Saturday, April 30, 2005

Israel Journal

This from a letter from a friend working at the Dheishe Refugee Camp and studying at Birzeit University in Ramallah.She just returned from a trip to Hebron:

"If you close your eyes when you pass the patrolling Israeli army jeeps and sniper towers and try to imagine that the clusters of red roofed homes are not colonial out posts occupying stolen land, you can almost relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Hebron.But I was fighting off waves of nausea and trying to control my breathing, nervous about visiting this city where ultra right -wing colonizers (most of them from Brooklyn) are infamous for violent attacks on Palestinians and their international supporters. Hebron has been illegaly colonized by Israeli "settlers", who have taken over large tracts of land in the countryside to build their huge Jewish-only housing developments, just as in every other district in the West Bank. But whats special about Hebron is that the settlers have also occupied buildings and neighborhoods in the heart of the old city, evicting Palestinian residents with violence and economic strangulation. Hebrons' long ugly history of settler violence climaxed in 1994 when Brooklynite Baruck Goldstein opened fire on Muslim wishippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque, killing 27.

The 400 settlers in Hebrons old city are guarded by 1'200 Israeli soldiers, who maintain permanent control over the area known as H2. Palestinian residents of H2 have to get permits from Israel to live in their homes, walk on their streets ,operate their businesses etc. They navigate a web of checkpoints,enduring daily humiliation, searches and beatings from the occupying soldiers.

She goes on to talk about her guide Hashim who says "We are all equal,all of us believe in God.I cannot tell my children they are our enemy.And I cannot talk to you if I have hate in my heart."She closes "I want to end on that note because in order to maintain the struggle, in order to maintain hope in humanity, we have to hold onto people like Hashim, and so many other Palestinians Ive met who refuse to give in to the ugliness.I have a lot to learn here.
Love , Marcell

Don't we all.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fox in the Henhouse

President Fox must have felt the rumbling coming from Ecuador, Venezuela and elsewhere down in his neck of the woods because he made a desperate decision to reverse course, fire his attorney general and allow the popular mayor of Mexico City to run in the upcoming elections. A wise decision I think, because the million or more citizens who took to the streets to protest this political sham were not going to take no for an answer. A movement is being born with roots as deep as the ancient lake beneath the city. Chavez and Fidel were slapping backs today at a trade show. Sandanistas could have a surprise in store in Nicaragua.Watch for Bush to make the next move.

Intractable Positions

In attempting to argue the postition favoring a viable Palestinian state as a means to peace in the Middle East, on various blogs as well as in daily life, one quickly enters that rabbit hole where reason and discourse have no meaning and the emotions trump all. Historians and their history, evidence and empiricism, faith and knowledge all become so many epitaphs, hurled across the schoolyard playground.

Each morning I wake up, history has developed a little further, slowly proving or disproving one grand theory or the other, and the individual misery and suffering and oppresion of those caught in these disputed but inexorable forces continues unabated.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Its a Mans World

Our western culture has certainly come up with some interesting metaphores for the major organizing forces in our lives. "Big Brother" for government and "Our Father" for the supreme diety of the dominant rligious tradition. Add to this matrix the political divisions and you see the Right wishing to place strict limits on Brother and give free reign to the Father while the left has the opposite tendency. Of course your big brother could be a big bully in the Orwellian sense or a benevolent protector ( the welfare state), as could Father but either way its all about "guys". No one wants to end up out in the "woodshed".

Lets mix in some of Reichs' ideas about "authoritarian personality" and some Freudian analysis and in both the realms of religious and political philosophy we locate discipline as a key value in child rearing, organizing movements and faith. I really want to tie this all in to the Marxist concept of "false consciousness", that tendency which currently seems ascendant, to act against ones own economic interest. It is an immaturity in both the personal and sociological sense but whether we depend on our father, or our Father or The Party for guidance and discipline , there is a patriarchical and paternalistic piece to this that raises many questions. " There is "Uncle Joe" and "Papa Doc" and mein fuehrer. Go get me my belt.

Just where did The Mother go in all of this, Sister Mercy?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Good Morning VietNam

Yesterday was the anniversary of the fall of Saigon, immortalized in it's spectacular, iconic form by the video of the helicopter leaving the roof. Leaving the doomed and the damned to deal with the tragic mess that was Viet Nam. The Amnesiac Nation which is America still fails to deal collectively with it, it's historical significance, it's lasting effects on our national psyche, none of it. Rather than that painful process we prefer to just package and commodify it as one more thing to consume in it's various forms, none of them having much to do with the truth. Sure, it will pop up around election time then crawl back into it's dark crypt. We will just keep observing this traumatic anniversary in furtive, silent and individual ways and pretend there is no wound at all. Perhaps we can convince ourselves that it never happened, or ,better yet, that we managed to win. Then blunder off into the next bloody crusade.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Of Horses and Snails

Sometimes it seems like Michael Waltzer writes this stuff to deliberately provoke me. If that is true,the editor of Dissent has succeeded in his twisted mission once again. His essay All Gods Children Got Values is one of those standard ruminations on Where Does The Left Go From Here which is pathetic enough in it's own right but to deepen the mire he speaks of the "near-left"which seems to be some New Deal relic of progressive reform hoping for reincarnation in the modern morass. But thats not what really pisses me off. What pisses me off are sweeping pronouncments such as these; "This must have something to do with 1989 and the collapse of communism- although I don't think the left, near or far ,has even begun to come to grips with the disaster that was communism." or this gem;"Intellectuals on the left certainly lack certainty;we no longer have a general theory ,such as Marxism once was,that tells us how things are going and what ought to be done." And while he's at it: "The old ,Marxist left didn't need morality because it had history."

Come to grips with what? He and every other liberal who sees him/herself as the new messiah feels the need to repeat over and over ad nauseum that communism/ Marxism/ socialism is dead ,gone,buried,terrible mistake, over and over like a Bushie trying to link Saadam with 9/11.But sayin so don't make it so.If I call a horse a snail five hundred times the horse still won't leave a slime trail (like some editors I know) but you may get others, who may not need a lot of empirical evidence, to start believing it's true.

Let's start with this, neither socialism or it's supreme state of development, communism, ever existed in the Soviet Union or any other so called Communist countries. It may have existed in the Paris Commune of 1848 for a few months, may have existed in Russia in 1917 for a few weeks after the revolution, but the proletariat in no way ran, controlled or owned the means of production at any time after that and the demise of the USSR had nothing to do with socialism ,communism or Marxism.

Communism according to Marx is an "association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all". Where "the proletariat must first of all aquire political supremacy." Does any of that sou

Goodbye Woody or The Pink Mist

It started with an intense desire to stop this damn woodpecker from drilling anymore softball sized holes in my house. Six o'clock on a Saturday morning, peck ,peck peck,peck son of a bitch.I tried unsuccessfully a couple of times to sneak up on him with the pellet gun but this was one cagey bird, flying off just as I got in range. I knew the karmic effects of dealing with it this way but I could think of no other solution. So today I lay in wait,willing to sit as long as it took, but I made a slight miscalculation in terms of fire power. I over calculated,I now realize, but I thought I might have to take a long shot. I traded the
pellut gun for the 22 hornet,which packs quite a little bit more punch. Considerably more.

The wait ended up being forty five minutes or so of calm predatory focus but eventually the birds need to further destroy my home overcame his instinctual caution. I squoze, woody went from a solid to mostly vapor form but of course the bullet didnt stop there, no,far from it, in fact it carried through the exterior wall into the bathroom, taking out the vanity light but missing the mirror. It proceeded through the bathroom wall and into the laundry somewhere, taking out rather large shards of plaster as it did so.

The rest of the morning was spent burying and spackeling and sweeping and painting and hosing but you know what, I think I sent a message. Daves house is off limits, find a tree.

Viva Zapata!

Over a million in the streets of Mexico City taking Condi's unintended advice and demanding an uncorrupted democratic process. Someday Americans will be as enthusiastic as the Mexicans. Another leftist government on the other side of a long border could start to have some effect.

Son of the Revolution

Young ballet phenom Carlos Acosta is a star who could live anywhere he chooses. His choice is the land of his birth, Cuba. "He wants to share his love and pride for his homeland.." says Dance Magazine ,and that "he wants to return home to give back something of what he has learned,and to settle down and bring up a family there."

Thats got to drive the wingnuts crazy, doesn't young Carlos know Cuba is a terrorist state, a totalitarian dictatorship, full of commies for Christ sake? He could stay in the home of the brave and have plasma TVs, a Hummer, a Cuban maid, how could he?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Entertain Me

All this country really needs is a few more really good radio shows, like Ira Glass' This American Life. I count the minutes each week till Tuesday night. Its a treat to let the ears connect to the brain instead of the eyes, always the eyes.

I love also the aural aspects of fishing such as locating well camouflaged fish by the sound of their slurps,knowing just when to strike when fishing in the dark by the sound of the rise, and the amazing smacking caused by a dozen large trout rising rhythmically to spinners.

Long Drive

"What keeps you going isn't some fine destination but just the road you are on,and the fact that you know how to drive" Hallie, from Barbara Kingsolvers wonderful Animal Dreams. I myself spent sixteen hours on the road yesterday to get over to Pullman Washington and hear Noam Chomsky speak to a crowd of over three thousand mostly young,very attentive students. Not bad for eastern Washington. Of course the long drive is made much more bearable by the fact that practically the whole way you are following beautiful rivers ( my church) .Drove down the Bitterroot to its confluence with the Clark Fork to pick up my friend John, then up Lolo creek, over the pass to the headwaters of the Lochsa, till it joins the Selway to become the Clearwater and on down almost to where it joins the Snake. Noam told all to pay real attention, in his inimitable style. Truly a dry wit.Mostly good questions from the students afterword.

Estate tax, excuse me Mr. Orwell, I mean "death tax"? Thomas Jefferson wrote "the best corrective ( to forming antagonistic classes) is the law of equal inheritance to all in equall degree." The narrowly defeated sixteenth Article to the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights wanted to inform Janice Rogers Brown that"an enormous proportion of property, vested in a few individuals,is dangerous to the rights and destructive of the common happiness of mankind." You got that right!

Trouble you can't fool me hidin behind that tree. We have a Pope dedicated to "ecumenical totalitarianism" (his own words), Sharon telling the leader of the most powerful nation on earth that he's going to delay the Gaza withdrawl and continue settlement building anyway, but thanks for the advice. The Religious Right Wing going even more nuts (you wouldnt have thought it possible) over Frist and his nuclear option and the martyred Terry Shiavo ( is there a country western song out about her yet?) Add some Islamic fundamentalism and stir.

I think we here in America need to consider Condi Rices advice to the Belarussians and rise up, construct a real democracy, join our brothers and sisters in Argentina and Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Ukrain and Cuba.She can go back to telemarketing, or flipping burgers for a while.

May Day is just around the corner and Joe Hill gave us this song to sing;
Workers of the world awaken
Rise in all your splendid might
Take the wealth that you are making
It belongs to you by right

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Nuclear Option

Janice Rogers Brown, Bushes nominee for the 6th circuit, is all about the "ownership society". According to her: "the right to express ones individualality and essential human dignity through the free use of PROPERTY is just as important as the right to do so through speech,the press,or the free exercise of religion. You are what you own.Lovely.

She has this to say on the insidious spread of collectivism in the home of the brave.
"Instead of celebrating capitalisms virtues ,we offer it grudging acceptance,contemptuous tolerance, but only for it's capacity to feed the insatiable maw of socialism...We conclude that (socialisms) ends are worthy of any sacrifice- including our freedom...1937...marks the triumph of our own socialist revolution." How did I miss it? I think The Insatiable Maws would be another great name for a band.

If she makes it to the Supreme Court we are going to have to give her and this whole corrupt regime the Ecuadorian treatment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


"When you are standing at the edge of a cliff, progress is not defined as one step forward".
In his book When Religion Becomes Evil ,author Richard Kimball warns us to look a little before we leap. "Getting at the dangerous dynamics (between religions) requires critical analysis of issues that lie at the very heart of religion, such as the nature of religious truth, the authority of sacred texts, and the pusuit of the missionary impulse. Our collective failure to challenge presuppositions, think anew and openly debate central religious concerns affecting society is a recipe for disaster."

Consider the issues of the day. The 24 hour all-Pope networks are trying hard to sell us a man who advocates "religious totalitarianism" ( his own words) Ariel Sharon tells the leader of the "free" world to get lost, he will delay the Gaza pull out AND build new settlements, as part of his own little war on terror and he's got the nukes to back it up. Meanwhile, back in the home of the brave, Bill Frist and the religious right demagogues are making their play, attacking the legislative and judicial branches of government, academia and scientific inquirey in general. Oh yeah, almost forgot those Wahibists. I have not heard of any incendiary Sufi or Buddhist sects yet but then ,what with the All-Pope network it's been hard to get any other news.( I didnt even know about the riots in Ecuador till this morning)

Because I listen to the Calvary Baptist radio network for a little while each day (till I start throwing furniture) ,i am getting a feeling for the deep US versus THEM dichotomy forming in our own pluralistic society, and while I am all about dialectics, this rightward pull is as scary as anything since Goldwater. Reading Gramsci and the period leading up to fascism you realize just how thin, narrow,fragile maybe, that tipping point is between working class revolt and working class subservience.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Theoryof Social Relativity

The Man also spent time thinking about the human condition. Here is an essay called Why Socialism Albert Einstein wrote in 1949

"most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves,legally and economically, as the priveledged class of the conquered country. They siezed for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests,in control of education, made the class divisions of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such a country the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee livelihood to every man, woman and child."

The "unconscious system of values" aspect of this takes new forms as capitalism becomes more advanced. Adorno located this mechanism within ideology.
"As naturally as the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than their rulers themselves, the decieved masses are today captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are. Immovably they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them."
Fuerbach condidered it an "age which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, appearance to essence..."

In it's truly modern form, accumulation morphs into that "integral,molecular,invisible control" which Debord called the spectacle. Described in this way, "the spectacle is the stage at which the commodity has succeeded in TOTALLY colonizing social life. The fetishism of the commodity attains it's ultimate fulfillment in the spectacle, where the real world is replaced by a selection of images which are projected above it ,yet which at the same time succeed in making themselves regarded as the epitome of reality".

The purple finger crowd over at NEO-NEOCON so desperatly wants to believe the dominant narrative, to believe IN the dominant narrative, you almost hate to disturb their state of heroic bliss, their clarity. No one really wants to look behind the curtain. So much simpler to see "blame America firsters" and "liberal media".

Miles and Miles of Texas

Perhaps it has something to do with the landscape, or maybe it's something in the water but it should be coming more and more obvious that Texans as a group are a blight on the Union. I don't suppose Mexico would even want it now, populated as it is with such opinionated, reactionary flatearthers but it might not hurt to ask if they wouldnt be willing to re-absorb the whole tarantula infested mess and we'll just call it all a big misunderstanding. As a breeding ground for corrupt, morally bankrupt purveyors of hyper-greed it stands unparalled, here Im thinking of Connally, Johnson, the whole Enron caball, Delay, Bush and now these oil-for -food profiteers. I will add to the list as I think of them and anyone else with this same prejudice is welcome to contribute...

Friday, April 15, 2005

Worth A Thousand Words

Over at iamyouandyouareme Lichanos has Da Vinci posted. I was going to write something acerbic abuout "western art" (not Western), you know ,pictures of horses, indians, wildlife or majestic scenery, the stuff that surrounds me out here in the tourist towns of the Rockies because What Is Art? is something that has concerned me since I started to think. (shortly after having left high school) My rants against "chainsaw bears", a uniquely popular sculptural /kitch form is well known by my suffering family. My fantasy is to buy as many "chainsaw bears" (cutsey depictions of bruins hacked out of wood using chainsaws, for those living closer to civilization) as I can afford or wish to go into debt for and stack them all in some public space, douse them in diesel and light the Bitterroot night. aI guess thats acerbic.

Im thinking ,in stark contrast, of the work of someone like Leon Gollub, the huge, grotesque yet beautiful depictions of oppression or degenerate behavior. Yeats tells us in many, many words of when"the blood dimmed tide is loosed,and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned
the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
Golub presents the image, the quick way to the human mind, incredibly powerful and necessary. Goya, Picasso (especially the one with the Spanish horses at the UN, the one Colin Powell needed draped before speaking in front of)Im surrounded by pretty pictures of elk and waterfalls.

Happy birthday Leonardo, sorry about what they,ve used your aeroplane for. You could not have known.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


"In a small room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot"
Czeslaw Milosz

Prayers answered, it rained and snowed all day and most of last night. If global warming means warmer drier winters and wetter springs I may be pretty well positioned here in western Montana. What the hell is a grayling? Another one of those endangered "indicator" species, with a remnant population in the upper Big Hole hanging on by a fin. They need more than prayers, like so many obscure linkages in our fracturing eco-systems they need a fundamental change in our consciousness. Sooner is better thajn later.

Rupture, not Rapture

"We may now be only in the initial period of an era of change as far reaching as the American Revolution. The developed industrial nations of the world cannot remain secure islands of prosperity in a seething sea of poverty. The storm is rising against the priveledged minority of the earth." "...there must be more than a statement to the larger society, there must be a force that interrupts its functionality at some key point"
Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Better Mousetrap

Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, has popularized the notion that present day life forms can only be explained by the influence of some “intelligent designer” because the biological systems are to “complex” to have developed through the process of natural selection, that is adaptation and mutation. Much of his argument rests on a statistical analysis, one which appeals most directly to those with an unsophisticated scientific understanding and the one heard espoused on Christian radio and in Sunday sermons as a further proof of the existence of God. In a nutshell then, the argument against evolutionary theory is that the odds are stacked enormously against complex systems, because the failure of just one part of these systems would spell the doom of the entire system.

The argument of “irreducible complexity”, that just as a mousetrap needs all it’s parts to be effective organisms need to have been “designed” as opposed to incrementally developed to have survived, is answered by scientists like Kenneth Miller and Karen Bartelt. Just as a mousetrap without a critical part might function as a great paperclip, studies show that the multiple parts of complex systems evolve together, as systems that are gradually expanded, enlarged, and adapted to new purposes. Behe then attempts to show how rare exceptions to the universality of the genetic code disprove Darwin’s theory that we all share a common ancestor. Once again however, Behe either misinterprets or deliberately misreads the literature (he sits on the board of the Discovery Institute). It is accepted that each of these “non-standard” codes is a subtle derivative of the standard genetic code.

That aside, what of the “statistical” argument, that the odds are stacked against life having developed as it did without the intervention of a designer. This is basically an argument that it would take an improbably long time for genetic mutation to develop into life as we know it. As in the example of a hundred monkeys, typing on a hundred typewriters, we know they will eventually reproduce the works of the great Bard. We assume it would take a very long time. But is it not exactly as likely they could do it in the first hour? Could I not draw a royal flush as easily on my first hand as my ten thousandth? Certainly we would be surprised, in either case, but we wouldn’t assume it to be a supernaturally caused miracle, but an amazing happenstance. Isn’t it possible life exists the way we know it because it is the way it is? There are an infinite number of ways it could have been, but they are all out there, not having happened, whereas this is the way it did in fact happen. I can only be sitting here typing while a bird outside looks for worms and a young man in China drops his hat and a fish rises to a mayfly in Argentina. What are the odds that all these things could be happening at the exact same moment? The complexity seems overwhelming, there are far to many other possibilities. Or none.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Exporting Democracy

In his book Democracy and Populism, author John Lukacs, speaks of that nexus where democratization of the world collides with Americanization of the world, a complicated place many of those made so exuberant by the new US project need to consider. If “making the world safe for democracy” is translated as “the maintenance and defense of an economically open international system conducive for capital penetration and circulation coupled with a concomitant global geo-strategy of containing social forces inimical to capitalism”, then the naïve celebration at the removal of a brutal dictatorship needs to be tempered by an examination of what has been installed to replace it.

The difference between democracy and “nationalist populism” should not be lost on liberal analysts as they celebrate the exportation of “freedom”. The tyranny of the majority, combined with the advanced corporatist ability to manufacture any type of opinion or consent is of course preferable to autocratic, totalitarian rule but elements of fascism can easily hide beneath the idealistic narrative of democracy and freedom and, if history (remember history?) teaches anything may in fact lead to terror on a grand, perhaps unprecedented scale. Or, perhaps not so terroristic but terrible. As Marcuse puts it, “totalitarian is not only a terroristic political co-ordination of society, but a non-terroristic economic-technical co-ordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests…a specific system of production and distribution which may well be compatible with a pluralism of parties, newspapers, countervailing powers etc.” Sound familiar? Would you like some Freedom Fries with that?

Lukacs ends by bemoaning “the decline of healthy appetites for (true) freedom at the very time when an immense coarsening of civilized life has risen all around us. Freedom, after all, is not just emancipation, meaning the relaxation of rules imposed on a people by society, church or state, by the tyranny of a ruler, by a minority, or by a majority. Freedom means the capacity to know something about oneself, and the desire to live according to limits imposed on oneself rather than by external powers.”

This applies to the Liberators as well as the Liberated.

Monday, April 11, 2005

That Look

Did anyone else notice that look Condi Rice gave Sharon as he re-justified his position on the expansion of settlements? She was back on the porch just throwing daggers as Bush did his idiot grin and Ariel squirmed in front of the cameras. What a bizarre process! Gaza, bantustans, final status, security forces, bulldozers and blackhawks. Jeff Halpern says the devils in the details, I'd say Lucifer himself can't put into a look what Condi can. Narry a word about the BILLIONS of aid, military and otherwise that the US could use for leverage if they were at all serious, instead it's the same old surrealistic tableau, the leader of the most powerful nation in the universe saying
"gee whiz, I just think it would be swell if he would change his mind about those darn settlements".

Condi smells a Nobel prize and was pissed this fat assed general stood between her and it. American TV viewers are seeing images of fanatical settlers being drug around byIsraeli security and can't figure out what the hells goin on (we've been fed the poor suffering Israeli stereotype for so long). Our only reference to "settlers" is Little House on the Prairie where we either tamed the wilderness or slaughtered the indigenous, depending on your reading list.

Rather than building a huge wall around our occupation, we built reservations out on the godforsaken margins and handed the natives a whiskey bottle. Hows that for settlers, for a settlement, for being "settled".

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Real Compared to What

The human desire for a more easily defined reality presented itself in near perfect metaphorically manifested culmination in the message on the marquee hovering above the local electronics and appliance store. They had used this public/commercial space, typically used for announcing washing machine sales or encouragement for the local basketball team, to make a political statement concerning the upcoming presidential elections. The lettering spelled out this simple question, the essential issue in the mind of the appliance store owner concerning the choice between Bush and Kerry facing a confused electorate. It said "Freedom or Socialism?"

The beauty of democracy is we have free choice, so ,what'll it be? Do you want fries with that? Should I buy a red car or a blue one? Ford or Chevy?NBC or CBS?Freedom or Socialism? So many choices but so little time to get through the skin and down to the meat,to use a carniverous analogy. I imagine most people felt they had to go with freedom. Certainly Bush captured a large majority despite the fact that the Republicans lost the governorship and both houses of the state legislature.

I had just gotten back to Montana after spending two weeks working for the Dems and the Kerry campaign in Washington state, (where I thought my efforts might have more effect) something many of my fellow socialists might be inclined to scoff at but I felt a distinction could be made between the two capitalist creeps, and anyway, I don't need much excuse to travel and go do wierd things. A great old couple had volunteered to put up itinerant campaign workersin their home, stalwart dems with whom I watched the debates and discussed the separation clause. Washington dems actually kicked ass, probably due to the hours I spent arguing on the phone(no doubt) and I guess it will take a historical view to assess the ramifications for peace and justice in the larger sense. As to working "within the system", I agree with Lennin when he found the Bolshevics in the same position :"since the accursed counter-revolution has driven us into this pig-sty,( the Duma) we shall work there for the benefit of the revolution, without whining but without boasting."

Dizzy Democracy or Motion Sickness

Listening to young Sonia Lopez speak yesterday was to experience directly the uncomfortable feeling that it's all a crazy merry-go-round, that groundhog day realization that you have seen this all before. She was speaking as the new director of the Joel Sierra Regional Human Rights Committee, a dangerous job to have in the violence permeated region of Aruaca, Columbia. At the tender age of twenty one she is committed to helping her people caught in the age old conflict of super power hegemonic ambitions and a resource rich developing nation. The US has given more than 3 billion dollars in military aid to this Columbian government which, along with it's right-wing para-military allies is threatening and killing peasant farmers, unionists, indigenous people,rights activists and community organizers, that is ,whoever might stand in the way of controlling Occidental Oils oilfields and pipeline. Another example of our support for "democracy" wherever the black gold exists.

Before oil there was gold and copper and sugarcane and bannanas , but always a "national interest" to stay involved in Latin American affairs. In Mexico we are watching "democracy" unfold as the opposition candidate is removed,and the powers that be stare with half hooded eyes, unblinking. We know Chavez is in trouble, with all the Texas tea under his feet, the great bringers -of-democracy are planning right now how to oust that amigo de Castro. Round and round, same as it ever was.

Of course in Iraq, it's a totally different story. There we are unselfishly liberating our good friends the Iraqis from a tyrant and the oil is just a happy coincidence. We spread a little democracy around Pakistan, recently, with a gift of F16s but just to show we don't pick sides we are letting Coca Cola Co. spread a little democracy around India in the form of poisoned groundwater and depleted wells.

Just twenty one Sonia has come to America to find support and raise awareness (and funds) for her worthy cause.I recalled listening to young Nicaraguans and Salvadorians and Chileans so many years ago, making the same sincere pleas. She asked us to contact our representatives , because we live in a "democracy", and ask that they discontinue support for the oppressive regime currently in power in Columbia. I had to look away.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Papal Problems

Various commentators have remarked on the fact that John Paul discouraged and in fact condemned "liberation theology" in Latin America, in comparison to his embrace of anti-totalitarian movements in Eastern Europe. The typical analysis seems to be that in his condemnation of revolutionary movements he was being consistent to the doctrine of non-violence. I see a couple of problems with this.

First and foremost are we really expected to view Christianity, both historically and in its modern form as a non-violent movement? That seems like a bit of a stretch. There are so many caveats in Christian dogma that permit violence in given situations, to the point of "just war"doctrine, that a pretence of pacifism seems disingenious at best.

As to his theological motives against revolutionary social movements, you don't suppose it had anything to do with the fact that these movements were associated with the Left, that they sought to put power in the hands of the peasants, to redistribute land , to restructure the hierarchies put in place with the willing collaboration of a Church and State (Monarchical) ?To claim that self defence against a brutal, fascist dictator such as Pinochet was unjustified violence is to tread dangerously close to collaboration. History shows us that revolutions themselves are typically not overly violent affairs but that it is in the defense of the revolution, the violence perpetrated by the counter-revolutionaries that most lives are lost. Doing nothing while millions suffer the consequences of an unjust economic ,political and social power structure such as capitalism is to be a silent but willing accomplice to violence . During John Pauls reign the number of those suffering such deprivations as starvation, disease and illiteracy has in fact increased planet wide. Just as we all must share in some degree the shame of these abhorrent conditions, he ,in his leadership position, assumes an even greater share in my opinion. The millions flocking to view his corpse (a bizarre cult of personality Ill go into later) should consider this aspect of his legacy as they confront the role of their Faith in the twenty first century.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Montana Bar Culture

Im not talking about that mysterious bunch budding laywers take their exam in front of. While we're on the subject of culture I think the complex social relations found in the bars and taverns of Big Sky country would make a sociologist prance like a colt in clover,although for a city boy the learning curve might be steeper than a cows face. What you got is clearly defined and well respected class divisions, and woe to him who accidentaly or otherwise stumbles from one league into another. Of course it's absolutly obvious right at the door just what order of establishment you are about to enter,the sights ,sounds and smells provide a clear demarcation to all but the crawling drunk and they won't get much past the threshold in any case. If there's seventies rock playing, a carpet of peanut shells on the floor and darts flying through the blue cloud of smoke you've found a blue collar bar inhabited by bikers, ranch hands, a few hippies and an indianor two. It could also be the place where the young gangsta wanna-be's ,goth types and old drunks to sloppy for the Elks Club are hangin. Lots of tatoos,free flowing profanity and Bud light.

Head across the street to the Elks or Eagles and you meet a crowd thats less interested in an eclectic atmosphere, prefering instead to mingle with "regulars" of similar age and life experience. The ambiance is a tad more refined, with quieter music dating from a bygone era and older couples getting soused on well liqour .Classic country with Hank Snow and George Jones competes with the everplaying and totally ignored CNN or Fox news .The conversation centers on everything thats wrong with everything and one -ups-manship on far how they had to walk to school as kids and how deep the snow was. "Well when I was a kid, we had to tunnel fourteen miles through drifts clear up over the chimney, after milking cows all night and splitting three cord!"

Over at the Bank Club the genteel set lingers over good bourbon ditches and talks about real estate. Fresh blocked beaver hats on the men and Big Hair on the gals lets you know these folks are happy as clams under those gruff exteriors. Republicans in charge, couple of brand new trucks in the garage and good whiskey to warm the innards. Some long haired refugee or sap smelling logger wanders in he'll find himself drinking his expensive beer alone, in silence, while everyone gives him the evil eye till he mutters hell with this and lurches back out into the street.

First night I was in Montana I wandered into a working mans bar before there were hippies or punks in this country. I had no sooner found a stool and ordered a beer than some wild eyed, big haired blond comes bursting through the door, waving a pistol in the general direction of the wild eyed bastard sitting next to me. Yelling and scuffling ensued with no gunfire, thank God, and almost thirty years later Im still here and that bar has changed hands and names about half a dozen times. Its all fixed up in Fancy Western motiff now and houses one of seven billion realators squeezing the last dime out of the Salish homeland.

Culture of Life?

A number of commentators have remarked that Pope John Paul promoted the "culture of life"by which I uncomfortably infer I am therefore part of the culture of death. Support for a womans right to choose an abortion and support for stem cell research seem to place me in the company of Stalin, Hitler and Charles Manson and yet actually you will find me particularly concerned about those dying of starvation, disease, war and other by-products of the vast economic and resource disparaties associated with advanced capitalism. The Pope also had concerns for the poor but during his reign the numbers did not improve, speaking to the power of that position as the modern project marches forward. Were the sympathies directed at Terry Shiavo and zyglots directed towards the oppressed and downtrodden, those with actual consciousness, I might feel that Christs' teachings were having some effect. Sex, of course, seems at the root of this particular pathology, Eve and that apple have condemned us for far to long. The culture of life will have to reconcile itself to the joy of sex but much auto- repression must first ensue.

Joel Kovel states,"in order for the illusion of an organic (classless) society to be sustained..consent is manufactured by getting sub-altern classes to forge their own mental manacles..the sexual sphere supplies the perfect raw material for the project, because it's logic is heteronomous to that imposed by the regime of social production." How conveniant then for the Church, and the Taliban, this society which expresses it's vast accumulation of wealth by commodifying sex," prime conditions for imposing mass auto-repression." Throw some feminism into this potent brew and watch out.

Along those same lines ,anyone but true believers would find the prospect of Armegeddon as somewhat antithetical to "the culture of life". Looking into this "Left Behind" series of books so wildly popular right now you will find an unholy alliance of Christian Zionists, Evangelicals, orthodox Jews and neo-con war mongers. The carnage they so fervently,piously, reverently look forward to makes the blood soaked trenches of WWI look like a pre-school nap time. Replace that Mosque with a new Temple and it's chainsaw massacre times six billion.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Ellen Wood writes in Empire of Capital:" Capitalist imperialism has become almost entirely a matter of economic domination in which market imperatives, manipulated by the dominant capitalist powers, are made to do the work no longer done by imperial states or colonial settlers. Imperialist dominance in a global capitalist economy requires a delicate and contradictory balance between suppressing competition and maintaining conditions in competing economies that generate markets and profits." She does not however, believe the State to be irrelevant,as in the analysis of Negri or other "anti-globalizationists" but in fact stresses the always present use of "extra-economic force",wielded by the State, to back up the project of hegemonic control. This is where the Iraqis will find themselves glued ,screwed and tattooed. With a weakened labor movement and the promise of debt removal as a lever, global capital will be inserted in the heart of the worlds largest oil reserves. With a few well positioned military bases for back up. Better than the Baathist tryanny, of course, but with serious ramifications for the long term prospects for self determination or democracy. With decades of experience in colonial oppression, years of war encouraged and facilitated by the major powers (in order to de-stabilize), then the years of genocidal sanctions it is a society ripe for further, more subtle exploitation.

Global capital loves "weak states", just as it encourages "weak" citizens within it's own societies. The problems occur (on an incredibly regular basis) when the "weak state" spins out of control to become a "failed state". The empires resources must be diverted to never ending wars on terror, supported by a bloated"military/industrial complex" but causing tension among the populace losing goods and services. Diffusing and suppressing tension is of course an art form they are very good at but not an exact science (yet) and hegemony requires a delicate touch. as I have mentioned, a lack of historical knowledge makes it impossible to lead strategically.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Incredible day of dry fly fishing yesterday,here on my home river,the Bitterroot. Hooked and landed numerous fat,healthy rainbows and west slope cut-throats on both the stonefly (skwalla) and the small grey mayfly I believe to be a para-lep. Despite years of increased pressure and lack of streamflow these fish are doing amazingly well, the only noticable difference from "the old days being a lack of large brown trout, the catching of which used to make this time of year the highlight of the season. For me.

Purple Fingers

I see the UK Marxists have embraced the cult of the Purple Finger, as they reverently follow The Norm down the path of least resistance. In the spectacle catalogue the finger sits prominently next to " the fall of the statue", the CIA directed propaganda piece shown over and over as we liberated Iraq and our Mission was Accomplished. If only the world was such a simple place.

I need to disagree with Noam Chomsky on this one. He says"the Bin Laden network has as little concern for globalization and cultural hegemony as they do for the poor and oppressed people of the Middle East". This in responce to the question did the 9/11 hijackers choose the twin towers for their symbolic effect. Just as our government uses the powerfull visual symbol of the purple finger or the falling statue ,it seems unreasonable to assume the planners of 9/11 lacked this degree of sophistication, were unaware of the power of image we all watched over and over in horror. I found this analysis,from the Situationist Collective, rather compelling.

"The terrorists followed the logic of the spectacle to it's charnel house conclusion. It matters profoundly that the horrors of Sept.11 were designed above all to be visible..Of course the martyr pilots knew that bringing down the Twin Towers would do nothing to actually stop the circuits of capital, but suppose that those machines could be captured for a moment ,and on them appeared the perfect image of capitalisms negation. Image victory."

It was about"cultural hegemony" in that the towers, as symbols of the moral and spiritual decrepitude of the West and materialist,consumer culture were chosen for their symbolic value, knowing that control of the image is the key to social power. We fight back with purple fingers.