Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The U.S. government actually does something right for a change: "U.S. trolling fans of Al Qaeda with online campaign"

Here at Rawstory.  "Trolling" isn't the right word for it. They're going onto online forums where " “Al-Qaeda and its supporters lurk” " and "... robustly engage with them in chat forums in Arabic, Somali, Punjabi and Urdu,” she explained.
“By targeting the hardliners, we are really trying to reach the middle grounders, the fence sitters, the sympathizers and passive supporters.”
Last year, staff at the new Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which reports directly to Sonenshine, wrote some 7,000 posts on different online forums.
“When we counter unfounded rumors, propaganda and conspiracy theories with facts, truth and reasonable argument, we can better define what we stand for. And we have a greater chance of changing more minds,” Sonenshine " 

It's good because 1) they're actually trying to reason with people, and 2) we don't have a maniac like Bush in the White House anymore. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

The controversy over affirmative action in college admissions comes down to...

Our old problem of race vs. class in the United States. Specifically, after the '70s we became very aware of addressing racial disparities through programs like Affirmative Action, but this was based on the false idea that class disparities had been corrected in America through our (temporary) economic prosperity. The '60s to the early '70s were the "Golden Age" of the U.S. economy, a time when people thought that there were only "pockets of poverty" left that had to do with things such as racial discrimination that weren't the immediate result of capitalism. But, such was not the case, and when the class divides started to show up from the mid '70s on, it started to strike a lot of folks as hypocritical that Affirmative Action programs for college admissions were in place to help racial minorities while aid to the poor either stagnated or decreased.

One theory of Affirmative Action in college admissions is that if the person denied admission is white they can surely get into another college somewhere else, whereas the same isn't the case if the person is one of color, but this is not always the case. In fact, it trades on the notion that people who aren't people of color have a uniform amount of privilege, which is false.

The solution is to help people both in a class based way and in a race based way, to eliminate the potential for competition or conflict by just generally helping those who because of their condition face extra obstacles in getting into and staying in college, as opposed to destroying all of the programs because as they're implemented they're imperfect.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The defense budget...

What they don't tell you: is that a great deal of it is "Military Keynesianism", meaning that the defense spending is a constant stimulus to the economy that's not acknowledged as such. If military spending went down, which I think it should, we'd have to fund the stimulus in an outright way. It's ironic that there's so much opposition to Obama's above board stimulus whereas the defense manufacturing spending is deliberately spread across every state, providing jobs and cash to people in those states. The massive infusion of pork that a huge number of congress people take home provides the basis for this below board stimulus of the economy. We should be honest about it, and spend our money elsewhere than in buying military in public improvements to our infrastructure.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Why the stagnation....a la Bill Maher

Who had a great recent comment that shit kicking rednecks are being left behind in our country, and in any case have exerted influence on our country far beyond their numbers. Well, the United States under the Constitutional system was designed to protect itself against the "Tyranny of the Majority". It started by having only Representatives be directly elected. Everyone else was selected by a combination of Representatives and State office holders. The majority, in this case, was the unwashed, poorer, masses, and the minority in question was the wealthy land holders. Times have changed.

Now, the minority that wants to protect itself against the tyranny of the majority is the most uneducated, backwards, part of our country. They sometimes work on behalf of that other minority, but also have their own brand of idiocy that they put forward far in excess of what their corporate masters require.

What was designed to protect an elite that saw itself as both economically and culturally more sophisticated than the majority is now being used to protect the worst in American society, with the ultra-rich not really caring except if it somehow starts to not look good for their bottom line.

Why '80s retro?

I'm curious. '60s retro was mostly a commercialized fad, the '50s and '70s retro that existed in the '90s was reactions against the cultural void of the '80s...then '70s retro came into its own because people thought that the decade was interesting unto itself. So why are people taking up '80s styles? My sense, although I haven't extensively polled all 20 somethings in Capitol Hill in Seattle, or elsewhere, is that folks are just following the years up...that, you know, because the '70s is done and people now think of the '80s as being so long ago, '80s retro is now in style. But, at this juncture, is there any particular reason why folks are doing the retro thing as opposed to thinking for themselves in their styles and creating something new? It's so retro to be retro when most of the culture you're being retro in opposition to is retro itself.

Meta on meta on meta.

Of course, who knows, there could be something to it that I'm not seeing....but I would argue that without an overarching sense that it's just nostalgia, as opposed to a social movement. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

One of the great achievements of Chavez...

Was that he combined his socialism with a type of message, based on Simon Bolivar, which was deeply resonant in a populist way with the people of Venezuela. Bolivar was similar to George Washington in that regard, and through linking socialism to the populist past Chavez was able to tap into that consciousness possessed by the nation at large. The Communist Party in the United States tried to do a similar thing during the Popular Front period with the slogan of "Communism is 20th Century Americanism", which wasn't a throw away. What they meant by that was that if you took the basic values that Jefferson and Lincoln put forward, and tried to translate them into the reality of the 20th century, you'd need socialism to really make them work.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I don't think Israel should get special treatment because...

Been a lot of mentions about Israel on this blog recently, and the reason is simple: Israel does things on a daily basis that are outrages to common decency and international standards, and the people who support both them and U.S. aid to their committal are hypocrites who should be shunned from civilized discourse.

With that out of the way, I don't support special treatment for Israel in the Middle East because I'm not aware that covenants made with an imaginary sky god three thousand years ago have legal validity. I mean, show me the footnote where it says "Oh yeah, and a semi-fictional ancestor who heard a voice tell him he was entitled to a piece of land in the desert, yeah, that's legit too."

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Obama to "reassure" leaders about Iran

It's important to remember, just in case a threat of actual war breaks out, that the Israel lobby represents roughly 4% of the American public. Should the rest of the United States go to war on behalf of the 4% who are very attached to Israel?

Friday, March 08, 2013

Guess who else was at Chavez' funeral? The crown prince of Spain, Evo Morales, the President of Uruguay...

The coverage of Chavez' funeral makes it appear that it was only the leaders of Cuba and Iran that were in attendance, but that was not the case. The Global Post reports that Spain's crowned prince was there, and Spanish language Voz Populi reports that leaders from Chile Ecuador were there as well. Irish Times has  put Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil there. 

Wow, let me qualify that, I'm now diappointed by the progresso-sphere's response to Rand Paul's filibuster

Rawstory wasn't the one that said it was okay despite him being a crazy fact they've been pissing on it since it's happened. I can't believe that there really are folks in the progresso-sphere who put partisanship to Obama above things like drone strikes on civilians and possibly people in the U.S., to say nothing about U.S. citizens abroad.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The filibuster....Brennan

I think that the filibuster is an anti-democratic device that should be done away with, but I'm impressed that folks in the progresso-sphere are applauding Rand Paul's blocking of Brennan, despite Rand Paul being Rand Paul. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

UNICEF condemns Israel for it's treatment of child prisoners

From Rawstory:

" UNICEF in the 22-page report that examined the Israeli military court system for holding Palestinian children found evidence of practices it said were “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”
“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised,” it concluded, outlining 38 recommendations to improve the protection of children in custody." 

A highlight, before going further into Rawstory's account: "“Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member,”
Translation: we'll rape your mom if you don't confess.

"Over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 Palestinian children aged between between 12 and 17, most of them boys, the report said, noting the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day.”
“In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights,” it said.

In a step-by-step analysis of the procedure from arrest to trial, the report said the common experience of many children was being “aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation centre tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear.”
Many were subjected to ill-treatment during the journey, with some suffering physical or verbal abuse, being painfully restrained or forced to lie on the floor of a vehicle for a transfer process of between one hour and one day.
UNICEF said it found no evidence of any detainees being “accompanied by a lawyer or family member during the interrogation” and they were “rarely informed of their rights.”
“The interrogation mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess,” it said, noting they were restrained during interrogation, sometimes for extended periods of time causing pain to their hands, back and legs.
“Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member,” it said.
Most children confess at the end of the interrogation, signing forms in Hebrew which they hardly understand.
It also found children had been held in solitary confinement for between two days and a month before being taken to court, or even after sentencing."

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

All the hysterical anti-gun control stuff that's been floating around isn't...

Purely about being against the government. It's also being against the many, many normal citizens who want responsible gun control, and as such is a threat to them as well. 

We lost a good man today---Hugo Chavez

Chavez accomplished a great deal in reviving hopes for a socialist state in South America and around the world. He also accomplished this with one of the few innovative doctrines to come out of the socialist world in a long time --- Bolivarianism, something that can be imitated by others in their own way. I wouldn't put past the idea of people in the U.S. ultimately being responsible for his demise. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Why Marxism is not sufficient, in my opinion

I think Marxism is necessary, but is not the whole story, and that any society or doctrine that solely bases itself on it, whether directly or indirectly like Anarchism does, will lack some very important features. For me, the crux of the matter has to do with the relationship of culture to the material and economic structure of society. Traditional Marxism recognizes a causal relationship between the material structure of society and culture, split between elite culture and workers' culture. Culture is supposed to be a derivative factor, to surely be correlated to economics, and therefore not important. It's either the oppressive superstructure, corresponding to the elite beliefs of society, or its the culture of resistance of the working class.

But things are not so simple. Take two small towns, one in the Northwest, say in Washington State, the other in the Northeast, say in New Hampshire. Both of them are based on either extracting natural resources or processing them, say either logging or processing logs into finished products. Same general class structure in the towns, same sorts of positions both for workers and for owners and managers, same kind of arrangement of power. Despite this, because of many factors, the culture of the towns is likely to be very different, and trying to impose the culture of the Northwest on the Northeastern town, or vice-versa, would lead to resistance. The cultural element still exists as something that, while influenced by the economic structure, has a semi-autonomous existence, and not only that but one that the people who live with it like and think is valuable.

While culture and cultural politics have gotten a bad rap because of cultural exclusivity, as well as xenophobia, there's a sense of how people do and think about things produced by the circumstances that they find themselves in over time that has value independent of these issues. Questions about things such as national identity can be examined both in an open and cosmopolitan way and, unfortunately, in a closed way, yet national identity, and regional identity, are actual, real, and potent forces that can't totally be reduced to economic history.

Neither can they be reduced to ethnicity. Ethnicity, in the sense of common descent, flawed ideas of race, or similar material concepts, does not produce anything. Culture is built up by people living together over time, and isn't discriminatory about whether those people are genetically related to each other or not. Environment in other senses than economics shapes culture as well, whether a place is forest or plains, deserts or mountainous. Beliefs held in common influence culture as well, and all of this interacts throughout the flow of history on each other.

While it's possible to make distinctions between cultural attitudes and cultures, no culture itself is pure, because all cultures are synthetic of many elements, and are promiscuously open to new influences. Additionally, a multi-cultural society is possible, where various cultures co-exist without leading to any diminution of identity.

All of this stated, the aspects of politics that flow from the cultural element, the problems and issues that flow from it, will cause conflicts to break out again and again that the traditional Marxist and leftist positions are unable to deal with unless they are addressed.

National identity, although a slippery issue, and in the United States largely subordinated to regional identity, despite the massive flag waving of people on the Right since 9/11, is still a potent force, and not only that, but one that people get great satisfaction from, and one that is likely not to go away with the forward progress of history--nor should it, because it's the outcome of common ways of life and attitudes built up by individuals living in community over time.

None of this is necessarily reactionary, in fact, the cultural element provides a unique experience that enriches life, not detracts from it.