Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Murray Bookchin: Social Ecologist

"Ecology and Ideology"

"The assumption that what currently exists must necessarily exist is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking." --Murray Bookchin

The excuse for this post is to point to a rather incredible 1970's talk by Bookchin, "Ecology and Ideology," that was rebroadcast today (8/30/06) on the KPFA program, Against the Grain. The talk starts about 5 minutes into the broadcast (after news headlines & a little trouble with the tape). If you've got the time, treat yourself to the voice of a man who dared to Imagine! a better world. Highly recommended!

Murray Bookchin was a left-libertarian social theorist who, in the early 1960s, introduced the concept of ecology into radical politics. A self-described utopian, he sought a decentralized, genuinely democratic society and placed ecology in a humanistic and social framework. He wrote more than two dozen books on ecology, history, politics, philosophy, and urban planning. At all times he upheld reason against the alternatives and sought to bring a lived revolutionary past forward into the future. [snip]

His first book, Our Synthetic Environment (written under the pseudonym Lewis Herber), published in 1962, addressed a broad range of ecological issues. Preceding Rachel Carson’s famous Silent Spring by nearly half a year, it called for a decentralized society using alternative energy sources. In this and later writings he developed what he called social ecology, which holds that ecological problems can be remedied only by the creation of a free and democratic society. At a time when “ecology” was an unfamiliar concept to most people, he lectured indefatigably on the subject to countercultural groups throughout the United States. . . . His 1960s essays were very influential both in the counterculture and in the New Left and were anthologized in Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971).

During the 1970s Bookchin’s writings and lectures influenced the formation of Green movements in the United States and abroad. [snip]

In 1982 Bookchin published The Ecology of Freedom, which became a classic in social thought. His 1986 The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship (1986) presented his program for direct-democratic politics at the municipal, neighborhood, and town levels. In Burlington Bookchin attempted to put these ideas into practice by working with the Northern Vermont Greens, the Vermont Council for Democracy, and the Burlington Greens, retiring from politics in 1990. His ideas are summarized succinctly in Remaking Society (1989) and The Murray Bookchin Reader (1997).

That's from the obituary written by his longtime companion Janet Biehl. The 85 year old Bookchin passed away earlier this summer. A good, on-line selection of his writings can be found at The Bookchin Archives.

Brian Tokar has a nice memorial in Counterpunch, The Visionary Life of Murray Bookchin, where he adds:

During the 1950s and '60s, Bookchin built upon the legacies of utopian social philosophy and critical theory, challenging the primacy of Marxism on the left and linking contemporary ecological and urban crises to problems of capital and social hierarchy in general. Beginning in the mid-sixties, he pioneered a new political and philosophical synthesis-termed social ecology-that sought to reclaim local political power, by means of direct popular democracy, against the consolidation and increasing centralization of the nation state.

From the 1960s to the present, the utopian dimension of Bookchin's social ecology inspired several generations of social and ecological activists, from the pioneering urban ecology movements of the sixties, to the 1970s' back-to-the-land, antinuclear, and sustainable technology movements, the beginnings of Green politics and organic agriculture in the early 1980s, and the anti-authoritarian global justice movement that came of age in 1999 in the streets of Seattle. His influence was often cited by prominent political and social activists throughout the US, Europe, South America, Turkey, Japan, and beyond.

Even as numerous social movements drew on his ideas, however, Bookchin remained a relentless critic of the currents in those movements that he found deeply disturbing, including the New Left's drift toward Marxism-Leninism in the late 1960s, tendencies toward mysticism and misanthropy in the radical environmental movement, and the growing focus on individualism and personal lifestyles among 1990s anarchists. In the late 1990s, Bookchin broke with anarchism, the political tradition he had been most identified with for over 30 years and articulated a new political vision that he called communalism.

Andy Price begins an article on Bookchin's critique of Marx with this 1991 quote: "Perhaps the most compelling real fact that radicals in our era have not adequately faced . . . is the fact that capitalism today has become a society, not only an economy."

If the books Our Synthetic Environment and Carson's Silent Spring were ground-breaking in the 60's, the issues raised in his long 1952 essay "The Problem of Chemicals in Food" could be described as near prophetic. In a 2000 interview, he notes:

DV: The summarizing phrase that is commonly associated with your work is "We cannot solve the environmental crisis without solving social problems." To whom specifically were these words addressed when you wrote them for the first time? To the environmental movement of the time?

MB: No, it was 1952, and there was no environmental movement at that time — just a few books on conservation and overpopulation, most of which were very reactionary. There was no organic gardening movement except for experiments among a few people who had come over here from Europe and especially England. I strongly believed, however, that making a few small changes would not solve the ecological problem — on the contrary, a transformation into a rational, egalitarian, and libertarian society was necessary. When I talked about solar and wind energy, I didn't just propose them as alternative technologies; I proposed them as part of the technological apparatus of a new communal society.

A wholistic approach was one he continued to cultivate:

"Nor do piecemeal steps however well intended, even partially resolve problems that have reached a universal, global and catastrophic Character. If anything, partial `solutions' serve merely as cosmetics to conceal the deep seated nature of the ecological crisis. They thereby deflect public attention and theoretical insight from an adequate understanding of the depth and scope of the necessary changes." (from The Ecology of Freedom, 1982)

"To speak of 'limits to growth' under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to limit growth than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop breathing. Attempts to 'green' capitalism, to make it 'ecological', are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth." (from Remaking Society, 1992)

In an "Open Letter to the Ecology Movement" published on Earth Day, 1980, Bookchin articulated clearly what lay ahead (& in fact played out in many of the large environmental & other social advocacy groups); it echoes dilemmas many face today:

It is necessary, I believe, for everyone in the ecology movement to make a crucial decision; will the eighties retain the visionary concept of an ecological future based on a libertarian (anarchist) commitment to decentralization, alternative technology, and a libertarian practice based on affinity groups, direct democracy, and direct action? Or will the decade be marked by a dismal retreat into ideological obscurantism and a "mainstream politics" that acquires "power" and "effectiveness" by following the very "stream" it should be seeking to divert? Will it pursue fictitious "mass constituencies" by imitating the very forms of mass manipulation, mass media, mass culture it is committed to oppose? These two directions cannot be reconciled. Our use of "media," mobilizations, and actions must appeal to mind and spirit, not to conditioned reflexes and shock tactics that leave no room for reason and humanity. In any case, the choice must be made now before the ecology movement becomes instituionalized into a mere appendage of the very system whose structure and methods it professes to oppose. It must be made consciously and decisively -- or the century itself, and not only the decade, will be lost to us forever.

--quoted in Deep Ecology, Bill Devall & George Sessions (1985)

For his withering critque of the deep ecology movement, take a peek at Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology: A Challenge for the Ecology Movement. Then, aiming his fire at the left, here's a snippet from Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm:

Today's reactionary social context greatly explains the emergence of a phenomenon in Euro-American anarchism that cannot be ignored: the spread of individualist anarchism. In a time when even respectable forms of socialism are in pell-mell retreat from principles that might in any way be construed as radical, issues of lifestyle are once again supplanting social action and revolutionary politics in anarchism. In the traditionally individualist-liberal United States and Britain, the 1990s are awash in self-styled anarchists who -- their flamboyant radical rhetoric aside -- are cultivating a latter-day anarcho-individualism that I will call lifestyle anarchism. Its preoccupations with the ego and its uniqueness and its polymorphous concepts of resistance are steadily eroding the socialistic character of the libertarian tradition. No less than Marxism and other socialisms, anarchism can be profoundly influenced by the bourgeois environment it professes to oppose, with the result that the growing 'inwardness' and narcissism of the yuppie generation have left their mark upon many avowed radicals. Ad hoc adventurism, personal bravura, an aversion to theory oddly akin to the antirational biases of postmodernism, celebrations of theoretical incoherence (pluralism), a basically apolitical and anti-organizational commitment to imagination, desire, and ecstasy, and an intensely self-oriented enchantment of everyday life, reflect the toll that social reaction has taken on Euro-American anarchism over the past two decades.

I'll close with his closing words in the 2000 interview:

We live in a very confusing time. Sometimes people look for easy answers to complex questions. If a machine or item functions poorly, it is easy to blame technology rather than the competitive corporations that try to make money, or to blame people's attitudes rather than the mass media that shapes people's thinking, or to say we should go back to old ideologies — Christian fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism, orthodox Marxism, orthodox anarchism, even orthodox capitalism — for solutions.

People need new ideas based on reason, not superstition; on freedom, not personal autonomy; on creativity, not adaptation; on coherence, not chaos; and on a vision of a free society, based on popular assemblies and confederalism, not on rulers and a state. If we do not organize a real movement — a structured movement — that tries to guide people toward a rational society based on reason and freedom, we face eventual disaster. We cannot withdraw into our "autonomous" egos or retreat to a primitive, indeed unknown past. We must change this insane world, or else society will dissolve into an irrational barbarism — as it is already beginning to do these days.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

'This Revolution Won't Be Televised' Because It's Not Even Happening

So, I see they're having a discussion over at My Left Wing about taking it to the streets or, more correctly, the fact that the gripes of the majority of Americans are not being taken to the streets on any considerable scale. Yes, there's a mention of the immigration protests by one person, eugene, who concludes this:

But, obviously, clearly, it isn't having an effect. Or more accurately, it's not having the effect we hope, of ending the war, or ending immigrant-bashing, or bringing down Bush. Then again, I'm not convinced the antiwar protests in the 1960s succeeded in their aims either.

Obviously, that last observation is clearly wrong, but the first part of his comment reflects the views of a large number of people and that is one of instant gratification. It goes like this: 'if I do something and don't see results right away, why bother doing it at all?' and, not only that, the change must be one of immense measure such as "ending immigrant-bashing" - which was not what those protests were about in the first place.

Western society is plagued with people looking for quick fixes. Whether it's expressed in the form of chasing a high with alcohol or other drugs, believing that this week you'll win the lottery and life will then be wonderful forever, thinking that all you need to do to change a government is to show up on election day or living vicariously through others and letting them do the dirty work for you because you don't want to get your hands slapped. You want to stay safe, of course.

I think Americans sometimes forget that they're supposed to be involved in the pursuit of happiness which is far different than having it handed to you on a silver serving dish. And, of course, some believe that happiness is a goal that, once reached, is yours ad infinitum - unwilling to believe that the reaching of it ebbs and flows throughout life and that happiness is not some place you arrive at - only to stay in forever.

But, while there is a chorus of 'baby steps, baby steps' expressed in that diary's comments as well, there is a tone of obvious resignation and acquiescence to the power of corporations and the status quo of the political infrastructure. Once again, if it can't be fixed on a grand scale, then we'll just struggle for decades hoping our little actions might cause some change somewhere down the road.

There is no sense of revolution in America anymore. And, if America ever needed a revolution again, that time is now.

Our Damnit Janet is doing her best over there to explain that to MLWers, but the atmosphere of fear and 'I do what I can, what more do you want me to do?' is overwhelming. She's not the only shining star, of course. Witness Lilian Friedman who says she knowingly broke the rules at BT by posting 6 diaries in one day asking why people weren't out on the streets and was summarily banned for being such an undisciplined shit-disturber. Did anyone over there actually realize she was trying to make a point? I don't know. I wasn't there at the time. But, she broke the rules and obviously had to be punished. If that type of reaction happens among so-called progressives, no wonder so many people don't want to risk what might happen if they actually do get out there and protest amongst those who oppose their opinions. (Janet can tell you stories about exactly what goes on in the face of dissent. Luckily no one can ban her from the streets. They've tried, but they haven't succeeded. We love Janet.)

What's with this culture of ennuie? This culture where staying safe is revered among all else? This culture of keyboard revolutionaries who often don't get beyond their own front door? This culture of endless hoping that someone, somewhere will change everything for everybody else? This culture that believes the only way to change the system is to work within it? This culture of defeatism? This culture of 'oh well, maybe next time'? This culture of only doing things that are comfortable? This culture that is so stunned it needs laugh tracks to tell people when to laugh and sad music to tell people when to cry? This culture that is so lazy it has lost the will of aggressive inquiry? This culture that obssesses over the murder of a child beauty queen 10 years ago while little Iraqi, Palestinian, Sudanese and [fill in the blank] girls are being murdered every single day?

You cannot change political institutions and corporations quickly, but you can change a culture. First of all though, you must have the willingness to do so. Unfortunately, the fear that holds too many back - fear that we on the so-called left often believe is the exclusive domain of those on the right who've bought into Bushco propaganda without even realizing that the Rove machine had beaten us as well - is the prime obstacle.

We say we're free. We think we're fearless. We believe we do all we can.

We are wrong.

('This Revolution Won't be Televised' is the name of a book by Joe Trippi)

See also: Call Me Old School: Protests Matter by me and Quit Your Bellyachin' About Antiwar Demonstrations by Meteor Blades.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Finding the Center & Diversity

"Even within the framework of mutual tolerance, I believe that there are non-negotiable rules understood by all groups," she said.

"Those who seek to cause conflicts and tension in our communities must be marginalised by the responsible majority.

"That means everyone needs to be involved."link

Nope, those words don't refer to BT (& you are hereby commanded to NOT think of how they possibly might) -- they're from British Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, questioning the values of multi-culturalism. Which, in a roundaboutway relates back to the gated-community discussions. It's a questioning I fear will become more prevalent in the States in the coming years. One of it's more insidious aspects is how remarks like hers get bandied about (esp. in a climate of fear) as 'common sense,' that manipulative 'value' Booman himself was calling for the other day in the threads here:

"In our attempt to avoid imposing a single British identity and culture, have we ended up with some communities living in isolation from each other with no common bonds between them?"

communities living in isolation from each other with no common bonds is NOT the result of multi-culturalism; in fact it's in opposition to those values. The answer to isolated mono-cultural communities will NOT be found in some nationalistic singlular identity. That she can ask whether multiculturalism (can we call it an "-ism"?) "is encouraging separateness" should indicate the depth of her misunderstanding about what a truly pluralisitic society might become or look like, as well as the dangers these linguistic frames herald. The implied preference for a nationalistic identity that submerges if it doesn't totally obliterate diversity holds, in the words of Penguin (below), "a swarm of untested assumptions." Though I wonder if those assumptions haven't been by now thoroughly tested and found short, but are still clung to anyways despite apparent failure?

Identity Politics are a necessary endeavour and can offer the jumping-off point for the listening, sharing, exchanging & borrowing that doesn't submerge the different & unique in quest of assimilation, that Grail known in the US as the Melting Pot. Gumbo with discernable ingredients is so much more satisfying than puree anyday.

Reality (as in the words of Ms. Kelly) too is often more satisfying leavened with fiction. The following "letter," written in 1979, is from an open-ended, epistolary novel (From A Broken Bottle Traces Of Perfume Still Emanate). The setting is when the band, the Mystic Horn Society, goes down to the local record store to 'face their critics.'

24. IX. 79

Dear Angel of Dust,

Funny what a odor can do. This afternoon in the produce section of the supermarket I bent over between the oranges and the nectarines and unexpectedly caught a brief whiff of what was exactly the scent of the Nago incense David used to bring back from New York four years ago. I wouldn't exactly call what I went into a swoon, but it did carry me back to the night he and I sat up late drinking port and listening to the album of Tunisian music he'd brought over.

In any case, I'm writing not so much to play Proust as to tell you about the, press conference we held this morning. The band decided it was time we confronted our critics face to face, so we reserved some space down at Rhino Records, the hip record store in town, and sent out invitations. A pretty large crowd showed up. The people at Rhino were nice enough to provide refreshments, so it turned out to be something of an event. Things got under way with a fellow from one of the local radio stations clearing his throat to say that while he admitted being "somewhat uninformed" on recent developments in music the trouble he has with our compositions is their tendency to, as he put it, "go off on tangents." He then said that "a piece of music should gather rather than disperse its component parts" but insisted that he wasn't asking that our music be made easier exactly, "Just more centered somehow," etc.

This line of argument was a piece of cake, as they say, for Lambert, who sat fidgetting, smirking and jotting notes on the back of an album cover he'd been looking at the whole time this fellow spoke. (I have to give Lambert credit, knowing his temper, for even hearing him out.) Anyway, the guy did at last finish, at which point three people back towards the budget classical section applauded. Lambert stared at them a moment, then began by saying that all the talk of being "more centered" was just that, talk, and had long ago become too easy to throw around anymore. He then asked what, or where, was this “center" and how would anyone know it if it were there. He went on, tilting his chair back on its hind legs, folding his arms across his chest and saying that he wasn't sure anyone had anything more than the mere word "center," that it didn't simply name something one doesn’t have and thus disguises a swarm of untested assumptions about. Then he shifted his argument a bit, saying that if our music does have a center, as he could argue it indeed does, how would someone who admits being "somewhat uninformed" recognize it, that maybe the fellow from the radio station wasn't saying anything more than that our music churns out of a center other than his, one he's unfamiliar with. He pointed out that, as he put it, "you don't know any center you don't go to" and finished the matter off by rising from his chair, wagging a very preacherly right index finger and admonishing, "But if, 'somewhat uninformed,' you refuse to make the journey to that center and instead pontificate on its need to be 'more centered,' then you're asking for nothing if not an easier job, that your work be done by someone else, that our music abandon its center and shuffle over to yours." With that he sat down to cheers and stamping of feet from the folk imports section.

Next a fortyish, not bad looking lady from one of the neighborhood weeklies spoke up. She had a lazy way of talking-not a drawl exactly, but a way of almost retracting what she had to say. And not exactly lazy either, considering the care she took, the effort it must have taken to sustain (like a sigh, only longer) that blase way of speaking she took for charm.

Anyway, what she had to say was that she considered herself not a critic but a fan of our music, but that she wondered why we couldn't, to quote her, "place the music within the context of the whole culture, rather than just the African, Asian and generally 'Third World' references you like to make. " She sat down and those of us at the table, the members of the band, looked around at one another for a moment. Finally Heidi, whom I don't think I've mentioned before but who plays violin and congas and also calls herself Aunt Nancy, spoke up. "All I can say"-- she said, "is that the culture you're calling 'whole' has yet to assume itself to be so except at the expense of a whole lot of other folks, except by presuming that what they were up to could be ignored at no great loss." She went on to accuse the lady of "speaking right from the heart of that exclusionary sense of dichotomy to even ask such a question." There was a bit of rumbling at the back of the room but she went on. "What makes you think of Africa, Asia and other parts of the world," she asked, raising her voice, standing up and putting her hand on her hip, "as not a part of 'the whole culture'? What makes you feel excluded by our sources if not the exclusionistic biases of the culture you identify as 'whole' boomeranging back at you?" The lady from the neighborhood weekly blushed, and Heidi (or Aunt Nancy) went on to say that while she was standing she might as well reply to something in the first guy who spoke's remarks which'd bothered her. And what she said she said so eloquently I have to quote her again. "I don't know where you get this business of gathering vs. dispersing," she argued, turning to the fellow from the radio station, "the sense of them as an either/or proposition, one a choice against the other. We inhale as well as exhale, the heart dilates as well as contracts. Those of us in the band want music that shows similar signs of life. You may want something different, something more modest maybe, but your modesty betrays its falseness, shows itself to be the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing it is, when you saddle up your high horse to tell the rest of us we have to likewise lower our sights." She then took a drink of water and sat down. Again there was applause. This time from some people over near the used reggae bin.

Well, things went on pretty much like that, back and forth, for three hours or so. I'd go into more detail-and maybe at some other time I will-but I've begun to get hungry, so I have to bring this to a halt. But that reminds me: You may be wondering what Penguin had to say during the press conference. I forgot to tell you he wasn't there. Yesterday, as you know, was John Coltrane's birthday. Penguin, by way of homage and celebration, insisted on eating three sweet-potato pies, just as Trane did one afternoon in Georgia in the late forties when he was in the Cleanhead Vinson band. We all warned him but he wouldn't listen, so he ended up sick and had to have his stomach pumped. Won't get out of the hospital till tomorrow, perhaps even later.

I'll be in touch.

Yours truly,


fr. Nathaniel Mackey's Bedouin Hornbook, pp. 10-13 (Callaloo, 1986)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When You're Up To Your Ass In Alligators...

The other thread has become bulky, and the comments have inspired me, but I will be brief.

Anyone who ventures onto the internets, whether as a site administrator or participant, is bound to encounter points of view and opinions that are different from their own.

For this reason some sites that wish, whether for reasons personal, financial, or both, to present a particular tone or perspective of message content, do not allow public participation or review messages before publishing them, etc.

While we here discuss a small number of websites, little that we discuss, in its essence, is unique to those few.

BooMan, for instance, wishes his site to be open to the public, and he does not wish to enforce message content. However, he also may have other aspirations for his site that are in conflict with this.

Like any site owner, this is something that he will have to resolve for himself.

Some posters may wish to participate on the internets, yet are extremely displeased and alarmed to find that other posters have views which are very different to theirs.

Especially in the middle of World War III, it is to be expected that one will find champions of the aggressors, and champions of the Resistance, and elements of both who also oppose the war entirely.

The American sites are crawling with virals, mostly devotees of one politician or other, or a political organization. They will encounter people who are devotees of an opposing politician, and people who prefer a different political organization. Most do not bother with unbridgeable gaps, but some of the less experienced do.

Non-Americans are unlikely to be interested in US domestic politics, but have strong views on US policies, especially US activities in other countries.

While America speaks with one voice, there are a small (and to me, very precious) number of peace-loving, pro-Reform individuals whose views will be very displeasing to most of their countrymen.

And if a site owner chooses to open his or her site to the general public, he or she can expect to get some of those pro-Reform Americans, and some foreigners, and their views will be very different from those of his more traditional American participants.

He will also get some people for whom the wide variety of views might be too disturbing. The internets are not for everybody.

He may find himself up to his ass in alligators, and forget that he set out to drain the swamp.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Making Money on the Internet: The Blog Business, And The Power of Word Writers

In another thread, it has come to my attention that some may not understand how this blog business works.

I imagine that the vast majority of site owners are quite aware of this, but for the benefit of any would-be contributors to those sites, just in case you need to hear it, I wish to make a few things very clear.

Whether we are blessed with the gift of word writing, or whether we simply have an opinion and a desire to express it, we who write are in the driver's seat here. We have our choice of literally millions of internet sites on which to cast our words.

We can start our own sites. We can cross-post to a handful, a dozen, scores of them. That is entirely up to us. It is we who have that choice, that power. If we feel that we have something of value to say, we have the responsibility to say it on any public website we choose.

The pursuit of the site owner's financial or political interests is his own concern, not ours.

It is the prerogative of every site owner to keep his site "private," to decree who may publish there and who may not, or to open it up to the public for our comments. Whether he, or we, are American or not is irrelevant. Here on the internets, we are the public.

It is we who decide on which public websites we will express our views, share our sonnets, shyly offer our short stories and novels, proclaim our essays, holler our haikus!

He or she who wishes to run a site on which many people contribute do not have such power. We are the ones with the desirable goods, they are the humble petitioners who hope to be chosen to receive them.

While we, as noted, can freely post our work to as many websites as we choose, the only power the site owner has is to close his site to the public, or to "ban" specific users, to REDUCE the number of contributors to his or her site, and in so doing, risk his website being "banned" by yet more contributors and potential contributors.

In some cases, new contributors may arrive to replace the departed ones, however there is no guarantee that they will be any more pleasing to the site owner than those s/he lost.

On the subject of commercial websites, it is certainly no sin to wish to have one. Many, many people dream of running a website that generates for them so much revenue that they do not need to do any other work in order to meet, even exceed their expenses. This is, however, not an easy thing to do, and if this is what one aspires to, one's best bet is something having to do with online gambling or images, still or moving, of unclothed human beings engaging in sexual activity.

Or one can try one's hand at something like the enterprise recommended by no less than Dick Cheney himself: people who spend half the week scouring local flea markets for things like antique postcards which they then spend the other half hopefully waiting in line at the post office to ship out all they have succeeded in selling at a profit on eBay, or people who make children's swimming trunks printed with popular cartoon characters, which they then sell on eBay and preferably also an Amazon shop.

A website whose only "product" consists of the work of an indefinite and constantly changing number of individuals expressing their opinions on issues of the day, which one hopes will attract so much traffic that corporations will wish to purchase advertisements is a very poor choice.

However, if such a website is one's goal, one would do well to remember that the absolutely only thing one has to offer these corporations has nothing whatsoever to do with which opinions are expressed on that website, and everything to do with just how much traffic is attracted, because therein lie "page views," and "page views" are the path to "clickthroughs," and "clickthroughs" bring the possibility that someone may purchase the sponsor's product.

I should hasten to add that, in the case of the BooMan Tribune site, when it was quite new, in a thread discussing the site's future, I made mention of message content vis a vis sponsors. I was referring to arrangements more like those that some sites may make with politicians, where the sponsor simply "likes" the site and wishes to give the owner some money.

However since that time, I have been apprised that such arrangements are not as common as those which do depend on very quantitative data regarding the traffic, clickthroughs, etc.

And this may have been the case at the time of my former comment, and I was just unaware of it!

You will note that this is all a very iffy business, and if you will speak with people who have studied the science, if you wish to call it one, of page views and clickthroughs and purchases, you will find that a great many page views indeed are required before the likelihood of even one clickthrough, and in turn a great many clickthroughs are required before the likelihood of a purchase, so as you can see, one's site traffic is rather key.

Controversy, regardless of where the site owner, or the sponsor stands on whatever the controversy is, is more likely to increase traffic than the consistent presentation of one point of view.

It does not matter how important the site owner, or again, even the advertiser, may feel about the importance of unity, or staying on message, or where owner or sponsor fall along that four inch balance beam that passes for a political spectrum in the US.

What matters is how many people visit the site. And as anyone with knowledge of the subject will tell you, the phenomenon of ratio of clickthroughs and page views has nothing to do with where the viewer falls either.

Such a website may feature a written work that many people disagree with. Very few of the site's visitors will consciously NOT click a sponsor's link because the website has featured the written work.

A certain number of people who are interested in purchasing cellular telephones will click a link advertising such phones no matter where they see it, and while the crucial question of just how many and just how many dollars that means for the site owner, will be predicted differently according to every expert and every study, all agree that the number of page views necessary is large.

Thus, any website owner whose only value to advertisers consists of his traffic will not be acting in his own best interest by attempting to decrease the level of controversy, of "division," of "disruption" on his site. On the contrary, such things are his best friend, and his only hope of success.

As I said, such websites are not considered the best bet for someone who wishes to make money.

The case of kos is not unlike the case of the person who sold a domain name to altavista for some large amount of money a few years ago and in the wake of the sale sprang up a cottage industry of people buying up domain names in hopes of selling them for large sums to huge corporations. The vast majority of these individuals were disappointed with their investment, and wish they had purchased google stock instead. Or even just taken a nice vacation with the money they sunk into all those domain names.

If one hopes to receive money from politicians and political parties or organizations themselves, that is quite a different story, and if that is the case, the would-be money recipient's job is even more difficult, and his chances of success even slighter.

Like the corporations, the political sponsor is also interested in high traffic and page views, but since he or she will also be interested in having the website reflect a particular point of view, controversy will be counter-productive, and as we have explained, controversy is the single most likely factor in driving traffic to the site.

Political organizations frequently employ "ghost bloggers," or "virals," either paid or volunteer, for no other purpose than to give the appearance of increased traffic and increased popularity of a specific politician and/or political view. And it is quite amusing, on occasion, to watch them debate each other. One never knows if they are aware that their opponent is also "working."

Corporations, large and small also employ this strategy, it is a step up from the "spam" posts one sees these days on blogs and message boards. It is a product that is today routinely offered by public relations firms to their clients.

So it is into a most complicated and difficult to navigate stew that the aspiring recipient of political cash dives. His product must be a neatly herded horde of cats, and he might be better off using the Democratic Underground combination model of minimizing controversy by legislating permitted message content and allowed external links to such absurd lengths that posting anything there bears more resemblance to a text-based role playing game than anything remotely related to an exchange of ideas and information.

In addition to that, DU also depends heavily on "user contributions," offering "subscribers" access to a wide array of non-political forums, which has the added advantage of attracting the desired class of participant and establishing "community," all of this, they hope, will somehow result in a bloc of politically on-message and docile deliverables that will be deemed by politicians and political organizations, worthy of cash for the owner's wallet.

I have rambled on about this longer than even I intended, and if you are still reading, I thank you for your patience, and as a reward, I will offer, for what it is worth, my opinion that those readers and thinkers with their controversy and comment-provoking messages are an asset to any website on which they deign to participate.

And especially within the context of the American blogosphere, which "speaks with one voice," any political website that hopes to make money on traffic would do well to cultivate those readers and thinkers, because it is they who are more likely to diverge a bit from that one voice, thus creating all that controversy and division and disruption, and thus providing an increase in page views, an increase in clickthroughs, and thus increasing the chance that some small sum may find its way into the site owner's hand.

There is perhaps no better illustration of this than catnip, an especially good example for me to use, as she disagrees with me on a wide variety of topics, and naturally so, as she is significantly to my "right," yet even her writings have spurred that controversy, and her own blog immediately developed quite a remarkable bit of traffic of its own, and should she wish to do so, I imagine that any number of corporations would be interested in discussing some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement!

I cannot conclude without pointing out that while I neither judge nor fault those who seek to "make money on the internet," my own personal preference, and highest regard, are reserved for those who establish websites simply for the purpose of free and open exchange of ideas, without motives of personal gain, financial or political, for those who cherish the illusion that there is a difference.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Group Hugs, Mucho Mojo & Trashing - Part Deux

Since there's been a virtual avalanche of comments in response to the Group Hugs, Mucho Mojo & Trashing post I made and because we ought to keep Monsieur Ductape's birthday post free of such lengthy, controversial discourse, here's a nouveau thread for all of you terrorists people to take advantage of.

Play nice and don't shoot anybody in the face (as Atrios would say).

I'm off to watch that lovable and level-headed Wolf Blitzer tell me just how terrified I should feel tonite - because you just never know unless someone pounds it into your head 24/7 and I sure don't want to be Left Behind.

Carry on...

I have not become eerily silent

I have been celebrating my birthday. If you mean eerily silent on BT, it was never appropriate for me to participate there in the first place, but I did it anyway, which I should not have.

I do not apologize for my opposition to US policies, or for expressing such opposition, or for anything I have said in any post to any website at any time.

I do apologize for failing to be as selective as I should have regarding which websites I visit.

When I became aware that my presence at the BT site was causing individuals, some troubled, and some common bullies, to mount vicious, replusive, and inexcusably trashy attacks on anybody who had as much as said a kind word or had a couple of paragraphs of civil conversation with me, I realized that the inappropriateness level of the site had surpassed even my over-generous level of forbearance, and I decided to discontinue visiting the site.

Since then, I have only posted once on any of the imperialist blogs, which experience provided me with a tragically bold and revolting underscore of an interesting blogosphere trend I had noted, and confirmed my conviction that my interest in The Situation, and world events in general, including my interest in reading varying opinions about them, does not justify my visiting those sorts of websites.

However, I have had the goodness to add a few more to the META-rant inspiration links section for those with an interest and high hip-boots. Please feel free to add your own "favorites." ;)

I hope no one will take it amiss that I am commenting on a previous thread by beginning a new one, however the comments page there is a bit unwieldy, I was able to load it up once, with difficulty, but my browser insurged before I could even read it all, much less comment.

I suppose I should comment on the comments. Yes, I oppose US policies. Yes, it is World War III.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Group Hugs, Mucho Mojo & Trashing

Over in the recent Newbies and Lurkers Thread at BT, Booman asks:

yeah, yeah...but do you have a blog dedicated to trashing you?

To which I would reply, 'I do! I do!.' I won't link to it here. Let's just say she calls herself a 'stubble jumping redneck' and the rest of the url is (Wouldn't want her showing up here. She's somewhat unstable.)

And then there's the ever popular blog 'dedicated to those who have suffered and been raped and abused by the troll posing as a liberal blogger, Ductape Fatwa' which, thankfully, has become eerily silent.

So, all in all, I'd say poor Booman gets off pretty damn easy around these parts considering what Monsieur Ductape and I have had to put up with.

Now, there seems to be a new renaissance over at the pond with the influx of nouveau users and the outflux (is that a word?) of nasty people like me. 'I'm too nasty for for shirt - too nasty for my shirt - too nasty.' And, I'm sure there will be smooth sailing over there from now to eternity (unless they start piling on Sirocco or until MWAC gets back). Then again, we all know that purges (just like enemas) can't keep out the unhealthy bacteria forever because the monster must be fed. So I hope they enjoy their relative calm while it lasts. Group hugs fix everything in the end, don't they? (she said, sarcastically)

(Best wishes to those in that thread who are ill and hopes for a speedy recovery.)

And, oh yeah, 'we are all Hezbollah'. ;)

And who doesn't like Dressing Paris Hilton??

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gate-Crashing and Kitten-Kicking on My Left Wing, Autumn Fashion, and the Mystery of Undertones

Some days, I don't know what gets into me. I went over to one of the gated communities for affluent white Americans who like to style themselves as more "moderate" than Daniel Pipes, and like I said I wouldn't do any more, inappropriately crashed the gate, and not satisfied with that, went back and kicked kittens for a good hour or so this afternoon, taking advantage of the modern laptop of a descendant while cooling my heels as Madame tried on autumnal attire in an emporium which did provide me with a chair (one that was actually comfortable, for a change, brought down from someone's office reception area by a team of sturdy store operatives), and some Lemon Perrier, but alas, no tea, and for which I did scold them a bit, not to disappoint the descendants, who have come to expect this as an important sub-ritual part of the solemnly comical Shopping With Ancestors ceremonies.

Later this evening, when I attempted to return to the scene (My Left Wing) to check the invective levels, alas, the spittings and sputterings of loyal Americans eager to demonstrate to their fellow affluent white people and the world that their regulation Unconditional Support For Israel is firmly in place had swollen the thread beyond the capacity of my own fine museum quality drunken squirrel-powered computer, and the modern laptop-owning descendant had taken it home to perform her evening database exercises or xhtml crunches or some such. So if you wish to see the kicked kittens, and the righteous wrath of right-thinking you will have to go look for it because I can't go there and get the link.

I then checked my email, and was disappointed to find not even one message of recognition or offer of suitable honorarium from a single American manufacturer of nerve pills nestled among the unusually large number of death threats from individuals whose writing styles bear purely coincidental, if uncanny, resemblance to those of a number of popular My Left Wing denizens.

The important part of the day, however, went very well, no day passes that I do not learn something, and usually several somethings, and I am pleased to report to you the following Important Messages:

Brown will continue to be the New Black throughout the fall, and ladies with black hair can wear brown without fear of being "washed out" as long as they are careful to make sure that the shade is one that harmonizes or contrasts with their "undertones." (I am still working on understanding undertones, or perhaps forgetting them, I have not yet decided which will be best).

The "twinset" will never go out of style as a basic and essential wardrobe item of western style feminine clothing, and it does not have to be worn with pearls. It can be worn with other bling, even eastern bling, as long as it "looks right."

Oversized purses are "out" except in cases where they are legitimately needed, and used to contain large items such as laptop computers or schoolbooks. Ladies who do not have such requirements may return to their smaller bags without fear of being viewed as unfashionable.

As western ladies have discovered the benefits of embroidery and beaded "embellishment" of their blouses, there are some embroidery houses in the east who used to be very nice people, and reasonable, too, until they got contracts with these western companies and now they have raised their prices and stick their noses in the air in response to inquiries about what they now consider to be too small an order to bother with, but which they used to be quite happy to get, thank you very much, and they need not worry, they will not be troubled further with such annoying requests, at least not from a certain family.

Just because a lady has not worn anything in any shade of pink for three or four decades, even going so far as to give away anything of that color she receives from well-meaning but misguided lady friends (family members know better), that does not mean that she does not need at least half a dozen "tops" of varying styles and shades of pink THIS year, because she has changed her mind, and didn't I always say I thought she looked perfectly lovely in pink? (I did, and she does).

Pink can be a "semi-neutral." Pale pink for all ladies, and any becoming shade, even "hot pink" or "fuschia" for ladies whose skins are not pink. Knowing which shades of pink are becoming is very dependent on how well a lady understands her undertone.

Whichever ancient Rabbi who wrote that prayer with which even today some Orthodox Jewish men begin each day, thanking God they were not born female, probably wrote it after accompanying the love of his life shopping, and realizing that he does not understand undertones, and for a brief and rather frightening moment, wondering if he, though a man, might have one that he has not been taking into consideration when making sartorial decisions.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My Blog's Third Anniversary Post (Just in Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up)

Yes, it really has been three years as of today. This blog started on what was billed "Fair and Balanced Friday" (a reference to O'Reilly's whinging about the cover of Franken's book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) right after a return trip from Southern California. After being exposed to more Faux News than any human should have to tolerate, I decided I needed a forum to vent. The name of the blog was both a reference to the normal location of my favorite radio stations (indie and college stations) and loosely to a song by The Replacements ("Left of the Dial").

To a large degree this blog has been part of a reawakening process for me that really began in the aftermath of September, 2001. In the months that followed the Twin Towers & Pentagon bombings, I became quickly alarmed by the reactions of many of my fellow Americans. In the process of trying to get a handle on the increasingly jingoistic and militaristic tone of our nation's discourse, it became clear that alternative independent left-leaning voices were both in short supply and desperately needed. Blogging attracted me for the same reason zines and political flyers and leaflets were attractive to me during the 1980s - it appeared as a dirt cheap means of communicating information and ideas with a large number of people. I also saw the blog as a means to working out some thoughts that could then be fleshed out for publication in professional outlets.

This blog was part of a wave of left-leaning political blogs that came on the scene in 2003 & 2004. At the time I started blogging, the A-list bloggers were already established. After three years, I think it's safe to say that I'm a Z-list blogger who kicks it with a number of other cool Z-listers. Wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm a huge fan of trying out things that are new and different, and so I've participated at a number of group and community blogs, participated in a few experiments such as grid blogging, and so on. But this has always been home base. This year's new twist has been to give a few fellow bloggers the keys to the joint, in the hopes that they'd fill in when I'm away from convenient internet access and/or at any time they felt like it to contribute material that might be of interest to my readers. I've been very happy with the trio of blogsitters who have shared some of their work here, and I hope that they'll continue to do so as the spirit moves them.

Some observations over the past three years that I'd like to share with you:
  1. There are a handful of issues at best that seem to unite leftist, liberal, progressive (or whatever label you feel like using) bloggers - the most salient being a general disdain for the Lush/Zany regime's policies, and opposition to the Iraq war. Beyond that, it's pretty obvious that some of us have more in common than others. Some of us, for example, don't care for wars as a general rule, whereas others simply thought that Iraq was a mistake. Some of us are either recovering American exceptionalists (that's my vibe) or never bought into the notion that America was a special well-intentioned giant to begin with, whereas others are still highly invested in the myth of American exceptionalism. Some of us view the Democrat party as the last great hope for salvaging democracy, whereas others of us view the Democrats part of the problem (with some exceptions duly noted) and still others of us might question the conceptualization of our politics as "democratic". To make a long story short, there are plenty of opportunities to mix just as well as oil and water. I don't have any convenient solutions, other than to be willing to form coalitions around pressing issues on at least something of an ad hoc basis, and to be open to working with folks and organizations that on the surface might seem quite different from you - on some issues, such as war, I find a great deal more in common with some libertarians and conservatives than I would have imagined. The key is to realize that we don't have to agree on every last point in order to work together to achieve a particular end result (think of the American Solidarity concept that cernig and I discussed last fall, for example).
  2. On a loosely related note, I've noticed a disturbing trend over the last year toward intolerance on left-leaning/progressive/liberal blogs when it comes to topics regarding militarism and American exceptionalism, as well as race and white privilege. Dare to mention the truly grotesque acts that our government has committed, or features of the American zeitgeist that make it difficult to have a reasonable discussion with many Americans on matters such as the basic objectives and consequences of our government's actions abroad and one will find that presumably "tolerant" liberals begin to pepper their responses with accusations of being "Anti-American" and so on - and any reasonable attempt to discuss such issues on a meta-level only brings more of the same bile. Don't even get me started on the whole issue of Israel's relations with it neighbors, where criticism of Israel is guaranteed to devolve into charges of anti-semitism (usually with not even a cursory understanding of the definition of "semitic").
  3. If I had any unsolicited advice for liberal and progressive bloggers (or for liberals and progressives who do not reside within the confines of blogtopia) it would be simply this: "Don't worry about what the neighbors might think." As a corrollary, I'd add that if you do seem bothered by what the neighbors might think, stop it. I understand the desire to be "liked" by others, and those desiring to reside in the more respectable neighborhoods in blogtopia feel more of a need to behave "responsibly" (i.e., taking great pains to never offend anyone anywhere), but the truth is that if you're going to wade in controversial waters someone's going to splash you in the eyes regardless. Someone (gasp!) will call you names that you don't like. If you have a position, stick to your guns - but be sufficiently flexible to change an opinion if the data warrant (in other words don't just change a position or refrain from voicing an opinion just to get in with the 'in crowd' - it really isn't worth it).
  4. Too often we Americans have made a cottage industry out of being offended by others' beliefs, lifestyles, etc. We really need to lighten up. I say that to readers of this blog from any political persuasion. Life really is too short to be constantly in a state of being offended by something you've seen, read, or heard. I say that as someone who is now easily past the halfway point of my likely lifespan. I wish I had realized that when I was 20 (but am thankful to have finally learned that lesson at all).
  5. My other bit of unsolicited advice is to new bloggers: have fun. If you're not having fun blogging, why bother? If you're blogging in the hope that you will one day be appearing semi-regularly on CNN or MSNBC or to get invited to all the really cool A-list parties, I'd say you have a better chance of being hit by lightning. If you're blogging because you have something to say, and want to see where this particular medium might take you, enjoy.
So it goes. Let's hope this next year in the wonderful world of blogging is as much fun as the last three years. For those of you who are regulars (all three of you) to this blog, thank you.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It don't get more meta than Last Poets

Check the second poem ("America is a Terrorist") by Abiodun Oyewole, which would go over real well with a certain element over at thee frogpond. Call it my "civilization" contribution for the weekend. Peace.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How to be an anti-anti-American

Every single one of us who frequent this blog has been called 'anti-American' or a variation thereof in recent months, so I was wondering how some people reach this determination and my surfing has revealed one man's opinion of why America is the greatest country on earth - bar none - which exemplifies those views that are oft embraced by some of those who consider us The Enemy.

Now, Dinesh D'Souza's article, '10 things to celebrate; Why I'm an anti-anti-American' (2003), can simply be written off as a more naive picture of The Great America but his perceptions are shared by many who decry criticism of their home country and consider any attack on its stance in the world as being wholly 'anti-American'. So, let's have a look at what he believes are America's strengths. I'll pull some quotes without commenting on them too much because his talking points are stunningly obvious to those of us who don't wear nationalistic blinders:

1. 'America provides an amazingly good life for the ordinary guy...We now live in a country where construction workers regularly pay $4 for a nonfat latte, where maids drive nice cars and where plumbers take their families on vacation to Europe.'

2. 'America offers more opportunity and social mobility than any other country, including the countries of Europe. America is the only country that has created a population of "self-made tycoons."'

3. 'Work and trade are respectable in America. Historically most cultures have despised the merchant and the laborer, regarding the former as vile and corrupt and the latter as degraded and vulgar. Some cultures, such as that of ancient Greece and medieval Islam, even held that it is better to acquire things through plunder than through trade or contract labor.'

4. 'America has achieved greater social equality than any other society. True, there are large inequalities of income and wealth in America. In purely economic terms, Europe is more egalitarian. But Americans are socially more equal than any other people, and this is unaffected by economic disparities.'

5. 'People live longer, fuller lives in America.'

(Has your head exploded yet? No. Well wait, there's more.)

6. 'In America the destiny of the young is not given to them, but created by them.'

(I took a break to Dress Paris Hilton. Now, where was I again?)

7. 'America has gone further than any other society in establishing equality of rights.'

8. 'America has found a solution to the problem of religious and ethnic conflict that continues to divide and terrorize much of the general, America is the only country in the world that extends full membership to outsiders.'

9. 'America has the kindest, gentlest foreign policy of any great power in world history...Twice in the 20th century, the United States saved the world -- first from the Nazi threat, then from Soviet totalitarianism. What would have been the world's fate if America had not existed?'

(Cough cough Booman cough cough)

10. 'America, the freest nation on Earth, is also the most virtuous nation on Earth.'

Okay, if you haven't thrown up yet (which I very nearly did when I first read that piece) you can see the type of attitude many of us have been dealing with and why it's so difficult to cut through, even with the most sharpened intellectual knife. And this particular author believes so greatly in what he professes that he actually wrote a book for his devotees of American Greatness that they can cherish and reread as if it's America's New Bible! I wouldn't be surprised to find out that he's actually turned it into an animated movie for kids so they can be reared 'appropriately' to love their country more than they will ever love themselves.

His points may seem exagerrated to anyone with a sense of reality, but there is no doubt that he has simply expressed what many people believe to be The Truth.

So, that's what we're up against folks: Denials 'R Us. No wonder we've been shunned as threats to the Great American Experience.

America, the Beautiful? Or, America, the Delusional? You decide.

Monday, August 07, 2006

How to Successfully Ignore a Topic

Denial: a strong defense mechanism used by people who are unwilling to face reality.

We've all witnessed it - the artful dodging of discussing actual topics on a blog which may cause personal distress as a function of holding one's opinion as truth, regardless of new information provided by others.

Witness such a dialogue.

Now, if you are not skilled in effectively veering away from the topic at hand because you hold the wacky belief that one must deal with what is dealt to you, you may find these tips on how to use faulty logic handy should you ever decide that you would rather avoid awareness and keep yourself comfortable in a faux cloak of security.

Remember, thou shalt not disturb the comfortable!

You don't need to be formally schooled in logical fallacies in order to use them. In fact, I'd guess that many people on blogs don't even know that they're quite adept at composing arguments based on twisting the rules of logic. For some, it just comes naturally! For others, however, using faulty arguments is an acquired skill. So, here are some worth learning.

1. Use ad hominems. If someone writes something you don't like (such as the blog entry cited above), just call them names ie. 'you're a doo doo head' or 'that guy's obviously anti-semitic' or say that what they wrote is 'stupid' or 'cowardly'. That's an easy one and you'll find that others will be willing to pile on as well, especially when said 'doo doo head' is unpopular or their position is not that of the majority. And, if that technique fails, just attack the person's country!

2. Note the slipperly slope. We're all capable of standing on the edge while pointing to the bottom of the hill when someone presents us with a dilemma that we can't really argue with without stating something like, 'If you criticize Israel's aggression, you are ensuring the destruction of all Jews everywhere for all time'. See how easy that was?

3. 'No True Scotsman'. This one is quite popular. It goes something like this: Doo doo head speaks out against Americans. No true American speaks out against Americans. Therefore, Doo doo head is anti-American, UnAmerican or is not an American. Simple!

4. Insert a red herring. The author of the topic isn't speaking out against actions in Iraq. Therefore, he has no right/authority to speak on any other conflict. Yes, that actually makes sense to some people.

5. Throw in a weak analogy. Like comparing a person's reaction to the Israel/Lebanon war to some crazed driver.

Yes, these methods along with so many others can help you too when you just can't handle the topic at hand. So the next time you're tired or angry or just plain fed up, throw all logical caution to the wind and jump right in with both feet. You see, there will always be at least one person out there who will back you up and cheer you on because, when it comes to denying reality, one is never alone.

Further reading: Why smart people defend bad ideas

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Who should apologize, to whom, and when?

This is one that I imagine there will be as many opinions as there are people.

I was recently asked by a third party, to apologize for expressing opposition to US policies to someone who had been harmed by those policies.

In my view, that did not make any sense, so I did not do it. I said I was very sorry that US policies were harming so many people, which is my sincere opinion and sentiment.

As part of this same incident (BooMan Tribune is the website involved), there was a perception that a troubled individual, the same one, in fact, to whom I had been asked to apologize, may have also been asked to apologize, I am speculating for manner of expression issues, and the individual did so.

I believe that some other individuals may also have been asked to apologize, again, I speculate for manner of expression issues, and I do not know how many did so or did not.

While I could not, in good conscience, apologize for my opposition to US policies to a victim of those policies, I did apologize to the site owner for having posted on his site in the first place.

Now here are my views on all that. I already stated my view regarding apologizng for opposing US policies, but why did I apologize for my presence on the site?

Simply put, it is not a site on which it is appropriate for me to participate, and truth be told, I continued to participate there even though I was aware that it was not appropriate.

So in addition to apologizing to the site's owner, for my inappropriate presence, I also apologized to myself, for failing to comply with my own personal standards of internet activity.

If the troubled individual was indeed asked to apologize to anyone in particular or to any who might read it, I do not believe that was appropriate. In my opinion, troubled individuals should not be asked to apologize. I would consider it appropriate to issue a general apology to any troubled individual to whom I have responded or directed remarks, not realizing that they were troubled, or prior to such a realization.

If anyone else was asked to apologize for manner of expression issues, or any other reason, that is, in my view, a freedom of speech issue. Anyone is free to ask anyone else to apologize, post a link to a photo of a bunch of red grapes, or compose a haiku. And recipient of such a request is free to comply or decline.

Manner of expression is, in my view, a question of personal standards and preferences. For example, I do not respond to personal or "ad hom" remarks, other than to inform the individual that my internet activities do not include that particular behavior.

However, many people do enjoy exchanges of that sort, and it is entirely up to the participants and the site's owner whether he or she wishes to censor or forbid that or any other text.

Site owners, even in the case of US sites, are not bound by the first amendment of the US constitution, any more than any American is bound by that amendment in his or her home. Nor are site owners, or homeowners, or renters in the US required by any law or statute to be fair or impartial regarding any rules or standards of behavior they may have about who or what they will or will not allow in their home or on their website, nor are they required to have any such rules or standards of behavior.

Nor are they required to make sense. Therefore, I believe that the site owner has every right to ask anyone to apologize for any or no reason, regardless of my own opinion about what would be appropriate or not for me.

And that is the basis of my view on apologies. Each person has the option of apologizing or not if he or she believes it would be appropriate to apologize, for any or no reason, to whomever they choose, at any time.

They key is what the individual believes, their own standards of behavior and courtesy, if any, and what degree of compliance, if any, they wish to impose upon themselves.

So that is my view on the question of apologies, troubled individuals, free speech, freedom of association, and personal standards.

What are your views? Is this rant inflammatory enough to please our tour visitors, if any?

Fellow Rantstarters, feel free to post any and all rants on top of this one for the pleasure and delight of our possible guests!

Friday, August 04, 2006

META in META: Making it Mo Betta

Has anybody invited Janet, CookTing, Scribe, others who might like to rant here?

Also, anybody who got an invitation and lost it, forgot about it, or didn't get one and wants to start rants, please let us know!

And please post link suggestions for Rant Inspiration and Civilization sections.

This is YOUR blog, how can it be Mo Betta?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The "privileged"

Dear Mo Betta,

After Booman had chosen to refer to my views as "privileged" a little while ago, I had hoped that I could have drawn him out to explain himself just a bit more. Regrettably he chose not to do so. Had he taken a different road, I had some questions for him. He and I are roughly the same age - I believe he's in his mid-to late 30s and I just hit the big Four-Oh at the end of January, so we can assume both of us are born somewhere between 1966 & 1971. My little questionnaire for determining "privileged" status of Gen-Xers goes as follows,

Did you, growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s have or experience any of the following:
  1. Cable TV, perhaps including HBO?
  2. A VCR (whether Betamax or VHS)?
  3. The newest Atari, Colecovision, etc. videogame station?
  4. Go to rock concerts at huge arenas?
  5. Eat out at restaurants on a regular basis?
  6. Wear designer clothes - or if you chose not to, at least had parents who could afford those for you?
  7. A regular allowance?
  8. The knowledge that your family could afford to send you to the college or university of your choice?
  9. A private school education? Or if not private school, were the public schools you attended in the ritzier neighborhoods?
  10. Travel to really cool places, be it Disneyland or New Zealand?
  11. Have access to regular medical care?
  12. Have your own telephone?
I'm sure that leaves a few things out, but you get the basic idea. If you answer "yes" to too many of these items, I'd have to say that you would be "privileged" in my book. Heck, when I was a teen I would have been somewhat envious of you. Not that my family was in poverty, per se, but we did go through some rough patches, what with layoffs and all leaving us a few times wondering where the next meal would come from or when a bank might decide to foreclose on a home. Let's just say that I became quite the expert growing up as to the proper amount of ketchup to use to make liver & onions taste tolerable, and that by pure coincidence I looked "grunge" about a decade before "grunge" became a fashion statement.

The one thing we did have a lot of were books, and my parents - both would probably be considered "hicks" by our elites - had developed a love of classical music & big band jazz (took me a while to appreciate either, but that's okay). Without the cool videogames or the cable tv (btw, those antennas you stick on top of a tv usually suck), or the chance to catch the latest Rush concert, I'd open some books (my folks were stocked up with tomes by Hemmingway, Plato, Poe, etc.) probably to the background of some baroque something or other my mom was listening to at the time. Otherwise, I'd find whatever friends I had at the time to hang with, cruise the 'hood in whatever old wreck one of us would have to drive, or hang out & try to skateboard or check out the latest nudie magazines that one of my friends always seemed to have in abundant supply (I had not yet been exposed to feminism in its many diverse flavors). No A-list parties, but not too bad of a life really.

Okay, so if I'm not privileged in that sense, how about family background? I certainly had relatives who farmed - one had a fairly successful family farm operation, though most barely made a living at it. I also had plenty of relatives who worked in manufacturing or out in the oil fields. My dad was a first generation college grad, from a family where I don't think too many folks graduated from high school. Mom at least got her high school diploma. Niether family fared well during the Great Depression, from what I understand. So looks like I don't exactly have a blue-blood pedigree. How would you fare?

If I'm not privileged in that sense, could it be my vocation? You guys know me as someone employed at a small public university. Took me a bit of doing to earn the necessary degrees - had to start at a jr. college, then a state university for my BA & MA, then another state run university for the doctorate. In a sense one could say that I have the privilege to do a lot of the work I want to do at hours of my choosing (more or less). Making a living out of reading, writing, and telling some coherent stories about what is read and written is a luxury that I thought would be out of reach for someone like me - and I treasure that. Of course since I don't work at one of the big research mills, I ain't exactly rolling in the dough.

Being a white male living in the US I suspect that one could say I'm "privileged" relative to much of the rest of the world, and I would accept that description as accurate and I'd accept that an accident of birth has probably opened doors for me that would be closed to most as well as affected my outlook on life. That said, the same could be said for an ungodly proportion of bloggers (including our good pal Booman). Under the circumstances, then, use of the term "privileged" as a form of criticism from one that is ostensibly equally "privileged" makes no sense.

So although I can sort of gauge some ways in which I might be "privileged" as well as others in which I am not, I am still left wondering what in the Hell the guy meant by "privileged" and more importantly what in the Hell if anything it had to do with a conversation about being "anti-American" or on defending views that might be considered "anti-American."

Signed, dazed and confused.

O Poor Sahib!

All over the internets, Sahib is worried. His humble bearer is acting strangely lately. There are unsettling reports from the hill stations of bearers who began by acting strangely and then - it cannot be spoken!

What he needs, reflects Sahib, is a firmer hand. A show of strength. Yes. He must - they all must - be brought to heel.

The lamp-wallah has arrived to light the lamps. His eyes betray nothing. That's the problem with these buggers, never know what they're thinking. Inscrutable as the Chinese, and even they are acting strangely lately.

And they all keep raising their prices. O the price of being Sahib, the price of Empire! O the weight of the Burden!

The lamp-wallah whispers to his assistant, what are they saying. He whispers in gibberish, of course, they are too simple, too lazy to learn and speak English. Except when the paypacket runs a bit short. Then they're linguists all of a sudden, and mathematicians.

All over the internets, the soft plop plop fizz fizz of Sahib's antacid tablets. Finally, they have arrived. They rang for the girl it seems hours ago, at last here she is, her face inscrutable, too.

Are they planning something? Or will they just sulk a while, like they usually do. That's what's more likely, not in them to, you know, start trouble.

They just need a firmer hand, that's what. A show of strength, a little reminder to keep them in their place.

All over the internets, Sahib sighs, leans back. He has solved his problem. Things will work out, just like they usually do.

The lamp-wallah nods to the girl, motions to his helper, and tiptoes out, as shadows hide his half-smile...

Ductape fixes just about everything

So... let's play name that tune...

I am slow Okay? I'm forty and the kids drive me nuts sometimes and the simple answers evade me easily on most days. Once again we have a "Fuck the Troops" diary up and I can't blame anybody. I watch some of the stuff that happens and I say Fuck them too on some days. It always seems like there isn't anything that I can do and sometimes believing that there isn't anything that I can do but sit at this keyboard and bitch keeps me sitting at this keyboard bitching. I contacted the Benderman's last year when I read the story about Kevin fighting going back to Iraq and having his Conscientious Objector Status paperwork seeming to take forever meaning that he was going to be getting on that plane and in Iraq before anything would be decided and that is just a little bit too late! I had so much hope. They had press coverage and they were organized, Monica seemed very upbeat and then Kevin went jail just like my husband said that he would.

Here is a website that lists soldiers who are incarcerated or fighting deployment to Iraq that Ductape put up on the To Hell with American Troops diary. A lot of soldiers don't want to go to Iraq and a lot of them want nothing to do with any of this, but they signed and they don't want to go to jail. A lot of National Guard want absolutely nothing to do this but they are in the same boat and when they go to jail they go alone and sit there by themselves. The people who have dared to fight this by themselves so far are stronger people than I could be right now. Many other soldiers could be stronger too if there was something to strengthen them, something like public outrage and public protest at their trials and public disobedience and others determined to go to jail with them instead of them being all on their own alone in all of this while people just bitch! So where's the protest for these people and where are the protesters? How many more soldiers would walk away from the plane and off the tarmac and declare to fight this illegal war right here face to face with those who started it if they knew we would be there with them and fighting like hell with them?

Okay METAers.... name the hypocrite....

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Welcome to Mo Betta META!

Has that annoyingly transparent DLC/CIA/Mosaad operative just chewed your last nerve?

Are you absolutely positive that your head will explode if HappyDem08 over on Progressives for Advertising Revenue replies to one more news post about atrocities in Lebanon telling you that if you will only send Russ Feingold money that at least maybe some of them will be exterminated in a more humane manner, and that's a pretty good and progressive start, and he's a DEM?

Would you be rich if you had a dime for every time you have wanted to type HELL NO I DO NOT SUPORT THE DAMN TROOPS, when in the wake of this or that new atrocity that has somehow made it into US corporate media, you are treated to responses about a few bad apples and most of them are really helping grateful Iraqis?

Have you despaired and stopped posting at one or more places because whether you post your actual opinion or a page from the Jakarta phone book, the replies will be the same?

Do you have something you really need to say about blog behavior but you are sick and tired of threads about people dying and the fate of nations turning into METAPaLoozas?

Well, this is your place! Have at it!

Name names, post links, but remember, they can read it too.. .