Felony Not In Doubt

Click the above link for an interesting discussion of the Rove/Plame situation. Oklahomahippy has an interesting take on the whole bunch of conspirators (although I'm not alleging anything, Mr. G-man) and this war mess etc. You'll need to read down through the comments tho'. The trick is to remember that there is no real dispute over the fact that Rove did what's been alleged, i.e. gave the name of a CIA undercover op. to a reporter(s) (thus the felony statute vis-a-vis nat'l security) whom he expected to use this information to slander someone whose facts contravened the politically predetermined policy.


Well shit we're at a weird transition now. Thoth's got all screwey self-pitying (what the FUCK, seriously). panopticon's got this sappy grieving/depression thing going on. Effin' fizhburn is holed up in a book about 24/7. Damn. On top of all that there's a serious road trip in the offing and like nobody can even get an oil change done. What the hell I can't do it: primates don't get driver's licenses.

Have to go to a memorial service today. I can't handle those things. Get freaked about 1/2 hour into them. Still you gotta do what you gotta do though. I'm on transmission number the last until two weeks or so. I'm doing good anyway, so wish me luck this afternoon.

This is either a tragedy or the second episode of a trilogy. I vote for the latter.


Triple Efficiency

I guess I didn't point out the interesting things going on in the previous efficiency post yesterday, like the fact that I was elaborating on a whiny post by whining about whiny posts. Jeeze, I must be super-dense here. But now I can get all meta-meta on you and point out the super-extra-ultima-self-conscious way I'm going about it. Yes? No?

I must be trying too hard. This isn't working. Or is it. What effect am I going for, here? To annoy you? Maybe. It worked, I think, to make you, constant reader, go through all this substanceless wondering with me. Am I posing too many questions?

(Today's post brought to you by avante-garde filmmakers worldwide.)

The best part is that I can get out of doing anything worthwhile by thinking up things to waste other people's time with, and wasting my own time creating them. Sweet. :)


Double Efficiency

This'd be a continuation of the thought from the previous post, but less self-pitying. I have to say, I kind of get pissed at people who (a) make no effort to write well, punctuate, etc. (gdog is an exception--he does it on purpose, and I kind of get a headache from reading his posts but then fizhburn approved it so what the hey) and/or (b) only use their blogs to complain. I'm just not clear on what kind of sorry egoism makes people believe I want to know about their petty (or even legitimate) whinings about things that happen to them. I'm not attempting to condemn people for putting personal material on their sites/blogs; far from it: I think that's the whole point of blogging (like it or not) and I accept that. I also realize, in an aside to you, constant reader, that there would be a certain disingenuity in my accusing blogging of being a medium for garnering approval/sympathy/etc. ... But anyway I suppose there are better and worse ways to do the blog thing. And what looks like a "dear diary,

today susie said i was mean and put gum in my hair and also i heard from april that tonya doesn't like me and i think i hate everything and also Mom said maybe i shouldnt drink so much pepsi because she thinks i'm fat even though she didnt say that but i can tell and anyway here is a picture of me dont you think its cool and im going to seaworld with chassie tomorrow and then i will have another pic for you

xoxo sandy"

I mean, what is the point of that? if there were a way to maybe get this person in counseling I think I'd approve of that, but really this is a lot of wasted bandwidth. (P.s. I made up the post I'm criticising. Any resemblance to actual posts by other people is sure as hell intended.) Then again, you could write something slightly interesting, perhaps a thought about internicine conflicts in junior high, or about how it's difficult to express your feelings of inadequacy regarding bodily appearance and family/social expectations. For instance, "Dear Diary,

Today I had another one of "those days." It sometimes seems like I make more enemies than I can even count. I'm not sure how this happens, but I suspect it's because I'm near the top of the social ladder in terms of popularity. I mean, I hang out pretty much with the cool crowd and that means that I have to protect my position. There is an awful lot of gossip about me that goes around, and I'm constantly struggling to get the truth heard. I'm not mean, even though Susan said so today. She was very angry because I said I didn't like her shirt, which is true. I don't like it: I think it's ugly and besides the brand has been out of fashion for almost a year. She really ought to realize than in order to maintain her friendship with me, not to mention continue to be popular, that she needs to conform to the strict rules of appearance. I'm subject to those rules too. That in itself is another struggle for me, and it really compounds my situation's complexity. Just this morning I was having a Pepsi with breakfast, because Mom hadn't made any coffee. I usually drink a little coffee in the morning, and Mom says it's okay because I'd get just as much caffeine from pop anyway. But today she made a big deal about how much pop I drink (I only drink two or three cans a day!). I'm kind of bloated right now (sorry folks, but true!) and maybe she thinks I'm putting on weight. I really think she has a lot emotionally invested in my appearance. She would always put me in ballerina constumes and such when I was little. I think she really wants me to be like a beautiful princess sometimes. I've noticed this a lot more since Dad left, and I think maybe she thinks if I'm perfect then I'm also happy. But it's just a bunch of pressure on me to be like a doll or something. I'm really unhappy about all her wanting me to be so good looking but I am just not that beautiful, or anyway I think I'd like not to be so close to beautiful. At least then I wouldn't feel like I am just a shell. Sometimes it is like I really am a robot or a doll, and I am just a Sandy-bot. I feel so trapped sometimes, and I am so sad I want to cry but I can't, because there is so much expectations of me.

I want to thank everybody for their reaction to the pictures I post here though.


See, that would, if nothing else, be somewhat more compelling (if more lengthy) reading. At least to me. Well actually not so much. So okay this isn't working. Anyway. Umm. But the point is, I think, that there are some sorts of blogging that are of, not intrinsic, some basic interest. I don't need to have to read into the inner workings of a certain sort of adolescent in order to grasp the interesting problem at the heart of her maunderings. At the same time, it is probably unrealistic to expect everyone on the internet to write interesting things. Not everyone will be contributing something positive to the sum of human knowledge all the time.

Just look at what's been going on in, say, literary theory recently. Or philosophy. Or the so-called specific social sciences like Feminist Studies (what a crock of crap). Mountains of waste and dross, and every once in a while a butterfly emerges, sooty and suffocated, to limpingly flutter into the forest of growing knowledge that is "modern" Homo sapiens' "culture."

On the other hand, it isn't surprising that a lot of people have lost their way. Let me propose an anology: some sociological studies have shown that an overabundance of choice actually inhibits the "average" individual's ability to make a timely and effective decision about what to do/buy/etc. So the huge accumulation of possible insights is so great that any particular approach appears either 1. less than optimally effective; or 2. no better than some (possibly large) number of alternatives. What am I supposed to do here--condemn this child for her whining and attempt to enter the public discourse because I happen to find it a waste of my time to read it? Eech.


Man, I spend a lot of time working on a bunch of projects. There are lots of activities that I haven't kept up on, yet I have nothing to show for the additional focus. Maybe I'm lying to myself about how much I get done. The path I follow seems to run in circles. It seems like I'm no further along than I was two months ago, after all this wasted brainpower and--if I really want to think of it that way--painful forcing of words onto the page.

But, as they say, no pain=no gain. Is that really true? I'm sure there's something you can gain without suffering...


Weather Report

Frustration and preparation will be colliding in a high-pressure zone this week as some events come to a conclusion; expect a hiatus in transmissions until at least the beginning of August; boxing up is likely to proceed until the middle of the week; packing in also proceeds at a glacial pace; our almanac shows early September will contain several Welcome parties; nerves and excitation abound in these parts, while the southern Mississippi River valley will likiely add revulsion to the mix; there is a better than half chance of Southwestern heat melting the snowy hearts in those parts by the weekend.



And a day of rest to follow.


Since 1981...

Okay, let's take stock.

Work: slowly progressing toward... something. Will I have to move to another city? Possible. Even likely. My resources here are, at least for the next couple of years, severely limited. I can't wait that long; things need to come together in a certain fashion, and it's no shaping up to work out that way if I project based on what I know now. *sigh*

Home: I'm moving into a new place, excellent location, great kitchen (I love to cook even though I'm not that good and do not have the Food Network). But I'll be scraping by, in financial terms.

Love: ha.

Family: on its way out, as far as I can see. My grandmother's probably got about two years, my father is becoming more and more an invalid.

Dreams: still have them. Even though none have so far come true.

Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday *sob*


16 tons and what do you get...

But today, and tonight, fuck all that. I'm gonna celebrate. And dance.


Less than 24 hours

Dang. Another birthday tomorrow. Dancing? Sounds good.


Goodbye, Catherine.

The light in the next room also
Goes out;
The night is chill.



Okay so two people I didn't see for a while: Susan and Uwe (OO-va). Uwe was acting the fool. This is why you should socialize more than once/2 months. What the fuck. Susan, who I met again after seeing her like once last summer--she's been in Taiwan--was totally cool. There need to be more cool people, less belligerent people, dammit. Fucking socially retarded motherfuckers. No wonder you're so ungroomed-looking.


Weather Report

Our instruments indicate a 60% chance of togetherness; 50% chance of downpour; 40% chance all the sangria will be drunk; 100% chance of cool 'splosions.


Good News

But bad news first: right wing ideologues get a new opportunity to push for 17th-century values.

Good news: Rove busted (almost). The grand jury in the Plame CIA-outing scandal is homing in ever so slowly on top White House political puppeteer Carl Rove. Remember how the C.I.C. assured us he'd get to the bottom of things? And everyone (read: press) bought it. Turns out it was right under his nose (second version of the story). This sadly made Isikoff have to scramble to try support C-Ro's case to get off the legal hook (?). O'Donnell put the news out on Huffington's site and then defended the story admirably by calling out Rove and his lawyer, conservative defendant's rep extraordinaire R. Luskin.

Happy Independence Day!


County Recreational Preserve and Glass Field

...then we went out there to check
on whether or not
I already walked 5 mile
trails are mown, not asphalt
black butterflies by circles peeling
burnt shoulders even the tops of my feet
muddy stream, fallen juiced
indigo blackberries and inky juice
the confields practically glow
it's an horizon of emerald/gold deliciousness

my soles were stained
cracked, even freshly paved, bicycle trails
the prarie, restored
joggers find our terrain and trails especially attractive
wedding in the botanical garden
pebble in most sandal materials are perfectly
at home, in our lowland woods
dappled and sweating horsefly season


Consumer Culture: a diatribe

(How can I hope to explain everything on a blog? This requires a ten-volume textbook. Gramsci's words: Engels wrote that "many people think it very convenient to think that they can have the whole of history and all political and philosophical wisdom in their pockets at little cost and no trouble, concentrated into a few short formulae..." and "'Citical' activity is reduced to the exposure of swindles, to creating scandals, and to pying into the pockets of public figures." But here is another piece of the puzzle.)

This can't be just another rant about consumer culture. I mean, it is, but not the usual kind. Many on the left, especially the far left, take it as an article of faith that our soundbite-infested, ad-driven, revenue-focused, business-dominated, capitalism-loving society is fundamentally evil. This is a foolish--but understandable--thing to think. Here's why: societies can't be good or evil. Only people can. Just as a corporation (a fictive legal entity) can't do anything, and so cannot be responsible for its actions, except in a purely technical legal sense, a society is made up of people who carry out acts. They do so in its name, in some cases, but the responsibility for "its" actions, if it can be said to have any, rests on the shoulders of those who in fact carry out the "will" of, say, the government. A lot of people will immediately have a reaction to the following statement, though I hope they can see clearly enough that it is true: Nazi Germany was not an evil society. Again, it was an authoritarian regime, members of which were, indeed, evil, and in whose name evil acts were carried out by people who ought to have known better. So the comparison implies this: if you, contrariwise, assert that no, Nazi Germany was an evil society you are absolving members of that society of responsibility for their actions--you give them the "I was just following orders" defense. (At least to the extent that you allow factitious systems agency.)

You may, however, be right in thinking that, nonetheless, something is wrong with social systems (governmental, religious, traditional, business, etc.) that conduce to the murder of millions of people. You may even claim that autocratic government, as a form of rule, is itself conducive to human rights abuses, atrocities, etc. I think I would say rather that it is susceptible to these, and certainly contains fewer structural barriers to their occurring. Still, remember that Hitler came to power through democratic election... In any case, we're not talking directly about government, but something different, today.

Okay, a question to move forward from: who is responsible for the ad-saturation of our current culture? Look at all the cultural "space" we have: public squares, roads, views, broadcast media, the internet, magazines, newspapers... It's all chock full of advertisements for, well, everything. So the analogy, or parallel, to consider is whether our current culture is one that's amenable to, or even inherently conducive toward, the commodification of both material and psychic "things." Riddle me this--is western capitalism a system that reduces all to a vast sum of nothings?

Posing the questions this way will no doubt arouse in some folks a suspicion that the field under discussion is skewed already toward a particular viewpoint. I can't really argue that it isn't. But, on the other hand, any other way of addressing the topic will be similarly skewed. So that is not a reason to dismiss the question. I don't want to get bogged down in some sort of discussion about fundamental approaches to historical/cultural criticism. I will, however, disclaim that I'm not a historical materialist per se, even where I do find that some of the post-Hegelian theorizing is more insightful, in some way more accurate, somehow gives a better picture than, say, the more limited approach that followers of Kissenger and Adam Smith will attempt to push. Looking at how I approach the issue and thinking it through along with me should allow you to see that I do not apply theory directly--I don't have the training for it in any case.

Advertisements, of course, as we now know them, developed through a confluence of technological developments (especially the industrialization of everything from breakfast cereal production to newspaper printing) and the ingenuity that capitalism breeds. Yes: although I consider myself a severe critic of laissez faire economics/politics, I do recognize that the crypto-Darwinian account of the innovative drive capitalist competition engenders is in some respects useful or helpful. But the compliments I pay are such to the extent only that they in fact benefit human beings collectively and I reject any celebration of the J.P. Morgans so lauded as exemplars by some "conservatives." (We'll set aside discussion of the sort of Randian foolishness this implies, perhaps to address it another day.)

What is the purpose of the ad? To increase profit (restricting the present discussion only to the economic, specifically business, side of things). For this is the ultimate end of business enterprise, obviously. The abbreviated account of the development of modern adspace is simply that most businesses find advertising a solid strategy for success, and so as the number of businesses increases, as the number of ads needing to be placed increases, etc. there are more and more opportunities for "surfaces" to be plastered with good-looking models hawking whatever. The present situation is that, unlikely as it seems, we are not yet nearing the point of saturation with advertisements. The saturation point would be that state of affairs in which, whatever you do, one or more products (which includes services) are being marketed to you, and where no more ads can be placed without their mutually interfering and lessening the efficacy of each individual ad. (Is it possible to place ads in sex?)

What drives the ever-expanding commodification of life; that is, what processes are involved in everything, from religion to community to arts to science to health to government, becoming something to be bought and sold? Politics is perhaps the exception, since power-brokering is a natural outgrowth of social organization (likewise anything or anyone that gets caught up in the business of governance--an example would be the selling of indulgences by the papacy). But notice that money and business and success and happiness itself--if that can even mean anything distinctive anymore--are all though to be linked inextricably together. By whom? Well, watch television on any station at any time of the day...

Industrialized (or, as they now like to say, post-industrial) capitalism coincides with the weakening of traditional forms of rule. Perhaps this is merely empirical, but the fact then indicates that our present mode of social organization carries within is the seeds of, basically, cronyism. Think of the "robber barons" of the "golden age" within thirty years either side of the turn of the 20th century. Think of the collapse of the (corrupt) Soviet system into true laissez faire capitalism. Look to the transformation of Maoist china into a gangster syndicate of unbelievable power. Look at the Bush family.

Now of course we can point a finger at a bit of jurisprudence that's bedeviled both entrepreneurs and civil society for quite a while. That is the set of legal precedents by which corporations are considered legal persons. (Yes, some people are now shaking their heads. Go eat a Whopper.) The fiction of the corporation as "person" allows what Noam Chomsky (I bet you'd like some fries with that, too, and a shake) unfortunately accurately calls "unaccountable tyrannies" to get away with murder. Literally: premeditated actions intended to end a life or in any case knowingly abstaining from actions which could easily prevent forseeable loss of life. Their mention here is not the usual complaining, but just adding another piece to the puzzle: huge egoistic entities with vast power and resources (not to mention their owners, a relatively small group also of vast power whose interests coincide) which, through their "right" (purely legal) to "free speech" (purely ridiculous) are able to influence politics to allow them to push their agenda. Which is, of course, essentially deregulation and detaxation. [We are fairly certain 'detaxation' is not a real word, yet. --f.]

Now let's look at the mythology of America for a moment. Yes, mythology. Because every country, nation, ethnic group, and so forth has its own story about itself. It tells itself (I mean, the members tell each other) this story repeatedly--ad nauseam, on occasion. This is a major part of how we form our identity: identifying oneself as part of the ongoing epic of a group full of "people like me." What do we tell each other about ourselves? This is sometimes difficult to figure out, because it's so pervasive as to become invisible and silent--like the hum of a ventilation fan, always affecting us unnoticed.

The topic has, actually, been expounded upon at length in various places. The pessimistic version perhaps best done by Daniel Quinn (though really, some of his archeological anthropology is off; that however is a different issue). But I'll try to summarize a bit, with some familiar ideas you may recognize.
1. America is the promised land of (insert whoever)
1a. America is the "land of promise"
2. Americans are more resourceful than anyone else
3. Americans are independent thinkers; they march to their own drums
4. America is a democracy
5. Americans are blessed with opportunities
6. America is the embodiment of all the progress humanity has made since (insert era)
7. Americans are superior to people from other countries
7a. Americans deserve their superiority because (insert justification)
8. Americans work hard
9. America is the "best/greatest country in the world"
10. The American system brings benefits to everyone
11. God blesses America because (insert justification)
12. Nobody's perfect
12a. The current incarnation of the Homeland can hardly be held accountable for the mistakes of old
12b. Not that we admit there were any
13. Constant progress makes all prior history irrelevant
14. Image is substance
15. Individualism is the right way to live
16. Everyone wants to be just like us
17. Humans are imperfect, but we're doing as well as it's possible to do
17a. We've already solved all/most/the important ones of our problems
We're sober and deep thinkers; we're innovators; we're committed to helping others; we cooperate with each other/anyone who is our friend; etc. Right? You should be able to get the picture now.

Seriously, think about how many people you know who think one or more of these things (I occasionally meet people who believe that racism is no longer a problem/issue in this country). Chances are, you hear a lot of things like what's on the list, or that implies something on the list. Now, buying into the myth isn't itself bad. As I mentioned, every group uses stories and mythology to create an identity for the members.

The problem is that our economic structure conduces to selling everything; a buck is a buck, however you make it. And since we're the greatest group of people ever who deserve everything we get in this, the best of all possible worlds, whatever we actually end up doing must be all right. Now of course almost nobody explicitly thinks like that. But the toned-down version is nearly as bad. What you get is a bunch of people who are socialized (trained; brainwashed) into egoism. These people are committed to the capitalism-friendly idea that things and success and personal fulfillment are one and the same. "Go make a success of yourself, young person," says the elder. What do you hear? Many, many people hear "Get a good job and a nice house and an SUV and and and..."

Hold on, let's backtrack. Max Weber and the (Protestant) Work Ethic. Have you heard of this? The idea is that working hard demonstrates your piousness. And those who work hard and are successful are favored in the eyes of God (you can't spend your money on ostentation because it's the sin of pride, so you can only reinvest). Because you must be one of the elect. (The elect are those predestined to go to heaven, blah blah theology of an omniscient omnipotent creator-deity.) But, sadly, capitalism and the liberalization of government (i.e. the democratization of it), among other cultural changes, boot the religious aspect. So success is just the demonstration that someone is a good person. Worth as a person is equated with material holdings. Fast forward to the twenty-first century and what do we see? Everything is something that has to do with demonstrating your worth.

Now of course, advertising itself has a synergistic interaction with the understandable and innate need of human beings to belong to a social group. So in the ads we see there's always someone slightly more attractive than we socialize with or are, someone a bit more successful who one could become friends with/screw/be if only you had this or that to demonstrate your participation in their group... Playing on people's insecurity about their social standing is just good business.

Well, everyone now wants to make a buck, right? Everything costs money. Farmers lease bits of land for billboards, because there are all those unused eyes on the highway. Building owners can turn their vertical acreage into cash crops. Urinals offer friendly reminders of things much more pleasant than the task in hand. Taxis favor us with in-flight offers. We're supposed to ask the gynecologist about XYZ-iol. What people wear is a mobile reminder of how you don't have something that is so cool. The internet is, sadly, 75% marketing gimmick. Television is a service for advertisers, not a product you should pay for, but you do. You are constantly paying your (hard-earned?) money to have people with toothy, oily grins try to peddle something at you.

So what does all this finally add up to? (Having said that, let me admit I've neglected the "brand as personal identity" tribalism you find even in ad-creation literature, and I don't have much to say about it just now, but it feeds off of and into some of the remarks above.)

We can tie all the threads together, I think. The economic development of capitalism coincided with the rise of an "Enlightenment" liberalism that celebrates the individual. The material component of religion dropped out of the culture, so that accumulation of objects became acceptable. Those who succeed are good people (anyone can succeed, remember, if they just take advantage of the opportunities afforded them--but bad people won't), and they show this by the things that they own. Material holdings are also a way of demonstrating participation in a social group. Advertising, having finished with merely extolling the virtues of a product, now acts as a creator of demand: it creates a feeling of inadequacy in the audience, or, better, plays on the feelings of inadequacy our society brings about in people whose lives are otherwise fine. The media which relies on ads, of course, feeds the feeling of inadequacy. And since anyone allowing an ad to be put up anywhere is just an honest businessperson trying to eke out another margin of profit, the expansion of advertising into all aspects of cultural space goes on unchecked.

No particular person(s) are responsible for all that has gone on, but certainly many people contribute. I contribute each time I buy something because off an ad. Anyone working in advertising probably contributes a lot. So do lifestyle magazines, politicians who like (big) business, Hollywood producers, automobile manufacturers, your neighbors. A good question: "How much have I bought into the commodification of my personal worth?" For if I buy, say, a Rolex, what am I doing? I probably don't need the thing, not to keep time. I'm trading my work for money for a status symbol that demonstrates how awesome I am. I haven't necessarily done anything worthwhile; I've only obtained something that symbolizes worthwhileness--image becomes "substance."

Do I hold advertising executives responsible for encroaching on my mind space and attempting to control my thoughts (which is what media saturation amounts to)? Yes. But this is hardly a capital offense. It is more useful, I think, to recognize the structural features of the culture that allow, condone, and even encourage our transformation toward the compulsive-buying lifestyle of Huxley's "Brave New World." All extreme analogies and alarmism aside, consider this: how much better off you believe you will be if you obtain some material object. I'm sure you can think of something you may someday (be able to) buy that will improve your happiness. Right?