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Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 01:08 PM PST

The Occupy Moment is Over

by banger

And long live Occupy! Time to occupy our lives for the winter. It is time to take stock and plan for spring. Inevitably old habits and tendencies die hard. Individual spokespeople and elite committees were already forming and that is not bad but defeats what made Occupy so interesting--and exercise in emergent intelligence. Having said that there is an ideal size for groups and the GAs were getting too large to be effective. The disorganization and ad hoc quality of the GAs was great because it showed that a certain level of organization and intelligence could emerge but then it reached the law of diminishing returns.

The issue we face is not fighting the oligarchs but, rather, finding a new way of organizing ourselves into a new way of life and a new economy. This new way of life emphasizes community and human welfare as opposed to the welfare of money and profit and those that feed off of the labor of others. Let's look at what comes next.

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Sun Oct 23, 2011 at 02:08 PM PDT

A Necessary Foundation

by banger

I don’t like occupying myself with politics very much. It’s a part of life but a relatively minor part for me. If I had my druthers I would and pursue my real love which is art in all its forms. I am attuned and immersed in beauty not politics, business or economic life.  However, political issues have to be front and center for all of us right now.

We are faced with such overwhelming collective issues that no one can stay on the sidelines—we must all carry some weight in the struggles we are facing. The most obvious and critical issue we face is the matter of climate-change. Because the Earth is a very complex system it is hard to arrive at any conclusive finding on what the results of human activity on climate are. In short, the science of any complex system can only be approximate and even then there’s always a possibility that the opposite of what we think is true may be true due to one critical detail we missed in our analysis. Such is the nature of complex systems.

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Sun Sep 11, 2011 at 07:28 AM PDT

We were Waiting for 9/11

by banger

In the late 90's I shared an office with a Chinese academic who, because of the fact he belonged to a family of scholars going back many generations, was put in a work-camp on the Mongolian border during the Cultural Revolution during most of his adolescence. This was not a happy experience for him and had left deep scars in him. But he still was a Chinese patriot and we would have friendly arguments about Chinese/American conflicts. He expressed doubts that the U.S. would respond to provocations or crises in any muscular way--he saw us as "soft." I told him that should we ever be attacked the perpetrators would experience a storm of violence beyond their imagining.

I felt, in those days, an underlying sense of frustration and repressed violence that was a result of being the lone superpower in the world yet, we weren't able to just assert our superiority and, so it appeared to us, not get the proper respect and deference we deserved. I sensed this in American culture. Here we were, the most successful people on earth and we had no national mission like we did when we "fought" and won the Cold War. Capitalism triumphant, prosperity, but what did it mean? Who are we? Why was the most important news story for months a blow job? Neo-conservative intellectuals did write that only a "a new Pearl Harbor" would bring the U.S. out of its lethargy. They made much of our moral decline and need for a unifying enterprise and I think they were right--they saw us as drifting into hedonism and triviality which we were then and still are doing only now much poorer because of the way we reacted to 9/11.

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Tue Jun 21, 2011 at 08:09 AM PDT

Climate Change, the Media and Us

by banger

NPR is not exactly gung-ho on covering Climate Change but it presented a thoughtful (for NPR) segment on climate change and the fact that Americans are less likely to "believe" in climate change today than a few years ago despite the fact that scientists are more convinced of the reality of human caused climate change than ever; and b) most Americans believe, or claim to, in science and scientific findings. NPR also pointed out that the most significant trend in climate-change denying is in the GOP and its stalwarts; however, NPR did not, as I guessed it would not, go into why this is so because it would have put its own funding at risk.

So I will say why it is so and I'm not going to blame the politicians. First though I want to emphasize how important the issue is. This issue strikes at the heart of what it means to be a responsible human being and even at civilization itself. We are choosing to live a lifestyle that is clearly and unambiguously destructive to the environment and, in my view, destructive to human society and individual morality even more. By persisting in destructive behavior despite the clear facts--and even if there was some doubt that applying any normal risk-analysis system to the problem would come out, overwhelmingly, to taking action. It is, in short, pragmatic to act on the climate change issue. What I'm interested is why we don't act on it and what that tells us about us.

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Wed May 11, 2011 at 08:15 AM PDT

Super-heroes

by banger

"Superhero movies are like fairy tales for older people," continues Lee, whose voice envelops the listener with a raspy, lilting warmth. "All those things you imagined --if only I could fly or be the strongest -- are about wish fulfillment. ... And because of that, I don’t think they’ll ever go out of vogue."

This is from article in today's WaPo on Stan Lee's take on super-hero films. The article is, as usual, puerile and unenlightening which is not the author's fault who I know writes to the general standards of the WaPo that is militantly middle-brow-superficial. Still Lee's insights say a lot.

Let me parse what he said just a little. First of all "fairy tales" are not just for children. I think it's been pretty well-proven by now that these tales are the remnants of ancient teaching stories that go back millenia in one for or another. The most obvious of these stories (or collection of stories) are the Mahabharata, the Illiad and Odyssey, and the Bible are stories crafted over time to have resonance with children, average adults, and those that aspire to or have achieved a higher state of consciousness. These themes can be shown to have deep resonance in the human psyche. None of these stories were "wish fulfillment" stories though some contain elements of wish fulfillment. The modern super-hero myth, like the fractured modern version of fairy tales aimed at children, has no depth of wisdom. At best, as Lee later explains in the article the heroes have "personality" i.e., they are just like you and me with the usual life difficulties. This is a device to connect us viscerally with the characters and it works--but it is not wisdom it's just a device.

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Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 09:12 AM PDT

Drifting Over the Edge 2

by banger

We can blame “them” all we want but as my first teacher in politics Walt Kelly had his main character Pogo say “Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.”

Leaders and media personalities all have their own motivations and little cabals and interests and careers but in the end they reflect who we are. It isn’t just because we are, a democracy (more or less) but that the cultural ambience always has an effect at least for those who interact on various levels with the world. The more rarified and wealthy a person, of course, the more likely they will be out of touch with everyday interactions. But even then there are influences of the media, the music, the arts (both good an bad) and even the language itself. In fact, as an aside, language itself carries inherent values not only in the meanings but in the rhythms and sounds as well. We are, also, influenced by each other in other ways, body language, facial expressions, clothing, hair styles even moods and “vibes.” We are far more connected than we think. Yet, part of that connection involves a culture that is focused on what I describe as narcissistic isolation. To be more precise, the culture encourages people live separate lives focused on fulfilling fantasies. Work life and “personal” life are largely segregated—a person has to put on a work mask and take it off and be “real” when they home. Work is, usually, a place where arbitrary and often inexplicable goals and values are pursued where mysterious and all-powerful hierarchies largely frame your work life. When we get home we play, like children, at life—play fantasy sports, watch porn, shop for clothes so that we can be our very own dolls, and “unwind” (does anybody wonder why we have to be wound up in the first place).

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Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 09:03 AM PDT

Drifting Over the Edge 1

by banger

Dmitri Orlov is an interesting commentator. He has been claiming publically since about 2006 that the U.S. is on the edge of collapse similar to what the Soviet Union went through only a bit worse. He was born in Russia and experienced first-hand the privation of the post-Soviet period which, if you dug a little, was pretty bad. Interestingly this collapse had been predicted up to a decade before it happened but was not widely reported because of the Reagan agenda of demonizing the Soviet Union as an existential threat to the U.S.

Orlov along with people like James Howard Kunstler and many others on both the right and left—in fact, my monitoring of this movement shows a real blurring of left/right distinctions that is interesting in itself. I won’t go into the merits of Orlov’s predictions here but only want to say that the movement towards survivalism and a fascination and even longing for a collapse seems to be spreading in this country. I don’t believe this movement is irrational at all. Why do I say that? Because it should be very clear that we are in a kind of serious decline, not just economic decline, but serious political and social decline that we ought to wake up to or Orlov’s collapse scenarios may in fact take place.

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Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:50 PM PST

It's Time to Give Up on Climate Change

by banger

As the mood of the Cancun Conference tells us there is no realistic hope that anything meaningful can happen to stop the effects of climate-change. The United States has, from the beginning of the process, dragged its feet on taking responsibility for doing anything, however minor, to stop the process of climate-change. There’s a lot of noise and rhetoric that has come out of the government and corporations in order to mount PR campaigns but it is without substance.

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Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 05:21 PM PST

Without Rule of Law Our Society Fails

by banger

America was founded by lawyers--we may be angry at lawyers but they keep us from shooting and stabbing each other when we are in conflict with each other. We need to be grateful for Anglo/American jurisprudence--it was the essential framework that helped us, for better or worse, build the greatest society in history (not the nicest, mind you). We rely on rule of law to maintain a healthy balance. Never too much law and never too little--yes, it favors the rich, generally, but human society always gives the powerful power.

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I see no way of "going forward", as Obama likes to say, unless we start re-framing issues on the basis of what I just mentioned. like what I described. I emphasize here NO WAY because without some sound basis for arguing it's all going to sound like bullshit to the American people. When you compromise with irrational people who hear voices and believe insane things you actually give their POV legitimacy. That's not to say that I find right-wing thinking irrational. In fact I do not. I respect the view of those that follow Edmund Burke or Milton Friedman or Ron Paul or even the Neoconservative movement--all those people presented coherent intellectual arguments that were rational and had some merit. Unfortunately the current discourse of the right is, largely, irrational. I believe that their arguments are deliberately irrational because they are only interested in Machiavellian political manuevering and not discourse. The smarter conservatives have contempt for the people whose votes they seek because they (the people) are so easily swayed with utterly ludicrous arguments.

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The longtime manager of the New York Yankees, accustomed to a Prussian professionalism in the hitting and fielding of baseballs, moved over to the astonishingly hapless New York Mets in 1962 and, surveying his new team, uttered an exasperated question: "Can't anybody here play this game?" What applied to those Mets applies now to the Obama administration. In the Middle East, it's no hits and plenty of errors.

Cohen, (link to the article) who has been a longtime apologist for Israel and is a part of the political force that keeps U.S. tied to Israel has a point. First of all, when I heard there was a move towards negotiations I chuckled to myself. I'm kind of a fundamentalist when it comes to politics, at least at heart, and prefer a more classical approach as amended by my father's old teacher Hans Morgentheau who said "all relations are power relations." And I didn't see any power that could move either side, particularly the Israelis to real negotiations. To put it another way, to negotiate a settlement in that region is like trying to dribble a basketball in two feet of water--i.e., it can't happen!

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sharply-worded critique Dana Millbank, has delivered a sharply-worded critique of Obama's handling of the Israeli State which the WaPo touted as follows:

Netanyahu's victory

Milbank: For all of Obama's pandering, the White House could have flown the white flag of surrender.

This is pretty harsh stuff coming from a paper that has consistently supported Israel and has been unstintingly pro-Empire since the end of WWII.

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