Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ian Welsh Explains It All For You, Again

On Morals and Ethics.

At the link above, Ian Welsh covers The Basics of Ethics and Morality. Every now and then, a reminder is necessary. How we deal with the Other is often a fundamental aspect of Ourselves, and if we at least try to approach the Other on terms that would be pleasing to Ourselves were the shoe on the other foot ("Do unto others" and all that), we're probably going to be in a moral and ethical "good" space. It doesn't mean we will get our way or that we are always right or even that we will receive forgiveness for our own sins.

All it really means is that we try to live as if our lives had some meaning beyond our selfish desires and their momentary gratification.

It's not a hard concept, but it is one that many (including this author at times) need reminding of.

So, Ian has put it in as clear and concise a statement as I've seen recently. And it jars in a way because it is so out of step with the morals and ethics -- so called -- of the predators among us who sincerely believe their time has come and they are liberated to do whatever, to whomever, whenever they like. Ian's vision is like some crystal object out of an antique shop. Beautiful. Decorative. Useless.

And that is not to denounce or condemn his vision at all. In fact, in my view, he's got it right. And doing the right thing, even when it doesn't get you "something" right away, should be normal. But it's not. More and more it is marginal to the point of abnormality.

And so the Fall ensues. As Ian says:

When I hear those who believe in the greater good who want to torture other people, think prison rape is just or who like the idea of making other people crawl and beg, I know they have stared into the abyss too long. They aren’t necessarily indistinguishable from the evil they fight, but they are walking that path.

Yes, they are. They don't necessarily become the evil they believe they are fighting, but they have lost any moral or ethical compass. Further:

At the same time, an insistence on complete moral purity is a road to evil of another kind, it is the road that leads to a man like Robespierre. And a strange part of the route to this evil is a refusal to accept petty human failings (like adultery, for example). A refusal to see that a person who has once done wrong, may still do much good. A refusal to believe that those who have done evil, can be redeemed.

It's my own view that for far too long far too many Americans have limited their consideration of "morality" to other people's sex lives. This is supposedly due to the Puritans' rigid sexual codes, but I think it is more about people's innate need for -- demand for -- gossip and rumor about others and rendering judgement thereon. It's more about human nature and how human nature is shaped by social norms. Sex sells, in other words, and it sells because it is a root interest, in the DNA of the species. In American society that interest and gossip and rendering judgement became the defining measure of "morality" in the Victorian age, in a kind of nostalgia for the colonial era, especially the moral certainty of the Puritans. The Victorian era was a highly disruptive period for most Americans, and uncertainty was the ever-present rule. So to find stability, Americans adopted certain elements of "morality." Dominated by other people's sex lives. Adultery should not be a matter of other people's judgement, nor should it even be discussed in the context of "evil." But here, Ian does it, probably unconsciously, and certainly not deliberately.

Demanding "purity" in public life leads directly to Robespierre and all the many permutations thereof, though not necessarily to the guillotine; no, purges seem sufficient these days. The problem with "purity" is that no one can ever be quite pure enough. There is always someone ready to denounce rivals as impure. Go figure.

But there must be some kind of limit:

I will submit that what must not be tolerated is people who allow themselves to take pleasure in the pain or degradation of other people. What was wrong with George Bush Jr. was that he was a sadist, a man who enjoyed other people’s pain. And worse, he was not sickened by his own sadism, but embraced it, and saw it as his right.

Indeed, this should be the absolute, if there are to be any absolutes at all, and this is where our ruling class and its courtiers and retainers have utterly failed. It's not ultimately a matter of Bush's or Cheney's failures or those of any of the other moral/ethical monstrosities who have been in charge over the years. It is about the failure of post-modern governance to do anything about it. In fact, to categorically refuse to do anything about it, while fiercely punishing even the slightest transgression of the most obscure law among the Lower Orders.

So we come back to what we can control:

In this we come back to the maxim “if you aren’t good, just act good”. Character and personality are built up in part by habit. Kindness, generosity, love, are habits as much as anything else. Your mind is great at justifying whatever you do. Do evil and it will justify it, do good and it will justify that, and over time you will become a better person inside your head, inside your soul. Fake it till you make it.

Habits must be learned, and the best way to learn is through example. The problem we have today is that there are so few decent public examples, and if you don't have them in your own life, you're shit out of luck.

Which is another reason why reminders are so useful.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Momentary Change of Pace: Early Color Film Tests and Movies

Dancing Fool, 1902 -- or maybe 1903:

Berlin, 1910:

Lillian Russell, 1913:

India, 1911: [Note: since the color layers are a little off register, I bet this one will show in 3D with red-blue glasses!]

Deauville, France, 1912:

Full length Technicolor movie, featuring Ana Mae Wong, "Toll of the Sea," 1922:

"Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," sound and color, 1928:

Susana la tejana

A friend called me from California this morning to alert me to a rather glowing profile of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (R-NotQuiteBatshit) in the New York Times. I don't usually read the Times, not since the Judith Miller business back in the olden days when American institutions were in the process of collapse, so I was curious about what the Times would have to say about "Susana la tejana." [Note: the label comes from a Denish/Colon campaign ad in 2010 which claimed that Martinez was "bought and paid for" by a Texas billionaire Bob Perry. She was also born in El Paso, which, though right across the border from New Mexico, is still in Texas.]

The tack they took, that she was "undoing" former Governor Bill Richardson's (D-Corporate-crony) policies by selling off the state plane is just silly. Many, many New Mexicans were angry or disappointed with Richardson, but not because of the plane, and not necessarily because of his immigration policies.

They were disappointed or angry with him because of his Neo-Liberal economic policies which put the burden of the financial collapse on the Lower Orders and specifically refused to increase taxes on the High and the Mighty even a little bit.

Those were the kinds of policies that made New Mexicans upset with him (among others, of course), and his hand-picked replacement, Diane Denish, was simply impossible. She was corrupt, she was dumb, and she was not inclined at all to take on the Powers That Be and serve the People in any way. So what's the point of electing her instead of Susana Martinez who at least appeared to be competent? And you knew pretty much where she stood which was slightly to the right of Denish. That is, so far as you could tell where Denish stood, assuming of course that she knew.

One knew what one was getting with Martinez. One also knew that one would get pretty much the same -- at least on the larger scale -- from Denish. Toss a coin, you might as well. Tweedledee or Tweedledum. New Mexicans chose Tweedledee.

She's been bad, of course, but so would the other one have been. This is a major problem with the electoral process that I and many others point to. The choice you're offered is always between a very narrow range; they are all basically attuned to the same thing, which is probably not what you, the citizen, wants or needs.

So what do you do?

I can't vote in New Mexico yet, but if I had been able to in 2010, I doubt I would have voted for either of them, because neither of them has the least interest in my well-being or that of any other citizen.

As for Susana la tejana in office, she's done OK. She knows she can't get many of her radical policies through the legislature, so she focuses on pressing the flesh during disasters and on marginal issues like driver's licenses for undocumented residents.

She makes a decent enough case for herself, and as long as she is blocked by the legislature, she can't do too much damage. Well, we can hope.

But overturning Richardson's policies? Wouldn't that be something?

I won't hold my breath.

[More on the 2010 campaign:]

Revolt or Revolution?

Most everyone calls their own movement against the Powers That Be a "Revolution," when in fact most are revolts over some real or imagined slight. Revolts go on all the time; Revolutions are pretty darned rare, and they typically occur after a successful revolt has made what are at the time thought to be fundamental changes but which turn out to be little more than superficial window dressing.

Thus, for example, the Russian February Revolution in 1917 was -- for all the drama in and outside of Petrograd -- essentially a revolt in that it forced the abdication of the Tsar but kept most of the structure of the Tsarist regime in place, didn't take Russia out of the conflict in Europe, and did nothing at all to improve the lot of the masses.

It initially had some of the style and the energy of a Revolutionary uprising, but in the end, its victors acted to maintain the status quo, with an overlay of bourgeois democracy -- which in turn was so factionalized and fractious that nothing could be done. In July, there was a coup that put an emergency neo-Autocracy in power under the very curious rule of Alexandr Kerensky. It was as if the Tsar was back.

Then in October (November, by the Western calendar) the Bolsheviks rose up in a sudden and swift move -- a coup of their own, if you will -- that took over the government from Kerensky and his ministers and immediately began The Revolution, with the intent of getting Russia out of the War and transforming Russian society top to bottom.

The October Revolution was the beginning of the actual Revolution, and that Revolution didn't end until the Yeltsin faction fired on the Soviet Congress building in Moscow (called the "White House") in 1991, thus consolidating the Yeltsin/Neo-Liberal revolt of two years before when the Soviet Union was dissolved.

The Bolshevik Revolution was in a fight for its life from day one, and there was very little respite from invasion, civil war, famine, and struggle against its constant enemies from the moment of its founding until its final collapse under fire.

There have been other successful revolts that have turned into Revolutions (our own American Revolution included), as well as some misnamed "Revolutions" -- such as the so-called "Glorious Revolution" in Britain in 1688 -- that were essentially nothing more than adjustments among the ruling classes for primacy.

The 1848 Revolution(s) in Europe were widespread revolts that might have led to Revolution, but they failed. None of the endless uprisings in Ireland against British rule were actual Revolutions. The Indian Independence Movement, on the other hand, was as genuine a Revolution as there's ever been, as not only was the British Raj ejected, but Indian society was remade top to bottom. That's what a Revolution does. That's almost its definition.

The current Arab uprisings have been characterized as Revolutions, but the upshot of Victory (when it has come at all) has been a kind of ambiguous bourgeois rule that maintains most of the characteristics of the deposed regime; in other words, who operates the Machine of Rule changes somewhat, but the Machine is the same, and the uses to which it is put -- primarily exploiting and suppressing the masses to the benefit of an elite -- is identical. In other words, the Revolution hasn't actually come at all.

The test for Arab Revolution might be in Libya, where the forty plus year rule of the Gadhafis has been broken. Gadhafi brought a true -- and unique -- Revolution to North Africa all those many years ago. The revolt against it, at least from appearances, has yet to become a Revolution; but if it becomes one, it has all the makings of yet another Neo-Liberal imperialist adventure that forces previously faulty but functioning independent and nationalist countries into the effective rule of a globalist cabal of extractive exploiters. You can call it a Revolution because it does change many aspects of society -- usually for the worse -- but it's more like colonial/imperial imposition from the top than a true Revolution (from below, let's say.)

In the United States, a successful Revolution has been under way since the advent of Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1981. Thirty years later, much of American society has been transformed, the economy is nothing at all like the pre-1981 American economy, and American politics and government have become attenuated simulacra of popular constitutional government, and is now fully captured by a corporatist-imperialist elite. In years gone by, this state of affairs would be called Fascism, but because this Revolution is not -- yet -- totalitarian, in that it doesn't appear to focus on transforming and unifying the masses in service to the state (though appearances can deceive) the transformation that's gone on in the last 30 years has been as thoroughgoing a Revolution as anything that's taken place in this country's history (acknowledging that we have been through several similar corporatist-imperialist periods in the past). It appears to be an "organic evolution" rather than a Revolution in that most change has occurred relatively incrementally (of course there are many exceptions to that rule, such as the lawless imposition of Bushevik rule in 2000), with the clear intent of consolidating the Rightist Revolution in America once the current Boomer generation dies off.

We're seeing many signs of a generational split much deeper than previous ones in that the upcoming generation has been educated with a completely different set of facts and world-view than their parents and grandparents. Younger people not only don't know very much about the past, they don't believe much of what they are told by those who were there. They have no idea what the real motivations of the uprisings in the 1960's were about; they have only the vaguest notions of what the Civil Rights Movement aimed to accomplish -- and they have almost no understanding of what conditions were really like for minorities and women prior to the Civil Rights and Women's Liberation Movements. It's not simply that they didn't experience it themselves, it is that they are not taught.

All the Revolutionary energy in this country is and has long been among the Rightists; not surprisingly, they are successful. What passes for the "Left" seeks to preserve the status quo, and they are failing miserably.

The status quo is changing; the "left" cannot maintain it. Most have no interest in developing an alternative and positive forward vision. Instead they seem satisfied to hold on to whatever tattered remnants of the past as they can, like pitiful old aristos clinging to the few sad remains of the way things used to be in hopes that the Whites will restore the Little Father one day.

Ain't gonna happen.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Here in New Mexico

This trip has turned into an adventure already. The battery in the van suddenly died at the Winslow truck stop. Changing out the battery in the van can be a trial because of the small space and the contempt the hold down has for socket wrenches. But eventually it was done, and I was on my way again. Batteries, I've found, have an annoying tendency to give out completely, suddenly, and without any warning at all, and almost always long before their supposed expiration date. Luckily I was at a truck stop, AAA was close by, and apart from getting stuck in the middle of the parking lot, blocking egress to the giant Land Yachts that fill up there, and apart from the annoyance and expense, all was well.

It was raining heavily in New Mexico, pouring just east of the Continental Divide, with periodic squalls the rest of the way. There was a wonderful rainbow as I neared my destination -- about two hours later than I had expected to arrive. The rainbow situation around here can be extraordinary (they say, "Stay for the Sunsets," and they're often spectacular as all heck, but the rainbows are amazing.) This one was an almost 2/3rds arc, bright, double, in the east. I've seen them in the north do a complete arc several times, and often there will be brilliantly colored "spots" I call them; they aren't rainbows or even partial ones, they are just multi-colored spots against the clouds, seeming to hang there or to travel with you.

Then at night there are the stars. If the sky is clear, the night sky is lit up with multitudes of stars all the way to the horizon. The Milky Way is brilliant, it's easy to pick out globular clusters, and it can be difficult to locate constellations because there are so many additional stars and clusters and galaxies to contend with. The view through binoculars or a telescope is knockout. We went to a star party at Chaco Canyon a few years ago that made the local skies in the East Mountains seem dull and tame by comparison. Yet you see nothing like this kind of night-sky anywhere in California, even in rural areas, unless you're very high up in the Sierras, lost in the Mojave or somewhere on the backside of the mountains.

The only other place I've seen this combination of celestial phenomena was Florida, surprisingly enough, or maybe not. I think it was in Florida that I actually first saw the Milky Way on a beach one night and knew what it was. Like here, we'd sometimes go out and applaud the sunsets. And of course the cloud formations, the rain and the rainbows, and the brilliant blue of the sky all have their evocations in both Florida and New Mexico. I'm sure there are other places where the sky spectacle is as extraordinary, but these are the two I'm most familiar with!

I've posted the picture above before. It was taken along the route I travel up to Santa Fe. It's a beautiful and rather calming drive on an almost deserted highway. It is forty five minutes direct to the Plaza. With little or no other traffic to contend with until you get to the outskirts of Santa Fe itself, it seems to take no time at all. I've seen herds of pronghorn along the way, something that is not all that common in most of New Mexico (or anywhere else for that matter.)

There's much to do while I'm here. Many projects got sidelined when I was here in June because of the heat -- much hotter than is usual in the area, at least in my experience. Forecast says not so hot while I am here this time (not much over 90) but there will be thundershowers. There's been some rain here, obviously, but not as much as I expected, and things are still pretty dry. It's not as bad as Texas, but this part of NM is still in drought.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

On the Road Again

I-40 heading into Milan, NM. Mt. Taylor in the distance

I'll be traveling the rest of the day today and tomorrow. Light posting possible while in New Mexico, topics bound to be somewhat... erm... different!

So let me leave you today with a few sage words from Bruce A. Dixon, Managing Editor of the Black Agenda Report:

Two and half years into the Obama presidency, some of us spend more time mooning over pretty pictures of the First Family, their beautiful kids and regal mother-in-law than we spend publicly worrying over the fates of millions of families, children and elders we personally know. Why are some of us still trying to “save” the Obama administration. When will it be time to save ourselves from endless war, climate change, joblessness and the other ravages of late predatory capitalism?

Read the rest here:

It's well worth your time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Update: Still in Limbo, the CDP and the CDPPC

More sleuthing around has produced some interesting though not conclusive information regarding the flap in the California Democratic Party over their uppity Progressive Caucus and the resolution to explore primarying Obama.

I'm not necessarily a quick study about these things -- I chose to step back, way back, from party politics after Howard Dean was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee -- but I do try to study enough to keep up appearances.

I learned some things just the other day, and some today as well, regarding the Players in this psycho-drama. Such as the fact that David Atkins is not just sub-chair of the Ventura County Democratic Central Committee -- which everyone knows -- but he is also a member of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, AND he is a member of the executive board of said Party and he has therefore been involved in this brou-ha-hah from the get go. And he doesn't want to talk about it and he doesn't want anybody else to talk about it, either. Rather, he claims that the resolution passed by the CDPPC was "stupid," there's no point in even mentioning primarying Obama, and he believes the Progressive Caucus will be recertified by the executive board in November, despite their stupidity.

This comes from an exchange he had with Seneca Doane over at dKos on Monday. I read SD's lengthy post about the matter, but I didn't look at the comments, so I missed the exchange until recently.

It went something like this:

Seneca: Feel free to take issue with me as strongly as you'd like; that's politics. But don't even try to silence me; I can write this sort of diary as many times as I think I need to. Dissent will be heard. Some of you may not get it, but victory depends on it.

Spoon:the prog caucus will almost certainly
be recertified. Tabling the recertification prevented a floor fight at this latest e-board meeting until cooler heads could prevail.

Spoon:you have to understand--this was a room

of 200 people when this came up. The leader of the African-American Caucus--who happens to have run for state senate in a district that is partly in my county where I'm 1st vice chair and state e-board rep--made a motion to decertify. Given the sentiments in the room, that motion might just have passed.

I'm a member of the Progressive Caucus, though I wasn't present for the vote on the resolution in question.

But keep in mind that a big portion of the base, especially the African-American base, has great love for the President and takes strong offense at these kinds of maneuvers.

By tabling the motion, CA dem leaders probably saved the caucus from decertification until peace could be made.

Seneca: What consequences has the leader of that caucus

(whom I've taken pains not to identify, but let's presume you're right) faced for that action? (Let's not count whatever I've stirred up with this diary out in cyberspace.) So far as I know: none. The attempt to chill speech has, so far, worked.

Whatever the sentiment in that room, the responsibility of the voting members of the E-Board was to stand up to them, right then, right there. I understand why party leaders negotiated a delay in the vote. But let's not pretend that that was primarily to the benefit of the Progressive Caucus; it was to the benefit of the Party. Karen Bernal should be thanked by the Party for accepting some humiliation on the part of the Progressive Caucus to save the Party from doing something extremely foolish. Frankly, in her place, I might well have taken the decertification and the headlines, because what happened was outrageous.

Had the E-Board gone ahead and decertified under pressure, they would have had to spend the subsequent three months cleaning egg off of their face -- rather than this diary being the first that most people here had heard about it -- and the Progressive Caucus would have been recertified in November anyway.

With great and deserved respect to the African-American base of the party, they are simply not entitled to shout down a primary challenge, period.

Seneca: As I state in the diary, I am not in the [Progressive] Caucus

and I didn't discuss this diary with anyone representing it.

To me, the damage is done. It's not about the Progressive Caucus gaining recertification, it's about E-Board members not realizing that they should not have allowed this shot along the Caucus's bow to be so successful to begin with.

I've spoken to small groups about my own take on "how to primary Obama in the least damaging way possible," as well as posting here, but it's not an idea that belongs to any organization at this point. I will continue to push it though, largely because if we don't have this sort of challenge I think we'll see a worse one.

Spoon: if the motion had gone to the floor it

might have passed. and if it hadn't passed, you'd have almost half the e-board going home furious.

Tabling was the right thing to do.

Seneca: And half the E-Board going home furious

at being stymied in their effort to suppress any hint of dissent is a bad thing why?

Spoon: because it would be an official

sign of disrespect to the Democratic President and the first african-american president. it's important not to get too caught up in the obama wars and take a broader perspective sometimes.

Seneca: So tell me this:

Would someone actually running against Obama in 2012 be -- or let's say "have been" -- a "sign of disrespect to the Democratic President"? Is his being African-American the thing that protects him from facing the sort of challenge that Johnson and Humphrey did, or Carter? What's the reasoning here?

Tell me further: if some serious candidate had run against Obama, would it be the responsibility of the CDP E-Board, out of "respect to the Democratic President and the first African-American President," to do what it could to hamper such a challenge? What is your current position on intra-party dissent?

If you'd prefer to take this discussion to e-mail -- and I would, were I you -- you know how to reach me.

Spoon: i'm am e-board member and prog caucus

member. i was there. you can just ask me.

Just Bob: Have you put up a diary?

Or would you rather elaborate here?

Spoon: no, i really don't want to give it

more attention. the prog caucus shouldn't have made the resolution. a primary challenge is a dumb idea, always has been.

they should have known a move to decertify would follow.

when it did, the cdp e-board did the right thing to have everyone chill out rather than risk a close vote that would likely have decertified the caucus. the votes were there to do it.

Nada Lemming: Well it HAS more attention now.

And I find it refreshing that you admit you stand on the side of blind allegiance to power. Well played, sir.

"Blind cheerleading of the president will create jobs and get him to stop droning on and on about deficits no one cares about to the point that his numbers have tanked among independents?" -kos

Just Bob: Thank you for your reply, but

I can't say I'm not disappointed in your position and the Democrat Party of California.

One of the few remaining reasons I'm still a Democrat is that Florida has closed primaries and I want to vote for a progressive Democratic candidate.

Seneca: I didn't know that you were E-Board

I thought that your brother was. Please do weigh in further if you wish.

Spoon: i was elected as the male ventura rep

several months ago.

This is admittedly a somewhat truncated exchange and it may be difficult to follow, but you can read the whole thing at the link. What we find here is interesting. Seneca Doane, who is a CDP Central Committee member but not a member of the Progressive Caucus, nor a member of the executive board, takes issue with the decision of the executive board to table the issue of whether to renew the certification of the Progressive Caucus. Spoon, who is a member of both the Progressive Caucus and the executive board (something Seneca didn't know, neither did I) agrees with the suspension of action on decertification until "cooler heads" prevail.

Meanwhile Karen Bernal is continuing to give interviews about this, and more and more people are expressing just how fed up they are with the continuing Hooverite policies of the White House -- not to mention the continuation of the Bush foreign and domestic "security" policies -- and nobody is planning to shut up about it. Even though it appears that Spoon and/or Digby have no intention of writing about it at Hullabaloo, and have been using their ban-hammers to ensure that there is no mention of it in comments. (Along with all the other unmentionables...)

Meanwhile, Karen Bernal was interviewed by the Black Agenda Report, and I'm posting a link to the whole radio broadcast because there is mention of the confrontation between Maxine Waters and a loud and very very unhappy-with-Obama largely black audience, and Karen points out in her interview that the African-American Caucus objection to the Progressive Caucus recertification was not all it's been cracked up to be, and that the DNC has had something to do with what's going on.

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of August 22, 2011

This may all seem like Inside Baseball internal Democratic Party squabbling, but I think it is really important for the future of the Party and for the country.

Realistically, Obama is in the political fight of his life. His approval is tanking, and more and more Progressive Dems (regardless of color) are speaking up and speaking out about how barely distinguishable he is from a Republican in the White House, and how they are fed up with being dissed and kicked around by the White House and the DNC. While I don't really think the California Democratic Party is going to split over this matter, it's a matter of consciousness raising and standing up for yourself and your values in the face of what appear to be anti-democratic forces in the Party itself, led by Team Obama.

What do you do under those circumstances? If you are a stalwart Dem (called a Yellow Dog) you've either got to continue fighting from within -- and making a stink about it -- or give up and go somewhere else.

Karen and the Progressive Caucus are fighting from within, where supposedly Progressives need to be if they are to take over the Party and win. I've argued that Progressives not only took over the Party and won, they revived it from the dead, and the thanks they got was a kick in the nuts and a boot out the door.

Seneca seems to understand at least the outlines of that story -- and certainly sees it happening in the case of the Progressive Caucus certification struggle; regardless of whether they are eventually recertified, they have been told in no uncertain way that they are not appreciated. There will be blowback.

But David acts like he either has no idea of any of this, or if he does have an idea about it, he doesn't want to talk about it and he doesn't want anybody else to either. It is not a matter for public scrutiny.

I think it is. Enough is enough. Of course given my current immersion in the Russian Revolutionary period, I may be a bit biased!

[PS: unlike some of the players in this psycho drama, I have been in touch with Karen Bernal regarding this issue.]

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Teatr Project

I've been working on a project dealing with Socialist Revolutionary Theater in the first couple of decades of the Soviet Union and its ultimate influence on theater in the West and the research is fascinating and daunting. Over the years, I have collected quite a lot of material on Russian and Soviet theater, but unfortunately it's not cataloged and currently it's all boxed up, so I've relied more on internet resources and what faulty memories I have of projects I was involved in long ago. There is so much. So much of it is in Russian!

Well, I studied Russian briefly on my own when I was in college, never took a course, but I did become more or less familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet and could muddle through a few halting phrases. Now I have to read it, and that's proving to be something of a challenge, though not a hopeless one, and I need to understand spoken Russian much better than I ever did before in order to fathom out some of the un-subtitled film clips I've been looking at. Not too long ago, I picked up some of the language again while interviewing immigrants from the former Soviet Union and I learned a great deal about their experiences -- though of course I had a translator with me, so it wasn't like I was carrying on a conversation in their own language. I couldn't possibly.

With this project, though, I don't have a translator, so it's taking some time, but, Oh My, what I've been learning.

Although I was a theater professional for many years, my interest was always in the art form itself and the practical means of realizing the artistic vision, whatever it might be. I spent far more time analyzing the Greeks and Shakespeare trying to absorb how -- and to some extent why -- they did what they did and how to translate that analysis to the stage today, especially when the play being done wasn't ancient Greek or Shakespeare. The Greeks and Shakespeare are the foundations for contemporary English-speaking theater, even though the work itself may be based in or derived from a very different tradition. What those plays were like to the audience originally is still what we are trying to accomplish today, and part of the problem I've found with productions of the Greeks and Shakespeare is that the approach is all but backwards. All to often, the approach is to try to impose something on the work rather than draw out the depth of what's already there.

One of the most profound works I ever encountered was the "Prometheus Bound" of Aeschylus, very short, extraordinarily powerful, soaring and painful and wonder-struck in every imaginable way, and I pondered it for what seemed like half a year or more trying to fathom what it must have been like for audiences in Athens 2,500 years ago and how any of that spirit could be found or recovered today.

There is no way to deal with a play like the "Prometheus Bound" in realistic terms. It is not a realistic drama. It is a tragedy, one of the purest that's been handed down to us. It is towering mythology, both horrifying and uplifting at the same time. There is no method nor any psychological analysis you can do that will make "sense" of the play, because it isn't a play to be made sense of. It is a play to feel, to touch and experience the deepest emotions you may have -- and to survive it.

Over time, I could draw on a lot of complementary performing arts experience, not merely (oh, well!) the Theater in the conventional sense, but all kinds of street performance, circus, spectacle and pageant, movies, and so forth. And still I pondered the Greeks.

I would ponder the Greeks even when the production was Chekhov or Brecht or O'Neill or (god save me... ) Irving Berlin.

All this is a round about way of getting into the question of Socialist Revolutionary Theater in the newly hatched Soviet Union.

The forms utilized in the early Soviet attempts to create a truly Proletarian Theater weren't entirely new, nor in many cases were the creative people involved, but the way they were combined and recombined and utilized, and the frankly social and political purposes for which they were used was something new, and often the visualizations were entirely new. (On the other hand, sometimes they were recycled.)

But what is striking to me right now is that so much energy and effort was put into reaching as deeply as possible into the emotional core of the People, drawing them in and holding them "bound" if you will, bringing them into the performance, and in many cases having them create -- and live -- the performance themselves from beginning to end. The point is to create a true People's Theater, not impose an idea of Theatre upon them.

Somehow this seems very Greek -- or very Shakespearean -- to me, for at least in part, it is how they did it. The production, the performance was an organic whole from within the community, not something imposed upon it from without.

While there were trusted regulars, there were no "professionals." And so it would be -- or at least it would try to be -- in the Soviet Union.

Outside of an academic context, there's little of what they were doing -- such as their plays and their pageants -- that we are exposed to these days, but in the 1920's and 1930's the influence of Soviet experimental theater was profound in the West, and the deeper nature of what they were trying to get at is to be found in all sorts of places and performances. The Soviet experiments in Revolutionary Theater haven't gone away. They've burrowed deep.

So. This project is taking time because I'm once again trying to burrow deep into an art form I haven't practiced for fifteen years, and I'm trying to do it in a language I can barely comprehend -- sometimes. The strangest thing is that I've got this silly grin on my face so much of the time while I'm working on it.

An animated version of "Prometheus Bound":

Prometheus Bound from Manatee Idol on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Banned At Digby's!!!

Well, this one sure goes in the Blogospheric Quirks file.

Around or about August 11 but beginning earlier, it appears that dozens, ifnothundreds, of commenters at Digby's Place were banned -- without even so much as a "have an apple." To this day, many of them may not be aware of what happened, nor would they necessarily be able to find out. While complaints have been raised from time to time about "disappearing comments" at Digby's, the excuse has always been that "there's something not working right with Echo/Halsocan, oops." But when David Atkins ("thereisnospoon") was brought on as co-blogger there, all hell broke loose. Dozens, ifnothundreds, of David's non-fans from Daily Kos migrated over to Digby's and blasted away in her comments at what a damfool David was, and a tool besides. A tool worse, if that were possible, than the heavily blog-scarred head of Ezra Klein. But I digress.

First, a little history. Digby and I go back a long way in blogtopia (h/t Skippy the Bush Kangaroo), I like to think back to the days of the Clinton Impeachment (good times!) but maybe not that far. I first remember meeting up with her in comments at the Bartcop forum, around the same time as Duncan Black, aka "Atrios", started posting there. Bartcop's forum archives only go back to 2002 which is when they switched over to different forum software, so I'm not sure exactly when I started posting at Bartcop (under a different user name than the one I mostly use now), but it was probably well before the 2000 election because I remember posting pictures I took of the Rightist demonstrations to end the recount. Gun-toting Rightist demonstrators, no less. The TeaBag hostile attitudinalism if they don't get their way IMMEDIATELY goes back at least that far (and Hate Radio jocks and right wing lobbyists were in the vanguard then, just like they are now.)

So anyway, that's where I first remember encountering Digby and I always enjoyed her posts. Whether she even noticed mine, I have no idea, though we seemed to be engaging in forum conversation periodically. When she opened her own blogshop in January of 2003, it was all very exciting. Atrios had just won the 2002 Koufax Award for Best Blog Writing at his own Eschaton, and Digby herself (though at the time most assumed she was a he) had won the Koufax for Best Commentator of 2002. Yess. She would later pick up a couple of other Koufaxes for Best Blog Writing herself in 2004 and 2005.

Things got kind of tense for me at Bartcop during the 2004 election because I was working on the Howard Dean campaign (volunteer) and getting more and more heavily involved in Progressive Democratic politics in California -- and the Bartcop crew wasn't all that thrilled by my posts about it. It caused some friction, to say the least, especially with partisans for Kerry and Clark. Eventually there was a kind of purge from the ranks of Bartcoppers, most of it voluntary by people who didn't want to deal with the hostility either from other posters or the management any more. Apparently some posters were unceremoniously booted as well. I migrated away from Bartcop in 2006, to another site that had been established by exiles from the Bartcop Forum -- where I occasionally post to this day (as long as I don't lose the bookmark!)

Once she had her place up and running, Digby didn't post at other places any more. Why should she? She had quite a following of her own by then.

Meanwhile, I'd been posting at Daily Kos almost since its inception and I also posted at Salon's Table Talk; I had tried to start a couple of blogs of my own during that period, but did not have the time or energy to stick with them. I think the first was in 2000. I tried another sometime in 2002. This one is the third attempt, started in 2007 when I finally made some time for it.

But I've long been a commenter at other places as well, including Digby's where I've been both a strong supporter and a sometimes scold. I've been particularly strenuous with her about her obsession with Chris Matthews (who cares what an idiot he is?), and with what I regard as the inappropriateness of her "Village" metaphor for the Palace culture and its courtiers in DC. But that aside, I think she's a good writer, a sensitive and genuine liberal (one of the few A list bloggers who is a genuine liberal), and an insightful observer of the haps.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered last week that all the brilliant posts I'd made in comments at her place after August 11 were... gone. Vanished. As if they had never been. Whut? I was not logged in to Echo when I made this discovery, but as soon as I did log in under my Blogger ID, behold, all my brilliant posts re-appeared as if by magic. How bizarre. Obviously they hadn't been deleted, so those who had been accusing David and Digby of "censorship" must have been wrong. But how could the comments not be there when I wasn't logged in to Blogger and suddenly reappear when I did log in? Mystery. I emailed Digby about it and what my theory was at the time, giving her credit for not deleting posts (no matter what her accusers were saying) because I could see all of mine so long as I was logged in to Blogger.

But then something strange happened. If I posted without logging in, I could see that post until I did log in and then it would disappear -- and not be retrievable. No one at all was responding to any of my posts, which wasn't all that odd in general, but it did seem a little strange even direct questions to people I'd chatted with in comments at her place got no reply. Also the number of commenters radically declined, and many of the regulars were simply gone, along with essentially all of the Spoon-haters from dKos.

Hm. Very interesting.

Something was going on, but I couldn't honestly say what. I know that I posted the story of the California Democratic Party's attempt to purge its Progressive Caucus repeatedly, and asked David specifically about it, but not only did he not respond, no one did. It would seem to me it's a fairly important story. Especially where anti-Obama/anti-Democratic Party people like to hang out (a fair description of Digby's comment section under any circumstances, even now with far reduced numbers.) I even emailed Digby about the story together with contact information for Karen Bernal. She did reply to that one with at least the suggestion of interest in "running with it." But she's written nothing about it, neither has David, and so far as I know, neither of them have contacted Karen or the Dem Party Headquarters for comment.

At least over there, it looks like the story of the Progressive Purge of the California Democratic Party went right into the memory hole.

Today I did a little sleuthing and made a discovery. My goodness, I do believe my IP has been banned from Echo comments at Digby's! I do declare!

I can post all I want, logged in or not, and all of those posts will appear on the computer on which I have made them, but not on any other -- unless I am logged in to Echo with the same ID I used when I posted the original comment. I did several tests with other computers in the house to see just what would happen. If I log on to Echo with my Blogger ID, apparently on any computer, the posts I have made under that ID will -- magically! -- show up, but they are gone again the instant I log off and clear cache. If I am not logged in at all, and cache has been cleared, none of my posts (after August 11) will appear on any computer. If I log in with a different ID, such as my Twitter account, once again I can post at will, but none of my other posts will be visible if I've cleared cache in between log ins.

So. I've been banned. By Digby of all people.

Clearly the advent of David Atkins over there has had something to do with it. I am not a Spoon-hater, though I might challenge some of his premises sometime. Those who went after him hammer and tong seemed to be carrying a lot of baggage from dealing with his posts at dKos, and the truth is, I read very few of them and never got too hot or bothered by what I read in them. Mostly it's very conventional Democratic Party partisanship, and that's fine as far as I'm concerned. The only time I really get exercised by something someone has posted (whether or not I agree with it) is when they become really hostile and unfairly hostile with others -- such as the way Armando and some others behaved at dKos a couple of years ago. It's the internet, people. But there are (usually) real people behind the screen names, and going apeshit on somebody just because you can and think you can get away with it because it is the internet is like sucker punching a blind person, and I will come down on that kind of shit.

But otherwise, it's conversation, conversation that can sometimes become heated argument. Argument is one thing but there's no reason to be offensive or cruel or unfairly hostile to those you are dealing with online. Ultimately you can't win whatever it is you think you MUST that way, and it reflects badly -- very badly -- on you. So I don't engage in it (at least I hope I don't) and if I am around people online who do it on a regular basis I will typically either intervene, or just let the place go. I don't need that kind of poison in my life. No one does.

Nevertheless! I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!!!

As if there wasn't anything more important in the whole wide world. Priorities!

Стачка! (Strike!)

Eisenstein's 1925 classic Стачка (Strike), is an early Soviet film, telling the story of a failed worker's strike in some other era -- not long before the Revolution, obviously -- and how, at least in this case, the owners and mangers won. "помни пролетарии!" ("Remember, Proletarians!") is the final title card of the picture. Not, of course, "remember your ineffectiveness." Remember why you fight and why you must win.

The style is pure Meyerhold physical theater -- some would say overly physical, overly broad -- but for the time and for the intent of the movie, it works surprisingly well. Compare and contrast with "Salt of the Earth" (1954), which tells essentially the same story, only transferred to the American Southwest and stylistically restrained and grounded in realism. [And with a somewhat different ending.]

While I like both movies very much, "Strike" seems quite a bit fresher than its more recent cousin partly due to the fact that the kind of physical acting that Meyerhold proposed and Eisenstein utilized brilliantly (along with superb design elements that follow from Meyerhold's artistic composition notions) are almost new again, they are so rarely seen any more in serious film or stage work.

Of course, "Strike" is proletarian propaganda, and yet for all its seeming excess, it feels very true; this is what workers were up against then, it's how the courageous responded, and it's what often happened to them for their trouble. The shooting down of striking workers was as common in the United States as it was in Russia, if not more so; the use of provocateurs to cause destruction and distraction that the strikers can then be blamed for was taken for granted, much as the presence of provocateurs within nearly all "leftist" protest demonstrations is assumed these days.

Shooting down striking workers -- when workers strike at all in this country -- is not so common these days as it once was, thanks be. Nowadays, The Powers That Be realize that all they really have to do is bully the strikers on the one hand, ignore their demands on the other, and bring in scabs. Management and capital assume that labor has no power any more and can be dealt with contemptuously at best. Labor, for its part, plays along -- as in the recently ended Verizon strike. While not a complete capitulation, the fact is that the strikers won nothing except to not be fired immediately. Which, these days, is a Victory! by definition.

The message of "Strike" and of "Salt of the Earth" is persistence, no matter what "they" do. Persistence is the necessary missing element from so much of the American resistance to the imposition of Neo-Liberal/Neo-Conservative policies for the last 20 years, but the necessity of persistence -- and demand -- has become more widely recognized than ever as we witness the persistent protests around the world.

Trouble is that now that some of these resistance/revolt/revolutionary actions have succeeded, there is no coherent replacement for the Ancien Régimes being overthrown. There is a governing vacuum, which ironically is filled at least temporarily even harsher Neo-Liberal extractive regimes.

It's a wonder anyone carries on at all.

In light of that missing element, any coherent way forward if revolt and revolution is successful, I'm posting a link to A People's Constitution wiki page in hopes that some (more) of my readers may have some thoughts and insights to add over there.
Change of pace:
Big Sur, CA, 1969: Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Sebastian, and Joni Mitchell. "Get Together" (It was cold and windy day -- though I don't actually remember being there... so there is no mistake, the video is not mine.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The BART Protests Continue

And thank doG they do.

This video of last week's confrontation during which Melyssa Jo Kelly, who was at the Civic Center Station when Charles Hill was shot dead on the platform by a BART Cop is riveting and wrenching.

"There is something deeply wrong and deeply sick inside of the BART Police Department..."

Isn't that the truth, though. This is the kind of confrontation with Authority that, if persisted in, will in fact have a profound influence on the course of events. Persistence is the key. Right now, the Authorities are counting on the protests not persisting. Recent history shows they won't.

But that's what they were counting on in Cairo, in Madison, and in Columbus too. This is a year of Revolt, which is very likely to turn into an era of Revolution.

Watch the faces of the BART cops. Some of them, not all, are feeling intense guilt and shame as Melyssa Jo Kelly harangues them. She's like their mom, chewing them out.

And she's right.

UPDATE: Apparently the Wednesday BART board meeting I mentioned in comments happened in the morning rather than the evening, it was sparsely attended, and the only agenda item addressed by the public was the cell-phone disabling issue -- which the Board has, in its wisdom, agreed to reconsider and develop standards and policies as suggested by the public, ie: to limit cell-phone restriction of access to true emergency situations rather than to interfere with public protest.

Meanwhile, the protests (of the killings) are slated to continue. Counter-protests are also on tap.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Additional Thoughts on Storming the Winter Palace

Galina Alexandrovna Zubchenko, Storming of the Winter Palace

As we've been hearing lately, Tripoli has fallen to the Libyan rebels, suddenly, unexpectedly, and joyous throngs filled Green -- now to be renamed "Martyr's" -- Square in the center of the city. The surviving sons of The Devil Gadhafi have been 'detained' as they say and the hunt for the Old Devil is on. Has he escaped the country? Did he commit suicide? Has he been captured by one of the rebel factions? Where is he?

Of course the stories and the scenes remind us all of the astonishing events across North Africa and in the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula. During the past year, one Arab dictator after another has been toppled by some force of People's Will that no one can quite fathom, but inspiration has been reverberating around the world.

Even the most bone stupid of Our Overlords seem to realize that not only is there something happening here, but it's spreading, and more and more it's becoming apparent that this global liberationist movement is driven by rebellion against the Haves Who Demand and Take More from those who have little. Or nothing.

Yes, of course it is a classic class struggle, involving what passes for the bourgeoisie demanding respect and justice from and for their Betters. The Aristos are being beaten back everywhere by their own retainers in many cases. And what of the struggling masses? They join in struggle against the High and the Mighty, but wisely, they take nothing for granted. A rebellion may succeed, but has a Revolution really taken place? We await developments.

And of course all of this tumult evokes the extraordinary events of November 7-8, 1917, in Petrograd, Russia. The Tsar's regime had already fallen in February, but the replacement Republic and later Provisional government was little more than an empty shell, a Potemkin government, if you will. Worse, it continued Russia's bloody and destructive involvement in WWI, fighting the Germans on the West.

During the days leading up to the October Revolution (November, by the Western calendar), the Bolsheviks had taken control of most of the ministries and communications in Petrograd which left what remained of the Provisional Government, headed by Alexander Kerensky, holed up in the Winter Palace trying to figure out what to do now.

The Winter Palace was the symbol of Russian rule, and whoever held it was by definition the Ruling Party of the Russian Empire, or Republic, or... soon to be Soviet Union.

The Bolsheviks, along with rest of the Congress of Soviets were meeting at the Smolny Institute a few miles away from the Winter Palace down the Neva River. Through strategy and oratory, they gained the upper hand over the Provisionals in a more or less democratic process and declared the Provisional Government defunct. This is a copy of the very famous proclamation issued October 25 (November 7) by the Bolsheviks:

The Storming of the Winter Palace would occur shortly, just as soon as a fleet of vehicles could rush from the Smolny to the Winter Palace Square, the vast open space in front of the Palace entered through the Red Arch and centered on the Alexander Column.

[The red building in the background is the Winter Palace (aka The Hermitage). It was painted a dusky red at the time of the Revolution. Now it is painted green and white with gold accents. Pretty!]

On the third anniversary of the Storming of the Winter Palace (November 7, 1920), there was a grand pageant, a historical re-enactment and an allegory of the Birth of the Soviet Union in Palace Square, the sight of the Storming, involving some 8,000 performers (far more than actually took part in the original struggle), some of whom had been there when the Storming took place. The pageant that went on for hours, was witnessed by some 100,000 comrades who apparently found it pleasing. So pleasing was the re-enactment considered to be that it served as the basis for Sergei Eisenstein's brilliant 1927 film, Октябрь «Десять дней, которые потрясли мир» (October, Ten Days That Shook the World), excerpts of which I have posted on this blog. Oh look, here's one now:

The funny thing about this breathless RT retelling of the events is that even though the presenter tries to correct some of the record by pointing out that only about fifty armed Bolsheviki actually did the Storming, the dramatic movie version is presented and strangely, at least according to my understanding of the sequence of events on the night of the Storming, he then seems to say that the Congress meeting at the Smolny that solidified the Bolshevik Revolution took place after the Storming when as far as I can tell from the eyewitness accounts I've read, the Congress meeting at the Smolny was still going on as the Storming got underway and continued...

And continued... and continued... (one thing about the Bolsheviks, they loved to talk!)

John Reed's account in "Ten Days That Shook the World" is really quite riveting. He was there, after all, racing back and forth between the Winter Palace and the Smolny Institute, having dinner at the Hotel France, listening to the gunfire, trudging through the cold, dark streets of Petersburg among the Revolutionaries, yet watching life go on as normal (well, as normal as those things could be in 1917 Russia) only a few blocks away.

An excerpt: [You may embiggen the pages with mouse clickage]

From: "Ten Days That Shook The World" by John Reed, 1919

And that was that. Plus ça change, eh?

Revolts can go on almost endlessly, but Revolutions seem to come upon the scene suddenly. Imperial Russia went through numberless revolts during the 19th Century and into the 20th, most of which were called Revolutions, though only the Soviet/Bolsheviks actually succeeded in Revolution as opposed to just one more revolt. Even the Neo-Liberal Counter Revolution that presided over the break-up and extinguishment of the Soviet Union was more akin to a revolt rather than a Revolution in that it wasn't trying to create something new, it was only interested in reviving what had long passed away. While there isn't a whole lot of nostalgia in the former Soviet Union for the days of the Commisars, neither is there much glee at the results of from sliding so far backwards into some warped vision of what the Autocracy might have been had the Bolsheviks not succeeded in 1917.

The stories will long be told of what happened that fateful November, just as the stories of the Revolutionary fervor happening now will never die.

The question always is, "What do you get for your Revolution?"

There is yet to be a full answer.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Defining terms is a nice thing to do when utilizing labels as shorthand for points of view, philosophies, ideologies, and the ways and means of getting things done.

The term "progressive" has been bandied about kind of willy-nilly -- and more and more incoherently -- on the internet as both a term of endearment as a denunciation as well as a means of identifying like-minded travelers on the pathways of life. It's used as a dreaded "tribal" marker.

Years ago, I started a series of essays on the Progressive Movement fully intending to get from its origin in the Republican Party to its present day locus largely within the Democratic Party as an answer to a former brand of Republican Conservatism, but I had to stop about midway because I really couldn't get from there to here. What passes for "progressive" today doesn't have much to do with any political philosophy or ideology, nor is it an operating system for government, nor does it have much to do with progress in a general or abstract sense.

Progressives and Progressivism are still around, of course, but many of those who claim to be "progressive" on the internet either know nothing about what Progressivism is or has been in this country, or they don't care, because they are now declaring themselves to be the "progressives" and whatever their particular desire might be is what "progressive" is.

Most of these people, as I've said many times, are some variety of Libertarian, which is not even remotely a Progressive political philosophy. Libertarians who try to mask their political interest and point of view by claiming rights to some other philosophy or point of view, such as those who claim to be liberals or progressives are what I call "faux-gressives."

False "progressives", in other words. They are trying to con liberals and progressives into buying their Libertarian snake-oil, and when they are exposed -- as they often are -- they screech and scream like naughty children who have been caught pulling the wings off flies.

But now I'm seeing the term "fauxgressive" used to describe any Democrat (who claims to be "progressive") who disagrees with the White House. Thus, in a form of ju-jitsu, the White House is trying to re-claim "progressive" for itself and its policies and deny it to all the others who claim to be "progressive," even the genuine ones.

In my view, the Democratic Party has long been the Conservative Party in the United States, not a Progressive Party or a Liberal Party. It is Conservative because it is primarily concerned with maintaining the status quo and with stability. The Republican Party is both Rightist and Radical, primarily concerned with forcing a very reluctant nation into a kind of twisted up modern version of a highly predatory past of depredation, exploitation, imperialism, and constant war -- in other words, instability and overthrow of the status quo -- whatever it may be, it doesn't matter, because the Republican Party has become akin to an Institutional Revolutionary Party constantly seeking to overthrow or overturn just about anything the Institutional Stability Party values.

Internet "progressives" find themselves left out of this uber-contest that goes on constantly way above us. With the White House claiming the "progressive" mantle, thus in effect denying it to others, the term seems to have little meaning at all.

A case could be made, I suppose, that the White House and its operatives and fans are re-claiming more of the original meaning of Progressive, which was a highly process oriented yet authoritarian way of doing things. It was highly organized and directed, too, and I don't see that from the White House at all. They seem to have no real direction of their own. They appear to be the pawns of other interests... the dreaded corporate sector.

Who are the Real Progressives? From my point of view, they are mostly the government drones and institutional operatives who do the real scut work to keep the system going at all. There are seemingly fewer and fewer of them all the time, inside the belly of the beast, if you will. They have largely been replaced by... well, con artists, whose primary belief system is based on falsifying facts to market fraud. They are everywhere in government, its bureaucracy and in institutions today, and they are simply overwhelming remaining Progressives inside the system.

Real Progressivism is a way of doing things, an approach, intended to yield positive material and social results -- ie: "progress", which over time is supposed to improve the lives of everyone. It is a way that relies on extensive regulation and control with an almost Puritan rejection of uncontrolled impulse. It is a way that relies heavily on the advice and often the rule of experts, on research, and on experiment.

It was at one time imperialist and racist to the core. (And that's part of how it has become conflated in the minds of some Rightists with Fascism and Nazi-ism.)

Eugenics and Social Darwinism were at one time accepted "Progressive" scientific points of view.

That's the Progressivism I grew up with and my parents came of age believing in. It was not necessarily socially "pretty," but it was a highly successful means of material progress for the many. It's hard to overestimate the material progress made during the 20th Century under Progressive leadership and ideals. But at the same time, there was a tremendous amount of destruction at home and abroad, some of which was corrected (such as through the agencies of soil conservation and pollution controls) and some of which ended in cataclysm (WWI. WWII. The various other wars of the era, etc.)

Those outside the White House who claim the Progressive mantle today seem to want specific items on a fairly extensive menu of Things That Ought To Be, but in many cases their desires and their heroes look kind of whack from a distance. WikiLeaks style doc dumps and Bradley Manning style security breeches do not a stable governmental operation make. Someone like Russ Feingold, who speechifies real pretty but doesn't actually do anything for better or worse hardly seems like the kind of hero to follow. Ron Paul should not even be remotely considered in a Progressive pantheon. Please.

Real Progressivism is neither "left" nor "right" on the political measuring rod. It was at one time considered strictly non-partisan though its advocacy started within the Republican Party and only shifted over to the Democratic Party during the FDR period (and many old line Progressives stayed with the Republicans up to the era of Reagan.)

I tend to be far more "leftist" in my point of view than most Progressives these days, or historically for that matter. So it is with many who claim a "progressive" tribal affiliation, but many more who do so have no "leftist" sentiment or cred at all. To confuse actual Progressivism with "Leftism" is a fundamental category fault in my view. Progressivism is an operating system, a way of doing things, not a political ideology.

But as the political sector deteriorates and reconceives itself to serve the New American Imperial State, concepts of "left" and "right" have almost as little relevance as accurate descriptions and definitions. Post-modernism rules.

It is what you think it is.

Some recent uses of "fauxgressive:" [Courtesy of Teh Google Machine]

  • Naked Capitalism

  • Death by Trolley

  • The People's View

  • Roxie's World

    And so on...

  • Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Will Obama Pull an LBJ?

    I've mentioned here and there in comments around the web and have alluded in posts here that Barack Obama has never shown himself to be all that interested in being elected and I've suggested that as a consequence of the Debt Crisis Crisis Deal, his reign is essentially done.

    He seems to be out of ideas, and if you watch and listen to him on the stump in the Midwest, he really is not into it at all. He has little to say, and what he does say is not very reassuring, to say the least. There is little "hope" in his eye.

    I was talking to a friend, a black friend, a few minutes ago, and he said that he's been hearing from all kinds of people that Obama doesn't have a chance next year, and that we'd better be prepared for President Perry or Bachmann, and he said he's been trying to tell them that Obama knows exactly what he is doing, and he will be re-elected.

    And I said, "Are you sure? Have you seen his eyes lately?"

    My friend said, affirmatively, "He will be re-elected because the alternative is too crazy to even consider."

    Oh? Maybe.

    Yes, it's possible, sure. There's always the possibility that no matter what he does, or doesn't do as the case may be, he'll be re-elected. We, the People, actually have very little say in the end. If his sponsors and owners want him on the Throne, there he will be.

    But have you listened to him lately? Have you seen his eyes?

    He's not into it. He's thinking of something else, and it is probably Hawaii.

    So. Will he pull an LBJ next spring and announce (on Facebook?) that he shall not seek nor shall he accept the nomination of his party for the Presidency -- and for approximately the same reasons LBJ cited in 1968: the nation was too polarized, the factions were too rigid in their beliefs, and for the Good of the Nation, he would not participate in further factionalizing and polarizing the country?

    Here are the key statements of the LBJ speech. I haven't seen it since I watched in astonishment (and yes, excitement) all those years ago:

    It was thrilling to hear him say he wasn't going to run again, but not so thrilling was what followed. The assassinations. The riots. The crackdowns and oppression. The installation of that paranoid drunk in the White House. The hundreds of thousands of additional needless deaths in the Indochina Wars.

    Be careful what you ask for.

    1968 was a seminal year, and that murdering, drugged out freak in Norway cited 1968 as the year that Europe "surrendered" to the Marxists/Islamists/Multiculturalists. I suppose there are lots of people who still think that 1968 was the year that the Hippies won the Revolution right here at home. Some of the Liberationist objectives of the Revolution were achieved, yes. Even under Nixon. But the cost was much heavier than many people understood at the time or do now. The repression was severe, and we are still living with it in the criminalization of so many black and brown men, in the surveillance and police state that has arisen practically unchallenged, and in the consequences of the liberation of capitalism from any obligation to the nation or the People of the United States.

    There was a huge trade off that I don't think many people are recognizing even now.

    So I wouldn't doubt that if Obama pulls out of the presidential contest next year there will be as much of a social, political and governmental upheaval as there was in 1968, and I wouldn't doubt that the results won't be pretty.

    John Ellis over at the Business Insider puts the question of whether Obama will resign or pull and LBJ and just not run this way:

    So, at a time when the only issue that really matters is jobs and falling living standards, the president will head into the fall campaign next year with not much to say except "it could have been worse." That's not a winning message, obviously. Which leaves him with a campaign based almost entirely on (what Bill Clinton used to call) "the politics of personal destruction."

    Such a campaign would leave President Obama stone cold, even if he's perfectly willing to do it to get the job done. He would hate every minute of it. He didn't travel the road he traveled and scale the mountains he climbed, to have the capstone of his political career read: "Mitt Romney is a Mormon weirdo" or "Rick Perry is a psychopath."

    In Washington, the "plugged-in" people will tell you gravely that the president isn't enjoying the work. He feels, it is said, "beleaguered" and "unappreciated" and "deeply unhappy" about the state of our politics. The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has been nibbling around this Obama gloom for a while; she's always had great radar for presidential funks. If you read between the lines of her columns, you get an almost tactile sense of Obama's blues.

    A long-time Democratic politician told me the other day that he would not be "terribly" surprised if Obama called it quits early next year. When I asked him if he really believed that, he said "no, not really, but you can smell it. It's in the air around him."

    Read more:

    Well. There you are then.

    We'll see, won't we?

    ♫LBJ took the IRT
    Down to 4th Street USA
    When he got there what did he see?
    The youth of America on LSD...♪

    Such an innocent age.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011


    Here we go.


    Jane got her panties all in a wad because of an email that got sent out from the New Mexico OFA operation that linked to a blogpost at The People's View that got posted at Huffpost that called out some critics of the Debt Crisis Crisis Deal such as Paul Krugman and the "Firebaggers" and oh my has the shit been twisted and turned and hurled with furious abandon.


    Of course damn few of those swarming have read the offending post in question, fewer still must have received the email from Ray Sandoval at New Mexico OFA HQ. Nor, I'm sure, have more than a few Swarmers read the follow up post at The People's View titled:

    Too Bad for Huffington Post, but the "Dumbest Motherfuckers in the World" are Fighting Back

    in which the author, Deaniac83 (who I seem to recall from times gone by, but who knows) doubles down and waxes quite wroth his ownself:

    But Terkel did get something right. I mean, you know, credit where credit is due. She patiently explains to her readers - who I suppose she assumes are even more political novices than Krugman - what the term firebagger could possibly mean.
    "Firebagger" is most likely a combined reference to the liberal blog FireDogLake, founded by Jane Hamsher, and "Tea Bagger," a less-than-flattering term for Tea Party activists.
    Almost right. So close. Except FireDogLake is not a liberal blog. It's a Pseudo-Left-Libertarian extremist ideologue blog. But other than that, on the money. Why, yes, Sherlock, Firebagger is a term that combines FDL's hair-on-fire ridiculousness with Teabaggers (for example, opposing things just because President Obama supports them) - whom the FDL rah-rah types act like, only from the Left. It's a characterization that fits them perfectly - they are more interested in tearing things down than building a country up, more interested in ideological podium-pounding than pragmatic solutions. The bagger (both tea and fire) mentality is the reason our politics is in a rut. If one side was busy spreading hatred and propaganda to increase wingnut turnout, the other (firebaggers) side was busy spreading hatred and propaganda to subdue Democratic turnout. Oh, also, as John Cole points out, it's a name the Firebaggers gave themselves.

    As if that weren't enough, he goes on to hurl his own incendiary brand of blog-insult by asserting:

    Speaking of Firebaggers, her Majesty the Highness of FDL, Jane Hamsher, picked up on Terkel's article and went nuts with it. You know, the usual.

    By the way, Ms. Terkel, you seem very upset about the OFA state director in New Mexico sending out an email pointing out the political and policy merits of the debt ceiling deal, an article that also calls out the firebaggers, but for some reason I cannot find our outrage article about Jane Hamsher - the Firebagger in Chief - calling Obama supporters the "dumbest motherfuckers in the world." Am I missing something or is your reporting just not objective?

    Ou. Nasty. Meanwhile, the there's this throw-down to complete the sequence:

    Let me send a message to Huffington Post, FDL, and all the ideologue havens in the Firebagger Lefty Blogosphere (that's right, I said it again): You have been propagating your anti-progressive, pro-dysfunction political message without accountability for too long. In President Obama's words, Enough! Count on us in the pragmatic progressive blogosphere to stand up and fight back. You do not represent progressivism or liberalism, and we are done letting you hijack it. You wanted a fight, didn't you? Well, you got one.

    Eek. Scary.

    All the supposedly lefty blogs have exploded in OUTRAGE!!!!!™ at this blogospheric INSULT!!!!™ from the OFA. They have DEMANDED!!!!!™ the immediate termination of Ray Sandoval, and the abject groveling and submissive apology to all the "Firebaggers" and their ilk who were DISSED!!!!™ by this no-account OFA apparatchik in fucking New Mexico, for chrissake. Doesn't he know who he is messing with?

    God. The chins are pushed out, and RAGE!!!!!™ has gripped the entire Left-o-sphere. Everyone -- just everyone -- is posting on it, and at dKos (where Jane is not popular at all) there are at least four or five posts right now stirring the pot and intensifying inchoate rage at OFA, Obama, Ray Sandoval, and anyone who dares to support Obama (May you DIAF!!!!™) and defending Blog-Daughter Jane (misguided though she may be) -- and practically everything else on the face of the earth, such as the California Democratic Party's efforts to purge its Progressive Caucus for getting uppity, is being ignored.

    I've posted on the Blogswarm phenom before, and I don't like it. Blogswarms tend to be ugly, vicious, and largely useless exercises in group affinity and mindless loyalty. Compared to the "tribalism" that many of the swarmers typically denounce -- as they are expressing their mindless loyalty to an individual or a blog that has been WRONGED!!!!™ -- swarmers are demonstrating the exact behavior they are so eager to denounce and condemn in others. The glaring hypocrisy of it all of course never, ever enters the consciousness of the swarmers until after their RAGE!!!!!™ is spent, and even then, the idea that they might have behaved inappropriately (heh) is often set aside in order to press some other demand elsewhere.

    Oddly enough, it is from behavior like this that many on the "left" are considered to be tantrum throwing children who can be safely ignored. But I would venture to say that very few of those who participate in Blogswarms are leftists by any rational definition of the term.

    They are, for the most part, "Internet Leftists and/or Progressives" -- which all too often means some variety of Libertarian.

    And I note with interest that Deaniac83 calls out Jane and others for being exactly that.

    On the other hand, I've made quite a stink over the California Democratic Party's apparent decision to purge the Progressive Caucus from its midst, and I do it in part because I know Karen Bernal, Chair of the Caucus quite well (though I haven't been in contact with her directly over this issue) and I know she is a genuine Progressive, not some variety of Libertarian trying to pass as "Progressive". She is deeply involved in labor and social justice issues, civil liberties, healthcare for all, gender equality, immigration reform, peace activism and on and on, as she has always been as long as I have known her. None of these issues are casual interests to her, not has she developed an interest recently. This is who she is. Her speeches have electrified the Party at their State Conventions, and she has built a very strong Progressive activist base within the Party that has successfully recruited and elected Progressive candidates and has pressed inclusion of Progressive agenda items in the California Democratic Party Platform.

    And the Big Wigs apparently want to get rid of her and disband the Progressive Caucus (again, apparently) because they resolved to explore supporting a primary challenge to Obama -- for cause.

    To me, this is a far more important and pressing issue than insults and dissing of "Firebaggers" from a blogger.

    Priorities, people!


    My my my. All of a sudden, literally within an hour or so of Deaniac83's throw down challenge, the Swarm stopped.

    This is a good thing in my humble estimation as there are far more important things to concern oneself about than the perceived insults to whomever on the internet.