite adversity, but a point of pride is different than the best situation. As far as I'm aware, in no other country are college students expected to work like they are in the United States. Instead, they get college funding that allows them to concentrate on their studies instead of having to pay for them. They're not doing this unnecessarily; at some point working in college detracts from your ability to thoroughly study, with the ability to have the basic hours to devote to studying not being a luxury, or a sign of laziness, but instead being both normalcy and a necessity. Business seems to not realize this, preferring that people do something that they'd most likely not want to do if they had a choice in the matter. In fact, sometimes appearing to expect it. All about getting experience on the job while being in college. The problem with that, though, is that there's a reason people are in college and not in the job world, it's called studying and getting a college degree. To suggest that people should normally sacrifice their studying in order to keep up with the job world is to say that college, the meat of what college really is, doesn't matter and that all that matters is a degree, no matter how you got it. And increasingly 'how you got it' becomes relevant not just in relation to jobs but in relation to academic ethics, which appear to be slipping as well. What we need is a program where folks are able to freely study and devote their time to college without the need of earning money while actually being in school itself. By not recognizing the state of affairs we're in as a problem but instead praising some of it the business world is aiding in the slip of America and American education from being a first world standard to being a third world one, all in the name of profits and money. The financial crisis should have told them where that sort of thinking leads.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Where they stand---Stephen R. Covey, self help business guru, endorses Cleon Skousen's "5,00 Year Leap"

Being peddled by Glenn Beck. I saw the book, unfortunately, at my local Barnes & Noble, and noticed that Covey had a blurb on the front cover. A good article about Skousen by Alexander Zaitchik is Here. Skousen was an anti-communist Bircher so out to lunch that his positions became too much even for the Church of Latter Day Saints. It's good to know that the author of the "7 Habits of Highly Effective" people puts himself in such good company, and that by implication so do the many CEOs who endorsed his book as being right on.

Here's a recording of a Mormon temple endowment from Wiki Leaks

Super secret. File is Here

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Well Beck, you aren't immune to criticism either......in relation to recent comments regarding Simon Greer

The comments of Oliver Stone recently have gotten a lot of scrutiny, and rightly so. Stone, who in all probability wanted to make a point that was less of a sweeping generalization and which hopefully would have distinguished between lack of coverage of Russia in World War II and discussions of a Jewish conspiracy, should have thought about what he was saying. Glenn Beck's frequent allusions to Nazism have gotten him much less attention over all, suspiciously so. Why Glenn Beck gets a pass on calling everyone and his brother Nazis and yet folks who work for Palestinian rights and criticize Israel's actions constantly get called anti-Semites is something to think about. But, hopefully, that is changing. Beck distorted the words of Simon Greer, who heads an organization called "Jewish Fund For Justice", and who wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post specifically arguing against Beck and for the role of the government in the social services from the point of view of religion. Glenn Beck then took on the op-ed on his radio show, only making reference to the first couple paragraphs of it, not mentioning the meat of its argument, and dismissing the idea of the common good as something leading to death camps, saying, and I quote from the Transcript

"This leads to death camps. A Jew, of all people, should know that. This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany. Put humankind and the common good first. "

Maybe Beck isn't familiar with over two thousand years of religious and philosophical writing, in the Jewish, Christian, and Greek philosophical traditions, that makes discussion of the common good and how to promote it one of the big questions. In fact, on the level of society, how to promote the common good is not only one of the big questions it's thee big question. There isn't any other question on the social level besides how to promote the common good.

Beck, quoting Greer, says:

"He says, "All of us are created in the image of the divine, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. To put God first in faith is to put humanity first." "

You know, it's sort of amazing that a person who calls himself a Christian should respond with 'blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" to the notion that man was created in God's image, since this is a core principle of both Judaism and Christianity, and is talked about at the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis, when man is created.

Maybe Beck belongs in the church of Ayn Rand, but not in anything that's commonly known as the Judeo-Christian tradition.

A preliminary thought: slavery and States Rights

Another post based on thinking brought about by a review of old posts written while living in the South about the Civil War and the South. It seems to me that a lot of the anti-northern arguments by people in the South with regards to the Civil War revolve not around whether slavery as a whole was right or wrong but around whether or not a Republican, as opposed to a Democratic, approach to government was right or wrong. The Republicans, then, favored a strong central federal government and a balance of power away from the States. They followed the tradition of the Federalist Party in this, although there were quite a few differences between the two. The Democrats then as now favored less of a monolithic central government, despite what folks in the Tea Party say, and were in favor of a more grass roots approach to policy. By no means all, I should add, people who took the Democratic approach were pro-slavery. They were just for that particular political philosophy, which I subscribe to as well.

Now, Abraham Lincoln was both an exponent of the Republican Party's philosophy on government and an abolitionist. He wanted slavery to end through a vote by Congress with the Federal government enforcing it. You could read central, statist, power into this. But even so, the main issue here isn't whether or not central, statist, power is right but whether or not slavery is right. Slavery is the main issue while the particular way that slavery should be abolished is the subsidiary issue. The subsidiary issue, while having importance, shouldn't overpower the main issue.

So the argument about States' Rights, or at least part of it and one view on it because I don't want to generalize about the entire argument as it existed and still exists, dodges the issue of whether, done according to Republican principles or Democratic ones, the abolition of slavery by any means was a good thing.

If you admit that slavery was bad, it follows that you should believe that it should have ended somehow. There are, out there, possibilities about how slavery could have ended through means conducive to the Democratic philosophy and means conducive to the Republican philosophy.

In light of the belief that slavery was bad and that this is more important than what particular political philosophy was in place, the next question in the sequence is this: do you think that the response of the South to the election of Abraham Lincoln was a good decision, one that was justified, or one that was not?

Friday, August 06, 2010

And about Northern complicity with Southern violence

Now I'm getting on a roll, or maybe the roll is cresting. It should be remembered that in all of the time when the Klan was terrorizing and murdering blacks in the South and mobs of people were killing blacks by lynching, that the federal government could have stepped in and done something, but it didn't. In fact, the highest echelons of the federal government seem to have at times condoned it. I'm thinking of Woodrow Wilson's famous screening of "Birth of a Nation" at the White House after which he declared "it is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true". This wasn't just an American president expressing an ugly sentiment, it was also a tacit approval of what was going on in the South at that time, in 1915, including murder. The fourteenth amendment prohibits deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process, and it could be argued that creating a lawless environment where people could be killed by mobs without consequences violated that principle, yet people in the federal government didn't seem to be too concerned with extending this protection to blacks in the South.

In fact, in relation to Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

There was an interesting confluence of events that happened in the early '50s. Namely, from the late '40s on agriculture in the South became mechanized to the point where cheap agricultural labor was needed much less than it previously was. This started the great migration of African Americans to urban centers in search of jobs and opportunity. One of the economic bases for segregation, the need of southern farmers for cheap labor, was therefore undermined. And the Civil Rights movement started to occur at the same time although there were important precursors in the '30s and '40s. Of the many differences this time around one was the willingness of the U.S. government to become somewhat more involved than it had been in the past, albeit under the extreme pressure from the Civil Rights movement. I can't help but wonder if the agricultural change had not happened if the U.S. government would have been so inclined to step in and help.

The Civil War

Looking back on the blog archives, it seems that I wrote a lot about the Civil War while I lived in the South, specifically in North Florida, which is part of the South. The funny thing about the Civil War is that despite it ending slavery and putting in place a revised Constitutional system that on paper guaranteed equal rights for everyone on the State level as well as on the Federal level, all of the supposed Abolitionist fervor which the country was engaged in seemed to dissipate in the years afterwords. Instead of carrying through the reforms which would have followed if folks in power and otherwise had really cared about civil rights a system was created that while being better than slavery still doomed African-Americans to a sort of servitude in the economic and social sense and that outright violated the newly created guarantee that rights established in the Constitution definitely existed on the State level and not just with relation to the Federal level.

The Civil War is celebrated as an occasion on which the U.S. did the right thing, yet in the wake of the Civil War segregation was allowed to exist for close to a hundred years. How is it that the image of the triumph of rightness in the Civil War and the reality of segregation could co-exist? The Civil War had great, positive, consequences for African Americans, but racism continued to dictate national policy.

From the truth is stranger than fiction section: Bolivia from Klaus Barbie to Evo Morales

Magnus Linklater documents in his extensively researched book "The Fourth Reich: Klaus Barbie and the Neo-Fascist connection", which is based on interviews and on the ground research in South America, how Barbie and Italian right wing terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie were instrumental in setting up the coup in Bolivia that lead to the installation of the ultra-violent Garcia Meza government, also known as the 'cocaine coup' due to its relationship with drug lords.

From Wikipedia: "Indeed, some 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the Bolivian army and security forces in only 13 months. The administration's chief repressor was the Minister of Interior, Colonel Luis Arce, who cautioned that all Bolivians who may be opposed to the new order should "walk around with their written will under their arms."

Now think of this, a country has gone from having Klaus Barbie, an SS member and higher up in the Gestapo hierarchy who escaped to South America from Europe following World War II, as one of the powers behind the throne to having an indigenous socialist leader. Quite a transformation.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Guest Blog: "Who will health care reform help?" by Barbara O'Brien of Mahablog

Mahablog. Just to be clear, there are many people who are posting this.

"Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody

Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.

We all believe in the virtues of hard work and self-reliance, but these days it’s a fantasy to think that anyone but the mega-wealthy will not, sooner or later, depend on help from others to pay medical bills. And that’s true no matter how hard you work, how much you love America, or how diligently you take care of yourself. The cost of medical care has so skyrocketed that breaking an arm or leg could cost as much as a new car. And if you get cancer or heart disease — which can happen even to people who live healthy lifestyles — forget about it. The disease will not only clean you out; it will leave a whopping debt for your survivors to pay.

And the truth is, we all pay for other peoples’ health care whether we know it or not. When people can’t pay their medical bills, the cost of their health care gets added to everyone else’s bills and insurance premiums. When poor people use emergency rooms as a doctor of last resort, their care is not “free.” You pay for it.

Another common fantasy about medical care is that the “free market” provides incentives for medical companies to develop innovative new drugs and treatments for disease without government subsidy. It’s true that private enterprise is very good at developing profitable health care products. But not all medical care can be made profitable.

For years, the U.S. government has been funding medical research that the big private companies don’t want to do because there is too much cost for the potential profit. This is especially true for diseases that are rare and expensive to treat. An example of a recent advance made possible by government grants include new guidelines for malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment developed by Sloan-Kettering mesothelioma cancer researchers. Another is a blood screening test developed by mesothelioma doctors like thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. The health reform act provides for more dollars for such research, from which even many of the tea party protesters will benefit.

The biggest fantasy of all was that people who had insurance didn’t have to worry about health care costs. But the fact is that in recent years millions of Americans have been bankrupted by medical costs, and three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance. And yes, insurance companies even dumped hard-working, law-abiding patriots. But the health care reform act will put an end to that, and now America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots are more financially secure, whether they like it or not"

"Report: Obama Launches New Program to Help Corporations "Take Advantage of Low Labor Costs" Abroad "

Wow.Here:

"Despite President Obama's pledge to retain more hi-tech jobs in the U.S., a federal agency run by a hand-picked Obama appointee has launched a $22 million program to train workers, including 3,000 specialists in IT and related functions, in South Asia.

Following their training, the tech workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent's low labor costs... "

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Good article on Glenn Beck hijacking MLK and on the real radical context of the Civil Rights movement

Being that MLK built the movement on the efforts of Communists and Socialists who pursued the same work in the '30s and '40s, and was in fact advised by people who were Socialists (but not Communists).

From Salon.com

Here:"Get your hands off MLK, Glenn beck"

Monday, August 02, 2010

Gary Shteyngart in Seattle, Ballard

Gary Shteyngart gave a reading from his new book in Ballard at the Sunset Tavern as part of The Stranger's "Verse Chapter Verse" series, with "Orkestar Zirkonium", a Klezmer band, book ending his reading. Shteyngart proved to be the same sort of cutting self, seeing through the bullshit, that he puts across in his books, taking the rather insipid questions from Paul Constant of the Stranger, who's, like, I'm guessing, twenty two years old? and providing some zinging commentary. The reading, from "Super Sad True Love Story", brought Shteyngart's storytelling back to the small stage, from, as the New York Times review that I just read a few days ago put it, the big stage of Absurdistan, back to the simple story of a few normal people in a somewhat exotic, yet homely, environment, in this case an immigrant household, with a couple meeting the folks, in post-apocalyptic America.

Orkestar Zirkonium were entertaining in a sad kind of way, a very sad kind of way. They're the typical white bread Eastern Europe infatuated Klezmer band who think that it's cool to don fedoras and try to sound exotic for American ears, in this case Seattleite ears in a Norwegian neighborhood. Well, they had to try. I think at the end when I left the singer was emoting in disconnected syllables strung together to sound vaguely herbrew-ish. They struck me as exactly the sort of people who Shteyngart savaged in "The Russian Debutante's Handbook".

And Paul Constant, wonderful Paul Constant, who at twenty two years of age has had extensive experience as a 'bookseller'. My understanding of the term 'bookseller' is that it refers to someone who owns a bookshop and sells books. What Constant likely was was a clerk in a bookstore. There's a slight difference there, you know, between being an employee at Barnes & Noble who feels good about themselves because they've been told that they're now a 'bookseller' and a team member as opposed to a clerk and a cashier, and someone who answers questions, and someone who really has, say, fifteen years experience as an actual book dealer. But, be that as it may, Paul no doubt deserves the accolades that The Stranger gives him.

Anyways, a fun night out.






**Klezmer, it's Jewish and Eastern European, thus giving the performers a chance to fail in two areas simultaneously.