Tuesday, July 26, 2005


For awhile now, I have been thinking about the evolution of the universe. I think that the universe will evolve to higher and higher states as it reconciles contradictory elements and forms something new out of the aspects of each; in short, the Hegelian Geist (though I somewhat reverse engineered it). But the universe as I saw it was terrifying to me: an endless expanse of white light. Yes, it was pure happiness and unity... but something was missing, a vital component.

Then I realized, in context of me GMing a campaign with a super-powerful set of old heroes, that those old heroes each were very different (in fact, sometimes seeming villainous), but each truly was a hero in the final estimation. The same could be said of the player characters in this campaign. I had found my final element: Diversity.

No, diversity was not drawn exclusively from the Western tradition; for my spiritual notion of diversity, One Way, Infinite Paths, is in fact directly purloined from the Chinese. In fact, the notion of a fundamental difference between the "Orient" and the "West" to me is a myth. One merely needs to read Bruce Lee's comments and beliefs on formlessness, available http://www.i-jkd.com/jkd.html, as well as his attempt to break the cultishness of the martial arts schools, to see what happens when East meets West. Make no mistake: Bruce Lee's philosophy as espoused in the transcripts of his books (with excellent and precise writing; http://www.brucelee.com/jeet.htm) is a libertarian one, describing the need and the methodology of personal liberation and discovering a formlessness that in fact becomes the ultimate personal form.

Why does everyone kill diversity first? It seems that this an agreement on both the Left and the Right (though worse on the Right). Very few folks are against diversity in principle. And only a slightly larger group opposes things that raise diversity with no debits. But the moment diversity and any other value are in conflict, diversity goes out the window.

See my post on vegetarianism for my discussion of consumption activism; http://arekexcelsior2.blogspot.com/2005/07/im-meat-eater-bonus-discussion-of.html . I reference this post here because of the extensive discussion of calling others hypocrites for different consumption choices. As Albert points out, as a practical matter this means that the preferences of the person launching the accusation is taken as the de facto guideline for determining hypocrisy.

Many people say, "Why should we tolerate tyranny [or inequity or patriarchy or racism] for the sake of diversity?" But I think this begs the question. Here, the conflict is between a mild gain in diversity versus an institution that, among other things, smashes diversity. Even diversity advocates often say "You shouldn't" in response to this question. But I feel that this a vanishingly small percentage of the cases. For there truly are far fewer ways to kill someone than to live a life.

To be clearer (and more long-winded): I think that most tyrannies and other illegitimate structures are fairly much the same. Not just for the tautological reason that all are tyrannies, but even in the methodologies used, the justifications employed, the things that are said, etc. Fascism and Stalinism may have thought of each other as ideological opposites, but both were totalitarian societies with heavy state involvement in the economy and a degree of a safety net, as well as ethnic repression in the name of a dominant culture.

Consider that there are an almost infinite number of imaginable, legitimate relationships between people (love, not being acquainted at all, appreciation, friendship, marriage of some kind even if not a patriarchal form, etc.) There are few relationships (murder, theft, rape, wife-beating, etc.) of these possible forms that are illegitimate.

Let's take pornography for a moment, as it clearly is something I spend a lot of time discussing. Criticisms of it stemming from folks like Jensen often reference hardcore BDSM or the seamy underside of traditional porn. But doing so ignores a few things:

A) The heterogeneity of pornography itself, which can be everything from schoolgirls to office ladies to gay orgies to cartoons
B) The diversity of art forms itself, including ones that reduce things to one-dimension to get the salient features (and yes, this is a fair description of pornography)
C) That because porn may be generally bad does not establish that every person using it is somehow problematic, especially since so few pay for it nowadays versus the rampant usage; in any respect, it may in the hands of progressive individuals be positively good

One thing that diversity advocates have to bear in mind is the contingency of things. Something may be wrong in 99% of the cases, but in that 1% it may be more than a grudging exception but something vital and useful. Technology has had all sorts of horrific side effects. It could also be used and is used to create new media, new art and new ways for democracy. In this case, that remaining percentage of technology is not just value neutral or somewhat less bad or tolerable, it is actually a positive good.

Now to turn to a vital matter in this discussion: Judgments. People on the Left who are called self-righteous or judgmental often say the comment, "But we all make judgments!" No duh. But here are two ways of doing the judgment:

1) "You don't agree with me, therefore you are anathema, a heretic and should not be listened to." (See my post on conspiracy theories for a classic example.)
2) "Fine. You've done or said something I disagree with; in fact, I think is horribly wrong. So I will try to convince you to stop, appealing to your better sensibility. In any respect, just because you did X thing [murder, rape, whatever] does not mean that is you in your totality. For you have done and felt many things in your life. You are a complex being and to reduce you to a one-phrase description, though technically accurate, leaves out a number of vital things."

What of the elementary logic that someone who is a total jerk can be right? That is a respect for diversity: it shows that someone's behavior needs to be analyzed individually, not as a sum where if 51% or 91% of the time they're wrong we ignore the 49% or 9%.

What of respect for one's foes? Is that not a recognition that, if we find that not everything is as cut and dry as we thought, we take into account this new diversity of opinion and background?

And aesthetic judgments? Those are subjective (that is, they accrue in the observing subject by definition and have nothing to do with the intrinsic properties of the object; a rock does not have any opinion on the value of Citizen Kane). So shouldn't we recognize that others may not like our food, our art, our speech, our pasttimes, and live and let live?

How about value judgments? Can't we recognize that our values are going to be inherently subjective and that someone else who values things differently might feel differently? Might we even tailor our rhetoric to take this into account?

Another case-in-point is abortion or physician assisted suicide. Abortion has all sorts of complex moral issues, and I feel both the traditional liberal "It's not a baby" (all right, but it's still living, even if it is semi-parasitic; notice the blatant anthropocentrism) and the conservative "It's a baby" diatribe do injustice to the situation. I am against state or political intervention because I feel it will a) replicate patriarchal undercurrents, b) increase illegal abortions and c) hamhandedly prevent a complex moral issue from being resolved on a case-by-case basis. But unlike most, I also want the discussion in the broader culture to be as diverse and open as possible. I think the mother has the right to control her own body (and yes, the fetus is impinging upon that right) and her own fate as well as try to take into account the baby's well-being, and the baby has a right to have its voice heard.

In response, we hear "Teach birth control! Or abstinence!" That's not mutually exclusive, now is it? If birth control fails (an unheard of concept!) or if abstinence fades (how?!), what do we do then? Why is the fact that options were available at time X deny options at time Y?

And physician assisted suicide is an easy one: Those against it often say "What of the little girl who tried really hard and could walk again? Shouldn't we be trying to save lives, not end them?" They'll then resurrect some personal anecdote for the task. But these yahoos ignore that whatever the right decision was in their case, a different case might, umm, different. That equally reasonable people might make the opposite decision.

We live in a complex, hard world. To me this doesn't mean don't think about it, don't have judgments, don't give a rubber stamp to every decision. It means try one's damndest and recognize that others doing the same might do different things. Maybe wrong, maybe right, maybe neutral, maybe undeterminable, but certainly different.

This even means I advocate on-the-surface-of-things contradictory things, because I don't think recognizing two important realities or even multiple important realities is necessarily problematic. In that case, balance must occur. So as a Buddhist I lean towards non-violence, but as an anarchist I lean towards violence. Yet those are two different realms of inquiry. Our attempt to reduce the world to laughable dualistic poles is a limitation, not a merit, I think. Especially since the limits of our language and predictive ability dealing with such a huge set of possible events is likely to generate horrific results. I don't advocate taking things as they come with no planning. Rather, I support flexible planning, tolerance, diversity, respect, compassion, rational debate and dialogue...

Think of my universes again, to make this as clear as I can at the moment. The one has no evil: all of the best of evil (decisiveness, pleasure, etc.) has been subsumed into the good. So does the other. But in the first one all things are the same: perfectly serene and identical. Sounds like a zombie movie, doesn't it? In the second, all things are almost infinitely different: the world is a cornucopia of impossible-to-imagine ideologies, ways of thinking, foods, cultures, institutions, all shifting and muting at will. Which sounds better? And isn't getting to the second worth the sacrifice of some of the important things we want to be able to get to the first?

The Ethics of Revolution

Why is a revolution against the illegitimate structures that control quite a bit of our lives possibly ethical?

I assume that self-defense is ethical for this discussion. Some pacifists do not. I have every possible reserve of respect for the Gandhis, Dellingers, Kings and the movements that they embodied and created them. Nor was their pacifism due to any lacking of radicalism on their part; especially King, who the mainstream has made a secular saint mostly by ignoring the content of what he was saying.

If self-defense is ethical, then the only thing I need to prove is that there is a war going on, that there is violence being inflicted. But I think an honest look at history says this fact more clearly than almost any other thesis.

Simply remember the assassination of Fred Hampton, or the crucifixion of Vietnam, or the slaughter at Wounded Knee, or the mistreatment of the ethno-national enemy at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, or the starvation of millions in a country with a $10 trillion GDP (split among its 300 or so million members evenly, that's $33,333 for every man, woman and child, whether immigrant or homeless or rich), or the usage of Pinkertons against strikers, or every other US imperial action openly acknowledged in the security and declassified literature, or the stagnation of growth and the minimum wage, or the illegal monitoring of organizations opposed to any aspect of the imperial agenda (continuing today with Greenpeace and the ACLU, not exactly radical outfits), or the quashing of Shay's Rebellion in the birth pangs of the new nation, or the slavery of both the black woman as chattel and the white woman as wage slave...

Whether the rich and powerful believe what they do is justified or not isn't relevant. If a man bursts into your house late at night with a knife claiming God told him to kill you, you are justified to defend yourself, potentially with lethal force.

The above even applies to whether they think a class war is even going on. Yet I think a more honest look will reveal that at some level they do know. After all, what else is the rhetoric of "special interests" stemming from the right of corrupt corporations lumped in with blacks, the disabled, unions and workers, immigrants, Latinos, women (in short, the vast majority of the population)? Especially when taking into account that that "special interest" rhetoric, while most of the time including corporations in its list, is espoused by people who advocate deregulation and corporate rule fairly openly, so they in fact represent those special interests (just ostensibly with an eye towards fairness among the corporations, and even that is rarely actually espoused). A few are exceptions, though fairly tepid: McCain, for example, made an honest (yet highly limited) attempt to deal with campaign finance. But the more general system remains beyond his grasp or even attempt to critique; in any respect, the direction of the conservative movement is rapidly making somewhat admirable men like McCain dinosaurs.

Whether overt violence occurs every day is also irrelevant.

A) Starvation and economic weaponry can be a weapon of war; if I lock you into a cold dark room with no food or water, is that not murder? The business community openly makes veiled threats of "business confidence" if their prerogatives are not enshrined and of using their control of the means of production to smash policies they dislike. This is becoming especially true as the neo-liberal regimes do their most vital task: "lock in" even the advanced countries by sovereign treaty and economic fact into the new mold.

B) Many wars continue with on-and-off fighting. Were the Revolutionary or Civil Wars any less bloody because no battles occured on some days?

Would I prefer the revolution to be bloodless? Of course. Just like I would prefer not to even have to be in a fight for my life, let alone have to kill in such a fight. Would I sacrifice some of my own energy, possibly my own life, if doing so would reduce the casualties? Of course. That is a very fair limit on just war. But they will not observe such niceties. Will I call those on the other side "pigs" or similar? No; at least I hope not, and certainly not to dehumanize them and make them monsters that must be destroyed.

Do I believe it is possible to get what I wish through reform alone? No, almost by definition. Notice the despair among liberals that their party turns increasingly right as well as the Republican Party. The implication seems to be that if they would just turn left everything would be fine. But our salvation will not come from the Dems or the Repubs. In fact, the right turn among the Repubs seem to be precisely an attempt to stem revolutionary sentiment by smuggling in as such reactionary policy as possible before being booted and to take the disenfranchisement most folks in this country feel as the society breaks down and subvert the revolution by making it fascist rather than anarchist (for make no mistake, despite every pretense the capitalists and the state choose the former rather than the latter 99% of the time; the myth is that we supported the Spanish Revolution, but in fact that was the Abraham Lincoln brigade, mostly leftist volunteers, international in scope, who were considered subversive by the United States).

But does the revolution have to be violent? Can it be incremental, stemming from reforms? Can we surpass the majority or even all of the fighting by convincing the military and the police that they're just workers in camo and blue suits? I like to think so. And such would be superior not only for obvious ethical reasons, but also because violence has a real risk (though I am not as sanguine as Chomsky) to make an increasingly authoritarian revolution.

The Democrats have never cared about the massive group of folks to their left who would vote for them in a jiffy (as political science study after study has shown) if true progressive values, not even very radical ones, were being proposed. Because to do so would be to hurt their true interests.

And of the cycle of violence? Ah, but I precisely allege that a revolution taken properly could disarm both the potential and the need for more violence. In any respect, self-defense done properly with compassion can be as effective as anything else.

Is all this not in contrast with my outlook as a Buddhist? I humbly remind readers to remember the proud tradition of Buddhist martial arts. In any respect, compassion for human beings does not obviate my responsibility to insure their freedom and prevent their violence. It will alter tactics chosen, rhetoric used, and so on, but I do not feel that I am entirely blocked from participating in a violent revolution. For one of the things I feel that true enlightenment is built upon is freedom. I invite folks to read Bakunin's comments on Rousseau as follows (highlighted for your enjoyment and elucidation) and remember the Buddha's comments about the ego (quote taken from Noam Chomsky's perennial Notes on Anarchism, http://pbahq.smartcampaigns.com/node/222):

"I am a fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow; not the purely formal liberty conceded, measured out and regulated by the State, an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest; not the individualistic, egoistic, shabby, and fictitious liberty extolled by the School of J.-J. Rousseau and other schools of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the would-be rights of all men, represented by the State which limits the rights of each---an idea that leads inevitably to the reduction of the rights of each to zero. No, I mean the only kind of liberty that is worthy of the name, liberty that consists in the full development of all the material, intellectual and moral powers that are latent in each person; liberty that recognizes no restrictions other than those determined by the laws of our own individual nature, which cannot properly be regarded as restrictions since these laws are not imposed by any outside legislator beside or above us, but are immanent and inherent, forming the very basis of our material, intellectual and moral being---they do not limit us but are the real and immediate conditions of our freedom."

Nothing to me indicates the fundamental spiritual and ethical need to revolt more than the above: the development of each human being into their full creative potential. Yes, this cannot be simply accomplished by anarchism, or parecon, or multiculturalism, or feminism, or Buddhism. Each to me is a parcel that will establish each person's proper relationship with the universe in which we live: with other people, with the resources of life, with our comon heritage. Are other parcels out there? Yes; as an upcoming post will discuss, I enshrine diversity not as something to begrudge but something to eagerly seek out and inculcate, the final missing piece in my ideal universe. Violence has been done to that matrix of all things, and if violence must be undone by being done, then I have no compunction against it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Pan-Whiteness and True Ethnic Pride. (No, I'm Not A Nazi. Just Read.)

Please bear with me.

I don't think whites, as whites, generally have much to be proud of in this country. I think all ethnic and racial concepts are social constructions that have virtually no intrinsic/genetic reality and in any respect, even if they did, have far less reality than, say, retardation (so even if blacks were, say, 99% as intelligent as whites on average that would say virtually nothing anyways given all the variables; but in any respect it's totally false). I've spent my time on forums peopled by advocates I very much agree with trying to critique anti-Semitism. I'm not anti-PC: I believe people have the right to be called whatever they wish. I'm pro-affirmative action. I love black radio. Frequent readers should see that give me a choice between a cracker and a brother and I'll pick a brother.

And, as I've said elsewhere:

"We now have a separate question: What should people do if they hear someone saying "gay" or "faggot", for example, even if they don't mean it "that way", either around a gay person who doesn't mind or around no gay person?I think the response is that just good faith isn't going to be fine, for a variety of reasons.

1) Minorities in this society have often learned deep accustomization and acculturation procedures whereby they don't challenge racism/homophobia/sexism even if it may bother them at a very basic level. They may repeatedly profess to be fine with it... largely because they know the consequences of not at least pretending to be "fine" with it. Tim Wise once listened to someone make a racist joke (he and others call it "white bonding", a demonstration that even if the conversation goes to anti-racist waters it's still all just white folks having a good ol' time), then said to the guy "Hey, you know what, I'm black." The guy of course recoiled. He then said, "Just kidding. But now that you know: you must hate white people." "What?!" "Because you think we're not just racists, but the type of racists that like to hear really racist jokes." Obviously one has to approach the subject with respect, ingenuity and tact (like Tim did), but I always feel that the risk for a very superficial challenging of prejudice is there when someone lets someone get away with using that type of language. We have to remember that we do not live in a society that has anything close to equity, which means even our best-minded behavior may not be enough.

2) Again, even assuming good faith, words have a history, a connotation, a psychological baggage beyond the user. Yes, intent is incredibly important, but very few would say it's wise for someone to go up to an aging soccer mom and say "Hey, you're old!", then profess loudly that by "old", one meant "young". People have to be careful and not use the "Oh, I didn't mean it" card to get out of everything. You are responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions, not simply your intent.

3) It's rather easy to profess good faith and a sort of token respect for diversity when it does not impinge upon one's preferred and expected way of living or cause any sort of harm. Sure, I like black people... never mind that I have no black friends and harbor all sorts of obviously ridiculous sentiments. Much different to be seriously anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-genderist, etc. Many times, upon questioning, people making racist jokes are just racist. That's it."

The notion of "white" as a unifying concept, compared to "black", is a fairly new one. Go back even to the 1920s and you see a massive nativist movement, discrimination against Italians ("wops" and "dagos") and Irish ("paddies") that resulted in the death of people like Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, and ludicrously racist statements about the Serbs or Bulgars or whatever Europeans you wanted to pick on. Go back a bit earlier and hatred against Germans and East European immigrants (as well as anti-Japanese and Chinese sentiment) abounded. In fact, in many respects the new nativism is far less dangerous than the old, largely due to the success of anti-racist and multicultural advocates.

At least Hitler recognized that not all whites were the same: he referred to the combined Aryan nation, a tribe of conquering horsemen who were the "master race". This is why he used the reversed swastika, a symbol of the sun god Surya. (The problem? A) Numerous other horse-using races, like the Turks and the Mongols, equally well conquered huge tracts. The Mongol Empire was actually an empire, not a loose collection of tribes in different backwoods areas of Eurasia. Genetics had nothing to do with it; to paraphrase Larry Gonick, it was equine technology. B) Like all conquering tribes, the Aryans subsumed captured tribes into their membership. That's why "Aryans" include both those on the Indian sub-continent and those in Germany.)

Why create the idea of "white", then? To create some sort of racist justification for slavery and mistreatment of blacks and to prevent the poor and weak of all races from banding together. Divide and conquer, baby.

So why do I propose "white pride?" Well, I don't really. I'm not proud of having white skin. In fact, all else being equal, I'd prefer to have Native American, black or Arabic-like skin.

But I am proud of my unique cultural heritage. I am proud that I am descended from French people living under English rule fighting for their national pride (as silly as that national struggle is now that Quebec is one of the two most dominant states in Canada; at some point, you have to realize that you've won). I am proud that my Mom fought for independence. And I know in retrospect that that activist background, that honest recognition, has made me leftist.

I also know that the fact that I knew my Mom was viewed as alien only because she spoke with an accent was a microcosm, a very small insight, into the experiences of blacks in this country, aliens to a society they were born into and know intimately. I knew the real value of respecting diversity and not dreading speaking to someone with an accent but being eagerly interested when doing so.

Further, I think that with an honest look at the unique ethnic heritage we all have, we would get the following benefits:

1) People would realize discrimination in this country is wrong, affected them personally and is as old as Columbus
2) Ridiculous racist garbage about how blacks have smaller cranial cavities or something would seem less appropriate now that people understood there wasn't a "white" race to counteract it
3) The notion of "race" would begin to disappear as people began to realize that the only thing that separates people is culture and that these other notions are laughable social constructions; and that further all these cultures can be embraced
4) Our American culture would stop being so ludicrously homogenized, and our food might stop sucking

As an aside: I've never understood why guys are racist. To deny ever wanting to have sexual experiences with black, Latino, Arab, Indian or Native American women seems to be so counter-productive.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why Care About Valerie Plame?

Those of my segment of the left may ask: Why care if a CIA agent is outed? Isn't this a positive thing?

Make no mistake: The CIA is a horrible institution. And the risks that CIA agents face is almost universally overblown by the media. But it is nonetheless a serious concern, and no person deserves to be put into harm's way in violation of the law.

Karl Rove and the others involved with this leak revealed the identity of Joseph Wilson's wife to silence Wilson and put pressure on other dissidents, plain and simple. When will we stand up to these new McCarthies and say, "Do you finally have no shame?"

Monday, July 18, 2005

Conforming to Non-Conformity? Ugh.

If nobody was jumping off of a bridge, would you do it?

The point of the more common version of that question, substituting "everybody" for "nobody", is that an idea is wise or not wise irrespective of how many other folks are doing it. That applies both ways.

Many high schoolers and other young people, feeling (rightly or wrongly) disenfranchised and forced to behave in particular ways, so they try to break conformity. It seems a natural process: the young try to find their own place and make marked differences with the older generation. I think it especially true in our society, that seems so polarized and divided such that no generation knows much about it successors or predecessors (such as in the Left, when some of the brightest minds of the anarchist movement claim to be doing something totally novel when in fact they're simply borrowing from the worst of the '60s, and then the '30s, and then the...). But that seems ironic, because it is in fact the cliques made by high schoolers (though often supported by the values of the broader society and particularly administrators) that seem to be the worst at generating conformity or ridiculous concern for one's place in the pecking order.

But it will not do, as my friend Kyle does, to say that these people are contradicting themselves by conforming to non-conformity.

Why? These are different usages of the word "conform". The first sense is the notion of tailoring one's behavior, thought, speech, etc. to appeal to a perceived norm. The second sense is the notion of altering one's behavior to any external influence, including a notion that one has internalized for oneself or the facts of the surrounding universe.

Many groups that say they're non-conformist in fact conform to a subculture, but that's neither here nor there for this argument. But it is important, and I believe Kyle's true argument, that in fact many of the subcultures who consider themselves most antagonistic to the existing structures (Goths, hipsters, punks, etc.) often have their own internal rules that are far worse and more restrictive than the rules that affect the broader culture. This is the unfortunate result of a sect attitude. Solidarity becomes transmuted into homogeneity. After all, these oppressed must band together somehow and show that they're the same, correct? With smaller groups that deliberately break off from larger cultures, there seems to be innate pressures (surmountable to be sure) for groupthink, a deeply defensive attitude even to those who have very similar attitudes, elitism, a selective clique, and a charismatic demagogue taking over. And it would be wrong to think this only happens in high school.

This notion of conformity is in fact not a concern that only young people listening to Mars Volta and wearing black lipstick have. It is a concern of every serious libertarian and truth-seeker who wants people to find their own path and wants to hedge against tyrannical domination.

The important insight for me has been: What matters to non-conformity is the process, not the conclusion. There are many times when every rational person, accepting a few premises (say: "I don't want to die. Few people do. So we should try to stop death."), will arrive at a similar conclusion ("Jumping off that bridge, from what I remember about falls and what I consciously understand of gravity and biology, would be a bad idea."). But the key is that they should arrive at it independently.

There is no independent value in something new or not accepted that's any more so than an old thing. One could say a new false thing could open one's mind and expand it, but contemplation more deeply of classics can do the same thing. Novelty, creativity, originality, etc. should be applauded, but it is not a necessary or a sufficient condition to establish a good idea. In some fields, that which is old is typically bland: take art. But even in art, a homage or something that incorporates the best of the old is in fact often superior for it.

Shouldn't Christians Ever Have To Answer for Anything?

I hear this all the time on NPR, even on Ed Gordon's wonderful News and Notes: The idea that Muslim communities have some 'splainin to do every time one of "their members" bombs something.

When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City building, there was no racial profiling of white guys nor was there any call on white people to explain themselves and say "He's just a 'bad white.'" It was taken for granted that Tim could be an individual just like the rest of us.

But when it's another community, Muslims have to explain what "they're" doing. No, "they" aren't doing anything: some people who loosely identify themselves similarly in religious and ethnic terms are doing things. Individuals just like anyone else.

Given the support among fundamentalist rightist conservatives for bombing innocent people abroad and prosecuting terror upon them, why isn't any Christian forced to stand up and say "Most of us are peace-loving people?"

My Position on the Military; "They Died So You Can Be Free"

Let me first rebut the ridiculous argument put forward by folks like Father Denis O'Brian (http://www.scrapbook.com/quotes/doc/2448/27.html) that, essentially, the military has given us all of our freedoms.

Only three wars I'm aware of in US history could possibly fit this rubric. The Revolutionary War established the nation as it is and thus can't be used to argue that the American military has been a bulwark of freedom; in any respect, that was 230 or so years ago, and the war established one half of one branch of government as democratic as well as insured slavery and denied the franchise to women. Only the pressure of the people got the Amendments (called that because the original Constitution did not have them) added in. The Revolutionary War also had a lot of populist militia support, not regular military, and most leftists would eagerly support a war against monarchy (including the monarchs and dictators the US supports).

The Civil War, of course, was initially fought to preserve the Union. All sorts of things went into the calculations for the war: the intractable economic conflict between the North and South (the Northern capitalist manufacturers versus the Southern slave agrarians; the tariffs the North wanted and the South didn't), divergent culture, etc. In any respect, the Civil War did free the slaves... to almost immediate re-enslavement and poverty, even during the Reconstruction. Not to mention that the war in essence established the prominence of capitalism, not something that one should support immediately.

World War II is the most complex. On the surface, it appears a most just war. But remember the US support for fascists both before and after the war. Then remember a variety of events: the US failure to block the Holocaust (not to mention Zionist complicity with it); Dresden; Hamburg; Hiroshima; Nagasaki... Also note that the US only got into the war after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor (not a US state, mind you, but a colonial asset) and the Germans declared war on the US. Roosevelt wanted to get involved earlier, but it's hardly tenable that that was a decision made to expand freedom. And if the US hadn't fought the Fascists, would they have launched an invasion of the US and thus broached American civil liberties when they took control? Arguably. I don't see how.

Meanwhile, immediately after the war, the army was used to smash freedom by breaking Shay's Rebellion. And throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, it supported slavery, committed practical genocide upon the remaining Native Americans, and invaded all the countries I listed in http://arekexcelsior2.blogspot.com/2005/07/why-cut-military-spending.html . Let's just pick three wars at random: Vietnam, World War I, and the contras in Nicaragua.

Before someone says "What about the Cold War?", remember these facts: The Soviet Union expanded almost exclusively to get a shield of satellite states; a documentary record in later years has shown that, for example, Germany could have been unified if the US hadn't wanted West Germany in NATO; China has almost never been expansionist (they interfered in Korea, but that was in their backyard, they knew that Korea falling to the capitalist could lead to their subsequent invasion, and they had as much right as the "UN" - read: US - forces to be there) and the majority of conflict during the Cold War had little to nothing to do with any Communist power.

The US military is the enemy of freedom, not its guardian.

But what does that say about the people in it? And is it primarily the internal structure of the military or other organizations' influence, such as corporations, Congress and the Presidency?

Part of me wants to say "take it up with management". After all, that's what we'd do if we were critiquing, say, Wal-Mart. The dude behind the counter isn't going to be involved in the major decision-making process of the institution. He just works there (and I assume "he" because this is the military). So even if the soldiers on the ground and lower officers were ideologically problematic, they wouldn't be a problem if the chain of command wasn't fundamentally rotten to the top. Further, as a practical matter, these soldiers are usually poor people turning to the military because our economy doesn't provide free education and just wages.

However, I can see that soldiers vote Republican and often harbor racist, sexist, homophobic views; further, while they may think they're serving their country, a la the safe Michael Moore liberalist view, they are in fact denigrating whatever good name it had. And notice the haste with which many ordinary soldiers utilized ridiculous degrees of torture: yes, allowed by those at top; no, not necessarily forced.

The military as a bureaucracy will naturally gravitate towards war more quickly than a civilian organization, just by basic bureaucratic theory. The military have seemed to be willing friends of graft and waste benefitting corporations

Then again, military reports seem very nuanced, contrasted with the unsophisticated rhetoric of the chickenhawks. One trying to understand modern security issues could do worse than to read military collegiate essays.

Good personal friends of mine are or were in the military. One of them who quit told horror stories of people yelling "Grind the heels! Crush the skulls!" and the monstrosity of boot camp. All of the soldiers I've met have been good, tolerant people, very willing to speak about their experience and with a nuanced view with very many liberal or even leftist aspects.

After all, the dominant story that seeps in of the military's freedom-causing-influences must have some positive effect, even if it is simply propaganda.

My experience has been that very often the military is forced to buy weapons by Congressmen beholden to particular arms corporations and "their constituency" (in an incredibly narrow way, of course). It seems that the patriarchal and racist influences come into the military more than they come out: that is, that people in the military are sexist and racist because of the military's structure, not that the military's structure causes much racism and sexism in the broader culture. I am personally of the attitude, with the caveats I've made (and others), that those in the military are victims about as much as they are victimizers.

I support raising military salaries and benefits... as well as salaries for the rest of society, so there's no incentive to join the military besides "serving one's country".

I support not forcing some soldiers to appeal to the prejudices of others. The "group cohesion" argument is not only a justification for continued homophobia but is stupid anyways, as now no one thinks about "group cohesion" being a problem when blacks are in the military (even though such arguments were raised during desegregation) and Sparta (one of the most fearsome military powers of all time) used gay relations to INCREASE group cohesion.

I support not forcing those men and women, courageous and deluded as they often are, to die.

More Resources:


Four Forces of Society

Michael Albert has alleged that there are four fundamental force fields in society: economics, politics, gender/kinship relations and culture/race relations. http://blog.zmag.org/index.php/weblog/entry/reply_to_review_of_thought_dreams/ . I've adopted this notion for my particular advocacy of tactics.

The first thing to note is that each taken most broadly is everything in the society, and advocates of the centrality of each use this fact to get away with privileging their outlook. My Dad made this error when talking to me about parecon, saying that a corporation is just a political institution because it makes decisions. So everything, even culture, economics, and gender, is just people making decisions. Everything is just production, consumption, allocation, distribution, and the prerequisites for it. Everything is just relations between men and women. Everything is behavior and culture.

But each notion, while it can encapsulate everything in the society, can only do so by losing a degree of accuracy directly proportional to how it impinges upon other concepts.

One of these forcefields may be dominant over another in a particular society, but there's no reason to pre-privilege any before looking at the society. Just by simple proportion, culture and gender may be far more important than politics and economics and impact politics and economics because each actor is more important and thus their personal life and quirks, altered by gender and culture, will have more of an effect. The polity seems to be getting weaker compared to the economy in modern society. And so on.

Bookchin seems to make this mistake in Post-Scarcity Anarchism when he alleges that all the traditional classes of hierarchical society are breaking down.

So what are some examples of what I'm talking about?

Americans eat a ton at breakfast and dinner - may that be because of our inability to take time off of work, unlike the French, who prefer large lunches? So this is the economy influencing the culture. Or is it? It seems that Italians prefer dinner even though they have similar work norms as the rest of Europe. (I may be wrong here - any one have a different perspective?). So it seems that in fact the culture is affecting the way work breaks are taken.

According to Homer, the siege of Troy was caused by the ego of a few men: Menelaus' anger at having his wife kidnapped, Paris' lust and vanity, and Achilles' tantrums over a slave girl. But in reality it probably was geopolitical interests, as the movie Troy argues - notice how the war continues even after Menelaus' death. So was it gender determining politics or just politics using gender as an excuse? (A war continued far after every stated reason for it has disappeared or been proven false? No! A quick aside: The Egyptians say that they captured Paris and held Helen in Egypt until they could find her rightful husband... all the time that the Greeks were parked outside of Troy.)

Tribal societies very much value their elderly. They are viewed as valued sages who can help with childbirth, farming, etc., with their experience. We treat our elderly in a far worse manner, and people dread growing old rather than being revered for their age. This seems at first to be culture. But is it? After all, the experience that the elderly has is impacted both in value and composition by the economy. If I'm in a tribe, I've probably done everything the tribe needs in my life: therefore, as an old man, I'm experienced. In a capitalist society, the advancement of industries as well as the specialization of labor seems to take away some of the value. Further, in technologically advanced societies, scientists replace old sages and experts as sources of technical information.

The Protestant Revolution at first seems to be a response to the corruption of the Catholic Church. But look again. In fact, for a good several hundred years, the Catholics let priests marry. It was a political choice to force them to have no wife/children and thus be beholden only to Rome. Luther's Theses may have been his ethical statement, but very quickly the German princes (and the English) leapt upon Protestantism to elevate the state over the church and thus fight off the Catholic limitations on power (such as the limits on inter-noble fighting that the Catholics managed to create).

The Italians seem to be such a laidback culture that fascism would hardly appeal to them. Did that make them vulnerable to a demagogue, or was it simply the inexorable progress of capitalism? Their resistance was incredibly courageous (and hardly known here, compared to the relatively tepid French resistance). What does that say?

Women have been made the inferiors of men for millenia. Yet patriarchy seems to change quite a bit. Chinese characters tend to be gender neutral, even though China crippled young women by binding their feet for centuries. In America, women were told they couldn't work even though the economy could have benefitted from them. Or could it have? There may not have been enough productivity to hire women as it was. But then why not hire an equal, though smaller, number of men and women?

Upper-class feminists seemed to have particular strategic notions; indeed, most early feminists were very successful or well-off women. Economics influencing gender? But then those feminists in turn changed the economy by increasing the work supply; one reason the 70s stagflation occured was because of a larger, more-women-centric workforce. Gender influencing economics? Fair enough, but as Bell Hook and others have noted, this upper-class feminism continued to harm or at least not represent those at the intersections of oppression (black women, say). Further, as women went into the workplace, suddenly the economic demands of the post-70s period made most of them into Supermoms handling a full-time job and all the domestic duties. Economics influencing gender?

The norm for beauty used to be Rubinesque women. Might this have been a cultural thing? Or was it the fact that a fat woman in those periods would have power and wealth and thus was attractive? And why is thinness the norm now? Is it because everyone can get fat but not everyone can get skinny?

Elites often foment racism to divide the working class or other victims of their system, but then they in turn become infected by their own ideology, it often seems.

I think this sketch should drive home the point Albert is making: Each one of these spheres of influence (and, in the case of badly designed spheres, tyranny and injustice) operate differently, interrelate and interact, and each needs a theoretical corpus that can handle both the task of understanding the field independently and understanding the interrelations.


Commercials suck. I don't think I need to tell anyone this fact.

When I'm waiting for the climax of my favorite shows on Adult Swim or the judging in Iron Chef America, the last thing I want to do is sit there and get peddled loan services and Tupperware.

An apologist for capitalism would say that advertising is an attempt to get information of good products out to the consumer. So tell me: Does any of the following sound like that?

*Sexy women implying that getting a beer belly gets one chicks
*Endorsements by sports stars and Snoop Dogg
*Bad comedy
*The "water is wet" approach: AOL trying to claim that they're great because they have a spam filter, when everyone has a spam filter; vegetable oils claiming that they have no cholesterol, when it's flatly impossible for vegetable oil to have cholesterol unless it's artifically added in
*The "psuedo-democracy" approach: You can vote for your favorite gum type! (Never mind you won't get to try the three gums).
*The "We got sued and we want to look good" commercial: Philip-Morris pretending to care about people smoking their product
*The outright lie: The implication in Splenda commercials that Splenda is a safe sweetener, when in fact it's only slightly less dangerous than other artifical sweeteners (http://www.mercola.com/2003/nov/8/splenda_dangers.htm, http://www.wnho.net/splenda_reaction.htm, http://www.foodanddiet.com/NewFiles/splenda.html, http://www.holisticmed.com/splenda/ ) according to most independent scientists

Notice that all of the above say nothing about the product, and many actively deny rational choice by offering false or misleading information.

And what about selecting between two products? Do commercials tell you the relative values of products? No, they only tell you one side of the story.

Actually, they usually tell you a lie even on their side of the issue. Studies have shown that knock-off cereals, usually identical in blind taste tests and from the same manufacturers, taste worse compared to the brand dominant cereal when the brand name is revealed. There is an unexpected psychic impact to saturation of advertising.

Then again, advertising can be problematic as well. I know that when I watch certain esoteric commercials I don't remember anything about the product or even its name, just the commercial. (Might it be subconscious imprinting? Maybe.)

This points up a major problem of capitalism: there's no qualitative information that tells regulators or producers why they bought product X over product Y or over no product at all. If someone bought cereal because their children were being pressured by endless repetition of commercials, a producer wouldn't know...or care.

It's not just that commercials are annoying distractions from our favorite pop jingles or cop dramas. It's not just that the constraints that such commercials put on TV harshly truncate the quality of American news coverage. It's not even that the advertising is a blatant attempt to force consumption of goods that people don't really need or want and allow inferior goods to rise above superior ones thanks to market inundation.

It's that every dollar spent on commercials, every social scientist working to analyze the results of focus groups and surveys, every writer and creative mind put to work creating catchy slogans and themes, in short all of the effort and creativity, is an utter and complete waste, a waste that is wholly required by the system.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I Feel Awful.

I've missed probably two episodes of the second season of Iron Chef America. I hope some Reverend (besides myself) can forgive me for this heinous transgression.

I caught the rerun of Pizza Dough battle. Seeing Mario Batali's massive arms haymaker a pile of dough is a spiritual experience for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Conspiracy Theories

I hate conspiracy theorists.

Now, bear in mind, this is coming from one of the few in this country most amenable to conspiracy theories. Give me a good motive and a good story and I'll support it in a heartbeat. But notions like "The US has been replaced by a corporation called The United States!" or "The Kennedy Assassination was planned by the Illuminati!" are typically so eminently silly that I'm rightly skeptical.

Why the skepticism of things I'm so well-aligned with? (Interested folks can ask me to make a 9/11 conspiracy theory blogpost, if anyone wishes). Because I want to be rational. I want to convince people with true facts and say things I can support.

When one advocates a conspiracy, the following symptoms show:

1) Denial becomes more proof. If you accuse someone of corruption and they deny it, well, of course they'd deny it! What more proof do you want now?! Of course, the idea that one shouldn't believe anything until it's officially denied is a good one, but you can't take it too far.
2) The facts become cooked around the theory. Michael Schiavo's testimony is inconsistent?! Murderer! This happens all over the place, unfortunately, not just with conspiracy theorists.

How does this happen? Information is taken out of context and not qualified, then used to make linkages that the evidence simply doesn't support; responses are ridiculed and evidence that on-point answers the argument isn't sought out and rebutted; etc.

3) The conspiracy theorist embarks on a crusade to the exclusion of other things. PC93/Teknosis has been focusing on Terry Schiavo like nothing else. Of course, the conclusions he's reached of bureaucratic ineptitude and cruelty and an attitude of scorn for innocents from the government are right, and he's now not a mindless Dem. But while he focused on a white privileged woman's fate, hundreds of thousands died all over the place.
4) The theory implies that all we need to do is stop this conspiracy, whatever it is. The irony is that such analysis diverts attention from a real supple critique of institutions. So a 9/11 conspiracy theory ignores the long-standing US terror inflicted abroad and that the US actions after 9/11 were wrong even if their diagnosis of the problem was right. In fact, someone could easily argue that we should bomb Afghanistan for other reasons (bin Laden did other bad shit, remember) and take our own leaders to justice. The second part's good, the first part isn't.
5) The lack of a motive or conceivable method proves that they're just that good. If I can't see anything the Mob had to gain from capping Kennedy, either I'm covering for them or they're just even better than we thought.

This happens re: terrorism too: The terrorist can miraculously predict every action we make. Well, no, sorry, people have limits. Most horrifying conspiracy theory targets, like the UN, are pretty inept institutions full of bureaucracy. They couldn't threaten anyone.

Okay, the Illuminati exist. Fine. Take away the state and the economy that gives them power. Easy enough. So I can propose what I do everywhere else and get the same results... so why does this matter, from a utiltiarian perspective? What new insight do we get?

So here's a great example: http://www.the7thfire.com/Politics%20and%20History/TheRealMatrix.htm

This may seem impeccably cited for you, but look again. Notice the lack of some of the following:

-Qualifying statements (somewhat, ostensibly, "he believed this but that was just self-delusion", supposedly, etc.) When these are missing, it indicates someone isn't making comparative arguments, isn't giving things values vis-a-vis each other. Which one of these 33 points is the most vital? Which is less important?
-Any sources aside from primary sources. I definitely don't think one has to be a Ph. D to make sophisticated political arguments, but it helps if one can cite, say, Constitutional professors who've spent their lives on the topic. I don't see it here.
-"Even if" statements. Yes, convincing someone of a radically new notion of the world that denies their entire history book is hard just because of the plausibility problem, but there's a way around that. Each point you make should have as many different supporting logics, arguments, and statements not contingent to each other. I frequently make reference to the dominant myth and say "Assume it's true. Now look at it again critically. Even if it is true, they're still trying to feed you bullshit with their prescriptive and value components." This set of arguments wants you to take everything at face value or at best to do some research on your own. But if I only see one argument for your position and many against...? What "even if" statements tell the reader is, "I can see that, as skeptics, you're undermining your work in my head as you read. Great. So let me show you the multiple levels of argument, each independent, that establish my point."
-All of these are court cases. Please tell me how the fuck a court case, a US court case, establishes that the US does not exist as a nation or that the UN issues Social Security checks. Even if a court case established that (how many of these are Supreme Court cases, I wonder?) and this isn't ludicrously taken out of context, the Supreme Court doesn't have that jurisdiction.

Run yourself a plausibility check. Does any of this make sense? Well, for one, for something to be a corporation, there typically has to be shareholders. So who are they?

If the UN runs the world, how has the US managed to violate the ICJ and ignore the UN for decades? How did it manage to bomb Iraq and the whole list of targets I list here (http://arekexcelsior2.blogspot.com/2005/07/why-cut-military-spending.html)? In fact, at first practically run the UN? Why all the war between nations? If there was a world government, wouldn't such crude instruments of statecraft be unnecessary?

I assume all of you have heard of the "black helicopters" formulation regarding the UN, the general right-wing conspiracy nuts who say we live under a world government and the Fed is ruled by a snake god. Now, the right in Congress, which has done everything in its power to discredit the UN, would benefit like none other if they could say "Look, the UN controls us." To a rational person, the fact that they don't say this indicates most likely that the evidence for this is laughable at best and saying it out loud would lead to one being lampooned and ridiculed. To a conspiracy theorist, the same fact indicates that either they're part of the conspiracy or cowed by its awesome might. Huh. (Bear in mind, this could be true, and I say somewhat similar arguments, say, regarding the media, but my analysis stems directly from uncontroversial facts about the foundational structure of the institutions and simply makes the obvious conclusion then supports it with evidence, not says "Everything you know is wrong. The government is not what you think it is.")

Of course, the insiduous part of conspiracy theories is that the less obvious it is, the more devious the conspirators must be! Sorry, that just doesn't follow.

This e-mail appears all over the 'Net and has been rebutted by others: http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/GrossErrors.html . I'm just adding supplementary material. I also notice that it keeps switching, subtracting and adding points, without any authorship or notes as to who wrote which part. In short: Garbage.

"If this sounds too preposterous for you, check it out. This is just a summary. The evidence is available. Only when you are ready to wake up will yousee what has been obvious for a long time."

This is immediately when the Bullshit Detector should begin ringing. This is just a summary? Okay, so I imagine you're putting your best evidence forward, right? So if I rebut it, I should be somewhat towards rebutting your position?

The problem then becomes that the conspiracy theorist inevitably says that you're missing something or that this last bit of evidence will be the straw that broke the camel's back that convinces you. So why the hell weren't they including this in the first place?

"Then you can begin to understand WHO your are incontrast to what you are. But most people are content to not look. One could describe them ascows in the pasture with no interest in anything other than the next mouthful of grass or asweet bale of hay with oats as a side dish."

This is another staple: Everyone else who doesn't agree with the theorist are cows. This may or may not apply to interlocutors: Sometimes conspiracy theorists are respectful enough to simply say "Well, you clearly have your credentials and facts straight, so even though I think you're somewhat misguided I think you're my ally." Most of the time, you'll hear either that you have a sick agenda and are covering up for the conspiracy (not joking: "Until you acknowledge the reality of that you are just covering for someone who got away with murder because of whatever sick agenda you have." from http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2005/06/terri_schiavo_c.html, under the Comments, when someone was simply disagreeing with him; and the Teknosis blog typically has better standards than this) or are deluded and a cow. It makes an opponent of one's theory definitionally irrational or stupid.

"And that's OK. I like cows, too. However, from our level of awareness, I would NOT wish to change places."

Nor would most on the Left who would agree fervently for revolutionary action against what we've got.

"Let me know if you find additional information and references, and, if you find any errors, please let me know. Truth as we know it is a provisional phenomenon."

I'm glad he recognizes this. Needless to say, what is coming up is quite a bit of me correcting errors that I perceive.


"1.) The IRS is not a U.S. government agency. It is an agency of the IMF. (Diversified Metal Products v. IRS et al. CV-93-405E-EJE U.S.D.C.D.I., Public Law 94-564, Senate Report 94-1148 pg.5967, Reorganization Plan No. 26, Public Law 102-391.)"

That's funny, because the IRS does nothing like the IMF does. "The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the United States government agency that collects taxes and enforces the tax laws. It is a part of the Department of the Treasury." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS

In contrast: "The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the international organization entrusted with overseeing the global financial system by monitoring foreign exchange rates and balance of payments, as well as offering technical and financial assistance when asked."

Notice how the IMF/World Bank in fact offers LOANS, something that the IRS doesn't: http://www.therearguard.pdx.edu/issues/vol6_iss5_feb04/The%20Globalization%20of%20Pove.htm . Far be it from me to defend the IRS and IMF, mind you, but they're simply not the goddamn same.

Also remember that the IMF used to be drastically different from what it is now: it was a Keynesian institution in line with Bretton Woods to control speculative capital. It's now used for things like the bailout of Goldman and Sachs when the peso collapsed.

There's a symptom on the Left where the IMF, World Bank, G-8, etc. are all used interchangeably. Sorry, they're not the same, though they form part of the instrument of rule.

Now, in fact the DoJ supposedly claimed that the IRS was not a government agency liable to suits, but the DoJ makes all sorts of erroneous claims. The case, according to the decision of the court, concerned a fradulent company that the IRS was investigating.

Notice the side effects of many of these arguments: To increase corporate rule by denying the public policies that keep them in check on the premise that those policies increase corporate rule. Huh. Why are the elites opposing Soc Sec so stringently, say, if it's associated with the IMF?

Here's the end text of the case:

"IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 34), filed April 30, 1996, should be, and is hereby, GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the funds currently [*19] held in the Court's registry shall be paid to the United States, pursuant to a proposed judgment consistent with this decision. The Court directs the United States to prepare and submit for the Court's approval such proposed judgment.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the trial, currently set for July 23, 1996, is hereby VACATED."

Where the hell does that say that the IRS isn't a government institution? Further, how is it congruent that the IRS not being suable makes it not a government institution?

These people reference a case called Blackmar v. Guerre, but that won't do either. Here's the summary (as they linked it to me):

"A federal district court in Louisiana was held, in an opinion by Minton, J., in which seven justices concurred, to be without jurisdiction of an action by a discharged employee of the regional office of the Veterans Administration in Louisiana against the Civil Service Commission and the regional manager of the Veterans Administration, to obtain reinstatement. The ground of decision was that the Civil Service Commission is not a suable entity and that its members were never served and could not be served within the territorial jurisdiction of the court."

Back to the fray.


"2.) The IMF is an agency of the UN. (Blacks Law Dictionary 6th Ed. Pg. 816)"

That's funny, because the IMF doesn't represent the whole UN: from the Wikipedia article above, "The IMF describes itself as: "an organization of 184 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty". Of all UN member states only North Korea, Cuba, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, Tuvalu and Nauru are either integrated and represented by other member states or choose not to participate." Yes, Bretton Woods was UN sponsored; no, this does not make it a UN orgnaization. The UN tells you when it's a UN organization by the prefix "UN": UNICEF, UNHCD, UNSCOM, etc.

Of course, if it was a UN organization... so what? Only if you buy some of the other points does it matter.

I can't find Black's Law online - strikes me that if these guys want to convince others, they should include online source material in their online document. However, a law dictionary doesn't establish government policy. Duh.


3.) The U.S. has not had a treasury since 1921. (41 Stat. Ch.214 pg. 654)

That's answered at http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/GrossErrors.html

"4.) The U.S. Treasury is now the IMF. (Presidential Documents Volume 29-No.4 pg. 113, 22U.S.C. 285-288) "

Again: http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/GrossErrors.html

"5.) The United States does not have any employees because there is no longer a United States.No more reorganization. After over 200 years of operating under bankruptcy it's finally over.(Executive Order 12803) Do not personate one of the creditors or shareholders or you will go toPrison. 18 U.S.C.914"

Personate isn't a word. (I'm not quibbling: Poor word choice, grammar, spelling, etc. can be a tipoff that the person isn't respecting the time you put into reading their arguments.)

12803 is about infrastructure privatization. It probably says the exact opposite. Oh, but maybe there's been a coverup! Fine, have copies of the originals? If not, you don't have corroboration.

"6.) The FCC, CIA, FBI, NASA and all of the other alphabet gangs were never part of the UnitedStates government. Even though the "US Government" held shares of stock in the various agencies.(U.S. V. Strang , 254 US 491, Lewis v. US, 680 F.2d, 1239)"

Rebutted at Gross Errors.

"7.) The UN through the IMF issues Social Security Numbers. The application for a SocialSecurity Number is the SS5 form. The Department of the Treasury (IMF) issues the SS5 not theSocial Security Administration. The new SS5 forms do not state who or what publishes them, the earlier SS5 forms state that they are Department of the Treasury forms. You can get a copy of the SS5 you filled out by sending form SSA-L996 to the SS Administration. (20 CFR chapter 111,subpart B 422.103 (b) (2) (2) Read the cites above)"

Mostly rebutted above.

"8.) There are no Judicial courts in America and there has not been since 1789. Judges do not enforce Statutes and Codes. Executive Administrators enforce Statutes and Codes. (FRC v. GE 281US 464, Keller v. PE 261 US 428, 1 Stat. 138-178)
9.) There have not been any judges in America since 1789. There have just beenAdministrators. (FRC v. GE 281 US 464, Keller v. PE 261 US 428 1 Stat. 138-178)"

Rebutted at Gross Errors.

Oh, so I suppose Brown v. Board, Marbury v. Madison, Miranda v. Arizona, Roe v. Wade never happened? All of those controversies over the Warren Court were really about administrators?

Or is this a tendentious argument saying "In my opinion, our..." Okay, so where's the experienced law professor who can back this up with QUALITATIVE data?

" 10.) According to the GATT you must have a Social Security number. House Report (103-826)"

The Uruguay Rounds, which is what 103-826 talk about, do not mandate a freaking Social Security number. They do do a number of other terrible things: Extend intellectual copyright far beyond what any industrialized nation belabored under (allowing companies to patent products not just processes for products; for example, entire drugs so that this beautiful thing all the capitalists rave about, "competition", can't ever happen), etc.

"11.) We have One World Government, One World Law and a One World Monetary System. 12.) The UN is a One World Super Government."

Thanks to the US, the UN can't keep its fly zipped up on its own. Kofi Annan world ruler? What the hell?

Of course, maybe the US collaborates with the UN. Okay, if I can then prove that they've stopped, then the UN lost its guns from the US and isn't the world government anymore. Huh.

13.) "No one on this planet has ever been free!!"

All throughout history? The million years of human history including pre-recorded history, so you have no idea what you're talking about?

Notice how this is NOT simply a factual argument. It includes notions about what freedom is as well. I think that people have always been free to choose how they think, for example. I don't think freedom is completely eradicatable. It can be sharply constrained in terms of possible options, of course, but the point I want to highlight is that here the author is stepping into matters of philosophy without noticing it.

"This planet is a slave colony. There hasalways been One World Government. It is just that now it is much better organized and haschanged its name as of 1945 to the United Nations."

A tendentious statement that would require a whole book to establish, at least. Come on.

Notice how this is EXACTLY when you'd want an "Even if" statement. Perhaps a statement like, "It's my contention that there has been a world government even during the era of Mesopotamia where civilization as we know it just began, but even if that's not the case, it certainly has been since at least 1945." (Sorry for including a little jab in there.)

14.) New York City is defined in the Federal Regulations as the United Nations. Rudolph Gulliani stated on C-Span that "New York City was the capital of the World" and he was correct.It was not just a smile on his face, it was a "knowing" smile. (20 CFR chapter 111, subpart B422.103 (b) (2) (2)"

This is where a sane person should stop reading. Notice that they don't cite when this happened on C-SPAN, and this is their interpretation of one Mayor's facial expressions.

15.) "Social Security is not insurance or a contract, nor is there a trust fund. (Helvering v.Davis 301 US 619, Steward Co. V. Davis 301 US 548.)"

Never mind Paul Krugman, David Peterson, Noam Chomsky, the CATO Institute, and the whole of the mainstream media. Two court cases suffice to prove all this wrong? Or are they all part of the coverup?

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=301&invol=619 is the case. Ctrl-F if you want, the words "insurance", "contract" or "trust fund" don't appear.

The case mostly deals with Tenth Amendment challenges to the Social Security Act and says nothing I can see about the SSA's definition aside from what is contained in the Act.

"16.) Your Social Security check comes directly from the IMF, which is an agency of the UN.(Look at it if you receive one. It should have written on the top left United States Treasury.)"


Indeed it does. This isn't even true, mind you, if the US Treasury is a part of the IMF, because that would still be not "directly from the IMF".

17.) You own no property, slaves can't own property. Read the Deed to the property that you think is yours. You are listed as a tenant. (Senate Document 43, 73rd Congress 1st Session)"

Oh no! People don't own the private means of production?! See #26.

" 18.) The most powerful court in America is not the United States Supreme Court but the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. (42 Pa.C.S.A. 502)"

Actually, this decision discusses the mechanism for appeals and trial courts: http://www.rcfp.org/cgi-local/privilege/item.cgi?i=p&st=PA&sec=8B1&t=short

Says who? A court case? How is that within a court's jurisdiction? An Act of Congress? Some quotes would be fantastic.

"19.) The Revolutionary War was a fraud. See (22, 23 and 24)"

Okay, I will.

" 20.) The King of England financially backed both sides of the Revolutionary war. (Treaty atVersailles July 16, 1782, Treaty of Peace 8 Stat 80)"

Not only is this blatantly false but ludicrously irrelevant. The US supported both sides of the Iraq/Iran war: does this mean that the Iraq/Iran war never happened?


"21.) You can not use the Constitution to defend yourself because you are not a party to it.(Padelford Fay & Co. v. The Mayor and Alderman of The City of Savannah 14 Georgia 438, 520)"

How would this one decision possibly establish this fact?

"22.) America is a British Colony. (THE UNITED STATES IS A CORPORATION, NOT A LAND MASS AND ITE XISTED BEFORE THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR AND THE BRITISH TROOPS DID NOT LEAVE UNTIL 1796.) Respublica v. Sweers 1 Dallas 43, Treaty of Commerce 8 Stat 116, The Society for Propagating theGospel, &c. V. New Haven 8 Wheat 464, Treaty of Peace 8 Stat 80, IRS Publication 6209, Articlesof Association October 20, 1774.) 23.) We are slaves and own absolutely nothing not even what we think are our children.Tillman v. Roberts 108 So. 62, Van Koten v. Van Koten 154 N.E. 146, Senate Document 43 & 73rdCongress 1st Session, Wynehammer v. People 13 N.Y. REP 378, 481) \b0\par\b 24.) Military Dictator George Washington divided the States (Estates) into Districts.(Messages and papers of the Presidents Vo 1, pg 99. Websters 1828 dictionary for definition ofEstate.)\b0\par\b 25.) " The People" does not include you and me. (Barron v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore.32 U.S. 243)"

Information available here: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28jc00137%29%29:

Yet more rebuttal: http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/GrossErrors.html and http://home.hiwaay.net/%7Ebecraft/WeAintBrits.htm

How would Messages of the President establish that the states, clearly laid out in the Constitution (the Tenth Amendment, morons) are in fact "estates"? And who owns these estates? What are the names? Who are the shareholders in the U.S. Corporation?

Mind you, Jefferson, Dewey, etc. had recognized that corporations would make American democracy a sham, but this isn't quite the same argument.

"26.) The United States Government was not founded upon Christianity. (Treaty of Tripoli 8Stat 154.)..."

Oh no! The US isn't a theology?! What a problem!

This is what I mean under http://arekexcelsior2.blogspot.com/2005/07/intellectual-self-defense-or-honing.html when I say "Frequently, someone who is trying to pull a fast one will fail to distinguish between their factual analysis and their conclusions." This says a factual argument (referring to the frigging Treaty of Tripoli, which would have NOTHING to do with the intent of all the Framers, only Jefferson at best) and then implies a value conclusion. Well, frankly, all the references to In God We Trust aside, I agree. This is not a theology. So let's stop making it one.

Answered at http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/GrossErrors.html as well.

"27.) It is not the duty of the police to protect you !. Their job is to protect theCorporation and arrest code breakers. Sapp v. Tallahassee, 348 So. 2nd. 363, Reiff v. City ofPhiladelphia, 477 F.Supp. 1262, Lynch v. N.C. Dept of Justice 376 S.E. 2nd. 247. \b0\par\b 28.) Everything in the "United States" is For Sale: roads, bridges, schools, hospitals,water, prisons airports etc. I wonder who bought Klamath Lake? Did anyone take the time tocheck? (Executive Order 12803) 29.) We are Human capital. (Executive Order 13037) \b0\par\b 30.) The UN has financed the operations of the United States government for over 50 years andnow owns every man, women and child in America. The UN also holds all of the Land in America inFee Simple. 31.) The good news is we don't have to fulfill "our" fictitious obligations. You can discharge a line fictitious obligation with another's fictitious obligation. \b0\par\b 32.) The depression and World War II were a total farce. The United States and various othercompanies were making loans to others all over the World during the Depression. The building ofGermany's infrastructure in the 1930's including the Railroads was financed by the UnitedStates. That way those who call themselves "Kings," "Prime Ministers," and "Fuhrers" etc. could sit back and play a game of chess using real people. Think of all of the Americans, Germans etc.who gave their lives thinking they were defending their Countries, which didn't even exist."

I do agree that the construction of the nation-state groups together the elites and the common man in a way that can never be more than an illusion. So did Marx. This isn't new. And yes, they do play chess games with human lives. But those nations do technically exist, unfortunately.

The real tragedy is that this garbage could be averted with just the barest Left history.

If people really want to, I can go through each and rebut this, but by now any notion that this could be at all close to accurate should be gone.

"The millions of innocent people who died for nothing. Isn't it obvious why Switzerland is never involved in these fiascoes? That is where the "Bank of line International Settlements" islocated. Wars are manufactured to keep your eye off the ball and to limit population."

Or because of honest geopolitical disturbance and war-waging.

Switzerland runs the world? Right. "Switzerland's industry always depended to an extraordinary extent on exporting machinery, watches, chemicals and pharmaceutics. The high population density, hard conditions for agriculture especially in the alpine region and a scarcity on raw materials are responsible for a notorious deficit in food production and a notorious trade deficit. During the 20th century tourism, transport services and financial services (banking and insurance) had to provide for a favourable balance of payments. During World War II imports fell from 30 % of the net national product (average value at the end of the 1920's and again during the 1950's) to 9 %, exports from 25% to 9% and tourism to almost zero. (Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland - World War II, final report, p. 55-58) " http://history-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch/switzerland-second-world-war-ii.html

The article above also explaisn why in WWII they managed to avoid the Nazi's wrath.

Why has Europe stayed so insulated from conflict? And America? Except the death they export? These are the questions a serious critic of government should ask.

"You have to have an enemy to keep the illusion of Government" in place."

Very true. In fact, as Street points out in a new blog, http://blog.zmag.org/index.php/weblog/entry/terror_attacks_are_a_price_of_empire_bush_and_blair_are_willing_for_us_to_p/ ,
just like the Cold War, the current conflict is between two individual and institutions who have everything to gain from the continued power of other: Bush and Osama need each other's violence to stay in power.

"The "United States" did not declare Independence from Great Britain or King George. And as a result we have our own King George III. But just like King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta or lose his head, so will our predacious king. "What you see with your eyes shut is what counts." --Lame Deer, LAKOTA. "

All very laudable

"There are a few things we can do within the law that can begin to rectify our status but th emost powerful is beyond mind and imagination. Where would you wish to start?"

Certainly not undermining the New Deal, as some versions of this e-mail suggest. Or not paying any taxes to the IRS, thus limiting the power of government to fight corporations. Of course, if people want notions of revolution... umm, www.zmag.org, www.counterpunch.com, and arekexcelsior2.blogspot.com. Not that hard.

"We can establishyour sovereignty, erase your debts, assist you in understanding how to defend yourself in court,and show you how to adapt to the Law of Admiralty "come ashore." When would you wish to begin?Don't wait until you are in trouble financially to make your move."

This is one of the many places my hackles raise. Erase your debts? Don't wait till you're in trouble financially? Why should this be the determining factor for the revolution? Billionaires should be opposing the totality of oppression just as much as people making $20k a year.

Very good chance that this is going to be used by some individuals to say "Well, all of this debt I accumulated building this business [a capitalist and illegitimate one] should go away because, guess what, the guvment never had the right to enforce it."

To be clear: I think that loaning and most ways to get money without working or by interest are in fact horrible ways to make money, though acceptable under capitalism.

"Do it while you still have options, some "wiggle room." There is a way out of the pasture but they've planted brambles to hide the hole in the fence. As long as the hole is there, you are not a slave but have agreed to be one by your ignorance or inaction. By presumption you are choosing to accept the status quo."

100% agreeable. As Zinn says, you can't be neutral on a moving train. In modern society, if you are not on the side of the oppressed, you are on the side of the oppressors.

And some random stuff added in from a friend's version:

"3. Attack on America. On October 6, 1917, the UNITED STATES passed a corporate policy called the Trading with the Enemy Act. The American people were sovereign which makes them "foreign governments" to the UNITED STATES and therefore, the sovereigns unknowingly became enemies of the State. On March 3, 1933, the Trading with the Enemy Act was then amended in order to confiscate gold from the US citizens (not the American Sovereigns) who were reimbursed with "emergency money", issued by a private corporation known as the Federal Reserve Bank, which represented debt owed to the Federal Reserve Bank. A dollar of gold was exchanged for a dollar of debt owed to the Federal Reserve Bank plus interest (Income Tax). Basically all Americans lost two dollars in the exchange."

Huh. Cause according to this, http://www.cubatravelusa.com/trading_with_the_enemy_act1.htm , the government can limit financial transactions in time of war according to the 1917 policy. Of course, this is a totally illegitimate policy and I would approve its removal, and I'm sure it was designed to benefit corporations, but come on? For one thing, the Fed is hardly a private corporation; for another, greenbacks have been around since the Civil War. Read a high school history textbook before fabricating this crap.

Social Security: "Fix It Till It's Broke" (Updated Edition)

It's now taken for granted that Social Security is broken. The baby boomers are going to drain the coffers and the smaller generations afterwards won't be able to pay for it.

No one notices something incredibly simplistic: The baby boomers were dependents at one point. They were kids. The economy diverted funds to paying for these dependents by buying diapers, toys, cereal and college funds; why can't it do the same for adult diapers, dentures and medication?

Further, the Social Security trustees use a median, worst-case scenario annual growth rate prediction of 1.5%, lower than the annual growth rate during the Great Depression. But even Clinton's Social Security commissioner, Robert Ball, says, ""Lifting the cap [every person pays up to a certain level and then stops, making Social Security a regressive tax] and taxing higher incomes would keep the system solvent indefinitely."

Social Security's real woes are caused by the fact, as noted in Take the Rich Off Welfare, that Social Security has now become a discretionary fund for Congress' patronage games. Get rid of that and you also get rid of a main siphon from Social Security.

The amazing logic of neo-cons and neo-libs is revealed drastically: If a program is failing, don't do a silly thing like fund it; instead, open it up to private sector speculation. The nice thing is that the only people who we know for a fact will benefit will be Wall Street. By some odd coincidence, these are the people who are pushing privatization.

Chile, the primary example used by privatization's supporters, is now a mess thanks to their flirting with capitalist insanity: "One of the popular models touted by privatization reformers is practiced in Chile, where individual retirement accounts are currently managed by private investment firms. Administrative costs in Chile run from 13 percent to 15 percent, biting deeply into any gains from riskier stock investments. The private savings model in Chile has severely reinforced existing inequalities. The retirement safety net for the poor equals the price of a loaf of bread and a cup of coffee per day. It is likely that half of all retired workers in Chile will fall under the poverty line. For the 30 percent of the workforce either unemployed or in the informal sector there will be no private investment accounts. The Detroit-based monthly Labor Notes reports that at least 43 percent of those who have individual accounts in Chile are not making regular contributions to them, thus leaving these workers uncovered by an adequate pension in their later years. Sylvester Scheiber of Clinton's Social Security Advisory Council models his proposal on the Chilean system, noting; 'They did have certain advantages in Chile. They did have a dictatorship and they did have control over the media.' Ironically, Chile's military personnel held onto their publicly guaranteed pension benefits despite the reform. The sparkling appeal of high returns on riskier stock investments similarly dulls when one realizes that markets go down as well as up. Along with the risk of picking bad investments, and the cut taken by investment jockeys to cover their costs and profits, is the possibility that one's retirement will coincide with a market downturn, recession, or even depression as have been known to occur from time to time. Given a 75-year planning period it doesn't seem ludicrous to take these possibilities into account." http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/GaalSept97.htm

Social Security is just that: a guaranteed investment in people's future. Whatever illusions Dubbya has about cutting administrative fees don't matter: The society determined in the New Deal that it wanted each generation to take care of the next. If you want to invest your own money, neo-cons, do it.


Well, Dubbya has still managed to squander his political capital and pick unwinnable fights as his approval ratings plummet. Social Security may remain, after all.

To see the AARP disgrace itself by saying that Social Security had problems was not especially illuminating, but it was infuriating. When will stupid liberals learn not to let the Right define the terms of the debate? From tax cuts to war to affirmative action to Social Security, they concede so many of the premises until the Right seems guaranteed to win.

A number of folks have said that supporting seniors probably costs more than kids. But:

1) That's actually not true - good economists have said the opposite.

2) In any respect, the cost wouldn't be astronomically more.

3) The economy's grown and continues to grow. Yes, the growth is more tepid (thanks to neo-liberalism); yes, living costs do go up too; but nonetheless there is real growth left behind. The natural growth of the economy should suffice to make Social Security work if the economy is controlled.

For those who doubt Social Security's benefits: "Social Security is the most successful insurance program ever created. It insures millions of workers against what economists call "longevity risk," the possibility they will live "too long" and not be able to work long enough, or save enough, to provide their own income. Today, about 10% of those over age 65 live in poverty. Without Social Security, that rate would be almost 50%." http://www.dollarsandsense.org/1104orr.html

An interesting point from the same article: "Social Security was originally designed to supplement, and was structured to resemble, private-sector pensions. In the 1930s, all private pensions were defined-benefit plans. The retirement benefit was based on a worker’s former wage and years of service. In most plans, after 35 years of service the monthly benefit, received for life, would be at least half of the income received in the final working year...

What has happened to private-sector defined benefit pensions? They’ve been replaced with defined-contribution (DC) savings plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s. These plans provide some retirement income but offer no real protection from longevity risk. Once a retiree depletes the amount saved in the plan, that pension is gone.
In a generous DC plan, a firm might match the worker’s contribution up to 3% of his or her pay.

With total contributions of 6%, average wage growth of 2% a year, and an average return on the investment portfolio of 5%, after 35 years of work, a retiree would exhaust the plan’s savings in just 8.5 years even if her annual spending is only half of her final salary. If she restricts spending to just one-third of the final salary, the savings can stretch to 14 years.

At age 65, life expectancy for women today is about 20 years, and for men about 15 years, so DC savings plans will not protect the elderly from longevity risk. The conversion of defined-benefit pensions to defined-contribution plans is the source of the real potential crisis in retirement income. Yet Greenspan did not mention this in his testimony to Congress."

Another true point that one should remember when reading the semantic obfuscation of Cato and the rest: "The logic is appealingly simple, but wrong for two reasons. First, this "old-age dependency" ratio in itself is irrelevant. No amount of financial manipulation can change this fact: all current consumption must come from current physical output. The consumption of all dependents (non-workers) must come from the output produced by current workers. It’s the overall dependency ratio—–the number of workers relative to all non-workers, including the aged, the young, the disabled, and those choosing not to work—that determines whether society can "afford" the baby boomers’ retirement years. In the 1960s we had 1.05 workers for each dependent, and we were building new schools and the interstate highway system and getting ready to put a man on the moon. No one bemoaned a demographic crisis or looked for ways to cut the resources allocated to children; in fact, the living standards of most families rose rapidly. In 2030, we will have 1.27 workers per dependent. We’ll have more workers per dependent in the future than we did in the past. While it is true a larger share of total output will be allocated to the aged, just as a larger share was allocated to children in the 1960s, society will easily produce adequate output to support all workers and dependents, and at a higher standard of living."

Peterson points out two essential points:

1) "The liabilities of the Social Security system work exactly the same way. There is no such real thing as bankruptcy for Social Security. No such real thing as a projected shortfall. No such real thing as insolvency. Except the kind that exists between two arbitrary numbers: Between that which the Government chooses to spend on Social Security, and that which the Government could have chosen to spend on it. "

2) Want to do some homework? Check one of Bush's proposal speeches on Social Security and replace "Social Security" with "defense spending" and other nouns as appropriate. Now see if the arguments make any sense. They don't, do they? Here's the other problem: The DoD's spending could be cut; in fact, as I allege, it should be cut. But Social Security is mandatory, not like the DoD: It must be paid back. (A note: While Soc Sec is technically mandatory, it has been used as a discretionary fund like an income tax. We had a Social Security surplus, remember?)

Another point I wished I had make: Assuming the anemic growth of 1.5% a year is an interesting argument, not well supported but possible. But to then turn around and espouse stocks is now self-contradiction (Chomsky makes this point in an interview in Propaganda and the Public Mind), because stocks can't outpace the economy. Ever wonder where all that cash came from, supposedly? You know now: One set of assumptions using slow growth rates when describing the current system, another set using fast growth rates (probably inflated) to describe the alternative. Hmm.

The most important point: Not only is Social Security a successful anti-poverty program; not only does it reflect this strange notion that people should care about their next-door neighbor; but no economist, no matter what the mainstream pretends, can tell you how to evaluate the risk. They can tell you what they perceive to be the risks, but only you can plan around them. Social Security is our choice. Let's make the right one.

More resources:


An excellent article from the Economist (yes, that Economist) about the lack of social and economic mobility in this country: http://www.economist.com/world/na/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3518560

Frank Ackerman, Hazardous to Our Wealth

Richard DuBoff, "Social Security Is Not In 'Crisis'", National Jobs for All Coalition Uncommon Sense 21 (February 1999).

Dean Baker/Mark Weisbrot, Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press 1999). www.cepr.net for more.