obama was pitiful on ferguson yesterday. just muttering quasi-words, with all the distance in the universe, his mind on the golf course. we're still waiting for the first black pres.
I have seen a lot of idiotic things done in the name of law and order, defending the homeland, peace and on and on and on. But, if the City Hall and Police Force in Ferguson were looking to provide a test case for screwing something up, from start to finish, they have succeeded. If they were looking for any other results, well, to quote Bugs Bunny, what a bunch of "maroons" -- watching it all unfold last night on MSNBC, all I could think of was Falls Road in Belfast. It is not a good thing to think of a piece of America in that way. However, as we fragment and split and become more unequal, it may become more and more apropos. By the way, I propose this for the new anthem for the State of Missouri.
as i understood the chief of police in ferguson in his press conference an hour ago, he was asserting that protestors fired on the police last night, that they were taking 'gunfire'. i have not heard anyone else say that or seen any evidence for it at all. but even as he was calling for peace, he was describing war, and justifying more crackdown. obviously, if people are firing on the police...
been trying to think of what to say about ferguson. maybe i've got nothing fresh, but (prodded by adam) i'll at least utter some sentences. i am on michael brown's side and the side of the folks who are resisting. one thing that the resistance has exposed clearly: what race and class mean there, and here, now: they've been militarized. there's an occupying army in missouri, trying among other things to keep people from reporting on what they're doing. good luck with that. obviously, this case is emblematic of things that are happening on the streets of america all the time. we've got to identify with the people being victimized and the people fighting back: this is happening to us, do you understand? to our children. whatever distance we might feel or even want to feel, from that neighborhood, that family, etc, we should work to collapse that distance. this cannot be tolerated in our society.
i was more mystified than most and more ambiguous than many on the trayvon martin situation. that wasn't exactly a cop, or even exactly a white man. this, i think, is already a far clearer case, though of course there's plenty to find out. the police response has done nothing but confirm everyone's awful misgivings or awful knowledge.
the group with which i am familiar whose members have the very worst credibility index is the professoriate. it gets worse the higher you go, and you really do not want to listen to them harvard/princeton/stanford-type dudes. convenience-store clerks do a lot better, overall. they are more sincerely trying to find the truth. then there is the fact that the profs are constantly patting themselves on the back as particularly rational, which makes them (ok, ok, us) wrong in the sense of believing what's false, and also wrong in the ethical sense. fortunately i personally am very humble about making judgments like that, harhar.
laying down the smack in the atlantic today. but readers of this blog have been familiar with this approach since 2011. i like to call the cred indextm "arrow's extreme improbability theorem", not because kenneth arrow is involved, but because i like the word 'arrow', nicely combining the phallus, the nobel prize, and kacey musgraves.
Haven't written a lot, lately. Lots of reasons but generally I'm just fairly disgusted. Anyway, I sent a piece off to my other publisher last week, the Templar Times and Loch Ness Review, but they've been busy doing other things. I happen to think this is reasonably important to understanding the decline of the west and why Derek Jeter made the right decision.
I first encountered Campbell's "Hero of 1000 Faces" in one of Michael Moorcock's books, an introduction I think to one of the later Elric things where he talked of both the hero and Nietzsche's myth of the eternal recurrence or return. We desperately seek these guys, and they just as desperately elude us. As Americans, we expect them to arise -- when they do, great. When they don't, oh well...
Recently ecountered this where the artist seems to confuse Mencken with Hunter S. Thompson. Oh well, they both were bald. Mencken, by the way, was a mysogonistic, bigoted, racist misanthrope, and I think that both Crispin and I would enjoy sitting down for coffee with him. Given his coverage of the Scopes trial, I'd like to get his take on intelligent design, Sarah Palin and the Creationist Museum and Theme Park.
My piece has Washington, John Wilkes Booth, Maureen O'Hara and DickCheneythatmotherfucker make cameos. It contains a classic early rock song by a teen idol from the late 50s, early 60s who actually collaborated with Al Kooper, though not on like a rolling stone. I hope you enjoy it. If not, pogue mahone, which is appropriate because two Irish mythological heroes, one early 20th Century and one contemporary make appearances.
Part II is going to look at our mideast adventures or eastern misadventures from the point of view of why that guy would be a really bad idea. We need a coalition of those who want to help that guy...when John McCain who has always yearned for his "that guy" moment starts in on "this president," don't you just want Cindy Or Meegan to change him and give him his bottle?
Oh, and here's a heroic piece, I guess...
just to continue the assault on high-end pubs: so, the way they operate depends on a star system, very similarly to the ways pop music in the 80s, say, or hollywood in the 40s operated. but in this case (as actually at moments in the others), this coincided with 'modernism' in the 'fine' arts. one of the features of that is the dogma of the genius: touched by god or madness, more than human, demanding worship. so, i'm not saying that knopf hasn't published many good books (man they published many a subversive screed by my man mencken, e.g.), or that i'm not glad that faulkner or fitzgerald got their books published or something. but on the other hand i think they tried to give this status, which no human almost by definition finally deserves, to many people whose work appears absurdly inadequate now when judged by the standard they tried to impose. but the god-touched transcendent genius is in this case a commercial strategy. and even with all the errors in this regard, you only get a few of them in any period. whomever they're trying to promote like that gets all the attention: they're on all the npr shows, reviewed everywhere, are up for the awards, and so on. and the publishers themselves, though they like now to portray themselves as champions of the mid-list, dropped you like a sack of shit if you didn't gain this status or show the hoped-for sales.
i have known a lot of people who write books of different kinds. and i say that they are made miserable by this. you start when you're 20 or whatever, aspiring to nothing so much as to climb this mountain. you spend much of your psychic energy yearning for it and envying the people who get it, and maybe feeling bad about what you're doing because it doesn't take you to these heights. this is true even of most people who get the fantasy contract, because it usually all goes to hell and remainder. in a way, all but 17 novelists working now are failures in this system. i might be somewhat happier if i were convinced that getting that contract or turning into the booker-prize-kissed super-genius correlated with quality. i do not believe that. knopf or hachette portray themselves as champions for authors. nonononono.
i keep getting stuff in my inbox asking me to sign various anti-amazon petitions, or sharing letters from people vowing to boycott, etc. i guess they're trying to get an author's movement going. but, first, i think the only authors really being hurt are the top twenty or something, and when i say 'top twenty' i mean people arbitrarily anointed into greatness in our insufferable little prestige pecking order literary world. i don't think prestige pubs like hachette or knopf or whatever actually do much of a service to literature: i think they are by and large a bunch of pretentious twits and that the whole thing is primarily about parties and status.
most authors can't even get to the point of submitting to a publisher like that: you need an agency and so on: it's like publishing novels is a mere hierarchy, a celebrity culture with added pseudo-seriousness (kind of oriented traditionally around high-end booze, cocaine, and who's fucking whom), and i am less impressed than many with the quality of the result. it's like a rotted aristocracy to which one is absurdly required to bow, and if that world is in danger, i'm happy about it. i don't think many people make a living writing books in this world, or ever did, so i don't see these as public resources of some kind. i want to point out that anyone can publish basically anything they want on amazon and charge whatever they think is fair or effective. i say that actually is a public resource.
also, hachette can take care of itself, and i tell you that the big pubs will reach an equlibrium with amazon. it's just a corporate dispute, like if gm was wrangling with its steel suppliers. it's not really worth worrying about. i take more seriously the way amazon is constantly squeezing small publishers, and i would hope that when they reach their modus vivendi with the big boys that that helps the smaller fry.
what hachette is fighting for is higher prices for ebooks. say you read ebooks. why would you want that? and it is quite relevant, as amazon argues, that it is cheap to produce and distribute an ebook. that makes publishing far more available to more people, and it has the potential to make books more accessible to larger audiences. and yet you're going to fight for absurd mark-ups and price-fixing cabals?
the disintegration of the recording industry has been a service to music, i believe. those five labels that controlled everything were utterly miserable, and they made most of their artists utterly miserable, and they created whole sahara-like eras of bad yet extremely expensive pop. and again, to fight for them on creative grounds was to fight for the top 7.2 pop artists, who needed no help anyway and were raking in millions, while almost no one else on the creative end really could access an audience for their recordings, or make a living as recording artists.
it's a near thing. this cloud comparing word choices by men and women on facebook, is very hilarious. the atlantic piece is about the femaleness of 'um' and maleness of 'uh', which is not necessarily as good as this bit.
i'm hoping that the forces conducting the war on women and the forces conducting the war on whites can transcend their partisan bickering, find their common ground, and join together in a war on white women. jihad jihad jihad!
one of the absurd features of the gaza war is that both sides spend most of their yaptime saying that the other side wouldn't accept ceasfire proposal x, or then that the other side violated the ceasfire. it goes on and on. it's completely impossible to evaluate if you're actually trying to figure out what is happening and not just trying to beef up your politico-ethnic prior commitments. it is so so obvious that neither side cares even a little about saying the truth. they're just trying to distract us.
i was listening to diane rehm today. they were talking about 'inversion', in which an american company merges with a (much smaller) overseas company, then officially moves its headquarters to avoid paying corporate income tax in the us. people calling in were incredibly outraged; one called it 'treason'. but very few people of any sort anywhere voluntarily pay more taxes than they are legally obliged to, and there is absolutely no moral reason to. taxation is merely coercion or extortion; by all means evade it if you can. oh we have to help those furthest down, pay for infrastructure, etc. yeah plus we are supposed to be morally obliged to pay under coercion to have ourselves surveilled without our own knowledge, for drones, to maintain a world-annihilating nuclear arsenal, for elected officials to yap at each other like parrots and try to manipulate us with jive, to intern tens of thousands of latino immigrants, for the prison-industrial complex. we are morally obliged pay for policies devoted to moving all the wealth produced by our society to wall street. we are supposed to pay to have ourselves put into fatal chokeholds because we are selling lillegal (=untaxed) cigarettes on the street, or to fund the abuse of our children.
but we are in this together! what about the collective? yeah what about it? because this sort of universal coercion makes any authentic collective action impossible by definition. if you believe yourself to be morally obliged to capitulate, i guess go ahead and pay all you have to realize the projects of the wealthy and powerful and murderous, which according to you embody your very identity. but you're operating with a moral code according to which coercion is cooperation, extreme enforced hierarchy is egalitarian, violence is order: in short, according to which evil is good.
one of the most conspicuous features of country music now is the influence of bruce springsteen. in fact 'springsteen' was a hit for eric church last year, though perhaps that song is more an imitation of taylor swift's 'tim mcgraw' than of the bruce. and indeed, bruce has been an influence - or has been thought to be an influence - for decades, and the first steve earle album was greeted as springsteeny (at the time the greatest compliment available to the sort of critic who is always feeling for the consensus), with the small-town south replacing the urban north. but now it's everywhere. and it may not surprise you - since as you may know there are few things in the world i hate more than springsteen's music - that i think the influence is entirely pernicious. here's an example on the current charts.
why do i think springsteen lies behind this? well, the pounding, basically tuneless 4/4; the hysterical bellowing, unmotivated by the material (he's really feeling these feelings incredibly deeply - they are seizing his whole person and making him bray and bawl in pain or ecstasy, but why or about what is mysterious); the anthemic/bludgeoning lyric that on inspection dissolves into emptiness. (admittedly, currington isn't being as extreme as bruce in these dimensions.) to experience all of these features at their maximum, spin 'bored in the u.s.a'. then work out the trauma in music therapy. never has something that sucks so bad been greeted with such incomprehensible ecstasy. ok, ok, there is david bowie.
i don't hear that song as very bossy, though it is extremely excellent.
when he first came out, i heard bruce as playing in the mode of van morrison. "the girls walk by dressed up for each other, and the boys do the boogie-woogie on the corner of the street": bruce pretty much derived his lyrics from those lines, if i mistake not. but i say that anything he's done compares very unfavorably to, say, the song below. they really used basically the same band set-up, the same soul influences, the same performance style. but van played with real soul, real subtlety, real variety, real melody. plus van was doing this long before bruce.
should john brennan be fired? i heard angus king this morning, expressing outrage that the cia was spying on his committee, but not willing to call for resignation. that's the sort of thing that all day every day in this situation has to make you wonder what brennan has on him. you should wonder that with regard to everyone else, starting with obama, who is really subservient to the intelligence establishment: a valet, porter, or house boy. now, surely the correct procedure is to arrest brennan and try him: don't try to tell me that spying on the communications of senators is not illegal. seriously, give it a try and see what happens. resign? if he had any decency he would resign immediately from the earthly plane. america has rarely had a more hostile foe of its basic form of government. like osama, he hates our freedom. few human beings in history have been more dedicated than john brennan to destroying everything he purports to espouse, or more effective in realizing that purpose. he is a traitor.
oh perhaps i've done this a time or two before, but it strikes me that people may forget my stunning insights over time, or a new little knot of readers might have gathered. but anyway, this thing about generations - boomers, xers, yers, millennials, or whatever - is just slop. people reproduce continuously, not all at once every twenty years (though we might think about a law enforcing the latter, in order to help columnists write cultural trend pieces imitating other columnists' cultural trend pieces). you could start and stop generations anywhere you like, and we should try a re-jigger if only to get people to stop using these unmeaning yet profoundly annoying terms.
if the israelis take this occasion to escalate significantly, or if further occasions arise, their actions might just edge into genocide. they have walled off a jam-packed ghetto on an ethnic basis, with a systematic policy to immiserate the people there. now those people are sitting ducks: as israel keeps insisting: right, we could just level the place. yes, indeed they could.
you've got to see that the cia putting the senate intelligence committee under surveillance raises the specter of an intelligence coup. there could be few more urgent matters, unless you think it doesn't matter who runs the us security state/defense establishment. the surveillance itself was an attempt to strongarm the committee staffs in the service of the cover-up of cia torture programs. from soup to nuts, from 2002 til now, the worst departure from the constitutional or free or democratic form of government in our history.
i want to say that when you're walled in, tunneling out is rational or inevitable. but for offensive operations, single-file tunnels of the kind they've been displaying from gaza into israel are about the worst idea imaginable: you come out gettin picked off one at a time and retreat is chaos.
I have a new piece up on the Defeatists. It will surface eventually over at Veterans Today but this one doesn't have the musical pieces just linked but embedded. As well as John Oliver's piece last night on our version of the great leap forward, the Nuclear Program. Did you know our Nobel Peace Prize Laureate has been in charge while we decommissioned fewer nuclear missiles than were done under Bush? Either one? Amazing.
I'm fairly irate over a lot of things involving the various wars we're not fighting but are definitely invested in. What the hell? The one way to guarantee Sunni-Shiite peace is through blowing up Christian and Shiite shrines...this is obviously a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis funded al Queida (just never stopped sending the checks they sent the Muhajadeen, I suppose) and are probably funding the current loonies. Malaki is the classic American puppet who really turns into a bad boy as soon as he can. Unfortunately, the bad guys were perfectly ready to smash his ass; so, blood bath.
And so it goes. Gaza is horrifying; both Jon Stewart and John Oliver have laid out how insane that mess is becoming. When you can arrange to give the moral high ground away for generations to a bunch of missile firing terrorists, you've done something pretty amazing. Ukarine is dumbfounding. We're cowering behind our fence wondering what to do about 50000 children fleeing terror, hatred, violence, oppression and slavery, and we're questioning whether or not they deserve asylum? They deserve fucking medals; give them 40 acres and a mule, and Mom and kids will make that desert bloom...
Except we're out of water....
one might consider how america would respond if it was wasp toddlers showing up at the border, their cute j. crew and tommy hilfiger outfits in tatters, with stories from the yacht club or golf course of terrible suffering at the hands of latino street gangs.
hey do y'all think comments should go oldest at the top to newest at the bottom or the other way round? can't figure it out. i wish i could display them with the entry on the front page, but that doesn't seem to be one of the options on typepad.
empathy varies inversely with power. i'd say that's something we all know by experience, though it's nice to have some evidence. perhaps you have actually dealt with high school principals, policepersons, judges, irs officials, very rich persons, or senators, for example. i'd explain it as follows: people who seek power are morally worse, on average, than those who do not (this is true more or less by definition, as though i said: people who try to accomplish evil are worse on average...), and sometimes people who seek power get it, while people who do not rarely do. and second, power makes you a worse person, which is actually the conclusion of the piece. now, if you do not draw anti-authoritarian, anti-hierarchical - indeed anarchist - conclusions from this, you should try. and what i would really recommend is that people stop lionizing the powerful, worshipping barack a la 2008 or clinton or gore or bill gates or whatever it may be. powerful people should be under continuous suspicion, should be regarded with continuous skepticism. the only real point has to be to hem them in, mitigate their disastrous effects, or tear them down. the human desire to be subordinated just puts us in the hands of the worst among us. that we want the exploitation, poverty, and rape that we receive from authorities, however, does not entail that the authorities aren't evil.
on the other hand, the piece does that silly brain thing, where they say that, though some people think that powerful people need others less and hence attend to their feelings less, the authors have a different hypothesis: 'we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others.' now first of all, why aren't those alternative descriptions of the very same thing? and second, what the heck do you gain by retreating into the brain? it's just doing no work. 'my brain is making me less sensitive' or 'my brain is changing me': how much sense or content is there in claims like that? or maybe i am making my brain less sensitive. when my brain affects me (how surprising!), what is affecting what? this same let's say casual line of thought might identify my self with my brain, which would make it very strange indeed to say that my brain is changing me. is it supposed to be explanatory to say the x is the cause of x? but it does suggest that power and interactions with others in general can be reduced to internal brain states, which is just counter-productive. actual interactions of your brain and the rest of you with other people and the outside world are actually occuring. the problem is interpersonal, not intracranial. but if it were in your brain, power and its effects could possibly be treated with drugs or psycho-surgery, which would be good, and might keep us from having to open internment/re-education/labor camps for assistant principals after the revolution.
speaking of 'the internet of everything is changing everything', expedia's latest campaign goes: 'this is the summer. the summer of this'. seriously they paid someone to compose that. actual writers should be much richer than we are. i have a feeling that we've been replaced by interns or random phrase-generating algorithms. but it is definitely not working out.
how was i not paying any attention to this? meanwhile on the world stage we have never stopped congratulating ourselves for our freedom, contrasting the us in this respect to whomever we are ragging on at the moment. thanks, adam.