Saturday, November 13, 2010


While the site is still being redone, apparently you can still get at much of the old content here. Their recent Iraq War document archive can be found here. There's also Twitter, for those who like to mess with that.

Looking for a few good exorcists

Apparently the Catholic Church has something of a shortage of exorcists. Of course, avoiding the "perception that exorcism is magic or superstition" is easier said than done. We haven't quite yet entered a new Dark Ages. Of course there are plenty of others in the exorcism biz, including those identified with Third Wave (or Dominionist) Christianity.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Yes it does feel a bit like the 1930s. I love the last lines:
If you want a happy ending, you probably shouldn’t follow our system too closely in the next few years. Instead, go see a Disney movie, unless perhaps Tim Burton is making it. Bloomberg, Brown, or Hillary Clinton, though, are all known quantities. But the experience of the Great Depression was that as things failed to improve the swamp creatures got their chance. And when the economic situation shook out, the geopolitics became more sinister. It would be a rash person indeed who counted on a happy ending to this mess.
Get ready for the post-Obama era, kiddos.

Poetry Time

Reading History

hostile dew in an uprising of plum blossoms
guards the darkness etched by the noon sword
a revolution begins the following morning
the bitterness of the widows cuts through the tundra like a pack of wolves

on account of the prophecies the ancestors are moving backward
into that river of the furious debates of faith and desire
that never end, only a hermit swirl
learns another silence of meditation

go up to see the sunset of kingship
when civilization and flute songs float off in an empty valley
the seasons stand up in the ruins
fruits climb over the walls to chase tomorrow

Poem by Bei Dao, translated by Eliot Weinberger. Via wood's lot.

In an advanced civilization, conducting exorcisms in the workplace is not acceptable

There are however parts of the US that seem to be rapidly devolving. This story is from Texas:
In Shatkin v. University of Texas at Arlington, three employees who had personal conflicts with a co-worker agreed to pray together after work. They met outside the co-worker’s office when it was empty.

One member of the prayer vigil rubbed olive oil on the co-employee’s office door and chanted loudly, “I command you demons to leave (the co-worker’s name), you vicious evil dogs get the hell out of there in the name of Jesus, get the hell out of (the co-worker name).”

One of the three employees reported the incident to their supervisor. Following an investigation, the other two employees were terminated because they “displayed conduct unbecoming a UT Arlington staff member, harassment of a fellow co-worker and blatant disregard for the property of UT Arlington.” The terminated employees then requested religious accommodation. Their request was denied. The two ex-employees sued UTA alleging religious discrimination. UTA asked the court to dismiss the claim, arguing the employees did not request religious accommodation prior to engaging in the conduct, and also arguing it had no duty to accommodate harassing conduct aimed at a co-worker. The court declined to dismiss that case, finding that there were issues of fact that needed to be resolved by a jury.

That's just creepy. If I were the targeted coworker, my skin would be crawling at the thought of what happened. I'm guessing that the sort of invasiveness of an exorcism wouldn't have been accommodated by the university even had the terminated employees requested such accommodation in advance. Clearly a boundary was crossed, regardless of what might have led up to the incident.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Steve Reich - Double Sextet Excerpt

The album Double Sextet/2x5 was released earlier this fall. Anyone who has followed Reich's work for any length of time will have a very good idea of what to expect. Reich's work over the last several decades has slowly evolved, revealing some new nuance each time. I haven't had a chance to pick up the album just yet, but at some point when time and money permit that's on my short list of recordings to score. My first exposure to his work was from the original recording of Music for 18 Musicians on ECM, which was released while I was in my early teens. Suffice it to say, it was one of a number of influences that would open my ears to a multitude of artists working just outside the beaten path.

That vision thing

Dmitry Orlov said this near the end of 2009 regarding the festiveness awaiting us in the 2010s:
Some towns will abandon the idea of having a fire department and decide that it is more cost-effective to just let house fires run their course, to save on demolitions.
We haven't quite reached that point yet, but we saw how close some of our communities have come to doing so - as we learned this past fall:
If our fire departments are run on a subscription-based policy rather than for the good of the whole community, does it really protect anyone? Hasn’t this horrible situation played out enough already with the police forces around our country;  servicing and protecting the rich while ignoring or killing the poor? If only those that can pay a subscription can receive protection from fires, our communities suffer.

The story of the Cranick family’s home and pets being consumed by a house fire while the local fire department simply watched and refused to help, citing a due subscription fee of $75, is heartbreaking. It shows the innate cruelty residing within capitalist “free markets” and shows the lack of empathy it encourages in our sisters and brothers. If we are trained not to care for one another to such an extent that someone’s home is allowed to burn in the name of a $75 fee, how can anyone be comforted by the thought that the system is working? Indeed many of our politicians and media stars are coming out in favor of such a system, and the Obion County Budget Committee has decided to expand the subscription service to more towns.

This shall require minimal comment

Barack Obama is a nightmare for the American left.
Ummmm...Obama was never part of the American Left (whatever that term might reasonably mean). Glad to see some folks finally getting a clue, but let's face it, the only reason the dude might even be remotely be a "nightmare" for what passes for some subsets of our nation's left flank is due to the delusions of those who wanted to "believe" that an Obama presidency would bring "change" we could "believe in." I suspect there were plenty of thoughtful folks among the left who saw the guy for what he really was: a moderate-conservative snake oil salesman who would say whatever he could to occupy the White House. Once in, it was the same old flim-flam. The nightmare, in other words, was self-inflicted. Deal with it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's on?

Perhaps. I do agree that our sources of inspiration for dealing with the austerity being foisted upon us must come from elsewhere: the student-led resistance in the UK comes most immediately to mind. Bear in mind, like it or not, we are in the midst of class warfare.

Poetry time

A Version of Pasternak's "Hamlet"

The hour is at hand: it calls the actor.
The crowd grows still as I step through the arch.
There's the cue: an echo from the future.
I must come forth and give the fated speech.

A thousand eyes, in darkness, throng about me;
Like Roman swords, they'll pierce me till I bleed.
O if it be Thy will, Abba, Father,
Then take the proffered cup away from me.

For I adore your rigorous conception,
And am content to play my given role.
But these new lines will scorch the throat that speaks them;
This once, I pray, remove me from the bill.

No: I see the acts have all been plotted;
The journey's end already has been willed.
I'm alone, while the world drowns in falsehood.
Cross this stage, and you cross a killing field.

Translated by Chris Floyd

Courtesy of Empire Burlesque.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another blast from the past

Here's some computer history for ya!

Blast from the past

Scientists have been aware of global warming since the 1950s. Not that this will matter to denialists, but maybe for those trying to make some sense of how our climate is changing, the video will provide a bit more food for thought. H/t

For your reading pleasure

Lies are all you know by Arthur Silber.

Derrick Jensen's opening remarks for the "Earth at Risk" conference at the Permaculture Media Blog.

Peak Oil is History by Dmitry Orlov.

An Existential Approach to Bringing About Change by Dave Pollard (at his consistently excellent blog, How to Save the World).

The sub-proletarianization of America continues

For more and more Americans, keeping the house or apartment heated this winter is but a distant dream.What little safety net that does exist for those truly in need is inadequate and strained to near the breaking point. I hate to seem gloom and doom, but the last lines in the article sound a stark warning:
The U.S. economic system is slowly dying.  There are many that are cheering this downfall, but the cold, hard truth is that tens of millions of us are going to experience horrible economic pain as the economy unravels.

It is not going to be a fun time.  So count your blessings while you still have them.

Old news now, but bears repeating

Bush II authorized torture. The dude brags about it. Although I'd like to think that those of us who were frustrated and angered by soon-to-be-former Speaker Pelosi's decision to take impeachment of Bush II "off the table" were vindicated long ago, this revelation merely offers further vindication. I wish I could hold out some hope that one day Bush II and his cronies might be held accountable for their criminal acts. I know better than to do that.

Spiegel Online to US Tea Partiers

There is only one Hitler. Stop trying to pull new faux Hitlers out of your asses.


Blogging is a funny enterprise. One might follow a particular blogger for a while and feel a certain familiarity. After all we write, and put our content out in public for whomever would wish to read. You might in time get a feel for a blogger's writing style, and suss out his or her pet interests and issues. But beyond that, how much about your bloggers do you have the right to know?

I suppose the short answer to that question is that you get to know whatever the blogger wishes to share with you, and no more. Some readers never quite get the message though.

As I see it, the matter boils down to boundaries. As an autonomous adult, there are certain things that I may wish to disclose in some contexts that I'd prefer not to disclose in others. What am I going on about? My understanding from mental health professionals is that you can tell a lot about the mental state of individuals by their ability to set their own boundaries and to respect the boundaries set by others. Healthy individuals who have a stable sense of self can consistently gauge the level of self-disclosure appropriate in a given context. Granted there may not be absolute hard and fast rules about such matters, but there's a general expectation that a fair amount of self-disclosure may be healthy when communicating with a lover or close friend, but not so healthy on the job or with total strangers. Similarly, it may be healthy to be interested in the intimate details and minutia of a lover's or close friend's life, but not so much in that of coworkers or total strangers. As I understand from the mental health profession (I am merely a layperson), individuals who cannot or will not establish or respect personal boundaries do so because they have no mature, coherent sense of self. In other words, there is probably some sort of personality disorder or other form of mental disturbance involved.

In a way, my decision to start blogging had a lot to do with boundaries. I didn't wish to go on extended political rants in the workplace as such behavior would be entirely irrelevant to my vocation. Nor did I wish to bug friends and family, if for no other reason than all of them have heard what I have to say often enough as it is. I viewed blogging as a means to satisfy a particular need - to vent on mostly political matters - and keep my personal boundaries intact. Now blogging is a public behavior, and most of the people who read this blog are total strangers. I assume that if you are reading this, it is because you were interested in reading a blog on politics, from a leftist perspective (whatever that might mean anymore) and not because you wanted to know my favorite color, my sign, my address or my workplace.

Initially, I blogged semi-anonymously, although I have become much more anonymous in the last year and a half. Being semi-anonymous worked for a while. I neither advertised nor hid my real-life identity, and muddled along for several years without a problem. As long as other readers respected my boundaries, there was no problem. That started to change a couple years ago. I recall being rather jarred when a total stranger just called me out of the blue. The individual had to do a bit of work to accomplish that feat, but we'll just say that the ensuing encounter was a bit awkward. That individual was unfortunately acquainted with someone who seemed to believe that a dislike for the ideological bent of my particular blog was sufficient license to begin publishing details of my non-blogging personal and professional life on hers. This apparent obsession with my private life was something I found quite disturbing, and it became apparent that the obsession would not end for a long time. Needless to say, for the sake of those closest to me, I figured the safest route was to reestablish some boundaries, and nip an invasion of my privacy in the bud. That meant relocating the blog, for starters. Since blogging was merely a hobby to begin with, rather than a vocation, readership numbers (and of course revenue) were of minimal concern. The old blog was essentially put into mothballs - left accessible only to its authors. I also found it necessary to remove any of my websites that this individual might have been accessing. A fair amount of time was spent removing traces of the old blog and websites from the Google archives. I found it prudent to invest in an IP blocker both for this blog and any web presence I chose to maintain. Although there was little I could do about my work information being made public to any Tea Party nutcase who might want to know, a planned career change would ultimately make that info irrelevant.

It is safe to say that there is a face beneath the mask; a real human being typing these words. There's the rub. What matters are ultimately the words, the ideas - not who said them. Perhaps in an age in which the norms concerning privacy have changed so drastically that boundaries between private and public life have all but dissipated, I am a bit of an anomaly - a throwback to some rapidly vanishing age. Someone was once taken aback when during a conversation regarding some trivial celebrity scandal, I remarked that I could care less about that particular celebrity's personal life (or for that matter the personal life of any celebrity or public figure). All that mattered to me was that person's body of work. His/her personal quirks and foibles were none of my business. I think I uttered words to that effect. So it goes.

I read many bloggers, but it does not occur to me that I should somehow know the intimate details of their lives. I have a remarkable lack of curiosity about such matters. What I am curious about is what these authors mean by their next blog posts - nothing more, nothing less. Is that such a bad thing? I'd offer that it's a good thing, and shows a healthy respect for the boundaries of those whose writing I continue to find enormously fascinating.