Noosphere Blues

[ Thursday, October 31, 2002 ]

I'm rooting hard for a strong Democratic (or rather anti-Republican) showing in elections Tuesday. But rooting as well (as now seems feasible) the biggest loser on November 5 is the War on Drugs.
Phil [1:22 PM]

Just launched: an anti-war on Iraq blog attempting a wide-gauged mix of conservative, libertarian and liberal-left voices.
Phil [6:52 AM]

[ Wednesday, October 30, 2002 ]

A couple more tributes to Paul Wellstone. From Bob Dylan. And from Stew Alpert, former Yippie non-leader, who's got a fun website.
Phil [2:19 PM]

Though Daniel Ellsberg has never completely left the public eye in the thirty years since he gained fame and notoriety for leaking the Pentagon Papers, he's mainly cut a pretty nostalgic Vietnam-era figure. But the prospect of a major, open-ended U.S. military commitment makes Ellsberg's saga suddenly more relevant than it would have a few years back, no doubt to the delight of Viking Press, which has just issued Secrets, Ellsberg's memoir of his gradual metamorphosis from New Frontier counter-insurgency hawk, think-tank warrior, closet war critic, and, finally, to the top level of Nixon's enemies list.
This week in The New Yorker Nicholas Lemann, in a long, generally affectionate but ultimately condescending review of Secrets, tries to analyze the differences between the political culture of The Pentagon Papers era and our own, and what they imply both for Ellsberg's legacy and current anti-war critics.

Lemann makes two points. First, taking issue with Ellsberg's belief that "misinformation" (in the form of lies and deception) cause bad wars to be fought, he argues that decisions about whether to fight or not fight wars are not primarily informational matters but ideological decisions. Ellsberg, the anti-war activist he believes remained at base a Robert McNamara technocrat. "Having been trained," he writes, "to think that bad decisions were the result of inadequate or incorrect information, he operated on the assumption that if the public was given correct information they would make rational choices." "The real reason," Lemann says, "people disagree vehemently about war in Iraq is not that the facts on the ground or the true prospects of military success are being kept hidden... It's not what we know or don't know but what we beleive in that makes the difference."

Nor, believes Lemann, is secrecy, characterized by an insular elite policy consensus and tightly controlled flow (and withholding of) information, the crux of the matter, as it was during the height of the Cold War. As he puts it, "there are some obvious difficulties in looking for guidance about Iraq in Ellsberg's Vietnam narrative. given the copious news leaks and op-ed skirmishes of the past six months, nobody could argue that if people only knew what kind of policy arguments were taking place inside the administration we wouldn't be headed for war. Thanks in no small part to Daniel Ellsberg the authority of official Washington no longer feels unitary or unquestionable."

I think Lemann's discussion is useful for broaching some of the key differences in the political and media landscape faced by different anti-war generations.

Implied, however, is a troublesome assumption that in an age of ubiquitous media information, information and values/beliefs/ideology are two seperate realms. Rather than the pragmatic, rationalistic(naive?) notion that beliefs are constantly tested and modified by better information, the implication is that now, with a surfeit of contradictory and confusing information, rational persuasion about policy is less important than emotional appeals to ideology.

It seems to me Lemann is misjudging the rational skepticism of a wide American public, if not the punditocracy, and that a key task of anti-war criticism is to find and persuasively relate critical information about the effects of an invasion and occupation of Iraq to core values that I think have wide majoritarian consensus- physical safety (the domestic dangers in escalated terrorism of a bellicose foreign policy),and economic well-being (the actual costs of interventionism).
Phil [11:34 AM]

[ Tuesday, October 29, 2002 ]

I've been hoping to find really good online sources for writing about contemporary poetry. So it's fantastic to have a blog by the most consistently interesting of the poet-critics known by the unfortunate moniker Language Poets. (thanks to Wood s lot)
Phil [3:37 PM]

Dick Morris is, obviously, a hack, sleaze, opportunist, and all around unsavory character, even for a political consultant turned NY Post columnist. But he's often got an accurate cynical operator's sense of which way the mainstream political winds are blowing. So it may be of some significance that he sees Bush's October campaigning backfiring on Republicans.
Phil [3:06 PM]

[ Monday, October 28, 2002 ]

Superb personal-political reminiscence of Paul Wellstone by Kai Bird.
Phil [3:45 PM]

Follow-up analyses of the marches against war on Iraq Saturday.
Justin Raimondo complains (rightly) about the shut-out of conservative and libertarian critics of U.S. war plans from the anti-war demo speakers lists.
Kathryn Lewis is pleasantly surprised by the relative absence of ultra-leftist cant and the multi-generational, multi-ideological, multi-stylistic vibe of the crowd.
Phil [2:24 PM]

Another petition worth checking. This one's about getting Warren Zevon into the rock hall of fame by populist web-expressed demand.
Phil [2:16 PM]

[ Saturday, October 26, 2002 ]

I've always respected Jeremy Rifkin's distrust of big science and big business, but been wary of his brand of apocalyptic pessimism about technology and his rather knee-jerk luddism. So it's interesting and encouraging to see his current metamorphosis into new technology prophet of the Hydrogen Age. Perhaps (probably) he's as overly-optimistic about Hydrogen energy as he tends to be overly-pessimistic about just about everything else, but I hope not. In any case European embrace of the notion of oil alternatives appears to explain alot about the differences between EU nations and the oil-centric U.S. on the Middle East.
Phil [4:14 PM]

"The idiom is the idea", Jack Keough, an assistant of Marshall McLuhan once said. As with many such aphorisms, I still don't know exactly what that means. But the phrase came to mind reading Sam Smith's useful distinction between the "idiomatic, colloquial" left, and the elitist, institutional, academic lefts most pundits (neo-con and/or Hitchensian self-referential) talk about when they talk about "the left."
Phil [3:27 PM]

National petition against War on Iraq.
Phil [2:47 PM]

[ Friday, October 25, 2002 ]

Sad farewell to Paul Wellstone, man of integrity, all too rare example of a gutsy liberal politician. And cheers to his legacy as a progressive-populist.
Phil [11:51 AM]

[ Thursday, October 24, 2002 ]

Joe Hagen and Rebecca Traister on the novelist as new pop superstar. Good to see sympathetic coverage of a new sensibility really trying to bring the DIY spirit of indie rock (as opposed to just ironically "appropriating" it, pomo academic style) into the book world.
Unfortunately, as both criticism and cultural reporting, the piece fails to delineate what's unique about the new lit, or to distinguish the renegade Rabelaisian exuberance of Neal Pollack's satire from the stale, slick mannerism of Jonathan Franzen. Or corporate literary hype from real insurgency.
Phil [4:28 PM]

Happy to see Jim DeRogatis is back up posting his rock reviews online, after a month hiatus. Of special interest, his ongoing notes on Chicago underground music, and revisitations of classic albums.
Phil [3:43 PM]

[ Wednesday, October 23, 2002 ]

Aficionados of literary-political squabble tired of Hitchens and his obsessive Orwellian shadow-boxing with the phantom "left", can take a break with this dust-up over the legacy of Lester Bangs.
Phil [4:26 PM]

A handful of interesting and promising premonitions : Max discusses the possibility of the first really serious anti-war (and maybe pro-other things as well) coalition of "real" conservatives and libertarians and pragmatists of the left. Jump to MoJo and a 1-2 right-left punch from Raimondo and Parrish.
Phil [1:34 PM]

[ Tuesday, October 22, 2002 ]

Having been buried in some other projects, it's good to see Cursor packed with interesting items today. Debka on BinLaden in Saudi Arabia. Maureen Dowd continues to hit the mark on GW Bush "Boy Emperor".
Phil [4:19 PM]

Though the cable punditocracy has pretty much written him off, a Minnesota poll shows Paul Wellstone, has taken a lead in that state's senate race. The Green Party is down to one percent.(Thanks to cursor)
Phil [4:15 PM]

[ Monday, October 21, 2002 ]

Musical lists proliferate. Just a few weeks back Bruce Bartlett announced his Top 40 conservative songs of all time,which MaxSpeak featured with commentary. Now two Las Vegas City Life writers pick out ten songs for a new war era. Dylan's Master of War out, Black Sabbath's WarPigs in.
Phil [10:48 AM]

[ Friday, October 18, 2002 ]

John Perry Barlow is inclined, as he himself would acknowledge, to hyperbole and, I'd add, bombast. Nonetheless he makes damn good sense here. A sign that for better or worse (in this case definitely worse) reality is catching up with the wildest apocalyptic riffs of many an old acid-head.
Phil [3:53 PM]

[ Wednesday, October 16, 2002 ]

Eric Olsen previews soon to be released movie on the life and death of Bob Crane, whom most of grew up in the 60s and 70s will always remember as Hogan.
Phil [4:38 PM]


In a tough-minded essay Ronnie Lankford argues that a revisionist look at the too often sentimentalized myth and music of Woody Guthrie is overdue. And that a demythologized Guthrie, warts and all, might be far more relevant to current political and musical needs.
Phil [4:07 PM]

[ Monday, October 14, 2002 ]

Informative piece (to a tech laggard anyway) on personalized news aggregators, which according to Dave Winer, may be to researching and organizing information what blog software is for writing.
Phil [3:58 PM]

As someone for whom keyboards have never felt as natural for writing as pen and paper, as well as a spiral notebook freak, I find this technology development (brought to light by Sheila Lennon at Subterranean Homepage News) exciting.
Phil [3:41 PM]

As I'd hoped, The American Conservative, the cantankerously interesting paleo-conservative mag, is rankling the nerves of neo-conservatism in ways the liberal-progressive-populist-libertarian left can only envy.
Phil [3:27 PM]

As so often MaxSpeak is the quickest on the scene. Here's an overview of Australian reaction to this weekend's terror bombings in Bali as registered by bloggers.
Phil [2:45 PM]

Wherever they are you have to figure the spirits ofAbbie Hoffman and, yes, Jerry Rubin as well, are smiling over this one.
Phil [12:02 PM]

[ Saturday, October 12, 2002 ]

Douglas Rushkoff suggests that GW Bush is a more complicated political animal than many of us give him credit for. While some see Bush as bent on war because he's a( take your pick among some current analyses) oil whore, dry drunk, born-again zealot, brainless puppet of geo-politically crazed neo-imperialist, neo-cons, Rushkoff entertains the possibility we add another perception, GW the post-modern gamesman. Rushkoff sees the current war-hype as perhaps a form of electronic voodoo, an elaborate psy-op designed to use global media to intimidate Hussein into abdicating or spark an internal coup in Iraq, averting war through a game of chicken. Interesting, and conceivable. If so, I'm not sure if I'd feel more or less worried. For such a strategy (admittedly an ancient one, lots older than Machiavelli) bespeaks a recklessness that likely won't stop with Iraq, and sooner or later is going to blow up (and/or blowback) big time.
Phil [4:48 PM]

From leuscke by way of wood s lot a sign of the times, a recessionary prose poem.
Phil [4:07 PM]

This weekend forget your New York Times book review drivel. Read this: Pollack wipes his ass on the contemporary American novel. Soon to be a rock song.
Phil [3:46 PM]

[ Friday, October 11, 2002 ]

Charles Kuffner over at Off the Kuff calls for support for Ron Kirk for Senate. Kirk's a fairly liberal Democrat (and according to Kuffner a good guy) with a good shot at pulling off a big win right in W's back-yard. Which needless to say would be a big embarrassment to Bush &Co. Sounds great to me.
Phil [4:37 PM]

Sorry to hear, as reported by Eric Olsen at BlogCritics, that the house in Englewood, NJ, where, according to many, including Nelson George, hip-hop recording was born, burned down this morning.
Phil [2:07 PM]

Glad to see Eric Alterman give his reluctant but considered endorsement of The American Conservative magazine, which is the probably the best new print mag of the season for the forcefulness of its critiques of the neo-cons, and intellectually a nice shot of fresh air. I wish more of it (hell, any of it) was on-line, and, as an unorthodox paleo-liberal (or at least trying to be, unorthodox that is), that it had more counter-parts on the port side of the spectrum, though admittedly plenty of good online pubs have opened up of late.( see links on the left).
Phil [12:17 PM]

[ Thursday, October 10, 2002 ]

A nice spread in Wood s Lot on Mina Loy, the goddess of modernism.
Phil [3:30 PM]

Rob Dreher in one of the most interesting things I've seen in The National Review in, well, probably ever, explores a heretofore seldom noticed cultural melddown, the crunchy cons- Birkenstock Burkeans, Deadhead dittoheads, pro-life vegan Buddhist Bush-ites etc. etc.
An intriguing phenomenon. As one who's kept as much distance as possible from the crunchoid style and aesthetic, and found its orthodoxy chronically stifling and annoying, I think crunchy-con is a wonderful development, possibly (but that's too hopeful) auguring a new era of the post-crunch left.
Phil [3:21 PM]

[ Wednesday, October 09, 2002 ]

Ron Rosenbaum has always been a great researcher, incisive analyst and sharp reporter. So how is it he's discovering just now that there are some arrogantly and reflexively anti-American, morally tone-deaf and intellectually dogmatic a-holes on the left? And how is it that revelation is causing him to reduce the emerging movement against an invasion of Iraq to a one-dimensional caricature, when a little research would make it clear there's a wide range of debate and at least some serious searching for viable principles of a humane, intelligent and effective foreign policy going on within it? His article in the Observer this week is sad stuff, not so much because it's not often accurate in its critique of the fringe left,but because he seems to have lost interest in seeing anything else when in the case of the Central Park demonstration he easily could have . Instead of being an engaging eccentric enthusiast, he seems to be settling in as a cranky old Mr.Sammler.
Phil [4:42 PM]

I generally like Eric Alterman's political commentary, but more and more I'm really drawn to his appreciations of American music, Alterreviews, which I think are actually his best stuff.
Phil [3:45 PM]

If you like Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary and you're a contemporary politics buff (or just one of the above) you'll want to check William Burton today.
Phil [2:03 PM]

[ Tuesday, October 08, 2002 ]


Thanks to JD Lascia for pointing out this neat forum, devoted to the notion of participatory journalism. Where most discussions and/or polemics about blogs tend to bog down on the IMHO misstated issue of whether blogs are really a "valid" form of "real" journalism or not, Hypergene features some fresh creative thinking about the emerging effects of online writing, reading and communities on how "news" is produced, consumed, and circulated.
Phil [3:10 PM]

Here's my contribution to Amptoons BlogBurst, a collection of short letters against invasion of Iraq.

We're witnessing a classic, reckless and profoundly
wrong-headed example of imperial overreach. What's
being proposed by the neo-con zealots who've taken
control of U.S. foreign policy is an arrogant,
open-ended commitment to reshaping a region of a
billion people to U.S. will. The costs to our domestic
economy, safety and liberty, as well as the lives of
who knows how many innocent civilians in how many
countries, are going to be enormous.

Ampersand yesterday and today is running dozens of open letters against a U.S. strike on Iraq.
Phil [11:55 AM]

[ Monday, October 07, 2002 ]

In this rambling but insightful interview Bill Hilsman, advertising maverick who directed the insurgent guerilla media camapigns of Jesse Ventura and Paul Wellstone (back in 1990) writes off the 2002 elections as a total waste for anyone hoping for the breakthrough of a grass roots alternative politics, bemoaning the terminal conventionality of "progressive" democrats, and the lack of strategic imagination of the Greens and other third parties. Dour, pessimistic, but instructive. (Thanks to Cursor)
Phil [4:38 PM]

Sorry to see Arts and Letters, one of the best portals for literary, scientific and cultural articles and publications, will no longer be around. Happily, editor Denis Dutton's other site is committed to picking up the slack.
Phil [4:13 PM]

[ Sunday, October 06, 2002 ]

Farewell to Norman O. Brown, wild man classicist,master aphorist,heterodoxical philosophical comedian and always ironic academic prophet of the Dionysian.
He ceased to be fashionable in intellectual circles a long time ago, but my bet is Life Against Death, Love's Body and more recent collected work, published under the title Apocalyse/ and/or Metamorphosis will captivate radically minded readers and thinkers for quite a few generations to come.
Phil [5:35 PM]


There were definitely a good 25 to 30 thousand people in Central Park in NYC this afternoon in the pledge of opposition to U.S. invasion of Iraq when I stopped by about 2 pm, and people were still arriving.
Phil [5:26 PM]

[ Friday, October 04, 2002 ]

Remix Magazine continues its series of short profiles of pioneers of the mix music aesthetic. This month a nice piece on Juan Atkins and the roots of Detroit techno in the mid-80s.
Here's another from a few months back, an interview with Lee Scratch Perry, creative spirit behind the dub sound and mentor of Bob Marley and the early Wailers.
Phil [4:25 PM]

[ Thursday, October 03, 2002 ]

Found poetic nugget of the day, from former lit major turned economist Max Sawicky, of MaxSpeak, on the National Review online:
"Reading NRO is like watching a succession of turds floating downstream".
Phil [4:08 PM]

Joe Klein used to be an excellent and gutsy journalist, doing reports on working class communities hit in the 70s and early 80s by "deindustrialization", the lives of Vietnam vets (well before it was fashionable) and American folk music, including the Woody Guthrie biography famously hyped by Bruce Springsteen on his live box CD. Then once Rolling Stone pretty much gave up on serious reportage, he "grew up", made some real money (good for him) but lost much of his edge, turning into a mainstream inside baseball political pundit and, of course, "anonymous" author of a sensational, but ultimately ephemeral political novel. It's especially gratifying to have him back in top form, excoriating the timidity and intellectual vapidity of not only the Democrats but of mainstream political media as well re: radical preemptive war-mongering as official policy. In the U.K. paper the Guardian, interestingly, perhaps indicatively ,enough.
Phil [1:54 PM]

Having gone to Penn during the post-activist proto-yuppie malaise period in the shadow of the advent of the Reagan era, I was happy to see this e-mail this am. A sign some things perhaps have changed for the better.

> Senator Santorum’s Office Taken Over to Protest War
> (1 South Penn Square, Widener Building, 9th Floor)
> PHILADELPHIA-(October 3, 2002) At 11:00 am, Senator
> Santorum’s office will
> be taken over to protest the impending war in Iraq.
> Students from the
> University of Pennsylvania, University of the
> Sciences, and Temple
> University, along with area residents, are risking
> arrest to illustrate the
> strength of their convictions that the war in Iraq
> is both foolish and
> unnecessary. The protesters argue that Senator
> Santoorum is violating
> democratic process by ignoring his constituents and
> their views on the war.
> “Even though is constituency has swamped his office
> with letters, phone
> calls and meeting requests opposing war against the
> Iraqi people, Santorum
> does not appear to be getting the message,”
> explained University of
> Pennsylvania freshman Elise Wang. “So we don’t plan
> on leaving the office
> until he confirms that he is listening, and that he
> recognizes the costs of
> war.”
> Coalition members see this war as being both unjust
> and harmful at many
> levels. Grace Wicks, an employee at a Philadelphia
> café, missed work in
> order to voice her opposition to Bush’s proposed
> war. “No amount of oil can
> justify the threat to human life that Bush’s
> proposal represents.”
> Matthew Grove, a Penn student and teacher at a
> non-profit organization in
> Camden, feels that the costs of war are not limited
> to the Middle East and
> American soldiers. “Our cities are losing
> population, jobs, and social
> programs at an alarming rate. It’s too bad that the
> Bush administration is
> determined to waste tens of billions of dollars on
> an illegal war rather
> than address problems at home.”
> The action will continue until Senator Santorum
> meets the following demands:
> We demand that Senator Santorum acknowledge openly
> the following statement.
> 1. This war will risk innocent lives, both American
> and Iraqi.
> 2. The war on terrorism is distinct from the US
> interest in overthrowing the
> Iraqi regime.
> 3. War will increase opposition to the US in the
> international communithy.
> 4. Your constituents have shown overwhelming
> opposition to the war through
> letters, calls, and meetings.
> 5. Senator Santorum must hold a town meeting
> immediately to listen to
> citizens’ opinion on the war.
> 6. Pledge to vote no on Bush’s resolution to
> authorize military action
> against Iraq
> 7. We will not leave until these demands are met in
> whole.
> ###
> jason fults
> PO Box 31909
> Philadelphia, PA 19104-0609
> 215-222-4711
> "The sad part of 'growing up' is not the process of
> learning about reality.
> It is the process of accommodating to deformities in
> the world, and then
> allowing oneself to be shaped by a desire to fit in
> and be part of the world
> as it is currently constituted, regardless of how
> corrupted that world is."
> --Michael Lerner
> "Surplus Powerlessness"
> MSN Photos is the easiest way to share and print
> your photos:

Do you Yahoo!?

Phil [8:33 AM]

Thanks to Michael at Slashdot for this link. Seems to me Rep. Lofgren's to be commended for pointing the way to a realistic common sense approach to creatively balancing intellectual property rights with a liberal notion of fair use rights in the digital age. Doubtless big corporate media will hate it. The article says the bill is unlikely to go anywhere this session, but still there's hope it will gain some traction next year. At the very least an encouraging sign.
Phil [6:33 AM]

[ Wednesday, October 02, 2002 ]

A farewell to one of the forgotten heroes of American underground culture.
Phil [4:55 PM]

More accounts of police state-style intimidation tactics in Washington, D.C. last weekend. Becoming clear that Charles Ramsey's out to become the Bull Conner of the 2000s.
Phil [4:17 PM]

[ Tuesday, October 01, 2002 ]

Maybe there is a new new new journalism. And Neal Pollack:Mailer Thompson: Austin Powers:James Bond. That's a compliment, I think. In any case this is great fun.
Phil [4:43 PM]

I didn't even realize New Jersey had a poet laureate, but given that it does Governor Jim McGreevy's call for Amiri Baraka's resignation from said gig for a poem on the grounds that it "could" be construed as anti-semitic, is a depressing example of cowardly opportunism by a supposedly "progressive" pol. Baraka's been known to go off the deep end politically, as well as to be rather humorlessly radical, but most people conversant with American poetry of the past half-century will acknowledge he's a serious and important poet. The poem, a pointed, passionate, incantatory rant about the prevalence of many forms of violence and terrorism in the U.S. and the world, indicts a free-form assemblage of "reactionary" forces, including a relatively short section on Israel. It ain't necessarily the greatest political poem ever written, (though it's pretty good in my opinion) but it's not anti-semitic on any open-minded reading. Glad to see Baraka standing up.
Phil [3:33 PM]