Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
One small example is that the progressive attacks of Bush are that he is a bumbling, incompetent idiot whose speech is often malapropos and that he is part of an elite political dynasty with ties to corporate powerbrokers who control the machinery of our culture from the shadowy recesses of D.C. These two ideas, while not mutually exclusive, create cognitive dissonance that is (was) reconciled by taking Bush's gaffes and his image as Joe Sixpack on his "ranch" in Crawford, TX as the truth of the matter. There is a collective amnesia about Bush as the owner of an oil company or owner of a baseball team and a confirmation bias that reinforces the President as someone that a large number of Americans would like to have a beer with, as one of us, an unsophisticate who is one of the people. Maybe he would have been able to brand himself as the everyman if progressives could have stayed on message or maybe not, but it is a symptom of the problem that the left has.
This being said, now we have an inversion of this problem where Obama's campaign has managed to be rigorously disciplined in both message and its delivery. Obama has focused on the idea of change and hope, while at the same time having surrogates pursue lines of attack that would either muddle his message or dirty his hands. The McCain campaign, on the other hand, has seemed "erratic" and inconsistent vacillating from running a "maverick" campaign that would raise the level of political discourse to running a Rove-esque (thanks to his protege Steve Schmidt, who is McCain's campaign adviser and strategist) Swift-boat style attacks that inflame the collective fear of terrorism and play upon racial tensions that are largely invisible in Middle America. McCain's campaign has shown a lack of discipline that is coupled with the perception that it is disingenuous and desperate as it moves from one publicity stunt to another (Palin VP selection to the "suspension" of his campaign).
Here is where it gets interesting: McCain/Palin's polling numbers are terrible. Nate Silver and the guys at fivethirtyeight.com have Obama winning nearly 90% of the time. McCain has little to lose at this point, so playing the race card makes sense. It is an appeal to the working class, uneducated Clinton/Reagan "democrats" who are uncomfortable (which is being diplomatic...) with race, black men, Islam, or whatever The Other is. Now the thing is, the radicalization that is occurring at the rallies is reminiscent of what occurs when angry mobs of disenfranchised people are given license to express the devils of their basest nature. If McCain persisted in whipping the fears into a firestorm, then people would start explicitly drawing parallels to Nazi rallies, Klan rallies, or any of the many other examples that litter history. However, if he stops now and begins exhibiting message discipline as a "maverick" and straight talker who denounces the hate-mongering that his campaign has been perpetuating, he can position himself in a good place to win. By running an ugly campaign that reached a fevered pitch over the last couple of weeks, he has managed to embed in our collective psyches the potential that Obama is a terrorist, an unknown, a dangerous commodity with a middle name that elicits thoughts of Middle Eastern dictators.
If he starts campaigning "cleanly" and establishing himself as an agent of hope and optimism (taking a page from his opponents play book), then white voters can vote for him without guilt. He has reestablished Obama's race as part of the political narrative so that it reverberates around the media echo chamber. It has now been established that it is acceptable to be uncomfortable with Obama as an unknown, all that is left is for McCain to give the people a reason to vote for him. In the meantime, racial discourse (hell, all rational, civilized discourse) has been degraded as it has become acceptable to make billboards like the one above and for people to sell these at a conservative-sponsored summit:
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Or maybe here. See the thing is, if she looked like the other feminist that she quotes, Madeleine Albright:
Or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Or this one:
We would not give this woman the time of day. Unfortunately, she is, to be both vulgar and frank, fuckable. She is a MILF. If she were not the fantasy of an "older" lady, rendered only hotter by the fact that she is a rabidly conservative nutjob3, then she would be merely another creationist, militia wingnut that alienates the middle of a country that is pretty wingnutty. Her saving grace is that we all imagine nailing her in the most irredeemable way possible, even if only in code. This might be a fake:
But, we can still dream, right?
1. I address her nonsense here.
2. McCainocrat. Priceless.
3. The crazy ones purportedly fuck like wildcats, or so the bromide goes...
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I have long asserted that virtually every single white person in the U.S. is racist. Despite a strong ground game and a lot of money in the coffers, I have been betting friends for months that Barack Obama will not be elected President. I was originally going to write that "we are not ready for a black president." However, that is more code that obfuscates the issue: this is a racist country1. So, maybe more "civilized" people will address the issue differently:
Ok, so I did not hear anyone calling him a nigger, but is the insinuation or flat out assertion that he is a terrorist merely code for the same thing? Are those backwoods rednecks in the first video saying what all of these other people are wanting to say, but are constrained by normative behavior? I believe that instead of using racial epithets, they instead choose to emphasize his middle name, to try to draw parallels between Obama and a 60's radical (or domestic terrorist, if you prefer), and to propogate a whisper campaign that he is in fact a Muslim.
I worry deeply, not only for this election but generally, that there are dark currents that flow beneath the surface of our culture. One in three women report being physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. We continue to discriminate against the LGBT community. Children growing up in poor communities lack the opportunities that are available to the affluent, to the White. All of this while we promote a culture of violence that desensitizes each generation to the abstract, unmanned warfare in impoverished countries that is required to sustain our lifestyle. I worry constantly about what we are doing to the planet. But right now I am worried about the Bradley effect. I am worried that these polls are a mirage (I just saw a clip on CNN where Gergen was saying that despite a commanding lead by Obama, the race was far from over because Obama is black. He went on to mention a study done by Stanford that stated Obama might take as much as a six point hit in the polls due to race. Sorry I cannot find the link - in a bit of a hurry. Edit: Here is a link to part of the Gergen quote and a correction about the Stanford survey. Thanks, K.) What happens if Obama loses? Moreover, what happens if he loses but appears to be leading in the polls? Or, if McCain is able to whittle down the impressive national lead through withering, scurrilous attacks? Best case scenario is that the young voters who were excited are irreparably disenfranchised. More to the point, the minority vote who already look upon the establishment with skepticism after the voter suppression in the last two elections decides that they want nothing to do with a system2.
But maybe this is not the worst case scenario. Our politicians (our politicians? Are these my politicians?) are in the pocket of corporations. They manufacture both foreign and domestic policy not with the interest of working people of the world (or the planet), but with the capitalists, i.e. those who hold the means of production. The bottom line for the corporations is profit; the corporations are beholden to their shareholders and not the communities they exploit. By proxy, politicians use money given to their campaigns to get elected (or re-elected), at which point the perpetuate the policies that are in the corporations best interest. So, not matter who wins, we lose. It is only a question of how much we lose. I am going to leave off with my favorite premises from Derrick Jensen's Endgame:
PREMISE ONE: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.
PREMISE THREE: Our way of living - industrial civilization - is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.
PREMISE FOUR: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those on the lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher on the hierarchy is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.
PREMISE FIVE: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the loves of those below.
PREMISE SIX: Civilization is not redeemable.
PREMISE TWELVE: There are no rich people in the world, and there are no poor people. There are just people.
PREMISE THIRTEEN: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of the illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.
PREMISE EIGHTEEN: Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.
1. More than a racist country, it is a country where we marginalize and/or oppress the poor, chilldren, women, gays, and every ethnic background that is not Western European.
2. I originally meant to write "the system," but that typo seems to work just as well.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I want people to stop and think about the scale of death involved in the war that this pampered, elitist, spoiled child was willfully engaging in. It would be the equivalent of over the course of 16 years of conflict every single man, and child was killed in the city of Los Angeles. Or Chicago. Or Houston. Or any other city in the United States other than New York City. Or how about this: Roughly more than less than half of the states in the U.S. have a population of under 4 million. So, imagine that over the course of 16 years (say from the waning days of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign until today) every single human being was killed in Oregon or Iowa or Utah. Better yet, imagine that over the course of 16 years of napalm and gifts of dioxin from the likes of Dow Chemical and Monsanto along with more conventional munitions, every single human being was killed in Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, and Delaware1.
Every single one of them.
And make no mistake, these people died horrifically as "heroes" like John McCain rained death down from above. This womanizer who publicly mocked a teenager girl (Chelsea Clinton) for being unattractive and called his wife a cunt for teasing him about going bald. This is not a good man. John McCain and Sarah Palin (who I will get to later) are not just bad politicians and indifferent to the plight of the working man, they are enemies of humanity and the planet in general. I cannot overstate my disdain for the Republican ticket and what their election might portend.
1. All population numbers are from here.
Monday, October 6, 2008
The bad? It could be anything from the McCain still being competitive after running an awful campaign and Palin being an absolute embarrassment to the media not handing these people their asses for being dishonest, inconsistent, and barely coherent. The latter is exemplified by the fact that in the famous satirization of Palin by Tina Fey, they use direct quotes from the transcripts. And as for the dishonesty, let us call it what it is: Sarah Palin and John McCain are liars. All politicians prevaricate, equivocate, or otherwise challenge or skirt the truth in ways that are unimaginable in everyday life. However, these two have managed drag political discourse into the mud by focusing on soundbites, deception, and innuendo.
This leads me to the ugly: the presidential campaign is about to shift from any semblance of issue driven discourse to personal attacks. Obama was ready for McCain to play the Ayers card with a short video demonstrating the relationships between McCain and Phil Gramm and Charles Keating. In turn, McCain is going to commit an act of ledgerdemain by representing Obama as "the Other." The necessary for preconditions for this narrative to function will be the public having the attention span of a gadfly and the persistance and ubiquitousness of doublethink. The Other that McCain is going represent Obama as is an angry black man who associates with terrorists; as an effete intellectual who is out of touch with middle America, which is actually how he is an uppity nigger; how he is a threat to your safety, which, in terms of him being a black man is mas o menos that his is going to steal your blonde girlfriend after carjacking you. Barack Obama is both a terrorist loving, angry, black Muslim man and a faggoty, prissy intellectual who, as Hillary Clinton said, will fold like a paper doll when attacked. Either way, he is a threat to your freedom and the safety of your women, cars, and VCRs. People do not care about Ayers or Rev. Wright or any of this other nonsense, what they care about is that all of these stories point to his Otherness, which leads back to his blackness. Now, this is where it gets really ugly: Obama cannot win the narrative by directly addressing the narrative of his Otherness. He cannot take a time out and discuss the metanarrative of race relations or how it is being leveraged against him, he cannot unpack or dismantle the individual claims w/r/t the implicit assumptions, and he cannot ignore them. I think (and I sincerely hope I am wrong) that his only viable tactic is to counterattack. He needs to relentlessly dismantle McCain's claims, exploit Palin's gaffes, and take apart the idea of the maverick. Finally, I think that he needs his surrogates to perform the bloodiest of the operations, which will entail painting McCain/Palin as racist, soulless liars. As much as possible, he needs to stay above the fray so as to not tarnish the ideas of hope and change that he has branded himself with. He needs to be seen and heard as much as possible so as to make it easier for the public to understand that he is not the Other, but instead a smooth talking liberal who wants what is best for this country. The next for weeks are going to get very ugly. We all need to be prepared.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
I want everyone in our country to see this. I want everyone to watch and listen to both of these candidates. If on November 5th they have been elected to lead this country, I am going to pull my hair out. While it is unimaginable that we will elect a black man to the highest office, it is becoming increasingly unfathomable that we will elect the McCain/Palin ticket. I don't know, but I fear for our future.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The mythology is interesting for a couple of initial points. First, man is punished by the gods for one of the most primitive uses of technology. Have we told these stories from the beginning because of an innate fear of technology? If so, is the irrational belief that technology is evil an enthymeme in all discourse on progress? How do we contextualize anarcho-primitivism and industrial/post-industrial culture vis-à-vis the politics of resistance?
The second point that I want to briefly touch on is that the gods, or really only one particularly jealous and vengeful one in this story, punish man’s acceptance of technology by providing him with a woman of unsurpassed beauty who is afflicted with curiosity, laziness, and a proclivity for getting in trouble? Is this an early variation on the Madonna/whore complex and if so, have we held this forever? What does it say about us as a culture that we continue to tell these stories about women?
Both of these points raise a large number of questions that are better left for another time. What I am most interested in is the final scourge of humanity in Pandora’s box: Hope. It is interesting that the Greeks placed Elpis, the personification of Hope, in a jar with the world’s other evils, but does Elpis translate as hope or something else?4 As it turns out, it does not seem to matter too much. The OED defines expectation as, “1. The action of waiting; the action or state of waiting for or awaiting “something”. Now with only a mixture of sense;” and, “2. Expectant waiting.”5
What is missing from both definitions is any agency in the future events. Here is where context is important: we never speak of being hopeful for something over which we have agency; that is to say, we never have hope for something to occur that we ourselves can accomplish. It is nonsensical to say that we hope for something that we know we can achieve; we simply enact whatever we desire. However, if we do not have the power to do so, or the future is ambiguous enough that we might not have the power, then we hope. For instance, we hope that the Cubs do well in the playoffs; we hope that we get a job or promotion; we hope that a pregnant woman’s baby is born alive. What we do not hope for is a bologna sandwich. Provided we have the necessary components of the sandwich, we get up, walk to the kitchen, make the sandwich, and then return to the living room where we resume watching the Cubs game and hoping for a miracle. We hope for a good life constituted of love, shelter, minimal hardship, etc. What exactly we have agency over is a bit contentious and we experience hope for that which is in doubt, but only because of that doubt. It is the dubious nature of agency that makes hope aptly described as delusive. This is also why it is such a powerful rhetorical tool for politicians in trying times. They are playing on our unquestioned and perhaps unacknowledged feelings of powerlessness by offering hope; i.e., they are offering to affect a future outcome over which we have no direct agency.
Make no mistake my friends: Hope is the enemy of man. It seems counterintuitive, but there is mounting evidence that those who accept that which they have agency over are healthier and happier than those who are hopeful, those that dream of a future that is better than the present. This is not to say that the prisoner sentenced to life without parole or the colostomy patient are without hope, it might simply be that they are hopeful for other things (cigarettes, good weather, etc.). It may be the case that hope, like fear, is essential to the human condition. If this is the case, then it is yet another of our innate aspects that should be guarded against. We are constantly at odds with ourselves, our more primitive brain functions seeking to undermine the order established by the higher brain.
Hope, Elpis, daughter of Nyx the primordial goddess of night, is a demon that creates a vicarious world, a world of dreams that we stumble through praying or waiting expectantly for the best. Instead of living meekly in a world contingent upon the blessings of fate or the good will of others, I propose we accept the Serenity Prayer, which works just as well without religion or appeal to higher authority:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
If we accept this as a mantra and we live nec spe, nec metu, then we will begin down the path to being conscientious citizens of the world, which is in and of itself an act of resistance.8
1. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971
2. As noted in the Pandora wiki article, the early references were to a jar and not a box.
3. Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths 38g-j
4. The definition of the word elpis has been the subject of much debate with some scholars translating it as “expectation.” Again, see the Pandora wiki article for a synopsis on this debate.
5. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 19718.
6. NYtimes article here.
7. Also, see The Whitehall studies where the relative health of British civil servants is examined.
8. I've been using a Mac all day and there seems to be formatting issues, user error issues, etc. I want to throw this goddamned thing out the window. If you've made it this far, thanks for the patience.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I have many friends who do not know where to go to become informed citizens. Actually, I don't really know where to go. We can collect information from as many sources as possible but we still never know how much is true. That is why it is important that we propagate critical analysis. We need to be able to assess statements for their bullshit factor. Watching as much CNN and Fox as I do, I am amazed by how much of their commentary is biased, self-reflexive, or flat out wrong. Even at their best, "journalists" commit the symmetry of sin fallacy: they endeavor to seem unbiased, so they must manufacture counterbalancing stories. As responsible citizens we must rigorously unearth enthymemes, presuppositions, and address weasel words, logical fallacies, and the like. We must recognize the limits of language and tread carefully when dealing with those things that we would much rather pass over in silence.
Speaking of things that would be better passed over in silence, Camille Paglia's take on the Sarah Palin phenomenon came across my RSS reader this morning. I am generally ambivalent about people such as Paglia. On the one hand I enjoy their inflammatory or provocative ideas even if they are bit silly, and on the other hand I tend to think that our cultural narratives are insipid or strident enough without intellectual shock jocks further exacerbating The Great Cult of Unreason. Still, I was feeling quite ready for some silliness this morning (too mush yerba mate tea, I think...), so I readily got into the article.
The first blip on my radar was when Paglia stated that she supported Obama because he represented "new generation of leadership with fresh ideas and an expansive, cosmopolitan vision." Now, before I proceed any further, I should say that I like Obama. He is mas o menos the type of candidate that I appreciate. He doesn't seem to be running from the label of liberal, which has become a dirty word, at least prior to our current economic collapse. However, are his fresh ideas? Is his vision expansive and cosmopolitan? Or is he merely the left wing of the current political establishment? His support of FISA, offshore drilling, unconditional support of Israel, among other things make me wary. I immediately wonder why Paglia isn't writing about Cynthia McKinney? That probably is a line of thought best left for another day...
The second blip on my radar, which elicited a skinnying of the eyes, was when she first heard Palin speak she compared it to "a boxing match or a quarter of hard-hitting football" and then even more obtusely, to a Star Wars light saber battle (and, to get even wierder, linked to a Youtube video of The Phantom Menace). I couldn't help but feel I was reading Stephen King's embarassingly inept column for Entertainment Weekly where he tried desperately to seem hip and relevant. Moreover, I saw the same press conference and I had a completely different reaction. I knew nothing of Palin. If I hadn't been told, I wouldn't have known that she was a governor. My only thoughts were: shit, she's attractive; and, damn, that's a politically savvy move. At no point did I think I was watching gritty heavy weight politics. I thought that it was an intelligent way for the McCain camp to mitigate a post-convention bounce. It merely confirmed my belief that there are no battleground states, but instead the battleground is the news cycle and the media narrative. It also confirmed that the Right is far better than the left in this battleground. It is a piece of ground that I am not sure one can win without sacrificing one's integrity (I guess it's not sacrifice if you don't start off with any.)
Paglia then goes on to reference Palin as a transgender, hybrid that "was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before...In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment." Let's unpack this nonsense. What were these male and female qualities that she was demonstrating? Did I miss the part where she flashed the camera her penis and then inserted into her own vagina? Paglia seems a worldly enough person, so I am surprised at her surprise. Maybe she should meet more strong, independent women? And if she is referring to being on a national stage, the dearth of strong, independent women should not come as a surprise to anyone. I am still taken aback when I see women in any sort of position of power, so really the bar is set pretty low. To continue unpacking, the reference to Madonna seems like another attempt to reference pop culture relevancy. I don't mean to dismiss what Madonna did for feminism 20 years ago, but is that the best Paglia can come up with? Finally, her reference to ramming "pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment" seems to evoke images of sexual violence against people who are seeking to advocate for victims of such crimes. I know the type of feminists that she is referring to. The majority of my experience with them has ended badly, but I still see their point. When women make 70 cents on the dollar, when 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted (and these are only reported figures), then I'm not sure that condescendingly dismissing an establishment that seeks to advocate for a class of people who are routinely marginalized and violently oppressed as victim-mongering is the best tack.
Paglia continues with statements that are no longer blips on a radar, but are now a full-blown assault on reason. She compares Palin to Reagan as "someone who pays lip service to religious piety without being in the least wedded to it." This despite being an evangelical, believing in creationism, and being skeptical about man's part in climate change. Paglia goes on to say that "I don't see her arrival as portending the end of civil liberties or life as we know it." This is despite Palin's many abuses of political power ranging from taking a per diem for working at home, to the obnoxiously dubbed "troopergate," to her politics of deception w/r/t the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, and finally, right in line w/Paglia's diminishing of women as victims, Palin is tied to the charging of rape victims for the rape kits.
Paglia goes on to sing the praises of frontier women that represent "far bolder and hardier [women] than today's pampered, petulant bourgeois feminists, always looking to blame their complaints about life on someone else." Now, isn't this really a problem not with feminists or non-frontier women, but w/our culture in general? Doesn't this attitude begin w/corporations that poison the environment and are never held accountable? Maybe if we stop handing out government subsidies and we make corporations apply that same can-do attitude that we demand of the proletariat, then maybe we will see the change Paglia hopes for. Maybe we will see bolder and hardier corporations that will promote a better culture where men and women will believe that their hard work will be rewarded and that there is justice. And finally, this comes the day after the U.S. government agreed to float an 85 billion dollar rescue loan to AIG.
Finally, Paglia decides to take Dems to task for making abortion a wedge issue. She claims that for the left it is an "obsessive idée fixe of the post-1960s women's movement." Now, is this a result of Roe v Wade being constantly under atttack? Is it a result of religious based opposition to family planning and sex education in schools? She commits an act of intellectual dishonesty by never addressing the issue, instead committing a bait and switch where she points to an apparent logical inconsistency with the left being both pro-choice and anti-death penalty. "I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty. Surely it is the guilty rather than the innocent who deserve execution?" This is another ridiculous sentence that requires some unpacking. First, it is a rare Dem who supports abortion (although I count myself as a outspoken supporter of abortion). Most people are uncomfortable w/abortion, but they support a woman's right to choose. This is an important distinction. I think in a perfect world, people would prefer that the woman never gets pregnant in the first place. And finally, she inappropriately combines the right to choose w/the opposition to the death penalty w/o ever going into any details about that opposition. Plenty of people ideally don't have a problem w/the death penalty as much as they are uncomfortable w/the disproportionate number of people on death row who are minorities and/or come from poor backgrounds. If there was an equitable distribution of capital punishment, then maybe it would be different. Or maybe it wouldn't because a woman's right to choose what she does w/her body is not analogous to choices that the state makes w/r/t its citizens' bodies. She ends w/an appeal to emotion that frankly doesn't deserve a response as I am not going to deal w/the problem of guilt, innocence, or who deserves execution.
I thought that reading the Paglia article would be good for a laugh and maybe a snarky conversation w/my prissy, victim-mongering friends over beers. Instead, I'm left feeling the same emptiness I feel when I spend hours watching CNN and Fox. The steady diet of nothing leaves me disillusioned w/the world and angry at myself for wasting so much of my time. Thanks Paglia for nothing.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
- Volunteer at 2nd Cycle bicycle collective. This has been a great experience. I get to work with my hands on one of the most efficient engines ever created and learn about something that I use everyday that I didn't really know anything about a few months ago. The practical experience has been gratifying; I'm curious whether the administrative will prove to be equally so. We are doing something that is good for the community as well.
- Gardening. I've been teaching myself to garden by working in the community space down the street and in my own yard. Yesterday I built to 6'x6' garden boxes from cedar planks and salvaged wood from an old couch and a box spring, both of which contained a remarkable amount of easily salvaged pine. My goal is to grow most of my produce by next year. In the next couple of weeks I'm going to work on building a removable green house and a compost bin. Maybe soon a chicken coop as well...if not, then maybe a dog house.
- Writing. I've made my return to fiction. I've been writing everyday and excitedly researching a number of projects. I probably have the publication of an old story in PICTURE|STORY|SONG to thank for this. The bulk of my fiction will probably end up being graphic novels. Rob agreed to help me with 3 book proposals that I hope to have done soon.
-Sewing. I've started mending my clothes and I'm hoping to make panniers before the end of the summer. I have a feeling that this project is probably bigger than I realize.
-We've been brainstorming ways to make our house "green." We recycle significantly more than we throw out, but we still need to compost (the last attempt ended, er, badly), and I would like to reclaim graywater. Along the same lines, I need to build/salvage rain barrels. Any advice for this or any other project that promotes self-reliance or living locally, send my way.
I've got more projects on the horizon as well. I'm really excited and happy, not only because it's my birthday. Did I mention it's my birthday? Yea, so, no big deal or anything, but you know, it's my birthday. K got me awesome presents and there's going to be a party here on Saturday.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
- Five counts of crimes against humanity (Article 5 of the Statute - extermination, murder, persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, persecutions, inhumane acts (forcible transfer));
- Three counts of violations of the laws of war (Article 3 of the Statute - murder, unlawfully inflicting terror upon civilians, taking hostages);
- One count of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (Article 2 of the Statute - willful killing).
- Unlawful transfer of civilians because of religious or national identity.
It would give me great solace to think that the abuses of power and the complete lack of accountability that we see in the current administration are an anomaly, but unfortunately I think that they are merely more flagrant examples of common practices. I think that my friends that tell me my vote counts, that the individual voices are important, that there is the possibility of change and resistance that is not direct action are missing or ignoring fundamental structure of our society. Power perpetuates and protects itself and will not be relinquished without great struggle and more than likely, much blood.
On a slightly lighter note, I am amused that this man who is being indicted for crimes against humanity has been hiding in plain sight as a self-help/new age guru. The plague of unreason is manifest in so many ways...
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
-Apparently the food crisis is real. Last night on NPR's Marketplace, they interviewed an economist from the FDA who confirmed that globally the price of staples is rapidly beginning to evade the ability of the poorest to afford it. This has led to several SE asian nations to shut down exports of rice in an attempt to stabilize local prices. This of course will have a chilling effect on domestic production which will lead to further scarcity and shortages.
-Gasoline will probably top 4 dollars a barrel for regular unleaded by the summer, and there's really nothing we can do about it. This is even though according to several studies, demand for gasoline has in fact been reduced. As Gasoline, and particularly diesel fuel, continue to rise in price, everything anyone in the first world buys will begin to cost more money. Add to this the fact that we're nearing a recession and the continual decline of real wages for the middle and working classes in north america, combined with the fact that the EU's freight infrastructure is much less robust than North America's, and we're looking at a pan first world crisis within the next couple of years. And unfortunately, it looks like it will only get worse.
-Climate Change is increasingly leading to bizarre weather all over the place. In seattle, we had snow in April, which is unheard of, and our daily weather fluctuations are strange and ugly and provide a sort of Natural Born Killers backdrop to daily life.
-The Bush administration continues its course of sabre rattling in dealing with Iran and Syria, the two nations with whom we should be attempting to diplomatically engage in much more real terms and also begin to distance ourselves from the Saudis.
-Still no legitimate replacements for fossil fuels have been found and what fossil fuels are still available are apparently rapidly approaching peak supply. As soon as peak supply is reached, the only way to reduce prices on them will be to reduce demand. with maybe a couple billion cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships reliant on fossil fuels just to move and an increasingly globalized supply chain for agricultural and industrial products, that demand is not likely to abate and as a result the prices on everything will continue to rise.
-China owns close to a trillion dollars of the US national debt, putting us a in a precarious position of being at the mercy of another state for our continued fiscal solvency. Granted that even if China did elect to dump their dollars it would be disastrous for them as well as us, and it's not likely to happen as a result, if things continue to get worse in Asia, it becomes more and more of a real possibility as a way for them to leverage assistance.
-John "The Disaster Waiting To Happen" McCain is starting to look a little too teflon thanks to the hyperfocus of the mainstream media on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's campaign gaffes. McCain's image as a Maverick Independent, carefully crafted since the early nineties when he was nearly arrested on criminal charges for his involvment in the S&L scandals, is being bantered about uninterrogated by the same people who will unashamedly attempt to tie Barack Obama to the Weather Underground, and who have more or less decided that Hillary Clinton has no chance of becoming the Democratic nominee for the presidency. This Teflonacy of McCain's makes him a more viable candidate, and given recent revelations about the nature of the Iranian and Syrian nuclear weapons programs, there is now good reason to fear that McCain might do something truly crazy in the middle east should he be elected.
-Should that truly crazy something happen, it is unlikely that we will be able to continue as we have with a completely volunteer army. Our Military Readiness is already sorely taxed by the ongoing debacle in Iraq and the escalating problems in Afghanistan and on the Pakistani border. Fighting in Iran or Syria alone would possibly push us past the breaking point, never mind what might happen if violence broke out in south asia or china due to food shortages.
-What can we do to prepare?
As I see it, there are a number of things the average person can do to prepare for the collapse of western civilization as we know it.
1.) Buy Chickens: Eggs are an excellent source of protein and get a good return on investment from chicken feed. If you have a reasonably sized yard, then four or five chickens are cheap, easy to care for, and will produce eggs.
2.) Plant a vegetable garden and learn how to cultivate seeds from plants. Depending on where you live, there are any number of high input to output vegetables that can be grown. Also worth considering are fruit trees and berry bushes.
3.) Learn how to make electricity. One of the biggest challenges we may start to face as the energy markets destabilize is insufficient supply. We in the pacific northwest are likely to be spared this so long as our hydroelectric infrastructure remains intact, but people living in the southwest in particular need to look into how to construct small scarel windfarms and photoelectric panels and keep them working.
4.) buy a fishing pole, a hunting rifle, and a shotgun and learn how to use them. also learn how to skin and clean a large animal. this goes for vegetarians too. I look at hunting as a sort of last resort survival skill, but if things get truly bad to the point that the food transportation mechanisms break down, it will be a useful skill.
5.) read up on anarcho-syndicalism. In small groups, anarcho syndicalism is the most workable ad hoc system of governance. should there be a widescale breakdown of law and order, we will still need communities in order to live, and communities need a way to keep order internally. most people understand the principle of direct democracy, but in the absence of any sort of authority in times of stress, direct democracy can also be fragmentary. An anarcho syndicalist group functioning on an internal gift economy and an external barter economy will be able to function well and maintain it's internal cohesion.
6.) go to health insurance websites and find the names of young doctors in your area. if health care breaks, you will need to know who to go to to treat the sick, and younger people will have a less established group of patients demanding their attention in times of crisis.
7.) Buy a road bicycle with some sort of trailer. Bicycle travel is the most energy efficient means of transportation ever invented. it takes a lot longer to travel long distances by bike, but it will always work. Also worth your time would be to stock up on a few extra inner tubes, replacement brakes, tires, seat posts, chains, and gears. also, buy an extra helmet in case you get into a crash with your main helmet and they've become cost prohibitive.
8.) learn as much first aid as you can and if you can, invest in a home defibrulator and a top notch first aid kit.
9.) learn how to build a fire and fire pit. you never know when that might come in handy.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I felt that it was important to document the trip, so I packed one notebook with about 100 blank pages, a digital camera/video camera with 4.5 gigs of memory, and a pocket notebook for miscellaneous notes. I haven’t done any extensive handwriting in years and I haven’t journalled (girnalled? guyary?) in about the same amount of time, so my first few pages are really quite embarrassing. I managed to fill a third of the notebook with worthless observations and semi-coherent political rantings, the camera with about 650 pictures and videos, which a solid 80% are probably uninteresting to anyone but me, with the finally 20% being pretty evenly split between being bizarre and embarrassing. After going through the notes I made while touring and the pictures from tour, I thought that it might be interesting to post my notes from Mexico more or less unedited. The problem I noticed as I was only a few pages in is that not even I was interested by the naïve, arrogant, or insipid observations I was making about a city and a culture that I didn’t understand. So, instead I am going to distill all of the nonsense to the most interesting pictures, political rantings, and stories.
When I first arrived in Mexico, I wasn’t sure at all what I was doing there. The only thing that I knew was that barring a total disaster I was committed to being there for a month. This meant that I had to effectively budget my money, which is in and of itself a huge issue for me. I read about PV and all of the tourist nonsense (riding ziplines through the jungle canopy, swimming with dolphins, Spring Break! type nonsense with drunk, obnoxious children of privilege, etc.) that I was excited about partaking in. Almost immediately after arriving, I realized that not only are the tourist “excursions” a racket, but that they are bound up with the timeshare scams in some elusive way. Not only that, but the town is full of people who struggle to survive for a month on what tourists (People of the Occupation) spend in a day. They roar through the narrow, cobblestone streets on a caravan of ATVs as they storm into the jungle to ride a zipline or go see the set where memorable scenes from Predator were filmed. The flaunting of wealth was so obnoxious and apparent that I almost immediately lost any desire to engage in any of the adventures. This disillusionment was also facilitated by the fact that I didn’t bring enough money. Instead, I hunted around for cheap, “authentic” food, religiously practiced Spanish phrases that would at the very least allow me to attempt to be polite, and I laid out on the beach and read (I brought Endgame II, Welcome to the Machine, and Ishmael for company. More than once I found myself questioning my judgment.)
I had two initial experiences that deeply informed the rest of the trip. The first was my experience with the street food or more specifically, my attempt to eat street food.
As I stated before, I don’t speak any Spanish and I spoke less when I got there. Now, I have definite feelings about the fact that I’ve spent the better part of my life working in restaurants, a large part of the staff is made up of Mexicans who are almost always working “undesirable” jobs, and I haven’t picked up even “kitchen” Spanish. It speaks to the fact the liberal, “enlightened,” “progressive,” class that I self-identify with is composed of a large number of useful fictions that are meant to alleviate White Guilt. Among these fictions is the fact that racism in America is relegated to the rural, uneducated whites. Not only am I convinced that all white people in America are racist, but I suspect that everyone of privilege (which means all White people) is racist.
After a couple of days in the city, I decided to brave the street food. As I walked up, I was increasingly unsure of myself. I wasn’t sure how to order in English, mush less Spanish, I didn’t know where to sit, and looking at the handwritten menu on a piece of butcher paper, I realized that I also didn’t recognize a single thing. I stood there staring at the patrons, the menu, and the food in complete bemusement. It was then that someone made room for me and in a very friendly manner gestured for me to sit down next to him. I gladly joined him and now everyone around the little cart was staring at me intently. The lady who was cooking looked at me expectantly then spoke to me in Spanish. I can only assume that she was asking me what I would like, but I was totally confused, so I asked (in English) for the only thing I knew how to say, which was a fish taco. Maybe again, I’m getting ahead of myself. I really should contextual this moment before I go any further. In the couple weeks leading up to my trip I’d had many conversations with a friend who had made a similar excursion to Mexico for similar reasons. She would talk dreamily of taco pescados and beer after a day of lying on the beach. She had also told me of her adventures with Ketamine and leaping from a cruising speedboat to a yacht in what she described as her “Charlie’s Angels moment.” I tried to avoid romanticizing the trip too much so I wouldn’t be disappointed and because I know that those Ketamine-and-leaping-from-speedboat moments rarely occur when you’re looking for them. Still, I had been fantasizing about my first taco pescado from a street vendor. And when the moment was finally here, not only could I now order it, but the lady told me no, only beef. I had a moment of indecision before apologizing and telling her that I didn’t eat beef as I got up and left. I knew at that moment that I missed out on an experience fundamental to the culture because I was importing an ethical decision whose context is the working class neighborhood back home. I walked away feeling shitty, which initiated my examination of the context of my ethics and ultimately the reevaluation of many of them.
My second experience was quite silly, really. The weeks leading up to going to Mexico saw an almost complete lapse in my self-control. Not only did I spend money irresponsibly, but I also drank prodigious amounts of alcohol and stopped working out. I was already not in the best shape, but when I got down there and wandered out on the beach I, much to my surprise, was very self-conscious about my pasty, flaccid body. I spent a couple of days hiding under an umbrella trying to be absorbed by Daniel Quinn’s abysmal writing and not think about the guys at the Blue Chairs who looked like they’re carved out of marble. I realized that being shy or self-conscious or whatever was only going to inhibit my experience, so I decided to lie out on the beach in the smallest item of clothing I had brought: low-rise athletic briefs that, as far as I was concerned, looked like speedos. If I was going to be self-conscious, then I was going to force myself to come to terms with whatever it was that was bothering me. Suffice it to say, I was quickly over it as I spent the next few weeks in the sun in the same outfit.
Both of these experiences are pretty trivial, but they were instrumental to what I had to figure out when I was there. After realizing that the avoidance of meat would not only inhibit my experience of the culture but would also seriously hamper my enjoyment, I quickly abandoned my dogmatism and dove right in with no ill-effects, physical or otherwise. Forcing myself to be almost naked in front of a group of strange people set the tone for the rigorous self-analysis that elicited more than a couple of my political rants. The reason I write about these experiences is that they will hopefully contextualize the rest of the experiences. However, some of them are probably without any coherent sort of context at all…
 These are really loaded contentious statements that I will analyze at a later date.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Jurgen Habermas asserts in On Leveling the Distinction Between Philosophy and Literature[i] that philosophy and literary criticism function as “mediators between expert cultures and the everyday world”[ii] and that, in response to Derrida’s deconstructionism, the leveling of the distinction between specialized forms of discourse does a disservice to both. Habermas argues that each specialized discourse operates under different concepts of validity that are not necessarily mutually compatible. The language games and the validity claims of certain disciplines, say science and poetics, are exclusive from each other; while we can perform a Freudian, psychoanalytic read of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens or seek to find an answer w/r/t M-theory in the labyrinths of Borges or the dream-like wanderings of Kafka, ultimately what we are doing is reading the works out of their context thereby rendering them floating signifiers. While I agree that relegating the “problem-solving” skills of philosophers only to metaphysics is a waste, unvetted deconstructionist reads are also cherry picking from that skill set while leaving behind one of the basic principles of critical reasoning: context.
Habermas wrote”[t]he rebellious labor of deconstruction aims indeed at dismantling smuggled-in basic conceptual hierarchies, at overthrowing foundational relationships and conceptual relations of domination.”[iii][iv] This is a noble pursuit and reason enough to utilize the basic principles of deconstructionism. “The totalizing critique of reason gets caught in a performative contradiction since subject centered reason can be convicted of being authoritarian in nature only by having recourse to its own tools.”[v] One need not look to the mysticism of Heidegger or the silence of Wittgenstein to answer the problem of reason finding its own functional limits; one can merely accept that its contradictions are inherent its particular language game[vi]. The performative contradictions are what inspire Derrida’s attempt to create a metadiscourse through deconstructionism (and Adorno through negative dialectics), which effectively expands “the sovereignty of the rhetoric over the realm of the logical”[vii]. The distinction between the two being that logic is “a system of rules to which only certain types of discourse are subjected in an exclusive manner – those bound to argumentation,” and rhetoric being “concerned with the qualities of texts in general.”[viii] The two are not in opposition at all, but instead deal with two different disciplines each with their own set validity claims.
Habermas goes on to speak of “poetic speech,” a particular subset of rhetoric, as “[t]he space of fiction that is opened up when the linguistic forms of expression become reflexive [which] results from the suspending of illocutionary binding forces that make mutual understanding possible.”[ix] This is world-disclosure where understanding is achieved not by the context of coordinating action and consequences relevant to action, but by understanding the statement is directed at the medium itself and can only understood as such. This is language for the sake of language, the words or messages existing for their aesthetic value. The ambiguity of these poetic messages helps convey the human experience in those opaque outlying areas where reason fails us. However, it is unclear how this differs from metaphysics aside from the convention of particular validity claims between the two.
The idealizations present in the critique of metaphysics have the same illocutionary binding force as the fictional or the poetic. Given the limits of reason and the pragmatic faith required to function in the world, philosophy was constituted of a series of constructs that all worked to obey the highly specialized language game – reason. The only way it can continue to function is the intentional ignorance of the internal inconsistencies of the closed system. It is under this rubric that Rorty speaks of language “which can receive no gloss, requires no interpretation, cannot be distanced, cannot be sneered at by later generations. It is the hope for a vocabulary which is intrinsically and self-evidently final.”[x] This sounds like the endeavor of every discourse, but more specifically, it seems to have a yearning for the metaphysical, for the Platonic Ideal.
The dismantling of the traditional paradigm of philosophy and the salvaging of its useful parts allows for us to take different tools and gain a greater understanding to discourses in other disciplines. This in turn opens the doors of philosophy to interpretation through other disciplines as well. Nietzsche, Emerson, Foucault and Baudrillard should not only be subject to the validity claims of reason, but also to the manifold interpretations presented by deconstructing their works.[xi] The constraints of language are interdisciplinary; the inability to communicate between specialized modes of discourse is limited by the reader committing a deontological stop more than an idiomatic incompatibility. Philosophy and art are not “held together by the functional matrix of ordinary language”[xii] as much as by the fact that they both function to help solidify the bonds of intersubjective agreement w/r/t those places where the logic of language games and reason fail us.
[i] Continental Aesthetics, Blackwell Publishers
[ii] pp. 317
[iii] pp. 308
[iv] This is more than unearthing enthymemes; it is about learning to see what our culture hides in plain sight. For example, the continued subjugation and domination of marginalized groups in the US such as women, children, and the poor, and, contrary to its representation on tv crime dramas, the US Justice system being more about protecting wealth and property (which translates to power), then it is about justice or defending those that cannot defend themselves.
[v] pp. 307
[vi] And by extension the sometimes incoherence that arises from this systematic problem. This does limit discourse, but as long as public policy is not being formed by or around these limits in rational discourse, then there should not be a huge problem. However, this might be an area where utilization of deconstructionism’s tools might shed some light on what can otherwise be crepuscular.
[vii] pp. 308
[viii] pp 309
[ix] pp. 316
[x] Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism, pp. 93
[xi] To which these interpretations are then subject to the validity claims of the disciplines from which they arise. If interpretation itself is purported to be a philosophical treatise or lays truth claims it philosophy, then it is subject to philosophy’s validity claims. The author defines what set of rules he or she is beholden to by what sets of claims he or she makes.
[xii] Continental Aesthetics, pp.317