Friday, December 30, 2011

"Fox asks Facebook users if Jews killed Jesus"

Albeit Fox Latin America coming out of Argentina.But,Jesus. This is the core historical motivator of anti-Semitism, and it's ugly for any Fox affiliate to bring it up. Without the drama surrounding Jesus, people who are Jewish would be just another ethnic and religious group among many.

In defense of the Hipster

In reference to Capitol Hill, Seattle. They say that you're derivative, that you're pretentious, but creating new works of art always looks pretentious. To create you have to have the pretension that you have something new to say. Creation always looks pretentious to the dominant culture. Any creation involves taking a chance of being derivative, of mining the past. But every band plays someone else's songs before they play their own, and every artist follows another before going their own way. So do your thing, hipster, as long you do it with a pure intent, and don't let anyone say you're wrong.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Straights of Hormuz

Why do we think we get to dictate to Iran just what is and is not 'acceptable'?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

NSK, Laibach, and Romantic Irony, Schlegel

Or, an excuse to talk about Romantic irony.

Laibach and NSK create works ironic commentaries that are camouflaged as innocuous examples of the subjects themselves. Irony, in this case, refers to a higher species of irony than is usually encountered.

The sort of irony they draw from on is dealt with by Friedrich Schlegel in his "Critical Fragments"

"42. Philosophy is the real homeland of irony, which one would like to define as logical beauty: for wherever philosophy appears in oral or written dialogues -- and is not simply confined rigid systems -- there irony should be asked for and provided. And even the Stoics considered urbanity a virtue. Of course, there is also a rhetorical species of irony which, sparingly used, has an excellent effect, especially in polemics; but compared to the sublime urbanity of the Socratic muse, it is like the pomp of the most splendid oration set over against the noble style of an ancient tragedy. [...]"

What Schlegel is talking about in relation to the Socratic dialogues is the process whereby a person is brought to a different awareness of his original question through a series of subsequent questions that eventually circle back to the start. At the end of a Socratic dialogue, a person sees his question in a new context, in a new and expanded environment, and sees how that question was limited. The awareness of the original, very profoundly asked question, as limited within a greater field of meaning is ironic in a higher sense. It's not just saying that the person who asked it was stupid, making fun of him, but provides material to help better answer what the question may have been concerned with in a much more informative way. The dialogue doesn't lead to a dead end, but opens up paths to new meaning. The question, when re-presented becomes an ironic statement, because both its initial limited intent, its expanded form, and the expanded realm of meaning that it's contextualized within, are now all known. The butt of the joke is the individual who buys into the initial question without being aware of any of the other factors. It's the ignorance of this type of person that becomes the object of humor, albeit one that can be easily overcome if informed about the joke. Irony can become instruction, as the Socratic dialogues demonstrate.

For instance, NSK created a famous "National Day of Youth" poster competition entry. They submitted a Nazi poster without the Nazi symbols and with Yugoslav ones in their place, and their poster won. This can be read in a few ways. First, there's the crude thrill of tricking the Yugoslav authorities to fall for Nazi propaganda, generically calling them idiots. Then, there's the meaning viewed within the expanded social and political context that the mistake took place in, that the propaganda apparatus of a (somewhat liberal) Communist State, was unable to differentiate between imagery supportive of it and imagery derived from its mortal enemy that members of the State had fought against during partisan warfare in World War II. The latter meaning was very intentionally included by NSK.

Looked at it from this perspective, the National Day of Youth poster is an ironic commentary more in line with ancient tragedy than with the pomp of splendid oration, as Schlegel puts it. That a self conscious parody of totalitarian art was accepted by the same apparatus as being the winning entry is a profoundly tragic commentary on the system that goes well beyond cheap points scored by rhetorical flourishes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A tribute to Robin Held, of the Frye Art Museum

She's departing as curator, and I have to say that she helped make the Frye the kind of cutting edge artistic institution you expect to find in Seattle, but, sadly, often don't. Starting off with her very excellent NSK exhibit, she continued doing provocative and insightful work throughout her tenure. As someone who loves NSK and its critique of totalitarianism, it was wonderful to see a group of it's members talk about the movement's work during the opening festivities. The show was a shot in the arm for avant-garde art. It showcased works that went far beyond stale, familiar, all pervasive, abstract expressionism in their conception and execution.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Hunt for Red October and the illusion of Reaganite war mongering

I Saw "The Hunt for Red October" on TV over the holidays. It was one of my favorite movies growing up, but now I see as just another bearer of Reaganite illusion. The upstepping of the Cold War during in the 80s, a response to the anti-war tolerance of the '60s and '70s, was based on a figment of the Republican elite's imagination. Back then, up to the Gulf War, you had a string of movies that played on fears of the "Evil Empire". To think that the Soviet Union under Gorbachev was intent on conquering the world, and so must be patriotically opposed, was laughably out of touch with reality. We portrayed the Soviets as evil Slavic conspirators while Gorbachev was allowing more freedom of speech and restructuring the economy. If there had been some relation of the rhetoric to reality, maybe there would have been some value to it, but there was no subtlety in pop culture portrayals of the Cold War. Much like the post 9/11 Bush years, in the '80s, media reality overcame physical reality and depending on your point of view, you either lived in a reality in touch with actual events, or one that was objectively, bizarrely, false.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tea Party unhappy about Boehner funding unemployment benefits and medicare

For two months without an offset of government spending elsewhere. I wonder how this will play in the heartland, because unemployment and Medicare aren't social programs perceived as mostly benefiting blacks and other minorities. When it comes to white people potentially not getting their unemployment benefits and old white people not getting Medicare, I'm sure the shoe is on the other foot, and that they won't like it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Excellent Stephen Cohen article about the Soviet Union: The Soviet Union's Afterlife, from The Nation

His book "Rethinking the Soviet Experience" comes highly recommended, and he's a legitimate academic, not a Stalinist. The article is Here In fact, he is/was an advocate of reform and Perestroika. Here are a few choice paragraphs taken out of context:

"In addition, a growing number of Russian intellectuals have come to believe that something essential was tragically lost—a historic opportunity, thwarted for centuries, to achieve the nation’s political and economic modernization by continuing, with or without Gorbachev, his Soviet reformation. While the Soviet breakup led American specialists back to cold war–era concepts of historical inevitability, it convinced many of their Russian counterparts that “there are always alternatives in history” and that a Soviet reformation had been one of the “lost alternatives”—a chance to democratize and marketize Russia by methods more gradualist, consensual and less traumatic, and thus more fruitful and less costly, than those adopted after 1991.


The economic dimensions of Belovezh were no less portentous. Dissolving the Union without any preparatory stages shattered a highly integrated economy. It was a major cause of the collapse of production across the former Soviet territories, which fell by almost half in the 1990s. That in turn contributed to mass poverty and its attendant social pathologies, which still blight Russian life today.

The economic motivation behind Soviet elite support for Yeltsin in 1991, as opposed to the “socialist” Gorbachev, was even more ramifying. As a onetime Yeltsin supporter wrote thirteen years later, “Almost everything that happened in Russia after 1991 was determined to a significant extent by the divvying-up of the property of the former USSR.” Here too there were foreboding historical precedents. Twice before in twentieth-century Russia the nation’s fundamental property had been confiscated—the landlords’ vast estates and bourgeoisie’s industrial and other large assets in the revolution of 1917–18, and then the land and livestock of 25 million peasant farmers in Stalin’s collectivization drive. The aftereffects of both episodes plagued the country for years to come.


But the most influential pro-Yeltsin intellectuals, who played leading roles in his post-Soviet government, and who were hailed in Washington as “real reformers,” were neither coincidental fellow travelers nor real democrats. Since the late 1980s, they had insisted that free-market economics and large-scale private property would have to be imposed on a recalcitrant Russian society by an “iron hand” regime. This “great leap,” as they extolled it, would entail “tough and unpopular” policies resulting in “mass dissatisfaction” and thus would necessitate “anti-democratic measures.” Like the property-seeking elites, they saw Russia’s newly elected legislatures as an obstacle. Admirers of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who had brutally imposed economic change on Chile, they said of Yeltsin, now their leader, “Let him be a dictator!” Not surprisingly, they cheered (along with the Clinton administration and the American mainstream media) when he used tanks to destroy Russia’s popularly elected Parliament."

Dreaming of the past:Russian Revolution

If only the Bolsheviks had absorbed some of the ideology of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, who were more decentralized, less dogmatic, and more in line with the people, or, even better, if only the Socialist Revolutionaries would have absorbed some of the positive aspects of Bolshevism, such as its attempt at a deep theoretical understanding of society, while still rejecting the Vanguard, the banning of political parties, and the centralization of the State, things could have been much different.

The Left Socialist Revolutionaries, or Left SRs, staged an uprising that Anarchists took part in as junior partners that threatened the Bolshevik state and sa Lenin non-fatally shot by a Left SR.

Friday, December 23, 2011

An article rewrite: Hegel's idea of "Mind" as it relates to logic

The original was posted a few weeks ago.

Mind: Hegel's logical category in plain English

The term Mind in Hegel's thought confused me until recently. Hegel saw logic, dialectical knowledge, and Mind as three phases or 'moments' of knowledge, as three aspects of knowledge that contain within them all potential meaning.

Logic refers to logic with no reference to the external world. Dialectical knowledge refers not to the dialectical method but to knowledge gained from empirical reality. Scientific knowledge is dialectical knowledge, as are practical rules of thumb, because it emerges from a dialogue or interaction with the world itself.
According to Hegel, the stage of knowledge labeled "Mind, Geist or "Spirit", is produced by applying logic to dialectical knowledge, and is a higher form of knowledge. But in what way, and what exactly does it have to do with "Mind"?

How is Mind different from dialectical knowledge? If you're looking at something scientifically there's logic involved, but if you take a pure empiricist perspective, rationalist analysis should play a small part. In pure empiricism, meaning is supposed to only come from what the facts themselves say. If you rationally reflect on the facts to find truth, you can commit grave errors because of the inherent bias that comes from personal experience, points of view, and preferences.

However, there are problems with only using empirical facts. Noam Chomsky argues that if scientists only used the inductive empirical method, where every hypothesis is based on strictly verified chains of facts all observed experimentally, we wouldn't have modern technology. Instead, we'd still be waiting to observe all the facts we needed. At a certain point, the chain of facts we have access to runs aground and we have to use other methods to find conclusions. If rationalism is biased because we're trapped in our own heads, and have cultural, historical, and personal conditioning that influences us, empirical deduction is flawed because it can be very indeterminate. The solution, or a solution to the problem of how to get valid knowledge without relying on minute empirical observation is that observed facts have an inner logic to them. If you've studied something intently enough, you have enough information to make speculations based on the apparent logic and meaning that the system of facts contains. The speculations can then be experimentally verified or disproven those. Facts can be manipulated over and over again without taking new observations. No one said that hypotheses have to be sourced to a 't' in order to be true. They just have to be experimentally proven.

What sets speculation of this kind apart from rationalism is that the deductions and manipulations occur after the initial observations happen, not before, and so are contextualized within the space of the observations themselves, which puts obstacles in the way of direct interference from prejudice. Creative license can also be applied, but creative license anchored in experimentally confirmable observations.

Such speculation is an instance of Hegel's category of Mind, an application of logic to empirical or dialectical data. I believe that Hegel called this kind of logic "Mind" because it's what we do when we think critically about our experiences, our lives, and the issues we face. Through using logic to make sense of empirical data while not rationalistically prejudicing the content, by using the logical faculty of Mind, we can produce quicker associations that can spur faster human progress than if we just slogged through the prison of observed facts.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

About Ron Paul's newsletters from the '90s...well, what did you expect?

Libertarianism always had this fringe element, in one form or another.

A come to Jesus moment not required to live a great life, although we want it to be.

Our society is strange. We tolerate the worst behavior by men, and when they want to change , to live life with real meaning, values, and responsibility, we naturally present Christianity as the Way. Capitalism pushes consumption and attitudes that fuel misbehavior and excess, and an empty, unhealthy MTV, football, and Jersey Shore environment, and the fundamentalist Churches offer to fill the void through being born again and following God. If you do, you'll be put in touch with the virtuous higher life.

One extreme follows the other, and often born again Christians pursue a separatist agenda, cutting themselves off from secular society, creating an alternate universe where good values prevail. The churches take advantage of people who want to change, convincing them that they need an intimate relationship with Christ, and a total Biblical worldview for change to happen. The seekers give them an inch of their inner thoughts and conflicts and they take a yard of their independence, pressuring them to absorb the fundamentalist cult mentality, when all they wanted was to lead a decent life.

You don't need to accept Christ, believe in God or the Bible to lift yourself up or lead a good existence. The principles involved are purely philosophical. There's nothing sacred about them, but our ethical tradition, influenced by unreligious pagans like Aristotle and Seneca, has been so Christianized that it's hard to disassociate the higher life from the Christian life.

Instead, society should incorporate adult responsibility and virtue into itself as something natural, no Jesus, God or Bible involved. It's not productive to either mindlessly involve yourself in "the world" or cut yourself off from it, and it's a mark against the U.S. that we don't have a good secular way to discuss how to live a good life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thomas Mann, Blood of the Wälsungs, German Jewish life

Interesting. Reading a selection from the novel "Blood of the Wälsungs" by Thomas Mann that takes place in the context of German Jewish life in the early 20th century. A vanished world. It seems to me that, in a way, the retreat of people to Israel after the Holocaust, as opposed to say, the United States, is in a way an admission of defeat, one that's not necessary. The Nazis no doubt would have liked nothing more than to have everyone believe the notion that people who are Jewish can only live in a country controlled by them alone.

I can understand not wanting to live in the place where you were persecuted and your family was killed, but in my opinion the concept that people who are Jewish will only find peace in a country controlled by themselves does not follow. German Jewish life, as well as Jewish life in other countries in Europe, looks to have been very rich and creative, and was no doubt a synthesis of both mainstream European and Jewish traditions.

I say this as someone who, despite his slavic last name, is not Jewish, and who is pretty darned Americanized.

Misguided pro-Jury Nullification op-ed in the New York Times

Here. Like many things associated with marijuana legalization, the argument that jury nullification,like the initiative process, is always peachy keen is half baked. Jury nullification is the idea that juries should be free to not follow the law and instead not convict someone of a crime if they feel that the law that applies is unjust. While people like think of their pet causes as being championed by nullification, the fact is that if you open up the nullification door it will be used for other people's pet causes as well, ones that you don't agree with. The most salient paragraph in the op-ed, the one that nullifies the rest of it, is this:

"There have been unfortunate instances of nullification. Racist juries in the South, for example, refused to convict people who committed violent acts against civil-rights activists, and nullification has been used in cases involving the use of excessive force by the police. But nullification is like any other democratic power; some people may try to misuse it, but that does not mean it should be taken away from everyone else."

Of course, yes, I mean, if a jury in Kansas refuses to convict a person of killing an abortion provider because they object to abortion, it's just be a misuse of a kind and gentle power, not something that should harsh other people's mellow, right?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Decolonize Seattle vs. Occupy, or, now that it's over here are my thoughts

Personally, I think that the move to rename and rebrand Occupy Seattle "Decolonize/Occupy Seattle" was a bad idea put together by a bunch of activists who saw themselves as a Vanguard, and wanted to push it through no matter what people staying there actually thought. The idea of a "Decolonization" is not something that the 99%, whether they be white, black, or hispanic, either understand or give a shit about. It's the product of college radical theory courses and is not reflective of the on the ground reality that folks face. How ironic, then, that the people pushing it were people of color, who tried to guilt trip the white Occupiers with accusations of racism and white privilege when their pet proposal didn't get passed.
My guess is that if you go down to the Central District in Seattle and ask any regular black folks living normal life what they think about the concept of Decolonization they'll look at you and ask what the heck you're talking about. The same could be said, to a lesser extent, about Latinos. Although the idea of colonization is more real, a woman who works as a maid at a hotel is most likely more concerned with getting through the day and supporting her family than with having a metaphysical discussion about Decolonization.

The point is, these were just folks who had very strong ideas of their own who claimied to represent all racial and ethnic minorities in Seattle, the U.S., and the world. Literally in the world:they declared they were standing in solidarity with global struggles of people of color. Based on those claims of representation, made without any sort of verification about who they actually stood for beyond the organized hip hop community, they tried to push their dogma onto what should have been a dogma-less movement. It was no different than when Marxist-Leninist groups try to co-opt democratically organized protests and actions. It had nothing to do with the color of their skin, except that their skin color was a useful tool they were willing to press into action in the service of advancing their goals, thereby completely abusing the trust of white Seattleites who just wanted to be respectful to them. It's a sad fact, one that may have caused folks to look at activists who are people of color with more suspicion, unforunately.

Truth be told, egoism was the actor here, just like in any situation where a self declared vanguard tries to seize power. Not coincidentally, one of the Occupiers I'm referring to got a few gigs making commentary on local public radio station KBCS. There,on World AIDS Day, he enlightened us about how AIDS was a U.S. government conspiracy to kill Africans. How nice. But then, I'm sure I'm just being a racist for questioning it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

On top of being a brutal Stalinist, in later years North Korea under Kim Jong Il gave up core aspects of Marxism...

Probably won't be commented on, but officially the military is designated as the social vanguard in North Korea under the Songun doctrine.

The last bat shit Stalinist dies---Kim Jong Il

HereThe last, with the possible exception of Lukaschenko in Byelorussia and the former Central Asian Communist cum Muslim Nationalist leaders. My hope is that North Korea will completely collapse and be absorbed into South Korea. While other states have transitioned to democratic governance and have had groups that tried get them to go on their own path, neither capitalist nor authoritarian (and have not succeeded, unfortunately), North Korea isolated itself to such an extent that I can't see a "Democracy with North Korean Characteristics" approach working. Its model is gone and should be buried with the country itself.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The IWW in relation to later Unionism

It seems to me, speaking ex cathedra here, that despite some successes in industrial strikes like the Lawrence Massachusetts textile strike, the main success stories of the IWW took place in extractive industries, i.e. in lumber and mining, and in small scale capitalist enterprises. When I was studying the Wobblies in Washington State as part of a year long program at Evergreen, one comment that stuck with me was that the IWW's approach to direct action wasn't really transportable to the complex industrial system that came to predominate American society in the wake of World War I. Like it or not, industry assumed a semi-bureaucratic character where simple direct action with no other consideration of strategy was not sufficient to alter the balance of power. Negotiation of some sort was required. Bureaucracy could dominate and out maneuver the strikers, and the IWW appeared to have a lack of understanding about what it would take to really counter it.

Industrial Unions like the the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO, that organized the sit down strikes in the Michigan auto plants, had a better approach in that they applied an understanding of how the different levels of organization on the part of management worked in order to make their tactics more effective. The IWW strategy was to use a strategic blunt instrument.

The eternal "Now" of the United States

A paraphrase from someone who's name I can't remember at the moment: "One of the biggest problems of the United States is that we have no historical consciousness." Instead of seeing ourselves as living in historical time, with the past absorbed into and sublimated under us, we tend to see ourselves as living within a present that is a simple extension of the founding of the country. The relativity and perspective that comes from seeing ones self as building on a past that's separate from the present is not there.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A nice thought from Remy de Gourmont

A fin de siecle French Decadent author who should be much more widely known:

"The aesthetic caste suffers less from seeing a poor thing applauded, than a real work disdained" from "Success and the Idea of Beauty" in "Decadence and other essays on the culture of ideas". What he's talking about is popular art, popular art in relation to high art. He's suggesting that all art has its own place and its own sphere, and that the representatives of high art do less harm by looking at popular artistic movements,trying to see what the participants are actually saying, than by ignoring them altogether.

*on edit: Remy de Gourmont was good friends with Jorg-Karl Huysmans, author of "Against Nature" and a few other definitive decadent works.

The stores are leaner....and more in line with reality....this year

I remember thinking, before the economic collapse, when I went to Victoria, British Columbia, how spare all the stores looked compared to those in America, how they looked half empty. Now, at Christmas time, the American stores look the same way. They didn't look that way because Canada was somehow poorer, but because the U.S. was overstuffed with consumer goods that it couldn't afford. The plenty on the shelves was based on credit flowing through the economy based on nothing but air. Leaner, sleeker, stores, from big box stores down to little stores selling art, are reflective of a more realist economy, of one that has started to accommodate itself to the economic realities most countries, even prosperous countries, have faced for quite some time.

Conspicuous consumption on a mass scaled isn't natural or sustainable, and we depleted our resources, polluted the planet, and outsourced our economy in the pursuit of it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The last time I saw Mr. J.

Mr. J was the principal of the smallish Junior High/High School that I went to in the country from roughly 7th to 9th grade. I came from another small town in the country, one that was marginally larger and more cosmopolitan, but when I passed over the county line I found myself transported into a world reminiscent of 'Deliverance'. My grades went down, I started hanging around with the 'bad kids', and after several skirmishes with the school administration I ended up transferring to the county Alternative School, where kids who were hardened juvenile criminals or who had been kicked out schools went. It had much to do with Mr. J. and the school, although he cast himself in the role of Pilate, simply obeying the dictates of conservative parents and school administrators. On a personal level, he presented himself as the cool Principal who would mix with the kids and hang out. On a practical level, he wasn't that much different from other school administrators.

In any case,the principal at the Alternative School saw that I was smart and that I shouldn't have been there, and so she started on a campaign to get me into a better school. She was successful, I got into a great private school for gifted children outside of Detroit, which I graduated from.

The last time I saw Mr. J. was at a friend's concert. My friend played bass with a few other kids from town, and a friend's cousin's parents or some such relation owned a small restaurant in the Detroit suburbs and allowed them to play a set. I was going to the private school at the time.Mr. J. was there to support my friend, a good gesture. He liked to be cool and mix with the kids. Anyways, after a while I went up to talk to him. His statement was "I'm glad you're still alive".

I thought to myself "No thanks to you.", stopped for a second, then turned and walked out, missing most of my friend's performance. I went back to my new life, back to my new school, and left Mr. J. and that other life behind.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The best bloggers...

Are people who don't write like bloggers. Just sayin'. I've put my share of vitriol and immaturity out there, but am glad that I'm unhooked from the circular yelling match that goes on in many liberal to left blogs, where people hooked into the same news cycle, who look at the same stories, make the same completely predictable off the cuff comments that add little to the discussion. Again, not saying that this blog contributes to the actual discussion consistently, but we can always hope...

Friday, December 09, 2011

How cultural ethnocentrism and conservative values can lead to biological racism: the Limpieza de Sangre of Spain and the New World

Limpieza de Sangre, or Purity of Blood law, enacted after the Reconquista, institionalized discriminated against Spainiards who had non-Christian ancestors. It was introduced not as a racial measure, because the concept of race didn't exist, but in order to ensure Christian cultural purity.

The problem that the new Christian rulers of Spain faced after forcing all Muslims and Jews to either convert or leave, was how to figure out whether a convert was a "real" Christian and not secretly practicing their original religion. After some strife, they decided the best indicator was non-Christian ancestors. They figured that culture and religion necessarily follows ancestry in that parents pass traditions down to their kids. If one had many non-Christian ancestors, the probability was thought to be higher they'd have some of those traditions.

People with non-Christian ancestors were discriminated against in a hierarchical system that gave different levels of privilege based on the percentages of non-Christian ancestry, with the highest honors being reserved for people with pure Christian ancestry, verifiably established. Participation in public office was limited to these people, as were some things such as entering the Priesthood.

In this way, descent and ancestry became a litmus test to full citizenship. Even though a person could be a bad Christian with purely Christian ancestors, and a good Christian could come from a Converso background, they looked at biology as a quick and dirty way of making a preliminary judgment.

Such a stand resembles that taken by the less fanatical Nazis, such as the Strasser brothers, who while extremely anti-Semitic sometimes stated that a person with an eighth part of Jewish ancestry would be okay provided that they had absolutely no contact with Judaism, with Jewish culture as a whole, and were purely culturally German (and hopefully Christian).

Furthermore, a similar rationales for cultural discrimination was given in the French conservative tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries. Louis de Bonald made the argument that people who were the children of divorce couldn't be trusted because they could have been raised in a corrupt environment. This would be, of course, unlike the case of folks whose parents were married but personally corrupt, I suppose.

A similar ambiguity can be seen in American society, where on the one hand people who are 'obviously' purely Anglo-white (although looks alone do not mean they are) are implicitly trusted by the more ethnocentric white folks, while people who are more ethnically ambiguous are treated with suspicion by them, and folks who are definitely not white are distrusted. Ethnicity and race blend into each other as signifying 'not like us'. But what does 'not like us' really mean? At heart, I would say it means culturally not like us and different in behavior. After all, there are many success stories repeated by conservatives, about racial minorities who completely adopt the dominant Anglo-white cultural and behavioral system and are accepted by the establishment. Even so, I would guess that in some eyes they're still tainted by their background.

Discrimination based on physical characteristics and background can certainly follow from conservative values used as a proxy for ethnocentrism.

*on edit: the concept of Limpieza de Sangre strongly influenced the racial notion of "Casta" in the New World

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A guideline for when to nationalize or heavily regulate corporations

Drawing on the thought they use in Europe and light weight economic thought.

Individually, small businesses don't exercise an excess of power over society. Your local restaurant, bar, or craft manufacturer doesn't have the power to determine where society is going and what it looks like as a whole. But as you go up the chain to bigger and bigger businesses, and to businesses that provide services that are more and more essential and that can't easily be duplicated, like phone service, energy, and water, their power to control society increases substantially. When a business comes into the position of being a king maker in society, it starts to infringe on the rights of society and of the public as a whole, and should be taken over by society. This applies even when the company is not a pure monopoly situation but part of an oligopoly.

We have several different phone companies for land lines, for instance, but we don't have hundreds or thousands of them spaced out across the country. Even though they have token competition, they exert a huge influence over our lives, and shouldn't be privately controlled.

If a business becomes a public concern, the public should control it.

*on edit: but that doesn't mean there should be top down central planning like the Gosplan in the Soviet Union.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Robert Michels, trade unions and political parties

Michel's book "Political Parties and the Oligarchal Tendencies in Democracies" is not a purely negative take on political life. In fact it offers some very good insights as to how the political system can be made to work better. Although in later life he would become extremely disenchanted with democratic politics, moving to the far right, at the time Michels wrote "Political Parties" he was still sympathetic to revolutionary syndicalism.

One of the best suggestions he puts forward in the beginning of the book is the idea that political parties can retain influence and relevance through being directly accountable to unions. He uses the example of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in the early 20th century, arguing that it had a great deal of support at least partially because folks could see tangible benefits through the action of the unions affiliated with it, instead of just through legislation alone. Michels hints that a political party started by unions or that is an outgrowth of direct political activity producing improvements in life, that also remains accountable to these organizations, can create a long lasting organization equipped to realistically fight for deeper change in the structure of society.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Logic, Dialectic, and Mind: the three phenomenological categories of Hegel in plain English

I've been confused by these terms up until fairly recently, at least that of Mind. Hegel saw logic, Dialectic meaning, and Mind as being the three phases or 'moments' of knowledge, meaning three aspects of knowledge that within them contain all the potential meaning in the world.

Logic refers to the rules of thought taken in themselves, with no particular reference to the external world. Dialectic refers not to the Dialectical Method in the Marxist sense, although it's derived from it, but to knowledge gained from exploring empirical reality. Practical and scientific knowledge is Dialectical knowledge because it emerges from Dialogue with or interaction with the world itself. What Mind is, though is not so simple.

According to Hegel, the stage of "Mind" or Geist, "Spirit", is what comes from Logic being applied to knowledge gained from dialectical interaction, and is a higher form of knowledge. But how can this be, and what exactly does it have to do with the word signifying 'Mind'?

I've come up with the answer that Mind can be thought of as generated from the application of logic to general experience, including that which is scientifically gained. Surely, if you're figuring out scientifically something there's logic involved, but if you strictly look at it from an empirical perspective pure logical analysis should play a smaller part. Meaning in pure empiricism is supposed to come from an evaluation of the facts. Applying rationalism, the belief that Reason taken on its own can find the truth, is thought to be a grave error in evaluating empirical data because of its inherent bias.

However, using empirical facts alone produces problems. Noam Chomsky argues that if people exclusively used the inductive method, where every fact used to make a hypotheses is experimentally verified, we wouldn't have modern science. Instead, we'd still be waiting for the facts to correlate. Rationalism is biased because we're all trapped in our own heads, with cultural, historical, and personal facets of conditioning influencing what we think is Reasonable, but totally Empirical deductions can be indeterminate. The solution, or a solution to how we can get valid knowledge that goes beyond from pure empirical observation is that objective facts have an inner logic to them that allows their meaning to be manipulated after they've been gathered in order to produce new knowledge that can then be experimentally verified. This would be an application of the techniques of logic to data, and would be an instance of Hegel's category of Mind.

What sets it apart from Rationalism is that the deductions and manipulations don't occur before the observations but after it, and are contextualized within the observations instead of directly bringing in information from elsewhere. The inner meaning, the inner logic can be manipulated to produce inferences that go well beyond the bare facts themselves appear to say, and they can do it in many directions.

Mind, Logic making sense of Empirical or Dialectical knowledge but not determining it, can then lead to higher, quicker, associations that can spur progress through the amount of theoretical speculations they can generate.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Pick a party, not a president

I've been seeing web ads that entice people by asking them to pick a president, not a party. In fact, I think that the opposite should be true. Folks should not just accept whatever their party throw out there, but major political differences are more important than the individual style or policy a candidate. This assumes, however, that the party a candidate belongs actually reflects their beliefs, and that those beliefs are just, something that was arguably not the case with either Clinton, Gore, or the 'Third Way' centrist Democrats. The idea of putting personality over party brings us closer to the idea of personalistic government. I would rather have the support of parties, with all of the flaws that it entails, than to bring the U.S. closer to that. We're already half way there, being trained from birth to accept the idea of Great Men in government and society dictating to us.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Very contradictory for folks who are 100% pro america to be anti-internationalist

Because the U.S. is, if anything, international in origin. While the Tea Party hews to a vision of the United States that's white, rural, male, and Protestant, although not well off economically, the reality in the United States is something else entirely. Many different races, ethnic groups, religions, laid over each other from the Native Americans on up are what make up the United States as it really is. They're what make up that national sense of the United States.

New World countries are inherently synthetic, explicitly so. They are founded in historical time by groups and people who have paper trails. Even old world countries are agglomerations of similar but not identical groups and cities brought together under some sort of common flag. If we want to have pride in the United States, it should be in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious United States. A United States like that, however, is inherently international.

Since folks in the United States came here from diverse places, with the exception of the Native Americans, the United States retains bonds with the world outside it, even though it might not recognize that this is the case. Cultural conformity may have stifled the true survival of many cultural traditions here, but enough has survived and made its mark on the culture of the United States to give it characteristics not necessarily present elsewhere,all produced by its origins in the greater world. Synthesis doesn't mean the negation of what is being synthesized.

The people who want the United States to turn away from the world in order for it to retain some strange notion of 'American-ness', either don't know what they're talking about, or they're presenting ethnic and racial partisanship as something universal.

However, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic perspective brings with it the necessity of fighting for an end to racial and ethnic oppression and subservience within the United States itself.Just honoring things as they are skims over what still needs to be resolved within American society in order for us to truly be united on the basis of being diverse, yet fellow, human beings.

The racial and ethnic politics of the United States also exist within our economic system, and the notion that simple racial equality within the United States necessarily leads to a completely just society is equally unfounded. Our society could very well turn into one that sees blacks and whites both at the top and at the bottom, with the free market causing the division instead of racial politics. Both socialism and a multi-racial perspective are needed.