Thursday, March 11, 2010


I've sort of rediscovered the fact that I like to draw. I'm thinking about maybe taking an art course over the summer. Anyway, the pictures above are, in order:

1)A space pirate from Metroid Prime 2 that I never finished
2)George Orwell
3)a skull
4)George Orwell again
5)a stick figure waving a red and black anarcho-syndicalist flag
6)Me, with sort of a mustache.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I had to put up with a particularly odious rant by Mr. Glenn Beck today. Among the incoherent assaults on human reason Glenn Beck dished out today, was the claim that the student protests in California were supported by socialist groups and therefore a vile assault on American democracy (apparently, socialists oppose - gasp! - massive cuts in public education, more proof of their nefarious agenda), that progressivism constitutes a new-age "earth cult," that children should not be allowed to think for themselves (lest they fall victim to leftist propaganda!) and that if we don't re-educate our children to undo the damage done to their minds by the evil leftists, we will lose the Republic within a generation. Glenn Beck is essentially on a one-man crusade to instigate a third Red Scare. It would be funny if it weren't so frightening, speaking as a leftist.

I think it's about time to introduce you all to a relevant piece of leftist jargon: reactionary. As in, someone who defends the interests of power from threats from below. As in, Glenn Beck is the ultimate reactionary. This is a man who claimed that net neutrality, the idea that people shouldn't have to pay different rates to access different websites, constitutes a communist plot to take over the internet. His proof: some random Marxist is in favor of it. Of course, so are countless technology firms, and virtually everyone outside of the telecom giants and people who watch Glenn Beck, but this is irrelevant. Anything that leftists so much as support is guilty by association. Glenn Beck's scorched-earth policy towards leftist politics is the mark of a man who is truly unstable, certainly unfit to host his own television show on the #1 watched cable news network.

But like I said, Glenn Beck serves a purpose: to defend moneyed interests from threats, whether real or perceived, from the Left. It is thus no accident that he managed to worm his way onto Fox News in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The forces of reaction need his McCarthyite rantings now more than ever, to blunt the growth of leftist politics in a climate that is ripe for it and to co-opt people's legitimate concerns over the direction of the country into a tool for the most conservative wing of the establishment. This accounts for his leading role as a demagogue for the Tea Party movement.

Take for example, his cavalier dismissal of the March 4th protests against education cuts in California for its association with socialist groups. This association is not imagined. But what does that relationship imply? Precisely nothing beyond the fact that socialists oppose cuts in social spending, like the majority of Americans. It does not compromise the integrity of the movement, as Glenn Beck implies. On the other hand, what does Glenn Beck's opposition to the March 4th protests imply? All movements against cuts in social spending will always have socialist hangers-on. The implication, of course, is that movements against things like cuts in education can never be legitimate, since they will be invariably be associated in one form or another with socialism. The implied message Glenn Beck is giving to his viewers is that they should not move to defend their standards of living.

One of the key dynamics of the recession thus far, and it has been abundantly clear to all Americans, has been massive welfare spending for corporate interests and austerity measures for the rest of America. The Glenn Becks of the world would have us sit on our hands and do nothing in the face of this obscene injustice for fear of association with socialism. In fact, Beck routinely mocks the very idea of "social justice" on his program as a socialist/progressive Trojan horse. According to Beck, we must not question the bulk of the injustices inherent in modern American society. Beck would therefore have us think like peasants.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Anarchism and Citizenship

Being left-liberal with a general anti-statist bent, one would think that I would be a natural fit for anarchism. Certainly I sympathize with some of anarchism's core values and criticisms of the status quo. But I want nothing to do with the contemporary anarchist movement in America, because it is the most worthless, ineffectual, anti-intellectual wing of the left.

Which is not to say that I have no respect for historical anarchism. Anarchists played a major role in the fight for the eight hour workday in 1880s Chicago, for example. Many of America's greatest social critics, from Thoreau to Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, have been either explicitly anarchist or anarchistic in their view of society. And perhaps the greatest, and in my opinion, the noblest, of all the failed proletarian revolutions that litter the early history of European capitalism was the revolution in Spain that coincided with the Civil War of '36 to '39, which was generally anarchist in character. Firms were collectivized and controlled democratically, the resultant savings were passed on to the consumer, and by and large a functioning, largely voluntary, anarchist society existed in northern Spain in the first year of the Civil War.

Obviously, for an ideology such as anarchism to be taken seriously, there must be an extremely thorough theoretical foundation for that ideology's imagined new society. No revolutionary ideology can be seriously entertained by thinking people if there is not even the recognition of this one essential necessity. And there used to be serious dialogue to this effect amongst the radical (and crucially, largely working-class,) anarchist intelligentsia. The Spanish Revolution was the culmination of six decades of practical, programmatic thinking within the Spanish anarchist movement.

However, one will search in vain in the modern anarchist movement for even the recognition of the importance of elaborating upon the anarchist idea of working-class revolution. In fact, there is minimal concern with the working-class itself. Instead of practical, empirical thinking, there is endless debate on anarchist websites such as, on the need for "diversity of tactics," which translates to "throwing rocks at cops." They can hardly even be considered "radical," because their radical thought rarely extends beyond protest. That their protests usually descend into violence serves to obscure the impotence of their actions amongst anarchists, who frequently conflate their protests with revolution. It would be charitable to call this mindset "existential;" a better word would be "worthless."

The modern American anarchist is not radical. In fact, he can hardly be considered a leftist because there is an almost total disdain on his part for making his movement a mass movement, which is the principle concern of actual leftists. Actual leftists seek to politically empower their friends, neighbors and co-workers, with an eye toward achieving the total emancipation of the masses from all class distinction. The American anarchist, being a libertine, deliberately obscures the question of class which is supposed to be absolutely central to leftist politics, because he himself is thoroughly petty-bourgeois in his outlook towards life. The class question is thus of little utility for him.

One is led to question, then, what exactly constitutes the modern American anarchist's politics. The answer is fairly simple. His is the politics of confrontation. He concerns himself with combatting what he loosely understands to be repression by breaking windows and smashing shit. Politics are merely tangential to this central concern. His politics exists only insofar as it gives him the excuse to riot. And he loves the riot. It is thrilling to him; it is what he lives for. It allows him to break through the shell of his middle-class existence for a fleeting moment and live on the other side of the law, outside of the safe confines of the shelter of his upbringing. In a word, he is a supreme narcissist because his politics are tailored to suit his own psychological needs.

Evidence abounds throughout anarchist literature. For example, from an article by the highly influential publishing collective CrimethInc entitled "Your Politics Are Boring As Fuck":

"For how many of you is politics a responsibility? Something you engage in because you feel you should, when in your heart of hearts there are a million things you would rather be doing? Your volunteer work—is it your most favorite pastime, or do you do it out of a sense of obligation? Why do you think it is so hard to motivate others to volunteer as you do? Could it be that it is, above all, a feeling of guilt that drives you to fulfill your 'duty' to be politically active?…

…You actually do us all a real disservice with your tiresome, tedious politics. For in fact, there is nothing more important than politics. NOT the politics of American "democracy" and law, of who is elected state legislator to sign the same bills and perpetuate the same system…But the politics of our everyday lives…When you involve yourself in politics out of a sense of obligation, and make political action into a dull responsibility rather than an exciting game that is worthwhile for its own sake, you scare away people whose lives are already far too dull for any more tedium…

…Join us in making the 'revolution' a game; a game played for the highest stakes of all, but a joyous, carefree game nonetheless!"

So there you go. Politics shouldn't be thought of as a "responsibility," because that's boring. Political action shouldn't be judged by the concrete impact it has on society, but by how "exciting" it is. Can there be a more distilled example of selfish, emotional infancy? I'm sure the millions of Spaniards who gave their lives for the anarchist ideal would love to be harangued about how they should have made their movement more fun. But this is what anarchism has degenerated into. Anarchism has become antipolitics. And all of this dovetails easily with the prevailing norms of society, of instant gratification, of selfish individualism, of anti-intellectualism.

My theory is that CrimethInc is a front group for the FBI whose purpose is to de-fang what would otherwise be the most radical wing of the left. It would make perfect sense. Everything that CrimethInc publishes is so stupid, so inane, so ultimately reactionary that it's impossible to think that any self-respecting leftist could be behind it. Everything about CrimethInc seems deliberately calculated to encourage lazy, nonchalant, willful impotence in its readers. This is a publisher that encourages its readers to dumpster-dive rather than suffer the indignity of getting a job. That claims that deodorant is a capitalist plot to kill the "animal within." Can any thinking person take such nonsense seriously? Anarchists can. To quote George Orwell, they are "fiddling while Rome burns, and unlike the enormous majority of people who do this, fiddling with [their] face to the flames."

Friday, February 5, 2010

We've Got Olympic Spirit!

Here's something that blew my mind, in that I've never even considered that there could be a protest movement against the Olympics itself. From the excellent Edge of Sports blog by David Zirin:

"Only 50 percent of residents in British Columbia think the Olympics will be positive and 69 percent said too much money is being spent on the Games...Bringing together a myriad of issues, Vancouver residents have put out an open call for a week of anti-game actions. Different demonstrations on issues ranging from homelessness to indigenous rights have been called. Protesters from London and Russia, site of the next two Olympics will be there. Expect a tent city, expect picket signs, expect aggressive direct actions. Tellingly, according to the latest polls, 40 percent of British Columbia residents support the aims of the protesters, compared to just 13 percent across the rest of Canada. Harsha Walia of the Olympic Resistance Network said, 'We are seeing increasing resistance across the country as it becomes more visible how these Games are a big fraud.'"

Supposedly the Winter Olympics in Vancouver is ten times over-budget and according to the most recent estimates, the economic impact of the games will be offset by the security costs alone. Meanwhile homelessness in Vancouver has quintupled according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, allegedly due to the games but I can't be sure. To be frank I think the whole thing is so farcical it's funny. You have to screw up pretty bad for there to be a significant protest movement against something like the Olympics, and for that movement to enjoy widespread support among Vancouverites? Hilarious.

Also while I'm at it I'll post a link to his decent piece on the whole Tim Tebow Superbowl hooplah. I kind of wish everyone would shut the hell up about it, and focus instead upon how the Saints are going to cream the Colts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Venezuela and Wishful Thinking

Here's an interesting little tidbit: The Venezuelan parliamentary elections of 2005 had an abstention rate of about 75%, whereas the presidential election of 2006 had an abstention rate of only 25%. I don't know what this means exactly, but it certainly does not bode well for parliamentary democracy in Venezuela, since it seems to indicate a general cynicism among the population with the Parliament and a great deal of trust in the executive.

In related news, the recent 2009 Venezuelan referendum that abolished term limits for elected officials passed with 54% of the vote and 70% of eligible voters responding. In other words, a small minority was able to ratify the abolition of a key democratic safeguard against tyranny (it's also worth noting that the current constitution was originally ratified under the auspices of Chavez as well). This is all part of what is called in official propaganda as the "Bolivarian Revolution."

Meanwhile, as the living standards of the average Venezuelans fail to rise significantly, new revelations of staggering levels of corruption within the Chavez government arise every day, and government workers are threatened into voting for Chavez, things are going swimmingly for Venezuela on one front: what some Venezuelan leftists refer to as (if I remember correctly) "celebrity tourism." I was extremely disappointed to see Noam Chomsky appear in Venezuela a few months ago at the behest of Hugo Chavez, and appear on national television in that country to essentially act as Chavez's spokesman (Noam Chomsky is a celebrity, albeit outside of the United States). Many other leftist celebrities have made the trip to pose for photo-ops with Mr. Chavez.

Leftists talking up Chavez's Venezuela is the equivalent of progressives during the 30s openly praising Huey Long's Louisiana. It should be seen as an apotheosis of corruption. Like China in the 1960s, Venezuela serves as a stand-in for the hopes and dreams of leftists in the real world. And this fatally undermines leftism. If Leftists are willing to support a corrupt government that has made millionaires out of a select few of Chavez's cronies, then they should be even more supportive of the nepotistic two-party system we have here in the United States.

Ironically, one of the main camps on the Left to escape this disease are the Trotskyists (ironic because Trotskyists idealize tyrants of their own). A recent article on the World Socialist Website, a Trotskyist publication, reports:

"Meanwhile, a wave of banking scandals has exposed the vast enrichment of a layer of businessmen close to the government, the so-called bolibuguesía, referring to the new layer of capitalists created by Chávez’s so-called Bolivarian Revolution. It has also called attention to the accumulation of wealth by a number of prominent political figures, who have become millionaires while promoting '21st century socialism.'”

Of course, the reason for this hostility is probably that Chavez has called for the convening of a fifth International, which would compete with the Trotskyist Fourth International.

The irony about all this is that there actually are much better vessels out there for leftists to put their hopes and dreams into. The socialist Ecuadorian government, for example, is far from perfect, but to my knowledge (which is admittedly scant), they have largely escaped the corruption and nepotism of the Venezuelan government. There is also the myriad of socialist and social-democratic governments in Europe. Then there's Bolivia, where the local "Movement Towards Socialism" is far more genuine than Venezuela's. The president, Evo Morales, is a former union organizer who rode a wave of grassroots organization into the presidential palace. The old Aristide government in Haiti, before he was kidnapped by US Marines and forced to resign, was also a real reason for hope. They built more schools in Haiti than all previous Haitian administrations combined, doubled the minimum wage, and slowly began to improve Haiti's crumbling, virtually non-existent infrastructure.

I Hope I Get Old Before I Die

Howard Zinn died last Wednesday. What really depresses me is that I didn't even find out about it until today. That got me thinking: How widely was his death even reported?

Perusing the NBC Nightly News website, which is the broadcast of choice here at the apartment, it appears it was not even reported on Brian Williams' nightly broadcast. Checking the ABC news website, it appears it was not reported there either. What about CBS? Nothing there either, as far as I can tell.

He death of course, did merit commentary in the left-leaning Nation, and in the two national newspapers of record, the Washington Post and the New York Times. The Dallas Morning News ran an AP article about him. So I guess the moral to this story is I should read newspapers more.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Books: Liberalism Against Populism

Here's an interesting book I've been reading off and on for the better part of a year. The basic argument of Liberalism Against Populism is that social choice can vary wildly depending on the method of voting used. Por ejemplo:

"Even under proportional representation, slightly different methods of summarizing can produce markedly different results. The French parliamentary election of 1951 provides a persuasive illustration of this fact.

In preparation for that election, the parties of the center, the so-called Third Force, which had jointly controlled the National Assembly from the election of 1946, slightly changed the electoral procedures in a way that greatly enhanced their opportunities to remain in control. It seems likely that the ordinary citizen did not observe much difference in the procedure...Without this manipulation, both Gaullists and Communists would have had more seats, and that fact very likely would have changed the Cabinets between 1951 and 1955 from mostly Third Force coalitions to either right-leaning or left-leaning ones...

In 1951 two changes were made. In some districts, parties were permitted to form alliances and seats were assigned b the highest-average formula applied to either parties or alliances...

In Paris and its suburbs, Communists and Gaullists controlled probably two-thirds of the votes. The procedure of a majority alliance could not help the Third Force parties, and they did not permit it in the 75 seats there. Instead, they changed the formula of counting votes from the highest-average method to the largest-remainder method...The right and center parties gained 9 of 75 seats or about 12 percent of the Parisian seats."

This is both a somewhat disturbing and somewhat obvious, drawback to electoral democracy. One could even conceivably legitimize a measure that the majority of the public opposes by putting it up for a vote and having it pass. This, for example, explains why incumbents in Cuban elections often win by margins of 90 percent or more. It also explains, to take another example, why Republicans made such huge gains in the 1994 congressional elections even though the majority of the public opposed the things written in "Contract with America."

William Riker lays down three properties that an electoral system should have: monotonicity, undifferentiatedness, and neutrality. Monotonicity means that "if one or more voters change preference in a direction favorable to x, then the resulting change, if any, in the fate of x should be an improvement for x." Undifferentiatedness is "the technical condition underlying equality." It is "the condition that any permutation of a set of individual judgements leads to the same social choice. This means that the votes cannot be differentiated either in weight or in the roles played by the voters because if judgments are rearranged among voters in any way the same outcome is produced. Neutrality is that idea that "if neither alternative has an advantage, reversed preferences will lead to a reversed result." For example, a two-thirds majority requirement for some measure to pass violates this rule, since a vote of 51-49 yields the same result as 49-51.

According to Riker, "Simple majority decision on binary alternatives is consistent with the democratic purposes of voting (by reason of strong monotonicity); it is fair to all voters (by reason of undifferentiatedness); and it is fair to all candidates (by reason of neutrality)...unfortunately, there is no fair way to ensure that there will be exactly two alternatives. Usually the political world offers many options, which, for simple majority decision, must be reduced to two."

And that's all I got for now.


Let me be perfectly fair. Considering the similarities in the responses to Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake, it's entirely possible that sheer incompetence is the only reason Haiti is being occupied right now.

After Katrina, the National Guard sealed off the city and preventing anyone from getting in or out. Even the Red Cross was not allowed in at first. Residents attempting to flee the city were turned back at gunpoint. Meanwhile, private mercenaries poured into the city to protect the property of the town's wealthiest citizens. Four days passed before any serious rescue effort was mounted. It was ten days before they began fishing bodies out of the toxic soup.

I'm entirely willing to accept the possibility that the militarization of the relief effort in Haiti is simply due to gross incompetence on the part of the federal government when it comes to responding to disasters. But I tend to be too cynical to embrace the possibility that bad things happen in Washington "on accident." My hunch is that the 15,000 troops in Haiti will continue to be there throughout the reconstruction effort, which will probably be neoliberal in orientation and therefore highly unpopular among the mass of Haitian poor. That former president Clinton has been praising sweat shop labor in that country as "economic progress" in the media seems to validate my suspicions. My guess is Haiti will emerge from this tragedy even more economically dependent than before, if that is even possible.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Random Crap

Here's a truly astounding article from the Wall Street Journal denouncing the Obama Administration's conduct in Haiti, astounding because most criticism of the occupation has been levied by the left, and the WSJ is of course anything but. And with 15,000 troops in Haiti by now, that it is an occupation is a fact that takes real talent to miss.

Speaking of which:

Here's another astounding article, but for different reasons. USA Today notes the history of Marine involvement in Haiti and manages not to recoil in horror. According to them, "The Corps governed Haiti from 1915 to 1934 after an invasion force was sent to prevent an anti-American dictator from assuming power. Young, non-commissioned officers governed Haiti with little supervision." Marines built "roads, bridges and schools," but "many" of the ungrateful Haitians viewed it as "imperialism." They also note the role the Marines played in the 2004 coup that overthrew the popular Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, except they describe their role with the Orwellian term "to prevent massacres." Of particular interest is this little nugget from one Lt. Col. Gary Keim: "We were required to reread [the 1915 Marine occupation] ... We've been here before. We've been successful before." It does not bode well for the "relief effort" if the US military is preparing for it by revisiting one of the more shameful chapters of American history.


Here's something that makes my blood boil. The Federal government has awarded the state of Louisiana 474 million dollars for damages to Charity Hospital during Hurricane Katrina. This means that the state now has enough money to renovate Charity and build a state-of-the-art facility within the old shell. Instead, they are going to sit on the money for years, trying to float hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds that nobody will go for, to finance the brand spanking new LSU/VA hospital, to be built for 300 million more than the cost of renovating Charity, be completed 4 and a half years later, and built upon land currently occupied by 200 mid-city houses to boot.

I know people who know people who think that the levees were deliberately dynamited to push the working poor of New Orleans off of their land. This is a grandiose, yet entirely understandable misconception, considering the net effect of the recovery has been to push thousands of lower and lower-middle class residents off their land and out of the city altogether. This is all done in the name of "cleaning up the city," and is received with much applause by the New Orleanian middle and upper classes. The irony is, of course, that one could make a far more convincing argument that it is the New Orleanian middle and upper classes that should be kicked out in the name of "cleaning up the city," seeing as the degeneration of New Orleans into an economic and cultural backwater is entirely their fault. It isn't as though the poor visit these problems upon themselves. The extensive, miserable poverty in New Orleans is due to centuries of mismanagement of the city's resources by the local elite. As late as the mid 19th century many New Orleans streets were still paved with wood.

The middle class would counter this argument by saying that everything was fine until them uppity niggers started voting in people like Nagin and Dutch Morial, but this is an absurd mischaracterization of the way that American elections work. Candidates for offices of any consequence must first be vetted by moneyed interests before they can run a successful campaign. Therefore, the ruling elites in America essentially hold veto power over candidates' campaigns. Besides, in the case of Nagin, it was the conservative white vote, which was encouraged to vote for Nagin by the Louisiana GOP, which proved the crucial swing factor in the election. The New Orleanian elites are deluded to the extreme if they think they have earned the hegemonic right to shape the future of the city.

Supporters Groups And Sports Culture

I watch a lot of soccer. The game itself is pretty entertaining, but what really intrigues me when I watch a match from Europe or Latin America is what goes on in the stands.

Soccer fans are nuts. One almost never sees this kind of hardcore dedication in the United States (and there is a fine line between dedication and punching a fan from the opposing side in the face). Here's a good example of what I mean:

1. FC Union Berlin is a club with a lot of history. During its years in the East German soccer leagues, it was supported by the local Berlin trade unions. It carried on a bitter rivalry with Dynamo Berlin, which was supported by the Stasi, or the secret police. Union fans, whenever they played Dynamo, would sing thinly veiled anti-Soviet songs in the stands as police with dogs patrolled up and down the aisles.

Skip ahead to 2008. Union Berlin's stadium, the Stadion An der Alten Föresterei (Stadium Near the Old Forester's House), is crumbling. The cinderblock terracing can barely support the weight of the 15,000 or so fans that show up to Union's games. The club decides to renovate the stadium. Rather than pay construction companies money to do the job, the club instead uses approximately 2000 fan volunteers to carry out most of the necessary renovation.

Could you ever imagine something like this happening with an American sports team? It can't be done. And there's a reason for this. In Germany, sports teams are actual clubs that people can join, and in fact many teams require that a person purchase a club membership before he can purchase game tickets. Fans are treated as partners and stakeholders by the clubs because they actually are partners and stakeholders. American sports teams operate differently. Sports executives in America treat sporting events like a commodity to be consumed passively. This is so ingrained in their thinking that in recent years it has resulted in a marketing tactic called "sensory overload," wherein noisy music is pumped into the stadium through the PA system because it literally never occurs to the executives that it is the fans that should be making all of the noise themselves. Spectators in the United States are expected to be passive consumers. If you tried to do the things they do in Europe and Latin America, like hoist banners, light flares, stand or sing songs throughout the entire game, you would probably be kicked out. Take your free bobblehead, maybe buy a t-shirt, get a hotdog, whatever. Just don't do anything unexpected or spontaneous.

Fortunately, there are germs of a better sports culture in the North America. Fans of MLS clubs, for example, tend to imitate their European cousins and stand and sing the entire game, raise banners, and occasionally light flares. Fans of Toronto FC in particular have gained notoriety for their drunken, often ill-advised revelry. But this is all good, in my mind. If the growth of soccer in the United States means introducing soccer traditions such as tifos and ultras, then I am all for the growth of the sport here. It would inject some vitality in our moribund sporting culture.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Movie Review: Kickboxer from Hell

Fun fact about this movie: it's actually two movies in one, with original scenes spliced together with a redub of an old Japanese horror movie. It's actually painfully obvious, but it's probably the most interesting thing about this movie.

So the film starts out with a woman running through the woods, doing her best to convince us that she is frightened but falling far short of the mark. You can only do so much when you're being chased by a bunch of Indian guides wearing shirts made out of potato sacks.

She wanders into a clearing where our two manly heroes are doing manly stuff like punching each other in the middle of the woods.

Soon Chief Shitting Bull (pictured) catches up with her, and he and Manly Man #1 exchange such pleasantries as "fuck" and "asshole." Then they duke it out while this guy watches, much to my delight:

Blah blah blah, Manly Man wins, the other guys step in, but the Chief yells "Stop! Leave him for Lucifer," blah blah...wait, what? What exactly was this lady doing? We soon find out, but not before a long-winded, context-less interlude about some Japanese dumb asses who buy a haunted house (HERE'S A HINT FOLKS: THE PRESENCE OF DEMON LADIES DOES NOT HELP YOUR RESALE VALUE) After we return to Whitey White Land, our damsel in distress drops this bombshell:

She's a nun, working undercover for the devil

A nun, working undercover for the devil.

The Caddo Tribe apparently wanted to sacrifice her. But all that isn't half as stupid and ridiculous as M.M.#1's response:

Blah Blah Blah, the Japanese are still scared, blah blah blah, hey check this guy out:

The bad guy in this movie is Gene Simmons?

And his head henchman is Val Kilmer reprising his role as Iceman from Top Gun. Meh. I've seen worse. Anyway, that's all I need to know. Let's skip to the big finish:

M.M. kills Satan by destroying his magic candles. Makes sense.

Anyway, not the worst flick I've seen. Definitely worth the two bucks I paid for it.

State of the Union

Quick thought about last night's State of the Union speech:

Is anybody else creeped out by these things? I mean, what with the Glorious Leader descending from on high to tell the masses what a great job he's doing to thunderous applause? It's all a very bald-faced propaganda stunt, if you ask me.

Put in this light, one might say "I would expect such an affair from a country like the Soviet Union but not the United States," but that would imply a fundamental misunderstanding of the way our democracy works, specifically, how our democracy operates within very narrow boundaries. The parties themselves, of course, are highly centralized and operate undemocratically. Between elections, it is the party bureaucracy that engages in social decision-making, not the public. Democracy in America (and in most modern democracies) thus amounts to choosing between a government of one or the other tyrannies, similar in this one fundamental respect to Medieval European states that were ruled by elected monarchs. A truly democratic society implies rule by the people, not rule by parties.

A few suggestions come to mind that have their roots in colonial-era democracy. First, give the people the right to instruct their legislators. The people themselves should choose directly the platforms that their delegate to congress will push for. Second, give the people the right to recall their legislators if they find their performance unsatisfactory. Third and perhaps most importantly, invest local legislative power in town meetings. The rationale behind representative democracy is that direct democracy at a national level is too cumbersome; at a local level, this rationale does not hold (and even at a national level, this argument is severely weakened by advances in communications technology). At a local level, therefore, the best form of government is direct democracy. Furthermore, only by interacting with government directly through legislating rather than indirectly through voting do the people acquire a political sophistication necessary to the health of a democracy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Orleans Music

To start off with, here's a huge list of songs about the Saints, headlined by "All I Want For Christmas" by Kermit Ruffins.

This guy is a lot of fun to listen to.

Also, Bust Down:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The Saints are in the Superbowl. What.

I screamed loud and hard when this happened (and not even out of jubilation, I just cold screamed my lungs out):

I'll let the rest of the images speak for themselves:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jorge Castañeda is a Big Fat Cunt: A Well Thought Out and Soberly Editorial

Newspaper editorial pages are rarely worth bothering with, except to glean some schadendfreude from the intolerable levels of stupid that emanate from them.

So it was with great delight that I opened up the editorial page of the Dallas Morning News to read a lengthy editorial from The New Republic entitled "Adios, Monroe Doctrine" by one Jorge Castañeda. In a word, Jorge argues that Obama is actively abandoning the Monroe Doctrine because he is "no longer willing, or perhaps even able, to select who governs from Tegucigalpa, or anywhere else in the region for that matter." There is an element of truth to the latter claim, as the states of Latin America are finally beginning to determine their own destiny without foreign interference, but this is not due to a lack of trying on the part of the United States government. Noam Chomsky explains in a recent edition of In These Times:

"During the past decade, the United States has increased military aid and training of Latin American officers in light infantry tactics to combat 'radical populism'—a concept that, in the Latin American context, sends shivers up the spine...

The U.S. Fourth Fleet, disbanded in 1950, was reactivated in 2008, shortly after Colombia’s invasion of Ecuador, with responsibility for the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the surrounding waters.

Its 'various operations include counter-illicit trafficking, Theater Security Cooperation, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training,' the official announcement says."

Castañeda considers the fact that the United States did nothing to restore Manuel Zelaya to power in Honduras a "remarkable" and "transformative" moment in US history. In flat defiance of Occam's Razor, he argues that the non-action on behalf of the White House did not signal tacit support for the coup government, but rather a rejection of 200 years of American foreign policy in the region.

Untruths besides this one abound in his article. "Since George H.W. Bush's invasion of Panama, there have been no unilateral military interventions, no coup plots or new embargoes, not even the propping up of decaying regimes." The coups in Venezuela and Haiti over the past decade apparently do not count. Furthermore, only "the left, mainly" would like to see a "unilateral end to the Cuban embargo." This is true only if you consider the majority of the business world to be part of "the left." Hugo Chavez, Jorge tells us, "has already shown a penchant for mischief, particularly within Latin America. So far, he has meddled successfully in the electoral processes of smaller countries -- Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Paraguay, El Salvador, Honduras -- and much less successfully in larger nations -- Mexico, Peru, and Columbia." I have no idea what half-truth, if any, this propaganda lie is based on. At any rate, even if it were true, it would be completely inconsequential when compared to the systematic campaign of mass murder that the United States government has visited upon the unlucky nations of Latin America for decades, and to imply, as Jorge does, that the United States has a responsibility to curb such "Venezuelan adventurism" is the height of hypocrisy.

I don't like Chavez. But for the mainstream media to hammer into people's heads, time and again, that he is a dictator rather than the duly elected leader of Venezuela, is disgusting. It is a terrible, malicious lie. For a "liberal" publication such as the New Republic to engage in this violence against the truth is a sign of how quickly and diligently contemporary media is working to erode any tangible sense of reality in the American public. In fact, I question whether or not the media itself has left any tangible sense of reality. For Jorge Castañeda to argue that the Monroe Doctrine is being abandoned while as we speak the US military is occupying Haiti is truly bewildering.

Jorge argues that "unfortunately, this new strategic environment is precarious." We could stand to isolate Chavez with out "benign neglect," but then Chavez might do something that the United States government could simply not tolerate. For example, he might crack down on dissent in Venezuela, and the US government has obviously always been a stalwart defender of free speech across the world. Or even worse, he could interfere in our attempts to starve the Iranian people into submission. This would be, in the eyes of Castañeda, "truly destabilizing." If our policy of "benign neglecty" impugns our ability to dish out benign cruelty, then, according to Castañeda, the United States should "abandon its deliberate passivity."

In closing, note that while Castañeda approves of the United States distancing itself from the Monroe doctrine, he has no moral reason for doing so. In the cost-benefit analysis, this is simply the most effective thing to do, in his estimation. This is how the imperial mentality works. The extreme left end of the spectrum argues that we ought not to crush indigenous peoples when it behooves us. As long as people like Castañeda serve as the far left voices of our public discourse, our democratic values are threatened.

Book Review?

One of the challenges for me when it comes to writing book reviews is the fact that I never actually finish any of the books that I start reading. So since I read books in piecemeal fashion, I figure that gives me license to review them in piecemeal fashion, right? So the way I think this is going to work is I'll just take whatever bits and pieces I've read over the past week and review those.

So one of the books I'm reading is The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion 1860-1898. Pretty interesting stuff. It's about 400 pages long and I've read about 110 pages into it. The early parts of the book are pretty idealistic, that is, it focuses on the ideas that underpin American expansion as opposed to the material conditions that underpin it. I don't know if this is a trend that continues throughout the book, but it permeates the parts of the book that I've read, so that's what I have to go on. It's not really a complaint, but I do want to read more about the material conditions that drove late 19th century American imperialism, having already read a great deal in the book dedicated to "the Intellectual Formulation."

By the way, although "empire" is a controversial term when applied to the United States, the policymakers of the late 19th century did openly refer to their plans as "imperialistic" and the United States as an "empire." So it's controversial, but it shouldn't be. William Henry Seward, Secretary of State during the 1860's, for example, imagined a vast land empire stretching from Canada to Panama, with its capital in Mexico City. Other policymakers were less grandiose with their visions for the new American Empire. It would seem that the prevailing thought at the time was that actually conquering territory, outside of key trading "way stations" such as Puerto Rico and Hawaii, would be an undesirable political burden, and that the planners of this period instead occupied themselves instead with finding markets for surplus American goods. American planners were therefore prepared to accept a tolerable degree of political autonomy within the emerging dependent zones of the American Empire, but were willing to use force when it proved useful. In fact, one of the key policy objectives of the US government at this time was to prop up the Chinese government to a certain degree so that the entire market did not fall into the hands of European competitors.

The chapter entitled "The Intellectual Formulation" is in my mind the best part of the book that I have read thus far, as it lays out the intellectual foundation of American imperialism. There were, of course, the obligatory Christian zealots who considered it the lot of the Anglo world to conquer the heathen world in the name of Christendom, those who considered expansion the only way to avoid such evils as socialism, and those who considered expansion an imperative, justifying it with the "frontier thesis" that held that the American frontier, which acted as a "safety valve" in times of unrest, had become fully populated. LaFeber brings up an excellent point when he says that "On the one hand, [the intellectuals] wanted a new empire to solve domestic problems of crisis proportions. On the other hand, they realized that only a nation which was spiritually, economically, and politically sound could create and maintain such an empire. American history has many paradoxes, but perhaps none is more important - or strange - than this paradox of the 1890's."

That's all I have for now. I really just wanted to get something down tonight before I went to bed. Maybe I'll add something tomorrow (I probably won't).

Blogging Schedule

Here's how my blog is going to pan out in the future, I think:

Monday: talk about books
Tuesday: talk about politics
Wednesday: talk about websites/viral stuff
Thursday: talk about music
Friday: talk about terrible, terrible movies
Saturday: talk about sports
Sunday: talk about random topics

Part of the reason I'm starting a new blog is because I felt constrained by the old one's premise (politics). By keeping to a schedule like this I hope to 1. force myself to embrace a diverse array of topics, and 2. establish a routine that I have been lacking for a while now.

So today's monday, so I guess that means I have to talk about books. Hang on.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blogging for Nothing

Part of the challenge of writing a blog for me is coming up with new material, since absolutely nothing interesting has ever happened to me. Usually I end up talking about politics, but I have a much wider range than that. I can also talk about sports.


Anyway, two of the things that I've been reading is a book called Moving With the Ball: The Migration of Professional Footballers and another book called Baseball: The Early Years. What strikes me the most is how similar the early histories of baseball and soccer are. They both started out as a nebulous grouping of children's ball games, were first codified when they became the pastime of gentlemen, flourished early on as a club sport for the petit-bourgeoisie before becoming a popular game with mass appeal, and so on and so forth. Where the histories of baseball in the United States and soccer in Europe really begin to diverge is at the formation of the first professional leagues. Soccer in Europe, as you may know, operates on a promotion-relegation system, whereby the best clubs at one level of play are promoted to the next highest level of play after every season, and the worst clubs drop at each level drop down a level. Baseball leagues in America, of course, are closed-circuit, meaning that teams compete at the same level every year regardless of their performance. The reason this is so is because unlike Europe, where the governing bodies of soccer still maintain a fair degree of clout, the governing body of baseball in America, the National Association, was severely weakened and later destroyed by the emergence of the National League and the rise of professionalism. Baseball in America was therefore allowed to evolve along monopolistic lines, whereas competition in European soccer remains comparatively well-regulated.

Up until 1992, for example, the league structure of soccer in England was managed entirely by the governing Football Association. Likewise, the National Association of Baseball Players in the United States regulated all national competition and organized a national championship that was open to any club willing to pay a piddling sum. The traditional narrative goes that the National Association was beset by all kinds of organizational problems (which is true) that the National League managed to circumvent (which is not true). For example, it is frequently argued that the closed-circuit system the National League operated on had the effect of providing greater stability than the National Associations, where teams folding before the end of the season was common. In fact, this was every bit as common an occurrence in the National League. Throughout the opening decade of the National League, the only team to consistently make any money were the Chicago Cubs. It has also been argued that the National League provided a better structure for resolving player disputes. This is also bunk; as the league's founder, William Hulbert broke away from the National Association primarily because he had poached players from other Association ball clubs. The reality is the National Association was destroyed by the ruthless business acumen of Hulbert, owner of the Chicago Cubs and founder of the National League, who was able to successfully play off nonleague teams against one another to his great advantage.

Anyway, that's your baseball history for today. Tomorrow I'll talk a little bit about the first organized baseball club in the United States, the New York Knickerbockers. Or maybe I won't. It's hard to tell.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Political Roundup

Since my family is originally from New Orleans, we've taken something of a keen interest in that city's upcoming mayoral election. My dad, for his part, is furious at Mitch Landrieu for "splitting the white vote," apparently unaware of how astoundingly racist this seems to people not born in the Deep South. Anyway, it turns out, according to the excellent website The Lens, Mitch Landrieu has a commanding lead in the polls in all demographics, including both whites and blacks. Apparently my dad, who believes that white people should play a hegemonic role in determining the future of New Orleans since they're the only people smart enough and responsible enough to make informed decisions, is not only racist, but impervious to reality! Ha! Ha!

Personally, if I could vote in the election, and I admit I don't know a whole hell of a lot about all the candidates, I'd vote for John Georges, since he's pledged to reopen Charity hospital. In case you haven't heard, rather than reopen Charity, which provided free healthcare to citizens of New Orleans before the storm and has since remained closed, LSU is instead going to build a new research hospital in the middle of Mid-City, evicting 200 families from their homes. Criminal, in my mind.

Speaking of criminal and healthcare, the US military has reportedly diverted about a dozen or more planes carrying life-saving medical supplies from France, Brazil, Italy, and Doctors Without Borders from the airport in Port-au-Prince. Several organization have already lodged complaints about the increasing militarization of the relief effort, although at this point it's not really a "relief" effort so much as it is an "occupation."

Media outlets, writes Rebecca Solnit, have not helped the situation by running sensationalized stories about looting. Their "misrepresentation of what goes on in disaster often abets and justifies a second wave of disaster. I’m talking about the treatment of sufferers as criminals, both on the ground and in the news, and the endorsement of a shift of resources from rescue to property patrol." In the real world, she writes, there is usually precious little actual "looting" as such in the wake of natural disasters. "Survivors are almost invariably more altruistic and less attached to their own property, less concerned with the long-term questions of acquisition, status, wealth, and security, than just about anyone not in such situations imagines possible." What is portrayed in the media as larcenous behavior, is generally actually people scavenging for life-saving supplies in an environment where all infrastructure has ceased to exist.

But that's all depressing as hell. I'll try to end this post on a positive note: