Monday, January 31, 2011

Against being your best/being a vampire

More often than not, I refrain from encouraging people, the kids, to try to change thangs for the better. "Be the best you can be" is — once the supportive exterior is scratched away — an unpleasant sentiment.

Embrace this life, your life, and those imperfections that — rather than detract from you — are you. So, just get on with your thin wallet, weak dick, or fat ass... I've already seen that commercial. Yet,  I am not suggesting people "be happy" or "look on the bright side"... fuck that too, that's terrible. Just stop trying to improve yourself, that's insane... enjoy yourself without improving yourself. I like that. Don't assume things should be better, because... uh... you know... that's a hard mindset to break free from.

But. But, I don't like thirsty mouths and empty bellies. This could be better. I understand that some would have it this way:
Nature is a state of suffering. Put more food on the table, and we'll put more babies in the seats until we're starving again. (I'm not quoting anything here)
And maybe that is correct. Maybe that is the default path — should there be such a strange thing. But, if that is our way, then it's too terrible to not try to improve. So, I think the virus, the vampire, is worth trying to understand. I got to thinking about a conversation looking at what Marxism does — an understanding v. action kind of thing. Now, I try tinkering with my means of communication, try to figure out how and why my body and words fail and succeed. Nothing much to report, obviously. But I did like what's below. I like how it moves. The pace is fast, but not hurried. Harvey's tone isn't grave, but he's not fucking around either. And, my lovely reader, it's not terribly reductive — considering all that happens in a mere eleven minutes. Embracing a wider discourse. Maybe.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rosa Luxemburg Day!

Unofficially. Normal Sunday decorum still applies.

My memory is too shoddy to maintain anything resembling an ideology. Too bad. For now, I'll enjoy Luxemburg's response to Eduard Bernstein. Over 100 years of things I know little about later... yet, this question still has a little left in the legs, at least for funsies. Below, a little taste and a link to Reform or Revolution.

Sweep the leg! Use your tail!
Revisionist theory thus places itself in a dilemma. Either the socialist transformation is, as was admitted up to now, the consequence of the internal contradictions of capitalism, and with the growth of capitalism will develop its inner contradictions, resulting inevitably, at some point, in its collapse, (in that case the “means of adaptation” are ineffective and the theory of collapse is correct); or the “means of adaptation” will really stop the collapse of the capitalist system and thereby enable capitalism to maintain itself by suppressing its own contradictions. In that case socialism ceases to be an historic necessity. It then becomes anything you want to call it, but it is no longer the result of the material development of society. The dilemma leads to another. Either revisionism is correct in its position on the course of capitalist development, and therefore the socialist transformation of society is only a utopia, or socialism is not a utopia, and the theory of “means of adaptation” is false. There is the question in a nutshell.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Time for a Hero

Al Jazeera:
Obama doesn't seem to understand that the US doesn't need to "take the fight" to al-Qaeda, or even fire a single shot, to score its greatest victory in the "war on terror". Supporting real democratisation will do more to downgrade al-Qaeda's capabilities than any number of military attacks. He had better gain this understanding quickly because in the next hours or days the Egypt's revolution will likely face its moment of truth. And right behind Egypt are Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and who knows what other countries, all looking to free themselves of governments that the US and its European allies have uncritically supported for decades.
If president Obama has the courage to support genuine democracy, even at the expense of immediate American policy interests, he could well go down in history as one of the heroes of the Middle East's Jasmine winter. If he chooses platitudes and the status quo, the harm to America's standing in the region will likely take decades to repair.
Obama as a hero? Hmmm... has anyone else showed up for the casting call? No? They're all here for the role of "Stooge", are they?

Quite. Obviously... Obama doesn't have the courage to go against American policy interests. That's what Obama does — his job description, or whatever — he protects the exact same American interests that drove the Cold War, Vietnam War, 1st Gulf War, and the dozens of other "little" interjections of American might O-round the world.

Yesterday, Andrew Bacevich printed a piece that made the usual rounds. In it, he attempted (quite succinctly, I thought) to explain why the mega-defense mega-budget is mega-protected and never gets cut:
In a 1948 State Department document, diplomat George F. Kennan offered this observation: "We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population." The challenge facing American policymakers, he continued, was "to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this disparity." Here we have a description of American purposes that is far more candid than all of the rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy, seeking world peace, or exercising global leadership.
That pattern of relationships includes nuzzling up to autocrats. Not exactly a stretch, is it? Not exactly breaking any ground here today, am I? 

Oh, and if one of these asshole American officials begs for restraint... one. more. time. I'm gonna... I'm gonna...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seeking Omnipotence

I was disappointed to read that the Gorgon Stare — the Air Force's version of the Eye of Sauron — doesn't work. Surely, it was always not going to work — Frere IOZ had a distinctly amusing take:
The plan seems to be to help find some needles by adding more hay.
But, even the hay-maker isn't producing. Which led the Air Force's top thinkers to ask the Big Man: How do you see everything?

God: Well, what I do is a pretty neat trick... I operate outside of time.

Air Force: Like... slow motion?

God: No-no-no, that's still time, just slowed down. I don't even have to deal with time.

Air Force: ....

God: You're confused?

Air Force: Umm... no, I follow you. Go ahead.

God: Are you sure... because, my sources suggest that humans really struggle with the idea of a timeless existence.

Air Force: Yeah-yeah, sure... It is a bit tricky to grasp, but we understand.

God: I'm not sure you do.

Air Force: No, we do.

God: Promise me then. Promise that you understand how my existence outside of time allows me to see everything.

Air Force: (a gulp, perspiration) Ummm, is there a penalty for lying?

God: Maybe... (stands up, taller than expected)

Air Force: Okay, I'm starting to think this was a bad idea... you seem, uh, angry...

God: ... angry? How, exactly, would a timeless entity experience such an emotion?

Air Force: I feel really stupid. I shouldn't be here. Should I?

God: Are you familiar with the Tower of Babel?

Air Force: (tempted to say no...) I, uh, believe I know that story... yes.

God: Any idea why I mentioned it?

Air Force: You're not going to help us with our Gorgon Stare... are you?

God: (long pause — not from God's perspective, of course) Who is building this machine?

Air Force: A firm by the name of Sierra Nevada. Not the beer. They, uh, might be fucking us on this one. We sorta think that they know what's wrong with the system, but are holding back the fix... you know, to bleed us for more money. You don't, uh, know anything about that, would you?

God: ....

Game Night

I don't want to over think it, but... I also didn't want to over think it 30 minutes ago, and here I am.

The dilemma: pick words that are too prevalent and the game will become a burdensome obligation, an "oh fuck, that bastard just said Congress four times in a minute" grind... and who wants that? We're drinking precisely to avoid that, no?

So, for example, if future required everyone to take a drink, we're in for a messy evening. And don't pick words that nobody wants to drink to:

We need bi-partisan efforts to... Bi-partisan!! Drink! He said bi-partisan, everyone drink!... See, that's fucking terrible. Nobody wants to drink to bi-partisan.

Then there are questions of format. The classic formula requires State of the Union drinking game participants to share at least three words and (this is a terrible thing to forget) there must be a second set of action words — words that only require one person to drink. These words are usually chosen by the group and are assigned to each player at random, or, should time allow, I encourage conducting a word draft. Here, you have a few options as well:

a) Give each participant many words — perhaps five to seven — which figure to get very little action (such as: torture, love, or ahimsa — I'm just kidding, obviously Obama ain't sayin' ahimsa) and you'll have busy listeners but light boozing.

b) opt for only one or two high traffic words (responsibility, aisle, and challenge being some obvious choices) and we run the risk of exhausting the players.

Anyway, don't over think it, but realize that you do have options. Follow the gubmint's lead: make rules that suit you. Do you prefer exact rules — for instance, every "drink" is measured (pouring beer into a shot glass seems to be common), or maybe you're content keepin' it loose, making em' up as you go. Fun and drunk are the only objectives. And don't forget to keep score (play to win, a beautiful idea encouraged by beautiful people) and conjure up a few prizes. Everyone is a winner! Yay!

Monday, January 24, 2011

A man, two cats, a trio of raccoons, and the possibility of violence

Think of a relationship, one of your relationships, that befits the label "symbiotic". Spend a moment thinking about how it works... please.

Look away, you're thinking about a symbiotic relationship.

Okay, now (as you continue to generously indulge my ramblings) imagine a specific threat — hell, a specific grave threat — to that symbiotic relationship. And, maybe take a moment to think about how you might respond to that threat. Thanks.

Dispiritingly, I have violent tendencies. Last night, my two cats were part of a six animal showdown (please note who is labeling this encounter a "showdown", like we were in a John Wayne movie). It was about 4 o'clock in the morning, I'm awkwardly grasping a 3 wood, the cats are tense but controlled, and the three raccoons are foraging through the front yard — we all would have fit into a soccer goal... close quarters, indeed.

It was, I'm sure, a hilarious scene. I'm fucking talking...right, of all things to do, I'm out there — ostensibly trying to keep my cats from getting maimed — and I'm fucking talking, the guy with the golf club is negotiating for a peaceful resolution: "it's oohhkayy... it's oohhkayy... ignore the golf club, I'm your friend." The raccoons backtracked a step or two — no more — and I was able to scoop up one cat while the other ran away to safety (which is to say, away from me).

You see, for years the cats have coexisted with the raccoons. And for years I have interpreted that fact as a fluke. In daylight, I give it no thought. I'm not calling the parks department, or whatever. I'm not setting traps. I'm not planning to fix the raccoon problem. Because, well... there isn't a raccoon problem... at least not then. Not through a reasonable scope. No, it is fear, an intense fear of losing the emotionally enriching bounty of a symbiotic relationship — that induces the problem.

I may be able to think in a fashion that suits me, something I like when I look in the mirror. But my behavior — how I go when I'm not thinking — is a mess... brutish. Everything I don't like, I embody.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Applying the Rules

Criminals and the citizens who love them:
The sweep began before dawn and the targets ranged from small-time book makers and crime-family functionaries to a number of senior mob figures and several corrupt union officials, according to several people briefed on the arrests.
Several of of the men arrested, the people who had been briefed said, were charged with murders — some dating back to the 1980s and 1990s. Others were charged with selections from a full menu of mob crimes: racketeering, extortion, loan-sharking and gambling, as well as labor-racketeering crimes in two sectors that officials say remain under the mob’s sway: the construction industry and the waterfront.
What. a. relief. Did you see what is on the Mob menu? That shit isn't going to fly in the U.S.A... No Suh!

The state creates the criminals, selects which criminals to prosecute, and decides where to throw the key. Viva el Estado!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There are no stupid questions

Improving Teachers:
The Gates Foundation hopes that further research will see such reforms replicated elsewhere. In seven districts, including Hillsborough, the foundation is testing methods for measuring a good teacher. Researchers are trying to answer teachers’ questions about whether such a feat is possible—are observations biased, for example, and can one isolate a teacher’s effect on a students’ progress?
Well... Can one isolate a teacher's effect on a students' progress?

The answer is an echoing Is everybody listening? Wait... what was the question? How can we isolate students so we can determine a teacher's progress? Was that it? I can't find my notebook... I just had it.

Okay, here's the plan, really simple, you'll have no problem keeping up:

1) Put each unit student in a cage. A few non-negotiable cage requirements: light and sound should find this cage to be impregnable. Otherwise, design away... dare to dream.

2) Each student has only one keeper teacher. This is, quite obviously, essential. If more than one person has access to the cage dweller, how will we reliably and accurately attribute effect? Yes... I know, we couldn't. So remember... only one teacher.

See? Nice and easy. Finally, when crappy teachers are confronted about the !PROGRESS! of their students, their tired mantra — "Who? Oh... right, I think she's in my 3rd period" — will no longer fly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yep... he's crazy. All is well.

The will to attribute cause is very strong. Traverse the intranet to the cacophonous melody... why. did. he. do. it? The multivocal chorus follows a simple rhythm: to whatever one doesn't like, one attributes blame. Don't like guns? Then gun laws. Don't like angry talk? Then angry talkers. e-t-c-e-t-e-r-a...

As any decent human being would, thinking about J.L. Loughner leaves me dejected. As shitheads swarm to label Loughner "crazy" it becomes disgustingly obvious that this young man has carried that. very. label. for some time. This could not be easy.

To attempt to make some sense of the world, to think, to play with ideas, to speak one's mind... and then — oh, then — to recognize your label: anathema to the social body, a nuisance... a problem. Fuck. I watched the kid's youtubing... the kid is at work. Playing with his newly acquired ideas, trying something... thinking. And fuck if that isn't the worst thing imaginable. Crazy, they say. They mean: I don't understand and I'm uncomfortable.

It seems that the boy, one auspicious afternoon, had a eureka moment... language is referential! Words, from a certain angle, don't really mean anything. But, but, but... the cave dwellers don't want to hear that bullshit. They want some other bullshit, something the kid wasn't selling.

The kid has me upset because I think I know his pain. My days are dotted with these kids, the misfits.  And Jesus will be damned to Hades if loud mouthed shitbirds won't find a way to crush the oddball. Because we have work to do. Dope him up and stick his ass in a cubicle, or a padded room — whichever minimizes resistance. Fucking J.L. Loughner. Poor bastard. He did a terrible thing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

That sounds about right

The Pentagon prioritizes:
About $70 billion of those savings — found through operating efficiencies and cancellations of weapons systems — are to be reinvested by the services into personnel and quality-of-life accounts, as well as into weapons purchases and weapons modernization.  
Smart. This reminds me of one of my better investments:

I took the startling wad of money I pocketed by canceling a few toilet paper systems and re-invested it in toilet paper purchases and modernizations... just wish I had done it sooner.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

While watching a Capital punch a Penguin...

I enjoy ruminating over mixed messages (which is, essentially, a misnomer). Power coerces, and the mixed message provides concealment... no no, look at my other hand, Power insists.

At Compulsory Social Conditioning — CSC or, as it is more commonly known, school — I like to ask the kids: Why are you told (repeatedly and ostensibly sincerely) that violence should not be used as a means to resolve problems? Or, more colloquially, why are you told, "Violence is not the answer". I'll grab the hand brake at this point and ask the kiddos to "define" violence — this takes forever because the kids can't speak clearly (the ULTIMATE, ahem, GOAL of making noise) and when they do it's often nonsense... but we slog on.

So — we return to the question — why does CSC teach you to reject violence? I mean (I'm baiting them here) The great arbiter of All Things, Thee State, employs a backbreaking load of violence... right? So... why can't you to lift the proverbial rock and smash it on the head of your proverbial brother?

Now, the kids are familiar with the company line. Some kid will speak about the goodness of the judicial process, World War II absolutely gets a mention (sometimes violence is the only option, says the parrot) someone will blather on about the necessity of punishment for those who break the law... bingo! The bait taken. IOZ, an adroit composer, foe' sho':
Even if one admits to the necessity of punishment, a necessity that I find categorically problematic to begin with, then the only decent attitude is regret. To see punishment as an affirmative good is to be on the side of the barbarians.
While in a post-work wandering stupor, I walked into a mugging. Pleasantries were exchanged, and I came out of it with a broken eye socket and a few less dollars... unscathed! Seriously. No scars. No problems. In fact, I enjoyed months of sympathy (I was in college, working in a ritzy eatery. My fellow workers put together a "sorry you got pistol-whipped" fund... I came out on top). Anyhow, many of my friends were angered by my nonchalance towards the bad guys... why wouldn't I be out for blood? I was wronged! Beaten and robbed! Surely, those fuckers needed to be punished. Yeah, maybe. I remember considering, had the bad guys been caught (which they weren't) would I help prosecute them? I never came to a resolute answer, but now, I'm rather sure I would not. I don't want to hurt anyone, and what else is prison? The youngish men who mugged me were total shitbirds. I'm not inviting them over for dinner, fuck em'. But to participate in their incarceration? Why?

To ensure they can't mug another? Hell, how would I know they would mug another?
To deter others from robbin' and beatin'? I'm not an accredited social scientist... I don't know about such things.
For revenge? Nah... sounds stupid.

Compulsory Social Conditioning loves bullshitting. Like the parent who, upon watching one child hit another, screams: Say you're sorry! Hmm... just say the "right" thing and we're all good here. Somehow, punishment has become the right thing for so many: and it is loved, revered, deified. Punishment is Good. Kill Bradley Manning! We need it. And to suggest otherwise is to be a fool, or worse, an agitator.

Stay where you are, agitator... Power will see you in a moment.