Friday, November 28, 2008

I watched the Zeitgeist films on the suggestion of a good friend. Although I have various disagreements with each of the conclusions the filmmakers arrive at, the films are impressive pieces of filmic art, coming from an independant, idealistic group with a well-defined vision. Most things that you come across on peer-to-peer networks which are ostensibly about ideas tend to be of the most ugly, right-wing type imaginable.

The most obvious observation to be made from the film is what other, competing groups have failed to do. Namely, they have failed to produce an effective, mainstream way of presenting their ideas. This film didn't take that much money to make. Meanwhile Ken Wilber's Integral Institute is now eight years old, and what does it have to show for itself? A subscription web forum and a series of interviews. A persuasive, watchable film like ''Zeitgeist'' could have spread Wilber's ideas to millions of people by now and opened up debate on Wilber's ideas from all quarters. Instead he, and the integral/transpersonal movement as a whole, remains relatively unknown. This continued obscurity reflects a clear failure of leadership on the part of Wilber, who has been the integral figure most dedicated to the popularization and mainstreaming of the integral movement.

Wilber's response would certainly point to a lack of funding, his constant complaint. But it is almost certain that Wilber has spent more money on his website and "spiritual centers" than this group spent on their film, which seems far more effective at disseminating ideas across the globe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The HUMMER H2: wasteful, ostentatious, self-absorbed, with a pretense of toughness, but in fact quite delicate and weak.

The perfect symbol of the Bush years.

Monday, November 10, 2008

If eight years of having the world run by Bush, Cheney, Rove, and DeLay turns out to be the price we had to pay in order for the Goldwater-Reagan-Bush conservative movement to decline into irrelevance, will it have been worth it?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Nora Ephron:
People like me sometimes wonder what it would be like to be involved in mistakes that end up killing people; we wonder about sleepless nights and remorse and guilt. Bill Kristol exists to remind us that these are pathetic liberal fantasies, and that some people are never sorry. Only last week I saw Kristol on television continuing to defend Sarah Palin: she was a bright woman, he was saying, who'd simply been mismanaged by the McCain campaign.
We now know that Palin was probably less suited for the Presidency than your average college graduate. How close to real, honest, civilization-threatening apocalypse did right-wing nihilists, with their credulous followers faithfully in tow, bring us? And Ephron puts her finger on the most astonishing aspect of all: no regret, just continued irrational aggression and enthusiastic denial of reality.

It's not political or theological conservativism that I have a problem with. I have a problem with putting insane people in charge of the nation. Deep down, beneath all the blathering and the regurgitation of hate-radio talking points, they know that Obama's not a communist, or a terrorist, or a Muslim, or a traitor. They know that the country will be better off under Obama than McCain-Bimbo. Yet they voted against him anyways.

Let's just let that sink in.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What is shocking about this election is that Republicans were able to convince 56,542,266 Americans to vote to keep Republicans in power. After eight years of criminally incompetent mis-rule, 56 million Americans said: "More please!"

There are a few understandable, but ultimately incoherent, reasons for this.

1. Personal conservativism and the successful demonization of political opponents. Some people will always choose the old, familiar, and non-threatening, whether it is a Chevrolet, a ham sandwich, or continued political malfeasance by old, rich, white men. If they were mature, well-adjusted human beings, Republican leaders would help people to trust their better instincts and overcome their innate prejudices. Instead, they have acted like frightened adolescents, seizing on people's weaknesses, painting Democrats as traitors, Communists, terrorists --- essentially as scary monsters. Amazingly, tens of millions of Americans are so uneducated and ill-prepared for the world that they actually believe this garbage.

2. Misplaced, confused ethical issues. Some people have genuine moral qualms about political issues, such as legalized abortion. Of course, as most countries have figured out, abortion is primarily a medical procedure between a patient and a doctor, but the primacy of faith for some people demands that they intrude on other people's doctor-patient relationship with not just government regulation, but criminal ramifications. (Additionally, they do this while calling themselves "small government conservatives" --- go figure.) They should recall that America strives to be a constitutional representative republic, not an ancient Near Eastern theocracy. I find the logic in reason #2 to be odd, but it is obviously light-years more legitimate reason #1, which boils down to pretending that half the world are scary monsters because a comedian with a hate radio show told you so.

It is also edifying to note that from 2000-2006, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Executive branch. Strangely for anyone naive enough to believe that they are driven by sincere ethical issues, they didn't make much progress on the ostensibly all-important abortion issue in those six years. To me, it is clear that for Republican politicians, the abortion issue is a political asset, one which they do not intend to give up by attempting to solve it. Voters who vote on the basis of advocating for criminalizing abortion merely reward politicians' cynicism without the slightest chance of actually solving the supposed problem.

3. Racism. This is actively cultivated and encouraged by the Republican party and their operatives, which dominate the American mass media, much to the detriment and shame of our country. The NYT has a map showing the counties in which McCain-Palin outperformed Bush's '04 campaign. This is inexplicable apart from racism.

4. Infantile irresponsibility disguised as greed. Nobody likes to pay taxes, but Republicans have propagated the myth that government services don't actually have to be paid for. You know --- roads, schools, fire departments, invading other countries in order to indiscriminately kill civilians and take their oil --- all of this takes money.

These are all clear failures of our republic, attributable to the failure of public education, to the domination of the mass media by right-wing propaganda, to a financial system which only benefits the rich, to the entrenched, calcified two-party political system, and to a poisonous coalition between the military, the manufacturing industry, and a so-called neo-conservative political group which is dedicated to Likudnik imperialism. We have begun the first step in restoring our republic, which is to overthrow the Bush-Cheney junta and elect a real leader. We must continue with the work of fighting the aggressive irrationality that the right-wing thrives on. Reason and compassion are toxic to political, social, and spiritual regression.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

November 5, 2008

By William Irwin Thompson
The historical aura that seemed to hover over Barack Obama when he spoke to the Democratic convention in 2004 has now proven itself to be no fanciful projection but an accurate perception of his unique arete and destiny. But the Daimon that merely hovered above has now moved into the calm and assured center of his being. As Obama spoke to the world at midnight tonight in Grant Park in Chicago, he stood in the moment in which yesterday becomes tomorrow as an entire epoch comes to an end.

For generations--from Nixon through Reagan, the Bushes and Cheney--Americans have suffered under old men who have locked the country in a saturnine leaden age of war and reaction. In the governments these old men owned and controlled, they spoke contemptuously of big government itself and made people look to the acquisition of wealth as their only hope for existence in a world of fear and terror they sustained to keep themselves in power. In this campaign, McCain tried every ignoble Rovian strategy he could adopt to mark Obama as a terrorist and a socialist out to take away the property that protected the white citizens in the suburbs from dark criminals and terrorists and distribute it to lazy welfare mothers in the evil liberal cities of the land. It was only in his gracious concession speech that John McCain reclaimed the soul he had sold to the devil to run for president.

So yesterday is an age ago, and if tomorrow is filled with new challenges and crises, at least the whole world can now look to them with a new face.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Andrew Sullivan's eloquent, reasoned, and conservative endorsement of Obama.
Steve Benan:
That there are Americans who are told they have to wait in lines up to 10 hours is a genuine national disgrace, but what about those who want to cast a ballot, but simply don't have the luxury of taking three or five or seven or 10 hours to stand in line? For some, their employers won't tolerate that kind of break. For others, who get paid by the hour, it's simply too expensive to give up that much time. For others still, it's just not a physical option.

It is, as Ezra [Klein] noted, "disenfranchisement in action. A longer line does not simply mean more people are voting. It means more people are not voting, as they could not afford the time tax."

Voting problems in this country have reached the point at which they cannot be ignored. Voter-suppression tactics, electronic voting machines, and disjointed paper ballots are already areas of serious concern, but these ridiculously long lines should embarrass officials into action. It's simply untenable that our democracy tries to function this way.
Shorter McCain-Palin:
* income tax progressivity = Marxism
* following Bin Laden's instructions on Iraq = putting country first
* diplomacy = treason
* up = down
* black = white