Monday, January 26, 2009
"The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there."
2) The Coming Police State, Brzezinksi's vision thereof
3) Or Does it Explode? Against Militarism and the prospect of global Change
Barack Obama, as does any statesmen, poses a tangible threat to world stability, for his unbridled appeal allows him the leeway to take dangerous risks, the sort of risks Bush couldn’t have imagined from 2005 on. The cult of personality, which has done no more to aid his election except suspend its critical thinking capacities, stands blindly behind a President who represents "change" no more than the George Bush of the 2000 election campaign, when he ran under the same, but now exhausted, slogan; President Obama, however, does stand for the perpetuation, if not intensification, of a tested policy in Washington in which you and me are “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders"; At the same time, a scattering, the world over, by States to choose their alliances reminds us of a complex and precarious network of friends and enemies of which we are all a part. He presides, also, over an escalation of the US war in the Middle East—most notably the latest surge in the enduring US-Israel genocide in Gaza, and next week’s deployment of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, many of whom will most likely end up in Pakistan. The last thirty years have been grim for the majority of US citizens—though, of course, this is a rich country, not South Africa—as real wages have declined and work hours have increased; blowback from government reactions to the social turmoil of the 1960's. What do we have to show for it? Brand Obama and the maelstrom of ultranationalist sentiment that it has unbolted—with the environment in disrepair, global and static war creeping ever nearer to home, the US citizenry is in war mode: We salute you, President Obama.
Despite his "grassroots" appeal, a gross sum of Obama’s campaign budget comes from the pockets of finance capital, historically an accurate signal of with which sectors of big industry a candidate’s policy will likely align. This, clearly, is no big surprise, for, as Economist Thomas Ferguson has theorized, US elections can be reduced to their barebones: Conventions whereby groups of investors compete over control of the mechanisms of State power. Presently, American capitalism resembles socialism; though, admittedly, a version thereof beneficial solely to the multinationals in charge rather than individuals. These facts contradict attempts by neo-conservatives to paint Obama as a socialist or a communist; impossible, for he is a servant of finance capital. Such preconditions inhibit seriously the ability for Brand Obama to follow through on (the largely imagined) agenda he has so eloquently outlined for the multitude: Hope, Unity, Change.
Obama’s first appointee, as the democratic candidate for the Vice Presidency, Joe Biden, was one of the strongest supporters of the war in Iraq as a member of Senate. As a longtime Washington insider, Biden has scantily deviated from the Democratic Party line; indeed, those instances in which he has betrayed consensus are discouraging, for he voted in favor of senate resolutions to prevent individuals from getting rid of their debts by going into bankruptcy—a blow against poor people crushed by our debtor’s economy (let's assume individuals won't be on the list of recipients for Obama's February $800 billion bailout). Why would Obama—supported nearly ubiquitously by the anti-war movement (even the anti-war moveon.org supported Obama despite his lack of a sensible agenda for withdrawal from Iraq)—undermine a substantial portion of his following? As we will see, Obama’s foreign policy is no less sinister than the tested US policy of attrition in the Third World; in fact, it very well could be more overwrought than US policy during the hottest days of the Cold War in the early 1960’s.
In addition to Biden, Rahm Emmanual, current Chief of Staff, supported also the war in Iraq as a member of the House. While in the House, thanks to his prior career as an investment banker, Emmanuel was a leading recipient of funding from financial institutions. Robert Rubin, now Secretary of Treasury, is, alongside Emmanuel and others among Obama’s ranks, responsible in part for the financial crisis of which we are currently in the midst. Dean Baker, a leading economist—to be sure one of the only leading economists to accurately analyze the crisis and subsequent bailouts—noted that to select both Emmanuel and Rubin is equivalent to selecting Osama Bin Laden to run the war on terror. These two selections are only the tip of the iceberg, and I implore you—should you harbor still doubts about culpability of the Obama administration—to consult the public record, for a number of Obama’s advisors ought not be receiving cabinet appointments, but subpoenas.
“The legacy of my administration will be transparency and the rule of law,” Obama said during his Inauguration speech. Nonetheless, two major foreign policy issues of the coming year—Afghanistan and Pakistan—go all but unmentioned on his website. We have already seen the ways in which Obama is hinged on finance capital, so let’s explore now the implications of this for his administration and the coming years of the US Empire. Debating Hilary Clinton in Chicago last year, Obama said he supported the unilateral bombing of northwest Pakistan, regardless of that country’s nuclear capabilities. Clinton and McCain regarded this as absurd, and even Bush opposed the idea. However, today, at the behest of Brand Obama, we have already invaded Pakistan, bombing exactly that region which Obama suggested we antagonize. Pakistan, much like the three-sector Iraqi State, may also be carved into separate parts, should US strategy in the region be fulfilled, as the increase in troop levels—essentially clandestine in light of media fury over the Obama’s—for now in Afghanistan, and later into Pakistan, forebodes. Claims pointing to Pakistani instability as grounds for such an invasion must be regarded as invalid, for Washington supports historically criminal and debilitated governments—like that of the present Kosovo; or Israel, for that matter.
Recently, neocons have focused on Iran as a threat to National Security, however, the transfer of power from the “right” to the “left”—meaningless denotations, for, in the end, both parties represent modes of autocracy attitudinizing democratic values; this system some have coined a “duocracy," and is recognized as having ONE agenda—represents a coup d’état in American geopolitical strategy. The transfer, to be sure, did not start with Obama’s inauguration; the tables turned upon Obama’s election, which pitted the moribund Bush/Cheney administration as lame ducks in the White House. By way of an “advisory committee,” made up of key figures in the outgoing and incoming administrations, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, Obama’s Foreign Policy advisor and key player in the Trilateral Commission, set forth upon a more sophisticated and complex foreign policy. Perhaps initial gambles—sure to unfold over the coming months and years as part of an effort to clean up the “grand chessboard” after the Bush/Cheney disaster—could backfire, resulting in a more aggressive and more militaristic foreign policy than heretofore.
Who Obama represents is the Trilateral commission, a clique of bankers who ran the disastrous—both economically and in terms of geopolitics—Carter administration, and have groomed Barack Obama to carry out a desperate new agenda. What we experienced on Tuesday is the moment when this particular clique became institutionalized, hidden behind a pretty new face; not a neocon, nor even a right-winger, rather a leftist demigod; an added bonus of Obama is his worldwide appeal (after all, China lost a significant degree of its somewhat hard earned foothold in Africa to Obama). As Brzezinksi, the aforementioned utmost figure in the Trilateral Commission and current Foreign Policy Advisor, said in September 2007: “What makes Obama attractive to me is that he understands that we live in a very different world where we have to relate to a variety of cultures and peoples.” The Bush administration attempted a similar ploy to increase the democratic appearance of the United States abroad with the appointment of Colin Powell to Secretary of State, thereafter virtually ignoring the able statesman.
Such tactics, while impacting significantly the consciousness of a historically bigoted country, characterizes a new approach to the social conditioning of the American people. In the interim, nonetheless, the project of the Obama administration is not merely war in the Middle East, like that of the Bush administration: We can no longer invade destitute countries to fulfill our contumacious foreign policy agenda, for, as Brzezinksi notes, we live in a “much more politically awakened world.” Imperialism must become subtler, because the masses, that is, the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,” have too much information, just as the democratic press of the 1960’s was too ‘illuminating’, consummating in the discontent and stirrings of that age. Instead, Brzezinksi, in the shadows behind Obama, wishes to engage more directly world centers of power: Moscow and Beijing, the ultimate goal of which is to bring those two countries—after isolating them—into the US sphere in order for the perpetuation of US-British international dominion. The world economic crisis, which, at least for the destitute, will be interminable due to resource depletion, threatens by no means US power in the world in relation to other countries: for Russia, whose interdependence with the rest of the world was confirmed by the failing economy, closed its stock market in the fall; and China, which had up until recently been unscathed, announced, in party-speak, that their economy was beginning to falter.
Whereas neocons have touted war with Iran, Brzezinski , who served also as National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, disregards such efforts has paramount to suicide; The US is too poor, too isolated globally. Instead, a far more conspiratorially complex tactic emerges: war between Russia and Iran. This, without doubt, would hardly be the first time the United States stirred war between a Middle Eastern country and Russia, for Brzezinski himself was the mastermind behind the arms trade between the United States and Afghanistan which led to the Soviet invasion of the latter, and, many posit, the consequent collapse of the “Evil Empire.” In anticipation of his fabricated war, Brzezinksi commented: “We now have the opportunity to give the Soviet Union their Vietnam War.” There was also speculation last October, as Georgia invaded South Ossetia, that this—instead of being a western ally defending itself against big bully Russia, like we were informed by our neighbors in the mass media—was actually a neocon attempt to influence the 08’ election, a way of exploiting Senator Obama’s weak foreign policy reputation. As truthdig uncovered, McCain’s foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, was, for four years, a paid lobbyist to the Georgian government. Hardly a smoking gun, it remains that these are the sorts of lines of reasoning that must be investigated further so as to understand the overlapping cartels who actually run our, and other, governments. The question, then, is whether this new policy is to be carried out without exception, or if this is to be engaged upon only when Russia refuses US terms. Due to inadequacy (from our perspective) of the west’s media coverage of the bloodletting in South Ossetia—clearly geared against Russia, and clearly asserting itself as propagandistically much more sophisticated than Russian media—Brzezinski was under little pressure to explain his comments which likened Vladimir Putin to Hitler and Stalin; hyperbole aimed to fall upon public ears, and, conceivably, foretelling of desired policy directions.
As we have seen, the US economy is superlative to all other current centers of power, monumental debts included. Militarily speaking, all other centers of power pose little threat to US hegemony. For example: Publicly, the US military receives approximately $635 billion a year, unrivaled by China’s approximately $65 billion. The space race, of which we hear so much about, is also nonexistent, except for as public misinformation: the US spends, publicly speaking, $25 billion a year, whereas China—which, despite having only the possible potential to put a man on the moon, is touted by Washington as a formidable rival in the space race—has $2 billion in expenditures for space. Despite this inequity—demonstrating the US’s clear domination of space—Obama’s transition team plans to conflate the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because, according to the Huffington Post, “military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency’s planned launch vehicle.”
Brzezinksi maintains that the US has, since the fall of the Soviet Union, squandered hitherto its opportunities to secure US preeminence and influence in the world, but, as his book “Second Chance” spells out, it is, by no means, too late; furthermore, the economic crisis works as the perfect guise, under which Brzezinski and other high players in the Trilateral Commission can execute their new, and ever more tactful, foreign policy: Imperialism and colonialism, like that of old, is irrelevant in a post-imperial and post-colonial world. In lieu of the imperialism carried forth by Bush/Cheney, certain imperialism with Left-wing slogans materializes under monikers such as “humanitarian aid, friendship, and diplomacy.” Thanks to Obama, imperialism gets a facelift. Europe is aloof in their delusion that Obama represents a sea change in post-world War II US policy, and Africa, whose curiosity is piqued by the black man in the White House, is suddenly more oriented towards Washington than recent memory accounts for; the US plans to capitalize on this in order to undermine Chinese influence in the region—which receives seven percent of its oil from southern Africa—hoping to force them to turn towards a weakened Russia for resources. Another affront against China is the looming US invasion of Pakistan, for, traditionally, Pakistan has aligned itself with China. Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zardari, said recently: “I ask of the government that it should be firm in its resolve to not allow the use of its soil for carrying out terrorist activities against any foreign country…we will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism.” That Pakistan is a sovereign nation, of course, is irrelevant to the anti-democratic American mind shaped, in part, by the neocons in the wake of September 11.
Another hotspot is the former Warsaw Pact countries of Poland and the Czech Republic, where Washington has continually pushed for the deployment of an anti-nuclear defense radar. Three-star General Vladimir Popovkin, chief of the Russian Space Troops, told reporters, “The U.S. bases would be a clear threat to Russia,” for, it is clear, the defenses would be monitoring Russian strategic nuclear missiles in Central Russia and the North Fleet (Barents Sea/Kola Peninsula). “It’s doubtful that Iranian or North Korean rockets would fly over Poland or the Czech Republic,” he noted. “If such a base would be deployed in Turkey, which is a NATO member and much closer to Iran, we would not be asking questions…We are carefully monitoring the situation and will react adequately.” Are we on the precipice of a missile crisis (the Polish Missile Crisis?), in the vein of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which an arrogant and obdurate John F. Kennedy, to whom Obama is oft compared, pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war?
"The Technocratic Age is slowly designing an every day more controlled society. The society will be dominated by an elite of persons free from traditional values (!) who will have no doubt in fulfilling their objectives by means of purged techniques with which they will influence the behavior of people and will control and watch the society in all details". "... it will become possible to exert a practically permanent watch on each citizen of the world".
- Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder of Trilateral Commission, Foreign Policy Advisor of Barack Obama
REST ATTACHED AS COMMENT
Alex Jones on Russia Today commenting about "the danergous demagoguery of the coronation of King Obama."
Alex Jones quote from Waking Life: What a bunch of garbage; liberal, democrat, conservative, republican. It's all there to control you! Two sides of the same coin. Two management teams bidding for control, the CEO job of Slavery, Incorporated! The truth is out there in front of you, but they lay out this buffet of lies. I'm sick of it, and I'm not going to take a bite out of it, do you got me?
The following is a Press TV interview with respected American author, political analyst and world-renowned linguist, Professor Noam Chomsky.
By Press TV
January 24, 2009 -- -Press TV: Professor Chomsky, we better start with Pakistan. The White House not commenting on the killings of people [in cross-border drone attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan]. Richard Holbrooke, someone whom you've written about in the context of Yugoslavia, is the man [President Barack] Obama has chosen to solve the situation.
Chomsky: Well, it was pretty clear that Obama would accept the Bush doctrine that the United States can bomb Pakistan freely, and there have been many case which are quite serious.
There has been for example a great deal of chaos and fighting in Bajaur province, which is a adjacent to Afghanistan and tribal leaders- others there- have traced it to the bombing of a madrassa school which killed 80 to 95 people, which I don't think was even reported in the United states, it was reported in the Pakistani press of course.
The author of the article reporting it, a well-known nuclear physicist, Pervez Hoodbhoy pointed out at the time that this kind of massacre will of course engender terror and reactions, which will even threaten the state of Pakistan. And that has been what is happening. We are now seeing more of it.
The first message of the Pakistani government to General [David] Petraeus, the American General when he took command of the region was that they did not want any more bombings in Pakistan.
Actually, the first message to the new Obama administration by President [Hamid] Karzai of Afghanistan was the same, that he wanted no more bombings. He also said that he wants a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign troops, US and other troops, from Afghanistan. That was of course just ignored.
Press TV: And these three foreign envoys, well the third one has not been announced yet perhaps, but some people are expressing optimism about George Mitchell's position as Middle East envoy.
Richard Holbrooke, which have looked at. We have talked to the former Bosnian foreign minister here, who seemed to imply that he may even have had a role in the say so for the Srebrenica massacre, and of course, Dennis Ross is being talked about as an envoy for Iran.
Chomsky: well Holbrooke has a pretty awful record, not so much Yugoslavia, but earlier. For example, In the Indonesian atrocities in eastern Timor, where he was the official in charge, and evaded to stop the US support for them, and all together it's a very spotty record.
George Mitchell is, of the various appointments that have been made, he is the most decent let's say. He has a pretty decent record. He achieved something in Northern Ireland, but of course, in that case there was an objective.
The objective was that the British would put an end to the resort to violence in response to IRA terror and would attend to the legitimate grievances that were the source of the terror. He did manage that, Britain did pay attention to the grievances, and the terror stopped- so that was successful.
But there is no such outcome sketched in the Middle East, specially the Israel-Palestine problem. I mean, there is a solution, a straightforward solution very similar to the British one. Israel could stop its US-backed crimes in the occupied territories and then presumably the reaction to them would stop. But that's not on the agenda.
In fact, President Obama just had a press conference, which was quite interesting in that respect. He praised the parabolic peace initiative, the Saudi initiative endorsed by the Arab League, and said it had constructive elements. It called for the normalization of relation with Israel, and he called on the Arab states to proceed with those "constructive elements," namely the normalization of relations.
But that is a gross falsification of the Arab League initiative. The Arab League initiative called for accepting a two-state settlement on the international border, which has been a long-standing international consensus and said if that can be achieved then Arab states can normalize relations with Israel.
Well, Obama skipped the first part, the crucial part, the core of the resolution, because that imposes an obligation on the United States. The United States has stood alone for over thirty years in blocking this international consensus, by now it has totally isolated the US and Israel.
Europe and now a lot of other countries have accepted it. Hamas has accepted it for years, the Palestinian Authority of course, the Arab League now for many years [have accepted it]. The US and Israel block it, not just in words, but they are blocking it in actions constantly, (this is) happening every day in the occupied territories and also in the siege of Gaza and other atrocities.
So when he skips that it is purposeful. That entails that the US is not going to join the world in seeking to implement a diplomatic settlement, and if that is the case, Mitchell's mission is vacuous.
Press TV: Is there a contradiction in that George Mitchell of course did speak to members of the Sinn Féin, their military wing of course of the IRA.
At the same time, well on this channel [Press TV] we have been covering the Gaza conflict, its headquarters were bombed, and now we are being told that Israeli soldiers will not give their names, and the names of people are not being released for fear of prosecution.
And yet, some were saying that Obama did say that the border should be opened. Should we see any change in policy there?
Chomsky: He did say that, but he did not mention the fact that it was in the context of a lot other demands. And Israel will also say, sure the borders should be opened but he still refuses to speak to the elected government (i.e. Hamas), quite different from Mitchell in Northern Ireland.
It means Palestinians will have to be punished for voting in a free election, the way the US did not want them to, and he endorsed the Condoleezza Rice-Tzipi Livni agreement to close the Egyptian-Gaza order, which is quite an act of imperial arrogance.
It is not their border, and in fact, Egypt strongly objected to that. But Obama continued. He says we have to make sure that no arms are smuggled through the tunnels into the Gaza Strip. But he said nothing about the vast dispatch of far more lethal arms to Israel.
In fact, right in the middle of the Gaza attack, December 31, the Pentagon announced that it was commissioning a German ship to send 3,000 tons of war material to Israel. That did not work out, because the government of Greece prevented it but it was supposed to go through Greece but it could all go through somewhere else. This is right in the middle of the attack on Gaza.
Actually there were very little reporting, very few inquiries. The Pentagon responded in an interesting way. They said, well this material won't be used for the attack on Gaza, in fact they knew that Israel had plans to stop the attack right before the inauguration, so that Obama would not have to say anything about it.
But the Pentagon said that this material is being used for pre-positioning for US forces. In other words, this has been going for a long time, but this is extending and reinforcing the role of Israel as a US military base on the edge of the major oil producing regions of the world. If they are ever asked why they are doing it, they will say for defense or stability, but it is just a base for further aggressive action.
Press TV: Robert Gates and Admiral [Mike] Mullen have been talking about the 16-month timeline for withdrawal from Iraq is just one of the options, a slight difference from what Obama has been saying in the campaign. And, Hillary Clinton famously said she was prepared to obliterate all of Iran and kill 70 million citizens. On Iraq and Iran what do you see as changes?
Chomsky: What happened in Iraq is extremely interesting and important. The few correspondents with real experience any whom know something have understood it. Patrick Cockburn, Jonathan Steele and one or two others.
What has happened is that there was a remarkable campaign of non-violent resistance in Iraq, which compelled the United States, step-by-step, to back away from its programs and its goals. They compelled the US occupying forces to allow an election, which the US did not want and tried to evade in all sorts of ways.
Then they went on from there to force the United States to accept at least formally a status of forces agreement, which if the Obama administration lives up to it, will abandon most of the US war aims. It will eliminate the huge permanent military bases that the US has built in Iraq. It will mean the US will not control decisions over how the oil resources will be accessed and used. And in fact just every war aim is gone.
Of course there is a question of whether the US will live up to it and what you are reporting is among the serious indications that they are trying to evade living up to it. But what happened there is really significant, and a real credit to the people of Iraq, who have suffered miserably. I mean, the country has been absolutely destroyed, but they did manage to get the US to back away formally from its major war aims.
In the case of Iran, Obama's statements have not been as inflammatory as Clinton's, but they amount to pretty much the same thing. He said all options are open. Well, what does all options mean? Presumably that includes nuclear war, you know, that is an option.
There is no indication that he is willing to take the steps, say, that the American population wants. An overwhelming majority of the American population for years has been in favor, has agreed with the Non-Aligned Movement, that Iran should have the rights granted to the signers of the non-proliferation treaty, in fact to develop nuclear energy.
It should not have the right to develop nuclear weapons, and more interestingly about the same percentages, about 75 to 80%, call for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the region, which would include Iran, Israel, and any US forces deployment there, within all kinds of verifications and so on.
That could eliminate probably one of the major sources of the conflict. There is no indication that the Obama administration has any thought of doing anything about this.
Press TV: Just finally Professor Chomsky, the US economy, of course where you are -that is dominating the news and the lives all Americans and arguably the people around the world- and this 825 billion dollar package. How do you think the Obama people are going to handle this?
Chomsky: Nobody really knows. I mean, what is happening with the economy is not well understood. It is based on extremely opaque financial manipulations, which are quite hard to decode. I mean, the general process is understood, but whether the $800 billion, or probably larger government stimulus, will overcome this crisis, is not known.
The first $350 billion have already been spent- that is the so-called part bailout but that went into the pockets of banks. They were supposed to start lending freely, but they just decided not to do it. They would rather enrich themselves, restore their own capital, and take over other banks- mergers and acquisition and so on.
Whether the next stimulus will have an effect depends very much on how it is handled, whether it is monitored, so that it is used for constructive purposes. [It relies] also on factors that are just not known, like how deep this crisis is going to be.
It is a worldwide crisis and it is very serious. It is suddenly striking that the ways that Western countries are approaching the crisis is exactly the same as the model that they enforce on the Third World when there is a crisis.
So when Indonesia has a crisis, Argentina and everyone else, they are supposed to raise interest rates very high and privatize the economy, and cut down on public spending, measures like that. In the West, it is the exact opposite: lower interest rates to zero, move towards nationalization if necessary, pour money into the economy, have huge debts.
That is exactly the opposite of how the Third World is supposed to pay off its debts, and that this seems to pass without comment is remarkable. These measures for the West are ones that might get the economy moving again, while it has been a disaster for others.
Zbignew Brezinky -Obama's foreign policy advisor
Monday, January 19, 2009
Bad Religion remains at the forefront of the punk scene, as relevant today as they were in 1980, when they were just one in a nation full of bands lashing out at the onset of the definitive Reagan years and the influx of religious fervor that accompanied them.
The bands singer, Greg Graffin, rhythmically delivers prescient and thoughtful lyrics with a powerful voice that is just at home with his old-time music project, under his own name, as it is with Bad Religion.
Along with his music endeavors, Graffin is currently a part-time lecturer at UCLA. He earned his doctorate from Cornell University in Evolutionary Biology. Though the union of accomplished musician and academic is a novel juxtaposition for some, the analytical subject matter of Bad Religion’s 13 albums points to the contrary.
On July 10 2007 Bad Religion released their 14th studio album, co-written by Graffin and his longtime songwriting partner, guitarist Brett Gurewitz. I had the chance to interview him about the album for my college’s newspaper; however, due to panties shoved far up the editorial staff’s asses, the interview wasn’t boring enough for them to print it.
“Our new album is a collection of songs that depict a world-view that has matured from our original album,” Graffin said. “We still think hell exists only as a concept for the living but today we have more life-experience than we did when we wrote our first album 26 years ago.”
As a biologist, it is likely one would find Graffin discussing purpose in life arising from an organism’s need to propagate its DNA, but he believes that for humans there is a cultural purpose as well.
“Experience has led us to many cherished notions of meaning and purpose but it hasn’t dissuaded us from the view that we only live one life and there are no Gods who offer us any hope,” said Graffin. “Our hopes come from a desire to leave the planet in better shape than when we arrived on it; ultimately in the interest of improving conditions for humankind.”
In order to stress the band hasn’t deviated from the world-view accentuated on their first album “How Could Hell Be Any Worse?” which includes songs titled “Slaves,” “Voice of God is Government,” and “American Dream,” the new album is called “New Maps of Hell.”
“We wanted to show the world that we are still committed to the idea that we expressed in our first album, but that we have new road maps or lyrical guides to the neighborhoods of human existence,” said Graffin.
“Maps” is comprised of songs such as “New Dark Ages,” “Grains of Wrath” and “Heroes and Martyrs.” The first single “Honest Goodbye” has already received airplay on Southern California’s KROQ.
What’s the most valuable lesson that Graffin has taken from his education experience in the sciences?
“That no organism was born for any particular purpose. Meaning in life is something that comes from culture and whatever culture you come from determines your sense of purpose. The same baby raised in two different cultures will have different sets of values. This is a very profound fact.”
In his dissertation, “Monism, Atheism and the Naturalist Worldview: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology,” Graffin surveyed some of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists about their world-views; Almost all of whom expressed a naturalist world-view.
He found that 87 percent of the participants find some way to make religion congruent with the tenets of evolution. They contend that religion is a part of evolution rather than something bestowed upon us by God.
“Naturalism is more of a way of looking at the world and since it doesn’t really teach about what is sacred I guess it’s not much of a religion,” Graffin said. “But basically it says we should have no faith unless it is verified by observation and justified by probability.”
He continued that though this doesn’t help us in interpersonal relationships, where you have to have blind faith that your partner really loves you and will always be there for you, he thinks that stepping outside the traditional practices of religious faith is important.
“Naturalism allows us to break down barriers of belief that are so much a part of traditional religions,” Graffin said. “Scientific facts can be verified by anyone, regardless of cultural background, so long as you agree on what exists and what doesn’t exist, [which is] a difficult thing to do with some groups of people.”
In August an article Graffin penned along with his advisor at Cornell, William Provine, will be published in American Scientist. He also plans on making progress on a book he has been pondering to be called “Population Wars.”
Aside from Bad Religion, Graffin has released two CD’s under his own name, 1997’s “American Lesion” and 2006’s “Cold as the Clay.” The latter is a collection of Old-time American songs recorded with period instruments and Old-Time Ribbon microphones, alongside many originals which were written to sound like they were from the 19th century.
We're widespread and well fed,
The earth's rotating fate is in our head, oh yeah.
We're dominant and prominent,
And our diety's omnipotent, oh yeah.
And immortality's in our mastermind,
And we destroy everything we can find.
And tomorrow when the human clock stops and the world stops turning,
We'll be an index fossil buried in our own debris.
We're listless, promiscuous,
And life to us is either hit or miss, oh yeah.
We're savoir faire and debonaire
And things we do are done with pride and care, oh yeah.
Index Fossil from "Suffer"
Monday, January 12, 2009
A hustle here and a hustle there-- New york city is the place where they said 'Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.'
Young girl in Laundromat: …Yeah, I know! And then he said that he never cheats on his wife and I was all like ‘oh, really!? Then what was your penis doing in my mouth last night!?
Co-worker in office: I think from now on, I’m going to speak in the third person about myself, and I’ll call myself “Angry Chinese clam.” Angry Chinese clam is most displeased with your actions.
Man on Cell Phone: I tried to call you yesterday, but you weren’t home. Where were you? What? Colonoscopy? Did he at least buy you flowers and talk dirty to you? Sorry, yeah, that was out of line. I’ll cut the crap now. Oh, ha, ha, ha, I just made an unintended pun. No…no, sorry…Hello? Hello?
How apt we must be with metaphor and compositionality to turn word salad into a gushing hydrant of ideas. Along the way of words we uncover new metaphors, as though they had been buried by the settled dust of some “Big Bang.” Like songs they float in the air waiting to be lassoed by some inquiring mind that wandered to the further reaches of the continent of human thought, only to find that, after all, it is no island. Let’s just hope the water isn’t too contaminated.
Upset three-year-old: I wanna see the balloons go up in the sky!
Father: We'll see it all on tv in the morning and guess who will be at the end of the parade. He's a very very special guest.
Upset three-year-old (now sobbing): Barack Obama.
In the sky! It’s no bird, plane or Superman. It’s T-e-r-r-o-r. Hovering around the periphery of our attention spans, the shade of evil is never too far from our thoughts. And who could blame us? Looking out for our safety, officials from all walks of ‘official life’ warn us of the imminent 9/11 2, seriously delegitimizing the secular nut jobs denying that Bush ever had late night chats with God himself, herself, or itself. How could officialdom know of terrorist attacks coming soon to a town near you were it not for their super powers? Clearly they’ve got the facts—fair and balanced—from the Creator of Facts his Mother-Fucking-Self. Needed now is a global movement acknowledging the savoir faire of God’s kings. First things first: Meteorology is the methodology of the past. It’s time we do away with rainy weather, sunny weather, Fahrenheit and acid rain (or did we already get rid of that?). The givers of terms and conditions have spoken: From now on days are to be coded in terms of red, yellow and orange. (It’s rare we hear of the longed after ‘blue’ code. I imagine this has something to do with the sky.) When we mesh this system with scientific understanding of mood swings, the direness pops out at us like forms in stereograms. It could be any day now that The Terrorist wakes up on the wrong side of the bed! Most beds have only two sides. You do the math. ‘A’ train, New York City Subway:
Younger black man with suitcase: I just want you all to know that I am getting on the train with a suspicious package.
Older black man, not looking up from his newspaper: Nigga, that is the stupidest thing you could have said.
Midded-Aged woman (walking by): You don’t have a bomb or explosive in the case, do you?
Scenester: Nope…I’m just carrying my guitar.
How soon it is we all forget that the wisdom of the ancients is apparently no match for the wisdom of four year olds. Central Park, NYC:
Little girl: Christmas is next!
Mother: No, first is Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas.
Little girl: And then we die!
From within this myriad of possible sentences the horizon can seem far or it can seem near, depending, of course, on the sentence you’ve chosen. We all have ways with words and if you pay in enough mind they’ll show you the walls of the cave you inhabit, and even a few ways out of it. The population isn’t some holistic figure trapped inside the same cave, but rather a collection of individuals in adjacent caves, with a handy morse code to aid us along the way. Financial District, NYC:
Tourist in car driving through crosswalk: I don’t care if you run the world! I’ll run you bitches over anyway!
Punk kid (while flipping off bus full of tourists): Hey tourists! Fuck You!
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Another nice thing about computers is that as mankind thrusts forward in time and space, the components that make up a computer become increasingly cheaper and more available. That means that more of us have computers, and the more computers there are, the more fun/work/assistance/computations computer owners will get out of computing. Overusing the word "computer" is a fun device to emphasize a point: A man with a Swiss Army knife is more useful than a man without, and if you have a computer, you have a spectacularly increased opportunity to fulfill your human potential. This may seem an odd juxtaposition, but a definition of human potential as well as a discussion of the ramifications of that increase may serve to clear the fog.
One of the many cool things that human beings can do is make computers. We thought about them, designed them, drew up plans, built large buildings to manufacture them in and continue to obsess over making them better at what they do than they currently are. Human beings can lay claim to the entire vertical process of computers: from their humble beginnings in the abacus all the way up to chess playing robots that walk the moon and destroy enemy bunkers from 500 miles. Bears cannot lay claim to having had anything to do with computers. Nor can salamanders or owls or donkeys or even dolphins, who are at least smart enough to bone for fun. Humans are the sole proprietors of computers and everything that ever went into them, and this is illustrative of human potential: the ability to do things that bees or trees or ponies could never ever do, and to do these things merely for the sake of doing them, no biological stimulus necessary.
There are myriad human "things" that we could come up with and discuss (because we are humans...) but I'd like to look at two that are particularly prescient to this moment and to the founders of this blog, for whom the chasm between the analog and digital worlds is presenting a problem. The first is something we have already been talking about, computers, more specifically, the types of things computers make possible. The other is one my favorite things in the world, mostly because of the way it sounds, and that is music. And in this case specifically, the making of music.
Birds sing, it's true. There are people in the world who for fun will sit down after a long day with a glass of Pinot Grigio and pop in the latest Humpback whale songs CD. I discount these from our framework because there is a biological stimulus for the sounds these creatures produce: communication, mostly for mating. And surely Isaac Hayes has given the world baby-making music of the most procreative caliber, but whales and birds do not write their music; they cannot reproduce it or record it; there is no hard copy of birdsongs that man had no hand in. That these forms even resemble "music" is actually a human construction. Bird and whale songs are no more music than you and I talking about computers.
In contrast, human music has no place in evolutionary theory. We make music across all cultures and for all of human history simply because we can and we like it. We like it because it can help us to get laid, or worship a god, or commemorate an experience, or satisfy an inner urge, or just to chill the fudge out. But we do not make music because we have to. In the most uninformed terms, this is exactly what qualifies music as art. And art, as we all know, is one avenue the individual can pursue in the quest to reach the fulfillment of their potential as human. It's a bit circular, but to attempt to achieve everything a human being aspires toward, that human must carry the mantle of human endeavor. Making music does not serve us in maintaining existence, but it does allow us to bear that existence with a smile.
And this is where the juxtaposition comes in: how can a machine aid in one's humanity? Am I advocating cyborgism? I think the line of reasoning here is obvious. Computers allow us to make music cheaply, effectively and on a personal scale. Gone are the days of expensive, room-devouring tape machines that require certified engineers to operate and are only available to those who can afford it. The computer has democratized the process of making, recording and sharing music to such a point that record conglomerates and corporate recording studios are obsolete. It is absolutely breathtaking that one need not even have an instrument to make music; if done correctly, the computer already has them built-in. This digital revolution has offered access to humanity from which millions had previously been deprived.
That achievement in new access is overshadowed is overshadowed by the giant steps forward in quality. Where access means more musicians, the democratization of recording means more music. The body of work available for consumption is orders of magnitude larger than before the PC revolution, and the law of averages dictates that a lot of this music has to be good. Computers allow for more efficient practice and writing of music, as well as more opportunity for critique. Decentralization means that the consuming bloc and not the marketing bloc decides the popularity of music. This all culminates in popular music that reflects more writing, practice and production time, that by definition, reflects an agreement between a large community of listeners.
What is important to take from this is that computers make it happen: music; art; community; culture; political jockeying; aggression; war; needless death of the innocents... I think computers are neat because they are tools and nothing more. Call them out for what you will, but remember that it will always be a human typing away at those keys.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Major record labels, the internet and the prospect for diversity in music
Since the late 1960’s, the empowering of the major record labels within the music industry has undermined musical diversity, resulting in a market driven atmosphere and grave implications for the timbre of popular music. Today, more than ever, the richest five or six (or whatever) conglomerations exploit one another’s successes, providing the masses with little quality, but plenty of familiar formulas. These predictable songs do nothing to challenge our musical palate, as if we were presupposed by the industry to be bland, unchanging automatons. This, of course, is not true—and the fact that mainstream popular culture is inundated with only a few types of music is trivial to explaining human nature—for when one familiarizes him or herself with the breadth of musical experience a vast array of styles presents itself. What, then, is keeping this diversity from the ears of the hoi polloi? It is not my intention here to discuss payola schemes or the monopoly of clear channel, rather to look at music as a complex system evolving, and what trends within music allow it to evolve naturally (read: freely), and which trends enfeeble its artistic integrity. Such reflection is pertinent in the here now, at a time of crescendo of global counter culture movements. Student demonstrators in Greece, for example, warm up for their weekly marches on parliament by listening to the punk band The Stranglers. A markov process is a term biologists use to describe the process by which the future comes to be. The future, according to this view, is a synthesis of the past and present states. In order for the future state of anything, in this case music, to come to pass, it must first have had a past. By looking at the past, but more relevantly the present, one can identify the ingredients, so to speak, of the future. When it comes to music, the implications are grave—so many bands just sound the same! Artists have always emulated each other, and so that is not exactly the problem. And it doesn’t seem to be the problem of artists, or bands, not hiding their inspirations of their own sounds well enough. (After all, fifty Eddie Vedder impersonators on the radio is hardly occasion for inspiration.) Let’s go on a thought experiment for a second and ask ourselves, What is pop’s recently history? For brevity this will have to remain an unsatisfactory list, but I think you will get the point. In the 1990’s, Interscope offered us Nine Inch Nails, and then outdid themselves by serving us Marilyn Manson. Sony had Korn around the same time, Epic had Pearl Jam, and so BMG countered with Creed(!), and then Sony packaged Silverchair to our delight. In 1998 Sony gave us (not only the music, but the the soap opera of) Britney Spears, and RCA gave us Christina Aguilera. The same techniques employed to record these artists’ results in homogenization. It’s like the whopper and big Mac of music, except instead of unwrapping our genomes with plastic foods, our intellect is drained by overtly predictable tunes. Selling music is a tough business; an art in and of itself. It’s safe to go with what works in the now as opposed to taking a risk on talented musicians and letting them develop freely. The “skeptic” interjects: But if people like it, and that is what sells, then something is working out right. People like it, the industry is just giving the people what they want, right? Wrong. We will take what we can get, and for the vast majority of music listeners, they are unaware of the vast reach of the underground music scene. They see only punks and goths in funny clothes. Normal is safe—normalization has made money in the past and therefore will in the future. But sameness is the death of systems: The system will come to a standstill, trapped in itself—unmoving, a sitting duck. For the future to be multifaceted and versatile—two conditions which seem to allow for perpetuation—the past must offer it a wide array of diversity or variation. When radio stations become more alike, then our senses of the musical spectrum will come to resemble the American political spectrum: awfully conservative. We conform to that which we are given, cutting innovation off at the knees. Essentially the line of reasoning (a very thin line indeed) we get to justify one-sided culture is the age old argument that if one is in a position of power or authority, there must be a perfectly logical reason wherefore. A major label artist is an expert we convince ourselves, for they are the ones making the music. Well, the internet has turned that logic on its head. Instead we discover that we are all artists, perfectly capable of pursuing creative endeavors at the same level of our “expert” counterparts. (though perhaps “expertise” is a devise of our own making in order to make us feel comfortable in our finite minds.) The diversity doesn’t apply only to the timbre of the notes, tempos and pitches, instead it penetrates the lyrical world as well; that is, the new age poetry. Instead of listening to (value meal) songs of the majors hollowly clinging to past notions of traditional relationships, traditional Gods, and traditional bitches and hoes, the underground we enter offers us a world of disenchantment with the hopeless humdrum of the everyday. More pertinently, those involved in the creative endeavors are not apathetic about it. Their meaning arises from their participation in culture, even if their cultural gait cuts right into the heart of the dominant forces. Pick up your guitar!
I'd raise welts for kreative kontrol
I'd give up sex for kreative kontrol
I'd drink piss for kreative kontrol
I'd cut off my dick for kreative kontrol
Bolt the toilets to the floor
Making a run at the shithouse door
Fuck the industry lockout
It's an all-fucking-media-knockout
I'd cross the seven seas
Join the merchant marines
Contract a horrible disease
I'd even say please
Ah, fuck it
--Hot Snakes, San Diego Punk band
In times past, revolution was bloody, violent and for the most part ineffective at changing the social conditions which have created poverty inequality and the abuse of power. Now we are dealing with a different kind of revolution, a revolution that permeates not only the battlefield of third world countries, but our own societies as well. This is of course epitomized in the case of Greece, where riots and civil unrest have brought Athens to its knees. Other protests and riots have been building up too, since the shutting down of trucking in Spain and the riots that have ensued there, Europe is beginning to fear that this could be a new era of instability for the nation state and international order, with things in America looking no better.
I think it is important first to realize the incredible time period that we are all living in right now as a time of great change and retribution. We have all lived ignorantly for far to long on the spoils of a way of life that we now know for a fact as being harmful to the planet and our own health. Global progress and the enlightenment promised an end to poverty, and end to ignorance and the betterment of man kind. We have seen none of this, and the system has in many cases become overtly violent to some of the poorest and most non violent people on the planet. Wealth is being usurped away by smaller and smaller groups of dominant elite white men, while at the same time more and more people are going hungry and unable to support their families. More than 2 billion people live on less than two dollars a day, making this poverty and our current global economic crisis even more devastating to those unable to absorb the impact monetarily.
The system as I will call it or "empire" which is epitomized in the capitalist system of free market trade is for the most part, along with the banks, responsible for this raping and pillaging of humanity. It is not to say that there wasn't some good created and that the system is all evil, but I don't think anyone can deny the devastating effects that capitalist materialism has had on all walks of life from the destruction of our morals values and ethics, to the destruction of our ecosystems, identities and the enslavement of our lives in a police state built on gross domestic products and famous sports stars through whom we are supposed to live our lives vicariously.
It's not very shocking then to see why people are upset and in some cases using violent means to try to make both political and religious statements about our current state of being. It doesn't take a genius to realize that guns won't save us, even for us "liberals" out there who don't read the bible should realize that the story of David and Goliath holds some modern day wisdom, in that you can't just assume the bigger gun is going to win. Just because America has all the weapons and imperial troops, doesn't mean that it is assured of victory. Power, in its pure form can be fought for on many levels. Weaknesses arise where we least expect it, thus our Christian coalition of democracy becomes a terrorist torturing apparatus that is decaying from within, even as we think we're getting stronger and better equipped. Will you trust your military to patrol your streets if it gets too "Crazy". What lengths would you go to in order to prevent revolution in your own country? These are very real questions that we as people of this world, need to start asking ourselves before the wolf is at the door. There are reasons for why our fore fathers decided to make this country so different form other European states, with no standing army, the right to make war given to a group of people rather than one individual, and the expressed law that forbids military to operate on domestic soil have all been evaporated by this president and the linage of predecessors who have all found some reason to unlawfully fight war around the planet for the last 60 years.
War has been our main source of dominance and income in western society since we started ravaging the new world some 500 years ago in search of gold, wealth and God. Some even say that (GOD) or Gold, Oil and Drugs still control the world politic and that, until we realize this our masters will continue to heard us towards the cliff with ever increasing frenzy and momentum.
Revolution in America started with a Musket, and it will end with an atomic bomb, if thats how we let it. Still the choice is up to us, and I for one do not see violence against my fellow man as the answer to our problems. This for me was epitomized in the recent police shooting of an unarmed man who was in handcuffs face down in front of a crowd of people on new years day at the bay area rapid transit. Being on the train earlier that night and feeling the excitement and positive energy that predated the shooting, I feel some what hurt and angry that such a thing should happen, when so many people were simply out to have a good time. Why do police, find themselves in positions of oppression rather than the public good?
Today I contemplate these and many other issues facing our world as it slips into chaos. Athens is burning, war is raging, the Empire is mobilizing but there is still time for a new kind of revolution.