A Discussion of Class

(this is worth the read. thanks techno, great stuff… – promoted by pfiore8)

Class analysis is most commonly practiced by the political left.  In fact, many consider class analysis a Marxist practice to this day.  I personally never found Marxist class analysis very satisfying because I could think of so many examples that did not fit into his scheme.  That did not, however, stop my interest in the subject.

So when I discovered in my early 30s that my favorite political economist, Thorstein Veblen, had postulated a VERY non-Marxist class analysis that described social reality much better than Marx ever did, I was quite excited.  Veblen’s class analysis was several orders of magnitude more complex and nuanced and came buried in an even more complicated intellectual strategy called Institutional Analysis, so it is sometimes difficult to separate out.

What follows is my best estimate of Veblen’s ideas–described with modern examples.  For example, the Business / Industry dichotomy is Veblen’s.  Calling it an example of a rivalry between Predators and Producers is mine–with a hat tip to Ignatius Donnelley.

accutane users What is the proper way to define a class?

1) prove the existence of a group with boundaries;
2) explain what the members of the group have in common.

Class analysis is often based on income, but because a Producer-Predator analysis postulates that there are rich and poor members of Producers and Predators, the difference is fundamental yet esoteric.

Certain social scientists believe that membership in a class is determined by an individual’s class awareness. This seems a reasonable requirement except the problems it creates in a country such as the United States where the notions of class and class interest have not been discussed in public for at least 50 years.

The Producers’ existence is validated by the common intuition. We know that Producers exist because we can see what they have built. A building implies a builder. Similarly, we know Predators exist because we can see people taking by force or fraud something that belongs to someone else. The main defining criteria is their differing strategies for survival. In a real sense, Producers and Predators are occupational rather than monetary definitions.

Establishing the existence of Producers and Predators is simple enough, but as we shall see, many people are not clear examples of either one. Modern social scientists classify most occupations of advanced industrialization as service occupations.

The existence of service occupations does not destroy the producer-predator duality. Service, after all, implies an allegiance to another person or agenda. For most of recorded history, “service” was merely another name for Producers. Societies were pretty simple–there were those who ruled and those who served.

Because service often implies loyalty, it has become a tradition for those who would consider themselves a part of the service sector to identify with the ruling values of Predators. Disruption to this social order did not occur until producing servants became economically important enough to forge a separate agenda and value set.

http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=cialis-original-x-generico Figure : 01

These illustrations are also animated:

http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=buy-cialis-discount Pre-Industrial Revolution
Upper (those who rule–Predators)
Lower (those who serve–Producers)

There were layers of stratification within each group, but one thing was absolutely clear: the lowest member of the ruling classes was above the highest member of the serving classes.

The industrial revolution ended this neat arrangement. For the first time, Producers achieved real power, but because industrialization, especially in England, was grafted onto feudal stock, the social arrangements were only slightly modified. Rich and powerful Producers acted much like the worst of the old Predators. This was the world as Marx described it.

source link Figure: 02
Early Industrialization (esp. England)

Marx’s petit bourgeoisie were the servants who did the dirty business of predation–not to be confused with the servants who cleaned the stalls. These latter were still lumped together with the producing peasants, builders, and mechanics to form the proletariat.

The late nineteenth-century American Populist writers were not as critical of business enterprise as Marx. Going into business, after all, was the main element of the American dream. Though there was not much evidence, the populists believed that Producers could become successful and still maintain their producer attitudes. It was possible to reach the top without cheating anyone.

vardenafil prezzo più basso Figure: 03
Socio-Economic Distribution
Late 19th–Early 20th Century esp. USA

This graph is meant to show that, though a few Producers had become rich, most were to be found at the bottom of the social order in any meaningful sense. The gap is meant to represent the emerging awareness of a separate agenda. Populists, Marxists, and progressives of all stripes agreed to and organized around the notions of difference.

The world got its first populist-producer billionaire in Henry Ford. Social progressives were enchanted. Ford seemed to have found the magic formula. He made his fortune producing something, paid his workers well, hired racial minorities, and embraced the 8-hour day. Better yet, when he made his fortune, he spent it on improving his product, opening a museum glorifying the history of the producing classes, and promoting causes like the end of World War I. John Reed, the American Marxist buried in the Kremlin wall, was convinced for a time that Ford’s production theories and Marx’s social theories would result in a Utopia.

By the same token, Ford’s capitalist comrades were horrified. In spite of his incredible wealth and power, Ford was shunned by the wealthy and powerful for his ideas. As shown in the chart, the Predators still held power and chose to make the 1920s miserable for both Ford and the class he championed. The idealism at Ford Motor lost its luster when the firm began to lose money.

In the end, Ford was to become a tightfisted, union-busting tyrant. Even so, important Producer legacies remain:

Producers have their own business-management-leadership style that is successful–there is no need to emulate the Predators;

Clean fortunes are possible–class conflict need not be between the rich and poor but between the Producers–who believe everyone can be rich in every meaningful sense; and the Predators–who believe only a few can be really rich.

The Producers now had an economic agenda with a proven track record. This led to political success. It can be argued that, in the period between 1945 and 1970, the producer agenda dominated the political economy of the industrial states and the thinking of most of the rest.

Power, in all its forms, in the later stages of industrialization is far too fragmented to enable one to state clearly that the Producers are absolutely ascendant. (It seems as if most modern social science is dedicated to proving that no one has any power anymore. In a sense they are correct. No one seems to have real power because many persons and groups seem to have some. If a social scientist chooses to ignore the possibility of producer power, the fragmentation of power looks even more bewildering.)

In fact, a chart of power–both economic and political–might look something like this.

online accutane without prescription Figure 04
Economic Distribution (by occupational type)

This graph is probably misleading even if accurate. The newly significant service sector is, in reality, a convenient, but confusing, classification device because garbage collectors, bankers, and kings can be so classified.

With a huge service sector that can include bankers and royalty, there remain genuine Predators. At the top are persons whose income is derived from ground rent or bonds, military rulers, and the like. At the bottom are the petty thieves.

http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=can-propecia-cause-erection-problems Figure: 05
Social Distribution (by interest group)

There may be three basic occupational types but there remain only two agendas. Those who would serve are forced to choose between those who would produce and those who will not. It is possible for royalty and bankers, persons once considered the essence of predation, to serve the interests of Producers. Kings and princes can be regularly seen pushing the products of their native countries worldwide. Bankers who live modest lives while promoting the economies of their communities were once a regular fixture of the American Midwest. And the best current examples are the investment bankers trying to bankroll environmentally sustainable technologies.

Unfortunately, such are exceptions. Most bankers are Predators, think as Predators, and if not, serve the interests of Predators. It is rare for any royalty (or anyone else living off inherited wealth for that matter) to justify income with real service.

An interesting picture emerges. It turns out that industrial societies do not need many real Producers because they are so efficient. A single farmer can produce enough food to feed several hundred people. A punch press operator can make more parts in one year than he can consume in a century.

Producers find few natural allies in the service sector. The exception concerns those associated with industrial maintenance. The difference between building an automobile and repairing one is very small. If the goal is not merely an automobile but an automobile that runs, they are economically identical since an automobile that is inoperative has no (or negative) value.

Socially, maintenance and production people share an important similarity–both must understand and use tools. If the fundamental difference is between Producers who use tools, and the Predators who use weapons, then maintenance people are, in fact, Real Producers though they are usually classified as service workers.

If maintenance allies itself naturally with production, the rest of the service industries pose more problems for producer recruitment to their agenda. It seems the only certain way to create Producers is to put tools in their hands and teach them to use them well.

Producers have appealed to the lower classes of the service sector through notions of class solidarity. This has not worked well. Trade unions look down on industrial unions and have joined forces only out of dire necessity. Producers can be awful snobs.

The upper classes of the service sector produce a whole different set of problems for producer recruitment. Because upper class members of the service sector are unlikely to use tools to produce anything, the predisposition of history is toward the predator agenda.

Even this picture is still pretty primitive. As societies have become more complex, more sophisticated representations are necessary. Late 20th Century industrialized societies are at least three-dimensional;

http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=viagra-generico-50-mg-prezzo-piu-basso-a-Firenze Fig. 06

In purely economic terms, whether a person is rich or poor, politically conservative or progressive is of minor importance compared to whether he or she produces goods or services that materially benefit the community i.e. make the economic “pie” expand.

enter site Class Conflict

The rise to prominence and power of the producing classes would tend to mitigate, one would suppose, the conflicts of class. In fact, something of the sort happened. Serious scholars have portrayed the United States as a classless society. Ninety-five percent of the Japanese think of themselves as members of the middle class.

People do not talk of America as a classless society any longer, but class conflict has grown exceedingly complex since the issue was last raised. Any simplistic description of class conflict in terms of rich versus poor is probably doomed to fail because it is irrelevant.

The fact that both major interest groups contain upper, middle, and lower economic classes does not end battles between these groups but, in fact, provides a wider assortment of possibilities for conflict. The conflicts are of four major types: predator against producer, predator against predator, producer against producer, and producer against predator.

see url Predators against Producers

This is the oldest conflict. One who does not produce food and shelter for oneself must get someone else to do it. The Predators have been extremely inventive over the years. Their methods have included slavery, imperialism, usury, ground rents, tithes, and taxation.

Of course, since the very upper predator crust does not do anything productive at all, servants who share the predator mentality have always surrounded them to do the actual work of profit taking, tax gathering, and rent collection. The real work of predation has been done by sheriffs, IRS agents, lawyers, judges, and an army of bureaucrats. Overseeing all this activity is the clergy (or other moral leaders) whose job it is to see that everyone agrees this is the best possible arrangement.

see Predators against Predators

This conflict is usually called war. History books are filled with the lurid accounts of these conflicts to which nothing can be added here. Within a given society, predator-predator conflicts are rare because loyalty is a big predator virtue while treason is a big predator sin. As a result, while tales of revolution and coups d’etat are common, historically they are quite rare. There are also recorded instances of bankers ruining kings, but these are even more rare.

http://buy-generic-clomid.com Producers against Producers

Though widely misunderstood, producer-producer conflicts are common. They usually center around the issues of automation. The sophisticated tools associated with industrialization enable anyone with access to this tooling to copy exactly any product. The producer with the best original design and the best tooling will eliminate those Producers with inferior products.

In the beginning of the industrial revolution, these producer-producer conflicts boiled over in social revolt as artisans were displaced by factories. The Luddite movement saw these displaced artisans smash sophisticated factory tools. The Luddite movement generated little sympathy. Few consumers were likely to complain about cheap factory-produced goods that were clearly superior to the more expensive goods produced by artisans. What really finished the Luddite impulse, however, was the realization that industrialization would also produce cheap, but sophisticated, tools. These tools would allow the small producer to fill the gaps in production left, deliberately or otherwise, by the large producer.

Small Producers seek niches for their efforts for very good reason. Direct competition with a large, established producer is extremely difficult. A large producer has production experience, established ties to suppliers, known marketing outlets, and access to finance. Unless the technology of the small producer is far superior, there is no chance in a direct competition.

There are examples of new Producers displacing old ones–such as when the $5 quartz crystal-microchip watch proved to be more accurate than the $5000 mechanical watch produced by the Swiss. Even today, the Swiss, with a four-hundred year head start in watchmaking, have not fully recovered from the competition of an upstart. Such examples are not rare.

Producers against Predators

When one thinks of attacks of Producers on Predators, strikes, boycotts, and sabotage are what come to mind. And in fact, these are about the only options available to lower class Producers.

Upper class Producers have an option that they have frequently exercised: simply make things so very complicated that only those who made them know how they work. This has been the strategy of choice as Producers have sought to increase their power. It has been highly effective. The world that Producers have created by the end of the twentieth century is so complex that it is a rare predator who has even the vaguest notion how the world works.

Even the specialist servants of predation have a hard time understanding the smallest slice of the world they pretend to govern, regulate, or defraud. Producers go out of their way to make matters difficult (the most interesting little producer secret is that every extant process of production can be explained to any reasonably alert 9-year-old.) What makes a producer a genius is the ability to solve problems that have not been solved before. Once found, a good solution is “obvious.” Even so, the Predators and their servants exhibit an odd trait that makes this process of obfuscation easy.

Preservation of Archaic Traits

Predators do not know much about Producers (and their work) for an interesting reason that goes beyond the producer’s tendency to make his work obscure. In many respects, Predators do not know about the work of Producers because they believe it to be beneath their dignity to know. They are fashionably ignorant.

The automobile provides a perfect example of a subject about which ignorance is quite fashionable indeed.

It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the automobile on industrial society. It affects everything from city planning to sex. It is economically very important with millions of jobs at stake. Its impact on the environment in the form of resource depletion, air and water pollution, and the production of toxins is enormous.

Resource requirements affect international relationships. Rhodium, necessary for the production of catalytic converters used to fight air pollution, can only be found in commercial quantities in the Russia and South Africa. To fight air pollution, the United States has been forced to deal with one government or the other on a normal commercial basis. The choice of South Africa was for years the subject of a loud political debate and an object lesson in Cold War insanity.

One might assume that a subject of this import would demand widespread knowledge. In fact it has, but an odd phenomenon has occurred–those most likely to make major judgments on the future of the automobile are the ones with the least knowledge. Government transportation officials, environmentalists, car critics, and the like regularly make public pronouncements in which they mispronounce basic automotive terms, confuse facts, and generally give the impression they know absolutely nothing about the real automobiles that people drive.

More oddly, they seem genuinely pleased with their ignorance–treating it as if it were a badge of social stature. They even claim that their ignorance of the nuts and bolts of a subject allows them to arrive at more objective policy decisions. Now it is a fact that automotive policy decisions can be well formulated without knowing how a transmission operates. It is also a fact that such people regularly make preposterous decisions because they do not understand the subject.

Even if a person were to arrive at a policy-making group with genuine automotive knowledge, that person would be tempted to hide this knowledge for fear of being labeled a motorhead. In the august company where such policies are formed, the motorhead would be found guilty of a cultural crime–knowing what only the servants are supposed to know.

Producers know this social rule well. They have learned that scientific and technological issues are not to be discussed in polite company. As Veblen pointed out, the ability to do anything useful is suspect. Thorough knowledge of a subject demonstrates ability and experience, precisely the sorts of thing “important” members of society cannot have.

Ironically, people are not born fashionably ignorant–they pay good money to become that way. This cost is usually involved in getting a “liberal” education.

The Danger of Preserved Predatory Traits

The greatest problems facing the industrial states do not stem from conflict, but rather from a rough sort of cooperation. Such cooperation is not voluntary but is rooted in the oldest of the power arrangements: predator power is cultural, economic, military, and political while producer power stems from a mastery over physical processes.

In spite of its seeming obsolescence, predator power is still very real. In the United States, predator values dominate the cultural forums. There are many reasons but one is significant. The National Security Act of 1947 put the United States on a perpetual wartime footing–a fact which dominates economic decisions, distorts political institutions, censors newspaper reporting, and muddles the educational processes. The Soviet Union, the putative object of this war, was forced by this action to choose a similar set of values which have caused similar problems. Because of their commitment to the predatory values of militarism, these two nations were often called superpowers. They have also been called the “Klutzes of the North” by Gore Vidal for their persistent problems with production.

Unwilling to challenge predator power or its values directly, Producers historically have found themselves in the unfortunate position of increasing the powers they seek to thwart. Producers have made war more deadly with their weapons, authoritarianism more pervasive with big-brother computers and surveillance technologies, and demagogues more influential with television. If this were not enough, the producer’s failure to challenge the notions of wealth, monetary policy, and usury has multiplied the predatory aspects of their own industrial enterprise. To succeed under such assumptions, a producer is forced to violate nature even as he is exploited. As a result, the main crises of industrialization is the environmental crises.

The Predators disavow any responsibility for their role in the industrial rape of the planet and their response is as old as history. Return, they say, to the Garden of Eden. Go backward to a time when the Producers did not present such ghastly problems. Roll back the social gains of the Producers and the problems they have caused will disappear.

There is no retreat from producer problems. Industrial-environmental problems have already been created and they would not vanish even if the Producers and industrialization were to disappear overnight. There is no Garden of Eden solution. Producers are responsible for the magnitude of our environmental problems. Only they understand their scope. Only they can create a solution for problems that already exist.

The implications of this reality are enormous. It means that rather than a return to predator values that have so characterized the 1980s worldwide, producer influence must be extended further into the cultural, economic, and political arenas–arenas where Producers traditionally have feared to tread.

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It is.

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Are Freemasons Evil?

There are a lot of people who think so.  Whenever I hear Masons mentioned, it is always as a put-down; brought up as an example of nutty people, or conspiracy people believing Freemasons run the world.  As everyone knows a lot of influential people in the past of America, and the world, were Masons.  And a few bad ones, too.  George Washington was a Mason: Benedict Arnold was a Mason.  In any group of this size there are bound to be a few bad apples.

So, are Freemasons evil?

I don’t believe they are.  You see–I am a Freemason.

Follow below for my story and a discussion.

I was brought up as a Mormon.  When I was 10 years old, and about to be baptized, my instructor told me that I had to say that I believed in Jesus and the miracles attributed to him.  Even at that young age I was struck by the way he didn’t say, “You have to believe”; he said, “You have to say you believe”.  I didn’t believe, but for the sake of my family I did say that I believed.

I’ve long been a compulsive reader–reading on a wide array of topics.  One of my early passions was the mythologies of different peoples.  After reading about differing world views, and creation myths, I was able to recognize myths when I saw them–and that is what I thought of the Jesus stories, and the Bible in general.  I read the Bible twice through by the time I was 13.  Walking on water, curing the sick, raising the dead; I saw all of these as metaphors for a message of helping people and leading a better life through good works.  I saw the virgin birth, and Jesus as the son of God, as the writers trying to elevate their hero above what he actually said he was, “I am the Son of Man”.

I’ve never been an atheist–I’ve had many rousing conversations with an old friend who espouses atheism.  Whenever he says, “There is No God”, my reply is always. “How the Hell do you know?”.  I’ve always seen atheists as holding just as fast to their faith as any fundamentalist–of any religion–do to theirs.  Will Rogers said it best,


“Faith is believing in something you know ain’t true”

And no one can know there is no god unless they can define god.

I worked many years doing construction work while drinking away everything I earned.  Once I had pleurisy; where every breath Hurt.  I wasn’t trying to commit suicide when i took all those pain pills and drank all that beer–I just didn’t care if I woke up again.  That’s when I had my  Near Death Experience (NDE).

In my experience (dream, drug-addled hallucination; whatever) the colors were Vivid.  I didn’t hear voices, but things were communicated to me in a flash of insight.

First: that suicide is wrong–not going to Hell wrong–but not the way to do things.

Second: the God-in a box thing; the vastness of God (The Almighty Grand Architect of the Universe, the Deity, the Supreme Being, Allah; whatever–names are made by humans, for humans.  I’ll use God, because its a title not a name) means that our tiny minds cannot encompass even the smallest part of God.  And, any attempts at understanding God from our frame of reference is doomed to failure. 

It was a life changing event.  I immediately quit drinking and started getting my life together.  And the all encompassing Love, Joy and utter Acceptance that I felt have left me with no fear of death.  I’m not crazy–I still fear pain–but the constant fear of the unknown, and eventual for everyone, after death has no hold on my mind anymore.  I didn’t get the whole light at the end of the tunnel thing, just the flash of insight, good feelings and hope for the future.  My best friend had the experience of floating above the operating table and watching the doctors try to restart his heart; he no longer fears death either.  There are no words in English–probably in any human language–to describe the peace that we both felt during our very different experiences, and we both know that that is what is waiting for us after we leave this place for the other–from whose bourn no traveler returns.

Years later, I saw the movie Rosewood, a good movie about a terrible event that took place in Florida in the 1920’s.  The town rioted and killed hundreds of their black neighbors.  In watching the film one part grabbed my attention.  I thought, “Wait a minute, Black Masons?  In the South–in the 1920’s?”.  I had read a few books about masonry, but had seen nothing that would explain this, so I started reexamining the history of Freemasonry.

Prince Hall lived in Boston in the mid-1700’s, he was a property owner and a registered voter.  He was also an African-American and worked in the Abolitionist movement.  He was also a Freemason.  Hall, along with other African-Americans, was initiated, passed and raised as a Mason.  Because of the intolerance of white America at the time, Hall and his fellow Masons formed what is now called Prince Hall Freemasonry, in order to continue with their craft. 

By reading a lot, I’ve been able to fine tune my bullshit detector.  After reading many different books I noticed that–although the Masons are attacked from all sides–they don’t defend themselves against these attacks.  Oh sure, some individuals may respond, but no organized ad campaigns.  It was very easy to tell which books were just vicious attacks and which were thoughtful discussions.  And, I liked what I read about the Freemasons (the books that I trusted).  Yes, they had their problems in the past, but I wanted to see what was going on today.

I walked into the Masonic Temple in Boise and introduced myself to the guy running the vacuum cleaner.  I told him I would like to talk to someone about Freemasonry.  In our short discussion he told me that Idaho was the third state where the Grand Lodge had opened formal, masonic relations with the local Prince Hall masons.  He also told me that the two states that did it before Idaho had not actually opened up as much as Idaho.  Yes, my friends, Idaho Masons have–full and open–relations with Prince Hall Masons.  And this, from a group that is known as a generally conservative bunch (conservative by nature: not necessarily by politics).  I talked to a couple more people and decided to join.  That was six years ago and I’m proud to be a Master Mason.

As far as the rumors that abound about Masons getting all the good jobs–I’ve been outsourced.  I work a crappy night, temp job.  Anyone who thinks I can just go up to some rich guy and get a good job–for just a handshake–please point this guy out.

I’m not going to tell you all the history and processes of Freemasonry; you can learn anything you want to know by reading about it–and keeping your bullshit detector on at all times.

And, for the people who’ll say, “An NDE is just the last flicker of dying neurons”–I have only this to say.  Out of all the possible reactions to dying there could possibly be–we get Peace, Love and Joy;
How Lucky Are We?  If I had one iota of that much luck I’d hit the lottery every time.

I know there are going to be people that don’t believe this story.  I know its pretty wild–a drunk druggie gets so wasted one night he trips out and joins the Freemasons. 
But, every word is true.  This is My life and I’m going to enjoy it for as long as possible.

This is cross posted at Street Prophets

Midnight Cowboying – Where does your soul go when you sleep?

When you close your eyes and become a viking, do you actually become a viking in a realm far, far away?  I have often wondered about this, does your soul go on holiday when the sand man comes? Does your essence travel the universe leaving just your body here while you sleep?

I have long believed that our entire universe is just an quantum reaction to a system above us. And that our own atomic reactions are entire big bangs to implosions of universes below us. In a mobius strip structure, the loop of bigger to smaller is infinitely looping. To where the system above us is actually infinitely big, but going down the other direction of the mobius strip it is infinitely small. Vice versa for the one below us.

There are also infinite dimensions that have branched off in what we consider to our universe-centric spot on the mobius strip. In another dimension on this same spot, you never read this, and a whole new universe was created. Not only are the chains infinitely big and small below us, each level is also infinitely dense.

So who is to say when we sleep our soul does not surf these dimensions, maybe echoing as ghosts in other parallel worlds. Or maybe something even crazier. What if you visit only slices of life in the life of your essence in that dimension? And how you act is only one part in the overall wikiing of the experience that dictates how it happens? And all your other selves also have that dream and the average of all your essences experience is the experience remembered by that soul in that dimensional time frame?

And what if when you wake up, your experience is nothing but the finished wiki of your soul dreaming in infinite dimensions within infinite time?


My Top 5 Favorite Things Today

1) Milky Way in Death Valley

2) This had to happen sooner or later.

3) Tinfoil Theater! or is it…

4) Playground Fence (in honor of Miss Devore!)

5)  Accepted Notion Of Neutron’s Electrical Properties Overturned By New Research

Out On the Edge of Darkness

(“Trouble, oh trouble, set me free…”

Long past time for a little peace.

(FP’ed 12:15 AM, PDT, September 18, 2007) – promoted by exmearden

In the summer of 1970 an English singer/songwriter by the name of Steven Demetre Georgiou wrote a song about peace. 

The world needed to hear one.  Two million men, women, and children had been killed in Vietnam.  50,000 young American soldiers were also dead.  Despite Pentagon reports of progress; years of bombing villages, shelling villages, and burning villages from the Mekong Delta to the DMZ had somehow failed to win the hearts and minds of the traumatized survivors.  Concerned that America’s honor and resolve had not been sufficiently displayed yet, Richard Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia, and the consequences were horrific as two million more human beings died in the killing fields of the Khymer Rouge. 

Steven Demetre Georgiou knew that writing and recording Peace Train would not end the killing in Southeast Asia. But since its release in 1971, this Cat Stevens song has won more hearts and minds around the world than Pentagon weaponry ever has or ever will.  Cynics dismiss it as futile and naive cheerleading for peace, but as Iraq descends into barbarity and the BushCo/corporate media drumbeat for attacking Iran grows louder, fearful millions weary of hate and greed and killing are hoping that somewhere, out on the edge of this gathering darkness, there rides a peace train.

I admire heartfelt appeals for peace.  Like Yusuf Islam, I believe in the power of hope and optimism, they can sustain us through the darkest of times when all else seems lost. But seven years of Bush/Cheney treachery and Democratic cowering have drained our hope and optimism until there’s very little left. Pathological liars and moral cowards in Washington keep taking turns posturing as responsible American leaders while our soldiers keep dying and the bullets keep flying and the NSA keeps spying and we all keep trying to be heard so we can finally bring this nightmare to an end. 

Many of us hope that Peace Train Yusuf Islam is singing about is out there somewhere, but it doesn’t seem to be heading our way.  It doesn’t seem to be moving at all.  So some of us have given up waiting for it.  Some of us want to go find it.  Others are hoping it will roll into view on January 20, 2009 with Al Gore at the throttle, or Obama, or Edwards, or Kucenich, or Dodd, or Mrs. Bill Clinton.

But there is no Peace Train waiting to be found out there on the edge of darkness somewhere, it’s not going to head our way simply because we hope it will.  The Peace Train we seek, the Peace Train this country longs for, the Peace Train this world so desperately needs is in each of us.  I’m a peace train, you’re a peace train, Buhdy and Turkana and OPOL and Nightprowlkitty are peace trains.  Every progressive is a peace train.  Everyone who speaks out against injustice is a peace train. 

Thousands of peace trains rolled into Washington DC on September 15, hundreds of thousands of peace trains will be seen in towns and cities across this country on September 21, Iraq Moratorium Day.  Millions of peace trains will throw these warmongers out of power next year. 

We have to take back this country, we have to bring it home again.

Believe in it.

Think about the good things to come, dream about the world as one.

Someday it’s going to come.  And when it does, generations living in a world of peace and justice will look back on these dark days and remember what we did here.


Shock Doctrine: Bush’s M.O.

In Naomi Klein’s new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism she lays bare the truth behind George Bush’s Modus operandi in pushing through radical free-market reforms. The entire Bush Presidency has been about economics and the playbook was written by Milton Friedman.

Friedman believed in a radical vision of society in which profit and the market drive every aspect of life, from schools to healthcare, even the army. He called for abolishing all trade protections, deregulating all prices and eviscerating government services.

These ideas have always been tremendously unpopular, and understandably so. They cause waves of unemployment, send prices soaring, and make life more precarious for millions. Unable to advance their agenda democratically, Friedman and his disciples were drawn to the power of shock.

Shock and Awe was not just a clever turn of phrase. It was a peak inside their playbook!

In one of his most influential essays, Friedman articulated contemporary capitalism’s core tactical nostrum, what I have come to understand as “the shock doctrine”. He observed that “only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change”. When that crisis occurs, the actions taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. Some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas. And once a crisis has struck, the University of Chicago professor was convinced that it was crucial to act swiftly, to impose rapid and irreversible change before the crisis-racked society slipped back into the “tyranny of the status quo”. A variation on Machiavelli’s advice that “injuries” should be inflicted “all at once”, this is one of Friedman’s most lasting legacies.

Video and text are posted from the excellent interview Amy Goodman did with Naomi Klein today over at Democracy Now

Goodman introduced the interview with:

Pinochet’s coup in Chile. The massacre in Tiananmen Square. The collapse of the Soviet Union. September 11th, 2001. The war on Iraq. The Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Award-winning investigative journalist Naomi Klein brings together all of these world-changing events in her new book

These are all examples of a society in shock and an open opportunity to advance this radical fantasy free market that Bush and his Neo Con advisors want. Unpopular and next to impossible to implement democratically they rely on shocking the body politic when it is most vulnerable.

From the very beginning Ms. Klein has had Bush’s number as evidenced by this blistering expose Baghdad year zero from September of 2004. In that article for Harpers she explains how “Economic Shock Therapy” would work in Iraq.

In one place on Earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. A country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. In its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen. Every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. The people of Iraq would, of course, have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. Jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. But to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.

With this new book -extensive excerpts available- she expands on the thesis and gets to the heart of what is behind so many of the perplexing polices of the Bush administration. Put simply in their minds “blank is beautiful” If an economy and society can be wiped out by whatever means, bombs, hurricane, tsunami, whatever, it creates the blank slate that allows them to execute Friedmans playbook. We could not understand why they would let New Orleans fall apart so completely in the days after the storm. The sad truth is that is exactly what the wanted. It did not make sense to us that they let Baghdad fall into chaos in those first few weeks of American occupation. It made perfect sense to those who wanted a clean slate to work with.

Some insight into why there was so little official interest in stopping the looting has since been provided by two men who played pivotal roles in the occupation – Peter McPherson, the senior economic adviser to Paul Bremer, and John Agresto, director of higher education reconstruction for the occupation. McPherson said that when he saw Iraqis taking state property – cars, buses, ministry equipment – it didn’t bother him. His job, as Iraq’s top economic shock therapist, was to radically downsize the state and privatise its assets, which meant that the looters were really just giving him a jump-start. “I thought the privatisation that occurs sort of naturally when somebody took over their state vehicle, or began to drive a truck that the state used to own, was just fine,” he said. A veteran bureaucrat of the Reagan administration and a firm believer in Chicago School economics, McPherson termed the pillage a form of public-sector “shrinkage”.

His colleague John Agresto also saw a silver lining as he watched the looting of Baghdad on TV. He envisioned his job – “a never-to-be-repeated adventure” – as the remaking of Iraq’s system of higher education from scratch. In that context, the stripping of the universities and the education ministry was, he explained, “the opportunity for a clean start,” a chance to give Iraq’s schools “the best modern equipment”. If the mission was “nation creating,” as so many clearly believed it to be, then everything that remained of the old country was only going to get in the way. Agresto was the former president of St John’s College in New Mexico, which specialises in a Great Books curriculum [which emphasises an education based on broad reading]. He explained that although he knew nothing of Iraq, he had refrained from reading books about the country before making the trip so that he would arrive “with as open a mind as I could have”. Like Iraq’s colleges, Agresto would be a blank slate.

Here is a link to a short film promoting the book:

Also from Youtube here is the first of a 6 part video of Ms. Klein talking about her book:

In a recent speech, also archived on Democracynow.org, Naomi dropped my favorite quote in recent memory.

We who say we believe in this other world need to know that we are not losers. We did not lose the battle of ideas. We were not outsmarted, and we were not out-argued. We lost because we were crushed. Sometimes we were crushed by army tanks, and sometimes we were crushed by think tanks. And by think tanks, I mean the people who are paid to think by the makers of tanks.

over at democracy now

cross posted at Daily Kos

Soundtrack to a personal archaeological dig

(beautiful piece on life, lyrics, and love of music – promoted by pfiore8)

The simple task of reorganizing a CD collection, punctuated with stops to listen along the way, affords your humble essayist the opportunity to honestly identify a long-crusted-over, never resolved, and wholly destructive inner inconsistency. Wow. Who knew?

Let’s get right to it. The conflict is so apparent, it’s astonishing only in how long seeing it for myself has proven elusive:

I’ve got plenty of java
And Chesterfield Kings
But I feel like crying
I wish I had a heart like ice
Heart like ice

The Nightfly
Donald Fagen, The Nightfly, 1982

Take a knife
Cut out this heart of ice
Hold it high
Walk into the sun

Heart of Ice
Joe Jackson, Body & Soul, 1984

These are lyrics that spoke to me. I felt them. I let them stick around. And it’s only now that I reckon the sentiments expressed don’t play well with each other. There’s just not enough room in this town for the both of them.

I’ll now fire up the wayback machine.

Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly and Joe Jackson’s Body & Soul were released–and promptly found their way into my vinyl collection–when I was a high school student.

By this point in my late childhood, I’d spent a bunch of increasingly quality time with the saxophone. I’d established, and, to the extent possible in my rural chunk of the planet, nurtured a very keen interest in jazz. This interest absolutely informed my rock listening. I was hugely into the Police, and knew that Sting was also a saxophone player and had spent years prior to his success paying dues in jazz combo settings. Ska, in particular The English Beat, certainly grabbed my attention through the prominent incorporation of the tenor saxophone. Joe Jackson 1982 Jumpin’ Jive completely delighted me with its modern yet very dedicated and deferential take on popular swing and jump tunes from the ’40s by the likes of Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway. And for me, Steely Dan was the absolute living end. Their compositions were of a harmonic sophistication well apart from most else on the radio at the time, rooted in the fact that both Fagen and partner Walter Becker were both studied fans of jazz. Their selection of chord changes and voicings selected for their songcraft are clearly reflective of their love of jazz.

And, really, I was a music listener for whom lyrical content was, if not necessarily in the way, at least secondary. I was listening far more intently to the bass line. To the horn solos. To how the piano or guitar was framing the chord progression. I could absolutely appreciate a great voice as an instrument, but it was a rare thing that a lyric would essentially burrow into my brain and lay its eggs there.

I’ve got plenty of java
And Chesterfield Kings
But I feel like crying
I wish I had a heart like ice
Heart like ice

I couldn’t verbalize why for so long I wanted to feel things less intently and intensely. I just knew that–particularly prior to coming out just shy of my 30th birthday–there was this incessant, background pain. Compartmentalization became the course of action. I saw a safety in walling off the challenges, the pain, and the difficulties; a manageable, sad stasis through affecting a deluded but happy-faced numbness. Of course, this is a growth-stunting and psychically cancerous path. But when the time you spend inside your head turns out to be not-at-all quality time, you’re really not terribly likely to achieve critical distance and call yourself out on your stupid, stupid shit.

Take a knife
Cut out this heart of ice
Hold it high
Walk into the sun

Heart of Ice is the closing song on Body & Soul; the lyric excerpted above is the entirety of the song’s lyrics altogether, and we don’t get to them until nearly the end of this nearly seven minute song. A repeating melodic line carries the lion’s share of the tune, in series by flute, trumpet, saxophone, and the entire ensemble before a ripping good guitar solo, then into the lyric. Really, a very lovely piece of pop music. And I’d listen to it, and I’d often find myself in tears. Deeply and genuinely sadly. And here too, I just did not know why; I lacked the clarity that the person I’m intended to be while I’m inhabiting this particular meat-vessel to which I’ve been assigned for this go ’round is supposed to feel. Deeply. To own it, to share it, to act upon it.

These will remain favorite, and occasionally revisited members of my collection.

But I can listen to that Fagen piece and know full well he’s not talking to me.

And I can enjoy that magnificent culmination to Body & Soul, and if I feel like crying, no big. I’m really trying hard to keep evolving. The occasional tear of joy could be the thing.

So. What’s everyone else been listening to this week?

on fences

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“Feral Fence” by Shannon Wright

The Locker Room

Welcome sports fans!

It is my fondest wish and the deepest desire of my heart to see the Flyers win a Stanley Cup have a weekly sports discussion essay.  While I’m not well-versed in every sport at every level, I would love for us to have a forum to discuss professional, college, amateur, and even our own involvement in local sports, as well as the personalities that people them.  And while I’m clearly posting such an essay right at this very minute (or, have posted, if you’ve come later), I’m not particular on who posts it, or when…only that we know where to look for it so we can all participate.

You could liken it to the current training-camp sitch the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves in, as described in the Yahoo!News story: Flyers have several candidates to fill vacant captaincy.  Here it’s a lot like in that locker room.  The person wearing the “C”, or posting the essay, won’t be doing all of the work.  Sami Kapanen sums it up well, I think (from the above-linked article).

“If you have a C on the jersey, it’s not just up to him,” he said. “It’s a team game and everybody needs to bring something in. You can’t ask for too much from one player.”

So, basically, I’d prefer for it to be weekly sports discussion, not a weekly sports article by someone.  I’m happy to give my essay for the cause, but I won’t bother if folks aren’t interested.  Don’t worry…I’m not one of those “I need to have a commitment from you”, kind of girls…. I promise I will never ask you where this is ‘going’…or what our future is. 

I’m posting the first one now to coincide with Monday Night Football.  I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and they’re hosting the Washington Redskins.  It’s purely coincidental that the Flyers are playing the Devils at the same time in an exhibition (pre-season) game in New Jersey, and the Phillies are in St. Louis playing the Cardinals.  I’m not ‘over-sportsed’.  I DON’T have a problem, and I CAN quit anytime I want.

So, thank you for dropping by, for reading, and for considering.  If a weekly sports discussion without a firm or even flaccid commitment sounds good, even if you’re not participating tonight, a simple ‘yea’ in the comments would give me some idea of whether I’m wasting my precious, precious time.  And speaking of time, if you have suggestions for a better day or time, yell louder (!) and we’ll see what everyone thinks. 

ooopsie…if you saw this go up with the wrong username….my bad…that’s the one we use for Pony Party 

The Locker Room

Welcome sports fans!

It is my fondest wish and the deepest desire of my heart to see the Flyers win a Stanley Cup have a weekly sports discussion essay.  While I’m not well-versed in every sport at every level, I would love for us to have a forum to discuss professional, college, amateur, and even our own involvement in local sports, as well as the personalities that people them.  And while I’m clearly posting such an essay right at this very minute (or, have posted, if you’ve come later), I’m not particular on who posts it, or when…only that we know where to look for it so we can all participate.

You could liken it to the current training-camp sitch the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves in, as described in the Yahoo!News story: Flyers have several candidates to fill vacant captaincy.  Here it’s a lot like in that locker room.  The person wearing the “C”, or posting the essay, won’t be doing all of the work.  Sami Kapanen sums it up well, I think (from the above-linked article).

“If you have a C on the jersey, it’s not just up to him,” he said. “It’s a team game and everybody needs to bring something in. You can’t ask for too much from one player.”

So, basically, I’d prefer for it to be weekly sports discussion, not a weekly sports article by someone.  I’m happy to give my essay for the cause, but I won’t bother if folks aren’t interested.  Don’t worry…I’m not one of those “I need to have a commitment from you”, kind of girls…. I promise I will never ask you where this is ‘going’…or what our future is. 

I’m posting the first one now to coincide with Monday Night Football.  I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and they’re hosting the Washington Redskins.  It’s purely coincidental that the Flyers are playing the Devils at the same time in an exhibition (pre-season) game in New Jersey, and the Phillies are playing the Cardinals tonight.  I’m not ‘over-sportsed’.  I DON’T have a problem, and I CAN quit anytime I want.

So, thank you for dropping by, for reading, and for considering.  If a weekly sports discussion without a firm or even flaccid commitment sounds good, even if you’re not participating tonight, a simple ‘yea’ in the comments would give me some idea of whether I’m wasting my precious, precious time.  And speaking of time, if you have suggestions for a better day or time, yell louder (!) and we’ll see what everyone thinks. 

The Dem/Rep Candidates React to Gore’s Emmy Award

By this evening, millions of emails messages, flower bouquets, and phone calls had flooded Al Gore’s Nashville, Tennessee office.  Tens of thousands of Gore fans gathered outside on West End Avenue shouting, “We want Gore! We want Gore!” Long known for his Churchillian and graceful command of the English language and consistent with his upbringing, even George W. Bush sent a personal video congratulating Gore on winning the second leg of the Triple Crown 

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”

The country’s newspaper of record, the Washington Times, noted Mr. Bush’s magnanimous gesture and hailed it as an example of his “impeccable New England manners.”

White House Press Secretary, Dana Perrino, characterized Bush’s reaching out to Gore as evidence of the “incredibly bipartisan and civil tone” that Bush had brought to Washington, DC since 2001.  Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), noted historian and former Republican Senate Majority Leader, chimed in and said that Bush had brought “honor and dignity” to the presidency and though he commended Gore on his win, he reiterated his belief that with Bush as President, the country had been spared all these problems from a potential Gore Presidency.

The presidential candidates, never at a loss for words, joined in and commended Gore for his great victory.  Here’s a sampling of comments from the leading 2008 Democratic contenders

* Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

“If I knew then what I know now, I too would have made a documentary, ‘It Takes an Oscar and an Emmy.’ How difficult can it be to win all these awards?”  She then proceeded to describe Rudy Giuliani as the “unthinking man’s Robert Duvall.”

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Robert Duvall or Rudy Giuliani?


* Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)

“The audacity of Hillary’s comments leaves me dumbfounded.  Her judgment is not only questionable but given her vast insider experience, it leaves me with the distinct impression that she is unelectable.” 

* Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC)

Strongly disagreeing with both Hillary and Obama, he said, “When elected President in November 2008, I will proceed to pull the health insurance coverage of all politicians.  And for that matter, Robert Duvall’s too.  They can all afford to pay for it out of their own, deep pockets.”

* Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM)

The New Mexico Governor said it was God’s will that Gore be the first political figure to win all these awards.  When asked by singer Melissa Etheridge as to what he thought of Gore being honored by Hollywood elites, he replied in his trademark succint fashion, “It’s their choice.” 

* Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-10th/OH)

“If I’m elected President, I will nationalize the Emmy Awards so as to ensure that no such travesty occurs in the future.  It is an affront to the good citizens of Lothlórien.”

Uncharacteristically, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, and Mike Gravel declined comment.

The Republican candidates too had plenty to say about Gore’s appearance last night amongst Hollywood’s glitterati

* Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NYC)

“As a genuine New York Yankees fan, a proud military veteran, and also as a close personal friend of Queen Helen Mirren, I can only say this to Hillary: there is no chance that you’ll ever end up playing that role.”

Queen Helen Mirren


* Former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)

“As a former B-Grade Hollywood actor, I don’t comment on A-Level achievements.  It is well above my pay grade.”

* Former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA)

“As a long-time believer in consistency in political life, all I can say is that Gore has deserved all the honors bestowed upon him.”  Reached by a staffer from the Republican National Committee earlier this evening, Romney immediately retracted his comment.

* Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

“As a loyal Republican, I want to fully associate myself with George W. Bush’s articulate remarks.  I applaud his resolve, steadfastness, and commitment to civil discourse.”

* Senator Alan Keyes (R-?)

“As the most successful Senate candidate in our nation’s history — and speaking as Bill Kristol’s saner Harvard University roommate — all I have to say is, “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

‘Senator for Life’ Alan Keyes Pictured Above
in his Washington, DC Senate Office

As for the other Republican contenders, they were all attending a ‘Second-tier Candidates Debate’ at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina and could not be reached for comment.

Finally, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, condemned the decision not to award the ‘Best Actor’ Emmy to a fellow paisan, James Gandolfini of The Sopranos.  On Gore’s award, his curt reaction was

“Get over it.”

As usual — and displaying his self-effacing brand of humor — Al Gore marveled at the state of domestic politics in the country and harmonious nature of the 2008 Presidential Campaign.  He thanked all these politicians (and Justice Scalia in particular) for their “warm messages and spontaneous outpouring of support.”  When reached late tonight on cell phone by Washington Post reporter and longtime Gore admirer, Ceci Connolly,  Gore declined further comment and would only say, “I’ll have more to say in October.”

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‘The Glow of Victory’ – Al Gore with Joel Hyatt
at the 59th Emmy Awards Last Night

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Let’s Introduce Ourselves

I know that many of you “know” each other from your various on-line participation. But I don’t know most of you and I’ll bet there are others like me out there who want to participate, but don’t feel comfortable yet because they feel like outsiders. So, I’d like to introduce myself a bit and then ask you to do the same in the comments. You can decide what you want others to know about you and what needs to stay private.

My signature says one thing about me. Yes, I live in St. Paul, MN and I still miss Paul and Sheila Wellstone.

I was raised mostly in the south in a family that thought southern baptists were backsliders. My father was an original card-carrying member of the so-called moral majority. It wasn’t until my early 30’s that I totally healed from all that, and the politics was the first thing to go. The spiritual part took a bit longer to heal.

For the last 30 years I have worked in various capacities with troubled young people and their families. That is my passion. Right now I am the executive director of a small non-profit who’s mission is “To work with families and the community to re-direct youth who are starting to get in trouble at home, at school or with the law.” Politically, this ties in with a couple of my major concerns: our crumbling urban areas and racism.

So, that’s a bit about me. I’d like to meet you. Say as much or as little as you like. Its really not that hard – so jump right in the water’s fine and the ponies are sure to show up.

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