Sunday, October 26, 2008

Corvids count

It is a curious fact that, even among the opponents of democracy, the vote is considered important. That is why there is so much effort to persuade people not to do it, to persuade people to vote for candidates who can't possibly win, to prop up splitter candidates, to make it difficult to get permission to vote, to revoke people's permission to vote, to lose people's permission to vote, to falsify the vote, to not count the vote, to claim the vote isn't valid. Your vote counts, and your political opponents know it--that's why they don't want you to do it.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Small Government

An old friend has attacked me in a political discussion. I'm disturbed and saddened. It got me to thinking, though. Some of the people who comment in his LJ sound like criminals--a combination of hostility, lack of empathy, and love of violence. They make the libertarian "small government" arguments. I think they oppose government the way criminals oppose policing; they only freedom they care about is their freedom to abuse other people. No wealthy, powerful nation has ever had a small government. In the end, the only way to achieve government "small enough to drown in a bath tub" in the USA is by a number of deaths, and a level of human misery, beyond any tyranny in history. And that is why, in the final analysis so many of the more vocal libertarians sound like criminals: they are in love with death and human misery. More food for us the short term. Caw!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I don't believe all the hate that the McCain/Palin election is spreading is going to win them the election.
"With the election being only a couple of weeks away and with more and more incidents of voter fraud coming to light, we don't believe that we can trust the results of this election," said Pennsylvania Republican State Chairman Robert Gleason yesterday.
We are for-sure going to be hearing about how Obama won because--gasp!--black people voted for the next two decades. How far are the Republicans and, especially, the radical right going to take this? No coup, I think. The military leadership will not support them--nothing like losing a war messily to make you unpopular with the officer corps and the general staff. But domestic violence, perhaps even domestic terrorism? Likely, likely. I'd hoped that the election would be the end of this. But then where would all that lovely negative energy go? Much, I think, will depend on Obama's conduct after the election. He is going to have to work very hard to defuse this horror. May he prove a Barack indeed--a blessing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Agents of History and Madness

Discussion on a friend's blog recently turned to William Ayers, so I researched him a bit. The material isn't secret, and there's a lot of it--Ayers, now an academic, is still writing. One of the things I found about Ayers is that his goal was sabotage and propaganda rather than terrorism; especially after the Greenwich Village disaster, the Weatherman took careful steps to avoid injuring people in their attacks, and in fact no-one was injured. Maybe this was because of those cautions, or maybe the Weatherman (the name of their group, after Dylan's line "You don't need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows") was just lucky. Ayers was another one who, like the northwestern anarchists in Seattle three decades later, had gotten impatient and was going to try to bring about the new world by force. Then and now, it didn't work. It has never worked. The state, the entrenched, corrupt powers--they have more force than any small activist group can match. In the end only persuasion and sacrifice seem to work and the work takes more than a single lifetime.

And, like a wolverine at the gate, we have the Alaska Independence Party--Joel Vogler, Mark Chryson, and Todd Palin, Sarah Palin's husband. Talking violence, with violent associates and ties to white supremacists and (yes!) the Islamic Republic of Iran, this group also wants to bring about a new world and has embraced, rather than renounced, violence against people in its aims. No lofty goals here--they want to make money by destroying the land and water of Alaska. Vogler was a gold miner. They want to become the state, they want to be the entrenched, corrupt power. With Sarah Palin becoming governor of Alaska they succeeded, at least in part. I think back to the nazis and fascists of the last century. Coming from the fringes of society, they took their petty desires for wealth and power, came to power, and failed in some of the most oppressive regimes and one of the bloodiest wars in history.

But it is all about power. My title is from Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle a contrafactual or alternate history novel in which the Axis won the Second World War.

They want to be the agents, not the victims of history. They identify with God's power and believe they are godlike. That is their basic madness. They are overcome by some archetype; their egos have expanded psychotically so that they cannot tell where they begin and the godhead leaves off. It is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate--confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.
Let us save ourselves from the agents of history and madness.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Spread the word

Max Blumenthal and Dave Neiwert, on Palin in Alaska. It reads like the early bio of a fascist leader. BTW, for those of you who think her support of firearms is positive, it's pretty clear that what she's supporting is the right to threaten with the open carriage of firearms. That is no part of freedom.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden pulls together lots of information on John McCain's failings. Caw!

The Problem of Hate Rallies

It seems that Sarah Palin has been exhorting to people to shout their hatred during her speeches, and they are shouting. From there, it's a short step to physical violence. It's a grim thing, bringing back memories of the infamous lynch mobs, and violent mobs throughout history. In itself, this probably will not raise McCain/Palin's electoral chances. If they take it to television or talk radio we might see actual mob violence. I don't think a month is enough time to establish a full-fledged hate campaign, one that could actually bully its opposition into silence. I don't think hate media can even swing the election, this late in the game. But hate rallies or hate radio could trigger some violent incidents before the election, at the polls, and even after the election. Which means... More food for corvids! Caw!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Waiting for the New World

It occurs to me that the reason I set out these mostly grim visions is because I am early, waiting for the new world. I came of age in the early 1970s, at the tail of the transformations of the 1960s. And there's so much to hope for! Even now, even in this dark time. The better world is near, nearer than we imagine. Freedom, peace, plenty. Oh, I know we won't get there in my lifetime. But we can be on the path. Even now, even today--we don't have to be monsters. And--if we make it at all--that world will be. But not today. Perhaps not for centuries.

I used to live in Eugene, Oregon. Some of my neighbors were the anarchists who made Seattle so interesting a few years ago. They were the children of the old hippies, they got tired of waiting for the Revolution, and decided to go out and make it. Well. No, not well. It was ill-done, overwhelmed and scared the Seattle authorities, and it's going to take a generation for the right to protest to be recovered. But they were trying to bring the new world. And so am I. All these things I write about--they are barriers on the way. In a different, saner world I would be wishing us on that way. Instead, I write to point out and to help tear down barriers to it. And out of frustration. Why is it so hard for people to imagine a better world? How long?

Not what you expect from this grim old corvid, is it? But corvids are smart birds. No, really. We can count, and our calls are almost language. We only go hungry when the world is starving.

So we work, and hope. Maybe, it will be enough.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Problem of Thinking About Society

Is that many people cannot see past themselves. People imagine that their personal experience is everyone's experience, and are offended at the suggestion it is not; people reject the idea that they might be part of a population with similar experience; people want to punish others for their own failings. Caw!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Presidential Candidates and Social Transformation

An anti-abortion Catholic friend is agonizing over her vote. McCain/Palin, of course, toe the Church's line on this issue, but she finds their militarism repulsive and she can't quite bring herself—yet, anyhow—to vote for the pro-abortion Obama/Biden ticket.

After some discussion I ended up with a question: how is it that anyone would believe that McCain and Palin are in any substantial way superior to Obama and Biden? McCain is a vet who doesn't seem to have recovered from PTSD. He is impulsive and ignorant of important issues. He is too old for the job—if he wins a second term he will be 80 at the end of it. There is a good chance of McCain dying or being disabled in office. Palin seems to be a charming narcissistic fanatic. She is deeply ignorant of governance. It's not clear she really believes anything she professes—she may just be interested in power. She has strong associations with the authoritarian, revolutionary, Christian Dominionist Alaskan Independence Party. Obama, on the other hand, is a well-educated politician, who has been studying for political leadership all his life. A greatly charismatic man, he wants the job and is willing to make great efforts to prepare for it. Biden is an experienced Democratic senator with a decent conservative record.

Looked at in this way it's clear who the superior choices for the office are. McCain and Palin are not, in any meaningful sense, "pro-life"—regardless of their anti-abortion stands, their careers would bring such great human misery as to wipe out any good that would do, even if one takes the view that all fetuses are people. Similarly a strongly pro-gun friend desperately defends them, and yet, while in a McCain/Palin administration they might keep their firearms, the attack on civil rights we have seen under Bush/Cheney would continue—we have never before had an administration making barefaced arguments in defense of torture—, and that friend might, in the end, even lose his guns.

A lot of effort has been spent on making people like my friends so concerned and scared about particular single issues that they forget the whole, like someone who lets their panic fear of falling lead them to die in a fire rather than making a safe jump from a window. If the anti-abortion people are right, abortion is a great wrong. But regardless of the candidates stands on that issue, even should they succeed in outlawing abortion, as elected officials that will not be most of their work. The President does not spend most of their time on moral issues. Nor, really, would we want a President to; we are electing a head of state and a chief executive, not a high priest. But people who latch on to single hot-button issues are made to forget this. The how of this is, I regret to say, very well understood—if you have mass media it is depressingly easy to create mass panic. If only we knew as well how to allay fears and give people courage! It is one of Obama's great virtues that he does seem to know something about this and to actually want to do it. But I want to write about the why, for a moment.

Focusing on panicking people and electing poor leaders is the nuclear option of civil society—it can take generations to pick up the pieces. The basis of this, apart from greed and power-lust, is intellectual rigidity. It is difficult for me to draw any conclusion other than that we are in need of vast transformations in our institutions and philosophies. Deep time, deep space, evolution, ecology—these things were not even dreamt of when the ideas our reactionaries rely on were formed. If there is to be a human future, we must begin to think about them as the basis of our social ethics. If we are to have a future, therefore, the institutions that refuse to respond to them must either change their ideas, or fade into insignificance.

The Barracuda's Smile

I've been wincing at Sarah Palin's smile for weeks now. It looks artificial...and then my girlfriend pointed out that it probably is, and she might have cheek implants as well. The Raven's girlfriend speaks:

When I was a skater mom I learned an unfortunate fact: most competitors at regional level and above had had some degree of corrective work done. It generally started with teeth. In fact, teeth are the "biggest bang for the buck" alteration somebody can do to make their face look more attractive.

Some years later, after my daughter stopped skating (and she never had dental work done) I was studying plastic surgery for a report in Anatomy and Physiology and I learned that this phenomena was not confined to skaters. Dancers--well, of course!--and beauty queens and politicians.

A set of before and after photographs were provided in the article I was reading about the ethics of plastic surgery. Of course, said politicians never said they'd had plastic surgery, but a cursory examination of the photographs was enough to establish that a remarkable transformation had happened over a period of years. Once again, teeth were in the forefront of the changes.

It's basic psychology and politicians are driven to garner votes and confidence in any way possible. Barak Obama is very lucky to be such a poster boy, both physique and face. But others are not so lucky. If Sarah Palin's smile looks odd; it probably is odd, and a search through the archives to her junior high school years will likely yield a much more congruent set of teeth.

Ordinarily, I consider plastic surgery more a subject for gossip magazines than political commentary, but here I think this is revealing of character. She's had a lot done--teeth, cheeks, and probably a facelift. I think it shows a narcissistic concern with appearance. And how much harder Palin looks at 44!