29 December 2011

Gandhi and the Politics of Non-Violence

From a teach-in at Occupy Austin. An interesting, well-thought-out, provocative take on Gandhi, nonviolent protest, and the current politics of Occupy; also a pretty wonderful example of the way we think about and relate to history. Worth watching.

Pretty Thing of the Day 26

23 December 2011

Red Mars and the Philosophy of History

Have we ever been so free of choices?
The past is wiped out, all that matters is now.
The present and the future.
And the future is this field of stones, and here we are.

And, you know, you never really summon all of your strength
until you know that there's no way back,
no way to go but onward.

Social Democracy thought fit
to assign to the working class
the role of the redeemer of future generations,
in this way cutting the sinews of its greatest strength.

This training made the working class
forget both its hatred
and its spirit of sacrifice,
for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors
rather than that of liberated grandchildren.

Pretty Thing of the Day 22

21 December 2011

SPD Mocks Tim Nelson

If you don't feel like watching the video: The Seattle DOT asked people not to drive to work because a major arterial (the Alaskan Way Viaduct) was closed. Tim Nelson, who lives in West Seattle, chose to jog. He got hit by a semi, broke his back, six ribs, and his skull.

And, after he was loaded into an ambulance, the cops who'd arrived at the scene called him a "dumb fuck" for jogging and said "That's why you drive a car." They then made fun of the truck driver's accent.

Link to KOMO's article (from which I got the video).

Link to article from Fox News.
- The Fox article adds that at least one of the cops involved was named Doug Jorgensen, and that Nelson had not one but two skull fractures.

Link to article from KIRO.
- The KIRO article adds a statement from Deputy police chief Clark Kimerer: "We expect 100 percent professionalism from our officers," he said. "We also, with them, have to recognize that they are often in stressful situations and also that there is sometimes more than meets the eyes."

If I were starting a community...

...what would I want it to look like?

A glorious failure, a universal myth, a song, a prayer, a dive from a cliff into cool water on a hot summer’s day.

A refueling station, a library, a discussion hall, a sweat lodge.

The largest living thing in the world is a mycelium which lives under and in a forest in Oregon. Its unity is a matter of discussion; some believe it is actually a collection of affiliated organisms which share DNA.

I’ve considered, for some time, after I finish school and save up some money, attempting to find a group of 40-50 other like-minded (politically, socially, educationally) folks and buy some land out in the woods somewhere, farm it, raise kids together, share ideas, food, resources; there’s something beautiful in a barn-raising. Turning away from the world, though, isn’t really an option, nor would it be inviting if it were; the ideal community must be like a spring, gathering energy to expand outwards (with words, with action) in an impactful manner.

Pretty Thing of the Day 21

19 December 2011

Clem Snide covers Journey - "Faithfully"

I do love this cover. Truly delightful stuff. One of my favorite love songs, and Mr. Barzelay here has stripped away all the power-ballad-ness of it and turned it into an amazing, sweet, beautiful little ballad that gets at the quiet center of the song's lyrics.

The repartee at the beginning, before he starts singing, is also quite nice.

MTV: "Choose or Lose" is too hopeful

"Choose or Lose" is too hopeful...

- because "while young people turned out in unusually high numbers to support Barack Obama in 2008, MTV's research into "Choose or Lose" found that many felt that they had lost anyway."

- because "we cannot tell young people that you lose if you don't vote and only if you don't vote, because it turns out that many of them now feel that even though they voted, they still lost, and not because their guy didn't win."

- because "the whole experience [of voting] has made them [young people] cynical enough that companies marketing to them had to take notice of that."

- because "it wasn't just the economy"

- because "there's a broader awareness, by people who share a notion of social justice, that the commons belong to the people."

- because "it's not enough to vote for somebody and then go to sleep."

Telling the Occupy Wall Street protesters to "occupy the ballot box" is missing the point. They're protesting, in part at least, because, no matter who they vote for, they're not going to be represented. And they know that.

We know that. We're all disenfranchised, we're all disenchanted. Or were we ever enchanted? I don't remember ever having had that particular feeling.

Pretty Thing of the Day 19

17 December 2011

Nikolas Rose - Powers of Freedom

These studies have shown, in their different ways, that the activity of government is inextricably bound up with the activity of thought. It is thus both made possible by and constrained by what can be thought and what cannot be thought at any particular moment in our history

[…] in our own time, ideas of freedom have come to define the ground of our ethical systems, our practice of politics and our habits of criticism. Hence it seems relevant to try to analyse the conditions under which these ideas of freedom and these practices in the name of freedom have come into existence, and to try to clarify the lines of power, truth and ethics that are in play within them.

In particular, I think we can distinguish freedom as a formula of resistance from freedom as a formula of power. Or rather, to be more circumspect, between freedom as it is deployed in contestation and freedom as it is instantiated in government.

Strategies and techniques of authority have been regulated by ideals of freedom – of societies, of markets, of individuals – or have sought to produce freedom. Those who administer life, in prisons, asylums, factories and the like, have tried to reconcile the obligation to manage individuals with the requirement that those individuals are not slaves, but free. We have acted upon ourselves, or been acted upon by others, in the wish to be free.

To be free, in this modern sense, is to be attached to a polity where certain civilized modes of conducting one’s existence are identified as normal, and simultaneously to be bound to those ‘engineers of the human soul’ who will define the norm and tutor individuals as to the ways of living that will accomplish normality.

In different ways, the problem of freedom now comes to be understood in terms of the capacity of an autonomous individual to establish an identity through shaping a meaningful everyday life. Freedom is seen as autonomy, the capacity to realize one’s desires in one’s secular life, to fulfil one’s potential through one’s own endeavours, to determine the course of one’s own existence through acts of choice.

Work has become a zone that is as much psychological as economic. We are no longer merely productive or unproductive bodies or even normal or maladjusted workers. We are ‘people at work’ and we bring to work all our fears, emotions and desires, our sexuality and our pathology. The activity of labor transformed into a matter of self-actualization, in which the cash return is less important than the identity conferred upon the employee.

As far as the [1930s] working class was concerned, however, it was now, within this social field, that the family came to be recoded as a living unity – in terms of its biology, its bodies, its sexuality, its reproduction – and hence subjected to medico-hygienic scrutiny focused upon the contribution which it could make to the fitness of the population.

It is, of course, not a question of the replacement of ‘the social’ by ‘the community’. But the hold of ‘the social’ over our political imagination is weakening. While social government has been failing since its inception, the solution proposed for these failures is no longer the re-invention of the social. As ‘society’ dissociates into a variety of ethical and cultural communities with incompatible allegiances and incommensurable obligations, a new set of political rationalities, governmental technologies and opportunities for contestation begin to take shape.

It appears that, while national governments still have to manage the affairs of a country, the economic well-being of the nation and of its population can no longer be so easily mapped upon one another.

The social and the economic are now seen as antagonistic: economic government is to be desocialized in the name of maximizing the entrepreneurial comportment of the individual. This is not a politics of economic abstentionism: on the contrary, it is a politics of economic activism. Politics must actively intervene in order to create the organization and subjective conditions for entrepreneurship.

Freedom, here, is redefined: it is no longer freedom from want, which might be provided by a cosseted life on benefits: it is the capacity for self-realization which can be obtained only through individual activity. Hence an economic politics which enjoins work on all citizens is one which provides mutual benefit for the individual and the collective: it enhances national economic health at the same time as it generates individual freedom.

Pretty Thing of the Day 17

16 December 2011

'Pattern of Excessive Force' from SPD

Maybe you've been reading my blog for a while and you think I'm a liar.

Maybe when you read this account, or this account, or this account, or this account (and those are just from the last couple of months!) of the corruption, stupidity, cruelty, and brutality of the Seattle Police Department, you think that I'm making things up, blowing incidents out of proportion, or that the things I'm talking about aren't indicative of the attitude of the department at large.

You don't believe me?

Will you believe the Department of Justice?

Read that article.


- 20% of use of force incidents were ruled unconstitutional.

- 57% of baton use was "either unnecessary or excessive."

- "among the approximately 1,230 use of force reports from January 2009 to April 2011, only five were referred for “further review” at any level within SPD"

And what was the response from the cops?

Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Rich O’Neill said Friday he hopes the DOJ will allow the department to study the data used in the investigation. He also cited a 1989 Supreme Court decision that a particular use of force must be judged “from the perspective of the reasonable officer on the scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

...yeah. Unsurprising. To paraphrase: "Your data is stupid. You're stupid. You weren't there, man! You don't know what it's like!"

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15 December 2011

'Clerical Error' means cop doesn't get punished

Link, from Seattle Weekly.


Kathryn Olson, the director of SPD's Office of Professional Accountability has said that an unnamed officer who punched a jaywalking man, and was ruled by the OPA to have violated police code in doing so, won't be punished because the department lost his file and then found it again after the deadline for filing it.

Riiiight... you "lost" his "file."

I'm not going to say that this is a clear-cut case of corruption within the department. I'm not sure if that'd get me sued (or beat up) or not.

In a completely unrelated note... remember Terrell Owens? What the heck is that guy up to lately? I remember he always used to say ridiculous things. Didn't he beef with Jeff Garcia a little while ago? Something about - oh, yeah, that's right. He got asked if he thought Garcia was gay. What was his response?

"Like my boy tells me: If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat."

Pretty Thing of the Day 15

14 December 2011

NDAA Passes House of Representatives

Remember my post from a few days ago? The one where I mentioned that the Senate's new National Defense Authorization Act, which passed 93-7, authorizes indefinite military detention (without charge) of American citizens on American soil?

Remember how I said that it would easily pass the House?

It just did. Less easily than I'd anticipated - 283-136 - but it passed.

And Obama has said he's not going to veto it.

Politico has the breakdown:

The measure split Democrats right down the middle, with 93 voting in favor and 93 against legislation that President Barack Obama tactily endorsed earlier in the day by retreating from a veto threat. Though the bill passed handily just before 7:00 PM, there was a surprising amount of opposition from Tea Party faithful and other conservative GOP members, 43 of whom opposed the legislation. (A full roll call is posted here.)

I know the voting breakdown is hard to find on that page - go to the "Votes" tab and click on "Roll No. 932."

There's a storm coming, folks. Get ready.

Minister says Seattle police assaulted him at Occupy

Raw video: Minister says Seattle police assaulted him at Occupy...

Yeah. I was standing about 15 feet from this guy when the cops grabbed him. He didn't attack anybody. He was trying to keep everybody calm. I didn't see the punches - the flashbangs going off and the pepper spray being used after he was taken down effectively diverted my attention - but the things he says here are worth hearing. The bruises on his face are worth seeing.

The video's about 20 minutes long, but, if you consider yourself interested at all in the relationship between Christianity and current politics, you should watch it. This guy (John Helmiere) is an ordained Methodist minister with a MA from Yale Divinity. He's articulate, he's intelligent, and he's somebody you should listen to.

Pretty Thing of the Day 14

12 December 2011

Notes on Autarchy

It is a truism that when one is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The glory of art is that it can show this proverbial hammer how everything looks to a screwdriver - and to a plowshare, and to an earthenware pot. If reality is the sum of our perceptions, to acquire more varying points of view is to acquire, literally, more reality.

He does have power. One power: the power to devote himself absolutely to a single goal, to be ruthless with himself and all else in its pursuit. It is the only power he needs - because, unlike the great mass of men, he is aware of this power, and he is willing, even happy, to use it.

Will without action is mere daydreaming; it is as useless as the blind, spastic twitching that is action without will.

When you eat, eat. When you sleep, sleep. When you fight, fight.

We can each sit and wait to die, from the very day of our births. Those of us who do not do so, choose to ask - and to answer - the two questions that define every conscious creature: What do I want? and What will I do to get it? Which are, finally, only one question: What is my will? The answer is always found within our own experience; our lives provide the structure of the question, and a properly phrased question contains its own answer.

We do not advocate, we merely describe. Autarchy is simple fact. Every day, every thinking creature decides which rules to follow, and which to break. Our reasons for following or breaking these rules may be wildly different, but the fact of choice is identical.

The consequence of even the simplest action cannot be reliably predicted over any long term. One cannot control how events unfold, and whether any action is 'good' or 'evil' can only be judged in terms of its consequence - and even that judgment will alter, over time. An action initially judged to be 'good' may later be found to have 'evil' effects - which eventually may be seen, in fact, to be 'good.' Good and evil are, after all, only code words for outcomes we either favor, or of which we disapprove. We all must accept that anything we do, however 'good' it seems at the time, might have consequences that will be too horrible to contemplate.

The truly free man chooses his own goals and seeks his own ends, purely for the joy of the choice and the seeking.

What anything means depends on how you tell the story.

What is a house, then? It's how you fight the seasons. What's a campfire? It's how you fight the night. What's medicine? It's how you fight death. That's what love is, too. Just because you're not going to win is no reason to give up.

Perhaps it does take two to fight - but it takes only one to attack.

Destiny is bullshit. Your life only looks like fate when you see it in reverse.

Mortality is a gift: It's never a question of whether you'll die. It's just a question of how.

Pretty Thing of the Day 13

11 December 2011

Violent Moscow protests

Any of y'all watching Fox's coverage of the violent post-election protests in Russia? Just be aware that, uh, the video they're showing of those Russian protests is actually from Greece. Here's RT's (snarky) video of it, and here's a link to their article that breaks down the evidence:

- The phonebooths in the video are yellow, rather than grey.

- There are people in Fox's video running around in blue jeans and long-sleeved tee shirts. Right. In Russia. In December.

- There's a sign in the background of one shot that says (in Greek) "National Bank of Greece"

Anyways. Have a great day.

Pretty Thing of the Day 12

09 December 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin

I finished up Dhalgren today, so I figured I'd take a little time out between portfolios to watch a movie. This was the one I picked. It was... delightful.

That's half-serious. Tilda Swinton is, as always, excellent, and this is one of the only films in which I've ever been able to tolerate John C. Reilly.

Of course, everything goes horribly wrong - as you can probably tell from the trailer.

Really, though, nothing was ever right.

We know this from the first scenes of the film. A celebration is difficult to tell from a riot. Is there a difference? Everything is and must be overturned. The sudden rush of joy and terror is the same; we believe in order, we are unwilling to transform ourselves or our surroundings, because we have lived only within order.

Order is death. Without change, there can be no life. Would Eva have continued without the catastrophe?

Perhaps. I think not.

Pretty Thing of the Day 10

08 December 2011

Slow Death

The phrase slow death refers to the physical wearing out of a population in a way that points to its deterioration as a defining condition of its experience and historical existence.

Self-continuity and self-extension are different things.

But the other point is that in the scene of slow death - where mental and physical health might actually be conflicting aims, even internally conflicting - the activity of riding a different wave of spreading out or shifting in the everyday also reveals confusions about what it means to have a life. Is it to have health? To love, to have been loved? To have felt sovereign? To achieve a state or a sense of worked-toward enjoyment? Is "having a life" now the process to which one gets resigned, after dreaming of the good life, or not even dreaming? Is "life" as the scene of reliable pleasures located largely in those experiences of coasting, with all that's implied in that phrase, the shifting, diffuse, sensual space between pleasure and numbness?

I am focusing here on the way the attrition of the subject of capital articulates survival with slow death. Impassivity and other politically depressed relations of alienation, coolness, detachment, or distraction, especially in subordinated populations, can be read as affective forms of engagement with the environment of slow death, much as the violence of battered women has had to be reunderstood as a kind of destruction towards survival.

But what I am offering here is also slightly different. In this scene, activity toward reproducing life is neither identical to making it or oneself better nor a mimetic response to the structural conditions of a collective failure to thrive, nor just a mini-vacation from being responsible - such activity is also directed toward making a less-bad experience.

It's a relief, a reprieve, not a repair.

[...] for most, potentiality within the overwhelming present is less well symbolized by energizing images of sustainable life and less guaranteed by the glorious promise of bodily longevity and social security than it is expressed in regimes of exhausted practical sovereignty, lateral agency, and, sometimes, counterabsorption in episodic refreshment, for example in sex, or spacing out, or food that is not for thought.

Pretty Thing of the Day 9

04 December 2011

Damien Rice & Lisa Hannigan - Volcano

The Killing Joke

See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum...and one night, one night they decide they don't like living in an asylum any more.

They decide they're going to escape! So, like, they get up onto the roof and there, just across this narrow gap, they see the rooftops of the town, stretching away in the moonlight...stretching away to freedom.

Now, the first guy, he jumps right across with no problem. But his friend, his friend daredn't make the leap. Y'see...y'see, he's afraid of falling.

So then, the first guy has an idea...He says 'Hey! I have my flashlight with me! I'll shine it across the gap between the buildings. You can walk along the beam and join me!'

B-but the second guy just shakes his head. He suh-says... he says 'What do you think I am? Crazy? You'd turn it off when I was half way across!'

01 December 2011

Indefinite Detention - of US Citizens, on US Soil?

Read this. Now.

Brief summary: the Senate just passed, as part of a larger defense bill, language that (1) requires the government to put any suspected member of Al Qaeda into military custody, and (2) creates "a federal statute saying the government has the legal authority to keep people suspected of terrorism in military custody, indefinitely and without trial. It contains no exception for American citizens."

That's a big deal.

A few brief takes:

- A friend of mine, yesterday, pointed out that, if this passes, there are going to be a heck of a lot of angry vets floating around. Do you think that the 21.8 million veterans currently living in this country are going to be pleased by this? No veteran I've talked to in the last few days (I've talked to 8) has been; they've been unanimously angered, and unanimously predicting trouble if this actually goes through.

- I don't usually agree with Rand Paul; I often find him reprehensible. But, here, as one of only two Republicans to vote for an amendment to strip this provision from the bill, I've got at least a little respect for him. I also think his quote of Jefferson is quite apropos: “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.”

- Also noted in the Slate article: "The landmark anti-terror legislation known as the Patriot Act has, in the 10 years since its passage, been used in 1,618 drug cases and 15 terrorism cases."

- This is going to pass through the House of Representatives. Easily. I'll post when it does. Obama's said he's going to veto it; I have no faith in him right now, but if he does, I'll smile. If he doesn't, this could turn into a flashpoint. Gradual chipping away of civil liberties is one thing, but allowing the military to operate on US soil, to arrest citizens without charge and hold them indefinitely, is (and should be) an enormous step.

Pretty Thing of the Day 4