Archive for April, 2010

The Bikecast Episode #7a: Human Futures, The Race Between Complexity and Chaos

In this bikecast, I anthropomorphize the tendency of matter to increase in complexity when provided an energy source. In the case of earth, I posit a race in which DNA attempts to give rise to an organism complex enough to escape the destruction of the earth and the end of the sun. A specific episode of this race is the rise of humankind–a species entirely capable of spreading off planet and out of the local solar system. If we fail, but the earth and sun remain, DNA will carry on building increasingly complex organisms which will face their own clock in trying to survive and escape.


Download this episode of the bikecast
Professor Falken sums up one of two positions with regards to human futures:

The other position is that we manage not to eradicate ourselves, embrace stateless atheism and stay one step ahead of entropy until heat death of the universe–or maybe beyond as in this must-read Azimov short story: http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html

I believe the highest hurdle before DNA-as-human spreading throughout the universe is the rationally trivial but psychologically near-impossible task of accepting the equality of all humans and recognizing as vile and anti-human the use of violence as a means of social organization.

The Bikecast Episode #6: Seeing the Forest for the Trees

The United States government may not be Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, but to overlook the fact that the state has racked up 10s of millions of victims in just the last several decades is an amazing feat, yet that is what virtually every state apologist does and continually so.

Download this episode of the bikecast

The Slate article that is the focus of the first 1/3rd of the bikecast: http://www.slate.com/id/2251669/

This is a mock-the-teabagger/fear-the-teabagger piece. The issue I have isn’t with his complaints about the teabagger’s limited political vocabulary and crude art skills. I’d like to see a realization that the United States government is murdering/disppearing/caging/torturing enormous numbers of people and that it doesn’t goddamn well matter what you want to call it. Mocking people for mismatching the ideologies of the worlds most terrifyingly evil states while voicing support and apology for one of those states is . . . well, poor prioritization to say the least.

I had a similar subjective experience reading this post. While it wasn’t the point of the piece (the point was, again, mocking someone for being . . . actually, I’m not sure in this case), he mocks a third writer for comparing the American army to the wehrmacht (as a good thing). Of course, the American army is quite comparable to the wehrmacht, an argument I make here. But Thers cannot conceive of this–cannot allow into his mind a model in which two armies each killing untold stacks of people have equal fucking moral standing (see the comments for supporting evidence).

To be fair, it was kindof ambushy because I was writing tangentially to his original post. He’s still wrong. I extend the same apology to Ron Rosenbaum, but christ can we please at least acknowledge reality while making fun of the goofball right-wing?

I hypothesize that, were McCain to have been elected, there would be no tea party. There would also not be angry leftists threatening revolution and secession. To put it another way, the tea party is threatening armed insurrection in opposition to the welfare state (painting with a broad brush), but the left will happily (more or less) go along with a regime that is raining down death and human misery on much of the rest of the globe. I want to see more Vermonts. Leftists, come on now!

If we strip away the concepts of race, religion, and nation, that activities and atrocities of all the powers and super-powers of the last 200 years are largely identical. The notable exception is that only one of those powers has an unbroken “winning” streak with more bodies in the grave and in prison, a greater claim to absolute power of life and death over every inhabitant of the planet, and more complete control of the finances and governments of the other nation states of the world–a superlative in everything rotten and evil about hierarchy, violence, and dominance. And that outstanding state is the government of the United States.

The Bikecast Episode #5c: Goodbye, Rhizome Collective. Good Luck, Cathedral of Junk.

The last of a three part series of tangents (part I, part II). The thin ribbon that ties them together is the replacing peer-to-peer organizations with hierarchical state powers as a quick fix for a problem. The long-term repercussions of the adoption of violence as the tool for social organization has disasterous downsides. In this bikecast, I give a couple more examples–especially maddening–of city agencies whose ostensible purpose is to help and protect the inhabitants of Austin instead tearing down and dismantling beautiful works of art, engineering, and social organization.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Show notes Episode 5c:

The Rhizome Collective

My apologies first of all to the Rhizome collective for my unbelievably lame recounting of their feats of sustainable engineering on the podcast.

Here are the highlights please, go check it out–it’s really fantastic what these people were able to do with a burnt out shell of a building and an asphalt parking lot:

Rainwater harvesting: 3000 gallon system.

Polyculture pond: an entire ecosystem including edible plants, plants used for fertilizer, mosquito predators and a mechanism for protecting sensitive species while they grow in isolation.

Constructed wetlands: for treating household wastewater, or greywater, and making it safe for reuse in irrigating vegetable crops.

Vermicomposting: using worms to break down food wastes into nutrient rich fertilizers.

Micro livestock: chickens, turkeys and ducks for meat, eggs, pest control, lawn mowing and soil building (and compost eating).

Bicycle Windmill: a windmill built primarily from recycled bicycle parts capable of generating low, but useful amounts of electricity.

Food Forest:
numerous varieties of fruit and nut trees including: peach, plum, pomegranate, persimmon, pear, fig, jujube, loquat, kumquat, Satsuma orange, Mexican plum, apricot, mulberry, quince, olive, apple, almond, pecan and asian pear.

Passive solar tech: solar ovens, batch collector water heaters, and parabolic cookers.
Earth building: experiments with strawbale, cob, slip chip ,slip straw and clay based aliz paints.

Solar Bioshelter / Aquaculture / Aquaponics: a solar greenhouse that uses 55 gallon water barrels as a source of thermal mass heating with tilapia fish raised in the barrels. Tilapia fertilize algae in the tanks, which is eaten by the fish. Then water cress and water spinach are grown aquaponically (hydroponics w/o synthetic nutrients) in the water fertilized by the tilapia.

Bioremediation: experimenting with the properties of living organisms (fungi, plants, bacteria) to accumulate, bind up, or degrade toxins.

Compost tea: beneficial microbiological organisms applied to damaged soils to restore their microbial populations.

Biogas: mixture of methane, carbon dioxide and other gases produced during anaerobic decomposition. It can be burned, and used for cooking or heating in a house.

Biofuels: a tractor running off of waste vegetable oil.

Floating Island: raft made from recovered thrown away plastic bottles supporting a variety of water plants which filters the polluted urban stormwater runoff water that fills the pond following a rainstorm.

“What pond,” you ask? The pond in the middle of the 9.8 illegal dumping “brownfield” they cleaned up (yielding 680 tires, 10.1 tons and 36.5 cubic yards of trash, and 31.6 tons of recyclable metal from the site). They then installed erosion control, a fence and plan to build an “Ecological Justice Education Park.”

Justice is something the members of the collective are committed to fostering. They allowed their space to be used for Food Not Bombs, Inside Books (literature for the incarcerated), and as a bike shop where bicycles are repaired and then taken to community bike workshops in Mexico*.

This amazing group of individuals, organized as a consensus-based collective, reclaimed a wasteland within a wasteland. They were evicted for “code violations” in March 2009. Scroll down a couple pages on their web site for the heart-wrenching details.

The Cathedral of Junk

The cathedral speaks for itself:
Image 2 text

image 3 text

image 4

Here’s the google image link. I heartily recommend looking around the images. The pages that house these photos are also testiment to the value of the structure.

A reasonable article in the Wall Street Journal sums up the cathedral of junk fairly well. Here’s an article from a local weekly. It goes more into the details of the code violations. I didn’t know that the complaints came from people who had moved into the neighborhood in recent years. It’s sad, but not surprising. The fate of the cathedral is yet undecided.

In the podcast, I refer to a specialized code enforcement agency. They’re called PACE (Public Assembly Code Enforcement) to police groups of people assembling, I guess. According to this letter to the editor, PACE was formed to police the frats in west campus. Now they’re another way to avoid negotiating with people living in what formerly might have been called a “neighborhood.”

This instinct to “run and tell” is inculcated in us early in childhood. We are instructed not to seek to settle disputes on our own, but always to find the appropriate authority and plead our case to them. We gotta cut that shit out.

*I mentioned the Yellow Bike Project in the podcast. They’re separate from the Rhizome Collective, but also very cool: http://www.austinyellowbike.org/home.shtml

The Bikecast Episode #5b: Taco Trucks and Code Enforcement

My latest ramble, starting on 4/20, spilled over into two other bikecasts. I’m attempting to flesh out a couple of examples of a pattern I’ve been noticing alot lately: reliance on the state is back-firing in a number of ways.

Download this episode of the bikecast
Show notes Episode 5b:

Expanding on the previous bikecast, I want to examine another side-effect of involving the police powers of the state in what, previously, was handled in a civilized manner. As a brief recap, the previous patterns were:

1) The state takes on a task previously undertaken by organic social structures. The structures vanish or are eliminated over time. Finally, the state is unable to continue providing the service but the social network no longer exist to absorb the shock.

and

2) The advocates for/against a state prohibition focus the energy of the various organic structures that exist to “work around” existing state policy on changing the law. Once the legal battle is won, further resources are absorbed protecting the decision. When repeal (or return to prohibition) occurs, the work-arounds and other protective structures no longer exist.
In this podcast and the next, I talk about a third, related pattern. A social problem exists and, rather than find human-respecting means of solving the problem, the police power of the state is engaged. After some period of time–the state only makes sense because of these large intervening periods of time–we find that enforcement power running amok.

One of the many things that makes Austin great is the 1000+ mobile food vendors around town. Recently, many of them have begun tweeting their location to alert their fan/followers to their presence–this has nothing to do with the podcast, but it’s pretty kewl. The article I’m referring to in the podcast is this one: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/2009/08/09/0809foodtrucks.html

It portends a dark future for mobile food in Austin due to the path chosen long ago to “protect” citizens from food borne illnesses. In an affluent society such as ours the problem of food borne illness is pretty remote. This is mostly due to the reality that people won’t go out to eat at a location that is likely to poison them. Making what I’m sure will be my routine but heartfelt privilege caveat*, I feel safe saying that a significant majority of Americans, when they go out for a meal, probably have some choices as to where they go and can steer clear of unsavory mobile food vendors.

As supporting evidence, I’ll refer back to the article and the reality-on-the-ground in Austin: many if not most of the vendors of mobile food are unlicensed or are breaking the law in some manner–making food at home being a common violation, apparently. Yet there have been no reports of illness or complaints against a vendor (except from other vendors). This indicates that customers are holding these vendors to some standard with regard to food safety, and quite naturally so.

Despite the relative ease with which the imagination can generate dozens or hundreds of ways in which food safety could be managed in voluntary, peaceful and human respecting ways, at some point, somebody brought in the city. More likely, the city accorded itself the power to use violence against the purveyors of food.

Fast forward some number of years–I have no idea how many–to the current day. Now the various operators of mobile food businesses are attempting to regulate and enforce their competition out of business because they can’t compete with them on the basis of the quality and prices of their food. As is almost always the case in such scenarios, the winner will be the vendor with the greatest ability to influence policy and the resources to comply with whatever new regulations are mandated. This quote from the piece demonstrates the “big lie” that is repeated ceaselessly in our society (by whom, I wonder):

A business asking for more government regulation is hardly typical, and some competitors, while also supporting tougher rules and heightened enforcement, question Snappy Snacks’ motives. But Snappy Snacks owner Tom Ramsey says pressing for stiffer regulations is the smart thing to do, especially now because upstarts are flooding the Austin market.

Empasis mine. Big business, and please indulge my example of Snappy Snacks as “big business” in this scenario, everywhere and always pushes for controlled regulation. The sweet spot is regulation that, may hurt their bottom line in the short run, but will eliminate their competitors completely and raise the barrier to entry for new would-be competition. Good examples of this phenomenon are energy and natural resource extraction in the United States. A handful of corporations have all but eliminated the possibility of a new entrant to, say, mineral extraction.

Gabriel Kolko details this quite well in The Triumph of Conservatism . His position, well supported, is that the “progressive” legislation of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was, in fact, written by and to the advantage of the most powerful corporations and combinations of the day in order to stave off competition and consolidate their positions in their respective market sectors and industries.

Returning to the article and the Austin mobile food scene. The political losers will be the small vendors that are squeezed out beyond the margin with the increased costs of doing business. The small vendors, in turn, are pushing for stricter enforcement of licensing laws. The grey market will be affected to the degree that existing licensing laws are more rigorously enforced.

And Austin loses. We will see the end of the vendor boom as increasingly restrictive regulations and enforcement drive out variety and innovation in favor of homogeneity. Not because of economies-of-scale or a collective move to a consensus that a particular kind of food is the best for us all. Rather, it will be because one vendor is able to push the others out using the police power of the government.

I refuse to believe that this is the outcome envisioned by whomever originally moved to have city officials keep an eye on food safety. The pattern dictates this outcome, however, when the state takes over an aspect of social life. It is, in the end, entirely unaccountable to the wishes of the citizens–and this is at the most local level in a relatively small city.

*Privilege caveat. I’m totally stealing this from IOZ:
As a louche layabout, and a privileged worker in the cultural class, I try, in offering up analyses of our political and actual economies, to remain cognizant of my privilege, to self-implicate as a member of the Western managerial class, albeit a marginal one, and to recognize that my experience of urban affluence, multicultural tolerance, and a fancy-pants liberal arts degree is not universal.
In this case, I understand that I’m already living a life of wild privilege getting to choose where, when, and what to eat. I understand that many people don’t have this luxury.

Related

Here’s a story about regulation-as-commerical-weapon in Los Angeles: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/world/americas/04iht-4tacos.12554510.html

The Bikecast Episode #5a: State Destruction of Social Organization

My latest ramble, starting on, 4/20 spilled over into two other bikecasts. In the first, I’m attempting to stake out a pattern I’ve been noticing alot lately: reliance on the state is back-firing in numerous ways.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Show notes Episode 5a:
Here are the stories behind my brief “today’s headlines” segment:
More raping catholics. This guy is a real gem: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126116570
More thieving liars from the financial sector (I’m not actually sure this is the story that inspired the comment, but close enough): http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126126307

In Texas, California, and probably 48 other states, money is tight. Everywhere, programs are being defunded and are in danger of vanishing altogether. The people that depend on these services are/will be left in truly dire straights. Yet constant pressure exists for the various levels of government to move additional services out of the community and into the public sector.

When such a move happens, the organic institutions involved with the service vanish and dependence on the state becomes, over time, complete. When the state becomes incapable of continuing the delivery of the service, as we will see increasingly as the economy continues its collapse, the remnant institutions of civil, voluntary society will be hard pressed to resume their previous roles.

Organic societal structures, due to their voluntary nature and respect for the wishes of the people involved, take time and trust to develop and thrive. This gives them tremendous strength and resilience. When they atrophy or are actively dismantled, it takes time for them to develop again.

Parallel to this concern is the nature of state prohibition/permission. Here, the issue is the drain of time and resources involved in moving a political agenda in a given direction. “Winning” a political battle means that the resources of the advocate group will be entirely expended protecting against political reversal. Even then, the decision can always be overturned, returning the advocates to their previous state without the advantages of the voluntary structures that had aided them.

As an example, I talk about a fictionalized* version of the temperance movement. The social issue they sought to impact was alcoholism and the attending blights of spousal and child abuse and abandonment. For many decades, this various components considered part of this movement preached sobriety, made sobriety a pre-condition for mutual aid membership, lobbied schools to include alcohol awareness in the curriculum, and even physically protested the activities of bars by “entering saloons, singing, praying, and urging saloon keepers to stop selling alcohol.”

At some point, various groups began to depart from civil means of dissuading people from drinking and switched instead to the force of law. This activity culminated in the 18th amendment. We know now, of course, that all the millions of hours of lobbying, rallying, begging and pleading for this amendment was undone less than 15 years later.

Imagine if all those resources had been directed at getting to the root of alcoholism, alleviating the conditions that give rise to it and spreading the practice of rewarding sobriety in friendly societies, mutual aid organizations, trade unions other voluntary, community accountable organizations.

Of course, during the 100 years leading to prohibition, people had a very primitive understanding of the mind and the components of and influences upon human nature. It was a far easier task to rally support for the violent smashing of people and businesses trading in booze than it was to seek to understand the behavioral and societal factors involved in creating an alcoholic. Current efforts by whole hosts of advocates for or against this and that demonstrate that people’s understanding remains primitive. Although the science is there and well established to recommend a non-violent course, it remains simplest to advocate force as a means of solving social problems.

Besides the opportunity costs, there are also the side effects of using violence. The most obvious of these is the spawning of more violence in the form of modern crime syndicates. In addition, the victims of the outlawed substance are treated as less than human and become frequent victims of state violence. Federal enforcement techniques such as additon of poison to  commercial ethanol killed around 10,000 people by prohibition’s end.

*I realize my example has more than a few holes in it. For example: it’s not like there aren’t people running around preaching sobriety, maybe more now than ever–I’m not a meticulous fact checker, it ain’t that kind of bikecast. My point is that the resources interested in controlling the public ills related to alcoholism were strong enough to manage a constitutional amendment–I can’t even imagine what topic would garner that kind of support now. It could have been turned to a million different compassionate, human respecting means of providing help and care for alcoholics and their victims.

Related:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance162.html

The Bikecast Episode #4: Oklahoma City and Moral Equivalence

Sound quality in this episode is the best yet. I spliced together both directions of my commute–it’s fairly seamless, though a word or two got dropped by my silence truncation filter (one of the words is ‘it,’ let me know if you notice). This podcast, touches on Episode #3. Here’s the NPR story that got me thinking about it.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Show Notes:
Another wandercast about state and “anti-state” violence. The quotes result from a thought I was having towards the middle of the trip that there is no anti-state violence. Successful anti-state violence is termed a “revolution” and results in a new gang of thugs, bankers, and aristocrats declaring themselves to be the state. In this sense, no violence is anti-state. Rather it’s a would-be ruling class competing for the monopoly of violence with the existing regime. IOZ expresses a similar sentiment: “terrorist” as trustbuster.

All that is around 3 minutes in. Our verbal journey begins with the Oklahoma City bombing–yesterday, 4/19, was the 15th anniversary. Today, 4/20 is the 5000+ year anniversary of people getting high on 4/20, but that’s neither here nor there. The OK city attack was carried out by a U.S. trained, gulf war veteran who claimed to be retaliating for the murder of the branch davidians in Waco the year before.

Blowback isn’t just for Muslim jihadists, it’s a general human condition. On the margins of mental health are people who will, when fucked with, feel justified turning around and fucking up somebody else’s shit–often by blowing them up. Of course, violence doesn’t solve any social problems, but that’s equally true for the thugs that gassed, assaulted and torched the people in Waco.

How can sane people applaud one and abhor the other? What about burning a persons flesh with hot tar? What about napalming hundreds of villages in of south-east asia?

With four events–the siege at Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, the American Revolution, and the genocide in Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia–it would be fairly easy to find defenders of violence in all four, any three, any two, or any one of them. People have extraordinarily convoluted logic to defend their positions in such matters, all backed by rank bigotry and in a disturbing number of cases, religion.

I have high hopes for the future. I believe it’s inevitable that a critical mass of people will reach a level of consciousness that makes state sponsored murder impossible. Preceding this will be an exponential decay in the size and power of religious institutions and an increasing skepticism to claims that flagrant violations of human decency carried out by the ruling class is somehow essential for the cohesion of society. Granted this shit is taking a long damn time.

Updates: James Bovard weighs in mightily: http://www.counterpunch.org/bovard04202010.html
Reviewed by Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque and incorporated into (another) must-read Arthur Silber article.

The Bikecast Episode #3: Fascist Takeover?

This is the cleanest recording to date. I’m declaring The Bikecast officially listenable, at least chronically, and with respect to audio quality. I’d still appreciate feedback on how I can improve the form and content.

Download this episode of the bikecast
Show Notes:
Chris Hedges summarizes a scenario that’s been on the periphery of my mind since the 2008 election cycle. The article bears reading.

To summarize briefly: the american economic system is disintegrating. The working (and out-of-work) class is understandably angry given the focus of the state’s response to the economic situation. Show people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity validate any anti-establishment anger and, inadvertently or no, provide loci for violent tendencies to crystallize. Meanwhile, the establishment left trumpets the successes of the current administration which is simultaneously abandoning its populist pre-election rhetoric and rapidly consolidating and expanding the military and police powers of the state.

Projecting into the future, Hedges predicts/warns of an anger driven populist movement to the radical authoritarian right. The newly enthroned rulers will assume control of the awesome war making and opposition supression mechanisms devised and constructed by previous administrations. And then, bad things.

I agree with all of Hedges axioms. The economic situation is beyond unsustainable for any number of reasons. If two or three of the dozen or so looming crises comes to fruition, the collapse will be beyond the ability of the crumbling state-financial apparatus’ ability to delay any further. Whether the effects are rapid or unwind slowly over time, the standard of living of the dis-empowered will sink. Popular anger and frustration will increase and scapegoats will be sought to bear the blame.

The pattern is too entrenched in human politics and has had too many instantiations to dismiss. I’m not terribly optimistic about the ability of population of the united states to strike out in a new direction at this point. It is steeped in a violent, patriarchal rape culture that goes unquestioned and unchallenged on every level from the personal to the international. A scant handful of individuals that I’ve encountered support anything other than increasingly violent responses to the wide, varied, and ever-multiplying social problems caused by violence.

Noam Chomsky recently noted the similarities between modern right-wing rhetoric and historical instances of the rise-to-power of fascist regimes. Hedges case is more compelling than the summaries of Chomsky’s points that I’ve been able to find, but they strike many of the same notes.

I have a hard time distinguishing between fascist leaning vs. communist leaning regimes. Both are clearly totalitarian with the ruling class absolutely dominating every aspect of the lives of the people living in their claimed territory. I understand that the ideology and rhetoric is different, but I hypothesize that this is a function of the replaced state. In the case of an autocrat or hereditary aristocracy, the would be ruling class would make a case for a serf/peasant revolution using the rhetoric of justice and solidarity. In a corrupt or inefficient republic, the would be rulers choose the language of nationalism. The institutions and structures are incapable of serving the greatness of the nation and its people and therefore a strong person-of-action must be installed to drive out the weak, traitorous, corrupt bureaucrats.

In any case, both movements are “anti-state” insofar as they seek to displace the current ruling class and install their own. Currently, we are clearly in a position where the anti-state “threat” is of the nationalist, anti-republican form. As economic conditions continue to deteriorate, it’s quite likely that “the people” will clap and cheer as the ruling class sheds the last illusory shackles that prevent them from a naked proclamation of absolute power.

Which brings me to my primary point. I don’t think we’re as far removed from “fascism” or, at least, totalitarianism, as the authors believe. The economy, outside of banking, finance, energy, mineral extraction, and large-scale manufacturing remains partially outside the direct control of the ruling class. But the military, education, police, intelligence, and legal systems are indistinguishable from the fascist countries of the 20th century. The chief executive can assassinate or disappear anybody on the planet, and openly declare this fact. The ruling classes of the majority of the rest of the world rely on the US military stationed in and around their claimed geographical regions to maintain control of their population. In return, they are barely, if at all, more than puppets of the US ruling classes.

I agree with both writers’ analysis. A drastic shift to the authoritarian right is inevitable. It’s quite likely to be followed by a shift to the even more authoritarian left. This might be followed by a shift back to the right, and so on.

Accompanying these shifts will be, in real terms, an increasingly authoritarian state with greater and more frequently exercised security powers. It’s easy to dismiss this sort of thing and it’s easy to dismiss the growing popularity of goofballs like Rush Limbaugh. Hedges and Chomsky warn us that they’re not to be taken lightly.

Wiser observers warn us not to forget that the state is orders of magnitude more deadly and dangerous.

During the bikecast, I referred to a post in which someone (turns out it was rob payne of Halcyon Days) noted that assassination is far more convenient that indefinite detention because the accused will never do anything inconvenient like protest his/her innocence.

I had to include this picture. There’s something amusing (to me) about a fascist one-year-old puppy.

Retractions: In the podcast, I was wrong about Hedges proposing a solution.

The Bikecast Episode #2: Wikileaks and Sane vs. Insane Responses to Murder

The sound quality is much better here than in episode 1. There are still some wind gusts audible. I’ve build a windshield for the microphone. Hopefully sound quality will continue to improve. Thanks for bearing with me.

This bikecast might also be labelled a rantcast. The show notes are less supporting documentation and more a collection of supplemental thoughts I had while editing the bikecast.

Download this episode of the bikecast
Show Notes:
I recorded this episode immediately after the wikileak’d gun camera footage of 12 people being murdered. I don’t talk much about the details, which are, frankly, unimportant.

I surround myself with people and media* who/which have no illusions about murder and who have healthy empathetic responses to people being butchered. Sometimes I’m caught off-guard by attempts to “reframe” murder as something that is entirely just–so long as it takes place under the appropriate circumstances.

An acquaintance of mine posted the wikileak’d footage on Facebook, which I admired, with a comment along the lines of, “It isn’t unamerican to be ashamed of this . . .”

The comment section was a reminder of the mainstream opinions that surround state sanctioned murder. Thankfully, it was largely left-of-center commentary, so I was spared tirades about how the editors of wikileaks should be shot as traitors. On the other hand, it was depressing to witness the headspace of the nominal left.

We will know when we’ve reached a state that can be called “civilized,” when:
1. An event like this could never take place–it probably cost a few million dollars to execute those villagers and journalists–only a state with a central bank and a currency monopoly could ever hope to spend that much money to slaughter civilians.
2. If such an event *did* occur, the response would be immediate revulsion and expulsion of the murderers (and their leaders, and their financiers) from civilized society.

What could be a better definition of ‘evil’ than indiscriminate murder of strangers.

Is it possible to adjust someone’s framework, even temporarily, so that their mind isn’t compelled immediately to defend murder? The clarity of the racism involved becomes clear when one recalls the lack of defense of the 9/11 attackers (or the japanese at pearl harbor, or the vietnamese at the gulf of tonkin, etc.)

The inability to understand the suffering of other “unfamiliar” people to the that degree demonstrated by responses to this, and similar, events demonstrates a psychotic lack of empathy.

Thank you to those of you who provide me with my non-sociopathic bubble.

* Here are some samples of relevant blog posts belonging to sane humans:

Chris Floyd’s Empire Burlesque is an absolute must-read in general. Here he predicts, with equal parts accuracy and sarcasm, the complete indifference of the citizenry to the news that people are being slaughtered by “their” troops half a world away.

Also predicting no pause in the killing, Mike Gogulski:

The whole goddamned thing will be swept under the rug and forgotten, much like the carpet-bombing and napalming of Vietnamese and Burmese families two generations ago. Much like the firebombing of Dresden. Much like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Much like the massacres in the Philippines. Oh, I could go on…

der Blaustrumpf points out that this event is unusual only in that it involved journalists, a category of people that you can’t butcher with *complete* indifference.

Blaustrumpf’s article points to Glenn Greenwald. Also indispensible and the highest profile sane person I’m aware of.

Sheldon Richman:

The people on the ground were no threat to the American people whatever. Even if they were a threat to the U.S. military, that is only because it is occupying Iraq. There’s a simple way to end any such threat — withdraw.

This last response is especially interesting, it’s from Josh Stieber who was, at one time, in the same company with the ground forces that were present in the wikileak’d footage.

The Bikecast Episode #1: Introduction to the Bikecast

Lately I’ve taken to carrying a voice recorder with me on my commute to work.  I think I’m going to attempt to make a podcast out of it.   I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of weeks now and I’ve had mixed results, but I think the idea is workable. With a combination of materials engineering and editing software, I think I can make a podcast that is physically listen-able.

This first podcast is actually one of the worst as far as sound quality, but it makes the most sense as an introductory podcast, so I attempted to make-it-work via heavy ham-fisted sound editing (using Audacity). The quality of future shows should be much better.

Whenever I release a podcast, I’ll also post show notes here with references, relevant links, and the like.

Final textual apology for sound quality: after my off-bike introduction, the volume drops a bit. It won’t get loud again. You can feel safe amplifying.

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Show notes:

Anarchism and atheism are the inevitable consequences of enlightenment thought. Two ideas, in particular, stand out as logical precedents to atheism and anarchy.
The concession that reason and evidence “trump” personally held opinions. That physical evidence “wins” in any conflict with concepts in the mind. This principle eliminates God, in addition to unicorns, pixies (not The Pixies), and other superstitions as factors or explanations for anything real.
The equality of all people. A radical concept then and now. Radical equality eliminates the possibility of the legitimate use of physical force in human interactions. This, in turn, makes the state impossible.

Radical equality also declares that there is no “hidden” structure that divides humanity into castes or groups, one which “should” have authority over another. All of human history is the narrative of opposing thoughts: the divine right of kings, the dialectical materialism (which I incorrectly refer to as the “historical dialectic” in the podcast, republicanism, meritocracy, and good old fashioned racism and sexism.

Of these, racism and sexism have the most impact on individuals on a daily basis.

Humankind is moving inexoribly toward anarchy and atheism and will reach them unless first rendered extinct. As the principles and concepts of these two positions is encoded in media and spread, the memes will begin to catch hold and push out the antiquated ideas of religion and authoritarianism.
Atheism has a head start on anarchism. This is the result of a disarmed church. Previously, religious “belief” was near %100 because the penalties for non-belief were physical and harsh. Being an avowed atheist was not an option. Now, the atheist population is booming, because religion is a choice–and not a very attractive one–protected only by indoctrination, social ostracism, and extra-legal violence.

Repudiation of the state still carries the penalties of expropriation, prison and death. Like religion, it’s also enforced by indoctrination and the threat of social ostracism. Therefore, the advancement of anarchist ideas, while also growing rapidly, lags far behind the spread of atheism.

These aren’t my ideas, or at least, others thought of them first. I’ll use this website to provide show notes and point at the resources I’m using as the basis for my arguments.

The purpose of the podcast, currently, is to plant a flag and provide another channel of information, light in the darkness, voice in the wilderness, what-have-you. Since the positions of atheism and anarchism are wildly poisoned wells, I’d also like to clear up any misconceptions that might be out there as to the content of the positions.

Thanks for listening.

Death and Taxes

Happy tax day to you. As is frighteningly often the case, IOZ nails my sentiment exactly.

Governments by their nature aren’t non-violent, obviously, and taxes being one of Franklin’s two lifetime certainties, and the coming homosexual anarchomutualist utopia being somewhere other than in the offing, my prescription come tax time is defeat and crass accomodationism. Take as many cheap deductions as you can and try desperately to fly under the radar so that you can get on to more important things, like fucking, good novels, smoking weed.

It’s not that I am threatened with prison if I don’t turn in my scraps of paper verifying that I’ve had the appropriate amount of my labor confiscated by the ruling class. That’s annoying, but I can imagine a world in which I wouldn’t much mind to contribute. That world would have some tens of millions of extra people living in it, a few million less prisoners, and no security or intelligence apparatus.

It bothers me that every cent stolen from me is used to murder people and stuff the pockets of the corrupt financier class. Any other expenses must be covered by the promise to steal from the unborn once they start working. That and cranking out untold amounts of new currency, devaluing that which exists and driving the already poor deeper into poverty.

Here’s hoping you have a fine time whilst lying low and awaiting the coming homosexual anarchomutualist utopia.