Monday, August 25, 2008

Politeness police

Conservative - a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
Ambrose Bierce

From DU:

"......We started chatting about what a great pick Biden was, when the two of them walked into the store like a foul breeze, cutting right through the line without so much as an ‘excuse me,’ and made their way towards the soda coolers at the back of the store.

A nice looking couple, probably early 40’s, well dressed - I’ll just refer to them as ‘Ken’ and ‘Barbie.’ Right as they were barging through the line, I was saying to the woman with the button, “I am really excited about Obama - I can’t wait to see what he does once he takes office!”

Hearing this, Ken turned his eyes on me and snorted in disgust. Not one to back down from a challenge, I said, somewhat haughtily, “What - you have a problem with Obama?”

He stopped walking, turned on his heel, fixed me with a withering gaze, and said, rather loudly, “Like we’d ever elect a black guy as President.” He promptly turned on his heel, and stomped off towards Barbie.

I was only third in line at this point, and when the man said this, the line in front of me, and behind me, stirred a bit. No one said anything, and we could hear Ken and Barbie mumbling to each other over at the coolers.

It was then that I noticed the clerk. His eyes were smoldering, his mouth set tightly. He excused himself from the customer in front of him, and walked to the back of the store.

I don’t know what he said to Ken and Barbie, as he kept his voice low. But they left without buying anything, hackles up, and squealed their tires when they pulled out of the parking lot.

The clerk came back to the counter and resumed his duties. None of us in line said anything.

When I got in front of him, I commented about how rude Ken and barbie had been, and gently asked him what he said to them.

He said, “I told them to get out of my store.” He took my cash and rang in my purchase. “I own this place; I’m covering for an employee who couldn’t work today. And I don’t tolerate racism in my store.” He handed me my change, advised me to have a nice day, and turned his attention to the next customer, giving me the impression he did not want to talk politics.

I’ve thought about this all day, and I can’t decide if Ken and Barbie just didn’t notice that the man behind the counter was African-American, or if they felt so powerful and righteous that they didn’t care, and said what they said totally on purpose. Either way, it was quite nice to see them put in their place…just wish I’d have done it...."

Note a few things. First, a supposed "liberal" now gives her blessing to Biden, millionaire, abortion-foe, laissez-faire advocate, IWE supporter, and palsie of Commander McCain and his neo-con cronies. That said, I respect Sen. Biden to some extent--he did vote against the recent FISA update (unlike BO). 8 or 9 months ago, however, most hysteriocrats considered Biden to the right of Hillary: and DU regs themselves were generally opposed to his campaign. Then the writer's reaction to "Ken's" remark ("“Like we’d ever elect a black guy as President.”). Granted it is not PC, or polite, or tactful. At the same time, Ken merely expresses an opinion, and avoids any racial epithets (i.e. the n-word): it's rather tame compared to the usual political chat seen on many blogs. Hearing Ken's language, the storekeeper apparently decided to eject "Ken and Barbie" (rather racist language in itself) from the store (assuming the stor-ay is authentic).

The storekeeper's reaction should offend us at least as much as Ken's remark. Ken did not exactly shout Sieg Heil! Americans have the right to free speech, and to free expression, and dissent (at least in theory---tho' one wouldn't realize that on the hyper-moderated, mini-sanitoriums like DU or DailyKOS). Yes, there are limits to that free speech: had Ken started screaming in Hitleresque (or "Fire!"), he should have been booted. Ken did not scream, however; he did not swear. Were the tables turned (say a black customer saying "I will not vote for a cracker white man") it's unlikely the usual store manager (regardless of race) would have done anything.

The DU-o-cheks were not too troubled by the storekeeper's action. Regardless, the anecdote (and the lack of criticism, really) serves as another illustration of what we might term J-Edgarism. J-Edgarism also includes the bipartisan-supported PatAct, FISA, urban cops with GPS, Infragard, heavily moderated blogs and websites (Kens n Barbies everywhere given "troll ratings"), endless "captchas", registration, etc.

The DU and Kossack types insist it's the GOP "bumpkins" who do the most damage to civil liberties, but that is not so obvious. Robert Kennedy worked alongside McCarthy for years; J Edgar himself was close to democrats, starting with FDR. Recall that one of Chairgal Nancy's first acts upon becoming Speaker was to ban C-SPAN camera-crews from the House floor. She also refused to budge on investigations of the Bush Admin's possible misrepresentations in regards to IWE, a point even some moderates and non-Demos had supported: c'est J-Edgarism. None of that will likely trouble consumerland, at least until some sensitive, multicultural cyber-Feds politely kick down your door and politely escort you off to some underground gulag.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Brian-sandalistas (AC Grayling, continued)

Professor Grayling's thoughts on theistic encroachment:

The worshippers of Brian's sandal everywhere are tireless and persistent in their efforts to recapture the world for dogma. In America the creationists and so-called "intelligent design" votaries expend vast sums and energy on trying to drag us back into medieval times. Islamists have never left them – except of course in freely using today's technology to further their aims. Cherry-pickers all, the Brian-sandalistas want it all: they want the rest of us to think and act as they prescribe, and to make us do it by the means that infidel thinking has produced: for example, religious freakery is all over the internet like a rash.

If the Brian-sandalistas cannot succeed by direct assault, they will do it by constant nibbling and encroachments: prayers in American publicly-funded schools, headscarves in Turkish publicly-funded universities, a little bit of anti-evolutionary biology there, a little alcohol ban there – and if that doesn't work, they try more robust means. So it goes: creep creep, whisper, soothe, murmur a prayer with the kids in assembly, ecumenicalise, interfaith-schmooze, infiltrate, subvert, complain, campaign, scream, threaten, explode.


The asymmetry is stark. Secularists say, "believe whatever nonsense you want, but keep it to yourself and act responsibly". The Brian-sandalistas say, "believe what we want you to believe and act as we say". The psychopaths among them say, "believe what we want you to believe and act as we say or we will kill you". Meanwhile the residue of attitudes and practices once foisted on everyone by the zealous still dog and bedevil us, as witness the poor benighted Catholic Poles suffering at the sight of what - you have to larf - they presumably believe God created.

There is nothing trivial about the problem in Turkey; and the problem in Turkey is the problem for the world at large. It is about boundaries, about the place of religious belief in the public domain, its effects on individual lives, and its effect on public policy. The history of "the west" is in essence a history of secularisation, and most even of those who decry what they see as its imperfections would not willingly be without the huge advances it has wrought in scientific, social and political respects. Think: if the clocks could be turned back as the Brians want, the English would be ruled by two people: The Queen and Rowan Williams.

To reiterate: "The history of "the west" is in essence a history of secularisation, and most even of those who decry what they see as its imperfections would not willingly be without the huge advances it has wrought in scientific, social and political respects." Bravo. Madison, Jefferson, & Co would have approved of that (yes, they had issues as well).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

RIP Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

From Chris

.....""""Again, one needn't agree with Solzhenitsyn's politics to admire him as a man and artist – as one does with, say, the even more problematical Dostoevsky – and to mourn his passing. Politics was forced upon him by historical circumstances, and were in some ways his ultimate undoing, killing off the artist in him. Certainly, after becoming a lightning rod of dissidence and then the exiled figure of conscience, he never wrote anything that even approached the level of his masterpieces of the 1960s, particularly the two great novels, The First Circle and Cancer Ward. But Solzhenitsyn was, for a time, a supreme literary artist, and in those two works particularly he fused his moral and political vision with the abiding wisdom and insight into our common human predicament that only great art can provide. It is for this that I will most warmly remember him."""""

Though he's now mostly out of favor with the hip gauchistes, Solzhenitsyn experienced the horrors of a modern police state first-hand: Solz. was all about authenticity, in the older parlance. In "One day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich" Solz. described the miseries of life in a siberian prison in precise, non-sentimental language (at least in translation). Floyd's pairing of Dostoyevsky and Solz. thus hits fairly close to the mark. Dostoyevsky.,like Solz. also had a few nasty run-ins with author-i-tays of the time. American scribes, however witty, simply do not produce a "Crime and Punishment" or "One day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich."

The eulogists have not addressed Solzhenitsyn's conservative political views, or his somewhat hawkish views on 'Nam in much depth. That he associated with WF Buckley might trouble some (AS's supposed anti-religious views probably irk the Coulter sort of jackbooted xtian). No matter. "Ivan Den." should be required reading for all: especially those (i.e., most Counterpunch writers) who remain convinced that Marxist revolution will magically transform corrupt western democracies into supremely efficient workers' utopias. An officer and engineer in the Red Army, Solz.'s writings on Zhukov's bloody march to Berlin circa 1945 also rather important (and cost him some years inside Stalinist pens).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Teddy Dreiser Nostalgia days

Dreiser anticipated many of the present-day debates over theocracy, and unlike many a contemporary pundit (links oder rechts) he rarely minced words. HL Mencken may have objected to the occasional bolshevik-like blast of DreiserSpeak, but praised him for the most part. Dreiser, in addition to penning fiction (Sister Carrie a bleak, amoral mashsterpiece), wrote competently on sociology and was not a half-bad arm-chair economist (is there any other type?). Straight, no chaser:

""""In sum, in America as elsewhere, the Church--speaking of all sects and creeds as one--has consistently expounded views calculated to make the
underdog content with his wretched lot, and in all crises which have meant hunger, abuse, and even death, as in our great labor wars, has left him to do as best he may. More, the Church, and particularly the Roman Catholic Church, is more concerned with a system of sins, confessions, judgment, punishment and rewards relating to the hereafter than it is with the world of to-day, its economics, polities, sociology and government; that is, in any honest or helpful way. More, it leaves, as it always has, the underdog to suffer as he may here, the while it seeks to turn his eye on supposed grace hereafter. So true is this that from an American Federation of Labor symposium on religion, influenced, of course, by the current religious attitude of Americans and their churches in general, I gather that its chief philosophy is that the poor should help the poor, since the rich will not, neither their trusts, banks nor government, and that in doing so they will bring about a Christlike contentment, if not better wages. And more than that, questioning a religionist voicing such views on a street corner a few years ago, I found from his own confession that he was then and there being paid by a certain religious organization to preach such views. But who was financing the religious organization? I have often since wondered!"


"And of course, and long since (always, in fact, I judge), politicians enlisted the
spell and domination of the Church as a means of finding favor with the people.
By this method, and under the leadership of President Harding and Secretary Hughes, the Washington Treaties relating to the Great War became very popular. And S. Parkes Cadmiln, a very popular if not any too well-informed, and maybe (I do not know) too sincere, Englishman functioning as a minister in the United States, has expressed the highly ideal economic view (an epitome of that of hundreds of ministers in America and elsewhere to-day, I think) that the Golden Rule is at this hour in practice because millionaires give to charity! Well, that makes this dear United States of ours a Utopia, doesn't it? And this book a joke! Just the same, though, if at another time this same Cadman had called the Communistic theory of Marx a very powerful economic analysis--which he did--how would he reconcile our present corporate economic state with that or with the Golden Rule? And if he could not, should not that cost him his present American religious prestige? I hope so!

P.S. I have tried here, by facts, to show the subtle relation of money and economic policy to religion and capital, also that capital has changed religion into a far different thing from the teachings of Jesus Christ. In conclusion now I offer the conviction that in due time this particular alliance of Church and capital is quite certain to result in the downfall of religion in its present secretarian and dogmatic form. And, may I add, good riddance! """"""""""

A few sections of that bear reiterating: """And of course, and long since (always, in fact, I judge), politicians enlisted the spell and domination of the Church as a means of finding favor with the people." Few Americun scribblers, even with an Ivy league pedigree, had a heart like that.............

Sunday, August 03, 2008

AC Grayling on dualism

AC da House:

"""""More reflective prompts to dualism turn on considerations about the essentially different nature of material and mental phenomena. Physical objects have locations, weights, heights, colours and odours, whereas thoughts and memories do not. A more modest form of dualism recognises that there are two kinds of things one can say about brains—that they are objects inside skulls, and that they are involved in the production of thoughts and desires. But this is not the metaphysical dualism of, for example, RenĂ© Descartes, for whom mind and matter were two essentially different substances, and this latter is what is needed for afterlife beliefs.

What has rightly been called the "hard problem" of consciousness—how it arises from brain activity—has yet to be solved. But the shortest answer anyone can give to a dualist who hopes this leaves wriggle room for minds or souls is this: hit someone hard enough on the head, and a mental function regularly correlated with the resultantly damaged part of the brain will be lost or compromised. That covariance is enough to render profoundly unpersuasive any of the reasons offered in support of dualism."""""

Heh heh. Another method of disproving the theist or mystic (even ones who know their Descartes forwards and backwards, or their quantum physics for Mormons) who insists that he inhabits some immaterial realm apart from the brain: sew up his mouth. When he begins to grunt and gesticulate for food and water, make him admit defeat.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Bob Cesca of TheAriannaDaily the HuffingtonPost on Corporate Media:

""""I'm not sure how he continues to be regarded as a very serious
Washington pundit given his obvious history of race-baiting, but somehow he
skulks his way onto MSNBC almost every day. Pat Buchanan on Hardball Monday
night wondered out loud about Senator Obama: "Is he one of us?"

If by "one of us" he means a cranky, elitist, white, corporate media, man-shaped
bunion who fashioned his career by demonizing brown people, the answer is a
certain 'no'. But we know what Buchanan meant by this. Is Senator Obama with
"us" or is he with the uppity blacks? Is he a real American like Senator McCain
or is he a Muslim terrorist like those e-mails suggest? Is he too European
(GAY!)? Is he like us: white, wealthy, conservative, elite?""""

Granted Pat Buchanan tends to be a buffoon; at the same time, he has for years argued for an isolationist perspective which does not represent the views of the mainstream GOP (he's also a catholic, unlike most of the WASPS of the GOP). He disses the neo-cons, and Bush's war policies. Buchanan's not overly telegenic of course: he resembles the stuffy, white conservative many leftists instinctively detest, and he does have some baggage from the Reagan years.

Cesca picks an obvious target for his invective-lite, in the usual HuffPo manner. In effect, Cesca offers the suburban progressive-lite crowd a mad magazine caricature of old honky Buchanan as representative of corporate media. That's stretching it. Buchanan may be a honky for Cesca and his cronies, but he hardly has the juice of a Limbaugh or a shrieking harpie such as Coulter; he now plays the moderate (though, yes, he's probably got some Wehrmacht in his marrow) . His "one of us" comment does not seem that out of context: many voters contemplating whether to vote for BO over The Commander McCain want reassurances (given these two hustlers, and the media's humiliation of HRC-- assisted by many Obamaites--Contingencies recommends the DFV criteria : Don't F-n Vote)

Apart from the racial issue (now being manipulated by both sides) Obama is wealthy, fairly conservative, elitist. B.O. quotes Reagan favorably, and has pleasant chitchats with David Brooks. Oprah pitched his candidacy from the start (that's the corporate media). Obama's writing appeared on HuffPo, and HuffPo does not exactly cater to traditional leftists, whether unionists, public-sector employees, the aged, or impoverished. Southsiders are not clicking on to homegrrl Adrianna's ad-glutted blog-paper either (more moderated than DailyKos if that can be believed); they're following the Lakers schedule....

Another blog-journalist following the gonzo-path of Hunter S Thompson, Cesca scribbles a sort of sportswriter-on-meth prose as HS Thompson did, though tamer, bourgeois, and featuring obvious targets such as Buchanan: pop-gonzo! It's not so much about reasoned dissent (ala Chomsky or a Hitchens), but about attitude, the pose, the vibe: Cesca, the bad-boy blog-journalist arrived to do some representin' about The Man for the homies. Hah. The Truth is that Cesca works for Adrianna nee Xenaxiupulos, a very wealthy westside conservative turned slightly liberal, and Adrianna's HuffPo defines the corporate media, and the Vichycrats for that matter.
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