Noosphere Blues

[ Friday, February 28, 2003 ]

A few years ago, heck even a few months ago, I would have/could have dismissed a clown like Michael Savage, and his latest hobby-horse, a campaign to bring back the Espionage Act of 1917(and call for the arrest of all anti-war protesters) as a goof. But when you consider how quickly U.S. society seems have moved through the looking glass, and that in a week or two, he'll have a nationally-hyped nightly show that MSNBC hopes will allow it to better compete with the Fox-fascists, it's enough to make a jaded cynic paranoid.
Phil [10:26 AM]

[ Thursday, February 27, 2003 ]

Some see in the Bush-Cheney-Perle-Wolfowitz doctrine a reincarnation of Wilsonian Idealism (a liberating departure, it's said, from cyncial realpolitik). More credibly it could be described as a bad (farcical if weren't so tragic) parody of the worst of Wilsonianism with a mad dash of Teddy Rooseveltian-Brooks Adams adventurism. But, when all is said and done, American historical analogies don't quite do this shit justice. We're quickly moving into a mode that sounds more like American Kiplingesque.
Phil [3:56 PM]

[ Wednesday, February 26, 2003 ]

The sanctimonious Cowboy Caesar outlines the new American dream (nightmare) of civilization-building via Shock and Awe.
Phil [3:05 PM]

[ Tuesday, February 25, 2003 ]

Like Mark Twain (a writer not very much like him in most other respects) railing against ACT 1 of the American Empire a century ago, Norman Mailer in the twilight of his great career, prophesies the dawning of what sounds like another ugly phase in U.S. history.
Phil [3:34 PM]

[ Monday, February 24, 2003 ]

The Bushevikis may be manic in their imperial lust, but (Lenin and other theorists of the economic roots of empire notwithstanding) the global money elite, at least as Laurie Gannett (by way of Bruce Sterling) reports it, are seriously depressed. (thanks to Weblogsky)
Phil [3:40 PM]

Surveying the increasing stridency and apocalypticism of War Party propaganda, Justin Raimondo predicts that the "swaggering excesses" of what Mark Crisping Miller is terming the Busheviki are in the early stages of provoking their own reaction in the U.S. As he puts its," Add political and cultural turmoil to the toll taken by this war in terms of troops and treasure. The anti-war movement is, in large part, a youth movement. Brought up to believe that America is a democratic republic, today's young Americans see their country becoming an empire abroad and a police state at home. As the land of the free and the home of the brave becomes the land of the Patriot Act and the home of the too-scared-to-protest, the young are standing up to be counted. There is a premonition of insurrection in the air, not only political but also cultural, that could make the 1960s – with all its excesses – seem like a Sunday school picnic. "

Though I wouldn't have thought so before a month or two ago, I'm beginning to suspect that for better and worse (though none of the familiar plots of political struggle, be they generational, class, racial or even traditionally ideological seem adequate to describe it) he may be right.
Phil [3:18 PM]

[ Thursday, February 20, 2003 ]

Seems like a month for world-historical manifestoes. Despite the dreary winter, with the economy in an eery kind of suspended animation, in contemplation of a slow-motion train wreck of a decade (or far longer) of war, underground energies are astir. Following up on on Ito's Emergent Demcocracy (see below), Samuel Smith on the rise of an age of distributed decentralist networks, out of the ashes of postmodernist deconstruction.
Phil [2:44 PM]

[ Wednesday, February 19, 2003 ]

Comics-artist Art Spiegelman speaks out about the earnestly timid intellectual conformity which characterizes the Remnick era at his former venue The New Yorker. (thanks to Cursor)
Phil [2:08 PM]

[ Tuesday, February 18, 2003 ]

Patrick Tyler advances a very radical notion in a most un-radical place: that rather than living in a one super-power world, there are two super-powers, one a traditional state, the other a seemingly amorphous, but nonetheless increasingly tangible force- world opinion. If Tyler's at all right (and I think he is) one has to see the Internet as the incubator of this emergent democracy,which Joichi Ito theorizes fascinatingly as Emergent Democracy 1.0.
Phil [3:44 PM]

[ Monday, February 17, 2003 ]

Looks like the first major attempt to launch a "liberal" radio format is going to happen, with venture funding. A good idea in theory. Better than that a great idea in theory. But feasible only if they can get beyond the idea of just plopping liberal politicians or show biz personalities behind a microphone, lamely imitating a forms that have been evolved over decades (way before Limbaugh) to hammer home right wing messages. I hope the venture takes the time to root itself in local markets, featuring, along with calling card national syndication names like Al Franken, good music DJs who know the medium, but are frustrated with the constraints of current commerical formats, and biting, politically edgy, more intellectual comics (e.g. Lewis Black, Richard Belzer), writers and performers, and let them develop radically new formats.The point of reference would be less the Limbaugh show or Sean Hannitty than a radio equivalent of The Daily Show. No doubt that's economically risky, but the whole premise is a huge gamble. So why not make it really alternative free-form radio. My hunch is something like this could work, but only by nurturing the talent that's coming out of underground venues like comedy clubs and webcast radio, as well as attracting marquee names.
Phil [1:52 PM]

Mobius One at Jakeneck with a great first hand account of the energy and action (and bullshit police tactics) on the streets and with the cops in NYC Saturday.
Phil [7:24 AM]

[ Saturday, February 15, 2003 ]

Invigorating day in New York City, despite sub-freezing temperatures. And despite the chill of very intimidating "crowd control" tactics by the NYPD. These included blocking and barricading entrance ways to the main rally site on 1st Avenue and, for those lucky enough to actually get through, "balkanizing" the crowd by herding groups of about 5 thousand per city block into metal "pens". At the conservative estimate of 5 thousand per block, there were at least a hundred and fifty thousand people at the main rally site, who filled up thirty packed blocks, stretching back from 51st Street-1st Ave. north to 80th St. . From about 1pm on (an hour after the rally officially began) there were many tens of thousands more oveflowing out onto 2nd and 3rd Avenues, who were sealed off from the main rally site. The NY Times reporter called the organizer's estimate of 400 thousand "not wildly improbable".

In lieu of metal pens police along 2nd and 3rd Avenue, not prepared for the size of the crowds, used more physical forms of intimidation, including pushing and shoving back crowds, provoking some scuffles and arrests. A cynic might try to describe the throngs as a cacophony of special interest groups, but as one who's been (periodically) to large peace demonstrations since the mid-70s (and is predisposed in many ways to cynicism about political demonstrations) this one feels qualitatively different. Less politically sectarian (despite the still too standard issue speaking roster), and far more widely gauged in terms of age and social groups. I can remember going to the huge Anti-nuclear march in 1982 and thinking that, despite the crowds, Reagan-Haig and company had very little to fear from the movement, which could (and was) dismissed as a "60s" holdover. My gut feeling is that the momentum of this anti-war insurgency, growing so quickly worldwide, is something Bush and his cabal
of war-intoxicated neo-con clowns, OUGHT to be more afraid of by the day, but probably in their arrogance are not.
Phil [2:40 PM]

[ Friday, February 14, 2003 ]

Phil Ochs lives. Sander highlights a hardcore radical troubadour for a new generation.
Phil [10:57 AM]

Mike Finley uses the occasion of a coffeehouse reading in St.Paul,MN. to do some righteous ruminations on his favorite anti-war poem, war, poetry, the legacy of the "lost generation", American language and much else.
Phil [10:26 AM]

[ Wednesday, February 12, 2003 ]

Crackpot realpolitik lives. Timothy Noah (aka Chatterbox) with the lamest rationale for supporting an invasion of Iraq I've seen. (Unless, to give him the benefit of the doubt, it's an exceedingly subtle piece of satire). His "logic" boiled down is that if an adminstration rhetorically makes a commitment to military action (however rashly or ill-advisedly), one has to follow through on the threat in order to maintain "credibility". This is true even if (as Noah acknowledges) the original rationale remains questionable as a justification for war. Machiavelli would have loved it. And I'm sure the Machiavelli of Mayberry does.
Phil [2:42 PM]

[ Tuesday, February 11, 2003 ]

Sounds like UCLA was the site of some pretty intense social speculation February 5-7 as the NBIC (nano-tech, bio-tech, info-tech, cognitive science) convergence conference, devoted to radical enhancements in human "performance", convened. Zack Lynch's daily dispatches convey some of the conference's highlights.
Phil [2:50 PM]

Dawning of the age of nano-photography?
Phil [2:40 PM]

[ Monday, February 10, 2003 ]

Looking more and more like Dennis Kucinich is going to run for president. If he doesn't try to turn into a mainstreamer (which would be pointless even in Machiavellian terms) that should spice things up considerably.
Phil [2:55 PM]

Perceptive, skeptical takes on media industry, comics, comix and other matters by humorist Mike Gerber.
Phil [2:47 PM]

[ Saturday, February 08, 2003 ]

Many cheers to Bill Moyers' PBS Now and The Center for Public Integrity. Just when I was giving up on U.S. journalism for its obsequiousness, these guys snag a secret draft of yet another obscenely repressive power grab by the Dept. of Justice (aka The Domestic Security Enhancement Act, aka Patriot Act 2), apparently right from under John Ashcroft's nose.(Note: Jim Henley suggests it may be an intentional leak). Perhaps there's hope yet for a watchdog press..
Phil [2:41 PM]

[ Friday, February 07, 2003 ]

Much as I admire jaded, biting polemicists, my favorite critics are ultimately those who can persuasively articulate (rather than curb) their enthusiasms. Like Rosenbaum in this on the mark appreciation of Mailer on that grand old hipster's fucking 80th birthday.
Phil [11:53 AM]

Julia Keller on PowerPoint and its philosophical-aesthetic-political discontents.
Phil [11:29 AM] (from The Washington Post) on Cyber-War planning for Iraq. Plans include disabling electrical grid, phone and other critical systems. All designed, I'm sure, with the utmost care to minimize civilian damage.
Phil [10:58 AM]

A flashback to February 7, 1964 ,as written at the time by Al Aronowitz. The best account of the Beatles arrival in the U.S.
Phil [10:44 AM]

[ Wednesday, February 05, 2003 ]

Christopher Deliso dissects the British critique of The American presses' coverage of U.S. policy on Iraq. For him the standard rap against U.S. journalists as just not being "liberal" Democratic enough is, even if accurate, too superficial. Deliso rightly identifies deeper cultural sources for the malaise of American newspaper journalism, especially the J-school "cult" of fact and the desperate yearning of mainstream journalists to be perceived as "respectable" professionals, resulting in a terror of being considered out of step with conventional status quo wisdom.
Good points, which have been made before, but bear reiteration. nonetheless let us now praise some serious investigators, such as those Dennis Hans points out, who don't often make the cable shows, and ARE doing some good digging beneath the surface of Bush-Rumsfeld, and, yes indeed, Powell rhetoric. Of particular interest today in the aftermath of Colin Powell's UN speech is this ignored work by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay of Knight-Ridder on how the Bush administration is strong-arming intelligence analysts to come up with the "right" answers on Iraq.
Phil [11:13 AM]

[ Tuesday, February 04, 2003 ]

One smart record exec realizes that, as with Elvis once, 50 million MP3 fans can't be wrong.
Phil [3:35 PM]

BUSH's BOGUS BUDGET- In his book The Best and The Brightest David Halberstam recounts in some detail how LBJ, with the complicity of his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, purposely hid the real costs of the Vietnam War in his 1966 FY budget in order to avoid having to ask for a tax increase for the war. Anything here sound familiar?
Phil [10:54 AM]

A fine site, ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose has a new url.
Phil [8:53 AM]

[ Monday, February 03, 2003 ]

A case for at least one small step toward workplace democracy (or at least against one of the dumber forms of obnoxious corporate autocracy).
Phil [3:23 PM]

William Pfaff on the eclipse of the realist tradition in foreign policy.
Phil [3:15 PM]