Birmingham 1963, Berkeley 1964, Prague, Paris, and Mexico City 1968, U.S. national student strike 1970, Berlin and Beijing 1989, Seattle 1999, Tehran 2002. Just a few examples of how, whether it's a military-industrial complex, police state, oligarchy, theocracy... movements inspired by (usually non or post-ideological) notions of radical democracy, personal and social liberty manage to keep emerging. Behzad Yaghmaian explores the student led insurgency against the clerical state in Iran now underway, a bright spot in an otherwise dismal political year. Whatever happens in the next few months, as crackdown is commenced, the Iranian democracy movement points a way outside the box of reactionary Islamism vs. reactionary neo-imperialism in the Middle East (if and only if, of course, its propitiously positive energies are supported by kindred progressive spirits).
Phil [2:57 PM]
Few (for obvious reason) laud cynicism, greed and vulgarity. Nearly as pernicious in its way, though, is the stultifying high-mindedness of guardians who charge themselves with protecting us against these evils. This sort of oppressive high-mindedness is all too alive among the mandarins of "respectable " journalism, whom Matt Welch takes on in this sharply spirited critique. For these somber, responsible, watchdog types, the answer to hyper-comercialized trash tabloid journalism is the enshrinement of "socially responsible" journalism (presided over by themselves), placed in the hands a professional, formally degreed priesthood purified of the taint both of commercial tawdriness (call it Murdochism) AND demotic,entrepreneurial, populist, radical democracy, as evidenced above all by the chaotic creativity of web publishing, zines and other less respectable venues. Unfortunately, as Welch suggests, their cure is in many ways worse than the disease. The sober "objective, responsible" journalistic tradition these old farts evoke is a severely limited one, one which ignores the model of a non-conformist, non-academically credentialed journalism of the Reeds, Menckens, Stones, Nocks, Dan Wolfs or Tom Wolfe's, Breslins, Barbara Demmings, Bangs, Warren Hinckles, you can name others, not nurtured in the classroom.
Phil [3:23 PM]
There's been much justified outrage about the "Big Brother" police state implications of the Information Awareness Office and its pet technological scheme, Total Information Awareness. Justin Raimondo reminds us that whatever the Orwellian ambitions of the national security technocrats, the TIA plan, like many another command-control regimen before it, is likely, at least as currently conceived, to be an embarassing failure, misunderstanding technology as badly as it does the Bill of Rights.
As Raimondo puts it, "While never underestimating the evil intentions of our aspiring Ministry of Governmental Omniscience (MOGO), the idea of "total information awareness" is utterly impossible – which is why socialism is a discredited failure and the Soviet Union is no more. For the Soviet commissars, and their Western amen corner, in positing the superiority of economic planning over the "anarchy" of the market, overlooked a simple fact of human nature. Human beings are fallible, limited not only in their knowledge but also in their capacity to take in and analyze information....And what will they do with all this information? Computers can store data, but they cannot tell us what to retrieve. The creators of these machines are still the ultimate decision-makers, and we are back to the same old problem. Human fallibility definitely is a problem for aspiring dictators, who have been dreaming of infallibility through "total information awareness" since the days of Domitian. They will never attain it. But that isn't going to stop them from trying – and acquiring enormous power in the process."
Though data mining is a useful and promising technology in augmenting human intelligence and discovery, it remains only as smart as the questions it's given, framed by human intelligence derived in specific contexts. From the outlines that can be gleaned Poindexter's dream is a Rube Goldberg contraption ingenious but overwrought. A futile top-down driven technology when what's really needed are numerous more modest applications which help organize and filter humanly gathered intelligence from the bottom-up more effectively. Which is finally as much an organizational- cultural as a technical challenge.
As the Markle Foundation Task Force on "National Security in the Information Age", which has been highly critical of TIA from an intelligence technology as well as civil liberty standpoint, puts it, ""Today's information technology allows us to use the power of widely distributed information to protect Americans against terrorist threats, America will make a mistake if we create a centralized 'mainframe' information architecture focused on the nation's capital when the intelligence and other information critical to homeland security need to be shared and coordinated across the country and around the world.As the 9/11 stories illustrate, most information gathering is done by people who are far removed from Washington. The people on the frontlines are at the local level: the police officer hearing a complaint from a landlord; an airport official who hears about a plane a pilot trainee left on a runway; an FBI agent puzzled by an odd flight school student in Arizona;, or an emergency room resident treating a strange ailment. The report argues that because of the nature of new terrorist threats, it is necessary to create a more horizontal, cooperative, and fluid process for intelligence collection, sharing and analysis."
Unfortunately this quixotic engineer's quest for a behaviorial Star Wars shield against terrorism will, if implemented, history suggests, be a success at one thing, providing over-zealous and cynically opportunistic investigators a power tool to wreak havoc on many innocent citizens.
Phil [2:39 PM]
For true pop culture and history nerds, a treasure-trove of audio time capsules. Especially this one, an unedited logger tape of KLIF, Dallas's numer one Top 40 rock n roll station, broadcasting from about 12:30 pm 11/22-63, the hour JFK was assassinated, 39 years ago today. The broadcast begins as if it were routine day (early 60s pop songs, commercials, DJ patter), and only gradually does this mundane normalcy give way to a realization of the history-shaking extraordinariness of the day.
Phil [9:51 AM]
I don't like to be praising The American Conservative so much or often (because I'm not one), but again the mag proves its mettle with a long (literally half the issue), winding, but very engaging interview with an elderly, but thankfully still very sharp, Norman Mailer. Though only a few months shy of 80, Mailer, prompted by Taki, Scott McConnell and Kara Hopkins, is in a fine "dialectical" polemical form seldom seen in a good 20-25 years, bringing a still ripping literary imagination to his favorite subject (even more than himself): the imbalanced American psyche, suggesting that intensely troubled but interesting times again are his muse. If, as I am, you're a long time fan and know the canon, you may have heard much before. The notion of a coalition of romantics of the right and left against the technocrats of the center has been a Mailer trademark since his first run for New York City mayor in 1960 as a candidate for the short-lived "Existentialist" party. Likewise antipathy towards technology, seen as a deadener of the senses, references to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Henry Miller and Carlye-like fascination with the motivations of the powerful.
Nonetheless like an old jazz or blues master he's capable of giving some of the classic riffs very fresh twists.
On Saddam Hussein: "As far as I can see, and this is from a novelist's point of view, if I were Saddam hussein, the last people I would want to have in my country are terrorists from other countries because I am interested in total control over my own land. Terrorists are loose cannons. Why would Hussein want to pay an unforeseen price?"
On liberalism: "I am not a liberal. The notion that man is a rational creature who arrives at reasonable solutions to knotty problems is much in doubt as far as I'm concerned. liberalism depends all too much on having an optimistic view of human nature. but the history of the 20th century did not exactly fortify that notion. Morever, liberalism also depends too much upon reason rather than any appreciation of mystery."
On conservatism and neo-cons: "Conservatism has its own deep ditches, its unclimable walls, its immutable old ideas sealed in concrete.. Lately there are two profoundly different kinds of conservatives emerging, as different in their way as the communists and socialists were before and after 1917. What I call "value conservatives" and what I call 'flag conservatives"... I don't think flag conservatives give a real damn about conservative values. They use the words. They certainly use the flag. They love words like evil... They rely on manipulation. What they want is power. They feel this country is becoming more and more powerful on the one hand, but on the other is rapidly growing dissolute. And so the only solution for it is empire."
On Reagan: "Someone like Taft would be a value conservative, Reagan, I think was not. I will say I don't think Reagan ever had an original idea in his life...I once sat next to him..I spent the entire meal trying to figure out a tough question to ask him. I always found that if you meet someone's eyes a good question can come to mind and for two hours he sat there, perfectly calm and pleasant and making jokes and talking. It was a lightweight conversation...It occurred to me after he became president that he probably, if he could help it, never spent time talking to someone who was of no use to him...At one time he had an enormous impact on value conservatives because he thought he was one of them. I suspect he had as much in commin with them as a screen star does with an agricultural laborer."
On G.W. Bush: "One of Bush's worst faults in rhetoric is to use the word evil as if it were a button he can touch to increase his powere. Bush uses evil as his hot button for the American public. Any man who can employ that word 15 times in 5 minutes is not a conservative."
On Israel: "It was such a small country when it began. If the Arab leaders had had any kind of human goodness in them, they could have said, these people have been through hell. Let's treat them with Islamic courtesy, the way we are supposed to treat strangers. Instead they declared them the enemy. The Isrealis had no choice but to become strong and get allied with us. In the course of doing so, some of the best aspects of Jewish nature, irony, the love of truth, wisdom and justice, suffered internal depredations."
Granted TAC gave Mailer the (sort of still at this point) celebrity (though probably unknown among most 30 or even 35 year olds, even the most literary) plenty of leeway they probably wouldn't have to a lesser-known.
Even so what amazes me is how rare a discussion like this, often and freely trampling ideological barricades (including those of the pub's editors), is in any current "journal of opinion" of any ideological flavor.
Phil [2:52 PM]
Intervention Magazine, edited by veteran Stewart Nusbaumer, profiles Veterans Against the Iraq War, apparently a wide coalition of people from different veteran's organizations, now emerging as a national organization.
Phil [5:20 AM]
Bob Holman on the "US-Dada link between vaudeville and TV", Lord Buckley, as narrated by Oliver Trager. It's rare enough for an artist to revolutionize an existing genre or art form. Buckley, most of whose recordings are still "out of print" created a panoply of still un-conventionalized new forms, while tearing down the wall, perhaps more than anyone besides Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, between high and low/pop arts.
Trager usefully provides transcriptions of classic Buckley bits.
Phil [2:39 PM]
Guerilla News Network on a growing number of conservatives Edmund Burke and Robert Taft would be proud of, leading the critique of the "Information Awareness Office".
Evidence authoritarian overreach has the potential of cutting into the conservative-libertarian coalition. Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today threatened to "name names" of those recalcitrant conservatives with impractical nostalgia for the Bill of Rights who are balking at the implications of the Homeland Security Act.
LeanLeft offers a concrete option for opposing IAO.
Phil [2:32 PM]
Kurt Nimmo takes a look at the "Contra-ization" of the Iraqi National Congress and the attempt by the newest of well-funded neo-con front groups, The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, to spin an invasion and occupation of Iraq as a crusade for national liberation.
Phil [2:14 PM]
Jim Healy gives "prowar pro-civil liberties" neo-libertarians the facts of life, that they are patsies of the Republican coalition, Bush-wacked and Poindextered. And that, cliched though it may be, War is indeed the Steroid of the State.
Phil [2:25 PM]
A generation plus ago Richard Flacks, one of the key strategists of the early SDS, called for a "realignment" of the two-party system with the Democrats jettisoning their Southern "dixiecrat" faction, and reconfiguring itself as the party of radical-progressive reform, presumably including old-fashioned Midwestern and Yankee Republican liberals. This is one early New Left prediction that has actually proven prescient (replete with irony as the current reality is), especially if this e-mail campaign meets with any success.
Phil [3:31 PM]
A generation plus ago Richard Flacks, one of the key strategists of the early SDS, called for a "realignment" of the two-party system with the Democrats jettisoning their Southern "dixiecrat" faction, and reconfiguring itself as the party of radical-progressive reform, presumably including old-fashioned Midwestern and Yankee Republican progressives. Not much of early New Left prediction has proven so prescient (replete with irony as the current reality is), especially if this e-mail campaign meets with any success.
Phil [3:31 PM]
Following up on Cockburn's paean to Merle Haggard's cantankerous populist radicalism, Jesse Walker places ol Merle in the songwriting lineage of Woody Guthrie.
Phil [2:51 PM]
Some potentially serious guts shown by the tentatively populist Albert Gore in introducing Harry Truman's radical program of "socialized medicine" into the 2004 mainstream mix. Apparently prompted at least in part by Howard Dean, whose long-shot presidential candidacy (should it make him even a significant contender) in the Democratic primaries) would be the first successful national blog and web-grown political campaign ever.
Phil [5:56 AM]
Sick of the monotonous think-tank certified media pundoid hegemony of AEI-Heritage, with some occasional very milktoast Brookings and a little increasingly establishmentarian Cato thrown in? Well, seems there's a (hopefully) new "communications engine" revving up. Commonweal Institute, a populist-progressive answer to the Heritage Foundation. (Thanks to Seeing The Forest, an excellent political blog)
Phil [12:47 PM]
Reflecting on the evolution of Merle Haggard from anti-hippie pro-Vietnam war anthemist to major critic of Ashcroft and Bush's Patriot Act, Alex Cockburn predicts that totally unlike the 1960s anti-war movement the prospects of anti-war right-left alliance this time are real. Wonder if he knows about Stand Down.
Phil [7:01 AM]
That's agitainment. A 59 year old anarchist ( a real one, not like John Lydon) political philosophy professor doing vocals, a Blake-ian bassist, a rock critic and biographer of Lester Bangs on drums, and a lead guitarist named G-Haad. Vortis, named for Wyndham Lewis's WWI Vorticist movement, describe their music:
"There is a real affinity between Vortis and some aspects of the punk attitude toward music, life and society that developed in the 1970s and 1980s. Vortis treasures the oppositional stance of punk toward established social institutions and the corporate music of the culture industry. Vortis affirms punk's energy. But it would also be a mistake to carry this identification too far. Punk often took a nihilistic stance toward the world, declining into energetic abjection. In contrast, Vortis follows the early Vorticists' positive program of directing energy toward more intense vitality - in a joyful way - rather than expending it in self-immolating rebellion.
Perhaps the best way to understand Vortis musically is to see it as an injection of the Vorticist artistic project into contemporary musical forms, energizing them and carrying them beyond their established boundaries into new sonic dimensions."
Plus angry politically radical lyrics (some really good, some juvenile or maybe senile) updating The Fugs and early Clash, if that's your beat.
Phil [3:48 PM]
In print on-line is a classic by Alfred Jay Nock, one of the most colorfully cantankerous figures in 20th century American letters. Famous in the 20s and 30s (and unjustly neglected by most academic intellectual histories) Nock travelled far left and right as a polemicist and ideologue (influencing Anarchists and conservatives like young W.F. Buckley) but can be seen above all as a consistently radical Jeffersonian throughout his career.(thanks to Jesse Walker for the link)
Here's a pretty good introduction to Nock in the form of a review of his Memoirs of a Superfluous Man.
Phil [5:00 PM]
The Bush-Cheney-Birch Adminstration. Mike Finley, time-traveling while feeling perversely nostalgic about "Impeach Earl Warren" signs and other Bircher fringe classics like "Kill a Commie for Christ", realizes that political reality has entered a twilight zone, where the rabid ravings of right wing nuts from 40 years ago are now what passes as normalcy. Finley names his piece after an old Bob Dylan song.
Phil [4:08 PM]
One of America's favorite Hemingway-esque literary adventurers (not the one who's part owner of a good Chelsea bar) gets back from a rough, ideologically jarring, trip to Afghanistan.
Phil [4:17 PM]
A good essay by Ron Silliman about the need for (and conspicuous absence of) "literary formations" (shared groupings or factions formed around common stylistic and aesthetic concerns) in the poetry world. The down side of competing "schools", coteries and canons is obvious enough (divisiveness, in-group cliques, literary politics), but, Silliman argues, eclecticism and individualism for their own sake lead to an atomized cultural world in which only bureaucracies or the corporate market connect readers to new work. Dialogs (including arguments) between divergent and even competing literary groupings are what give a literary world "shape" and a usable history.
Phil [4:02 PM]
A forgotten figure for the most part over the past 26 years since his death (and mostly unknown by people under about 40), Phil Ochs (the best topical songwriter of the 1960s and one of the better songwriters of that era, period) is revived in this eccentric but effective array of musical interpeters. New anti-war songs, needless to say, need to be written. But this, this, and this, among others, will be worth listening to for quite awhile to come.
Phil [3:36 PM]
Oliver Willis has been beating the drum for Harold Ford as the politician to get the Democrats out of their political and intellectual funk. Though I was skeptical at first I must admit I'm getting persuaded he might be right.
Though Nancy Pelosi's devotion to left-liberal values is appealing (and needed), I think Oliver's on to something in his touting of Ford as the future of the Dems. Certainly in terms of style (as important in its way to an aspiring leader as it is to a writer or boxer) he looks to be opening up new ground- as the first really post-boomer national pol, as a liberal with the political chops, telegenic star quality, pragmatic temperament, and Clintonian charisma (hopefully without the baggage) to appeal way beyond the black and liberal party base to moderates and independents. In terms of substance he needs more scrutiny,(and his vote on authorization for an Iraqi invasion is not propitious), but then again on domstic issues he's off to a good start offering a positive pro-growth alternative to the Bush trickle-down tax cuts with stimulative tax cuts targeted for the middle class and business investment, a position Robert Reich, Paul Krugman and others have cogently argued. I hope he heeds this advice as well.
Whether he wins in his long-shot bid for minority congressional leadership or not, he's got (if he's pushed hard enough by the party base) lots of potential to make a progressive message mainstream.
Phil [12:31 PM]
Lots of discussion on No War Blog about how an effective movement against military adventurism in Iraq can better connect with the wide base of Americans skeptical of U.S.-initiated "regime change" in Iraq.
It's been occasioned by the fact that recent big marches, though they've been successful in getting hundreds of thosands of people out to protest, have been organized by "cadres" with seriously out there in far, far left field agendas. (Something "mainstream" media has ignored so far in basically trivializing the movement, but that will be given prominent play, you can bet, when the bombing actually starts in earnest).
I like Bill Scher's common sense on this and bet Tom Paine would too.
I think one of the key concepts of the "smart peace movement" as expressed in the article is that it would a "parallel organization", identifiably seperate from ANSWER, but not necessarily unable to cooperate with them, especially when it comes to mass mobilizations/demonstrations. So, as I understand it, it would be an independent configuration with its own organizational presence (e.g. local or campus chapters), its own national identity and, crucially,its own message and its own media/community outreach.As an activist organization it would conduct its own forms of public expression(lobbying politicians, petittions) and, perhaps, its own demonstrations at times.But it could also be an important element in organizing mass marches with more radical groups (pushing for a more inclusive, mainstream focus and speakers when that's necessary).
Phil [1:02 PM]
In this strong piece that I don't think has gotten the attention it should, James Galbraith darkly contemplates the short and longer-term domestic and global economic implications of U.S. military adventurism in the Middle East.
Phil [4:02 PM]
A great day for military stocks. A lousy day for hopefulness about progressive electoral politics (less I'm convinced because there's no base for radical populist reform than because of the inanities of a muddled, milktoast Democratic party leadership). A pretty lousy day for libertarian hopes of ending the drug war soon, though the anti-drug war coalition seems to be gaining momentum despite temporary set-backs.
Phil [10:59 AM]
Good to see an endorsement of what Stand Down's doing by Justin Raimondo on AntiWar.com, which has been doing great work for years. That's a nice step forward for a left-right (and as Jesse Walker says "non-Euclidean) political coalition against the War Party.
Phil [7:02 AM]
I'll be watching Minnesota, New Hampshire, Texas, South Dakota etc. for all the tight Senate races. But, as Eric Olsen reminds us, one of these states, Nevada, Ohio, or Arizona may crack the "Just Say No" zeitgeist tonight. Or at least begin to. Even though I like beer better than pot (though I'd never turn either down), that's promising news.
Phil [2:03 PM]
Though conventional wisdom du jour sees a last minute Republican mini-surge spelling GW Bush-based Republican triumph tommorrow, Dick Morris, playing contrarian this cycle, sees a surprisingly strong Democratic showing, and a big win in the Senate.
Phil [4:04 PM]
Shades of Sam Cooke, King Curtis...yes and Tupac Shakur. In PopMatters, Mark Anthony calls the murder of Jason Mizell not only the latest violent senseless murder of a classic musical innovator, but an act of cultural treason.
Phil [3:37 PM]
Justin Raimondo complains The American Conservative and conservative critics of U.S. military adventurism in Iraq are getting dissed by the left and frozen out of the anti-war movement. If that's really happening it's an idiotic move. But I don't think he should take David Corn's The Nation trashing as representative. I think quite a few liberal-left people are quite impressed with the mag. And they should be. On the emerging Bush foreign policy the analyses are as sharp as it gets.
Phil [3:57 PM]
The paranoid style lives. Just when I'd thought the edge in over the top conspiranoia had (unfortunately) been taken over by the "Bush Knew" irrationalist fringe of the left comes John "LeBoot" Leboutillier to show how it's really done. LeBoot, you may remember, gained his stripes as a hard righty with his "Harvard Hates America" young Bill Buckley redux act in the late 70s and early 80s, making his way briefly into the U.S. Congress. Now, as Fox News commentator and blogger he connects all the dots showing how the triumph of PC Leftism imperils America. If you want to know how the insurgent new left radicalism of SDS led to the Enron scandals, and much else, check out his "analysis".
Phil [3:28 PM]
As a movement above all of very ambitious political intellectuals (truly hot, as Norman Mailer, not one of them, once said to fondle the rump of History) neo-conservatism has since the demise Cold War flayed about for a world-historical nemesis worthy of its Hegelian ambitions. Up till now, though, it's had to settle for the culture war at home, and military thugs. Not bad, but hardly big enough as an ideological crusade. Until now.
Today in the Weekly Standard David Brooks melodramatically lays out the case for Saddam Hussein not as mere thug but as worthy theoretical nemesis as well. The piece, an account of Hussein's relationship with his philosophical mentor Michel Aflaq, paints Hussein as Lenin to Aflaq's Marx. Where the uniniatiated may see the Baath Party as one perverse offshoot of Arab nationalism, Brooks claims it as its apotheosis. If the election results Tuesday give the Bush administration the green light to move invasion plans back into high gear I will bet Brook's historical revisionism will quickly be on the pundit's fast track as Clash of Civilization rhetoric heats up.
Phil [4:27 PM]
November 22,1963, April 4, 1968, June 5, 1968...Dec. 8, 1980.
Sheila Lennon suggests that, though Paul Wellstone may not have been assassinated, Oct.25, 2002 will hold a similar resonance in the memory of liberals, especially for those now in their teens and 20s.
Phil [11:30 AM]