Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beck's last show is tonight

Good old Glenn Beck. Now we'll have to rely on the other sites in his media empire, like his very own "fiery summons"
The Blaze", or his radio program, or his ghost written book series, to enlighten us on the Right way to live.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Capital, and its contribution to a failure of Enlightenment liberalism

Not the failure o liberalism in general,just the failure of the classical libertarian notion that we're all just individual atoms spinning around, not contextualized in society in any way, just doing our best and getting out of life everything we really deserve in a perfectly just manner. The problem with classical liberalism, both personal and economic, is that no matter if everyone starts out on an equal position, over time economic and personal power will accumulate, and be passed on to the next generation. Even if economic and social status was justly attained, if there was no mechanism for social equalization, there would still be unjust social benefits for the children of the successful and unjust social disabilities for the children of those who are less successful. If the children of the successful, in turn, use their privilege well they'll develop the success gap they were born with even further, and wind up passing on to their kids a potential for social and economic power that will dwarf that of regular people.

Everyone wants to do good for the next generation, but without a mechanism to ensure that people not only start on an equal basis at some time in the past but start on an equal basis throughout each generation, a class based society will form as a matter of course, based not on inherent talent but on inheritance. Eventually, the inheritance of the few in social capital and will block qualified people from attaining all they can and allow the unqualified but privileged to attain more than they deserve. The next generation will have to pay for the previous generation's mistakes or misfortune. Economically, not simply on the personal level but on the level of business external to the individual, the physical accumulation of funds, land, money, stock, inventory, Capital in other words, follows a parallel process.

In the world of economic Capital, access to its beneficial aspects through joining forces, or denial of access to its benefits, becomes a force that as increasingly forms a dividing line in society as the power of Capital accumulates: those who have access can increase their wealth to a much greater degree than those who don't, out of proportion to their actual talents. Those who don't have access correspondingly have a harder time earning what they deserve despite their talent. The first group over time turns into a bourgeois upper class, while the other group turns into the working class. Although there are gradations and divisions in between, fundamentally, those who want to advance in society who don't have access to the benefits of Capital have to choose between staying true to their roots and putting themselves on the side of the managers and owners in order to get what they truly deserve.

A good society, one in which Capital was socialized and where it was turned into social property, would be where the allyship or lack thereof of a person to Capital would not matter. Capital would be possessed by society as a whole, and everyone would have the benefit of having an inside track. A good society would be one that would also put measures into place to ensure that personal, inherited privilege, coming from family or background irrespective of allyship with Capital, would not interfere with one's future, would not push people down or give them an unfair leg up. Socialization of Capital alone would do not completely accomplish this. Instead, the breakdown of the division of labor between management and workers would have to be broken down as well, with the workers enjoying the benefits. On top of that, the educational system and system of hiring would have to be altered to give no person unfair advantage.
To truly ensure a just society, equality of condition has to be maintained throughout time, not just in a beginning period, with the benefits of society beyond those of the minimum, both economic and social, shared and used to raise the sustained initial condition to a higher level than it would be otherwise. With this state of affairs, a person's talent could lead to a truly just position.

Supreme Court strikes down ban on kids buying violent video games

I'm sure glad the Supreme Court is so concerned with the first amendment rights of children and corporations.

Ghadaffi gets arrest warrant from International Criminal Court...U.S. still doesn't recognize the court

Strange, eh?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Good Taibbi article from Rolling Stone: "Michele Bachmann's Holy War"

Here. Taibbi is great 90% of the time, and in this article demonstrates that Bachmann is both more batshit crazy than previously thought and more of a political operator than suspected:

"Young Michele found Jesus at age 16, not long before she went away to Winona State University and met a doltish, like-minded believer named Marcus Bachmann. After finishing college, the two committed young Christians moved to Oklahoma, where Michele entered one of the most ridiculous learning institutions in the Western Hemisphere, a sort of highway rest area with legal accreditation called the O.W. Coburn School of Law; Michele was a member of its inaugural class in 1979.

Originally a division of Oral Roberts University, this august academy, dedicated to the teaching of "the law from a biblical worldview," has gone through no fewer than three names — including the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law. Those familiar with the darker chapters in George W. Bush's presidency might recognize the school's current name, the Regent University School of Law. Yes, this was the tiny educational outhouse that, despite being the 136th-ranked law school in the country, where 60 percent of graduates flunked the bar, produced a flood of entrants into the Bush Justice Department.

Regent was unabashed in its desire that its graduates enter government and become "change agents" who would help bring the law more in line with "eternal principles of justice," i.e., biblical morality. To that end, Bachmann was mentored by a crackpot Christian extremist professor named John Eidsmoe, a frequent contributor to John Birch Society publications who once opined that he could imagine Jesus carrying an M16 and who spent considerable space in one of his books musing about the feasibility of criminalizing blasphemy."

Great quote from a friend: Republicans believe in Social Darwinism but not Darwinism

Indeed.

Rebuild the Dream: "Van Jones Returns, Launches Liberal Alternative to The Tea Party"

Here. Good stuff, about time something like this happened. From Melber's article:

"He warned the audience about three “lies” animating the conservative narrative: America is broke; Taxing the wealthy is bad for the economy; and “Hating” on our government” is actually patriotic. "

It also brings up the question, very relevant for anarchist and left socialist circles about what exactly the lesser of two evils is: a free-market libertarianism with very little State, or a regulated, moderate social democratic economy that has more State but also more social justice?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mark Ames--"Atlas Shrieked", good take on Ayn Rand

Ames looks at how she praised a serial killer for his sociopathic tendencies, feeling that he was representative of the kind of 'new man' she wanted. The thing is, in certain parts of the counter culture the admiration of serial killers is a thing, so Rand praising a person like this isn't particularly shocking, but the point here isn't to wag one's finger and say "for shame!". The misanthropy that fuels admiration like that is an interesting position, although I don't fully agree with it. Instead, the problem with Rand feeling this was it's that it's really inconsistent for folks who are social conservatives, like Paul Ryan, to praise Rand ideal as some sort of conservative ideal, compatible with family values and the like, as Ames points out. Christopher Hyatt, late proprietor of "New Falcon Press", was more honest when he titled his (implicitly) Rand inspired book "The Psychopath's Bible", and declared that he didn't give a damn about society, wishing for society to be destroyed so that "the nightmare will be over".

From the article:

"What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: “Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should,” she wrote, gushing that Hickman had “no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel ‘other people.’”

This echoes almost word for word Rand’s later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: “He was born without the ability to consider others.”

(The Fountainhead is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s favorite book — he even makes his clerks learn it.)

I’ll get to where Rand picked up her silly Superman blather from later — but first, let’s meet William Hickman, the “genuinely beautiful soul” and inspiration to Ayn Rand. What you will read below — the real story, details included, of what made Hickman a “Superman” in Ayn Rand’s eyes — is rather gory reading, even if you’re a longtime fan of true crime “Death Porn” — so prepare yourself. Because you should read this to give Rand’s ideas their proper context, and to repeat this over and over until all of America understands what made this fucked-up Russian nerd’s mind tick, because Rand’s influence over the very people leading the fight to kill social programs, and her ideological influence on so many powerful bankers, regulators and businessmen who brought the financial markets crashing down, means that it’s suicide to ignore her, no matter how dumb, silly or beneath you her books and ideas are.

Rand fell for William Edward Hickman in the late 1920s, as the shocking story of Hickman’s crime started to grip the nation. His crime, trial and case was a non-stop headline grabber for months; the OJ Simpson of his day:"

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why equality is possible.

Lately the site has been getting down on Southerners, 'rednecks', creationists, and Americans in general. Perhaps this has been overplayed. I think that equality between human beings is a fact, even though as it's been said many times before everyone is different and has different abilities and inclinations. One explanation for the existence of equality that folks like Aristotle gave for is that in addition to the characteristics and talents that are particular to us, we all have a general, all purpose intelligence that appears to exist independently. Not everyone can do complex physics problems, but most people can navigate their work lives, their personal lives, and their family lives or participate in the community that they're a part of in an effective way.

In fact, folks don't fault others for not being able to do very complex work, but when core competencies fail they're looked at as socially dysfunctional or as having a failure of character, things looked on as uniquely serious. It's the possession of core competencies, including the sort of general intelligence needed to make rational decisions about the future of ones life, that make general equality possible and allow it to be translated into political democracy. If you can make rational decisions about your life, making rational decisions about the community that you live in is only a one step extension. The sort of issues that people face in their everyday lives are similar to the ones that communities as face as a whole. In fact, 'community' is only an extension or agglomeration of individual lives and experiences, although it has its own characteristics as a whole being, and so it stands to reason that everyday issues can also translate out into community issues.

Folks may believe strange things, like that the world is six thousand years old and that Noah's ark was not only real but carried two of every animal on earth, but the same folks who believe these things can most likely navigate life in effective ways. Of course, if they're literally nuts, they can't.But how these beliefs effect their practical political positions, and what those practical political positions are, is different from if that belief is or is not true in and of itself. It's not to say that belief or non-belief in strange things isn't an important factor, but just that the beliefs have to be measured against how they actually work in a person's general worldview, and how they effect their practical political positions.

The work of politics involves translating ideas and values expressed through general competence political into complex political positions. It also involves translation the other way, finding simple ways to express complex technical doctrines in general language, in an idiom that people can understand using their faculty of general competence. The latter does not necessarily mean dumbing down proposals so much as expressing them in a different way. And people are always welcome to explore the complexities if the general proposals are not detailed enough.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Aristotle's statement that "Man is a political animal"

Here's one for the search engines and for people trying to cheat on their papers. Aristotle's statement that "Man is a political animal" is more obscure than is sometimes thought. According to his "Politics", and to the Nichomachean Ethics, man, or humans, are by nature disposed to live in a Polis, that is in towns and cities. Towns and cities are formed through the union of families and villages with each other, done for mutual gain. The Polis is a town that is self sufficient in the sense that within it it has all of the economic features necessary for life, such as agriculture outside of the city itself and production of goods within the city. Humans, as political animals, then, are by nature suited to engage in the issues that come up that disrupt the smooth functioning of life in the Polis. The examination and resolution of these issues leads to the foundation of government as an agent to carry out collective decision making, to try to solve the social problems, conflicts between people, problems of economic activity and prosperity, and relations with other Polis' that emerge in the course of life. This definition of government is a conventional one and not a radical one. People are by nature prepared to engage in collective argument, decision making, and action in ways that are similar to those of family life or the life of small villages because of the complexity of life in the Polis the resolution of issues transcends the immediate and goes to a level where people face society more as a subject views an object. Yet, though the new bonds are not as solid, they still are present through the complementary activity that joins the different groups of people who make up the Polis together.

"Politics: The Global Language", YouTube video from Mr. Sharp

Funny take on things from the guy who brought you "The Bizarre world of the Bisexual"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How Marx may be wrong on historical materialism, at least partially, and Hegel and idealists somewhat right

Marx straight out disassociates himself from what he terms French Materialism in his definition of what historical materialism is, yet just by using the term, and by associating labor power with a base quantity that fuels society, the idea is smuggled back into the philosophy. The idea that economics is the foundation of all of society, and of all of history, assumes that economics is not only very material in the way that the Enlightenment envisioned matter, but that it's also teleologically linked to the rest of the features of society in a causative way. Looking at what Marx did with economics and with the ideas that the had about how economics influences society, I think that a different interpretation could be argued for how economics really functions in Marxism.

Marx looked at economics because it seemed to him to be the most concrete, fundamental, feature in society, the one without which society would literally not be able to survive. A group of people grow wheat, a group of people make tools, the tool makers buy wheat from the wheat growers, and the wheat growers buy tools from the tool makers as well as using their own wheat. Through this both sets of people have their needs met. If in this little mini economy the tool makers weren't around any more, or were not making tools, eventually agriculture would grind to a halt as the tools they're using break down, and if the wheat growers weren't there the tool makers would not be able to subsist through making tools and not farming their selves. For this social formation to continue there has to be continual economic action---work, complementary exchange, consumption, and more work. You take that away and this tiny scenario, or any other much larger scenario, ceases to function in any sort of normal way. Perhaps alternatives are arrived at, people learn to cope, but if so the alternatives and the coping mechanisms enter back into the economy itself, even if they're only used at the personal level. It's this concreteness that I believe lead Marx to identify the economy and it's structural effects on society as being the primary feature and mover of society.

But be that as it may, although much economic activity has a big material component, the immaterial cannot be rationalized out of it completely. Somebody produces wheat, someone produces tools, yet while wheat is a plant that has organic nutritional value, tools are just hunks of wood or metal that only have meaning when used by human beings in specific ways. How effective those tools are at their purpose depends on their design, how it fits in with human hands and with human minds. Among other things, it's mental skill and work directing physical manipulation that also contributes to the economy. While it may be possible to value productivity, say the productivity of tools or of a person using tools, that quantity isn't a 'thing' in the sense of something with mass and weight, and not material per se.

Work and consumption, used in the sense of a tool being 'consumed' in work as well as in the sense of something being directly consumed, have a large symbolic element within them that only makes sense within the context of human society. Machines may use physical laws, and be made out of stuff, but without human beings there they wouldn't have any meaning on their own. Within the symbolic framework of human society the economy exists.

Now, the economy features production, exchange, and consumption, that activity satisfies human needs overall, and it hopefully works as a system where production mostly meets the needs of consumption and consumption mostly meets the needs of production. But even though this structure is necessary for society to exist, that doesn't mean that the economy is a teleological point from which the rest of society follows. It may structure it, influence it, have a heck of a lot to do with how the world around us works, but the idea of causation went out with the 19th century. There can be other institutions that exert competing influence. What the economy structures, it structures, and then power relations are built on top of that structuring, influencing and co-opting other power relations, yet none of that implies causation.

The idea of historical materialism implies that just by knowing the economic foundation of society, you can derive the rest through class interests and ideas about institutions flowing from them, but what I think is the case is that the economy exerts its influence, deeply structuring things, but history itself is made out of the sum total of institutions and ideas, that may or may not be influenced by any of the structuring factors, and that do not exist in a causative relationship with each other. And ultimately, economy itself only makes sense within the symbolic universe of human beings and despite it's material products is not a thing in itself, something that subsists without the need of reference to anything else.

This intersects with Hegel and the idealists in that what Marx sought out to do was to take the perceived wooliness of Hegel, the abstractness of the dialectic that appeared to leave everything in life symbolic and up in the air, and root it to a concrete feature of society that could not be undercut by something more primal. But if the economy, while important, is not the only game in town, then we're left with a situation where there is no one primal institution at the bottom of everything, and where instead we have to deal with competing forces that structure society in different ways, ways that have real impacts but that are not concrete enough to be labeled as 'the' material basis of society. There is no 'material' basis of society then. This brings us back to the more abstract, wooly, dialectic of Hegel, and to the strange ideas about the interaction between Nature and Society that the idealists had, because without one material basis there's only different degrees of symbolic basis that have components that are material, and the work of society becomes a synthesis between the symbolic and the material, working on and influencing each other. This synthesis is very much in tune with worldviews where quantitative change eventually produces qualitative change, in that quality itself can be not only a feature with material aspects, like water boiling, but also a symbolic faculty that is altered because of the degree to which the change in quantity has changed the meaning within the symbolic framework held by human beings and by human society in general.

If life is a semi-material interaction of real and symbolic components simultaneously within the framework of physical existence and human society, then symbolic change can ultimately have the same type of power and influence as material change, although material determinants may have impact on people in ways that seem very important. Economics motivate people, but so does religion, for instance, and derivations of religion from economics, no matter what real structuring influence there is there, don't negate the symbolic power of religion and the potential real action religious impulses can marshall once it is provoked in a symbolic way. The Nation or the Flag, might be symbolic abstractions, but the idea of the Nation or of the Flag has symbolic reality that goes on alongside the material reality that much of society functions by.

Economy is important, but things labeled as being in the 'superstructure' can in fact exert force on their own independently of the economy, and can influence the economy in turn.

Monday, June 20, 2011

If Only Greece Were AIG | Common Dreams

If Only Greece Were AIG | Common Dreams Awesome title, and one that sums up a lot of the duplicity about European debt.

Another thing confirmed through reading speeches from Third Reich figures

Which is that if fascism was to come to the U.S., hell it already did with George W. Bush, that not all of it would be as easy to see as you would think. The notion that everything these people put out was as crude as Julius Streicher's "Der Sturmer", or that it exclusively focused on people who are Jewish, is false. Instead, they levied their brutality with a lot of statements and documents that were not quite so extreme on their surface, but that still had the essential concepts and underpinnings that their extremism had. It appears that the most horrible statements by figures in the regime were given in secret, to select groups of people, the king of which most likely being Himmler's speech to high SS officers talking about his reasoning behind killing women and children and why he believed this should happen. If history is any indicator, people should not wait until the day when things like that are possibly spoken of openly to be concerned and get into the streets, pressure representatives, etc...

Greece and debt...

Interesting that the debt Greece has is being used to justify a neo-liberal restructuring of the economy, with various news outlets crowing about what a serious, no nonsense problem, government debt is. Not being able to make payments on ones debt is surely a bad thing, yet folks seem to be applying a kind of cookie cutter "shock doctrine" approach and conception to what's going on there instead of looking any deeper into what may have caused it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

U.S. considers charging Syria with War Crimes....but we're not part of the International Criminal Court

See an inconsistency here?

Good, long, quote from Proudhon regarding the government and inequality

Proudhon's substantive contributions have unfortunately been overlooked, although frequently invoked as important, in that for a long time the only writing widely available by him was "What is Property?", which is a legalistic treatise that has little practical relevance. Thankfully, Dover press has reissued "General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century", which was previously available only through an edition put out by Pluto Press. More Proudhon is coming via AK Press in an upcoming anthology. Enjoy this selection, where Proudhon makes general comments on society as a whole:

"Solely because the powers of society were left unorganized by the Revolution, there results an inequality of conditions, of which the cause is not, as formerly, the natural inequality of ability; but which finds a new pretext in the accidents of society, and adds, among its claims, the injustices of fortune to the caprices of nature. Privilege, abolished by law, is born again through lack of equilibrium: it is no longer a mere result of divine predestination: it has become a necessity of civilization.

Once justified as in the order of nature and of Providence, what does privilege lack in order to assure its triumph definitely? It has only to make laws, institutions, the Government, in harmony with itself: toward this end it is about to direct all its forces.

In the first place, as no law forbids, so far at least as it flows from one of these two sources, nature or accident, privilege may call itself perfectly legal: in this regard it may already claim the respect of citizens and the protection of Government.

What is the principle which rules existing society? Each by himself, each for himself. God and LUCK for all. Privilege, resulting from luck, from a commercial turn, from any of the gambling methods which the chaotic condition of industry furnishes, is then a providential thing, which everybody must respect.

On the other hand, what is the function of Government? To protect and defend each one in his person, his industry, his property. But if by the necessity of things, property, riches, comfort, all go on one side, poverty on the other, it is clear that Government is made for the defence of the rich against the poor. For the perfecting of this state of affairs, it is necessary that what exists should be defined and consecrated by law: that is precisely what Power wants, and what demonstrates from beginning to end our analysis of the budget."

Apparently, Boehner has become a peace loving hippy re:Libya

Because he's suddenly come out against action in Libya, talking about what a bad thing it is to have military action without congressional authorization. He's sued the government, unfortunately with Kucinich and other Progressives, to try to stop the Libya operation. If this were the Bush administration, or probably any other Republican administration, what the Republicans most likely would do would be to get a vote scheduled and just approve it, not sue to stop it. They could easily do this. But, of course, times have changed, and we just can't waltz into other countries and invade them. I don't support our continual adventure in Libya either, something that has changed from being somewhat tolerable because of the things that Ghadaffi was doing to the rebels to being a war in and of itself, but I can't see the Republican leadership seriously having any moral or ethical problems with the operation.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thoughts on what the Nazi thought was the case with people who are Jewish

I've never understood anti-semitism. The concept just doesn't make sense to me. Why the Nazis held people who are Jewish in such low regard is a mystery as well. However, thanks to concepts relating to history that have been developed in the last sixty or so years, it's possible to get insight into what people mean when they say a word or invest a concept with meaning, even if the strict meaning has little relation to life itself. In the future I'll probably post something with citations and quotations, like any actual academic study has in it, but for now I'm going to go off the cuff with this.

Based on my reading in progress of George Mosse's wonderful book "The Crisis of German Ideology" as well as some primary source documents in the form of speeches by figures in the Third Reich that have recently been republished, it seems to me that there were two poles of Nazi belief about people who are Jewish. First off, they seemed to have a problem with them being poor city dwellers, who lived in closed communities. They thought that they were low class and primitive, being in some ways reminiscent of the idea of the lumpenproletariat, and attributed vices associated with cities to them. The other pole appears to be jealousy over the ability of some people who were Jewish to overcome the social disabilities put in their way and achieve high status in various areas, from science to music. This follows directly on the idea of poverty as being associated with people who are Jewish. There seems to be infinite class resentment that folks regarded as so low by rural Germans would be able to work and achieve things that outshone regular German people in general.

Merchant professions were added to the vices of the city. The reason that some folks who were Jewish were in these professions in the first place was that owning land was forbidden to them, because land in feudal days equaled power, thereby making trade and business one of the few things that these folks could do. But the stereotype of the small shopkeeper who was greedy and who always tried to con people and cheat people in his dealings with them was popularly stuck on them. Conversely, when these folks exceeded expectations and became people who were successful in business on a large scale, that was resented as well, and looked at as a sort of ethnic conspiracy. The idea of identifying capitalism, industrial capitalism and small scale capitalism as well, as a whole, with people who are Jewish is a laughable proposition, one that can be easily disproven by things such as the very non-Jewish sector of industrialists in England and Scotland, for instance. The economic system of capitalism organizes itself well without any need for an ethnicity to be secretly in control of it.

Another factor, one that goes into the second pole, is the presence of people who are Jewish in the professions. The rise of a professional sector was a late development in Germany and elsewhere, seemingly only coming into its own in the mid 19th century. That people who were prohibited from participating in other professions would want to be part of these new jobs is of course understandable, but it must have appeared to people who were prejudiced that lots of folks who were different from them were suddenly getting positions that had importance attached to them, that they themselves either wanted or wanted to control the hiring of.

All of this has parallels with our own society, particularly in the form of racism against blacks, where they're talked about as corrupt ghetto dwellers, and where when they do succeed in beating the system and becoming part of traditionally white professions treated with esteem they're met with suspicion. Thoughts going towards Affirmative Action as an explanation fly, rather than consideration of the possibility that the person may have earned the position based on his or her own merits. Look at Obama and the hostility that he's provoked.

Hatred of poverty and difference, and then resentment when the poor and downtrodden achieve something look like they contributed to the notion of anti-Semitism believed in by the Nazis. Ironically, in making poor Jewish people out to be potential criminals and corrupters, as embodying the worst in urban culture, the Nazis painted a good picture of the German people who made up the SA, the Sturmabteilung or Brown Shirts, ignorant and racist folks who were the scum that society had cast off. 'Jim Valtin', author of "Out of the Night", an account of a Communist organizer in Germany in the '20s, categorized hardcore SA men who he was in prison with as being obsessed with 'anti-semitism and sodomy', a combination that seems pointless and ignorant indeed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why quoting and revering the Constitution is often such bullshit...real reasons

To put it country simple, as William S. Burroughs might say, the fact is that the Constitution of the United States is just a framework, and it doesn't really make sense without the State Constitutions added to it. Folks talk about the Constitution like it's a comprehensive document embodying all of 'our' hopes, dreams, values, etc..., but in reality it's a brief, formal, document that establishes the main institutions of government and does little else. This is why debates involving the Supreme Court are often so esoteric....there's really little there, so every word is wrung out to get as most meaning as possible, with strange detours down past political theory from the mid 18th century being made in order to try to somehow divine more content for the document. The amendments are where the action really is, despite what hoary and mostly bullshit speeches people give. Originally the Bill of Rights was not going to be included at all, but anti-Federalists, opponents of the Constitution, or at least people of a persuasion sympathetic to the anti-Federalist cause, pressed to have it included. The large, large, difference between a framework document and a substantive document can be easily seen by surfing over to your local State legislature and reading your State constitution, then comparing it to the U.S. Constitution.
I can all but guarantee that the State constitution will be much more detailed, will be much more specific, and be much more implicit about the way government should be and how it should relate to people in the State than the U.S. Constitution does. This is something where you yourself can empirically confirm or challenge the idea. Reading a State constitution makes you realize just what's missing from the big one, and it makes you wonder just why that is the case.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Sometimes, American political life....

Is like a contest where you wait to see what stupid, inbred, ignorant, throwback to long long ago, spewing the inanest garbage possible, will come trotting out on the field. Can we find the ur-hick, the long lost King of the Rednecks, whose family tree goes in circles, who has been kept pure, outside of modern civilization for so long that we can barely understand his speech, to say nothing of his thought processes? If we can, we just might make him President.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Even in a socialist society we'd have to do something to reign in tendencies in human nature

A funny thing happened once it became clear that the Revolution had won in Russia. Folks who were previously apathetic to it suddenly became ardent Communists once they figured out that doing so and towing the party line could get them places. Once the horror of Stalinism was over and Khruschev's idealism had been overthrown, the same folks who in the U.S. would be serving time in corporations trying to defend their petty little fiefs and get ahead took over the bureaucracy, and appeared to manipulate it to their own advantage in the same ways that folks over here do. To cite an extreme case about how self-interest can cover up ones true motives, Slobodan Milosevic was the executive in charge of the electric company in Serbia. If we're going to build a just society, something has to be done to restrain people from using the system for their own ends.

Socialism, or at least socialist thought, has been good about prescribing positive goals, in fact this is its great power, but the good old politics of restraint, following from the Enlightenment tradition and upheld in the US of A, also have a roll to play. Something like Mao's stated 'cultural revolution' is not desirable; instead, I think it would be better to design structures of social organization so that careerist abuses are made harder to achieve.

In other words, after power is liberated, there may be reason to restrain the action that can be taken with that power in order to ensure that the system as a whole doesn't become one run by cynics who only serve time in order to try to get more for themselves.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Good old equality....with historical materialism and how it can be interpreted in a new way

Equality is a funny thing. On the one hand, it's obvious that in certain respects not everyone is equal, for instance not everyone can play sports well, do higher order mathematics, yet there appear to be general qualities and abilities that we all share. Some people put out a lot of effort in their lives to get places, other people don't. Some people for whatever reason go down hill because of personal failures, others rise above destructive temptations. Some folks are honest, others aren't. Personal characteristics and effort is something that equality and plans to equalize property and power won't overcome. Which is not to say that the latter should not be done, but only to say that it may work out better if formulated somewhat differently.

Marx's key insight was how the broad economic structure of society shaped social structure and personal chances in life, chances that can sometimes be overcome with effort, but that still present significant barriers. By changing the social structure to one where Capital is commonly held and administered by society itself, not by private hands, a true substrate for individual competition could be said to be established. With the distortions of either possessing or not possessing capital, of coming from a family or town that's either capital rich or poor, and by not having money and capital dictate the values of society anymore, the stage is set for individuals to rise or fall by their own merits, with penalties and rewards handed out not for arbitrary reasons but for ones that are rational and commensurate with what a person chooses to either do or not do. In my eyes, the extremes of income would be flattened, but there would be enough range and difference out there to motivate people to go out and try for it. Folks who did little would still be provided for, but the life would not be ideal, although hopefully much more just than what the social welfare system of the United States currently provides or doesn't provide. But it would take an end to the private dictatorship of money to happen.

Take the decision making power of capital out of private hands and put it into the public eye, where society can direct it for social goals and not goals of personal gain. Make the remaining remnants of managers work for the common good.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Another Victorian era holdover: the shock and outrage over Anthony Weiner

Because, of course, sending a picture of yourself over the internet is a terrible, terrible, offense, unlike authorizing torture at Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo.

It's also impressive how whether he should resign or not is being left open to a country wide audience, not just to his constituents, who elected him and who should be the ones he listens to. I mean, it's reminiscent of the sudden throbbing sympathy that folks in bum fuck nowhere suddenly found for New York City after 9/11. I happened to be living in a town in the South, or the 'fake south' of North Florida, when 9/11 happened, where the people there would rail against the North and against Liberals....but suddenly after that date the papers started declaring their patriotism and their support of the people of New York, and saying that, geez, because we care so much about you we're going to press for invading a couple of countries, no matter if you want that or not. If you don't, well, you're liberal cosmopolitan anti-patriots who shouldn't have the privilege of living in our sacred New York City. What a joke.

An example of the naivete of behavioral anthropology: kissing

An article came out recently saying that the origin of kissing may have had to do with the way our bodies analyze the chemicals from the other person's mouth. Supposedly, attractiveness is increased when a particular chemical from a partner does not match the one that the individual themselves has, thereby increasing the likelihood that genetic diversity will be insured by encouraging folks to do things with people who are different from them. This was presented in reference to birth control, where once a woman is on birth control their response to this chemical by the partner changes from being positive if it's different to being negative.

There's just one problem: kissing is not nearly as important in many cultures outside of that of those descended from Europeans. Asian cultures reportedly have much less kissing than western cultures, and the same is said about sub-saharan Africa and parts of Polynesia. So, well, if kissing is something that a significant portion of humanity doesn't put great emphasis on, how exactly can it have had such a role in evolution? This shows one of the failures of looking at things from within your cultural perspective and not from a broader one, and suggests that if evolutionary biology can't explain real, observed, social and cultural differences, or is not aware of them, that the truth value of its claims are less certain than they might like.

Or, in other words, it might all be bullshit because they don't even have a good enough understanding to account for the possibility of cultural relativity. Eurocentrism informing outlandish theories about how evolutionary pressures shape present human behavior. Any sociologist or anthropologist could tell them how dangerous it is to generalize about the whole of humanity from a small, small, sample, and how it's even more tenuous to dare to connect that with biological constants, but of course the sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists no doubt think that sociology and anthropology are not 'hard' enough sciences to count.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Kevorkian passes away, a sad thing

He was actually wildly popular in the Detroit area, with lots of people understanding the issues and supporting him. Heck, my family supported him, but then again people in my family also voted Perot and were members of Greenpeace, as well as being NRA supporters, sort of a synthesis of Progressive with rural Libertarianism.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The thing about Native Americans in North America supposedly being wiped out by plagues...

Which in otherwise wonderful books like '1491' gets a lot of play, is that somehow Native Americans survived in great numbers in Mexico, Central America, and South America, not to mention the U.S. Southwest that was part of Mexico. Surely, these peoples too were decimated by the new diseases brought by Europeans, but they survived nonetheless. The same cannot be said for Native tribes in the United States. Why is it that in Arizona and New Mexico there are large, surviving, Native groups, but several hundred miles west in California there are barely any? Or in the South and the Midwest? Surely immunity is not so different in these different areas. Perhaps the difference comes from systematic persecution and murder, as well as racial taboos against intermarriage.