News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: April 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cho and the Void That's In Us All

Yeah blame it on the illness. At what point does a rotten system start generating its own vermin? Cho--as sick as he was--was a product of various siocialization processes that obviously twisted him and did not work.

All other reasons given for this violence are rationalizations--gun laws, health care, insanity pleas--etc. What the system that created this man wants you to believe is that he was just insane, a loner, a genetic mutant. He was not, he was the system's spawn.

Unfortunately, I think Cho's last words will be prophetic. This act will indeed "inspire" other angst-filled, alienated, dispossessed young people to do what he did. As I predicted ten years ago, Cho's act is political, as was Columbine, simply because it is the bloody inarticulate inchoate of rebellion against an injustice that's barely recognizable in conventional terms.

In some ways, Heidegger was right: we have to wait for the future to make it possible to think the essence of nihilism. Cho and others (to come) like him are the harbingers of that nihilistic void that lives at the heart of us all.

[xposted as a comment at Leninology] Read more!

Testimony About Venezuelan Revolution

(via Mision Riley) Susan Gonzales words on the revolution and how it originated, along with revolutionary consciousness and the role of women. Read more!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Great Musicians 1

Captain Beefheart (don van Vliet) haunted my adolescent drug-induced vortices every time I ventured out of my self-imposed isolation and into the drug caves. Actually, I have others to thank for introducing me to Beefheart's genius.

At the time, the angst and terror I experienced each time I imbibed the evil weed incapacitated me from properly socializing with these poseurs who thought I was some form of Dostoevskian Idiot. Be that as it may, across the years, I thank them for playing the Captain's records to accompany me along my progress through the pilgrim's wasteland of modern America.

If you haven't hear the Captain, there's now a short video of him talking nonsense (in the Wittgensteinian sense) to a friend who's taken the effort to capture the wraith that's the Captain on video. Read more!

Politics of Rampage 2

Richard @ Lenin's Tomb has tried some preliminary Marxist remarks on the senseless killings at VTech yesterday.

In response, I wrote the following [edited for typos]:

Richard, I'm somewhat surprised that this is the best you can come up with on this subject. Does your superficial understanding of it reflect the ultimate inability fo materialism to account for the diverse forms of modern false consciousness and alienation?

I can think of at least four ways that the Columbine and now VTech rampages have political aspects to them:

1) From a Habermasian framework, we are talking about adolescent socialization and its failure in the post-industrial, neoliberal stages of capitalism.

2) JS Mill's critiques of modern society as it tends towards conformity, thereby restricting various forms of political life.

3) Political nihilism and its metaphysical rebellion against the terror of life.

4) Just the brute reality of teenage life and its sexual politics. Teenage sex and adolescence are inherently political; all you have to do is start from the simple fact of in-groups and out-groups; who gets sex and who doesn't depends on various degrees of being in or out. Etc.

I've explored various aspects of 1 and 3. In my analysis, the very inability of many of these rampagers to communicate is itself a sign of political intent. It's an anti-politics that becomes political in its very inability to formulate any recognizable sign of understanding of intelligibility.
I hope to follow up on these comments in some measure in the following days, especially as more information becomes available.

PS Juan Cole rightly reminds us that in Iraq there are two VTech events every day:
They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. Virginia Tech will be gone from the headlines and the air waves by next week this time in the US, though the families of the victims will grieve for a lifetime. But next Tuesday I will come out here and report to you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg. We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without. But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?
I would only remind Mr. Cole that that's just how those people are; and besides, it's better over there than here, right? That's what UBU-Bush sayeth and I believeth. Read more!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Politics of Rampage: Virginia Tech

As I write this, very little is known about the mass school killings at Virginia Tech University. The media, of course, are playing the numbers game and calling it the worst rampage on a campus in history.

One fact that might be germane is that the killings fall within a few days of the anniversary for the Columbine School massacre. Few news commentators are yet making that connection, and maybe it will not hold up and be simply coincidental.

In something of a conspiratorial manner, I'll reiterate my own suspicions that the events are connected and point you, dear reader, to several postings I made after Columbine and killings on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

I hold by my contention that these incidents have a political dimension to them that few if any have ever taken seriously. This political aspect is eminently nihilistic and as such its core is the idea that there is no message, there is little intelligible sign that one can follow back to a recognizable "political" message.

This anti-politics itself will grow and spread in the future. While it feeds on adolescent angst and catastrophes, the empty heart of its message is a way to transcribe a sign of pain and rebellion on the iron walls of infinite nothingness.

I could go on to discuss a Habermasian analysis of adolescent socialization and the diremption of lifeworld and system. Some of that comes out in my analysis in "We Can Be Heroes." Yet, I am loathe to proclaim such an easily convertible explanation whose tidiness and neatness misses much of the terror.

There are, perhaps, better readings of these incidents than the one I have provided. One avenue of analysis is along the lines of nihilism, whose essence Heidegger has said, we cannot yet think. Perhaps he's right, perhaps wrong.

As you might guess, I think a Kierkegaardian analysis is apt. In this framework, though, we have to begin to understand original sin in the way he formulated it (contra the traditional theology) as well as his discussion of the nothing and despair.

What makes these discussions political is that they are religious tracts aimed at the political, meant to undermine a political regime wherein the state and the ruling religion support each other in falsifying existence.

Related Postings

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bill Gates: "Buying Young Women" and "Young Men"

I've been meaning to post on these words from the richest man since I first heard his interview on Public Radio. Yes, the title pulls the words out of context and shamelessly does so for effect. Yet, that's the point, since I want you to read Gates' words below and then listen to the interview itself where he speaks them.

In an NPR On the Media interview, Gates said:

Now, these affiliate contracts are always subject to negotiation, but it doesn't matter that it's the Internet bringing it in. What matters is that the value of those ad minutes has been increased because somebody who really wants to buy young women is paying more per viewer, and the people who want to buy the young men, they're paying more per viewer. And so as it all adds up, it's a more valuable ad minute, and the affiliate will get whatever their share is of that.
Yes, in context, on the page, it looks all innocent and almost trite. Just shop talk. There's even a bit of awe as we think about here's the big man himself giving us a bit of the real talk that real men pass back and forth when they do the real heavy lifting that's made the real world what it is.

Yet, is this man so insensitive--or whatever the right word is--to reality, and inured in his corporate-speak that he does not see that talking about buying woung women and men sounds odd, strange--even evil? As though people are just little units that are bought and sold without much afterthought.

The fact that this is purely a manner of speaking is supposed to make it more understandable. He's not talking about selling "real" people here, just air space or ad space or some such media zone that has no existence except in terms of what can be bought and sold.

This is the world of false consciousness, no? This is the world where people--young women and men--are dematerialized and packaged in a form easily convertible to capital.

Think of these words in another context, another place or time. If you were to overhear someone talking about selling young women and men you might think of human slavery or the porn world. Yet, because this is the world of business, the world where of advertising and media--where illusion passes for reality--we simply let it pass into the ears and off into the ozone.

Have you finished listening to Gates say the words? Is it just me, or is there the tiniest moment of hesitancy as and after he speaks the words; as if he suddenly realizes how weird the words he's saying sound in this context, this time/place?

Then you can almost hear him reassuring himself that this is just a matter of words, this is how they speak in the real world and, of course, the conext shows that we're not really talking about real people here.

If it's not real people, then who or what are they?

But then it all could be my imagination. You know that resentment at thinking about the richest man and how much better he is than me because he's billions and I have nothing.

Yeah, that's the ticket. Read more!

Even If HE Did Drink Coke, Don't Get Us Mixed Up in It

Okay, I'm doing to plug the site which I think is great. I've used film in Bible classes and adult religious education classes. I even included the Exorcist in one of them... The Italian film is on my list, needless to say.

[Okay, go ahead and say it, "You're a cretin for trying to make Jesus "relevant," as Quentin Skinner has sneered in another context. How else are you get people to come to a church these days? My most successful single class was when I packed a classroom at the church with 20-something college students. Now that's success!]

Matt writes:

Nevertheless, it appears that the film is about a man who (physically) meets Jesus on a road near Emmaus. Initially the man doesn't believe it when Jesus reveals who he is. Ultimately however, Jesus explains that he said he would return and he sets the man three challenges. This would seem to be the main point of the plot, so it appears that the role of Jesus is at the very least pivotal, but may also be fairly substantial.

However, what really caused controversy, was the scene where the man offers Jesus a drink of Coke. Despite at least one Vatican insider seeming happy with it (Krystov Zanussi was part of a film festival jury that actually approved it), the soft drinks firm baulked at the inclusion of their product. They requested the scene be cut, and so the release of 7km was delayed at short notice in order to make the relevant cuts.
Read more!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kindness of Strangers

The wind tears at my heart as the eyes begin to stare at the two foreigners I know us to be. Does this woman not understand? She must be working for the opposition or she has forgotten how many of us do not step on a welcome mat into all countries.

I smile at her kind words--for she seems a kind woman, well-intentioned and full of pity, maybe that better virtue compassion. But she's drawing too much attention to me: two women, one in a sundress talking to what appears to be a ragamuffin baglady of questionable swarthiness--at least here in this land of blond and blue eyes.

I need to get rid of her now. Oh my, she wants to take me out to lunch. Out to lunch?! Is she insane? The midnight sun must have drained the last drops of prudence from her joints.

Surely it'd be nice to eat in a lovely restaurant with such a beautiful woman. I might wind down the hours with soft memories and taste again the sweetness of the warm brown flesh of loves like her I once knew and lost.

Another time, another place: I'd go and spent the light hours discussing politics and the anguish of my people. I'd run the tongue of daydreams along the curves of her brown limbs. And perhaps I'd go with her and spend those ecstatic moments that two strangers share, that lonely anguish of desire that love between strangers destined for memory and perhaps forgotten bliss brings.

But that time is not now, not in this place, not in this hour of my hunger and despair.

I must find the comrades and begin the mission they have called me to accomplish.

She stands waiting--put off somewhat by the slowness of my response to what to her must seem an act of grace fallen to the streets of this busy street.

But paranoia tears at my bowels, making the leaden stumps I stand on begin to gear to move.

I reply to her pity, to her kind regard, whatever it is that has called attention to us on this street where so many eyes can see me.

"No, mi amiga. That is not necessary. I am not dressed for that, as you see. Perhaps you could show me the way to the nearest soup kitchen."

I begin walking to an alley close by, trying not to appear scared or hurried.
Read more!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Submitted by ken @ Ghost Cowboy on February 28, 2007 - 7:33am.
Tags: Indians | Arizona | New Mexico | 1882

New-York Times / July 26, 1882

LORDSBURG, New Mexico, July 26. -- A courier from Clifton reports that a large party of Indians attacked a wagon train three miles this side of Clifton yesterday morning, killing two men. The teamsters, seven in number, stood off the Indians for two hours, mortally wounding one, whom they dragged into camp in the face of heavy firing. After the fight was over they scalped him and roasted him alive. Read more!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Brzezinski Book Reviewed

An excellent review of Zbigniew Brzinski's new book by Lenin's Tomb's Richard Seymour. Brzezinski slams not only the idiot King's Iraq/War on Terror but lambastes the last 50 three regimes for ineptitude and gross imperial mistakes.

Finding Brzezinski refreshingly candid, Seymour faults the former Secretary of State:

Brzezinski’s amoral realism allows him to perceive and state bluntly what most of Bush’s apologists cannot, but his analysis is nevertheless flawed in several respects. First, little attention is paid to the role of capital. There is a bluff acknowledgment of ‘interests’, but the treatment is glancing and superficial. As with most foreign policy ‘realists’, the state’s primacy as a unit in international relations is tautologically assumed. The global projection of ad hoc military power is reduced to a matter of statecraft. Second, Bush’s decision to wage war on Iraq is reduced to hubris and arrogance. There is little attempt to understand the strategic reasons for the decision. For instance, while the administration’s gamble on Iraq was arguably reckless, the strategic advantages of creating a pro-American regime with its hands on the oil spigot in Iraq were sufficiently compelling that most of the US political class and business press vocally supported the war, not just the hardcore of neoconservatives and energy capitalists supportive of Bush. Even in the midst of failure, most Democrats and Republicans are unwilling to withdraw, fearing a Saigon moment. Third, while critical of the failure of any US president since 1990 to press meaningfully for a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict along the lines of officially espoused support for UN Resolution 242, Brzezinski offers little in the way of analysis as to why this is so. He credits domestic ‘lobbies’ with a distorting influence that takes no account of how the policies advocated by, for instance, the ‘Israel lobby’ resonate with pre-existing strategies. Aside from this analytical vacuity, the book suffers from a surfeit of cliches. We are reminded that the British also had an empire, that there may be comparisons made with the Roman one, that democracy cannot be imposed on traditional societies overnight (here Brzezinski derides ‘shortsighted American efforts’ in Palestine, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and that nemesis follows hubris.
What Seymour fails to do is to go into a longer term view of capital's role in the extension of the American empire. While granting that China is a formidable force, Seymour and Brzezinski do not undertake to understand what it is that makes American capitalism so appealing tot he rets of the world. At least one aspect, American culture has sometimes presented itself in Brzezinski's TV appearances, Seymour has little to say about it in his review. It is this aspect of capital, along with the false consciousness that it spawns, which makes American imperial power formidable--well beyond the economic or political dimensions.
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Crossing the Border

I must be looking lost. No doubt out of my element in this frigid town with so much arctic wind blowing the birds south. A nicely dressed woman in a sun dress. Is it that warm? In this weather, it's difficult to say; my coat and other assorted warmers must make me look even more bag lady like than I imagine myself looking.

She asks whether I need help. I reply: "Non, senorita, gracias. Esta latina, espana?"

I had learned that a free kitchen was nearby from those esoteric signs that only the homeless know for finding their way to the local shelters and giving hands.

Crossing the border had been difficult enough, what with no passport or papers. It is perhaps too much to ask to expect that the locals will let me be--especially given my heritage.

Perhaps if pick up a veil and blend into the local Muslim and Arabic population. Will the authorities harass a woman of the veil?

Right now, I must put such thoughts behind me and get to the soup kitchen or whatever it is that the locals call a shelter.

"I am looking for the local free kitchen. I was told it might be around here," I explain to the young woman, letting her know that I speak English as well.
Read more!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Vision of the Future?

The UK's Ministry of Defense has issued a 30-year look into the future. While it tries to put a god face on it, the threats posed by climate change, globalization, and rising inequality add a jittery edge to their prognostications.

Lenin's Tomb highlights some of the more important findings, at least with regard to political developments:


"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest". Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".

Pressures leading to social unrest

By 2010 more than 50% of the world's population will be living in urban rather than rural environments, leading to social deprivation and "new instability risks", and the growth of shanty towns. By 2035, that figure will rise to 60%. Migration will increase. Globalisation may lead to levels of international integration that effectively bring inter-state warfare to an end. But it may lead to "inter-communal conflict" - communities with shared interests transcending national boundaries and resorting to the use of violence.

Population and Resources

The global population is likely to grow to 8.5bn in 2035, with less developed countries accounting for 98% of that. Some 87% of people under the age of 25 live in the developing world. Demographic trends, which will exacerbate economic and social tensions, have serious implications for the environment - including the provision of clean water and other resources - and for international relations. The population of sub-Saharan Africa will increase over the period by 81%, and that of Middle Eastern countries by 132%.

The Middle East

The massive population growth will mean the Middle East, and to a lesser extent north Africa, will remain highly unstable, says the report. It singles out Saudi Arabia, the most lucrative market for British arms, with unemployment levels of 20% and a "youth bulge" in a state whose population has risen from 7 million to 27 million since 1980. "The expectations of growing numbers of young people [in the whole region] many of whom will be confronted by the prospect of endemic unemployment ... are unlikely to be met," says the report.

Islamic militancy

Resentment among young people in the face of unrepresentative regimes "will find outlets in political militancy, including radical political Islam whose concept of Umma, the global Islamic community, and resistance to capitalism may lie uneasily in an international system based on nation-states and global market forces", the report warns. The effects of such resentment will be expressed through the migration of youth populations and global communications, encouraging contacts between diaspora communities and their countries of origin.

Tension between the Islamic world and the west will remain, and may increasingly be targeted at China "whose new-found materialism, economic vibrancy, and institutionalised atheism, will be an anathema to orthodox Islam".
While this isn't exactly end-of-the world apocalypticism, it does pose interesting questions about what a future-oriented theology might look like. Whose side you gonna be on when the State institutes martial law and the hordes bang at the iron gates of fortress America? Read more!

Another Reason to Attack Iraq

Let's not forget that one of the goals of the invasion of Iraq was to find a country that could be friends with Israel. George Bush himself has said so, and this assumption is either assumed by or stated outright in various documents emanating from the AEI.

After recently reading Adam Smith on "The Wealth of Nations," I formulated something of mini-theory on why the US needed to invade Iraq--at least from the oligarch's standpoint.

Looked at from a historical perspective, that is, Iraq had become what very few if any nations outside Europe had become--a modern nation. Its educational system was top-notch, the industrial sector was well-developed, it had a commercial base that, although based on a single resource, could quite plausibly diversify. On top of that, it had what Smith says is paramount to any commercial nation: the ability to feed itself.

If these points are true--not all have to be--then the reason to demolish Iraq and reduce it as close to a pre-modern state was to teach the world a lesson: no one modernizes w2ithout following the blueprint laid out by the US.

On top of that, of course, is the idea that no nation in the mid-East can be a modern state that shows up Israel or outpaces it in the eyes of the world in regards to being "modern." Read more!

MercenariesUSA Inc. II

At least some people are following up on this story. As I've mentioned before, if there's one sure sign that a republic or democracy is threatened it's when secret or for-profit paramilitary groups begin to operate legally or semi-legally.

The original article that Alexandrovna links to (by "Syriana" Bob Baer) mentions the trophy video I wrote about last year.

Baer writes:

Aegis subsequently conducted an investigation and concluded that the actions represented "legitimate operations" undertaken in compliance with the rules of engagement. Aegis argued further that the video was "taken out of context" and noted that there was no evidence that civilians had been killed. The Pentagon looked into the video and declined to take further steps.
So much for justice and all that sentimental crap they teach you during the socialization process called school. The state has priorities that do not engage your own or those of the ones you love. As of now, the state is merely an appendage to the larger interests of globalization and imperial capitalism. Read more!


I walked in the streets like a bag lady--those streets where the snow melts like years of dirt from an old pipe. Why had I come to this neck of the woods. Was it to meet the shamans who've gathered in the forests to invoke their war gods and call forth the thunder that would clear the rumbling darkness?

I don't know. All I know is the message the pigeon brought to the roost weeks ago. Weeks spent traveling by train, auto, and walking.

I see the two young people on the street who seem familiar. There's something there that I have missed seeing in the eyes of the young ones where I live now. Often they are eyes filled with emptiness or terror--the empty terror that comes from seeing families die without food or sisters and mothers raped by bayonets and gangs of laughing hyenas.

These young people here--I wonder whether they know what the darkness brings, those gods that thirst for the blood of my young sisters and brothers in the deserts?

Do they see me, or only an old lady they think has lost her teeth and her mind; a dark crone come to haunt the forests of the midnight sun?

I must find food at least. There's supposed to be a soup kitchen nearby...
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Monday, April 09, 2007

Ides of March

On the Ides of March, the Empire rose from the ashes of the tyrant to be, only to be replaced by his adopted son. The republican assassins tried to salvage what they could of the ancient virtu, that manly desire to take Fortuna from behind--yet only ashes and rapine appeared now to remain of the ancient traditions. The state's gods made for the exits with the blood of innocents and incipient civil war on their cynical lips.

So I thought, at least, when the message arrived. I put the pigeon away into its roost with its friends and unrolled the scrap of paper that I'd taken from the small capsule attached to the bird's leg.

"Ides of March," the message read.

I knew what it meant. I'd been expecting something like this for some time, yet even now the thoughts that its letters brought to mind evoked a sense of anticipation, perhaps some foreboding.

"Finally," I said to myself, "the brothers and sisters have decided."

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The weather

... was fine when the first geese flew into town. the people ran into the streets yelling when the winter had finally broken down and crept away on broken, snow-stained legs. the winter... it started out like our friend and then hung around like an unwanted drinking poal way past closing time and bruising for a fist fall in the alley.

but the geese--did they scare away the old drunk, or was it just tired of pissing its cancerous white urine? now i know, now i have no doubt, now i am certain that it was winter, the mad dog, evil-eyed winter with delirium tremens who laid waste the landscape and laid the fodder for the disease that brought death and trembling to our town., Read more!