Monday, May 14, 2012

Doctrinal paradigm shift

Anybody not concerned with the evolution of the Unitary Executive beginning in the Reagan Administration, and begun by a group of right wing legal scholars and attorneys -- the founders of The Federalist Society started in 1982 -- is missing out on a chance to observe a potentially significant political force in the transition of our national politics from a nation concerned with bettering and civilizing ourselves starting around 1776, to a globalist, neoliberal, transnational corporate orientation.  Some call that orientation "empire", but that's a difficult term to apply in its commonly accepted strict definition.

The United States as a federal entity has evolved into one of history's most notable mass military institutions.  At this moment in time, all the other military-related entities on the planet (nation states in name for the most part) together do not equal the expenditure and the mass destructive power of the United States' Military Industrial Complex.

Whenever a relatively small group of elites get their hands on that kind of power, history has demonstrated to us, time and time again, that they often become (or perhaps they are simply the ever-present sociopathic elements) compromised in their moral and ethical understanding of how to behave as part of the whole human community, and they end up using the hierarchically organized power at their disposal for ends that often involve incredible civil societal destruction along with cavalier violations of individual human rights in the process.

Personally, my observation of the U.S. military since I was first involved back in Vietnam is that it is among the least civilized entities on this planet, combined with being one of the most thoroughly authoritarian in structure.  That people in this nation idolize it, consider becoming a part of it to be a form of extreme patriotism also gives me pause to think about the civilizing potential of this nation, its constitution and its rule of law.

I've downloaded and begun reading the U.S Army Internment and resettlement pdf document, and I must say, it conforms to my expectations about the mechanistic, authoritarian, ultimately inhumane organization that will, as commanded, carry out an efficient internment and resettlement program if so directed.  And if we have no counter legislative or judicial buffer to these increasingly paranoid Unitary Executive proclamations of power, now made in what it has self-determined to be a perpetual war on something or another (the fundamental legal principle behind the Unitary Executive in our history, Lincoln used it), we ought -- as ordinary civilians who simply want to live decent lives, who are going to be seen in various military terms as collateral damage, terrorists, or whatever broad terminology they may apply while they quibble over legalities as they are abridge citizens' natural rights -- to be concerned.
From the Preface:

Field manual (FM) 3-39.40 is aligned with FM 3-39, the military police keystone FM. FM 3-39.40 provides guidance for commanders and staffs on internment and resettlement (I/R) operations. This manual addresses I/R operations across the spectrum of conflict, specifically the doctrinal paradigm shift from traditional enemy prisoner of war (EPW) operations to the broader and more inclusive requirements of detainee operations.

Additionally, FM 3-39.40 discusses the critical issue of detainee rehabilitation. It describes the doctrinal foundation, principles, and processes that military police and other elements will employ when dealing with I/R populations. As part of internment, these populations include U.S. military prisoners, and multiple categories of detainees (civilian internees [CIs], retained personnel [RP], and enemy combatants), while resettlement operations are focused on multiple categories of dislocated civilians (DCs).

It addresses the "doctrinal paradigm shift from traditional enemy prisoner of war (EPW) operations to the broader and more inclusive requirements of detainee operations."  Doctrinal paradigm shift...

I can't help thinking of the OWS movement, and its worldwide correlate movement towards citizen involvement and what might be considered democracy -- or might be considered democracy if it weren't such a threat to the established world order of U.S. defined democracies, which our military has been so involved with establishing -- and maintaining..

"detainee rehabilitation"... hmmm. What is "rehabilitation" in the minds of the military commanders who will be directing these activities?  I remember being "rehabilitated" in boot camp. I still have recurring images of the grinning sado masochistic people in charge.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Zombie Politics

Wow.  Finally.  Someone has made some sense of this fascination with zombies I see all around me these days. Anyone who's familiar with the critical works of Henry A. Giroux knows what a brilliant cultural critic he can be. In his recent book,  Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Popular Culture and Everyday Life) he unleashes a metaphorical and symbolic analysis of the political and pedagogical conditions of our current state of affairs using the pervasive popularity, even obsession, in our culture for those cuddly zombies.  That state of affairs includes "a growing culture of sadism, cruelty, disposability and death in America."

Henry has been named as one of the top fifty educational thinkers of the modern period.  His most recent, Education and the Crisis of Public Values, (published in July 2011, less than a year after Zombie Politics) offers yet another serving of his insights into a nation of zombies who are further putrefying themselves by destroying their education system, as the nation continues to shift away from democratic public values towards a market-driven mode of education.  In the process we witness it creating a system that's changed our nation's teachers from citizens we can admire into objects of humiliation, from valued members of an important institutional feature of democracy to a profession to be shamed and blamed for problems essentially created by the businesses and politicians who they supposedly influence.

And I give you The Powell Doctrine from 1971 as exhibit A for the corporate-organized national zombie "value" drive mounted against the "liberal"-minded educators seen to be endangering our "American Free Enterprise System" (that last from the title of the Powell Doctrine).

Anyone interested in a taste of Zombie Politics can read a two part excerpt published at

Zombie Politics, Democracy, and the Threat of Authoritarianism - Part I

Zombie Politics: Dangerous Authoritarianism or Shrinking Democracy - Part II

On the coming revolution

I have personally observed a bewildering number of interpretations of Marx's structural analysis of Capitalism. The following represents maybe a condensation of one, and one that probably Marx himself would have never proposed, nor even implied.

Anonymous wrote:
Here is how Marxism is supposed to work:
1)      Overthrow the capitalists
2)      Establish the dictatorship of the proletariat
3)      Redistribute the means of production to the workers
4)      Workers set up their cooperatives
5)      When that is all done, the dictatorship of the proletariat dissolves itself and they join the workers

This has to be the essence of naiveté. There ain’t no powerful group that will dissolve itself. It would much rather stay in power and have the other schmucks become workers and then lord over them. Somehow “communism” always gets stuck in the dictatorship-phase. That is why I term it a naïve utopia.

Though I don't doubt that idealists of any stripe could produce such a formula --  idealists, after all, see the world idealistically -- Marx himself was more of a structural materialist, which of course has its shortcomings dealing with the psychological realms of human behavior. But he also provided some interesting ways of analyzing social phenomenon.

To understand Marx's social theory you have to have at least a rudimentary understanding of his notion of the Greek's original recognition of a what they viewed as a natural process that's always taking place, threading through and along with a lot of other societal processes, and one that can be improved upon if people are conscious of it. That is what Marx referred to as the dialectic, which has been central to Indian and European philosophy since antiquity.

A dialectical process is different than debate.  One is a "reasoning together with empathy" kind of process while the other is more like combat.  Debate can override the dialectical process in a society and dominate it.  Debate can be better recognized as an egotistical process that takes place amongst those who are committed to their points of view and support them as if to the death.  Dialectical reasoning is a process where the contradictions are presented, observed and can be resolved through efforts at mutual understanding.

The ancient differences between rhetorical sophistry and dialectical dialogue is probably one of the most apparent phenomenon one can observe in modern society, or would be, if there were enough opportunities to observe a dialectical dialogue taking place.  Unfortunately, perhaps thanks to the nature of how we go about imagining our society and the way it is shared through technologies like television and radio, all supported by commercial principles, it seems that the sophists always have center stage in the process.  After all, sophists, renowned for their love flamboyancy, illusion and spectacle as a form of persuasion, mark the more desired features of extroverted personalities that make a sales and an objectively commodity-oriented social system work.

These sophistic emphases in style can be selective so that they will generally tend to appeal to baser emotions in crowds of people watching rather than to the higher reasoning that can take place in a quiet atmosphere among friends sharing tea and coffee along with their conversation.  That's a style of conversing which could also entail the incorporation of evolved nuanced emotions, if those also happen to be encouraged by society; emotions that connect rather than disconnect heart/mind.  But we don't see many examples of that these days.

Dialectical reasoning praxis has dwindled now to only a few practicing introverts who pretty much have to find ways to exist at the margins of modern societies, while an extroverted society as a whole burns brightly, consumingly, perhaps even to the extent of eventually achieving a form of mass necrophilia through an entrenched societal objectification processes.

Marx took this dialectical concept and attempted to develop a structural analysis of society where a materialistic-based dialectic is taking place. This was in a kind of philosophical contradiction to the prevailing views of idealism at the time. He was completely unaware of the psychological power of the processes he was trying to describe in their infancy to absolve those material contradictions he perceived. As we have witnessed -- with some degree of horror at least for me -- through the Twentieth Century, mass absolution would be achieved by modern day media techniques, which, anyone might observe, act quite effectively to transform and mold human thinking to fit the form of the capitalist mode and means of production, which Marx, in his time, imagined to be a natural part of that material-based dialectical process, inspired by an expected consciousness-based struggle (which in fact was taking place at the time, think of the Luddites as one example, when he was observing industrialization taking root in Manchester England) as the result of recognition by people of their contradictory circumstances as tools of the owners of those production features.

We may be seeing why Marx's predicted dialectical historical process -- whereby those who are oppressed would necessarily rebel against their oppressors -- will finally come about in a way that the mass media can no longer diffuse with spectacle and illusion.  We are seeing movements against the status quo in a planet wide revolt now that the Capitalist contradictions have run to an extreme, abusing not just people but the planet itself.  Perhaps it has only been delayed and therefore exaggerated by factors Marx could not have predicted.  One of those factors would be the evolution of technologies based on cheap, condensed stored energy.  We call them fossil fuels these days:  Oil, coal, gas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

If philosophy was sold by the pound...

Printout of just one person's words from, Neoliberalism is touching us all. All just to talk about that which cannot be said. "Look what they make you do... " -- Clive Owen's character, The Bourne Identity.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Government" and "Free market" as tautologies...

Over and over instruments of power in social relationships try to make us believe that some abstraction they call "free market" can work without some form of instrument, which they pretend to be against, called "government".

If one wishes to think for oneself, it's imperative to deconstruct tautologies, because tautologies cannot help us to think things through:

government is virtually always coercive since....

the free market is always non-coercive since....

Well, what is government? Without a negative dialectic we are left with nothing but positivist declarations, and we can only apply truth values to such declarations. So how about a little negative space around the positive declaration to give it some definition, like the space between notes in a jazz piece so that you know it's music not just some endless noise: "Government" is not a thing in itself. It is first of all a word, one that applies to an abstract set of rules implying organization, rules humans imagine in relationship with each other to achieve some sense of orderliness amongst themselves. And we do that because... why? Don't jump to an answer. At the very least we all together do that to achieve an order of some kind.

Is it not fair to assume that kind of agreement has always existed in some form amongst the social beings we know ourselves to be, whether written down or in the very daily set of relationships that are part of the very cooperative small hunter gathering groups that our great-great ancestors devised for daily survival? Today that set of relationships has become vastly more complex. One can maybe recognize that in doing so it has achieved vast and complex sets of rules, many codified as "law" to accommodate the many more people alive now compared to a hundred thousand year ago. Those rules, whether written down or not, are always an instrument to be put in play by the actors in society. They are nothing without actors. They couldn't be imagined without imaginers.

When that set of relationships we call "government" fails to work for everyone, then people are free -- if they realize it -- to change the abstract rules of their relationships.

This is a fact because it is something that can actually take place. Thus, there can be no nature or god dictated fact of rules, like an Old Testament or Bible, or even a Constitution, that says the ones who have managed to get all the toys in their little sandbox get to keep them. People all have to agree to that. It takes actual, get up in the morning, put on your clothes agreement for that to happen. The 1% get to keep theirs only if everyone agrees to play by the rules. And there are only a few ways the powerful can get everyone to agree to this arrangement. One of those ways is: people are said to agree when the lie that we are a voting democracy legitimizing this relationship is generally accepted as what is taking place. Everybody agrees and everyone just goes along.

The 1% own and control 90% everything and the rest have about 10% of what's left is believed to be the way of things. It's natural because it's "obvious" the 1% ______ed it. Put in whatever operative logic you want. An important instrument in maintaining that belief is the power to control ideas, otherwise known in the Twentieth Century as "public relations" or, we can use the other word, not so pretty, propaganda, which comes in many flavors and varieties.

When that "belief" in those abstract ideas that maintain control suddenly disappears, which can happen very suddenly, like when the rent of mortgage payment can't be made, the food can't be bought, the gas for the car can't be purchased, and people rise up in revolt, then the other end of the management logic spectrum comes into play and those who are the organized enforcement instruments for keeping this social fiction going can invoke systems of logic that wield the technology of force. Again, individual human beings must do any of this, a policeman must willingly perform as a machine of enforcement in the institutional system of logic that involves keeping the order. A policeman must do his job, there's no cpu, there's no software, a human being does this. Exactly how no one has yet been able to say with absolute certainty. And without that certainty, we ought to be respectful of each other and what we do.

It's helpful to keep these contradictory assumptions in perspective by the conscious recognition that this enforcement instrument includes the highly developed institutional force that has evolved into modern day police and military technological instruments. These are all part of social evolutionary principles involving technology.

Technology, and a society that is now fundamentally technological in its very organization, is not a one person invention. Technology comes out of a milieu of culture. The languages we take for granted are part of this phenomenon. No individual invents their own language they learn to use by the time they are three years of age. Nor can any individual even use the technology them without language. No individual proclaim to the world that they own a piece of property without language. And technology, which is now our medium of existence, cannot exist without all the parts of that milieu organizing in a constant process, most of which takes place through the agreement in actions of individuals.

Someone has to perform any act for the sake of governing -- that is, making sure things stay in some sort of order. The governed as well as the enforcers of rules must act. No governing instrument, whether a corporation of a state government, happens on its own. Is that not obvious? And that brings up the question of power. And the question of power brings up the question of what exactly we are perceiving in this growing phenomenon we are now calling OWS. And everyone is stumbling over each other to try to control that phenomenon, which implies disorder, and disorder implies fear of the unknown, with ideas, word, labels.

A "free market" as a fact cannot possibly exist outside a social and cultural system of some kind. Which of course brings about a question: what does the word "free" mean? Yet the phrase is tossed around as if it's a reference to some technological instrument of its own, not just a logical line written in a piece of software. That may be the mistake of trying to make sense of things in an utterly rational fashion, and if you read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations you may notice that he too was struggling with the contradiction of his own logical device, the creation of the concept: "free market".

We have inherited that struggle and we are experiencing its inevitable creation: cognitive dissonance. Because a market is merely a the sum of actions, a living and ongoing process, essentially the relationships between people within a common set, and consciously or unconsciously, depending on the awareness and intelligence of those involved, it is an agreed upon set of relaitonships between human beings.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The current CEO President

David Edwards in his article: Kucinich: Obama's job czar expert at creating foreign jobs quoted Kucinich as saying:

“He has expertise in job creation, but, unfortunately for the United States, seems to be creating jobs in other countries. One-fifth of the U.S. work force has been eliminated since that gentleman had taken the helm of GE,” Kucinich explained.

“If the White House doesn’t have a jobs policy and they go to somebody who is not only moving his jobs out of the country, but also off-shoring profits so he is not paying a share of the taxes GE ought to be paying, look, the White House has to get a grip on its jobs policy.”

That's a polite, even politically correct way for a moderate, even respectable Democrat to tell us that this Administration is screwing Americans like the others before it. Especially so since Reagan and the push for global regulation change (termed in neoliberal speak: "Deregulation").

The presidency in this nation has been transforming before our eyes for some time now. It's been transforming from a soapbox where a national figurehead speaks for the good of all the people to a CEO arm of the most powerful private collectives ever formed on this planet -- of which GE's Jeffrey is merely yet another prime example on this President's list of appointments. We now have a predominance of heads of private for profit collectives in positions of power under the head corporate CEO, who once upon a time in a hard to remember liberal la la land was the spokesperson for a nation who legitimized the position by voting for it as such.

The Unitary Executive is here, now. And so in this transformation people are still voting, but the grand corporate spectacle called "the media" no longer exposes what the person running for office really stands for. Kucinich was carefully screened in the last March of the Trolls in order to keep this sort of information minimized from public view. Had it not been minimized more people might have had the courage of their convictions and not dutifully legitimized the current sitting corporate CEO in the Oval Office.

Though serious representatives of the people (a dwindling group) like Kucinich struggled to bring the fight for us to bear with attempts to call this act of corporate deceit to task during the last administration -- Kucinich introduces Bush impeachment resolution -- the media successfully snuffed him, now an accepted de rigueur act, and so these perfidious political actors go on to sneer at the general populace, win awards for their deceitful advertising campaigns, and now grab power through a multitude of carefully scripted routs as they redefine the U.S. constitution for the benefit of the powerful business interests, and on we go. No doubt Cheney will make another bundle of money with his latest bit of self promoting propaganda, his memoirs, or as non corporate media Robert Sheer sees it: A Deceit of Shakespearean Proportions. Don't look for Sheer's article in the NYTimes.

Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell would be proud of his compatriots in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Read it and weep, unless you're among the powerful who've benefitted: The Powell Manifesto

His "manifesto" marks the beginning of the trend that transformed the Presidency into a corporate CEO; shortly after sending it to the head of the Chamber of Commerce in August, 1971, he was nominated by Nixon and subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court by Congress.

On the Rise of homo sapiens economicus

As a so-called fact, those statistical derivatives people toss around about life span improvement, like: "the reason your life expectancy is 75 years and not 45 years is due to capitalism" are questionable. Also questionable is the notion that it is some sort of advance. It would appear that an increasing percentage of people are being kept alive at greater expense, like the cost of creating technologies (drugs are technologies) that keep Type 1 diabetics alive. I learned from a physical anthropologist that more people died in the relatively brief hundred and some odd thousand years of modern humans from tooth infections and directly related factors than any other cause. I don't know how true that is.

Anyone who has bothered to sort through the pile of debris we call history will recognize that technology and capitalism are not co-related in a one to one formula. Thus to assume an economic system causes technological innovation is something of a logical fallacy. It's more like they share characteristics in a Venn diagram.

Human beings have been creating and sharing technologies at least since they discovered how to chip rocks to make spears and knives. They were probably using "found" tools long before that, and that use of tools or technologies would be called "technique". Both technology and technique are shared and they are subsets of a larger set we can call human culture. Human innovation is involved in the creation and use of all technologies and associated techniques. This is a factor of our ability to create systems as groups to increase our survival potential.

Capitalism is merely an economic system that creates a mold that favors homo sapiens economicus. It is not a culture. Though it's arguable that some version of mass global culture results from its principles now.

To maximize its economic imperatives, capitalism needs to employ techniques of efficiency or there won't be any surplus capital to reinvest. Efficiency always come down to energy. So efficiency is a factor of the study of physics in the real world. It's generally true that those efficiency techniques arise from individual effort, but once discovered they can be institutionalized. Thus, as populations grow and centralize, as maximizing energy sources and flows comes to bear on survival, that brings on the techniques of institutionalization. Since the so-called discovery of the "science" of management by Henry R Towne in the late 1800s at the height of the Robber Baron era, bureaucratic efficiencies have grown in status as a field and are now a subject taught in most major universities, because, after all, they are important to "the system". Institutionalizing as a social process is therefore another effect of the evolving technology/technique process, and individuals often find themselves at odds with institutions. This is true of those who think of themselves as capitalists, artists, intellectuals and all sorts of individuals. Institutions are system creating and generalizing factors and not all individuals want to fit the mold of an institution.

Technologies also evolve correlated to the employment of techniques. It seems no technique can be invented that cannot be improved. The question of improvement often hinges on the energy equation involved in changing one technique for a better one. Decision makers often calculate that improvement may not give enough return on investment so they stick with what works. Whole techniques are involved in making those calculations.

Yet techniques do evolve and they do make the application of technology standardized in societies that adopt them. As the techniques become vertically integrated on a global scale (one of the real effects of "deregulating" the global environment through NAFTA, GATT, and other trade agreements), more societies tend to mirror each other. Entrepreneurial spirit plays a role in this evolution, but with the increasing size of societies it becomes increasingly minor. Once a system of institutions based on these evolving techniques is in place, large privately-owned collectives, known as corporations, swallow up the results of these spirited individual innovations and often put them to use in the system in ways that fit the overall spectrum created by the need for efficiency. Interestingly, public collectives, such as those we see evolving in China, Japan, even the United States, follow that same pattern of these transnational private collectives that are pushing for deregulating the global environment now. Thus these efficiency techniques are employed by all major political state systems in the world now and as a result economics has become a major defining factor in modern societies. Hooray for homo economicus! The bold new homo sapiens!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flame Skimmer Dragonflies

The Flame Skimmer Dragonfly is a marvelous species of dragonfly known by the scientific name Libellula saturata. They have bright colors to display, along with their simple designs, making them truly amazing. Their naiad form is different then most dragonflies, but they still grow up to be fast, ordinary dragonflies. This dragonfly looks like a little flame as its bright orange coat rushes by.