Wednesday, March 30, 2011

...and Obama crosses the line in authorizing the CIA to intervene in Libya

To be expected, but still, sad to see it happening. Here.

"President Barack Obama has signed a presidential directive authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct secret operations to support rebels in Libya, according to government sources.

Government officials told Reuters on Wednesday that the president had signed a presidential "finding" within the last two or three weeks. The order is a necessary legal step to conduct secret CIA operations, but does not mean that such operations will actually occur."

Incidentally, I caught a snippet of Chris Matthews responding to Obama's speech on Libya, asking if it was too legalistic. Well, law is like that, legalistic. It's legalistic law that puts people in jail. In any case, it appears that the U.S. is in fact starting to go down the road of gung-ho action, albeit in a quiet way. We're shifting the official responsibility to NATO, too, of which we are a huge, almost overwhelming, member. The war in Afghanistan is technically being fought by NATO as well. Time will tell how all of it will play out.

In a perfect world, the U.S. and the rest of the international community would have been content with making sure that Gaddafi didn't use his airforce to bomb the opposition but would have otherwise stayed out of it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stalin's surprising ideological turns: in 1925 he was all right with some capitalism in Russia

Weird. I sat at a desk with four volumes of the collected writings of Joseph Stalin in front of me, trying to figure out just what the hell happened in the years between 1925 and 1927, where this person, responsible for the murder of millions and the starvation of millions more, appeared to make a 180 degree turn in ideology. If you look at the official collected works, it's nothing short of amazing how in '24 and '25 this individual was praising the New Economic Plan in Russia, talking about how having some capitalism was healthy, and then in '27 announced a policy of heavily industrialization that lead to the elimination of all things resembling market socialism or "state capitalism" in the USSR, that was imposed by force.

The best way to get a head on just how major the change was is to look at a few documents. First, there are the remarks of Stalin at theFourteenth Congress of the CPSU(B), in the section entitled "The Internal Situation in the Soviet Union". This is an almost classical account of very nearly market socialist policies with regards to the peasant farmers in Russia. The verbiage should not discourage you.

Added, almost necessarily, to the document is Stalin's responses to Zinoviev and Kamenev, along with other folks at the Congress like Lenin's widow Krupskaya, who were in fact challenging him as being too right wing. It's on the same page, but towards the end. The gist of them is Stalin defending his left-wing credentials against Zinoviev and Kamenev.

However, it's very in the intra-party debate vernacular, and so possibly hard to make sense of unless you follow the previous writings from earlier on. It's the sign of things to come, though, and signals in fact Stalin's retreat from more right wing policies (in the area of economics) and towards more absolutist policies.

A better statement of where Stalin is going, in his response to Zinoviev and Kamenev, is contained in the document The economic situation of the soviet union and the policy of the party"

Here, Stalin outlines his theory, or idea, that the New Economic Plan, that he had praised as using capitalism to build Russia, really was suppoed to have two stage: the first stage being the conventional NEP, the second stage being a state lead industrialization process. A sign of things to come.

Pretty straightforward: Stalin was on the right economically, then started to get further to the left economically in response (possibly) to challenges from the Left. Yet the record is somewhat distorted for a couple reasons. First of all, the years of '26 to '27, when Stalin was oppposing Zinoviev and Kamenev, are labeled as years when Stalin was having an alliance with the Right, particularly Bukharin. I have not been able to locate writings from Bukharin from these years, even though writings from '25 are available, but it seems to me that Stalin wasn't really in any sort of deep alliance with these people. His policies became more and more statist during these times.

Another obscuring factor is that Zinoviev and Kamenev teamed up with Trotsky to found a "United Opposition", perhaps making Stalin appear to be more right wing than he actually was. In point of fact Zinoviev and Kamenev appear to be much less Left than Trotsky was, and their banding together with him seems to not have been based on any real sort of deep affinity either. However, since Trotsky had been the traditional enemy of Stalin in the years going up to '26 their alliance made it easy for him to transfer most of the arguments made against Trotsky to them without much of an adaptation.

This gets us to the question of whether Stalin was really in favor of the market socialist policies of the NEP to begin with or whether he was just using an alliance with peasant farmers as a tool for defeating Trotsky. The polemics against Trotsky all appear to have had to do with Trotsky supposedly putting too much stress on the working class and also on other revolutions happening in other countries that would support the Soviet Union. Trotsky supposedly didn't take the rights of peasant farmers into account and supposedly felt that they were supposed to be subservient to workers.

Stalin came out against this, with the slogan of building socialism in one country opposing that of complete internationalism, which actually isn't a bad idea, and alliance with peasant farmers including more economic freedom for them against demands of folks in the cities for forced requisitions of products, among other things. Those were some of the core Trotsky-Stalin fights as seen from the perspective of Stalin's speeches and those of his supporters.

Yet how much was political maneuvering done in order to marginalize Trotsky?

In any case, Zinoviev and Kamenev appear not to have been really advocating either of these positions in any great way but to have just been criticizing Stalin for having gone too far to the Right economically, arguing for a return to a more centrist (in the realm of Soviet policy) position.

When they linked up with Trotsky, what happened was that instead of a Right against Left polemic happening there was an imagined Trotskyist Left against a Stalinist Left series of polemics happening. The basis appears to be socialism in one country against internationalism, but socialism in this case linked to industrialization and the increasing lead of the working class over the peasant farmers, but not in a way that put them out too much. However, what was left out was the tolerance and hands off policy of the earlier pro-NEP writings of Stalin, and an increased implied acceptance of some sort of sacrifice on the part of the peasant farmers for industrialization benefitting the country as a whole, and necessarily done through the working class in the cities.

From there it appears that it was a matter of degree, with tolerance of the peasants going from something implicitly disrespected to something more openly disrespected as time went on, in the service of creating working class, developed, socialism in the Soviet Union.

Sad that the academy has given up humanism; the New Left

And instead embraced post-structuralism and Althusser inspired ways of arguing. In the late '60s it was somehow decided that the humanist Marxism presented by people like Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm wasn't hardcore enough, and that folks needed to get more serious. In the U.S., this lead to a re-evaluation of Lenin, Mao, and Stalin, while in Europe the trend was translated into higher ed. in the form of post-structuralism, which took the premise that texts and society were self structured without a need for a subject and extended it back to history and up towards the future. Structuralism, originally a literary theory but one that had extensions in anthropology as well, tended to exclude the subjective experience of whatever field it was applied to, instead privileging the 'structure' of it, that determined the individuals. Post-structuralism took on one of the main failings of structuralism, that is that the structures constructed, if you can allow the turn of phrase, appeared to work within limited contexts but did not allow for historical development or change. Now the structure itself became a kind of ideological superstructure over and above the real action, the economic relations and the relations of power underlying history. But still, no focus on the actual subjects of history, except in grand abstractions. People are thought to be doubly determined: determined by the superstructure, that structurally determines their belief systems, that are regarded as inherently false, and also determined by the economics underlying those belief systems and cultural systems. That human beings are the actual mediators of all of this, and that structure, whether ideological or economic, does not just float out there in a vacuum but is created and maintained by human beings, is not emphasized or really, seemingly, thought of in the incoherence of a heady mix of Freud adopted to anti-humanist ends, Hegel, Lenin, Nietzsche,Heidegger, Derrida, and whatever else if fashionable at the time.

The basic strength of the New Left, it's positive vision, in my view came from it's revitalization of the Humanist ideal and its fusion of the same with social justice. Without the human element all you have is an ideology that is functionally sterile and unable to cope with the problems and issues of real life, turning into a husk and unworkable series of ideas that needs to be segregated into its own little field, "Critical Theory", to stand up in any way to actual Critical scrutiny.

If the focus on the human ideal and on human agency were to come back into play in a major way,the theoretical incoherence and irrelevancy of much continental and American "Critical Theory" would most likely be swept away pretty quickly, because it has nothing solid going for it beyond special pleading to some vague fashionability.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Amazing that Obama actually gave a good Libya speech

That didn't harp on the idea of the U.S. as a noble defender of all the oppressed of the world. More importantly, he rejected in a very soft way the idea of forceful regime change. Usually, as was the case with Bush and to a certain extent with Clinton, calls for the U.S. to engage in noble goals are often chained to regime change in ways that benefit the people doing the changing more than the oppressed.

It amazes me that the Right is somewhat successful in getting working class people to oppose unions

Because labor rights are about more than just money. One of the core points in having a union shop is having some sort of appeal process when a person is threatened with being fired, so that employers can't threaten or intimidate workers with the threat of immediate firing for no apparent reason. Or for political reasons, in the sense of office politics. Because contracts have such a sovereign right in the United States it's understood that what happens between an employee and an employer is a private matter in almost all respects, with things such as age, race, sex and religion excepted. In other words, no matter if you work for a very large company on a lower level, you are thought of as meeting the employer on equal terms in the market place, and are thought to have worked out a deal in equality, no matter that it's the company that usually sets the rules for hiring and not the employee. What happens subsequently is thought to be much like a contract between two companies, where the government won't intervene. In other words, you have no basic labor rights for things like unreasonable firing. You have no rights as a worker. The only way you get some sort of rights is by voting in a union.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An addition to multi-culturalism: deconstructing "whiteness" into component nationalities

I think that doing so in education would take the wind out of the sails of one of the arguments that folks opposing multicultural education have, that is to say that it lets everyone else but white people celebrate their selves. The argument that says, in relation to the fact that there's black history month but not white history month, that every other month is white history month hits the mark in many but not all ways, since most folks don't learn anything about the history of Europe whatsoever. Instead, "white america" and "white culture" as the defacto American culture are covered in general history without much mention of the actual cultures that went in to make this generic aggregate actually consisted of, and consist of. Folks who are white who are somehow threatened by people liking their ancestors would surely feel better about it if they saw themselves how linking up with history, unpacking the term "white" in relation to them and instead looking at what it really consisted of, can give you a better sense of self. It makes perfect sense, if you do it yourself, why someone, on top of combatting oppression, would want to preserve and celebrate their culture if they're a minority.

Of course it's possible that awareness of ancestry and of how your folks got the the U.S. why, where from, could be used as a front for racism, but by taking the contentious ideas of "white vs... " whatever ethnicity you want to put in their out of it, and substituting instead actual historical countries and peoples, a lot of that seems to be diffused. Of course, just because an individual does this in relation to themselves doesn't mean that, as a whole, the category of "white" in America and of "white americans" ceases to exist. There are benefits and privileges people who are white in America get that other folks do not, and there are big penalties that people from non-white cultures get that white americans do not, and all of them have historical reasons why they're in place.

Taking "white" out of it doesn't negate any of this, but instead adds twists to the story, and most importantly makes the idea of multi-culturalism, to those who are so inclined to think of it this way, as something other than a zero sum game where it's "us", threatened white americans, against "them", scary nonwhite minority individuals.

I wouldn't mind seeing textbooks include a paragraph on Irish history, English history, Italian, Polish, German, in order to represent the actual heritage of the people who are now called "white", who are thought to be an isolated people that just appeared one day and that have no history.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sexting...a way for images to get to pedophiles

Very interesting article from the New York Times: "A Girl’s Nude Photo, and Altered Lives". having a Washington connection. While the article itself is about the consequences of teenagers sharing nude pictures of each other, and what penalties if any they should get for doing so, the bigger question is what happens when some of these pictures are collected by folks who aren't teenagers and shared. That's when it ceases to be something controversial having to do with kids and becomes outright pedophilia. I think there are indications that things of that sort may already be occurring.

American porn, arguments about porn in general being pushed aside for a second, has had this weird fixation for years about getting women who are younger and younger looking into it, with titles having to do with women who are either 18 or 19 proliferating. After you're 18 your a free agent, but there are folks who are 18 who look like they're much younger and folks who are 18 who look like they're older, and some companies seem to prefer the former. In any case, there's also this realm of amateur porn on the web, with amateur in this case meaning that there are no records keeping documenting the ages of the people involved. There are "Amateur" porn videos and sites put out by reputable people who keep track of ages and file all the requirements, but there's also this kind of shady world of folks who share amateur pictures and videos of each other without that. As part of that world there are also amateur torrents and sites that emphasize 18-19 year old amateurs. Or, more ambiguously "young amateurs". The assumption is that the young amateurs are of legal age, but because there's no record of where these photos come from, who they're of, there's no guarantee that the people involved really are 18 or 19.

A kind of grey area, especially involving "girlfriend pictures" is evolving. I don't follow this closely because I'm not interested in women who look like children, but it is noticeable. So there's always the possibility that some teen sexting pictures will end up on these sites, or more generally either be sold to or acquired by pedophiles who will use sexting as their pot of gold.

I'm not sure how to prevent this, but my general opinion is that pedophiliac tendencies in mass culture shouldn't be fed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fashion and religion, a connection?

It's interesting that the two countries in Europe best known for their style, France and Italy, are Catholic, while countries in the Protestant heartland, such as Denmark, Sweden, England, aren't known for their fashion sense or style. Well, there was the whole Mod craze and subsequent developments in England. But in general, these countries are better known for their furniture than for their fashion sense. Could a reason be the de-emphasis on religious imagery and adornment that came with the Protestant Reformation, where any kind of Church decoration, many kinds of vestments, to say nothing of religious iconography and art in general, was looked on as a symptom of idolatry that was opposed to the pure Christian spirit?

France is fa├žionable, Italy as well, and Spain is up there. Of course there are designers in other countries, and according to this idea half of Germany should be fashionable as well. But lack of Puritanical ideas regarding adornment and expression....Certainly we missed the boat on this in the U.S.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why reading what the Soviet Union put out about itself is useful--Afanasyev, vanguard

Because the story is slightly different than what other folks have said. I was leafing through a book by V. Afanasyev written in the '70s, put out by Progress Publishers, that dealt with the Soviet Union's take on U.S. capitalism around that time and I found a fascinating passage in the more introductory sections that talked about the Soviet Union. About it's history, etc.. Pretty standard stuff, and given in a thumbnail form, but he did go into how the USSR thought of its workers as being in the vanguard of society, even though Russia at that time was mostly a rural society.

It turns out that in the cities there had been a large amount of investment in factories and industry from the late 19th century up to the Revolution. Possibly not as much as Afanasyev portrays, but still substantial. Along with the new industries came the most up-to-date ways of organizing industry, which meant huge factories, huge enterprises, controlled in a corporate way. The workers involved were organized into the system.

Now, it seems that a lot of the claims to 'vanguard' come from the potential for development that Russia industry had at the time. Whatever the tendencies, industry was still developing, but if it had continued to develop in a capitalist way who knows, it could have developed into an ultra-modern system, in the cities, while being surrounded by a much less developed countryside.

All of this takes place on the background of 'imperialism' or imperial-colonial relations, something that in the case of Russia and how Russia has been portrayed by its defenders is something much less clear than it appears. Russia, even though some of its industry was financed by capitalists in countries outside of it, wasn't a colony of anyone. Instead, it was a colonizer. It was an Empire. Both it and Great Britain had played the 'Great Game' in Central Asia, the result of which was that the Caucuses, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc... were absorbed into the Russian Empire. Even Siberia, the vast expanse of the Eurasian continent that we see on the maps, was only added to Russia in the 17th century. Because of this, it's inaccurate to see Russia as a colonial country that was the victim of imperialism.

Instead, it makes more sense to see Russia as a late modernizer, or late developer, with reference to economy and the West. No matter that it bordered Asia, Russia was part of the Western economy, as well as its political life. As a late developer it had the benefit of potentially having the best organization that had been developed previously in other countries with industry at its service. That these ways of organizing things were also oppressive is beside the point.

We may look back at that time now and see the factories and the industry as being the complete opposite of what's desirable, but the socialists and Communists of the era saw the large scale industry as having components that made it amenable to socialization. While people worked doing mind numbing repetitive tasks from dawn to dusk that exhausted their muscles, the thought was that the way factories were coordinated exemplified at least some level of mass cooperation that could be transformed with socialist restructuring into full cooperation. Marx thought at one time, even though I can't remember the reference in his works, that the de-skilling of labor would eventually give way to more creative cooperative forms of arranging work based not on benevolence from the people organizing it but on the fact that cooperation makes better use of people's skills than does doing simple, repetitive, tasks over and over. Whether that was realized or not remains to be seen. Ford, scientific management, Taylorism... in any case the idea that Marx had seems to have to do with the notion that increasing efficiency through the division of labor may not just mean reduction of complex tasks to small ones but also mean the structure of organizing those small tasks in cooperation with each other to ensure greater work flow. It was this work flow that would be thought to presage the socialist organization of labor, on top of formal structures of cooperation.

So through this sort of management applied to factories, that existed in large cities in Russia, the Bolsheviks were claiming that the working class was the most advanced and that through its work it was predisposed to socialist, cooperative, thinking that would enable it to take over factories and form the germ of socialist society.

All of this coexists somewhat tenuously with the state of the rural farmers, referred to as the peasantry, in Russia, who despite being formally freed from serfdom retained many, many, pre-capitalist forms of economic and cultural structure within them. One could say that there was an opportunity there for socialization of factories in the big cities combined with redistribution of land and power in the countryside in a way that built on the collective village traditions, and that both could combine to present a non-capitalist road to development for the future.

In any case, the city would lead the country to the future.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Live blogging the Critique of Pure Reason: synthetic unity of apperceptions and conceptual processing of data

Some of what Kant says is so much easier to understand now that we live in a digital age where music, video, and words, can be broken down into ones and zeroes, then reconstituted. One of the things that Kant argues is that for the mind to be able to do anything useful with the data that it receives empirically it has to artificially unite disparate features into wholes. Think about it this way: you hear a sound, and on one level the sound is very basic, high pitched, low pitched, consonant, dissonant, but in order to really understand what you're perceiving the mind has to take the different features of the sound that it picks up on and categorize them as a discrete object having certain characteristics. These characteristics are linked not just to basic features but to things we've perceived previously. So for example, the sound of keys hitting a keyboard. On the one hand I could say that this thing is a sharp sound, that it's brief, but for me to really do anything with it my mind has to look at the context and synthesize the sound into an artificial object that's then labeled "keyboard sounds". Once the "keyboard sounds" object is created I can then say "The keyboard sound is loud", "The keyboard sound is annoying", "The keyboard sound is louder on this keyboard than on other keyboards". The "object" in these cases has become the logical subject of the sentences.

In fact, if you really wanted to push it you could easily say that in order to talk about the keyboard sound all you need to do is to say "That sound", but in saying "that sound" you're already taking s bunch of data and summing it up into one concept, a concept that can then be analyzed and manipulated. Once you say "that sound" you can make logical statements like "that sound is x" or "that sound is not x", or "that sound is x and is also y", or "that sound is x and is also not y". These operations can be combined with each other to make more complex statements. "that sound is loud", "that sound occurs (is) when I press a key", "when I press a key harder the sound is louder", "therefore, the sound's volume can be said to be related to how hard I press the key".

Of course the concepts "key" "press" "I" and "hard", as well as "loud" and the modifications "harder" and "louder", are also synthetic concepts, concepts that are formed from our minds classifying raw data into certain categories.

For Kant, all usable data is data that has been synthesized (or combined) into concepts, but those concepts in their nature are all similar in that all of them can be related to each other in some way, at least theoretically. When we think about things in the world there's a certain fluidity. We can think about the most diverse things and try to relate them to one another without there being serious problems. The problems that come come from the characteristics of whatever it is that we're talking about. You can try to relate anything to anything, make potential connections between any subject and any other subject. I can say that "The red shirt runs fast backwards on the moon" and if you think about it you can probably try to imagine in your mind a disembodied shirt going backwards on the moon, even though it's not real and is in fact impossible. You try to put the logic together to make it possible. Kant's point is that if there wasn't a certain commonality between all concepts, all aggregations of data that the mind labels, we wouldn't even be able to get to that point.

You could say that all data in concepts is organized by structures, and all of these structures are constructed according to a system that makes them similar enough to each other that they can interact meaningfully with each other, that they're in the same universal type of format.

Interestingly enough, if this wasn't the case, if we had different formats for different concepts of data floating around in our heads it would be difficult to interact with complex objects. Say you had an apple, and the shape and color information was in a different format from the tase and sound information. It would be hard to relate the shape and color of the experience of biting into an apple to the taste and sound of it if the information was in different formats, yet we're able to associate all of them together with no problem.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What "Zarathustra" was based on.

Something mildly interesting, if you like Nietzsche. The whole "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" model was taken from a Zoroastrian wisdom text called the Menog-i Khrad, or "The Spirit of Wisdom". Instead of Zarathustra you have an anonymous sage asking a Zoroastrian cosmological principle, "The Spirit of Wisdom" who gives advice about various topics.

The above link is to the text on avesta.org

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hegel and the State

I think that Hegel has gotten a little bit of a bad rap in that although his whole political position was definitely for an expansive State components of his reasoning can be used for other purposes. One of these components is his idea of there being three realms, or general areas, of life, each with its own unique overriding mode of existence.

The three realms he identifies are family, market, and the state, but the names don't do them justice. More generally, they're related to his idea of there being three areas of logic, the theoretical or formal logic, corresponding to the family, the dialectical area of logic corresponding to the market, and an area of logic that balance both the formal and the dialectical, corresponding to the state. By the state, I don't take it to only mean a formal State structure but any sort of collective decision making that goes beyond that of the family and of the market and seeks to balance the family against the market and regulate both, with the much greater emphasis on regulation being the market rather than the family.

For Hegel family life was the realm of formal tradition and custom, where questioning wasn't proper, and that grew only slowly according to the development of custom over time. It was also the first cooperative aspect of life. The market, on the other hand, was the place where individuals as individuals existed, proved themselves, contested ideas, argued. Unlike family traditions, in the market presumably everything was open to question. The state, or governmental decision making and structure, sought to balance the freedom of the dialectical model of life against the logical or formal model of traditional family life, through structures that were free enough to regulate the market without subsuming it into family life, the world of customs, yet not so free as to let the market determine the course of life as a whole.

The state, Hegel's State, is like family life in that it's based on collective customs, but those customs are abstracted from actual family living and instead applied in a more generic way as social regulations, which could easily be modified to include social programs and other collective features resembling the mutual aid that families naturally give to members that could be generalized to society as a whole.

One thing about the usage of the word "state" in European writing that I've noticed is that it's just assumed that some level of government is necessary for society. The idea that there doesn't need to be some sort of government at all, or that government itself needs to completely justify itself appears to be a uniquely American idea. Even the anarchists in Europe tend to agree that there should be some collective decision making apparatus in communities. Because of this, saying that the "state" reconciles the family and the market, or the collective family life and that of the individual, is not necessarily the same as advocating for a totalitarian or absolutist state, but can also be seen as advocacy for a type of functional government that's more along the lines of social democracy. Hegel is definitely for a more expansive government, but I don't think that his work should be interpreted as only being the antithesis of a more libertarian framework.

The benefits of a no-fly zone implemented imperfectly outweigh the disadvantages of it

But don't be surprised if it also leads to the U.S. having a direct military involvement in Libya.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Folks should oppose Clinton and Obama advocating bombing Libya

Because they most likely don't have pure, good-hearted, humanitarian intentions in mind. What's happening in Libya, with Ghadaffi bombing and waging war on the eastern half of the country and on rebels elsewhere, as bad as it is, is a great pretext for bombing (and engaging aircraft) and then if that doesn't work possibly invading a country that's been pegged as one of the prime enemies of the United States since the 1980s. Even though what Ghadaffi is doing is bad, even though the opposition itself is calling for a no fly zone, if Obama and Clinton are allowed to put one into effect today without opposition they'll find another pretext to doing the same thing to another country tomorrow.

Simon Tisdall, in an op-ed for the Guardian, notes that the UK and France are also pushing for the no-fly zone, which means that Cameron, the Tories' Tory, and Sarkozy are pushing for it as well. I would also say that the notion that Obama's hand has been forced is kind of an apologia for the man doing something that the author doesn't like.

If there was going to be an intervention, it would have to be truly multinational and overseen by the UN, with the UN actually in control and not just following the orders of the big countries. It would be limited. But that's not what's in the offing at the moment. Imperial ambitions legitimated by suffering is what the current bid for intervention is about.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Questioning the narrative, why do we have to 'engage' these countries at all?

From White House: Latin America now has new view of US:

"Obama will draw direct connections to the unrest in the Middle East, holding up Brazil and Chile as examples of nations that shifted from authoritarianism to democracy. And he will split his time between the policy and the personal. He will give speeches to business leaders but also the broader public, and spend time touring local sites as well as enjoying official dinners.

"We believe that it's imperative that the United States not disengage from these regions," Rhodes said. "There's a cost to disengagement. This has been a message I think we've delivered on why we've been so focused on Asia, for instance, and it's certainly true of Latin America. When we disengage, our ability to advance partnerships that serve our interest suffers."

As for concrete deals that may emerge, Rhodes said there will be some on energy and economy, but nothing "transformative.""

Something I resent is any country holding itself up as having some sort of world-historical mission out there to spread it's ideology throughout the world. The USSR or some component of the Soviet bloc, like Cuba, being the beacon for freedom, or the United States being a counter-beacon for freedom and liberation.

Why can't countries just renounce the grand claims and instead focus on regular concerns and issues? The problem with the United States using this rhetoric in particular is that we haven't actually done anything that spectacular lately. If we're an exemplar of freedom or democracy it's not because we really as a whole embody these ideals but because we've been coasting on gains established by people who came before us.

What does the U.S. engaging democracy in South America really mean? We have an outdate electoral system where a candidate can steal a close election via the courts, rejecting actual counting of ballots that may have shown that the other side won. There are distortions in the Senate that give two Senators from North Dakota the same power as the two Senators from California, even though the entire population of North Dakota could comfortably fit within either of California's two major metropolitan areas. The amount of actual participation of the electorate in voting or even showing a pulse about politics is low.

If anything, it should be South America that teaches the United States a thing or two about democratic participation and about people actually caring enough about what their government is doing to get out and vote, or otherwise concretely register their position.

"What Shore? Kim Who? SAT’s Reality TV Essay Stumps Some"

From the New York Times,Here.

"“This is one of those moments when I wish I actually watched TV,” one test-taker wrote on Saturday on the Web site College Confidential, under the user name “littlepenguin.”

“I ended up talking about Jacob Riis and how any form of media cannot capture reality objectively,” he wrote, invoking the 19th-century social reformer. “I kinda want to cry right now.”

Less than a minute later, a fellow test-taker identified as “krndandaman” responded: “I don’t watch tv at all so it was hard for me. I have no interest in reality tv shows...”

The commenter ended the post with the symbol for a frowning face.

By Wednesday, comments on the now-infamous prompt — which included the question, “How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?” — had stretched across nearly 40 pages on College Confidential. Media coverage added to the scrutiny."

Man, words words words, they aren't coming.

If I had to really give a picture of the American educational system I don't even know where I'd start. It's such a big mess on so many levels...

Back to Liveblogging the Critique of Pure Reason soon...

Because it's worthwhile and no one does it. "Liveblogging" in this case is intentionally inaccurate.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Accusations of anti-semitism directed at the left....but the Right's increasing love affair with Israel not commented on

I think that's a curious phenomenon.

Perhaps when folks who object to kids getting shot in the street in Palestine for throwing stones, like I do, get tarred with anti-semitism, there are more issues at play than simply being concerned in an existential way with whether a person is actually promoting hostility or demonization of people who are jewish?

It seems to me that partisan issues are in fact at play, and that the right, from the neo-cons up to the Tea Party, has been using Israel and its actions, and by extension the memory of people who died in the Holocaust, as litmus tests to try to discredit folks who challenge their overall position as well.

Although the Tea Party is diffuse, there are interesting signs, like the often seen video of Tea Party people harassing a Muslim as he's praying, where one person is waving an Israeli flag in his face and other people are chanting "Je-sus! Je-sus!" That video is Here. It turns out that the video was of a person praying in front of the White House at the end of a kind of mock "pro-Sharia" rally lead by a person referred to by Salon.com as Fox News' favorite Muslim radical. Not surprisingly, this is what comes out when the Tea Party thinks they're fighting against Sharia. TPM has a good Link.

Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian who has gone on to talk incessantly about the dangers of Islam, and is a frequent guest on Fox, as another example, backs Israel as the "only democracy in the Middle East", and said in a speech at Duke University on October 15th 2004 that

"The difference between the Arabic world and Israel is a difference in values and character. It's barbarism versus civilization. It's democracy versus dictatorship. It's goodness versus evil."

And Sarah Palin, talking about the mild criticism that the Obama administration gave last year to settlement expansion, said, via CBS

"And while Sarah Palin may no longer hold elective office, she weighed in as well. On her Facebook page, Palin complained "the Obama Administration has decided to escalate, make unilateral demands of Israel, and threaten the very foundation of the US-Israel relationship."

"The Obama Administration needs to open its eyes and recognize that it is only Iran and her terrorist allies that benefit from this manufactured Israeli controversy," she said."

Good 'old Michele Bachmann also chimes in, speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition:

"I am convinced in my heart and in my mind that if the United States fails to stand with Israel, that is the end of the United States . . . [W]e have to show that we are inextricably entwined, that as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play. And my husband and I are both Christians, and we believe very strongly the verse from Genesis [Genesis 12:3], we believe very strongly that nations also receive blessings as they bless Israel. It is a strong and beautiful principle."

And of course Glenn Beck supports Israel, but then again he'd probably include alien abductions in his grand conspiracy if Fox News would let him.

Across the pond, ultra-right politician Geert Wilders of Belgium has expressed his support and appreciation of Israel as the supposed "first line of defense" against radical Islam in Europe.

From an article about him posted on his website, this being his quote:

"The film will demonstrate that the fight against Israel is not territorial, and hence Israel is only the first line of defense for the West. Now it's Israel but we are next. That's why beyond solidarity, it is in Europe's interest to stand by Israel."

And let me say that in searching for this quote I came across an article on Wilder by Pamela Geller on Atlas Shrugs, and, let me say, batshit crazy has never sounded so interesing. She seems so much in her own little world that I won't generalize from her rantings to the greater beliefs of the Tea Party or the American (or European) anti-Islamic Right as a whole.



And, for the record, although I have an ethnic last name, I'm not Jewish. Instead, I'm simply a human being who opposes murder and the theft of land.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Equal time to avoid bias and avoiding conclusions....

Of course everyone's point of view should be heard, but my impression about what really constitutes a lot of the supposed liberal bias of the news is that simply looking at facts and drawing conclusions from them that conservatives do not like is a big component. However, that's what people do to figure out meaning. Without some sort of conclusion all you have is a pile of facts that aren't arranged into any sort of coherent whole. That the conclusions arrived at aren't the ones conservative commentators would like is no reason to dismiss meaning from facts and presenting actual arguments as a whole. It's this misguided attitude that allows people to think that, despite several entire disciplines devoted to investigating the issue, thinking that the earth is more than 5,000 years old is evidence of liberal bias. Or that the theory of evolution is inherently biased. What they fail to do is to look at the evidence themselves and draw alternate conclusions that can actually be supported.

Bradley Manning and the Pentagon Papers....

If he did provide them, then there's a parallel that's there but that hasn't been explicitly pointed out by most of the media. Sure, both events were massive releases of information, but the Pentagon Papers were also targeted for potentially aiding the enemy. Although the internet did not exist, presumably the Soviets or people with connections to the Vietnamese government had access to the New York Times. And the Pentagon papers were high level analysis documents, not just routine e-mails transmitted within the State Department. However, no one seems to want to bring the aspect of 'treason' into discussing the Pentagon Papers these days because it's pretty broadly acknowledged that it was not a bad thing. Calling Daniel Ellsberg a traitor after the fact wouldn't look good.

Both parties are in the right, both were/are accused of treason.

The Fading Power of Beck’s Alarms By David Carr

Nice and not really hysterical article on Glenn Beck and Fox's potential canning of him in December, nine months away. I like it because it reduces Beck from being a sort of super being on the side of evil to being a small, rather pathetic, man. It's hard not to freak out about some of the things that he says on his show, the viewership that laps it up, and the environment that it helps to create, but when it comes down to it Beck isn't a truly larger than life figure but an "All too Human" example of life in contemporary America.

Here are some good quotes:

"The problem with “Glenn Beck” is that it has turned into a serial doomsday machine that’s a bummer to watch.

Mr. Beck, a more gifted entertainer than most cable hosts, can still bring it, lighting up with characters and voices. But much of the time, there is sense that the fatigue from always being on alert, tilting forward in the saddle against the next menace, is starting to wear him down.

What had been a fast and loose assault on all things liberal has grown darker and less entertaining, especially with the growing revolution in the Middle East, a phenomenon Mr. Beck sees as something of a beginning to some kind of end. He’s often alone in the studio with his chalkboards and obscure factoids, a setting that reminds me of an undergrad seminar on macroeconomics with an around-the-bend professor I didn’t particularly enjoy."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Didn't put two and two together, but "The Passion of St. Tibulus" in Father Ted is a takeoff on "Sebastiane" by Derek Jarman

About this film coming to ye olde Craggy Island in Ireland and the folks there being offended by the sacrilegious and somewhat homoerotic nature of the film. Father Ted and company are commanded by the Bishop to protest it, which ends up making it extremely popular.

"Sebastiane" is a landmark in gay cinema, a wonderful film that's based on the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, who was shot with arrows, but that's really about love, romance, acceptance, and the consequences of opting out of, or not being part of, the dominant structure.

Here is a clip from it:



Buy it.

And of course P.J. Crowley was fired for speaking out about Bradley Manning

Whose treatment includes not only being in a small solitary cell virtually 24 hours a day, but also being stripped of all his clothes every night.

Blood spilled for the most magnificent nation in 5,000 years, Michele Bachman quotes..

From her recent appearance in New Hampshire where she apparently got Massachusetts and New Hampshire confused with regards to the Revolutionary War, from Talking Points Memo:

"At an event hosted by the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, Bachmann (R-MN) said: "You put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors the very first price that had to be paid to make this the most magnificent nation that has ever arisen in the annals of man in 5,000 years of recorded history."

Yes, the blood of the ancestors is spilled on the soil of New Hampshire in the service of constructing the nation which is the fruit of 5,000 years of human progress.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Confessio Fraternitas: Intellectual political peregrinations, 2001-2002

Confessio Fraternitas being "Confessions of the Fraternity", given to a Rosicrucian tract from the 17th century. Here I use it to mean "Confessions of Fraternalism", which is no doubt a different Latin conjugation, but serves as a good approximation of Confessions of Socialism. This post is a statement about how some of the positions on this blog came to be. I'm putting up because many of the early writings here were stridently Leninist and Trostskyist, which is in itself a little bit misleading. I'm writing to show how the blog and my own opinions went from Marxism-Leninism to something more Libertarian.

After being actively involved in Left and Progressive culture for two, years, and passively involved for four years, in the summer of 2001 I started an ideological journey that took me into new territory, that ultimately lead me to where I am now. This journey pretty much just took place in my head, although I did go to some small protests and was a supporter of my local political community. I didn't directly act on my specific beliefs through either organizing, starting a group or doing anything else in the real world. Although I was a member of an organization, one that I won't name out of consideration for them, and it fit a lot of my ideological requirements at the beginning, I was basically a paper member, although I greatly benefited from the literature they sent. I didn't follow their general suggestions about what to do in the real world and I never actually met another member in person.

So...Summer of 2001, became interested in Marxist Humanism. It looked to me, and still looks, like a doctrine that I could live with that expressed a lot about what I thought about the world, emphasizing the potential for human self realization and how society distorts it, all presented from within a solidly socialist context. From there I made a transition to Eurocommunism, also called Reform Communism, via the Marxist Humanists of Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. It should be noted that the latter two movements that were crushed by the Communist state. Still even though the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia were crushed, and Yugoslavia deteriorated after Tito, the very existence of the three suggested a possibility for a reform or liberal Communist current in the world consisting of real creative experiments and institutions, and doctrinal flexibility, far and far away from the staid ultra-authoritarian Brezhnev model, to say nothing of the models of Mao or of Stalin. Eurocommunism, the liberal and less Moscow based tendency in certain European (and Chilean) political parties, seemed to take the best of these currents and attempt translate them out into practical politics. Most of the parties that later came to be called Eurocommunist had enthusiastically applauded Khruschev's denunciation of Stalin and had taken it as their cue to liberalize their own doctrine and practices.

Eventually, I got more interested in the mainstream Communist model itself, not as a shift away from the liberality of Eurocommunism but in order to more firmly ground myself in the foundations of both the regimes in question and the parties themselves. I read through the books and publications that the more mainstream parties put out, but also remained skeptical, taking much of the seriousness of the literature with a grain of salt generated from having a basic knowledge of how the countries in question operated both at their worst and at their best.

In any case, 9/11 happened, and cut short my mainstream Communist idyll. What I saw taking place around me, the cheering of authoritarianism, the pushing of nationalism, the desire for everyone to fall into line, caused me to rethink my agreement with doctrines that depended, either directly or indirectly, on the ideas and experience of Stalin's Russia. So, I started looking for ideas about how to organize society and move toward that society with action that while still drawing on the Soviet experience, which I still considered to be positive, were pre-Stalin . I gravitated towards ones that were specifically still Leninist.

I had a very positive opinion of the Lenin and Leninism in general, but I also picked and choosed which aspects of the guy's ideas I wanted to accept. The party line? Well, if all of the people in the party have agreed to it I guess it's okay for there to be a basic plan for how activism should take place .... Banning factions in parties? Didn't quite appeal to me as much. My thinking at the time didn't take into account the possibility that Lenin's writings may have seriously misrepresented what was actually going on in the Soviet Union at that time, or what was going either internally in the Bolshevik Party or between the Bolsheviks and other groups.

Not surprisingly, I gravitated towards Trotsky and Trotskyism, thinking that they were a much better embodiment of what the Bolsheviks originally stood for than were the Stalinist based parties. I thought that they had a better, more liberal, interpretation of Lenin. All the while still in my head, still, I drifted to new writings, and different groups, some of which were better than others. I liked the magazine "Left Turn" quite a bit because it seemed to combine a good Marxist and Trotskyist outlook with sanity, non-sectarianism, and relevance. However, the general infighting between Trotskyist groupsicles didn't interest me at all. I wasn't concerned about finding the one true party line, and only moderately supported of the idea itself. Neither did the confusion of a class vanguard with a Party itself appeal to me.

The way Lenin and the Bolsheviks had presented their ideas of party and vanguard in their printed works and speeches, the party was just supposed to be a part of the greater workers' movement. A very organized part, but a part nonetheless. The movement as a whole was supposed to be more important than the Party. What was even less valid in my eyes than the party centricity that I saw on the part of these Trotskyist groups, was the reality that most of them were composed of random people from different classes who didn't have any real connection to the working class, on the whole. That wasn't how it was supposed to be. The idea of the Party wasn't for it to be a debating society of stray individuals interested in "Revolutionary Politics", such as they were.

After a while I found the writings of C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya, who put forward a different type of Trotskyism altogether. These were two people who explicitly blended Leninism with Humanism, and looked at the liberal and non-Party focused aspects of Lenin's writings, especially his later ones, and who eventually questioned the need for a vanguard party altogether. Instead, they emphasized that organizing had to happen in a way that encouraged workers' self determination and self-control

They were still Marxists, of course, still Bolshevik, but their writings were much more open to dissident currents of thought than the mainstream Trotskyists. And they also engaged the New Left during the '60s, instead of either choosing to run away from it, ignore it, or make an attempt to dominate it.

C.L.R. James and Dunayevskaya are still impressive figures , still inspiring to me and valid in many of their points, and in their personal lives they backed up their words with actually going out and organizing in factories in the Detroit area.

Somewhat relatedly, Cornelius Castoriadis was also in the mix. Castoriadis was another Trotskyist who moved further and further away from orthodoxy towards a more libertarian and worker self-organization centered position.

From there, my further move to the Libertarian left wasn't so based so much on finding problems with James and Dunayevskaya, although a few of James' perspectives on topics like Sartre pissed me off, so much as it was based on moving out into a few of the other pastures that they'd opened up for me. In particular, Autonomist Marxism and the partially associated Autonomist orientation that existed in Germany and elsewhere entered the fray. The latter was less focused on workers self-organization than the Italian centered former. Harry Cleaver's "Reading Capital Politically" also helped me make this transition, as did the Zapatistas, who though not usually linked to autonomous movements are nonetheless with them in spirit. Of course, books put out by Autonomedia were a great help as well. However, even though in recent years Autonomedia has put out a book about Workers' Autonomy in Italy, they are in general much more concerned with the German Autonomist movement, publishing some material that is exciting, and others that are more like philosophical circle jerks. And that comes from someone who studies philosophy. I suppose that a lot of Autonomists in Germany would say that the philosophers that Autonomedia publishes are really just folks trying to coopt their movement. Strangely enough, throughout all this Tony Negri's writings didn't play much of a part, although since then I've since come to appreciate parts of "Marx Beyond Marx", his book examining the "Grundrisse".

At that point, I could see that Autonomous movements had lots and lots of ideological overlap with concepts from the world of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism. Support of workers' councils and self managed communities are common to both traditions. It wasn't like I hadn't been around anarchist thought before, or that I hadn't read some of their books and publications, but around this time I had also began to meet real anarchists, people who actually believed in these idea. Before, I'd only known generic socialists, some of whom thought Lenin was OK, some of whom wanted to get as far away from him as possible, as well as lots and lots of progressives. In 1999 I had gone to Earlham College, while there was a member of the Earlham Socialist Alliance, which has since become the Earlham Progressive Union. The ESA was a non-sectarian, and mostly non-Leninist group open to anyone. It had a very general sponsorship by a faculty member who was a member of Solidarity, a good Trotskyist originated group that distinguishes itself by being open to more liberal and non-traditional interpretations of Marxist-Leninist thought than other related organizations. Solidarity, it should be pointed out, wasn't the nameless organization that I was a paper member of, though.

Anyways, I started hanging out in places where the anarchists were, talking to them in person, and also talking to anarchists online, and eventually I decided that there was enough overlap between Autonomist ideas and Anarchist ones that I should just switch to them. Whatever residual Trotskyist or Leninist beliefs that were still there departed, although most of them had already left me with my move from non-traditional Trotskyism to Autonomy. Eventually, in my approach to things there was even less and less of a fixation on the strict 'theoretical' part of Marxist theory, and my thought became an interest blend, absorbing much of Anarcho-Syndicalism and Anarcho-Communism. Green Anarchism and Anti-Civilizational Anarchism also added to the mix, and a little known fact is that they're actually more derived from worker oriented strands of Autonomism than from tactual anarchist tradition, no matter what they're labels are. Of the two, Anti-Civilizational thought made more of an impact.

From there my position started to mutate in a free form way. I still had, and still have, a general Marxist framework dealing with how society works as the basis of my belief system, but after the move towards Anarchism I started to take what I wanted from whatever I could ,anything that seemed to make sense and that reflected the way the world actually is.

By that point my website had been going for several months, although the writing had ebbed and then strongly flowed, and it had seen a transformation from being a place where there were articles that praised the "creative genius of Lenin" (an exact quote), to one that was willing to reprint Bob Flanagan's poem explaining his love of Sado-Masochism entitled "Why?"

So, that's how it all began. I'm posting this now because it's several days short of this blog's nine year anniversary, and because I intend to continue writing for it, and staying with my politics, until the cows come home.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chateaubriand praising the French royal family and condemning the Revolution, why?

Reading the essay "The Bourbons and Bonaparte". It seems to me that Chateaubriand is too nice of a writer, too good hearted, to be associated with the jackals who put their weight behind the royal family in France, and who supported absolutist violence.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

...and Obama decided to reign in the DNC, who wanted to support Wisconsin workers

From the New York Times:

"Similarly, the White House mostly has sought to stay out of the fray in Madison, Wis., and other state capitals where Republican governors are battling public employee unions and Democratic lawmakers over collective bargaining rights. When West Wing officials discovered that the Democratic National Committee had mobilized Mr. Obama’s national network to support the protests, they angrily reined in the staff at the party headquarters.

Administration officials said they saw the events beyond Washington as distractions from the optimistic “win the future” message that Mr. Obama introduced in his State of the Union address, in which he exhorted the country to increase spending for some programs even as it cuts others so that America can “out-innovate and out-educate” its global rivals.

Mr. Daley and Mr. Plouffe illustrated the administration’s fealty to that message on Tuesday. Mr. Daley, as usual, spoke to the business audience, addressing via videoconference a Florida meeting of the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Plouffe met with the executive council of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

The events were not advertised by the White House and were closed to the news media. But a White House official said the two men’s message was the same: Win the future."

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

and boys don't start to ramble around, w/Kant, or you'll start to come up with questions like this:

What is a general way of summarizing the nature of the necessary foundations of the categories of the understanding that make possible the logical operations of the faculty of judgment without recourse to concepts deriving from the a priori information about spatial and temporal ways of being?

NPR...since when did approval of the Tea Party become a litmus test for bias?

Because the last time I checked many people thought that the Tea Party was an extremist and marginal movement. Perhaps NPR should give equal time to the Communist Party as well? The Tea Party isn't on the same level of either mainstream Republican or Democratic politics, even Democratic/ Progressive politics. To act like disrespecting them is like disrespecting a mainstream position is insulting, because they believe in outright extremist positions.

I suppose this site belongs to an extremist position as well, but if we're talking about linking government funding more directly to bias or lack thereof I wouldn't suggest that a government funded station was being unduly biased by overlooking anarchism and radical socialism.

Hmm...for being "No Logo" oriented, Naomi Klein sure treats her "Shock Doctrine" as a logo...

The sort of thing you expect to see ®™ after.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

I guess I'm more sympathetic to anarcho-communism now....group precedes individual, then individuation, then group, then individual

Because Kropotkinesque mutual aid is making a lot of sense to me. The thing is that despite the importance of individual responsibility we all come into this world dependent on others for our basic survival. Whether our backgrounds are poor or wealthy, we start out unable to take care of ourselves and unable to provide for ourselves, dependent on group support for our basic existence and survival. It's only after we gain some age and maturity that we're able to individuate and take on individual tasks, to differentiate ourselves from the group, and to set individual courses for our lives. Yet the exercise of individual responsibility often if not almost always goes beyond simply the maintenance of the individual and goes towards contributing to something outside of the individual life, which then provides for the individual themselves. This is cooperation and group orientation, whether direct or indirect. In return, the group helps the individual, either through basic help or through monetary contributions, or both. This allows the individual to pursue their own goals, which often or even mostly imply group contribution, whether actual or potential. For example even the most individual expressions of art or of music are only truly appreciated when other people view or listen to them, books when they're read, plays when they're performed. The audience can be small, but their still needs to be an audience of some sort for the work to be verified and understood in reference to objective reality. And that is a social and group orientation, even if the group is as alternative and non-traditional as they come. You create works of art, people view them and give you feedback, the feedback is the return from the group to the individual. Obviously there are different levels and types; people's work can be viewed differently, but in general there is at least a potential for objective correspondence between individual creation and social appreciation.

Much more easily seen is the material work that gives economy its shape, but I'd suggest that it's the non-material relationships between members of society that lead to economy, and that the material actualization of those relationships is a final step, not an initial one.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Laibach and Neofolk fascism.....a relationship with some responsibility

I like Laibach, the Slovene avant-garde agit-prop band that challenged the Yugoslav state's claim to be democratic and tolerant through reflecting its own authoritarianism back at it. I like NSK, the more physical art oriented wing of the whole thing. Unfortunately, folks who are skeptical of totalizing systems, whether they be corporate capitalist or Communist, aren't the only ones who pay attention to Laibach's strategy of subversion.

****For background to this post, check out the article What Ends When the Symbols Shatter, My Time as a Death in June Fan" by John Eden on the excellent "Who Makes the Nazis?" blog.****

Laibach provocatively uses symbols that resemble far right symbols but are altered just slightly in ways that give them purposely different meanings, the most obvious being the substitution of a black even armed cross inside a gear in places where a swastika would normally be. The black cross in their case goes back to the theories and ideas of Kasimir Malevich, the Russian avant-garde painter from the '20s who brought down shapes to the most basic in painting, squares, circles, crosses, combined with Orthodox notions of iconography. Icons are thought to be a portal where the divine touches the real through the medium of the painting, in the black cross the ugly part of the real touches the apparent reality that surrounds us, that we often cover with very unreal concepts. None of this comes out of my head solely, Laibach, NSK, and fellow artists in Yugoslavia, the former Eastern Bloc, and Europe in general have stated as much. It's verifiable; they were and are artists who actually studied art history and theory, along with late Critical Theory coming from people like Nicos Poulantzas and Claude Lefort, who was a student of Cornelius Castoriadis, a famous post-war Left Marxist (although that may not be the term he'd prefer). The black cross is not a swastika, but is a representation of real oppressiveness; if you confuse the intentional representation for the symbol that it's similar to, you not only don't get it but you also jump to semi-unjustified conclusions. I say "semi" because, after all, it's intended to resemble one of the most offensive symbols out there, so it's not like it's not intentional. However, it's not just a game for some groups that employ the same strategy.

Laibach encourages people to question their own biases while looking at symbols, plus adds positive content beyond simple questioning through the way they manipulate images, but many Neofolk groups take the ambiguous questioning stance originated by Laibach and apply it to their own symbols, their own album covers, and their own songs, with the purpose being to obscure actual fascist and neo-fascist sentiments. Neofolk is a genre of simple music using mostly acoustic instruments that arose from the Industrial Music scene perhaps as a response to the unrelenting harshness of it all. Instead of pure noise, very calm, soothing, rhythms. Instead of dwelling on dystopia and the dystopian nature of society, a celebration of a simpler kind of world. But, coming from a subculture that likes to press limits with regards to expression, the sort of sentiments frequently expressed in Neofolk were and are not so much hippy back to the land as 'neither right nor left' Wandervogel right wing boy scout sentiments, with militarism and paganism added in. No better band illustrates how symbols were changed than Death in June, headed by Douglas Pierce.

Sometimes the cover up in the lyrics is pretty obvious and easy to see through, sometimes it's a little more opaque, but the fascism is always there. "The Brown Book" is probably the least concealed of his works, featuring an a cappella chant of the Horst Wessel song among others. The explanation for the singing of the Horst Wessel song, the unofficial anthem of Nazi Germany, is that he also includes a sample, in German not in English, in the background at one point from a movie where a woman who is Jewish is reflecting on being conflicted about having a relationship with a Storm Trooper. So, because of this sample, wherever it comes from, supposedly the focus shifts from singing the Horst Wessel song to a meta-commentary, even though the CD and LP were intended for an English speaking audience. The Constitutional Court in Germany didn't buy it, and folks outside of Germany shouldn't buy it either. To me, it smacks of including a sample as an excuse to get a copy of the Horst Wessel song out there and in people's hands, putting it in as plausible deniability, as insurance when you're challenged about what you're obviously doing. Unlike Laibach's use of commentary, this one falls flat.

Similarly, the song "Runes and Men", on the same album, has a totally transparent double meaning attached to it. "Runes and Men" features Douglas P. playing guitar and singing over what appears to be a recording of Hitler making a speech, talking about how his "loneliness closes in, so I drink a German wine, drift and dream of other lives and greater times". Simple, right? Ah, but the voice isn't Hitler, it's a Nazi governor who was renowned for sounding so much like him that he was called "The Voice", and the speech is about the Night of Long Knives, where the leaders of the Storm Troopers were killed. Which means that it's a song that praises the Storm Troopers against Hitler, and praises Nazism, while letting listeners have the proxy thrill of listening to a track of Hitler speaking, which they probably don't mind anyways.

Similar contortions followed the Brown Book, ones that also fell flat with Germany's Constitutional Court, for instance the idea that "Rose Clouds of Holocaust" was about something other than Holocaust Denial. "Rose clouds of holocaust, rose clouds of flies, rose clouds of bitter, bitter bitter lies; when the ashes of life fall down from our eyes, Rose clouds of holocaust rose clouds of lies."

All of this would perhaps be academic if Death in June hadn't put out many much more ambiguous songs and hadn't served as an instigator of new Neofolk bands that took on the mantle of obfuscation in order to promote their own agenda.

Ultimately, what these bands do is to mainstream neo-fascist ideas, and they use techniques that were at first used to attack unjustified biases to defend themselves against attitudes that are quite justified. After all, what exactly does this sort of game mean in the end if you're still pro-fascist, only not necessarily pro-Hitler, for example? Not much. You're still a fascist. The only thing I can say, though, and this echoes the John Eden article, is that lots of people at least start listening to the fringes of this stuff without being fascists, without being far right, and if you take everyone who listens to the style of music as being die hard fascists you'll sweep a lot of people up who don't deserve the label. However, you'll also sweep up people who should know better, and who should get a reality check. The end of the rabbit hole doesn't lead to some sort of better, more nuanced, understanding of the world or of politics, it leads to an invitation to join the far right itself. Whatever failings people who have knee jerk reactions to certain types of symbols have, sometimes things are what they appear to be, and the fact that folks can get confused and sometimes pissed off at Laibach is no excuse for dismissing claims brought against other artists such as Death in June.

Yet, while they aren't in the same category, perhaps Laibach does have some responsibility for the use of their artistic strategies by others?

The term "Free Market" is loaded, it should be something like regulated and unregulated capitalism instead

Because "free" gives an immediate link with Freedom. What we're talking about is regulation versus non-regulation of a market system. If the word capitalism is seen as pejorative, then just call it regulated or non-regulated market economy. The system implied by the term free market, i.e. mostly small businesses co-existing, does not exist anymore, and therefore using the term free market to describe an economy where large to medium businesses dominate is deceptive. Taking regulation away won't make the small business economy come back; it will only lead to more power by big and medium sized business.

In fact, it makes better sense to have a corporate income tax than it does a personal one, except for high personal incomes

Because it's companies, businesses that make the lion's share of the money. Not taxing corporations and expecting ordinary citizens to come up with the money, especially if the tax system isn't progressive, is what's unreasonable. How is it that certain large corporations can get away with paying no tax whatsoever while the states and the federal government have to scrimp and save to keep programs?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Business is part of society, society is not part of business

So businesses should at the very, very, least pay their fair share. All of this talk about cutting taxes and cutting regulations in order to improve business functioning is misleading in the extreme, in that the argument is that improving a climate for business improves society. Doesn't doing things that improve society, improve society? Having regulations to protect individuals and the environment protects and improves society, having business pay their fair share so that state and local governments can pave roads and pay teachers improves society. Business, by this standard, is not an end in itself, but is only instrumental, and so as an instrumental institution can and should be compromised if it not longer fulfills a positive instrumental function. That is, if we really are talking about not just having business be unregulated because businesspeople want money. Surely business sees itself as an end and not as a means. They should have their perspective adjusted, because their little profits aren't worth the welfare of society as a whole.

Dialectic of individual responsibility and cooperation

I see the two as leading into each other ideally. A person acts responsibly as an individual, which leads into work that involves other people, which leads to cooperation, which then leads to acting as a responsible individual within a group, which leads to more cooperation. This is a way of conceiving a constant process, but I think that the two poles exist within a dialectical tension to one another, where each side is not complete in itself but ultimately gives way for the other side to work.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

No sexism in this ad at all....local hot tub company


Get a hot tub...and lots of scantily clad ladies will be drawn to it and fuck you.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Comment from a Kansas City paper that's pro-child labor

Interesting stuff, in response to a proposed law that would take down lots of child labor laws in Missouri. From Here

"kcgrh2: — Feb 15, 2011 12:21 p.m.
yes ma’m Ms. Shelly…. govt. bureaucrats should be telling parents what their children can and cannot do with respect to working. Why, they KNOW so much better, and besides, it provides you libs with jobs to “check-up” on employers, doesn’t it?

I know of no parents with 12 year olds who would allow their children to work, but I am sure in your lib world there must be millions of them, so by all means, let’s use our power…

Is there anything you libs would not like to regulate?????"