Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Panel of outsiders named to vet Arena deal for City Council" via Seattle Times">Here. Can you tell that the Seattle Times is non-plussed over the existence of a panel evaluating the stadium plan? I mean, "outsiders", jesus, it's like people from fuckin' mars are coming over here and telling us god fearing citizens what to do. Actually, all the people on the panel are established figures in Washington state academia and government. But the particularism of the Seattle Times is shining through again. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Gun Violence Shakes Worried City", no, it shakes the Seattle Times

Here. Some kid shot at another kid at the Seattle Center during Folk Life, and there were two other shootings. The "City" is not worried, instead it's enjoying Memorial Day weekend. How exactly would you know that the city is worried? Rallies, memorials, protests, things that are tangible, would be signs that that city is in fact worried, not subjective opinions from folks at the Seattle Times, that is trying to sell papers on a traditionally slow news day. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Neo-Romantic Manifesto, a blast from the past

This is something I wrote in 2003, have revised for clarity, and am reposting now. I still agree with most of it, but thankfully, in the post-Bush years there's less of a sense of danger from an all encompassing ideological-technocratic corporate state than there was when I wrote this.

"The Neo-Romantic Manifesto (2003/2012).

Here ye, Here ye, all doyens of countercultural and youth trends, for I have declared what my philosophy and the implicit philosophy of a whole lot of people my age (early twenties) is. 

I call it Neo-Romanticism. 

How much is this just my own pontificating and how much of it is really a cultural movement is for you to judge. 

The Neo-Romanticist movement is based on a rejection of the prevailing Positivistic and Scientistic worldview, and the substitution of a worldview based on the idea that the mental and social spheres obey rules completely separate from those of the sphere of the physical sciences. Therefore, the world of the humanities and an increase in the quality of human life in the Neo-Romanticist worldview are valued over mechanistic explanations about how the world works, and the material slick tech toys that go along with it. Those rules don't apply, pure and simple, no matter what the conventional wisdom says. 

Why now,  you may ask.... where did it come from, where's it going? Well, Neo- Romanticism is an outgrowth of the vaunted Generation X movement,  the product of the factors that caused Generation X (or individuals thereof) to drop out and create an alternative society brought to a fever pitch. Generation X was saved from becoming an activist group because they had a tangible memory of how things were before the Reagan Revolution; consequently, they didn't HAVE to react strongly in order to save their sanity; they had a firm memory that told them that things had been different in the past, and could be different in the future.

Instead of Generation X's experience of still existing world and culture slowly decaying while they grew up,  Neo-Romanticists have grown up in a world where the decay has advanced so far through conservative control of institutions that they believe there's nothing to latch onto and save, that there’s no real source for nostalgia, but that new cultural productions are required to revivify America and American culture. Again, this isn't a choice, it's a reflection of a cultural situation where if we want anything satisfying we're going to have to make it ourselves. 

Sad, but true. 

 Neo-Romanticism is more aggressive than Generation X in its rejection of conventional society because the opponent is stronger now,  and was stronger during my "generation's" formative years. It's positively monstrous now at this historical juncture. 

This is why the Romanticist viewpoint is emphasized. The Romanticists were individuals who consciously reacted against the decayed conception of Enlightenment liberalism and science that stifled any and all human instincts and experiences not explainable by a mechanistic 'reason'. A good parallel to the Romanticists in the present day, in our present environment, one that was formative in their influence on today’s counterculture, are the Situationists of the sixties and seventies, who advocated radical action and self creation against media/consumerist capitalism in order to produce a new culture. Their ideas have been adopted by many, and are thought of as a movement whose time has come. Crimethinc.  for example, advocates producing your own new culture and breaking out of the media created consumerist world instead of just pawing over old cultural productions, thinking that they might provide some residual satisfaction. 

We are Neo-Romanticists not only culturally but politically; the Romanticists were the first people who seriously suggested a Socialist alternative to pure Enlightenment liberalism, who put forward the view that people had collective rights on top of individual rights. Politically, we take this position  because the United States has refused to honor or take notice of any trends to expand rights and social programs in areas that go beyond the individual, such as health care and universal pensions, not to mention because of hostility to the labor movement. In this aspect we are heirs of the Romantic moment of the early 19th century, transported into the present day United States, because the same scientistic worldview and over rationalized classical liberalism they fought against the has not been truly overcome in our society, even though continental Europe overcame these influences on a social and historical level in 1848. The United States is still stuck in the 18th century. 

We praise the individual in both their personal and collective contexts and advocate learning and critical thought against the corporate, technocratic society, and look forward to a restoration of the individual freedom present in the '70s. Indeed, we look forward to taking that freedom farther than they ever did. Although individuals in the ’60s and ’70s were fighting against some of the same problems we are today, the monolith we face, however, is not the same as Ginsburg's Moloch. Their dissent that was swallowed up by the ’80s, anyways. In the ’60s and ’70s, the machine was still on the outside of society. It had been created in the 1950s, alarming people, but even in the counter-cultural decades it did not own society lock stock and barrel. It does now. 

Dissent against the educational, cultural, capitalistic, scientific, militaristic, monolith overseen by conservative politics today isn't just about protesting against a troubling trend in society but a fight for the very life of that society itself, and for the quality of our personal lives.  Our choice is between honoring the individual and developing cultural and social uniqueness, or submitting to the grind of anonymous McDonalds-esque work and a life that becomes a black hole with nothing at the end of the tunnel. 

Positivism has also given rise to a particular strand of corporate conservatism, which, even as Rome is burning outside it's windows, laughs at everyone who would be so stupid as to think that the "Conventional Wisdom" brought to you by indoctrinated elites is a fraud. It laughs while it implicitly endorses more and more of the senseless consumerist wasting of lives, caused by the cultural vacuum of nothingness we live in. This in turn causes people to use drugs, alcohol, and sex as attempts to dull the pain of nothingness instead of as fulfilling tools for freedom. People are drugging themselves on prescribed medications, on CNN, sex, porn, on hero worship, on alcohol, on anything that can convince them for a little while that they have a decent stake in their lives. They are  drugging themselves on anything that can help them avoid both the alienation of the present and the hard truth that they've missed the boat on life, as we all have. 

Anton Szandor LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, in one of his later writings, called this struggle against control the "Invisible War" against individual freedom, orchestrated by people wanting to control, drug, and manipulate the populace into submission. The aim of Neo-Romanticism is to reverse this proces. If you buy into the machine culture, don't be surprised if all you get at the end of your life is a dead imitation of satisfaction, brought to you by all the right companies. Neo-Romanticism seeks to reverse this process by revivifying normal life, by taking ourselves out of the machine and creating a viable alternative, not just a stopgap but the beginnings of a construction of a new, viable, humane, society, that will eventually make it's way into the mainstream and effect it. 

Bring back what's important, give up your toys, your little cell phones, your pursuit of bigger and bigger machines, your video games and your greater integration into the machine hive... discover the human experiences in life; discover the connection between two living beings, and the enjoyment that comes from pursuing goals that come out of the human experience itself and not out of a factory. Practice being, and doing, instead of having, and existing. 

Cultural stagnation can't end by itself. We've moved into a decadent phase where it becomes clear on a daily basis that the machine can't produce anything truly new or original. Culture has stopped; the musicians and stars of the past have not been superseded by anything or anyone truly new in a long time. Time to drop out and forge that something new, not founded on ideology, but on humanity. Before Castro became a dictator, he famously declared that he didn't stand for Communism but for Revolutionary Humanism; I think that's a good summary of what Neo-Romanticism stands for. 

Will this declaration be heralded by nothing but silence and irrelevance? Will it resonate with people and inform them about the trends they’re already pursuing in living their own lives? I can't say; but I do know that I'm not the only freak out there, and that there are a great many others who agree with this rough philosophy and live roughly the same type of life I'm living. 

Whether we constitute a real social movement that will someday change society, or are just a pipe dream, is another matter.  Let history judge."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Big Announcement: Lost News Seattle website is up and running

I've started a website for straight, journalistic, reporting about Seattle goings on, called The site is still in its infancy, but aims to go beyond blogging to actual, factual, reporting about news and events.

It's on the Wordpress platform this time (something that didn't exist when I started this blog), and the blog's appearance is still under development. Eventually, Lost Highway Times will be shifted onto Wordpress as well, but that's a much longer term project since this blog has over 6,000 entries....and I don't trust the automatic migrator Google offers to successfully do the job.

Anyways, check out the new site, and enjoy. 

An uncomfortable truth regarding Serbia...

Notice, I am no way shape or form excusing or expressing sympathy for what the Serbs did to the Bosnians during the Balkan war of the 1990s. One thing that I certainly did not know until very recently, and that I don't think many others know is that Bosnia was incorporated into the World War II Ustashe state, and that state declared itself to be both Catholic and Muslim, united by a nationalism that may have seen Bosnians as Muslim Croats. This, no doubt, fueled resentment by the Serbs, since the Ustashe were mass murderers who executed hundreds of thousands of Serbs during World War II. 

Folks should repeat this over and over again

Obama was born in the U.S., global warming is real, evolution is real, the world is not 5,000 years old....I don't fuck my cousins...

Monday, May 21, 2012

"The Miraculous Mandarin" pulled in Seattle, because we're liberal and about free speech

The play/ballet is about prostitution and the issues that come with that. It was staged in a vacant building that the audience stood outside of and looked into, according to Brendan Kiley of The Stranger. But, well, it was too much for Seattle, and the people who put it on in the vacant building, Store Fronts Seattle, pulled the plug (even though people had already bought tickets).  Store Fronts has a very interesting explanation for their action. After explaining in great detail the potential issues with the piece that they knew about ahead of time before booking, they say :

"Watching the opening night’s performance, however, the Storefronts leadership found it obvious that the show was, in fact, not appropriate for a general audience. As there isn’t a way to restrict the viewing of the piece from the park, we were forced to cancel." 

Well, because they don't actually give any examples of why they "found it obvious" that it was inappropriate, one can only assume that their reasoning was based on a more of a general sense, like in the "I know it when I see it" definition of pornography, and like that used by hysterical school moms in the midwest to ban plays and books since time immemorial.  There's also the issue of "implied nudity", which was cited by the dance company itself as a reason that Storefronts gave for canceling the show.

 Implied nudity? That means that, you know, there wasn't actual one was naked, it was just, um, implied, like maybe with a body stocking or something....canceling something over "implied nudity" is, again, something that folks in the corn belt do.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sometimes I think Washington is the Connecticut to California's New York

With certain parts of Oregon figuring in their too. If the exurbs of New York are what radio hosts Curtis and Kube marvelously described as "Whitelandia", Washington certainly qualifies as well. Anglo-WASP middle to upper class culture has found it's liberal apotheosis here, yet, despite the different values, it still remains the province of an ethnically privileged minority.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The question of Georges Sorel

Which is how did he go from being a straight out socialist and syndicalist to adopting increasingly odd ideas? I mean, it's very strange to me that "Reflections on Violence" and other works are looked on as being syndicalist, because there's so much there that comes from other traditions and compartively little that comes from the syndicalist mainstream. But, there is a book out there called "From Georges Sorel", that contains extracts from works throughout his career, and it sheds light on the subject. First, in the essay "The Socialist Future of the Syndicates" and the first part of "The Ethics of Socialism", Sorel comes off as a pretty decent thinker. In fact, "The Socialist Future" has only a few small themes, like a mention of skilled syndicats as being the vanguard of syndicalism, that prefigure what is to come. In the last parts of "The Ethics of Socialism" he seems to change, beginning with the section where he quotes Ernest Renan. This is notable because Renan was a famous conservative. Looking at the editor's introduction, the timing of the break becomes obvious: it was about Dreyfus.

Sorel looks dismayed about the socialist-radical (liberal) Dreyfusard coalition that came to power in France in 1899, thinking that they were too Statist in their new social policies. But, instead of just sticking with regular syndicalism, or making a limited critique Sorel started taking cues from the writings of the conservative anti-Dreyfusards, obviously reading deeply in that tradition, integrating parts of their critiques into his thought.

Now, there's nothing wrong with being creative in what you believe or taking inspiration from lots of different places. Even stopped clocks are right twice a day, and there are more ideas from places outside of the traditional left that have value than are supposed. However, what's wrong, to me, is that while  writing as a syndicalist, while proclaiming himself totally in support of the orthodox syndicalist struggle, what Sorel was really advocating was a kind of pseuo-corporatist, decentralized, conservatism, that used the same ideas that the Action Francaise drew from and that influenced Mussolini and his Fascist movement. If Sorel has just come out and said what he really believed, and taken the hit for it, I would have more respect for him within the context of what he was really advocating, but instead he seems to be trying to square the circle. That attempt started in his writings of 1899, with "Reflections on Violence" coming out in 1906, a full seven years later.

Idiosyncrasy is fine, but you can't let yourself be regarded as an orthodox purveyor of the doctrine, as Sorel did after "Reflections on Violence" was published. It's rememered today because it came out at a high point in syndicalist strikes and protests, and was seen as somehow representing the movement as a whole. Also, if in your self declared idiosyncrasies you really do go far and beyond what you say you are, you really need to change the label, whether that means making up a new one or saying that you've changed philosophies on the whole.

*on edit: also, far be it for me to talk about any sort of ideological purity. My politics are definitely idiosyncratic,  self-declaredly so. They pillage from ideas near and far. However, I think my core beliefs are fairly intact.

Welcome to your new space overlords: "SpaceX to launch first private space rocket on Saturday"

Here, via RawStory. Now, the big question, the huge question, is if there's actually anything valuable out there that would really justify the huge cost of building lots of rockets and doing everything else that comes with that, but, if asteroid mining or some other kind of space mining is actually viable, and actually something that private companies could feasibly do, we're potentially in trouble. We're in trouble because these are unaccountable private companies going into space instead of democratically controlled government projects that could benefit both the world and individual countries as a whole. The thought of private space initiatives to make money brings up memories of "The Company" in the Aliens movies.

"State Dept. boots breast cancer survivor from blogroll over ‘nipple cozies’ "

Here, from Rawstory. Still trying to find out details, but the essential paragraph looks to be this:

“Hopefully, you can understand that some topics covered in your blog are very personal in nature, e.g. nipple cozies, and wouldn’t necessarily resonate with the majority of potential candidates who are interested in learning about the FS [Foreign Service] life overseas,” 

Really? Being a breast cancer survivor writing about reconstructive surgery and it's flaws wouldn't be interesting to potential Foreign Service candidates....because they've lived under a rock and are insecure when somebody mentions breasts in print? Hmm....maybe the State Department should stop sending so many recruiters out to hay farms where the fathers make the sons memorize the Constitution and send more of them to the real world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Columbia Business School: they are the fun percent, because, you know, protesting is such a drag and such a kill joy

Columbia Business School graduates this year held up signs saying that they were the "fun percent". Can't hot link to it, but the picture is available here.  I mean, dude, why do you have to be so serious, talking about all sorts of negativity? You should just sit down, get a brew, turn on some TV, and get back to normal life for a while.

*on edit: or, as Jello Biafra says, go home, rent a video, and don't vote.

or this:

Sketchers has to pay $40 Million over false claims about weight loss shoes

I wish that the FTC could do the same thing with pharmaceutical ads, which promise the world and rarely give that pay off. But it's good that they're doing it with shoes because, you know, just wearing heavy shoes won't  make you into a model. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The material is the ideal, reflection on Kant

Kant's denial of the ability of people to know things in and of themselves is well known, but what are we doing if we're not actually perceiving what's out there? One option is that when we look out into the world we're project an idealized picture onto it, projecting concepts and ideas that make the phenomenon artificially unified. Ideas like matter and material are abstract ideals useful for understanding these underlying phenomenon, but they're not real in and of themselves. If this option is true, then all materialism is a species of idealism, with Enlightenment materialism and Historical materialism as cases where the philosophical, human, ideal projections, that we come up with can be proven to work on their own as self-operating systems. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Getting personal, things that motivate me

Because many of my writings here are very ex cathedra and anonymous. In fact, this site started out anonymously until 2007, roughly five years, so I suppose old habits die hard.

In any case, when I look at things that have shaped my political perspective I have now, three stick out:

First, growing up in the country in Michigan, in roughly the middle of nowhere, in a lower middle class family. I lived north of the Detroit Metro area, and although we moved around some in the area that forms the border between Macomb and Lapeer counties, for the last years I lived there we lived in a small town where it was obvious that the powers that ruled it were the richer conservative Christians. Our family was not particularly well off, it was liberal, and pretty atheist/agnostic (although coming from a Christian background). The conservative forces of the town, with their moralizing, were linked to money.

Second, when I was sixteen we moved to the inner suburbs of the Detroit and I had the privilege of attending a private school in a very wealthy town. Our family had a very unexpected reversal of fortune that allowed us to live around wealthy people whose everyday life I never even imagined existing outside of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". The private school, a very liberal and progressive one, was fine, but the education in inequality by the ostentatious wealth that was around in the area, was provided in your face on a daily basis.

Third, after going away to college (to NYU, a very selective and very expensive school), I contracted a mysterious illness that prevented me from concentrating for long periods of time to the point where I could no longer read or write. I left NYU on good terms, with the counselors helping me out quite a bit, very encouraging, but when I got back home I walked into a wall of health care bureaucracy, that questioned whether I even had an illness and that put enormous obstacles in my way to getting this disease, that had stopped my college career in its tracks, addressed. The dumbth and utter incompetence of the people I encountered was astounding. This was under the same sort of health care plan that most people have, nothing special there.

The consequences of this corporate health care world  disrupted my life to the point where, after trying to go back to college (at another school besides NYU), and facing a hostile school administration, including a counselor who was a near psychopath, I decided to not only drop out of school but to drop out of society in general. I had some connections with relatives in the Florida Keys, and so I left school and moved there, adopting the "Keysie" lifestyle, which is similar to the lifestyle of beach bums in Hawai'i, and on the beaches in Southern California,( a reference for folks on the West Coast who've never been to Florida).

I was totally committed to living an alternatively lifestyle completely separate from the system, and I have no apologies for that.

Anyways, those are the three most important events that shaped my political perspective, with the added bonus of school in New York City showing me even more inequality through the contrast between the lives of my fellow NYU students and the rest of the city playing it's part.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Interesting idea about decadence from Remy de Gourmont

Who was a Decadent writer at turn of the (20th) century France. In an essay about Decadence and Stephane Mallarme, de Gourmont argues that what was called Decadence in France, the profusion of the bizarre, the fantastic, and the macabre in fiction and art, was actually innovation and creativity. Going from there, he declares that the Decadent is really the innovation that comes at the end of an Empire or an age, when what's been established has fell into ruins and people are experimenting with new forms. For Gourmount, the true Decadents in the popular sense were the Classical writers of 18th century France, who imitated the old forms without much innovation, in his opinion, and saw themselves as the height of artistic creation and sophistication. 

A different perspective on the Berlin Wall

I remember seeing the wall come down on television. Back then, I was just a kid, and I had the impression that the Wall separated West Germany from East Germany, that it went across the country, and that Berlin was on the border. Berlin itself was far in East German territory, in the northeast of the country, though. Because it was the capitol of both Nazi Germany, Weimar Germany, and Kaiser Germany, Berlin was occupied by all of the forces who won the Second World War, and divided into zones controlled by them. This meant that within the territory of East Germany there was a city that was another country, that was controlled by the West, by the United States, Great Britain, and France. The Berlin Wall didn't just cut through Berlin, it totally surrounded Western Berlin, cutting it off from the rest of East Germany. 
Now, you could say to yourself, what a terrible thing for a city to be divided in half like that, and indeed I'm sure it was, but as the Cold War heated up some sort of division like that was inevitable. NATO was formed with the express purpose of fighting the Eastern Bloc and with West Berlin you had three of the NATO powers resident within the Eastern Bloc itself. Not only that, but a porous border between East and West Berlin allowed not just people but spies and information to go back and forth. With the border between West and East Germany hardening and becoming militarized everywhere else, why should a border between East and West Berlin have remained open? As unfortunate as it was, and as arbitrary as the division of the city was for people who had lived their lives there for generations, once the Soviets set up their own state something like this was bound to happen. 

What a divided Berlin signified, though, was the ultimate arbitrariness of the division between the Eastern Bloc and the West, between the Communist world and the capitalist world. The countries that became Communist were simply the ones that the Soviet Union occupied in the wake of World War II, regardless of whether they had any sort of Communist movement before the war and the Nazi occupation before that. East Germany was East Germany because that's the territory that the Red Army occupied. East Berlin became East Berlin because of international agreement. The people of East Berlin, of East Germany, became citizens of the new state by historical chance. 

Additionally, moves such as the starving of West Berlin by the Soviets, countered by the Berlin Airlift, were very illegitimate. 

But the wall, taken as having no rationale but as a symbol of oppression, has to be balanced against the many military bases the United States had in West Germany whose purpose was to prepare for war against the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Those bases are still there today. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Obama's announcement on gay marriage reminds me...

Of how over tolerant we've been to assholes in this country. Seriously, it's like somebody builds a life size ark in Kentucky and the media has to tow the line about the guy being a thoughtful and pious evangelical Christian instead of a white trash inbred idiot hill billy. We've been letting a lunatic fringe from the right control our public discussions for far too long, and it's time to start calling it like we see it, instead of being oh so polite. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Faustian bargain of the rich in Nazi Germany

Many people have commented on the class bias of the Fascist regime of Mussolini, and while some attention has been paid to the role of big business in the support of Hitler, one point is often lost. Unlike in Italy, where the Communists were the sole enemy, and business could be accommodated straightforwardly, in Germany, Hitler played to a kind of naive anti-capitalism, the "socialism of fools" as August Bebel termed it, populist resentment against Jews, who although poor overall were considered to be enormously rich and powerful. This meant that a move towards a pro-business environment in Germany, facing a potential Communist revolution in the midst of the depression, would have to happen with the Jewish part of the business community being destroyed to appease popular sentiment.  But after that happened, Germany reverted to a kind of pro-aristocratic corporativism, with the sons of the leaders of business and the traditional aristocracy courted by the Nazi party itself.  

James Carville cites Cicero in The Guardian

"I thought that the advice I was giving my clients was special. Little did I realize that pretty much everything I've said was old news 2,000 years ago, covered expertly in Quintus Tullius Cicero's strategy memo for the campaign of his brother, Marcus, for consul in Rome in 64BC. The Commentariolum Petitionis, or "Little Handbook on Electioneering", is remarkable."

I find it extremely funny that Carville is writing about a classical source. Carville, Clinton's campaign manager, represented an infuriatingly bad strain of politics in the pre-Bush era. It might be hard to imagine  how that could be the case now, considering how Bush shredded civil liberties and brought us into two unnecessary wars, but Carville and company did their share through an utter disregard for any higher principles in politics in the '90s. It wasn't that they pursued authoritarian policies, but that they viewed politics as a student government game existing in a content free world ruled by a centrism that demanded government do little or nothing to improve the country. This, coming from the Democrats, the party of FDR, was extraordinarily frustrating. They seemed to be tone deaf to what real politics is about--not horse trading but addressing the fundamental issues and concerns of society. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Anarchy is Boring"by Dominic Holden, a nice whitewash

Here. Bold words, for sure. Holden talks about the nice aspects of the anarchist movement without talking about the problems. Although this blog is semi-anarchistic, and linked to on anarcho-blogs, it is not without it's criticisms. In particular, what Holden ignores in his accounts of  interviews that stress the everyday living of the revolution is the fact that many anarchists that come from the punk rock scene are just a hair above apolitical crust punks who believe in getting fucked up and little else, except maybe general rebellion against school and parents. Calling yourself an anarchist means very different things for very different people, and there's quite a strong strain of thought in some anarchist groups where if you're not of the mindset of folks who liked to get blasted all the time on different substances and hang out (before reforming) you're a sell out bourgeois. If you read a book, you're a bad, bad intellectual. If, in other words, you believe in something other than a form of the stoner ideal adhered to by teenagers, you're not pure enough.

That sort of purity is undesirable for me, because I'm not sixteen and pissed off at my school anymore, and I tend to shy away from folks who believe that you need to fit in with some idea  of a music based counter-culture in order to be a political activist. Yes, if I went to more shows and drunk more beer I'd understand anarchism so much better, because, like you just don't get it, man.

Michigan, what's up with your stand on gay rights?

The Guardian has an interactive graphic Here describing the amount of protections and rights that gay folks have in the United States, state by state, and it turns out that Michigan has one of the least legal protections for gays in the U.S., on  a statewide  level. Now, being from Michigan, I know that folks there are about a hundred times more liberal than people in Mississippi, who have enacted approximately the same amount of legal protection for gays and lesbians. In fact, Michigan is not only liberal but more liberal than its immediate neighbors Ohio and Indiana. So what could be going on?

I think that although folks in Michigan are very liberal, they're not politically active. When I was living and growing up there, there was no active political scene anywhere in Metro Detroit. There were scattered groups here and there at best, and people in general were very disconnected from State politics. Why that was is unclear, but it might be a reaction to the hyper politicized days of the '60s and early '70s, and to the shift in cultural politics that lead to the creation of the Reagan Democrats, who were shop workers in the early '80s that voted against their class interest by supporting the Republicans. They did it because they objected to the social policy of the Democrats, specifically their pro-civil rights platform. It was a movement with deep roots in the racial division of Metro-Detroit after the '67 riots. But the Reagan Democrats were three decades ago.

A return to politics in Michigan, if it hasn't happened already because of the crushing affects of the recession, is overdue. The potential is there, but people just have to realize it. Michigan was the core battleground of union rights and union activity in the first half of the 20th century, and it can be a force for change again.

Does anyone else have insights about the lack of statewide legal protection for gays in Michigan?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Corporations and Unions

Although Unions are great at every level, there should be a principle of symmetry at work here. If corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonalds, Home Depot, and other nation wide companies can work to undermine regulations and the political process as a whole, surely workers have the justification to combine in organizations to try to defend themselves. 

The situation of middle class work vs. working class work

What separates the two. Both the working class and the bourgeois middle class have a work ethic. To say that the middle class work ethic is bullshit and to advocate having no work ethic is to miss the point. But, there are differences, and the differences in my opinion stem from the point that people in the respective class positions start out from in the work world.

Middle class and well off folks work, but growing up they're raised in the context of soccer games and summer camps, of activities promoted by their parents to make them better candidates for college as well as to develop their character. They have opportunities to study, they go on vacations with their family, and, when they get to be teenagers, they work. Their parents have good jobs, but they want to instill more discipline in their kids, so their kids get a traditional job of working at McDonalds or do something else part time, and work over the summers.

When they get to college, the mixture of privilege and work persists, albeit in a more attenuated form. The middle class kids have to put in more effort out than they have before, in job work and academically, yet they're still surrounded by the social relationships and benefits that they grew up with, that do not disappear completely. Only, this time, they'reThis is quite different from the lives of working class kids.

Finally, after college graduation the middle class kids find themselves in the work world. They pursue careers, with some stop gap jobs in between, but because they haven't had to really struggle for anything that they've got, they're in a better situation to find good work and pursue those careers than their working class compadres. They have connections from their parents, their family, and their community that help them to find good jobs as well. And yet, their work, their achievement, the products of their work ethic, are viewed as being fairly matched against those of the working class.

How different all this is from people who have had to struggle from the start to get where they are, who haven't experienced work as something their parents made them do but something they've done because they've had to. How different is this from the lives of people who didn't have parents to cart them around, to pay for after school activity on top of after school activity, who don't get tutoring or prep sessions for the SAT, who don't go on mind broadening vacations, and never experience summer camp. Because of the immense class divide in public education, the children of the middle class get opportunities to for classes that their less well off cousins never dream of, to go on school trips that would be unthinkable, and to participate in as many different clubs and groups as are possible. Yet, because they're still going to a public school, the children of the middle class can claim to not be the privileged, not like those other people who attend private schools.

 The two classes of people go into the world, supposedly as equals, to compete in the market place. Of course, bourgeois people have as much of a 'work ethic' as their working class cousins.  The element of true struggle, though, is absent, and when they participate as 'equals' in the job market, working class kids have had to struggle to even get to the basic level the bourgeois kids start at, and often this is not even recognized, or regarded as a factor to their credit. Instead, their lack of attractive, exotic, activities and achievements,  are regarded as indications of laziness. So it goes. The slim exotica of the working class competes against the freely received privileges of the bourgeois, and the equality of competition reigns supreme.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

"What is this 'capitalism' you're protesting against?"'s capitalism

Recent op-ed in the Seattle Times by Jon Talton arguing that what we have is not 'true' capitalism:

"The American capitalism that built the greatest middle class in the history of the world, as well as the greatest wealth, depended on competition, fair play, widely enjoyed benefits, a ladder up for those who worked hard and played by the rules, a mixed economy including government investment in infrastructure, research and education, and regulation to ensure healthy market forces."

Hmm, I think calling something a 'mixed economy' implies that it's not a pure product. 

"What we've witnessed is cronyism, shredding the rule of law, tax dodging, political control by the moneyed elites and looting the wealth it took us a hundred years to build. The results have been anti-competitive consolidation and control of supply chains -- one big casualty has been local business, which is essential to civic health. "

Actually, that's the essence of capitalism, that's what it tends towards. To see some proof , just look  into the era of great capitalist expansion in the late 19th century reigned over by the Robber Barons. Capitalism tends to... accumulate capital, which means that small local businesses expand into large businesses and either buy out or put out of business local stores and factories, setting the stage for the cronyism and the shredding of the rule of law that Talton talks about. 

It's unclear where Talton gets the idea that this type of American capitalism is the ideal promoted by Adam Smith. In point of fact, the positive features that he describes were only put into place because of sustained movements against capitalism, against the trend that business was heading. They were there because of  anti-capitalist agitation. 

So, maybe if you have an idealized notion taken from mid 20th century America,  where we had a 'mixed economy' produced by unions and social movements, you might think that what we now have is not capitalism, but if you look at the entire history of the phenomenon, it surely is capitalism that we're seeing.

If a candidate flip flops a lot on social issues...

It's likely because their core values lie in economic issues. For instance, Romney likely has a pro-business agenda as his core values, rather than social conservatism. 

Saturday, May 05, 2012

As for where the Northwest is on the Bourgeois/Worker spectrum, it's pretty clear...

That bourgeois culture completely and totally dominates worker culture here. The difference can be seen in things like, say, bourgeois folks who are are extremely hard assed when it comes to their demands on outsiders, but who give out loads of sympathy when  the folks they're dealing with are identified as coming from a bourgeois background. People here are often paranoid about people of color, who are often working class, in their midst just because they exist, and not on television, and put up barriers to them where they have to prove that they're not junkies, homeless, gang members, criminals, etc..., before they can be respectfully dealt with. On the other hand,  if you're white and from a good background you can go out there and do some sort of bourgeois bullshit adaptation of underwater basket weaving in a semi-corporate setting, marketing your underwater baskets to the world and to the community, where your entrepreneurial spirit takes precedence to any sort of practical connection with reality, and not be scrutinized at all. In other words, there are two different standards applied to folks in the Northwest based on whether or not they show evidence of being 'one of us', of coming from a bourgeois background. Either get treated like shit, or get a pass for every fuck up you do, and the difference is only due to a little bit of cultural capital. 

The rage of the bourgeois class...

It never ceases to amaze me how people from privileged backgrounds, who are young, can claim that they are 'really' earning it because they have a job at McDonaldson top of their parents supporting them. I've encountered this over and over, and also encountered folks who come from extraordinarily privileged backgrounds, whose parents aren't supporting them *now* , who claim that they have actually worked their way up from the bottom, and are continuing to do so. If your father is a lawyer, or he owns a business, and he makes you work while you're going to college, and doesn't give you much help after that, that's not the same as working your way up from the bottom. Yet folks conflate the two over and over again.

To me, this is attitude is not evidence of a working class point of view, which is what they think their point of view reflects, but of the bourgeois point of view that always wants to oppose hard, capitalist, work to the life of the lazy aristocrats, even though the U.S. doesn't have an aristocracy. The bourgeois mentality values hard work, but their definition of hard work doesn't encompass the same class solidarity that working class people feel, coming from having burdens imposed on you by society and not by daddy. 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Interesting rumor, relating to the whole transgression thing

The difference between thought crime transgression and actual physical transgression. The very rumor-ie thing is this: that in the Soviet Union they used to have some sort of program that they put certain political prisoners through intended to desensitize them to violence and encourage them to become criminals , through breaking down their moral character. The proof is very thin, to say the least, coming from one prisoner's reminiscences, but suggestive. If you make someone into a real criminal, then release them onto the streets, and they then commit a real crime, you can say that all their ideas were nothing more than just the workings of a deranged mind.

Dan Yack by Blaise Cendrars....a good book

Unfortunately, the availability of it is limited. Yack goes from pre-revolutionary Russia to Antarctica with a bunch of anarchists (he's an American millionaire),  which  turns into a long winter in a shed with the bunch of them and their dog,  barely hanging on. But, it's really funny and entertaining. Find it if you can. 

Strauss-Kahn accused of gang rape

....because, of course, there was no connection between his New York rape charges being dismissed and his position as the head of the IMF.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Mutual Aid in Evolution, some questions...

Not about Kropotkin's idea of mutual aid as it applies to the immediate political world, but as it applies to the broader social world. The basic thesis of mutual aid is that cooperation helps survival and so cultural patterns that encourage cooperation have been conserved over time and are valuable social principles. This may be true, but the other side of it is that these social principles that are effective in helping survival have the possibility of being enshrined as conservative cultural principles in and of themselves. Mutual aid surely works, but it works in the context of the patriarchal family, in the cooperation of a close knit religious village that has little social mobility, as well as in a liberal or socialist society. The successfulness of mutual aid alone does not necessarily mean that a society that is based on it will have values or attitudes that people sympathetic to anarchism would agree with.

In particular, Germany developed a very comprehensive philosophy about community, the Volkisch or Folkish philosophy, that was an  ultra-conservative communitarian doctrine, always ethnocentric and often racist. This was the school of thought that drove the collectivist part of the Nazi state. Volkisch philosophy surely incorporated mutual aid into itself, but I highly doubt that anyone who is an anarchist would want to be associated with it. 

Vicious comments, blogs, and alienation

I'm as guilty of this myself as anyone else, but I can confidently say that the things I post here don't go down to the level you find on newspaper websites. Why have comments on newspaper stories become a cesspool of hate? I think the amount of negative comments is linked to the commenters' sense of alienation from their community. If someone feels that they're part of that community, that it embodies good values and that it functions well, they're going to be much less likely to leave nasty comments. But if there's a disconnection between the individual and their community, then, well, that instant link from computer to computer makes it very easy for the full frustration to translate out into the world. The reasons for the disconnect are probably very different,  different for right wingers than for left wingers, for liberals than for conservatives, but they all want to express it. Folks are used to describing people who feel disconnected from their community as mixed nuts, as people who for personal reasons can't get along with society, but the truth is probably much deeper than that.  Another factor is the computer screen itself, which, although interactive, is less real and immediate physical than holding a piece of paper. That simple change alone could lead people to feel more disconnected from the community than if they had a tangible artifact from outside of their personal lives that they interacted with.

I know when I post here, the pissed-offedness of the writing has a direct correlation with frustrations over current events. Running something yourself, though, is an antidote to alienation.  Hopefully a blog can provide a type of structured experience that goes beyond random, insulting, comments on newspaper's website, even if the content is confrontational. 

"Land of Dreams" by Brand USA, wow, what country are they talking about?

Because it ain't the U.S.

This was sponsored by the U.S. government, through the U.S. Travel Promotion Act.

The funny thing is, I know almost all the places they feature, and they're the most un-U.S. places in the country. There's the Northwest, Northern California, Arizona and New Mexico, New Orleans and the Bayou county, New York City, Miami, and the part of western Montana by the Rocky Mountains.  Having all sorts of people of color playing traditional instruments next to a white person singing a vaguely country-ish song gives an impression of harmony in the U.S. that is not there.

I'd rather see something about Nebraska pig farmers who think that Italian folks are strange foreigners, to say nothing of actual ethnic and racial minorities.

Bottom line, if you're from outside the U.S. and you see this, please, please, for the love of god, don't take it as being representative of the experience you will have if you come here. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Happy May Day!

As for the "riots" in Seattle, far worse things happen in Europe on a semi-regular basis. Buck up, buttercup.

*on edit: as has been said, attacking the Mayor's residence did cross a line. If the point is symbolic demonstration, then actually attacking the residence of a figure goes beyond just being a symbol.