Capitalist Realism

I picked up Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? by Mark Fisher, from Zero Books, as my first read and first exposure to Fisher’s work. When he passed away by his own hand, in January 2017, I was struck by how many people were talking about him, and since I hadn’t known of his work before, thought I’d dive into something, and Capitalist Realism was of note.

Although the work contains examples that are a bit dated and specific to the UK or UK academic experience, the topics are particularly fresh in this year of governance by Reality TV, a kind of apotheosis of capitalist realism and late-capitalism. A discussion of the context and meaning of a period with an apparent end of neoliberalism becoming a dystopia of reality warping PR symbolism over substance is new again these days.

The strongest part, but also probably the most dense in references, of the overall work for me was the last, Marxist Supernanny, which provided the hint of a takedown of narcissistic infantile Traditionalist individualism and proposed a direction forward toward organizing around a rejuvenated progressive collective will to address root causes instead of symptoms or distractions.

Overall, a timely-again volume worth reading in these days of surreality in discourse but dark dystopia in events that offers not hope so much as encouragement that hope is at least possible to contemplate.

I made 86 highlights.

no cures

“no cures.”

No tears in the eyes of the youth
Patriotism is the new faith
“I am no criminal”
Blind masses of youth marching
Civil disobedience
“It’s not the ideology, it’s the people”
“It’s not the guns, it’s those damn bullets”
Not to question patriotism is to stagnate
and become blind followers to the new union
of the personality and power
Teflon coated politicians are a function
of the worshipping masses in Nike Air
shoes and
pictures of Amish farmers advertising
the new microwave dinners
The impressionable youth has
been emblazoned with the
distant distrust of life and the
trust of death
The disillusioned generation has
become the materialist image of the
thing they hated
The disillusioned legacy to the
unborn is bearing the fruit of discord
The secret becomes the top secret
the nixon doctrine becomes the
new amendment to the Constitution
and the Cambodian is now the
Panamanian
Involvement becomes a pact of
decimals and the Tuesday lunch group is the NSA
The sergeant-at-arms (and
legs and dismembering and shouting and fits
and bits and snarling …) forcing out the
dissenter to the group view
Why can’t my kids be conditioned?
My kids are suffering because the
others are Wrong. Let’s go back to
the good old days when we were
so confident in the country that we
end up in Vietnam …
Let’s fight for hope … with guns
and knives and grenades and tooth and
nails
The war is over. long live the
war
I can’t make a difference is the
war cry of
America the beautiful even though
I don’t know why
Trust?
American arrogance of the blue-eye
big-nosed Johnny Appleseed spreading the
seed of the golden apple
The victors write the history – the
youth of Vietnam and the American youth in
Vietnam are the history
The government didn’t win the war and
the hindsight condemnation of the
leaders is the pen and
cry of the lost innocence of the
lost lives of the lost youth
Political motivation is the numbness
of the new lost youth
I don’t know about that so don’t
tell me what I don’t want to deal with
Knowledge of is not power over:
knowledge is burden
The people of the world are going about
their business just tell them you’re in
power they won’t mind …
because they don’t care … they don’t
want to know
Can this country open its eyes and
wipe the rummy haze from
a dream of advisors in Panama
and the Vietnam legacy of advisor-
soldiers
One person is not enough unless
you’re Hitler or
the wide-awake young prefect who
sleeps thru it all
I’m anti war, anti-calories, anti-red
meat, anti-anchovies, anti-gothic …
(what are you for?)
There must be another way (anti-status quo)
I’d die for this country no matter
what … (is that what you’re for?)
I’m here for the wrong reasons
I’m a naive uninformed
… American …
We’re all Americans
but we can kill ourselves …
(is that what you are for?)
We have a new youth, but who
is going to be the new Them?
The tiger’s back isn’t a strong enough
metaphor – we were Hoovered into
the filter bag (the Scylia and Charybdis
of American Myth)
The self-destructed Lincoln Log country
has to be put away
Rebuild the Lincoln Log Lego walls
(do we isolate ourselves again?
Let’s go back to the wilderness and
skip the walls (maybe we’ll find ewoks
hiding behind the trees)
The walls of orange yellow blue
white and red Lego blocks may be
safe but they’re ugly. They are the
monuments to the Glorious War dead
from the double-super-duper-new-and
improved American Jihad of those who
Islam the Walt Disney constructed teflon
leaders
Can we afford to draw lines anymore
between Us and Them
Is that what we
believe in? The amputation of our humanity
“You can tear the skin off but you’ll scream.”
I need to learn more … not only can I
not condemn what I understand …
Can I understand what comes after me?

copyright 1990 j.g.bell
originally appearing in ‘The Nascent’ literary and arts magazine 1990

Societies with secrets, security culture and online social media

There’s a post about a new Social Media Code of Conduct for Massachusetts Freemasons [PDF] (HT @Masonictraveller) over at Freemason Information, part of The Beehive series by Fred Milliken. This document mentioned is particularly interesting to me because it touches on some issues I think are important; and the reactions to the document are also interesting. (I’m also more amused than I should be that the date on the original document is May 1st, International Workers’ Day, due to the frisson between seemingly oft conservative Freemasons and the ideas of the, frankly quite often more broadly fraternal to my mind, international workers’ movement; and, also because of the connection between the ideas I’m going to talk about and the direct and indirect history of May Day.)

I should also say that I’m intentionally using the term “society with secrets” here to mean not just Freemasonry, but really any group with secrets that is publicly known. Freemasonry is not a secret society, really, after all. But, like everyone sharing a book or movie recommendation who doesn’t want to reveal the important points of the plot, let alone the ending, Freemasonry does have secrets. (I’ve been meaning to write about my thoughts around “society with secrets vs secret societies” for a long time, but, I suppose the fullness of that topic will remains one of my own secret for now.)

 

The “code of conduct” document itself offers a number of specific directives about how the Freemasonic Grand Lodge of Massachusetts wishes its members to behave online, not just in social media though that’s what the title suggests is the scope.

 

“As a Mason, he must be aware that his postings are a permanent record; therefore, his conduct may influence the world with a positive or a negative opinion about him personally and also about any organizations to which he belongs.”

As the librarian of the Hermetic Library, I can say I’ve received email from people several times wishing my help to remove, alter or obfuscate content they wrote that still appears online.

In some cases, people want their names removed. In some cases, people want the content to go away. In others, they want links to archives of their content removed so that Google stops indexing the linked to archive. In even other cases, people have contacted me to let me know they’ve removed previously written content from their site due to a new role they’ve taken in which those comments aren’t now appropriate, as if the whole of one’s history is merely, and must conform with, the current accidents of the moment (which ironically requires history to constantly be changed to make an illusion). In some cases, it’s clear that the person contacting me is embarrassed by something they’ve written in the past and wants to distance themselves from that; which motive I personally find revolting and pathetic and deceitful. In other cases, the motives are more or less clean, such as needing to manage how others might use past writing as a weapon, how others might twist and misrepresent the past to impune the present person. (You might, or not, be surprised at how much vitriol and willful harassment there is out there, sometimes hidden in back channels and sometimes not, in which cases managing access to one’s information becomes important as a defensive measure against evil, unscrupulous or stalker-y people.) So, there’s a whole gamut of reasons why people seem to want their previous work forgotten.

Interestingly, there may seem a serious disconnect in my own views on this matter. For example, I am viciously adamant about my own right to remove content from services like Facebook, but I am relatively lassez-faire about my content being permanently on display in various revisions at the Wayback Machine. Of course, the primary difference is that Facebook, and corporations like it purporting to offer a service, is in fact constantly and expansively trying to enclose and encumber not just the works of our minds but every hour of our lives in order to control and monetize both; and to that my resistance is very consistent and internally consistent.

 

“Do not identify any Freemason as a member of the Craft unless he has provided his consent, or has already identified himself as such.”

Another of the points in this code of conduct is not to reveal the identity of a member unless they’ve already done so. This point is a big one for many sub-cultures, and is an important one. “Outing” another person is a serious breach of security and etiquette. But, it should also be considered a serious breach to reveal information about not just the identity but also the location and activities of another member, especially to strangers. (This point is a hint at why personally I almost universally refuse to broadcast my future whereabouts or add instant, or even relatively contemporaneous, geolocation data to my content. I also do not participate in any service which is either dedicated to showing my instant location data or where I cannot hide that, even from “friends”, even so far as to eschew instant messaging services in favour of asynchronous email.)

Anyone with any IT security experience should be able to share strong reasons not to succumb to social engineering, revealing important details to not only strangers but even well-known people who should not have some bits of information. Anyone who’s worked in retail or the service industry should be able to confirm how dangerous it can be to reveal personal information or work schedules of co-workers, both about their time at work and their time away from work. Loose lips not only sink ships and breach internal security, but lead to things like stalking and other antisocial behaviour.

I can hardly begin to tell you the times I’ve gotten strange looks and had eyes rolled at me when I’ve tried to educate people about the dangers and dimwittedness of revealing information about not only others but about themselves to strangers. I cannot count on my fingers the number of times I’ve tried to shush someone who’s speaking on the phone to some random stranger who’s just called and to whom they are revealing all kinds of privileged information about someone else’s schedule and whereabouts … It’s just shocking and disheartening to have people I know, or moreover people I’ve cared about, be so dumb about such things. Really, the Pavlovian desperation to respond most people have to phone and electronic communications, and moreover the ease with which most people reveal information (passwords, account information or even just random particulars) to some unknown person as if merely by being on the phone or online imbues some Milgrim-like authority, is something both breathtaking and bizarre to me.

Developing security culture is not just about the security of groups, but is also protecting individuals. I hope those people prone to such information breaches are never in the situation where they learn the hard way by ending up pursued by a stalker, pursued by someone so mentally stunted or backward that they cannot understand the meaning of “no” or even the basic social contract of consent, and then to have information about their activities and whereabouts revealed by themselves or others simply because they didn’t know better. And if that ever happens I hope that nothing seriously harmful happens as a consequence other than learning to be more careful next time, though so many worse things are possible.

Just one more story, of any number of others, about this: At one of the really big Occupy marches in Portland, OR, I have to tell you I cringed every time someone yelled out another person’s name to get their attention. Really? Serious protest foul, that, people!

But, really, the lack of awareness about security culture is a symptom of not having one in the first place. How’s that for a tautology? No, seriously, the adoption of a general security culture could be helped by having serious security culture in subcultural groups, and thus pushing out the wave of adoption by having smaller groups educate and inform their members who then end up bringing that awareness to larger groups and the overall culture in which they each participate. (So, now that you’ve read this, go and find out more so I can pretend I’ve been effective in widening the general awareness of security culture …)

 

The commentary in the post itself, and the comments by readers to that post, over at Freemason Information are interesting to me as well. Primarily the reaction is focused on how some of the points in the code of conduct are just common sense ideas about protocol and etiquette, but there’s also a perception that the code of conduct is an overreaching attempt to control the actions of members. I think this code of conduct document, while not perfect, seems to me a good first step toward building a meaningful and reasonable security culture. The worth of that, at the very least, is as a catalyst to considering and talking about meaningful and reasonable security culture for any subcultural group of people, whether that’s in, to name a few, a fraternal organization, social club, workplace, or, yes, even in one’s own home environment. But, recognizing that such ideas can be seen as unreasonable attempts to control behaviour suggests how important it is to reveal and share the reasoning behind them, and the reasons why they are being suggested.

 

There’s a lot of useful thinking and writing that’s been done on creating security culture, and this post is merely a few initial words on the topic. I wrote a setup document for GnuPG, aimed at members of a society with secrets in which I am involved which has a mandate for the use of encryption which is not supported by a culture in which use of encryption is easy for non-technical users or even has much use in spite of the mandate. In that document I tried to include some background and links to further information about security culture, by way of saying how important it is to at least think about such things in any social group with secrets. In the same way that the encryption requirement by the US Grand Lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis is essentially and largely mooted by the apparent lack of implementation among the membership, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts has started down a pretty slippery slope of creating mandated behaviour and requirements that it cannot hope to maintain ahead of breaches of conduct, but rather only after the fact in selective punishment against those who happen to get caught. Without a security culture, these rules are mostly meaningless as far as stopping behaviours from happening and are really only rubrics that can be used to evaluate behaviours that have already occurred. In other words, it seems to me, these kinds of guidelines need to be part of a program of proactive education instead of taken as proscriptive measures to control behaviour, and where they are merely the later they should be transformed into the former. Guidelines like these need to create a culture in the implementation not create criminals in the breach.

But really, I think the exposure to the ideas of, and how to create, security culture can offer an essential and necessary set of skills for people in this modern day information age to understand and implement the many overlapping circles of information scope in our lives. (Just as I believe thinking about and deconstructing propaganda models and theory offer essential skills for resisting the influence of not just canonical propaganda but also in resisting the influence of pervasive and invasive marketing and advertising in this Western culture.)

For a general primer, I’d encourage you to check out check out a few documents which stand out in my memory as good initial surveys: Towards a Collective Security Culture, Affinity Groups and Why do you need PGP?.

For further reading, you may be interested in Activism and Security Culture, Security Culture, and Security Culture. Beyond those, I commend you to your favourite search engine for further study.

As a last note, I can’t help but suggest and recommend two works, in no small part because these two are on the list of works that appear in my own thoughts consistently, which I think connect to this post and the broader subject of resistance culture. First, both for the history of the resistance of but also the resistance to the international labor movement, I’d like to suggest an excellent history of Industrial Workers of the World, The Wobblies: The Story of the IWW and Syndicalism in the United States by Patrick Renshaw. And, secondly, for the history and role of Freemasonry in the resistance culture of colonial and early American periods of United States history, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 by Steven C. Bullock.

Re: Thank you for sharing your views

After months, I received a reply to a message I sent to Sen. Merkley. Only, when I responded, the address from which “Sen. Merkley”‘s messages was sent apparently is not accepting e-mail:

<Senator_Merkley@Merkley.senate.gov>: host
a-ess-sen3s.senate.gov[156.33.195.218] said: 550 5.1.1
<Senator_Merkley@Merkley.senate.gov>… User unknown (in reply to RCPT TO
command)

Yeah, so much for having a voice …

Dear Sir,

Thank you for the response. But, with all do respect, in regards to:

We must also take action to address the root cause of our financial crisis, the housing market

The housing market is a symptom of a much deeper issue that causes continued repeating cycles of boom-bust inherent in a financial system that rewards and encourages rampant speculation. We are addicted to finding the next Gold Rush, and until this fundamental issue is resolved in our financial system, regulatory structure and moreover our collective constitution as a people, we will continue to find our selves in such predicaments. Further, the very response to such a crisis should not, and to be truly a response to the core issue must not, reward those responsible for the crisis or to aid and abet the further concentration of wealth to those with institutionally and systemically unequal power in the market. Conditioning the market must be the duty of good government even if this means abrogating prior transactions or contracts.

I wish you well in the endeavour of remaining idealistic in the face of organizational, institutional, and systemic resistance to progressive ideals on this and other issues. For all our sakes, I hope you are able to do so as my governmental representative in the Senate.

Sincerely,

John Griogair Bell

Secretary of the Arts

As the woman says:

It takes a couple seconds. Do it! :-)
anna

So, check out this petition, which I’m sure wasn’t actually started by Quincy Jones, if you’re inclined:

Quincy Jones has started a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of the Arts. While many other countries have had Ministers of Art or Culture for centuries, the United States has never created such a position. We in the arts need this and the country needs the arts–now more than ever. Please take a moment to sign this important petition and then pass it on to your friends and colleagues.

Every budget should require for every dollar spent on defense an equal dollar spent on culture and other domestic initiatives.

Holstic Design with Dr. Love at Schnitzer on Jan 15th at 7pm

Yeah, that’s not a porno, you perv.

Holistic Design
with Dr. Terence Love
Professor of Architecture, Design and Engineering, Curtin University

“Holistic design depends on the material opportunities but even more on our inner subjective, emotional life.”

7 pm, Thursday
January 15th, 2009

This is part of the Linus- Pauling Memorial Lectures 2008-2009 Science, Techonology and Society series through Portland State University.

Also, maybe even more intersesting, is the talk Dr. Love is giving at Systems Science on Tue, Jan 13 at noon. If you want to go to the Tuesday Noon talk you should RVSP to the coordinator Dawn. The Systems Science building is the Harder House on campus at 1604 SW 10th Avenue, and the talk will be in Room 104.

How to steal control of an organization: new Systems Science tools for CEOs, organizational strategists, technologists, activists and military strategists
Dr Terence Love

Management, government, military, terrorists, activists and unionists depend on their ability to achieve power and control. Typically, they do this by several conventional and well known modes of intervention such as the application of legal or military power.

This presentation describes several new and powerful systems theories and tools that offer another way that is new and can be undertaken without other participants necessarily being aware of the interventions or their implications.

These new theories and tools provide a means of power and control in complex socio-technical organizations ranging from nations to small social groups. They offer a means of doing this from a position of power, from an underdog position or from a position not institutionally involved in the organization.

The theories and tools described in the presentation provide a formal basis for making small hidden changes to systems that automatically play out over time to change the ownership of power and control.

The presentation will describe several new extensions to the work of Ashby on the Law of Requisite Variety that realign its role into social and organizational context involving power and provide a new systemic understanding of the approaches described by Nicolo Machiavelli. These tools were developed by Dr Terence Love and Dr Trudi Cooper as part of a project investigating the role of classic systems tools in the design of highly complex socio-technical systems.

The Portland Cello Project at Someday on Oct 17th

A new e-mail and post from The Portland Cello Project offers a last minute announcement of a show at Someday as part of a Barack Obama benefit:

This Friday October 17 at The Someday Lounge, we’ll jump on stage for a 45 minute set at 9pm for their Barack Obama benefit. I think all the money goes to Ohio campaign funds or something.

We didn’t want to get political, but they asked us to play, and we polled ourselves, and every single member of the Portland Cello Project is voting for Barack Obama, so we figured… why not?

When cellists at the Oregon Symphony found out we were doing this, some of them asked to join us and we said… sure! As long as you don’t mind playing Toxic and Push-It with John Brophy and Ritchie Young (Loch Lomond) singing with us irreverently.

Palin is a revenge fantasy

It should be clear from Palin’s recent speech that the Republican Party is about revenge, and the fantasy of revenge that requires a target.

The rank and file of the Republican Party are being motivated by their fear and hatred to send an amoral and rapacious elite into office where they can do the most harm. The modern conservative movement is about an elite instilling the illusion of purity against taboo, which is essentially identical to any regressive religious extreme response to change: because change threatens the power of the elite, the religious must be manipulated into protecting hegemony of elite power through radicalized religious fervor.

The corollary of Rove’s strategy of criticizing the enemy for one’s own weakness is that the Republicans hate the country.

The corollary of Yoda’s catechism that fear leads to hate is that the Republicans hate the country because they are afraid.

The vicious cycle is that the rank and file Republican creates their own suffering by supporting those elite who in turn only seek their own aggrandizement by manipulating the hate and fear of their supporters.

The conservative movement appears to be about conserving fear and hate about being denied an imaginary golden age when the garden of eden existed undisturbed by the real, multi-millennial movement toward progressive ideals.

The conservative movement appears to be counting on the reality of a Fool’s Ball where their elite masters give them the crown for a day, thinking they can make that last. But, like that Fool, the topsy-turvy doesn’t last. But, like the den of thieves, those that no longer serve a purpose are liabilities, liable to execution at any moment. And, they don’t realize that they aren’t even invited to that Ball anyway; because behind the scenes the next Fool has already been picked. I hear he’s already scheduled to accept their nomination, a ratification of choices that were made for them.

The conservative movement appears to be afraid of the people. They will manipulate their own and oppress any popular movement they can’t manipulate.

Until that movement wakes up enough to realize they are caught in a vicious cycle of suffering that they can just step out of by not being led in circles, I hate to say I fear this will all continue to happen again and again.

So, a warning to conservatives to be careful what they wish for: Like every story about Cthulhu, be careful that you can put down what you call up; and, don’t be so surprised when that Evil you have summoned turns around and eats you.

Portland Reclaiming hopeful at M15

Portland Reclaiming brought a “hope” banner to the M15 march. We also brought fabric and pens for people to make their own peace flags in the theme of “hope” and marched with over a hundred in a long tail behind the banner.

Photo of Portland Reclaiming’s banner and peace flags linked to photoset:
2336370212_b9d9a093b4_m.jpg

Additionally, we got many, many anonymous pictures taken of us and might appear on the TV too, as part of the march. And, I had someone from KBOO interview me briefly.

A picture of Portland Reclaiming by someone else:
2336419358_edc8283297_m.jpg

I regret that I did not get pictures of the March Fourth Marching Band, but I will be seeing them in my dreams …

Update 16mar08 @ 10:28pm:

Here’s a video of the march. The “hope” banner starts going by around 0:15 and the peace flag tail continues until around 1:25. That was pretty early on, just after the start because we were still in front. That was before we slowed up in order to fall back toward The March Forth Marching Band, so we could listen:

Community not Communism

In this morning’s Oregonian (Wed, 18jul07; D2), there is an article, “Postage-stamp-sized service suits N.J. townsfolk,” that I cannot find on their own website. But, the Newhouse News Service is the source of “Tiny Post Offices Deliver More Than Mail“.

From the article:

“These smaller post offices are important hubs of the community.”

I’m reminded of the row over postal service in Olympia, and the Libertarian-Conservative hatred of any community gathering space. Places where people gather in community seem to be under some kind of reactionary knee-jerk encoded response to a threat of Communism.

We need community. It’s part of what makes it possible for a city or region to be flexible and creative in the face of adaptive challenges, like natural disasters or economic disruption. There has to be space for people to learn about themselves through interaction with others that are not like themselves. Too often, it seems to me, people assume their community is people like them and that anyone not like them in their community is some kind of alien intruder that doesn’t belong. It is our spaces where we gather together that allow us to see and become stronger because of our diversity; not by ignoring or destroying it, but because of that diversity.

I’m pretty sure that I ran into something about this in Place and the Politics of Identity [also], about the tension over postal service offices and community. I’d have to go back to find out, but I recall a discussion in this collection of essays about how social gathering places were being dismantled, and that post offices represented one of the important places where people could gather.

Of course, one merely need to wander in to the downtown or west side post offices in Olympia to realize that these spaces have become store fronts, places of business. These are no longer places where people come even in part to be in community. These are place that one stands around with a number waiting to be serviced as a customer and then get the heck out as fast as possible after.

That book, Place and the Politics of Identity, also has some other very interesting things to say about the waterfront in London that reflect for me on the layers of struggle in Olympia around the nuclear-free zone, the militarization of the port, and the gentrification of downtown. I also found the discussion of “spacialities” to be enlightening in relation to my sense that there are many layers of community in Olympia that exist in the same space but interact as if in different places from each other. I recommend checking that book out.

I think it was through engaging with that book that I also started to think about how it may be that the reaction to community space in American culture is coloured by some kind of learned, internalized fear of anything that suggests Communism. This is something that I haven’t remembered in a while, but deserves some more thought. If it’s true that the general hostility to community space is due to this learned reaction, then that might suggest a way to address that hostility through making a distinction between community and the fear of Communism.

Of course, Communism isn’t the same thing as communism, but maybe that’s something best left for the “advanced” class.

Politics in the Dark Ages of Online Games

Via Boing Boing:

“Can you be a citizen of a virtual world? That’s the question that I keep asking myself, whenever anyone tells me about the wonder of multiplayer online games, especially Second Life, the virtual world that is more creative playground than game.”

There’s been an online multiplayer RPG called Dark Ages for a long time. It’s old school. It’s isometric view. It’s chibi. But, it also has a functioning political system with offices, voting, laws, and political campains … and it’s a game that deserves to be noticed.

It’s called Dark Ages. I may not get this completely right, but I recall that it was a Korean game that was localized for the US by a US team headed by Dave Kennerly. Kennerly contributed to the game the political system and the system of religions, but of which have really good innovations for the game play. Over the years, Kennerly left and the US team bought the rights to their work and re-named themselves Kru Interactive.

There’s a small article on the game at wikipedia.

But, you should definitely check out the player-created guide to the political system “Politica Dominica” and one of Kennerly’s own articles on the political system “Dark Ages Politics in Theory and Practice.”

Real common wealth

Via The Huffington Post:

The wealthy have made greater use of the common good–they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth–and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it. They are merely paying their debt to society in arrears and investing in future empowerment.

This is the fundamental truth that motivates progressive taxation.

It is a truth that undercuts conservative arguments about taxation. Taxes provide and maintain the protecting and empowering infrastructure that makes our income possible.

Interesting article and worth a read. But it does not explicitly link wealth to privilege, only implicitly. Also, wealth is an accumulation of surplus value beyond the cost of doing business and is therefore a form of tax. Wealth is the amount by which someone has under-paid and over-charged for what they do. Profit is a form of taxation without meaningful political oversight.

Our tax forms hide this truth. They do not indicate the extent to which taxes have created and sustained the common wealth so you could earn what you have.

Like the movement to include or reveal information about the real cost of the goods and services exchanged, this seems to suggest revealing information about the real common wealth contribution to income. For example, how much would one have paid in order to commute to work, or go to the grocery store for that matter, if all roads were toll-based?

I used to advocate this to billing people when charging for bundled services. I suggested that each included service be itemized, showing the cost of each, and then to show each of those charges being zeroed out. This was a way to express the value gained through bundling, and to demonstrate the value of the services being offered.

It makes sense, though it would be complicated. What if, like Canada requires French and English, every price was required to show a real cost. Like, at the gas pump there might be two prices displayed: the point-of-sale charge and the real cost, such that each $3 gallon was demonstrated to actually cost $25, or whatever, in corporate welfare and tax money spent on the military support of industry.

The infrastructure is there at any shop that offers a “member” discount for people that have voluntarily given away their demographic information. So like selling tap water in plastic bottles, the public is already being trained to see “real” cost. Now, if only that “real” cost were the real cost instead of some inflated private tax on people that value their privacy …

Pot meet kettle

I was reading an article, over at DailyKOS quoting Glenn Greenwald, about an interesting pattern that keeps coming up about lost information. What comes to mind first is the iconic patterns of corporate denial by representatives of the Tobacco industry testifying in front of congress and denying knowledge of anything. So, the model of corporate ignorance is well established in the minds of the corporate raiders that are in the executive, and now judicial, branch.

One needs only read Irons’ “People’s History of the Supreme Court” to get an idea of what happens when corporate lawyers take over the halls of justice. You see, the railroad lawyers are pervasively on the bench again.

And, I started to think about another pattern I see related to the US Attorneys and the search for voter fraud. I think there’s an interesting pattern that keeps repeating. I’ll call it the Pot-Kettle pattern. Most recently noticed in relation to a crusader that espouses the mission to fight corruption, but is corrupt:

“When Paul Wolfowitz, a primary architect of the Iraq war, assumed his post as World Bank President, he claimed the the new boss was going to be tough on corruption. Yesterday, he acknowledged that he “made a mistake” when he became personally involved in securing a promotion and a pay raise far in excess of the normal maximum for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.” [via]

But, do I detect the same Pot-Kettle pattern in the kerflufle over voter fraud which is the espoused reason for the politically guided US Attorney shuffle? Here’s a political party that just knows there’s corruption in local election process, and is desperate to seek it out. TPMmuckraker is all over that one, but so is ThinkProgress, and others.

And now, the US Attorney issue comes full circle to the pattern at the top over lost documents::

“The White House said Thursday that missing e-mail messages sent on Republican Party accounts may include some relating to the firing of eight United States attorneys.” [via]

And, why are they so adamant about fighting corruption and desperately sure that there’s a there there to find? Because they know they are corrupt, and if they can find corruption elsewhere then they aren’t as evil in comparison to others as they, at some deep level, fear they are?

It’s an attempt to respond with a “Billy did it too!” defense. Unfortunately, as it turns out, they are themselves so corrupt that there’s no one worse to point to, and so all their finger pointing accusations seem wildly contrived and delusional. Hmmm, so maybe there’s a bit of a psychological defense mechanism in their projection of what they know they are doing onto others.

Not only is this a Pot-Kettle pattern, but there’s an element of the Downplay/Intensify Schema going on here. Because while they are desperately seeking the wrong doing of others, they also are desperately covering up their own actions of a similar nature. So, that results in the dynamic where seeking voting irregularity becomes active voter suppression. The crusaders crusade against their own demons.

So, maybe, it’s actually a Pogo Pattern: “We met the enemy and he is us.”

I guess that naturally leads to the question of which came first, the corruption or the corrupt?

Update @ 3:37pm:

I noticed over at USA Today there’s an article which highlights the way that science is subjected to a Downplay/Intensify process also. Science that supports is used, but science that does not is ignored or criticised.

Thinking about the way that the US Attorney scandal has developed, I’m reminded of the way that political appointees have been put in charge of science. So, the second layer of the attack is to manipulate the information before it has to be subjected to downplay and only allow information that supports the propaganda model. So, while everyone’s been pointing to conflicting data, the propaganda machine has been at work to try to ensure that only policitally useful information is available.

That’s Orwellian par excellence.

The hands come together

In the Independent Online Edition, there’s an article about an amazing development in Northern Ireland:

“The big news they contained was that Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party will be going into government together, launching a new era and underpinning the peace process with a political foundation.

But even more striking was the absence of accompanying threats or conditions – no begrudgery, no condemnations, no blame game. The two listened carefully and politely to each other, conveying something new in Belfast politics – mutual respect.”

The title of the Independent article reminds me of the statue in Derry, of which I took some pictures. I created a small photo tour of Derry as part of a case study on dialogical spaces.

One of the pictures I took of the statue in Derry, was intentionally from an angle which appeared to have the hands come together, and for me the title of the Independent’s article was a reminder of everything I was thinking and feeling then.

I came upon the article via The Osterly Times, which points out:

“Only by treating the underlying cause can one hope to defeat the cancer of terrorism. That’s a lesson that can be applied to almost everywhere that terrorism flourishes. Grant the Palestinians a territorially contiguous state based on the 1967 guidelines and, not only will the suicide bombs stop, but al-Qaeda will lose their most potent recruiting tool. Treat the cause, not the symptoms.

When one does so, miracles like the one we are today witnessing in Northern Ireland become possible.”

It’s about mutual respect, but it’s also about trust. I don’t think that the suicide bombs magically stop. However, I think that if trust is established in a process that gives people a voice in their lives that people want to live those lives. When there’s respect, people won’t feel the need to shout. When there’s trust, people can join together in good faith to create peace.

Janus is looking forward, looking backward

Via Daily Kos:

“If you’re like me, you threw up a little in your mouth when you read that Gonzales criticizes those who ‘apply an activist philosophy that stretches the law to suit policy preferences.’ And you did so because you’re already too well aware that this ‘administration’ has, if it’s done nothing else (and there’s an argument to be made that it hasn’t), has become the nation’s leading producer of such stretched law.”

Daily Kos and TPMmuckraker has been all over this stuff lately, but the judical branch has been the long term battleground for decades, if not as long as there’s been a US. The Supreme Court and the Pentagon are a continuity prize that seems to get repeatatively forgotten when politics shouts at us to watch the jazz fingers of the republic … and then suddenly remembered after the trick has all ready been performed.

Sacrifice a few pieces as a feint in order to castle …

Commonly the law is thought of a static, but it is a moving thing. Laws are explored in the courts and are made more specific through testing. That means that any law is made more narrow over time as the boundaries are tested. The corollary is that any progressive legal reform will be degraded over time and must be actively supported by the larger culture. The further corollary is that calls to conserve the law as it is are in fact calls to degrade the impact of the law. The law is a living language, not a dead language that speaks only of a bygone golden age. Therefore the law must be, like a dictionary, constantly updated with with common usage and slang in order for it to be relevant and meaningful for current culture.

The law is a record of who we are as a people, and the process of the law is the process of our becoming. If the law is dead, so are we. But, if the law is alive with hope and progress, so are we alive with hope and progress. Moreover, if the law is selfish and manipulative, narrow and mean, so are we as a people.

Update @ 5:05pm:

Another example of this struggle is over at Crooks and Liars’s story: Law School Deans Condemn Pentagon Statement.

“The sword of Damocles is hangin’ over my head …”

Be careful what you wish for, the consequences may be more than you expected: “Isn’t that what you wanted all along – freedom of religion? That freedom means all religions – even ones you don’t happen to like.” [via]

In this article, an elementary school is forced to open up a system by which kids are used to distribute flyers to families so that one religious group in the community can distribute flyers. Then, other religious group in that community use it too.

The myopic view of the advocates is that they think the community is only like themselves, or at least that they have some privilege that makes them the only ones that matter in a community. But, it seems this disingenuous advocacy for privilege matched with hatred and intollerance for others is the point.

(This isn’t just about religious issues either. Just take, for example, the advocacy of line-item veto that was hated once Clinton started to use it. Or, think about the way the 109th used their power against the minority party, and now is scared they will face the same, or, you know, might have to work more than 3 days a week for their 6 figure incomes. Or, partisans pleading for bipartisanship once they’re on the outs.)

This turns out to be exactly reason why the debate over putting monuments, like the 10 commandments, in public places is so myopic and manipulated. The question about the 10 commandments was on the questionnaire sent out by the Christian Coalition of Washington to candidates for city council last year, and was worded in a way that showed absolutely no subtlety and allowed no nuance in response … in other words it was merely a doctrinal litmus test. But, getting religious monuments in public places is a sword of Damocles hanging over their ultimately intollerant heads while they complain of persecution.

Political surveys seem to fall in that category of thing that most resembles a catalog of indexical or symbolic links to an ideology. For example, the Christian Coalition of Washington includes, in a survey sent to candidates, the following “cultural diversity” question:

“Voluntary display of the Ten Commandments on public property? Support, Oppose, or Undecided?”

The sinister beauty of this question is beyond compare. There’s no context. There’s no subject to the verb in this sentence. In fact, it’s not a sentence at all. The nouns are general. The choices of response offer no room for thoughtful consideration. And, whether intended or not, none of the answers can be chosen. I am not undecided, except that I have an open mind to future contexts. I am opposed to some aspects of the issues, but I support others.

At a fundamental level, the question is a horrid distraction from seriously pressing issues of social inequity and injustice. At a more complex level, the question begs for an answer from the supporter of the Christian Coalition that is fantastically dangerous and self-defeating.

Historically, it has been possible for non-public entities to offer displays intended for public spaces. The distinction between whether the volunteering entity is itself a public or private entity is intentionally lost in this question.

If a society chooses to allow expressions of culture on public property, that society must be prepared for expression with which it disagrees. If a display of the Ten Commandments is given to the public by a public entity, like the Lyons Club, and allowed to be placed, then the Pastafarians are likely to follow with a display of their faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Logically, it follows that this is so and this is an unintended consequence of the answer that, I suspect, is expected. At least one double bind in this question is that it asks for a logical answer to a question based on non-logical reasoning. There are more than this one.

On reflection, it becomes clear the entire survey, which could appear to be completely straightforward, is of a similar nature.

In a section on “growth management” the survey asks another zinger.

“Eminent domain – U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, 6/23/2005? Support, Oppose, or Undecided?”

Again, a simple question that is wildly suited to trip up, and trip out, the thoughtful person.

I do believe that the government should reserve the rights of eminent domain and the ability to escheat the land for the common, greater good. This ability has been steadily chipped away, so there is a value in the Kelo decision. However, the SCOTUS decision seems to implicitly link the common, greater good to economic interests, essentially extrinsic use of property. This tends to deny the intrinsic value of property, such as the value to future generations and other needs which are balanced in a triple bottom line. I have a concurring opinion on this issue. While I tend to agree with the overall decision, I do not follow the logic or reasoning that was used to get there. However, concurrence is not an option provided. Kelo does seem to lead down a road that parallels the misuse of the 14th amendment by the courts. It is a good outcome that will come to no good.

The fact that I have spent so long unpacking these questions is, in and of itself, a victory for the framers. I have been well and truly monkey-wrenched.

These are post-modern koans. Just try to not fall into the spiral. Witness the bumper sticker on a local car:

“Pray that President Bush keeps God’s promise to Israel.”

Lewis Black’s voice echoes in my head, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”

I’m at the end, and I don’t even know where to begin. One can hardly imagine another, more concise welcoming message for those on a trip down the rabbit hole than this except, perhaps, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Update 25feb09 @ 2:01pm:

Looks like there’s some more on the issue of monuments like the donated ten commandments in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum which moves the issue more firmly into the realm of establishment clause conflicts than first amendment by making monuments in public areas actually government’s speech. I’m not sure that’s better. I’m not sure it’s worse, but it seems worse to me. The whole issue is still wonderfully complex; which is too much for some people to be bothered with thinking about, but probably still useful for shallow and knee-jerk litmus tests.

Update 25feb09 @ 2:59pm:

Somewhat randomly, or maybe guided by forces beyond my knowing, I ran across an interesting article at h2g2: “The Ritual Decalogue versus the Ethical Decalogue“.

Deja vu, all over again

With both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton maybe running, and a lot of noise about Obama, I can’t help but see the Edwards-Clinton-Obama collision as a reminder of the Edwards-Kerry-Dean collision.

If this comes to pass, I have this tickle in my brain that thinks the eventual ticket will end up being Clinton-Edwards leaving Obama forced out. Obama will be let go as the wild, radical that can’t be presidential. Edwards will again be confined to playing the slightly radical foil to the more seasoned and savvy insider. And, Clinton will get hammered from all sides for her political savvy and experience as being too much of a politician and not enough states-person.

It’s good cop, bad cop and insane cop. I remember that working really well to make drama for Hill Street Blues, back in the day, but it’s such a tired strategy of procrustean politics that constantly silences voices from the sphere of discourse. It seems so often that the intentional practical design of the political system is to silence voices. The middle radicals side with the powerful for favour and throw the fringe under the bus. It happened with the anti-federalists, and seems to keep happening again and again ever since.

I think, maybe, this is a disease of the system. Would this happen if the system were built on proportional representation and a parliamentary structure? A system that created proportional space for alternate ideas seems like something to be desired. A government which can call confidence in the executive to question when things are rotten, instead of being stuck for year and years? Wouldn’t that break the cruft loose?

Wouldn’t it also be amazing if the chief executive had a constitutional duty to respond to questions from Congress regularly? Not so much with the staged press conferences or the cooked audiences, but real and regular events when the executive had to stand up and face other representatives and explain themself. And, if they couldn’t do so, they could face a vote of no confidence.

MPAA – size queen, fashion diva, and girlfriend from hell?

Via Slashdot, BBspot – MPAA Lobbying for Home Theater Regulations, Apparently the MPAA wants to reach into your living rooms and bedrooms and regulate the size of your equipment and the arrangement of your furniture:

The MPAA defines a home theater as any home with a television larger than 29″ with stereo sound and at least two comfortable chairs, couch, or futon. Anyone with a home theater would need to pay a $50 registration fee with the MPAA or face fines up to $500,000 per movie shown.

Then, again, they want to control your social life:

“Just because you buy a DVD to watch at home doesn’t give you the right to invite friends over to watch it too.”

It’s clear that the MPAA is a girlfriend from hell. She wants to get rid of your gadgets, rearrange your pad, alienate your friends and control your entire life. You’ve got to dump her before she ruins your life permanently.

Dude, she’s insane and needs therapy.

Too bad the story is fake. The lesson here is that the MPAA must be really, really bad if people are willing to believe they would do this kind of thing for real. This kind of asshattery is not unbelievable even if it isn’t real.

This is something that I realized a long time ago about fooling people: It’s neither hard nor skillful to get people to believe believable things. That’s just telling a lie. The skill is getting people to believe things that are unbelievable. That’s funny. If the BBspot story were well written, the level of abusrdity would have increased to the point when laughter burst from the reader. But, no. The reader is left unsatisfied. Obviously, the author of the BBspot joke story isn’t very good in bed.

On the other hand, this is a good time to reflect that the voice of authority, in this case Slashdot, can be used to legitimize lies, like laundering money. Authority in an of itself cannot be a test of veracity and therein is the character flaw of the republic. To believe authority is to conflate messenger with message.

Disaster ensues when first world nations introduce democracy …

Apparently this is not just what happens in Iraq: when first world nations attempt to introduce democracy and self-rule, things get a bit crazy … with civil war sure to follow, if the pattern holds.

In The Sun Online – News: Is this end of United Kingdom?, there’s a discussion of a rise in “nationalism” (really? not regionalism or something? balkanization, perhaps? Oh, I’ve got it: sectarian!) in the UK, which could lead to 4 independent nation states. The article is a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s interesting to think about:

It [a survey] showed that more than half of Scots and three out of five English folk want the two countries to go it alone. And thousands more want breakaway governments for Wales and Northern Ireland, too.

Next, perhaps, we’ll be hearing cries of “Remember the Alamo!” and secession from the Red States? Wouldn’t that be an ironic twist to the end of empire?

Oh, hey! Not so fast we forget the “sectarian” movements on this North American continent, because the “sectarian” Quebecois are on the move again. Only, I’ve always thought it a bit disingenuous for the the Quebecois to fight for their independence while oppressing the Mohawk people and not recognizing the validity of that other independent nation.

Is it time for Ecotopia to declare borders yet?