Saturday, September 20, 2008

Subcultures that never die

Goth appears to be one of them:
The goth subculture, however, for those who live it, is more than the sum of its chicken bones, vampire clichés and existential pants. It remains a visual shortcut through which young persons of a certain damp emotional climate can broadcast to the other members of their tribe who they are. Goth is a look that simultaneously expresses and cures its own sense of alienation.
Of course if someone had told me there would be goths in the early 21st century, I would have thought them delusional - and yet there it is as visible subculture. Yeah, I went through my own phase hanging around in goth circles at some point in the 1980s, and actually if one gets past the dark clothes, music, and the cynical posturing, goths seem to be surprisingly (to outsiders) well-adjusted. I used to chalk it up to a an open acknowledgment and embrace of facets of existence that most of our cohort studiously avoided: the inevitability of decay and death (check the way just about any Joy Division tune ends for a sonic rendition of that basic fact of nature).

Deal or no deal?

Paul Krugman sez "No Deal." Add another voice to the chorus (i.e., those who spot a rip-off a mile away).

The great American swindle

Read all about it. I will put it in language that is appropriately blunt: unless you're one of those responsible for the mess, you will be hosed. Yeah, some myths seem to finally be collapsing as a result, although there are plenty of myths yet to be sufficiently busted.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Everything Went Black

I wanted to take a few moments to pay tribute to a few of our compañeros in blogtopia who've gone silent. I chose today for a reason: it marks the last date that an old blogging friend, Ductape Fatwa, posted so much as a comment. After that point, his blogging stopped and he stopped answering his emails, leaving many of us who had grown to consider him a dear friend to wonder about his whereabouts and well-being. Anyone who knew him will recognize him as a rather unique presence – at once a radical gadfly tweaking the noses of Democrat and Republican bloggers and a folksy elder gentleman telling anecdotes of his grandchildren; a devout Muslim with a keen intellectual curiosity and fascination with pop culture; a storyteller weaving dystopian narratives and yet unwaveringly optimistic; a stirrer of controversy who yet built something of a community among a diverse and divergent cast of internet characters. Words outlive their authors, and although he may have been just another obscure blogger among obscure bloggers, his words – scattered as they are throughout blogtopia – continue to live on and inspire.

This goes out to Ductape Fatwa and other bloggers whose voices have gone silent.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Busting Urban Myths

One thing that I can routinely count on as Silly Season (also known as a Presidential election year) reaches its crescendo is the half-truths, lies, and damn lies that circulate both in the course of face to face conversation and via the Internet tubes. If I had a nickel for every mass email I have received about Barack (and Michelle) Obama being "radical Muslims" or other such nonsense, I'd have enough money to get through this month pretty comfortably.

So, in the name of a periodic public service to the rest of blogtopia, I would strongly suggest taking Internet rumors with a grain of salt, and do some basic fact-checking prior to continuing their circulation. One good starting point is, which has dossiers on Barack Obama, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. I'm somewhat surprised that Joe Biden (D - MNBA) doesn't have a dossier, but maybe he just doesn't inspire the urban legend tellers the way the others do. At this point, as soon as I encounter someone via email or on the blogs spreading an obvious urban myth on a candidate, I merely find the requisite link to the myth and direct that individual to read up before further embarrassing themselves. Personally, I think there is enough objectionable about all of these folks to fill plenty of cyberspace and newsprint without relying on falsehoods. Keep it real and keep it honest.

Sometimes the mainstream press isn't entirely useless

El Duderino of Abiding in Bolivia makes note of the surprisingly fair and balanced coverage of the recent failed coup attempt by right-wing extremists in Bolivia. In particular, he seems, as am I, to be quite surprised to see something in New Pravda that actually reads like a fact-based article, and gives props to Reuters for improving its coverage.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This year's 9-11 massacre

The scene: El Porvenir, Pando, in Bolivia. Check the following video, h/t inca kola news. It features raw footage of the massacre that occurred there last Thursday - a massacre that victimized unarmed campesinos (including children).

As others have mentioned elsewhere, there are shades of the US-backed coup exactly 35 years earlier, that resulted in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Chile and its President Allende. Allende became one of the countless thousands of people were executed or "disappeared" during Pinochet's reign of terror that subsequently followed.

The perps behind the current coup attempt are relatively affluent, notoriously right-wing, and hold more than a fleeting reverence for Germany's Nazi regime. That is the so-called "democratic" opposition to Evo Morales' government that the US government has been backing.

There are plenty of good resources for those trying to keep up with the news from Bolivia: Machatera, inca kola news, Abiding in Bolivia, and Ten Percent.

Online petition - Support Bolivian democracy — End US interference in Latin America

White Privilege Explained

Tim Wise has a pretty decent summary. My own disdain for Obama aside (I'm just not digging on corporate shills), he pretty well captures the Zeitgeist, focusing on the structural facets of racism that are normally ignored.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The financial crisis explained

Here's Naomi Klein putting it in ordinary English:

I'll have to say that when I first read of Junior Caligula uttering the phrase "ownership society" I immediately figured that a few of his cronies would make out like bandits and that the rest of us would be owned once all was said and done, and the scope of the ensuing damage was evident. Here we are a few years later, with Junior's reign drawing to a close, getting our first semi-clear view of the carnage.

It is certainly tempting to, as Jim Kunstler and others are wont, to use this as a moment to rebrand the Republicans as the party that wrecked America. There are enough grains of truth there to fill up a few of our local grain elevators. That's a bit too easy. I'm more likely to guess that we're looking at the consequences of practicing neoliberal dogma for somewhere close to three decades - one that seemed to be some deranged melding of free market rhetoric and welfare for the CEO class; one whose high priests resided in the University of Chicago's Economics Department, and whose most prominent parishioners included both Republicans and Democrats in the House, Senate, and White House. The only thing that I can see that Bush and his henchmen did differently was that they were more orthodox in their execution of that dogma, and had sufficient numbers of orthodox practitioners in Congress to get away with it for as long and as extensively as they did. True believers in dogma - even those not quite orthodox - aren't likely to accept criticism of their beliefs or the consequences of their beliefs lightly. Oh no! They'll come as close as they can to burning the heretics at the stake as they can. In our presumed "civilized" age, that means labeling even mild critics of dogma as "socialists" and "extreme leftists" (which I do find amusing, I might add), and simply shut them out of the usual media within which political "discourse" is supposed to occur.

As an avowed heretic, here's the skinny as I see it: everywhere neoliberal policies have been imposed, there has been mass impoverishment, displacement, and repression. Look at Chile under Pinochet and Indonesia under Suharto as notorious examples. Our situation is not qualitatively different. The US just happened to be arguably at the top of the heap economically (even with the problems of the 1970s and early 1980s) when "voodoo economics" was imposed here, and hence it's taken a bit more time for a critical mass of us to feel the pain (and if you think it's bad now...).

What to do? I don't know, other than to recommend against looking for saviors. There aren't any. Why? One observation of Kunstler's that seems plausible enough should do:
At issue now will be the question of legitimacy in all its human social dimensions. Is our money legitimate? Is the authority of our elected officials legitimate? Are our values and ideas legitimate? These are the things that will determine what kind of future we find ourselves in.
In times like these, there are plenty of false prophets who will claim to have all the answers. They tend to do an enormous amount of damage once in charge.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Just a hint at what's alienatin' me

Dennis Perrin sez:
What's really amusing is how McKay advises Obama/Biden to turn against the very corporate system they represent and serve. It's like expecting a rising Mafia don to denounce the blood oath, or a tiger shark to settle for salads. Funnier still, McKay presumes that his fellow Dems are somehow wired for anti-corporate activism and agitation. That they not only support a corporate party, but actually give it money, either doesn't concern him or flies right over his head. Hell, these are people who not long ago were defending CIA "patriots." You expect them to suddenly become Nader's Raiders? They had their chance to flex such muscles back in 2000. They preferred (and retroactively defend) the corporate Gore/Lieberman ticket. It's a little late in the day to turn that frigate around. Not happening.
Oh, and this bit as well:
As for McKay's concern about Iraqi dead (no mention of Afghans blasted by US missiles -- a little preview of what to expect should Obama win), he can thank his friends in the Democratic Party for assisting in those war crimes. The global Terror Wars are a bipartisan project. If you're going to assail the Repubs, honesty dictates that you hit the Dems as well, assuming that you're at all serious.
Really, Obama/Biden's only real selling point is that once the Dems are in control of both Congressional chambers (now with More and Better Democrats™ according to the adverts) and the White House, there is nowhere for the so-called "left" blogosphere and punditry to hide - assuming of course as I do that the War on Terra will go on largely unchanged, as well as the continued worship of the almighty neoliberal dogma which has caused and will continue to cause plenty of carnage and misery on its own throughout the globe. Yeah, I know, I'm jaded. But serially, the only hope I have is that of introducing a bit more cognitive dissonance to the denizens of the Gated Community Blogs - the dissonance experienced by the dismal, but totally unsurprising performance of the current Congress simply has not been enough, as there is sufficient wiggle room among our partisan progressive denizens endeavoring to maintain the illusion that somehow a party populated by corporatists will somehow do their bidding. Closing that particular space is change I can believe in.

I guess I wasn't the only one with Sitemeter issues

Here's Vodkapundit, who is one among quite a large number of bloggers who took umbrage with its makeover. It was indeed a clusterfuck, and the Sitemeter mea culpas have already been issued. I noticed many of the same problems that Vodkapundit and others observed. The interface was not at all intuitive. There may well have been some useful data to peruse, but it seemed to be buried beneath all the bells and whistles. Just getting basic info on daily, week, and monthly traffic was a chore early this afternoon (after messing with that, I was actually eager to compose an exam for one of tomorrow's classes), whereas previously it could be found almost immediately. It had the feel of something where the developers focused on their own wonky interests and fantasies rather than on the probable needs of us mere mortals. Fortunately, their tech folks realized the mistake and seem to be in the process of correcting it.

Update: Lo and behold, the good old fashioned Sitemeter interface is back.