Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Storm

No Name Storm of 1991
Hurricane Sandy will be known simply as The Storm for some time to come. I haven't been able to check the news very thoroughly or very often so I don't know very much about what has been going on along the East Coast, but there are plenty of lessons for the rest of us.

The statistics of loss, damage and destruction are not really the important thing to those who are affected by these events, and hurricanes are not the only events that give rise to the lessons I'm thinking of. How many people and animals are lost and injured, how much property damage there has been, how long it takes to get things back in some kind of order... these are all matters that become abstractions at the individual and family level of people trying to adjust and survive in the midst of chaos and greater or lesser disruption.

The trauma is really what affects the people who live through these events. I remember, for example, how traumatized my mother was by the 1925 earthquake in Santa Barbara. She was a teen-ager at the time, and apparently her mother was trapped for a while in a collapsed building. My mother didn't know where her mother was, though, and she was terrified. The trauma never left her for the rest of her life. It was obvious in her eyes when she told me about it decades later.

It seems that most of those who lived through the wrath of The Storm this time did not actually suffer loss -- apart from, perhaps, some inconvenience of some sort. Many are apparently taking it in stride, in part because they are OK and everyone they know is OK. They have what they need and are able to carry on well enough in the midst of the chaos.

But there are so many others who can't. Their routine is completely disrupted. Perhaps they have no home any more. Their treasured things are gone. They've lost loved ones. They can't find their pets. Their clothes are ruined or they can't get to their jobs. They're out of food and water. On and on. The disruption and the loss from The Storm -- or from any stupendous event -- can be overwhelming.

Unfortunately, there are too many people who seek their own advantage at the expense of the victims who are overwhelmed by the disruption and loss others have experienced. These are the carrion feeders and predators who are always among us. They look forward to seeing others in such distress or so overwhelmed, they make easy prey.

We saw this horrifyingly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- which doesn't seem so very long ago now. Whether we will see it in the aftermath of Sandy remains to be seen, but from a distance the mood and the spirit seems to be quite different. Well, except for a certain smirking former Massachusetts governor who decides to collect food at campaign events in Ohio -- food which none of the helping agencies want or need. The sight of it is stomach churning.

Meanwhile for those who have "lost everything and who are trying to pick up the pieces," the legacy of The Storm will last the rest of their lives. Most of that legacy is trauma and loss, but some of it-- the survival part of that legacy -- is the chance for something new. Not everyone can handle or wants that. But those who can and do may find the legacy of The Storm to be energizing.

I just hope that those who have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods, ways of life and so on are not further victimized -- as many of the survivors of Katrina were -- by predators and carrion feeders, such as that smirking doofus. Things are tough enough for them already.

Monday, October 29, 2012


We no longer have a home in California.

We arrived at our place in New Mexico at 4am this morning after a very late start. The drive took longer for some reason than it has in the past -- probably because we had to stop several times for cat-naps. We did not leave our place in California until nearly midnight, arriving at our "mid-way" motel stop in Bakersfield at almost 5am on Sunday morning; we left there at about 10am for the rest of the drive east. A cat has been traveling with us -- she was really wonderfully well behaved. The red van is completely loaded with paintings, R.C. Gorman prints and posters, some antiques, and -- get this -- stuffed animals. In addition, all our personal items are packed into the void spaces including clothes.

We found we had to rent a storage unit in California for the stuff we didn't have room for in the van or the truck and didn't have time to give or throw away. Much time and effort Saturday was taken up with that project.

A truck has been on the way here way for several days and is supposed to be in Albuquerque on Tuesday; we've arranged to have it brought out to our place on Thursday. A couple of accessory buildings are supposed to be delivered either Tuesday or Wednesday, one for temporary storage of mostly books (oh, the books!) until we can get the garage here renovated. I realize now I should have concentrated on doing that before doing some of the other improvements on the place. Better late than never.

The other building is supposed to become a studio -- basically a retreat in the back yard for whatever creative endeavor is underway.

These are both pre-built in Milan (NM), brought on a truck, and placed where we want via forklift.

The complete transition will probably take several more weeks, but it seems much more possible now than it once did.

My posting will be light for a while and most of the focus is liable to be on the minutiae of the move. There are many stories to tell (!).

Oh, I saw from the "news" that the main story is The Storm vs The Election; at least Romney has his priorities straight and was campaigning in Ohio this morning.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Uncertainty" -- Will the Vote Actually Matter?


Americans have been trained to accept finagled and fudgy outcomes of elections for quite a long time, much longer than we think. Election chicanery is built in to the mechanisms of politics and voting in this country, and it always has been. We have never had truly free and fair elections, not even close, and the lengths to which campaigns and their owners and sponsors will go to steal elections outright is breathtaking.

Of course the 2000 election is the benchmark for election jiggering for most of us. I have called what happened when the Supreme Court decided the outcome -- by one vote, let it be said -- a "lawless intervention," because the Supreme Court is not tasked with electoral decisions. The Constitution gives that responsibility to the states, and in the case of a disputed outcome, the legislatures of the states determine the winner of the presidential election, not the Supreme Court of the United States. In other words, the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction but seized it anyway in as bold a move as we had seen taken by government up to then.

That was followed by an appallingly undisciplined move to electronic voting machines which are easily compromised -- with no possibility of audit or detection. All election outcomes conducted with such machines are by their nature suspect, and in 2004, it appeared that chicanery of many kinds were engaged in to ensure that Bush won the presidency, regardless of anything else.

This year's election has been primed and pumped to be a "cliff-hanger" right down to the wire. No matter what the polls indicated, the campaign horserace was always "tied" in the eyes of many mavens of the media -- because that's the narrative: they have to have their tight race or they have no story, and if they have no story, they don't make money. So while Obama was far in the lead through most of the campaign, there were always stories that the race was "tied" or that Romney was gaining or what have you.

All that changed with the first "debate," of course: the Very Game Changer that Chris Christie predicted happened. The stats turned sharply in Romney's favor as if by magic. The narrative is that Obama turned in a dreadful performance while Romney was keyed up and on point. Actually some who watched, like me, thought he was on a performance enhancing substance, oh like speed to name one. I wouldn't be surprised at all if that was the case. Obama, on the other hand, was clearly not into it, but he did his standard "workmanlike" performance, "Get through it and go home," which -- compared to Mister Hyper -- was interpreted as sleepwalking. Whatever.

But wait. How did Christie "know?" That is if he knew in advance what would happen, who told him? If he was just out on a limb, you could say it was a coincidence, but I don't think so. When the after-"debate" chatter started, chatter that seemed completely hysterical at dKos, for example (always a Republican spin palace, after all) I actually wondered if Obama was intentionally throwing the game. I would not put it past him, given the way our political class operates. He was giving it away in any case. Whatever else might have been going on Obama was not on top of the situation on stage, and he appeared not to care, either. Given Romney's "shambles" up to then, I thought his attitude toward the "debate" and his opponent was appropriate, but in the end, Obama gave me and pretty much everybody else no hope at all. His vision for the future was "stay the course." No matter what. After five years of an Endless Recession, he would continue it pretty much as is indefintely.


But hyped-up Romney wouldn't do much different, he'd just be more of a salesman about it and be meaner and more overtly bloodthirsty besides. This, to me, did not bode well for the future for most of us. Not well at all. Either things stay as dismal as they have been for many more years, or they get worse. And more wars. There is no "better future" in either man's vision. None.

We are doomed if we rely on the political class and the candidates for office to do something positive and productive on behalf of the People -- because they won't do it. Period. End of discussion. They don't work for us.

Which means that the election is not really in our hands in any case. Whatever we vote is what we vote. The outcome, on the other hand, is what the vote counters decide, or if the Supreme Court so chooses, what a handful of Robed Ones decide, and we don't have much to say about it one way or another. Given the nearly identical positions of the major candidates on nearly everything (certainly apparent in the Third Round) no matter how we vote, the outcome will be almost the same no matter who is installed on the White House Throne.

The only real question is how fast and nasty will the advent of the New America be.

Given Obama's propensity to accommodate Republicans and actually seek to enact their programs, even the brakes Obama has been using are no longer operative in any case.

There are only two weeks to the election, and given the current "uncertainty" narrative, I would speculate that even if Obama receives a resounding electoral victory at the polls (he won't, though), he won't take office for a second term. "Uncertainty" has been the narrative of the fattest of the Fat Cats for years now, and Romney is himself one of them. That could mean that the "uncertainty" meme is a foreshadowing of what is to come.

The choice has most likely been made; we await the reveal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Life At Versailles, In Sum: the Final Round

Well. Wasn't that refreshing?

Himself and The Other One seemed to really get into it for once. The Other One looked to me to be pale and sweaty and even a bit blotchy under the intensity of the teevee lights and the penetrating gaze of Himself. The Other One even seemed to be "out of his depth" as they say on the all-important topic of Foreign Policy, unable to dent the rather gory record of the President of the United States even while bringing up a string of disasters and failures of this or that importance "on his watch."

"Commander-in-Chief" was the oft-repeated phrase, and as far as I could tell, Wromley (h/t Crowley) didn't really want that bit of Presidential Prerogative. This Killing of Brown People that Obama seems to relish these days appeared to make Wromley somewhat queasy. In a sense that's a good thing I guess. Presidents -- at least the way we are expected to regard them -- should not really be into the slaughter game. It hasn't been a celebrated characteristic in White House residents since TR, and he was always careful to make it clear that he "deplored" the slaughter he was (of course) forced to engage in (particularly in the Philippines)  and he loudly condemned the troops who went too far in their extermination of the Natives so as to secure that piece of American Empire.

Much of the "debate" -- which was closer to a real debate on substantive issues than previous forays -- focused on domestic issues and policies, particularly with regard to the economy, rather than foreign affairs. Good enough. There's not much to be said about America's foreign policy that isn't a factor of the rotten economy for the masses. Obama pointed out time and again that Romney would simply reinstate the same economic policies that crashed the economy under the Busheviks (true), but what he didn't say was that the Obama economic policies are almost identical. There has been very little positive change under Obama, and everybody knows it. As a rule, most of Romney's main criticisms of Obama economic policies are spot on: the economy is "sputtering," unemployment and underemployment is way -- way -- too high, ordinary people are struggling while the government lavishes money and favors on the rich, and so on. These things are not accidents, they are policy. And the Obama Administration proposes to "stay the course," essentially making no changes in the policies that are causing so much misery for the millions.

Meanwhile, Romney's prescription borders on insanity: he would return to the Bushevik Era free-for-all, crony-capitalist loot-fest, only now with the targets being Social Security and Medicare and whatever else is left of the social safety net and piddly middle class wealth, and he would call it a Good Thing.

Obama would do the same only with a few more controls on the looting and who gets first dibs.

Hm. Some choice there.

The "First Dibs" issue is basically all that the candidates are contesting. Their policies -- both foreign and domestic -- are all but identical in every important way (which is the way our political/governmental system is designed to operate in any case). The choice before the voters is not between policies, it is between personalities, styles, and who among the Highest of the Mighty has First Dibs on government and the benefits flowing therefrom.

It's not "tribal," it's inner-tribal. In other words, the political class is all the same tribe. The struggle, to the extent there is one, is between factions within the political class itself, and between factions of the Overclass that owns and controls the political class. But they are all, every single one, of the same tribe.

They are all denizens of Versailles. They all live in the bubble of a palace culture; and their realm is not that of the People.

For them, holding the keys to the Throne and the Treasury for the benefit of themselves and their friends is what it is all about; "First Dibs." The People don't factor in, or if they do, it is as an afterthought. Or sometimes, very rarely, because they are restless and throwing things.

At the on stage meet and greet after the "debate" the fact that these candidates were on the same side was made manifest what with all the Hale Fellow Well Met backslapping, hugs and handshakes. Even Tagg and the President had a good guffaw over something or other (Gee, I wonder what?) and the plethora of Romney children and grandchildren practically mobbed Obama ("Gee, can you be Our Dad?")

As for The Winner? I would give it to Obama because he didn't look like he was going to faint.

But who will win the election -- at this point -- I have no idea. The Rs have been diligently setting up their plans to steal the election outright if need be. Ds have done little or nothing about it, so even if Obama has a strong plurality at the polls, it won't necessarily lead to victory. I wouldn't be surprised if we had another Election 2000 situation, something that our Overlords seem to relish.

On the other hand, many have come to the conclusion that it will be a run-away Obama victory, that Romney will be thoroughly trounced, and that this has all been carefully planned for a very long time. What we see is just the Show; what's going on behind the scenes is what matters, and the result is to be a resounding Obama victory. He, after all, institutes Republican policies far better than Republicans ever did.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, an inside look at the Secret Rituals of the Mormon Temple is making the rounds. I watched the hour and twenty minute full version the the internet, embedded and linked below, because I'm into science fiction sometimes, and the whole thing seemed like it was straight out of a 1950's science fiction movie. Which makes me wonder how many science fiction authors and movie-makers were/are Mormons either current or ex. Anyway, it's an interesting -- if somewhat creepy -- diversion. Some of those who have watched it or the shorter version have claimed that "all religions" are creepy like this. Well could be, but this is on a whole nother plane.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Problem With America

The American Empire and the Fourth World by Anthony J. Hall
Is that it is too big.

This has been the central problem of Empire from antiquity. Humans are hard wired to live in small-ish communities, and the nation-state, let alone mperial Grandeur, doesn't really fit the human psyche.

Empire seems to be the preference of certain predatory types, however (Alexander of Macedonia, anyone?) and their rise in the political realm leads to amalgamation of peoples and territories -- or their extinction -- which is the key component of the Imperial Idea. You make the Outer Darkness go away by bringing it inside; absorbing it, in other words, and bringing Light.

Or something like that.

The United States was an Imperial project from the beginning of European conquest and settlement, and its independence from Britain did not in any way disturb the Imperial nature of the American government and much of its society. In fact, independence broadened and enhanced the Imperial interests of the Americans -- which the British had been keeping in check. Consequently, upon independence, the Americans set out immediately to dispossess and exterminate the Indians and seize ever more land for their own settlement and prosperity.

The American idea was to establish a continent-spanning domestic empire, pushing out or killing off any who got in the way of it, then expand across the seas, wherever need and desire and opportunity allowed and required.

The Domestic Empire was established by the time of the Civil War. Alaska was acquired soon thereafter. The frontier "closed" just about the time there were probes into the overseas projects -- which included ultimately seizing Hawaii and the remnants of the Spanish Empire, establishing bases in China, and asserting primal authority over the independent nations of Central and South America.

Canada and Mexico, of course, were thought of as dependencies and reliable resources for personnel and materiel.

The notion of having a large domestic empire, comparable to that of China or Russia, was built on the idea of  what would later be called lebenstraum -- literally, "living room;" having enough available real estate, in other words, for the yeomen of yore to live free and/or die. Americans have long romanticized the Westward Expansion, but it was no picnic for those who tried it. It was, however, a way for those who would otherwise have been discontent -- and likely troublesome -- in more established communities and societies (ie: Back East) to set out on their own and be quasi-independent. To boldly go and to Pioneer.

This is something that was not possible in most of Europe and the opportunity presented by the possibility of doing so in America was one of the many reasons so many people left Europe to settle in America. They could do things in America they couldn't do in Europe, and one of them was to become a nearly independent lord of creation.

It's still possible in the United States, at least to some degree, at least in the fantasy way of Wall Street speculation. But the result has been a fractious population, numberless unsustainable towns and cities, rape of the environment -- oh, and that aforementioned genocide of those who came before.

The result, in other words, is too big.

Much as California has become all but ungovernable, the United States, as a domestic empire, is trending the same direction. Our anachronistic political and governance system is barely functional where it isn't creaking and disintegrating. A handful of very wealthy individuals and interests has essentially captured the key components of government and is operating them -- to the extent they still operate at all -- for their own benefit, bugger the rest of us. But the fact is, government as we've known it has been falling to pieces since the '80's, and to my mind, it can't be revived as it was formerly. Our Betters have known this for many years, and they have set out to put in place an alternative corporate state, a project that's pretty much complete.

The People are not even represented in that vision of the New America.

But the People were barely represented in pre-corporate America. Empires don't take into account the interests of the People. It's not in their nature. They are only concerned with the interests of the handful of individuals (and it is always very few compared to the populations under Imperial subjugation) who own, run and control the apparatus of Empire.

I believe it was Orwell who pointed out that there were barely a thousand British functionaries who ran the British Raj in India and thereby controlled populations of hundreds of millions.

It wasn't better in Britain itself during the heyday of the British Empire. And through most of the 19th Century and well into the 20th, life was hell for most of the British People. They didn't have it that much better than the jibbering Natives of Africa and India and elsewhere under the British Crown.

And it was unsustainable. The fluorescence of the  British Empire was quite a brief one, all things considered. The American Empire still has generations to run. I don't buy the conventional wisdom that the American Empire is In Decline. No, it is still in its growth phase, though continued growth overseas is problematic at best. Americans abroad have shown themselves, time and again, to be utter barbarians, and the most recent forays into Imperial conquest abroad haven't worked out so well. Americans, therefore, may not see any further expansion of their conquests abroad in the future. But if the Americans don't do it, someone else will.

Instead of overseas conquest we see an increasing level of domestic exploitation, led by those very few predators who own and control resources and the government and operate for their own benefit alone.

The People appear to be almost powerless against it, and part of the reason for their apparent powerlessness is the very size of the nation within which they are trying to assert their own interests.

The People cannot effectively resist -- or at least they haven't been able to.

If you're trying to resist the entire apparatus of exploitation and governance, of course the individual or any conceivable amalgamation of individuals has very little overt power (there are exceptions, but they don't really apply to the current circumstance.)

This is the chief advantage of national size for the predators and exploiters who rule.  The national entity is too large and too strong to take on as a whole.

But it's also too large to be sustained as it is.

It will have to fragment, and the real potential for resistance (should the People actually want to resist, and I've never been entirely sure they do) is to be found in encouraging, pioneering, or inducing that fragmentation. 

It will happen on its own, sooner or later.

But many Americans are already living as if it has taken place, and from those Americans, others can learn many lessons.

Once I have a bit more time, I'll try to expand on that thought...

[Final Moving Day is scheduled for next Wednesday.... yikes.]

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Problem With Versailles

is that the People are nothing more than annoyances -- if they exist at all in the minds of the Nobles.

This is particularly true in the case of what passes for the economy, particularly with regard to the Sage Wise Men who profess to be Economists, the High Priests of the Cult of Greed.

In fact, what they are are shills and handmaidens and water carriers for the Nobility. They do nothing except they flatter their Betters and provide them with "moral excuses" for their rapine and destruction of the rest of humanity.

A new video series is being worked up over at Econ4; Ché say: "Check it out."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Life At Versailles, Or "At It Again;" the Presidential "Debate" Round 2


It was all "Mitch Wromley" (h/t Letterman and Crowley) could do to refrain from referring to President Obama as "You there, boy."

Jeebus what an arrogant prick. I'm sure that's why other arrogant pricks love him so.

Meanwhile, Obama seemed to have recovered somewhat from whatever it was that threw him off his game in the first "debate" with Willard.

(I heard Tavis Smiley and Cornell West speculating on the radio that it was likely "something personal" that we will "never know." The likeliest scenario is a domestic squabble, but I dunno.)

At any rate, Obama's performance was rated more than adequate by the critics, so that's all that was necessary.

Someone who should know better (but since he's an entertainer, we're prepared to imagine he doesn't) claimed that Crowley was -- somehow -- a dyed in the wool Obama Supporter, what's the word, "Obamabot?" Surely anybody who has seen Crowley's performances in the past would think just the opposite of her, but I will say, she was fine last night, not favoring either of the candidates and pressing on generally substantive issues, trying to get them both to at least address the questions being asked by the heavily washed and perfumed masses who were allowed in.

The fact that neither candidate chose to actually answer the questions they were posed is telling.

No answer on jobs, no answer on gas prices, no answer on much of anything, let alone a straightforward answer on pay equity for women.

"Binders full of women" is nearly the sole take-away.

That tells us all we need to know about the priorities of the Palace and its handmaidens.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Anarchism Resurgent

Americans as well as peoples around the world seem to be going through a very interesting period of ideological reflection.

The cruelties of the Neo-Liberal/Neo-Conservative triumphs of the past twenty years or so have become so violent and destructive to ordinary people's lives that rebellion and resistance is now pretty much universal -- though not successful yet in overcoming the power of the Neo-Aristocracies and the technocrats that rule nearly everywhere.

Marx is generally considered to have offered the correct analysis of the Crisis of Capitalism, and Marxian critiques of the current state of social and economic affairs are no longer rejected out of hand. Anti-Marxist propaganda has very little effect any more. Nevertheless, standard hierarchical Communism, a la the Soviet Union and Maoist China,  is widely repudiated for its own tendency toward cruelty and for its extreme levels of interference in people's lives.

Hierarchies of all kinds are under scrutiny, from that of the Catholic Church to everyday hierarchies in families, schools and government.

The System is under immense strain.

Seemingly suddenly, though it has been building for a long time, "anarchism" is not just back in the news, it is being more and more widely assessed for its potential as a Future social/political organizational model.

Dmitry Orlov has offered up a series of posts called "In Praise of Anarchy" over at ClubOrlov that define and defend anarchism in some of the most potent terms. And his posts have been widely disseminated through the Left-O-Sphere, inspiring a good deal of angst as well as considerable reflection and consideration.

The Left, so called, has a historical problem with Anarchism to be sure; Old Line Socialists tend to reflexively denounce Anarchists and Anarchism as impractical and worthless and the work of the devil and so on, just as they have for more than a century. Yet the European Social Democracies that once were shining examples of hierarchical socialism without the horrors of totalitarianism have all sold out to the Neo-Liberal/Neo-Conservative Masters of the Universe, leaving the People essentially to fend for themselves in an increasingly brutal and violent "struggle for existence."

When Socialists betray the People in such a manner and do so essentially universally, it's no wonder the People reject them outright. So it has been throughout Struggling Europe. But because of the way politics is organized in parliamentary democracies, rejection of the Socialists leads to the re-empowerment of the rightists who carry out same programs of destruction and calamity with somewhat greater relish, cruelty and speed.

In other words, there is no escape from the impositions of the Masters through standard political processes.

What. To. Do?

We've seen massive protests all over the developed and much of the developing world, but they rarely get anywhere, as the "Protest" has become something of an artefact. An exception -- startling really for its exceptionalism -- is in Quebec, where four months of sustained protest in the streets of Montreal and throughout the Province against tuition increases and draconian anti-protest laws resulted in the fall of the Provincial government and rescinding the tuition hikes and the anti-protest laws.


But that was one of the very, very few victories for protesters anywhere. Most governments ignore the Will of the People and crush any sort of unapproved protest brutally and violently. Many governments have adopted the Bushevik model of governing contrary to the Will of the People simply because they can, with disastrous results which they refuse to correct.

Justifiably, the People say "WTF?" and seek alternatives. When the political system does not work in any manner to fulfill the needs of the People, something else is necessary. When non-violent protest is met with the levels of cruelty and brutality employed widely to crush the Occupy Movement, people seek redress by other (and perhaps less overt) ways.

We've seen that governments have mostly adopted or adapted to the Bushevik Blank Stare response to the People and the People's Will; we've seen that Protest is useful for gathering support but it does not in and of itself result in appropriate changes of policy.

We've seen that cruelty has become the standard operating system utilized by governments nearly everywhere.

How can the People break this cycle?

One of the ways, which I have mentioned many times, was offered in David Graeber's Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (pdf): sidestep and make irrelevant the "official government". Create and operate alternatives, take care of one another, limit or eliminate interactions with Government.

While he was using Madagascar as an example of this grassroots version of anarchism, in fact the model has long been standard in the United States. The way the nation expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries was through various peoples cleaving off and forming their own societies in the Wilderness. It was accepted and celebrated as part of American Exceptionalism. In most cases, these little colonies and communities existed -- at least for a time -- in almost complete independence of the Central Government, in fact, though not in ideology (for the most part) anarchist societies.

It's may be much harder to do now that the Frontier is closed and has been for many years, but it is not impossible for civil society to recognize the fact that our political system and its government have divorced themselves from the People and take steps to create alternatives to the standard hierarchical models we're so accustomed to.

That is essentially what happened when the Occupy encampments were so brutally and violently crushed and destroyed. The anarchist ideas that were fundamental parts of the Occupy Movement were dispersed throughout the land, as seeds or spores, and they are beginning to bear fruit.

Some of the thought processes here:



Dmitry Orlov

David Graeber

There is of course much more.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On Metaphors

Jeebus Christmas dancing on a tasty Ritz Cracker, the Intertubes (or at least parts thereof) do not understand the concept of "metaphors."

Posted above is a brilliant video by Boots Riley and The Coup called "The Guillotine." The entire video is metaphorical, of course, given its invocations of "The Wiz" and "Les Mis" and who knows what all. Boots and The Coup are Oakland, CA, artistes, and you don't mess with them. You just don't.

So hotflashcarol posted the video over at FDL the other day along with a link to an article on it at Wired. This caused something of a stir because one of the mavens of the site became enraged at the "suggestion of violence" in the video and commenced to denounce and renounce the video, everyone involved with it and hfc and all their works and descendants unto the seventh generation. Or something.

I've run into this situation a surprising number of times in my perambulations around the InterTubes and Teh Webs since dirt was new. The use of metaphor simply escapes the consciousness of certain individuals who assert some kind of "authority" within the Web-O-Sphere, and typically something like All Hell breaks loose as various posters try to edumacate their stupid asses.

Trouble is, it never works. There is no learning curve whatsoever. Whoever is objecting to the metaphorical statement or video or whatever typically never does anything but object, denounce and renounce and then disappears. There is no interaction, discussion, or engagement. Thus, there can be no learning, and that seems to be the point: simply declare, upon Authority, and be gone.

So it was at FDL.

The individual who objected is known there as a curmudgeon and spoil-sport in any case (there are a number of such high in FDL's hierarchy; it has always been so, sadly. When it was first manifested, it really made me wonder about Jane's judgement, let alone the judgement of those she delegates, but I have since learned it's a somewhat more complicated situation than might first appear to be the case...)

hotflashcarol removed her content from the post, stating that she didn't want to get involved with the Objector, as she was well familiar with his ways, and she wanted no truck with him at all. The post and thread however was maintained for sometime afterward -- the post with no content, the comments mostly slamming the Objector for idiocy and stupidity and celebrating the musical and visual dynamism of Boots Riley and The Coup. And, importantly, mentioning over and over again that "it is a metaphor."

You would think after a while it would sink in, but as is the way on the InterWebs, it never does. I'm convinced it's because there are some online devotees who are simply incapable of comprehending the concept of Metaphor. It doesn't -- and apparently can't -- occur to them that artists (especially) utilize metaphor all the time, it is their stock in trade, and that the Metaphor is not a literal evocation or invocation; it is a means to more fully appreciate and understand... something.

The objection was to the "suggestion" of violence in the video; the "suggestion" was that of the Guillotine, a widely recognized Metaphor in Revolutionary and Resistance circles. No one I know of is actually advocating the employment of guillotines, at least not as they were used in the French Revolution. But their image is apparently a powerful one, and certain people are -- perhaps justifiably -- terrified of them. The Guillotine gives them the willies, bad. The image of the Guillotine, and its use as a metaphor for the Power of the People makes some people believe that the Mob will start chopping off heads any minute if they are not curbed and controlled. No such thing is the case, but the fear is somehow overpowering to some people.

As many people pointed out, the Guillotine Metaphor is not a literal invocation of violence, nor is it meant to be. It is an invocation of Power, the Power of the People. "We got the Guillotine" -- they've got (ie: the Authorities have) the army and the police. They impose violence on the People each and every day, without let or hindrance, and that is the real violence of our current condition. The Guillotine Metaphor suggests their violence against the People is subject to interference.

But all this should be obvious.

Really, it should.

Unfortunately, on the InterTubes, especially in the so-called Progressive Sphere, it isn't. Never has been. I'm convinced it never will be.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Life At Versailles, Or The Other "Debate"


These people have been on the Government Teat too long.

I arrived back at our place in California just as the Vice Presidential "Debate" was beginning, so, still zzzzz-y from the long drive, I sat down to listen to and watch a bit of it. At least Martha Raddatz was awake, I'll give her that, and she maintained some sort of control of the boys.

Well, that was my impression. Both Biden and Ryan came across as boys, literal adolescents having at one another, more for fun and for show than for any real object at all, because both of these boys know that no matter who eventually sits in the Big Chair (and the not-quite-so Big Chair nearby) the strings will still be pulled by the same people, and the results will be about the same because the goal is the same: Empire, economic calamity (for the masses), and some sort of permanence, ie: "certainty" for the High and the Mighty.

There were times when Ryan came across as just a punk, which seems to be his personality in any case, but I don't know that my judgement about these things is actually valid any more, being as that I'm more of a codger these days than not.

By his advanced years -- 70 now, is he? -- Biden should have come across as the Doddering Old Count puttering around the Palace since he's been in office (thus part of the Palace culture) for nearly all his life (wasn't he first elected when he was a twenty-something... punk?)  Well, maybe that's how younger people saw him last night, but I myself saw him more as the older frat brother slapping around some random pledge. Ryan wasn't a real person to Biden (I don't know that anyone who speaks in constant sound bites and talking points could be mistaken for "real" in any case). He was an object, a cat toy.

For his part, Ryan seemed to enjoy it, but then he loves him some attention, doesn't he?

The world Ryan wants for the rest of us is one of submission, misery and despair. Apparently, this grows out of his religious faith somehow; but then I guess after the rejection of the reforms of Vatican II (now 50 years ago) the Church really does want to go back to submission, misery and despair for all except the Highest of the Mighty for whom no flattery is out of bounds.

Biden is old enough to remember Vatican II and the reforms that resulted, and like the Rebel Nuns, he seems to think that that now antiquated version of the Church ought to still mean something. Yes, well. Good luck with that.

How did misery for all (except those on top) become the standard outlook for the younger generation?

Do they even realize it?

But there is no less misery misery in Biden's future vision, such as it is.

And this is why both of these boys are basically Bubble Boys, living in the Palace of Versailles, completely divorced from the People they ostensibly serve.

Yes, they have personally suffered somewhat in ways that many of us can relate to, but I'm not at all sure that either of them can relate their own suffering and loss to what the millions encounter. On the other hand, I can easily imagine them ordering the masses to "suck it up like I did." True empathy is not really a strong suit of Versailles.

Back in the day, Versailles was "open." Anyone who could make their way to the Chateau was admitted so long as they were unarmed. They had essentially free rein to roam the corridors and grand salons at will; many were able to directly encounter one or another royal functionary, count, or duc, and it was even possible for the unwashed to encounter and directly petition the King Himself -- though such encounters were rare. In a sense therefore, the Ancien Regime was at least theoretically in closer touch with the masses than our own isolated and heavily protected Royals are. When the déluge came, therefore, the Anciens were not entirely unaware that the People were, shall we say, discontent.

These days, however, it is not at all certain that those who have lived in a version of Versailles all their supposedly adult lives -- like Biden and Ryan to take but two -- have any idea that the masses are not altogether delighted with them.

After his Victorious Performance at the previous "debate" with Obama, Romney attempted to adopt the trappings of Royalty, asserting his "interest" in and "care" for "all the People," but it is obviously a charade, something he knows he is supposed to do which he doesn't carry off very well. Ryan doesn't have to play that game -- and he doesn't -- any more than Biden does.

They're just  boys   playing. Doing what they do.

Somehow, I am not reassured.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

OT: Quick Update

Leaving New Mexico for California tomorrow morning.

Got done most of what I came out here to do -- overgrowth mowed, storage arranged for, appraisal done, cell phone minutes rescued, van emptied... etc.

The weather has been spectacular. Just beautiful early Autumn crisp, clear days, little wind, the leaves are just starting to turn, a little chilly in the morning, nice and warm in the afternoon. Beautiful.

Meanwhile, in California, the Cat Bite Saga seems to have resolved positively. No rabies series. Healing is nearly complete -- some internal scar tissue that ought to be absorbed, nothing else but some "dots" where the fangs went in. Amazing.

Many arrangements still to be made, including the final packing and hauling, utilities services terminated, painting and other matters taken care of.

The whirlwind continues, but we're seeing the dim but growing light out there suggesting this phase is just about done...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Travel Days Today and Tomorrow -- Then Again Wednesday and Thursday Next Week

On the Road to Santa Fe
The whirlwind continues.

With gasoline approaching (and in some cases surpassing) $5.00 a gallon in California, with predictions of much higher prices before the month is out, it's prolly a good thing that I'm making a trip out to New Mexico today and tomorrow transporting a load of stuff to our place out there (meaning there will be less to transport when the Big Move happens) before it's just altogether too expensive.

It'll be hard coming back. But there's still a lot to do in CA before our final departure toward the end of the month.

There were times when we were mucking out the garage that we were nearly convinced it would never be done. There were several lifetimes of stuff in there, most of which we hadn't even been conscious of for years, had not looked at for decades. There's still one section of the garage that needs attention, along the south wall where there are shelves with boxes of who-knows-what from however-many-years-before.

So much of this project has been like an archaeological dig. For example, I came across this in a pile of random sweepings:

Post Card c. 1967

It's a postcard from the Summer of Love titled "The Hippies" published by Sea Cliff Press in 1967. The legend surrounding The Hippies may be hard to read for modern eyes, so I'll translate: "San Francisco Loves You." Of course. What else would it say?

I found this Polaroid snap of my father taken sometime in the late 1950's or early 1960's:

RJC at Dinner, c. 1950's-early '60's

It strikes me as highly characteristic and quite sad, for he is dressed impeccably, probably reading the evening papers, having his dinner in a hotel restaurant... all by himself. It was his way. And he was always nice to the waitresses.

Then there was this:

Iowa Landscape c. 1911
It's a watercolor done by my uncle Vincent. It's dated on the back August 26, 1911, when Vincent was 11 years old. The frame and glass were broken and it looked like animals had walked over part of the picture (the image above was too large for my scanner so I had to seam it, thus the line down the center.) But apart from some dust and dirt and discoloration, it's in OK shape. Surprisingly enough. I don't know whether it represents an actual farmstead or not. At the time, the family farm was still being operated, so it could be... then again, it seems vaguely imaginary.

I came across a number of my old paintings and renderings, a surprising number of them, since I thought they had almost all been given away or destroyed years ago.

In fact, there was so much history -- not just our personal history, but much family stuff from ages past. There was jewelry, there were hundreds -- probably thousands -- of photos, there were items of remembrance, there were odds and many ends, some of which made no sense at all, some of which were instantly evocative of people, places or interests from a lifetime, or several lifetimes. Lots of it we had no idea was there...

But enough reverie. Must pack and be on my way.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Life At Versailles, or The "Debate"


I watched most of last night's fol de rol with the candidates in Denver and listened to some of the post-game analysis on NBC. What a rollicking good time Chuck Todd was having: "Oh what a horserace we have now!" Because, it would seem, by consensus "Mitt Won!"

And Oh, the keening and garment rending over at dKos in the aftermath of the "Debate" between the two candidates for the Presidency of the United States of America, aka "The Big Chair."

At Versailles, they called it The Throne, and during the Bush Regime, that's just what I called The Big Chair, the Presidency itself. The Throne.

Our Government operates on Royalist lines, that is its way, it's nature. Internally, it's not a democracy at all. It is for all practical purposes a full on monarchy/dictatorship. Let's say a serial monarchy, to be sure, since there are periodic changes in who occupies The Throne, but the Institution carries on no matter what. And the Institution is monarchical, based rather closely on that of 18th Century Britain -- or "Fraunce" for that matter. Thus it is anachronistic as hell.

What we saw last night was an elderly, powdered, bewigged aristo, with very little class, try to sell the People (or at least that part of the People who cast ballots) on a series of bogus premises: that he's competent, that he "cares," that he's full of vim and vigor and energy, and that he has a Plan to "help" the Middle Class. None of this, of course, is true. He's old, he cares not for the Lesser People (and has repeatedly said as much), he's running on nearly empty, and his Plan has nothing to do with "helping" anyone not in his class of looters, predators, and mountebanks. That's just the way it is.

He was "styling" as we used to say in the Circus.

He was a straightforward, obvious hustler and huckster, which tells us something about our Ruling Class, I think, that might help in sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Many people believe they were deceived by Obama in 2008, claiming they didn't know he was a corporatist imperialist warmonger. I find that odd, because Obama was running somewhat to the right of Hillary Clinton, and she was obviously a corporatist imperialist warmonger, so how did it come about that Obama was seen through such a radically different prism -- when he wasn't campaigning as a Man of the People and a Populist or particularly Liberal Peacenik?

I don't know where the image came from because I never saw it. But that's me.  I sometimes see things others don't, sometimes not for years.

Last night, Obama was the Wonk to "Mitch's" (h/t Letterman) hyper-Aristo. Sanity, you might say, in the face of loopieness.

So of course "Mitch" won. It couldn't be any other way. What with "Mitch" hopping around like a string-puppet, and Obama plodding along with his "facts" and his "figures," how could it be?

"Mitch" talked airily about all the "jobs" he was going to "create" as President, but any sentient being  should know by now that he has never had any interest in creating any jobs for you. It's simply not in his portfolio. The fact is he will eliminate your job or ship it to some foreign land in a heartbeat if it will increase his bottom line and the bottom lines of those he serves. He simply has neither the time nor the inclination to fret about you. You, for the most part, don't exist in his world, the world of Versailles.

You might from time to time "exist" in the abstract in Obama's World at Versailles, but only to the extent that you and yours can be motivated or manipulated to go along with something that's already been decided as Policy by the Governing Class. Romney doesn't acknowledge that you exist at all, and his rhetoric about "jobs" is nothing but a sales pitch; Obama only acknowledges you to the extent you are... useful.

Thus, rationally, because you and I exist (if only as tools and abstractions) in Obama's World of Versailles, Obama is the better candidate. But because "Mitch Won!" last night, it's a horserace once again. Obama will not be allowed by the media to run away with the election (which he looked fair to do until last night.)

Many of the points "Mitch" made in his pitch were valid complaints the People have -- about high-end Government beneficence  and low-end despair, which he called "Trickle Down Government" which was interesting -- but he clearly doesn't intend to do anything positive about those complaints, any more than Obama and the Democrats will.

Interesting, too, was the fact that Obama proposed nothing for the short term improvement of the condition of the Masses, any more than he did from the outset of his tenure on The Big Chair. For what it's worth, the Masses are expected and required to pay for the Government beneficence to the High and the Mighty and not get uppity and not complain too much about it, either; rule from Versailles will be imposed, and the People will comply. Period.

"Mitch" on the other hand will promise all sorts of things to the Masses and not deliver anything that would change that fact. He lies. He's a huckster.

Obama is too, but he is in a different category; he's -- dare I say it -- "The Help." Romney and his allies see themselves as the Prime Movers, the Landlords, the rest of us, including Obama himself, being tenants or vermin.

Many of those keening and rending their garments last night were obvious plants, Romney supporters bent on sowing Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt among the Obama partisans. It was obvious. It was also surprising to see how easily FUD is sown through ostensibly liberal online communities. It's a cinch. Of course, I've seen it happen many times, so I shouldn't be surprised, but I still am.

Romney brings up all the things that Obama isn't doing for the People, or isn't doing well. He promises to do something exciting and positive to fix things, but he won't. He's a liar. On the other hand, Obama essentially promises nothing but more of the same, which isn't very good, but at least it's believable.

We have an electoral choice of Versailles or Versailles.  And it really can't be any other way given our anachronistic and balky system.

The only way to change it -- if the People really want to change it -- is through rebellion.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

OT: About This Complicated Life Thing

Been working up to 18 hours a day on the final preps for the move and have not had much energy available for the interwebs and such. This is hard physical labor which I used to be able to do -- twenty years ago -- but not so much any more. Clearing out the accumulated detritus of the last twenty years (and more, a good deal more) from the garage has been the primary obstacle to moving forward on other projects; it has taken much longer than I anticipated. Someday, I'll show pictures. Or maybe not. Snarf.

Nevertheless, it is nearly done. And now I have to drive like a demon to New Mexico to unload some stuff there, meet with the appraiser (the refi is going forward bit by bit), pick up mail, chop the weeds somewhat, then hightail it back to CA to finish the job of moving out.

Most difficult, perhaps, is dealing with all the memories of so many adventures, difficulties, successes and failures, so many projects, so much written material, so many scripts submitted (I found three full boxes of them, plus others -- many others -- scattered throughout a dozen other boxes. These were scripts submitted to the theater; of them, approximately 110 received at least a staged reading, several dozen were produced by us.)

Not all the memories are happy ones (! ha !) but most are, and that's kind of wonderful given how problematical what we've been doing is.

Many tons of debris have been jettisoned. The jewels have (mostly) been kept.

(UPDATE): Yay. The appraisal has been rescheduled to next week, so I don't have to race hell for leather to NM today and tomorrow and can leave this weekend instead. Yay.  Various things were going on this morning, and one of them turned out to be a phone call from NM regarding the appraiser being in Grants just before the time appointed for our appraisal. It's an hour and a half drive if there isn't a wreck that shuts down I-40 for a shorter or longer period. Better than all of us trying to race from place to place, we can take it a little bit easier.