Friday, December 28, 2012

Norman Schwartzkopf...lead the fight to preserve the gold faucets of the Kuwaiti royal family

Surely a valiant venture, in the war that Baudrillard denied happening because the media coverage was so stage managed, and that the brits called "Your little fight in the sandbox". The Gulf War was a re-election campaign joke. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Non-anarchist musings: the state vs. corporations

One of the weaknesses of anarchist thought, which I respect very much, is a lack of realism about the end game that will establish socialism. Quite frankly, I think that barring any sort of mass social meltdown what will lead to the establishment of socialism will be some form of State, with the State in this case being taken as the embodiment of the will of the people. Not necessarily a conventional parliamentary State, although in practice this might lead to the State in question. Whether it comes from evolution or from revolution, when the power of corporate capitalism is truly threatened it will first passively resist and then actively resist, and when that happens, the State will either have to act to enforce its policies or it will prove itself to be just talk and relegate itself to irrelevance. To truly move to socialism, it's my belief that the State will have to not only have some sort of military power at its disposal, but that it will have to use it to confront corporations and enforce its will, which will be the will of the people, on to them. Laws passed, programs instituted, will have to be respected, or the people in question will have to go to jail, and if they respond with active resistance, they will have to be met with active force in turn. Only one power will be able to emerge from this confrontation.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Detroit shows the failure of pure cultural nationalism

Because the people of the city, after making it clear that they wanted to assert their identity as African Americans, in opposition to white people, paid no attention whatsoever to the possible economic effects of their actions....and as a consequence, got a good feeling in their hearts for living in self controlled neighborhoods and in a city whose administration was controlled by African Americans, while the city's economic infrastructure fell to pieces. Coleman Young would get up their and make hostile, rabble rousing, speeches every election cycle, do nothing for the city economically, and rake in his salary along with the rest of the political machine that he headed.

So I guess the question is what is more important: maintaining a culturally pure city, or having businesses beyond corner stores and a few McDonald's for people to work at?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ideas about renewing Detroit, from a Detroit area native

Actually, ideas about why Detroit has not been renewed. I have to say that it's at times amusing to me to see "revolutionary" concepts like urban agriculture (on polluted land) and other radical strategies for developing and strengthening Detroit. Quite frankly, conventional investment in Detroit would work---loans to start businesses, build or rebuild subdivisions, that sort of thing. But there's one large problem there, one that's been passed over in the media, one that's been a part of Detroit's decline for decades: hostility to white businesses and white folks living in Detroit by black Detroiters.

Though in other cities passive white flight lead to urban decline, in Detroit itself black Detroiters---from the post-riots mayor on down made it explicitly clear that they did not want white people living in their city, and that they didn't want businesses that were owned by people who didn't live in the city. Consequently, lots and lots of white people left Detroit and took their money and businesses with them, and moved both to the suburbs. The idea lots of people in Detroit had after the riots was to create a black owned and operated economy that would be self sufficient, however, in our society it's mostly people who are white who have access to money and capital.

I have to say this again---it was explicitly stated on many occasions by people in Detroit that they did not want white people living there, not even if they'd lived there for generations. This was not simply white people taking up and moving out.

People in Detroit are, to my knowledge at least, still hostile to the notion of integrated neighborhoods in the city, still hostile to the presence of white people in Detroit for anything except maybe a show or a ball game. With an atmosphere like that, what business is going to want to relocate itself in the city? What company is going to want to send their employees there, with the possibility that they'll be assaulted on the way home because of the color of their skin? These are very real questions in Detroit.

Plenty of people in the Detroit area would love to go back and do more things in the city---in fact, they regularly did lots of things in the city before the riots---they would like to invest, would like to support it---and may have wanted to not just in the past decade but in decades before, in the '90s and in the '80s, but if you get the message---not just implicit but explicit---over and over again that you're not wanted, why exactly would you pursue a masochistic goal like that?

My feeling is that Detroit, now quite a ways out of the formal end of the North Korean style Juche ethos of Coleman Young, the mayor for life of the city post-riots, will have to tolerate, not white control, because that isn't even an issue, but simply white presence and an integrated city for development to happen in ways short of "urban agriculture" revitalizing the whole thing.

*on edit: none of which isn't to say that the anger that fueled the riots wasn't justified, but instead to say that the wake of it destroyed the heart of a city that didn't just serve black Detroiters but the whole Detroit and Metro Detroit area. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Army seeks death penalty in Afghan massacre case". puts Seattle Times in a difficult position

Here. That difficult position is this: continue to support a monster who is a home boy, coming from Fort Lewis-McChord, or do something that goes beyond rank particularism? I can picture the heads of the Seattle Times editors exploding on this one, wanting to denounce the charges, but then realizing, oh fuck, it's the U.S. military itself that's putting them forward...and we can't criticize them.

The Times has a bad track record of supporting people accused of murder and other atrocities provided that they're local, against all evidence and common sense, for instance Amanda Knox. The Knox case, in the coverage in Seattle, reeked of anti-Italian sentiment, looking at the Italian legal system as the product of an inferior race who couldn't figure out how to work things.

Expect the Times to suddenly become peace loving doves who question the actions of the U.S. military.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Forbes: Gerard Depardieu Shows Tax Exiles Can Fight Back

Here. Some would call it being a traitor to France, but, hey, that's just some folks, right? In any case, it's an interesting story, both for its almost sub-literate level of complexity and for somehow managing to get in an anti-immigrant jab in a story that has nothing to do with it. But, then, what do you expect from the leaders of industry?

The frustration of the United States

Which can be summarized pretty easily: it takes a huge amount of energy to get people to change things, anything, and almost as much energy to try to get folks to even look at the world differently. The tragedy in Newtown is an example of this. With regards to action and getting people to do something, I remember hearing about a person who was visiting Seattle from France who went to the Fremont Sunday Market, a popular street market here, and who was shocked by all the anti-Bush stickers, shirts, and buttons she saw. It wasn't the content that shocked her, but the fact that if anti-presidential expression to this level had been going on in France it would have been the preface to a revolution. Instead, people bought their anti-Bush stuff, wore it, and largely sat on their asses.

Sometimes even the act of saying you want something changed, no matter how small or trivial, is looked at with fear and incomprehension. For instance, a few days ago I was walking around Seattle and passed a bar that had a sign out saying "Bring back our Sonics!", the basketball team that left a few years ago. Because there's a proposal to build a new stadium in the works, a group of nicely dressed guys and girls, said "Bring back the Sonics? Someone should tell them the Sonics are back". They seemed genuinely confused that someone would put out a political opinion on a major street.

In general, our society reflects pretty well the idea reportedly expressed by Frederick the Great, which was that he didn't care what his subjects said, as long as they obeyed.

We talk a lot, and we obey a lot too, whether out of apathy, laziness, or something else. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Values and Multiculturalism

Since this blog is now committed to a perspective that sees values, liberalism, and socialism as three interdependent pillars, it's worth while to look at the intersection of a values perspective with multi-culturalism. I see multiculturalism as no threat whatsoever to looking at the world through a virtue and positive values perspective. Instead, it offers the opportunity to see how different communities each find this sort of cultural perspective on what's right and worthwhile in terms of personal conduct, and to network in order to find common ground.

The notion that x community is deficient in cultural values is inevitably racist and based on racializing thinking. It harkens back to the idea that black folks are somehow less in touch with this because of how something going on in Africa is, and to the racialized notion that since Mexico's political structure is less than optimal, if we allow lots of people who are Mexican into the United States we'll inevitably start to resemble that. Muslims asserting Shariah law is another example, although one that's putatively religious and cultural instead of purely racial. None of this is true.

First off, what people don't see in focusing on the negative aspects of things that happen in the black community, that have been caused by slavery and racism, are the many structures within that community that try to help people to deal with the reality around them and lead good lives, such as Churches, which have a much more extensive role than just as places of worship. Parallels can be drawn with every group, from Mexican culture to Asian culture to Middle Eastern culture.

Values of the kind I'm talking about are inherently non-material, are opposed in essence to the sort of base materialism that leads to racialized thinking, and to materialist culture in general. Racism is the Right's equivalent of the vulgar Stalinism present in, admittedly tiny, parts of the Left that view all culture as simply the outcome of a picture of the economic structure of society in a way that can be contained on the back of a matchbook.

Seeing values of these kinds in a way detached from race is extremely important with regards to Europe, where a good portion of people really appear to believe that letting Muslim immigrants in will lead to Shariah law dominating and women losing their rights....which I'm sure these folks really respect. People in the U.S. believe the same thing, but the situation is not quite as bad because we don't have a lot of people who are Muslim who are emigrated here, while Europe has just that.

Instead of viewing culture as something that will be hurt or destroyed by the entrance of a foreign entity in it, it would be better to try to find the common ground that exists between cultures, which is not only positive in itself, but in the case of Europe will likely lead to greater assimilation....which is what the folks who are anti-immigrant at least say they want anyways.

As Washington goes, so goes the U.S.

Back in Olympia, there was an old guy who used to cruise around town in a wheelchair that had a picture of the U.S, with the states that voted for Bush in 2004 in red on them, tacked to the back, that was intended to show what real America was. The problem was that although if you look at that map, there's a sea of red, most of those places in the middle of the country have very few people. The same can be said of Washington state. The Seattle Times, in a story about conservatives in Washington state, has the map of where the pot and gay marriage referendums succeeded, and where they didn't. Looking at it, you'd think, wow, the state is split fifty fifty about this, with maybe even a little bit more for the folks who were against it. The fact, though, is that the space between the Cascades and the Rocky Mountains, between Seattle and Spokane, is lightly populated, with a few centers like Yakima and the Tri-Cities and little else. Geographically, yes, there are lots of square miles that aren't highly populated that didn't like the referendums....but it's not geography but votes that pass these things.

As Washington goes, so the U.S. will no doubt go: the actual population centers making their own decisions on controversial issues, with the large expanse of unpopulated 'Real America' staying in their established ways.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Michigan right to work law, terrible

I can't believe that something like this is happening in one of the core states, perhaps *the* core state, of unionism in this country, which is also my home state. Unions represent one of the purest forms of distributive justice there is here. As opposed to what their critics say, they aren't coercive parasitical bodies that enrich officials and constantly clamor for unearned cash. Instead, unions have and will continue to argue for a just share of the earnings of the company commensurate with the productivity of the work that workers perform. It's neither open ended nor vague, and is often based on very quantified studies.

Right to work is more along the lines of the ideology of ignorant fucks from rural areas, who don't recognize the complexity of society and instead insist that their complete "freedom" of contract somehow exist above anything else, even though in practice they only have a small degree of control over it.

*on edit: freedom of contract is one of those partially illusory freedoms that everybody believes exists. The truth is that you can, in fact, get a degree of justice through being rewarded for your good performance as an individual, but the system as a whole is ultimately stacked against you, so that a worker who does good and gets more money based on that still gets almost nothing compared to people in the white collar world, like marketers and advertising campaign creators, who get obscene amounts of money for much less work. That increase of money based on demonstrated ability is, or can be, very important, but it's not like it alters the equation to the point where participating in a union contract would seriously infringe on it. 

Compassion vs. justice and social justice

The three aren't identical. Policies of social intervention based solely on compassion tend to both be vague and open ended about when their goals will be achieved and also not touch the underlying causes of the problem being addressed. Solely basing something like this on compassion encourages and endless, bottomless, well of funding, while applying basic principles of justice--which imply righting a concrete past wrong and doing so precisely--both general and social, put constraints, limits, and reality testing on such programs, directing them to concrete as opposed to vague goals.

Clinton's welfare reform eviscerated the system, and went far too far, assuming that the neoliberal model of capitalism was correct and that people who were very poor simply needed to look harder for work, but one of the aspects of welfare that it was designed to address was real enough. This was the tendency for welfare to be endless, to the point where it became multi-generational, with mother and then daughter both getting onto welfare, being supported by the state, with no incentive whatsoever to do what was actually possible for them to improve their situation. A justice perspective, and a social justice perspective underneath it, would prevent something like that from happening by trying to solve the problem and make those affected, who have been wronged, whole, a finite goal.

Something that I've contended for a long time, about extremes

Is that extreme, mainstream, non-progressive, liberalism is much more insane than straight left wing thought, practice, and opinion. I say "non-progressive" in the sense of not paying attention to issues of economic inequality. I have no reason to change my opinion on this. However, it doesn't crop up a lot, so there's no reason to comment on it if it's an old issue. My sincere hope is that with the rise of progressive politics, some of the toxicity that comes from the unnecessary opposition of ultra-liberal politics to centrist politics will disappear, or at least be mitigated.

*on edit: and I should say as well that it's a necessarily sad and difficult topic. Specifically, lots of very bad things have been done to folks of color in the United States, which deserve restorative justice. However, there's a fine line between justice and "entitlement". Often in the past people who have argued for programs and such designed to address historical and current wrongs have not made that distinction, and have in fact implied that simply not feeling that agreeing that everything people ask for should automatically be given is itself a sign of racism. Justice is neither automatic, unthinking, or unlimited. 

....and wouldn't you know, people fuck it up: "White as snow Miss France unrepresentative"

From Here "Race group slams ‘white as snow’ Miss France as unrepresentative". Which is just absurd. Multi-culturalism is great, but "“The failure to represent the contemporary French population in an event such as this is obviously serious,” “It amounts to denying the very existence of French people of African origin.” is just insane. According to the article, there were quite a lot of people who were not "white as snow" who not only participated but made it very far. Do folks think that they have a right to be chosen as Miss France because of the color of their skin? And, well, this is "Miss France", which represents both minority and majority populations.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Cultural values, multiculturalism

Kind of an abstraction or extension of the below post. I need to contextualize this quite a bit. I like multiculturalism, and my belief is that the values of the West can form a good contribution to it. In Europe, when you start to talk about cultural values like this, you're almost sure to be drawn into this false debate about immigration versus European culture, with everything that goes along with it. I don't see things that way. There's no potential "Death of the West" on the horizon, Muslim migrants to France or elsewhere aren't going to destroy European culture.

What I do think, however, is that in the discussions about multiculturalism it's important not to leave the culture of the West itself out, or to suggest that every group under the sun is entitled to emphasize their own cultural traditions, while folks who come from a Western background aren't allowed to do so....because of perceived flaws in the culture. I see colonialism and imperialism as the result not of an inherent flaw in Western culture but the result of greed projected onto the world scale. There may have been some issues regarding the Protestant worldview, that particularly messed up, and continue to mess up, things in the United States and in the areas of the world colonized by the UK, but the Catholic countries of France and Spain did quite a bit of damage themselves. The source of what happened was the profit motive, not a core deficiency in the basic cultural fabric of the West itself.

Because of this, Western culture is redeemable, so to speak, provided that it recognizes itself as one part of many, or a part that's not in necessary opposition to all other cultural blocs. Folks in European countries can, of course, control how much immigration they choose to allow, but whether they allow lots or not that much, I don't feel that they're in any danger of being compromised or destroyed.

On immigration, the United States is a different matter entirely, because it was founded on immigration, and not only that but quite a few of the immigrants coming in, say from Mexico, are partially indigenous---they're more native than most European people to this continent.

In the abstract, Western traditions in the U.S. should self consciously form a part of the multi-cultural fabric of the United States, however, at this point in time the immigration question itself is so sensitive that it's hard to see how this could be promoted without feeding into nativist racism. Perhaps when immigration from Mexico and multi-culturalism as a whole have been more fully absorbed the promotion of Western values as part of our multi-cultural framework would be more appropriate.

Yet, on a personal, as opposed to on a social level, there's no reason why that should not be the case.

Cultural values and historical materialism---not necessarily opposed

A strange thing started to happen in the Communist movement after Stalin's death. Folks in third world countries who were leading revolutions suddenly were given the freedom to pursue roads to socialism that partook of their country's own unique conditions. Kwame Nkrumah, in Ghana, was free to pursue and advocate a particular African road to socialism, outlined in his book "Conscienism", although not one as purely cultural as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania's "Ujamaa". Other countries followed suit, and there started Arab roads to socialism as well as others. The Soviet Union had retreated from a fundamentalist approach to Marxist theory in its overseas component, although not at home, and was willing to let some of the strict materialist thinking go, to be replaced by semi-autonomy for the cultural sphere, although the cultural sphere would eventually be encouraged to become materialist as well, as time went on.

I don't think that this was purely an instrumental move on the part of the USSR, but represented a temporary ascendency of currents that had been previously underground that were less mechanically Stalinist than others.

The same flexibility can be seen in Maoist movements abroad, although not in China itself. Even though Maoism in China became inflexible and murderous, abroad, by necessity, there was more flexibility, as can be seen in some tendencies in India. These, while not putting cultural values forward, were at least not committed to completely destroying unique Indian culture, although they were of course opposed to caste, potentially seeing such a complete destruction, as opposed to a transformation, as having much in common with cultural imperialism.

Fundamentally, the difference in approach to the transition to socialism between the Soviet Union's foreign policy and that of Maoist China was that the Soviet Union still advocated a series of transitions to take a country from an undeveloped, pre-capitalist, situation, to a socialist one, while China believed that a direct transition could happen. The Soviet Union, then, saw the development of these particular tendencies as a necessary consequence of the need for the development of a bourgeois ideology that could then be transformed into a socialist one, while in the Chinese model everything was sort of thrown together.

I don't want to overestimate the Chinese commitment to this, because many Maoist movements really were about shocking a pre-capitalist culture into socialism through force, but, still, dealing with peasant ideology, the more liberal of them were willing to compromise in the transitional strategy. The Zapatistas, for instance, are thought to have partially come out of a movement started by Maoist New Leftists from Mexico City who went into the mountains to organize the revolution with the peasantry. They changed their perspective, and adopted one that drew on the indigenous ideology instead of trying to destroy it.

There have also been isolated attempts at such a melding in the third world itself not connected to the big power blocs, for instance Jose Maria Mariategui in Peru presented a very interesting synthesis of Marxist socialism and Anarchism, with additions from early 20th century European philosophy, that simultaneously drew on the cultural and ideological traditions of the Inca and their descendants in Peru in order to propose a Peruvian way to socialism. Mariategui, though, unlike others cited such as Nyerere, was a theorist and a movement leader but not someone who ever gained power, not by a long shot. His ideas can be profitably compared with those of Guzman of the Shining Path, Maoist group also in Peru, which pursues a fundamentalist Maoist line on both culture and everything else, completely materialist, completely as unforgiving as the ethos of the Cultural Revolution.

So the idea that seeing importance in cultural values, in itself, is not incompatible with historical materialism. All the thinkers cited integrated the two trends very well, and while they ultimately subordinated culture to material conditions, perhaps because of the colonial experience of oppression they were less likely to want to discard what was unique in their experience entirely as being "primitive" or "backwards".

There's no reason why this general trend has to stay contained within the third world, although some caution has to be taken to not let the emphasis on cultural values completely overpower the awareness of the historical situation and development of society. 

Dealing with interpersonal conflict, a Kantian perspective

Some people say that Kant's idea of duty and morals are too abstract, rationalistic, and formalistic. I would contend that they're not abstract at all, and that their rationalistic and formalistic aspects are a strength, not a weakness. Although it's more complex than this, Kant liked to boil down his moral philosophy to the phrase 'treat people as ends, not as means' (I'm paraphrasing), by which he meant that in dealing with someone you should always try to honor their humanity, always remember that on the other end of whatever it is you're putting out there is a human being who most likely shares the same aspects of humanity that you do. Kant's moral deductions from this can be seen as representative of the process of questioning the rightness of one's actions before doing something that's potentially harmful or disruptive. If you have an issue with someone, there's high emotions, and you want to find a good way of dealing with it that in itself won't make your actions in the wrong, going through a process of evaluating whether in whatever you're doing you're attacking the actions and not the person, which is what treating people as ends not as means implies, can surely help accomplish that goal.

It is rationalistic, in that it applies reason to situations that are sometimes highly emotional, and it is formalistic, in that it gives a formal way of evaluating potential actions to make them more in the right, but both of these things serve to increase, rather than decrease, the value of the approach itself.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Morality and capitalism

One of the things that's often forgotten is that in Adam Smith's original conception of unregulated capitalism is that the goal was the collective prosperity of society. What was expected was that individual self interest would be channeled into activities that were socially useful--and that would therefore make society a better place through being enacted. People would then profit, individually, from the contributions they made to society. But implicit in this premise is that the people acting from individual self interest would also act in a virtuous and moral manner.

How individual self interest would translate into social benefit is fairly straightforward. I have needs, I need money to satisfy those needs, so I need to do something to get money. What types of things do other people want ? Maybe fix something that's broken, maybe they would like others to build something they need, or buy something for personal use to satisfy one of their own needs. Growing food, selling food, buying food is a classical example. So is making clothes, or making the fabric necessary for clothes. Since these are all needs, fulfilling them improves society as a whole, by making it better fed and better clothed.  But, of course, there are plenty of ways to make money that are dishonest and contrary to basic morals---not considered in the sense that folks objecting to things like gay rights use the term, but in a more fundamental sense of right conduct.

It's assumed that virtue co-exists with self interest, that on top of acting for your self you also act in ways that don't break the basic moral compact of society. But this has been ignored. 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Regeneration, not a bad word...

Although it's been portrayed as being by some people. I think that a socialist regeneration of American society is very necessary. The "R" word and its synonyms has been used by virtually every political campaign, left, right, and center, in that all of them have wanted to see a renewed U.S. It's a normal fact of political life. We do need a regeneration of some of the social fabric in the United States, as embodied in social programs and in other aspects, and, frankly, I think that this regeneration should be in a context where it's the actual nation of the United States that's the focus. I think that with the defeat of the Tea Party our messianic pretensions on the world scene have been laid to rest, and that whatever comes next should look at the U.S. not as some sort of beacon or vanguard in a world revolution but as a country that needs internal renovation for itself. Think of it as "Socialism in one country" as opposed to "Permanent Revolution". As such, especially in relation to building up of the industrial base of the country, I think that this should be a nation centric socialist regeneration.

Fuck Jobbik, fuck what they're trying to do in Hungary

Here, which is to assemble a list of all Jewish citizens on the basis that they might be security threats. This is unacceptable, this is a step backwards into a very bad time. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The American century is over, and this might be the best thing for America

Because with the rejection of the idea of America as a capitalist power which is the leader of the world, seen in Obama's re-election, if only implicitly, we stand to have the chance to really make the U.S. a good country without the burdens of outmoded ideology. I think that a real socialist United States is now possible, and that the present day can be seen as a prelude to much overdue work that's needed to bring the United States up to par with the rest of First World societies, in terms of quality of life. By losing world leadership, we may gain the ability to really address our own problems.