Friday, July 30, 2004

WHOSE MILLENNIUM? THEIRS OR OURS?

A book by Daniel Singer. You can find it through Monthly Review.

I read the first half of this book in 2001. It's been sitting on my shelf for 3 years. I picked it up and finally finished it since I don't have much else to do right now. It is an incredible book that everyone must read right now!

It is great for anyone left-of-center who couldn't help but get a little inspred by the Democratic National Convention. It was a fucking show, now read this book and get back to the real project of political change.

It is great for anyone who easily resisted the DNC's show, but who are pessimistic about the future and the prospect for real change as opposed to Republicrat, evil-exploitation, turn-taking. Investing all your time in co-ops or some other alternative lifestyle is fine, but it aint goin' to change the world, much less make a dent in a system that has nuclear weapons and cluster bombs at its disposal.

It is simple, not overly-formulaic and not dismissive. But it makes its point forcefully. We cannot hope to end the environmental destruction, warfare and human exploitation of capitalism without a clear alternative, not a mere tweaking of the system. There is no elaborate map provided, but Singer does an excellent job of exploring history and the successes and failures of previous social upheavals. In doing so, he points us in the right direction and gives us tips for avoiding pitfalls or wrong turns.

There is no hiding the fact that Singer is a socialist and sees this as our best hope out of our mess. But he doesn't shout at the reader, he deals with much anticipated reader eye-rolling through sensibility and reasoning. In the end, I was left with hope and a sense of urgency. Even those constant skeptics should take a look at Singer's book.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

MOVING TO THE BAY AREA?

Not a sure thing yet, but I will be visiting the area soon. The phone interview went well - I think it did anyway, I can never tell. It clearly didn't go poorly because a few hours later I got a call - they want me for a follow-up interview - in person.

I feel giddy - but that is mainly because of the coffee and Claritin-D. I am, however, genuinely excited.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

MORE WISDOM FROM THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION

From the people that cast the world in terms of good and evil we have a new quote. In addressing the pullout of Phillipino troops from Iraq, and the subsequent taking of 6 new hostages from other countries, Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday, " If you want more of something you reward it. If you want less of something you penalize it."

The message here is that countries should not give into the demands of terrorists, even if it means innocent people get beheaded. But if there is no good reason for being there in the first place, why stand your ground? This is, I believe, the basis for the Phillipine withdrawal as well as the Spanish reaction to the bombings in Madrid. People around the world are saying: "We understand if you want to stand your ground because you are defending something you believe in strongly - American imperialism, American hegemony, and American financial superiority. But we don't care about that, so we have no reason to stand our ground. Go to hell Rumsfeld."

It seems like a lot of these beheaders are related to, or inspired by, Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists. What is clear is that they would not be emboldened or have the power they have in the region right now had we not invaded, killed thousands of innocent civilians and maimed thousands of others. None of these countries now facing threats would have to deal with this. So, they should take Rumsfeld's logic and not reward American terrorism by helping to establish its hold on the region. They should penalize American terrorism by leaving Iraq and proclaiming they want nothing to do with it.

Monday, July 19, 2004

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NYC TRIP

This is only my second trip to New York City ever. The Guild is as troubled as any organization, and I'm more committed to it than ever. Manhattan is full of tourists and commercialism, but the buildings are both old and tall, which makes them all incredible monuments. Brooklyn feels really comfortable - old, international, diverse, accepting, urban, beautiful, dirty, surprisingly clean. David's cool - I miss him slightly but I realized I will likely miss him more in the future. Unless I end up living up there. Now two highlights that made me tired:

1. Lost in Brooklyn

So, on Saturday when I got back from Manhattan on the R Train, I confused the streets with the avenues in David's directions to the cafe where he works. So, I ended up lost in Prospect Park. The upside of this 2 or 3 hour excursion was a short tour of Brooklyn and a really incredible park. Shall I call it enchanting? Of course not, that would be stupid. The temperature was cool, some fog floated about. The park was full of kids and adults, eating, listening to music, strolling, playing sports, relaxing. It was immense with rolling hills, tall trees, pockets of forest, and stone structures. I could definitely see myself getting drunk out there. Plus it was easy to find a place to urinate out of sight.

2. We Should Scrap the Entire Airline Industry for a System of Super-Fast Speed Trains that Ride on Magnets

Went to La Guardia early because it looked like it was going to rain, and I didn't want to buy an umbrella or a raincoat. The flight was delayed 2 and a half hours because it did indeed start raining, and apparently the weather made it impossible for our plane to land. I was entertained by a group of young girls with some older women who made up a troop that may be involved in a musical about praying or Jesus or something. Surprise, Surprise, they were heading back to Houston. At one point one of the older women asked a young Swedish guy about the music he was listening to. He played along and said with a heavy accent that it was a Swedish group. The Christian, Houstonian asked for his headphones, then listened to it and bobbed her head as the young girls giggled. "It sounds like rap," she shrieked. The Swedish guy just smiled, but I believe he probably was thinking: "stupid Americans." Then the woman turned to one of the white girls and said, "I bet Veronica would like this." Veronica was the only African American girl in the group.

At one point a passenger waiting came along with a small poodle - I'm not sure if they let her get her dog because of the delay or what. The poodle was dressed in a Mets jersey for dogs and little dog boots in Mets colors - which I believe are red and blue. The girls from "sparklemotion" adored the dog and caused it to bark at them in a playful way for hours. This period of barking, oohs and aahs, was also marked by two false fire alarms at La Guardia, which gave the entire wait a carnival atmosphere.

After the two and a half hours plus the extra hour - cause I got there early - we were finally on a plane. We sat on the runway for like half an hour with our seats in their very uncomfortable upright position deprived of the pleasure of portable electronic devices, with only a view of grey airport concrete out our windows. The plane was completely full and it seemed nearly 2/3rds of the passengers were tiny infants, all screaming. I was lucky to get a seat between two large men.

Finally in Houston, there was no connecting flight to Austin - or it had left hours ago. The good people at Continental set me up in the beautiful Marriot and got me to Austin this morning. They also bought my breakfast, or more accurately gave me $10 for breakfast at the Marriot which cost nearly $14 plus tip.

Another reason to support a system of speed trains in this country - Fewer weather delays!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

GOD, TACKS AND PRAYER

This morning I was walking around my room barefoot for several minutes - from my bathroom to my computer and back as I typically do while I groom myself and read the news. I looked down at one point, for no particular reason, and noticed a tack on the floor with the pointy side up. I must have nearly stepped on it several times. How long had it been there? I picked it up and said, "thank God." Of course I'm agnostic, but that simple incident reminded me of a constant question I have. If God is responsible for me finding the tack, who is responsible for leaving the tack on the floor? Wouldn't I be a lot better off if God just kept harm out of my way altogether, or are we all victims of a constant struggle between God and Satan - Satan leaves tacks everywhere and God rushes around trying to help people find them before they injure themselves.

Incidentally, I strongly reccommend CBN news if you get it in your area. CBN is the Christian Broadcasting Network and Pat Robertson's megaphone. It is a great mix of right-wing politics, news, and prayer. They have praying down to a marketing strategy, or perhaps a campaign strategy - very sophisticated. They tell all their viewers to pray as much as possible and have what they call "prayer points." These are the few, concise hopes that they want everyone to pray for until the next broadcast. Like sending a petition to God - the more he hears a few points over and over again, the more pressure he'll feel to act.

If I prayed, I'd pray for justice, peace and proserity to all, an end to capitalist exploitation, freedom for the Palestinians, total acceptance of gays and lesbians, etc. etc. But why bother when I'm up against such a coordinated praying machine.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE: TYRANNY IS TYRANNY



Fireworks are cool, so I'll probably take a look at them tonight. But on this day, I always like to go back and read parts of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States:

"When the Declaration of Independence was read, with all its flaming radical language, from the town hall balcony in Boston, it was read by Thomas Crafts, a member of the Loyal Nine group, conservatives who had opposed militant action against the British. Four days after reading, the Boston Committee of Correspondence ordered the townsmen to show up on the Common for a military draft. The rich, it turned out, could avoid the draft by paying for substitutes; the poor had to serve. This led to rioting, and shouting: 'Tyranny is Tyranny let it come from whom it may.'"

This passage, today, makes me think about our upcoming election, where we must choose between two, wealthy, spoiled, white guys with very similar politics. Everyone I know hates Bush, but will we really benefit from a Kerry presidency? The risk is great that his presidency will do more harm than Bush's, because people will let him get away with a lot more.

It also gets me thinking about the situation in Iraq. For all the talk about how evil Saddam Hussein was, it must confuse some Americans when they hear so many Iraqis are saddened by his capture and criminal charges. Saddam is a jerk and a murderer, but so is George W. Bush, and so was Ronald Reagan, and so is the royal family in Saudi Arabia. What will the new Iraqi government be like? Maybe like the new Afghanistan government? Tyranny is Tyranny.

Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

3 CHEESE POBLANO QUESADILLAS $2.49

Today I purchased a soda at one of a number of 7-11's in Austin. This guy, who looked fairly normal, was arguing with the cashier about some greasy food he was trying to purchase and consume. He eventually forced a clerk to go outside with him and inspect the large banner above the entrance. They debated for a minute or two, and as I left I passed them by and heard the basis of this gentleman's complaint. "There should be a hyphen between the '3' and the 'CHEESE,'" he demanded of the powerless clerk. It turns out he expected to order not one, not two, but three quesadillas for $2.49, and not just any quesadillas, cheese poblano quesadillas. I felt like going back in and complaining that the quesadillas contained ordinary poblano peppers, not cheese poblanos, but I figured these spicy grease bombs were likely filled with no natural ingredients at all.

Another thing about 7-11. Why do liberals and progressives decry the spread of Starbucks, but not the fact that in some places there are multiple 7-11's on the same block?