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Atomized junior- The Web log

Tuesday, 30 November, 2004

A Fable for our Times. I woke up the other day with image of a cartoon in my head. A cartoon I saw exactly once in Key West many years ago. This was when I was still in the Navy while on barracks maintenance duty. I remember I saw this in mid-day. It involved birds living in a tree; it was no animal farm, but there were a variety of birds on hand. It was a broadcast apparently from Cuba and seen on the base's proto-cable system (broadcast channels captured by a industrial central antenna and delivered on closed circuit coaxial). With it back in mind now, I couldn't tell if I had been dreaming about it or whether it just popped into my thoughts as I woke up. I didn't remember it any clearer than the last time I thought about it, but that was a while back.

It was Russian, the birds spoke spanish, but with cyrillic characters seen at points, and I think I recall the credits referred to Moscow. A Marxist message fable about a independent little bird who is ostracized, gets into difficulty, but is taken back under the folding wing of community. Learning, that only in the collective can one thrive, or survive. I suppose this is not entirely different from the parable of the prodigal son, but on the other hand I heard on NPR recently that we are down to our last kibbutzim. The main thrust of the meaning was not hard to gather, it was not subtle and it was not a merry melodie, though there was singing. Outside of that I have no idea what it was about.

I can only imagine that this means something. Dreams are the mind's way of disentangling recent experience, understanding and categorizing it. "In dreams begin responsibilities." I may have been semi-consciously examining my own capacity for conformity. As long as lumpen prole remains a viable conforming type, then I remain indistinguishable on the lot, and from the lot of mankind. Maybe this dreamcast recollection was spun from thoughts on living under a regime that lays such considerable emphasis on its doctrinal purity and ideological focus. And does it with such effluence. Perhaps more directly it is an effect of reading Lipset's book; tracing the failure of a radical labor egalitarian movement to catch on in this country. Failure marked by impatience with the middle class exhibited by the old left left, baffled by the successful and enterprising little birds around them. Who paid no heed to their lecturing and paid no cost for their individualism.

This has now colored my thoughts to the extent that I will be examining these potentials by turns over next month or so in various posts, whether they're strictly on topic or not.

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Wednesday, 24 November, 2004
Regency House rekoning

The suggestion was made that having spent the time watch the hours of the British import PBS series Regency House (there is no real link to this program) that I say something about it. To be honest Its not as inherently interesting as some other versions of this new program type: 1900 house, frontier house, or colonial house. This last appealed to me particularly, I lived in Plymouth for six years when I was young within a few miles of the historical re-creation site Plymouth plantation. At the same time I have never been to Sturbridge village or Colonial Williamsburg. What I liked about those shows was the element of man versus nature struggles, the need for constant work to not only win the contest, but to be comfortable, keep the home fires burning. Simply to eat. I contrasted this with the programmed "game" like aspects of Regency House. 1940's house had this (yes, I've watched them all), but it was modeling a very specific historical event. In regency house even after the initial round of role playing education that must have preceded the filming the actor/candidates were just standing around seeming (and being really bored) without scripted artifice of races, boxing matches, and ... visits to the hermit. There was no work to perform, how real is the actual matchmaking. Did any of those present day Londoners think they were actually going to hook up by being on this show? Well you never know. It seemed more like standard 'reality' shows that might be seen on Fox or the Networks.

This led onto another thought, my sister Susan had the same thought which was this might be reasonably accurate modeling of the reality of life within that social class and social strata at that time. The shows producers had presented a lot of the dots without necessarily connecting all of them. England at that time had immense wealth, and it held it in quite striking concentrations. It was an empire which had to keep a significant military class on hand which on occasions when peace broke out would not always be occupied. Lets say this class formed a lesser nobility. Land owning aristocrats a greater nobility. A trades class of merchants shippers and bankers driving this wealth (on the capital of the nobility). In addition a clerical class split between Roman Catholics, the Church of England and various Presbyters which by this point a full generation on from David Hume were busy trying to stake out positions reactions to the enlightenment and scientific revolution. Behind all this lies the regime, by which we mean the actual rulers and office holders of a nation or society.

A show like this invite us to look at regime issues in a way, which we might not, even to some degree cannot of our own times and culture. Much in the way of mores and social institutions is directed to the end of regime stability. This can take form of immigration and sedition laws, restrictions on the free press, consent such as it exists is an industrial product and systemic. One of my favorite example of overt political control is Louis the Sun king moving his court and all attendant dangerous liaisons to the disney world of Versailles where there was little real they could do and he could keep his eye on it all. It didn't prevent the french revolution but then that was the people, and no one wasted time thinking about them.

A lot of the other structures (or is that strictures seen in Regency House seemed aimed at reproductive control, not population control, but controls designed to produce proper and obvious heirs, not bastards. This as an aid to the legitimacy and balance of the nobility and upper classes. their property, and transfer rights of that property. Patriarchy in a common law environment of partial literacy and indeterminate record keeping. Stop and consider at this point the recent litany of concerns of the social conservatives. Take a moment to get beyond their emotional attachment and vigouresness of defense to ask what do they fear; what do they understand - largely on an unconscious level - is being lost. Or could be lost. What is the function of these things? How much freedom and how much control is actually present in this society?

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Monday, 22 November, 2004
Justice Delayed

Miraculously over the weekend every dictionary in the world had a transmortifying conversion in the defination for the word hypocrite - in all languages, and in all nations, and for all time.  Tom Delay's portrait appeared,  along with the names of the republican House caucus. It was quite the spectacle

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Sunday, 21 November, 2004
Spam Poetry

Now I get a ton of spam in my email. And little good it does me. By and large I see it as a time wasting distraction. I am regarded by friends and co-workers as uncharitable of soul, if not entirely misanthropic. I don't understand why people think spelling words wrong in the subject line is going to make me feel better about their product: "ge,t kheap prescripshun medz he-rre!" Oh yeah, that beats my Kaiser health plan hands down, wrap em up, I'm sold.

Lately I've been noticing more of these planitive (plantif) messages contain amounts of random filler in the body. Since I'm not daft enough to actually view email message as html, but only as text - I see this; though usually they have been set to a nonscale font size. Or more often set to the same color as the page and intended invisable. I am aware of the practice of dumping buzzwords into html documents so that any google search will bring your page up, soggy flotsum bobbing along among genuinely useful pages, but this is email. And these didn't exactly seem like buzzwords. I suppose they do it to keep the text to images and urls ratio balanced so that spam assassin doesn't flag it. It's hard to say. I read through some of them and found I liked the way they sounded. But then, I'm easily amused. At any rate I took up a sample - a dipper tipped into the 8-bit ascii stream and present it here, as received with only line breaks adjusted.

fumble allow shadowy trihedral 
perky functorial grata bifurcate
apathetic amble earth moving robotics
demurred brussel scooaires bruckner bungle
aau tektite secretive hear chorineritchie
aquila phraseology childhood scorpion
arkansas lionelcovet denebola
resort bayreuthhysteric debilitate
late grapefruitpliable corrigendum mallahoy
amerada horsedomassassin presage
wilshirewastrel anecdotal candlelitmoan
fivefold believe is lineup inasmuchdoubleheader
fasten crochettime deletion augustusamplifier
gradient grievematchmake
obligatory skirmishmade cellophane winkabroad
denote janitorsexy stratum
shadescurry concentric cysteineedmund
anodic cogflorist indecipherable
fmcclad slung catalystdisjunct
litigate lombadmitting croon bethnumerische
cultivable applausedenmark sagittarius
knuckle superveneprescriptive
accrue placatebuyer

11:16:49 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Wednesday, 17 November, 2004
Big Sister's Birthday

Today (well yesterday now) is my sister Ann's birthday.  I take this opportunity for a shout out. Happy birthday.

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Tuesday, 16 November, 2004
Bad Ideas

Part of me thinks that this housecleaning of the CIA
CIA Chief Seeks to Reassure Employees E-Mail Sent After 2 Officials Resign ( , Behind CIA's personnel changes |
is long overdue. I tend toward sympathy the camp that feels that 11 September and the problem of terrorist networks like Al qaeda are not that off the wall that  the agency didn't drop at least a little ball. But this has all the markings of a purge and purges are rarely good. at least three things stand out. First this is doing nothing to de politicize national intelligence which is among the stated goals of the Senate committee report and the 9-11 commision report. Second if you read the articles and some of the editorials and op-eds that have sprouted up around them - you see hints that it's the wrong people who are leaving, and the wrong people who are staying. Third some apparently felt concerning the e-mail that Porter Goss sent out yesterday that there were hints of a loyalty oath Cooking With Goss (slate) and New C.I.A. Chief Tells Workers to Back Administration Policies (NYT) to the administration in what the new director expected out of the agency. This is most explicitly the wrong direction for this nations intelligence gather to expect it to come in behind policy playing clean up. No position could obtain worse results than this will.

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Sunday, 14 November, 2004

I said I was going to write something on the election and I will. I set out to diligently read every article I came across on the election. I read until my eyeballs bled. Which might seem like it's just a figure of speech... Eventually I figured out that reading just encourages these folk. If you keep reading, they just keep writing more.

I have notes I made a day or so after the election. The democratic party seemed to have lost, or perhaps abdicated (there is a difference). Lost their ability to speak to that great midwest heartland. The republicans for their part seemed to have struck up a firm dialogue to this southern, midwest, western, this interior audience. Still looking at graphical maps of the returns Election result maps - even in this heartland, it's a county by county (and country to city) affair. There are people to talk to out there.

What should the democrats do? Learn to speak to these people? What do you say? What would you say to this person who wrote in to the Washington Post's Ombudsman:

The only thing Bush did wrong was to worry too much about the number of civilian casualties we might cause. For that reason, he couldn't end the war quickly enough to take out Iran and North Korea, and help the Israelis take out Syria. More on the War (

Should candidates go out there spray on gunpowder cologne and wrap themselves in the flag? Which flag at that: the stars and stripes, or the stars and bars? A lot has been made of the evangelical vote. The Christian Science Monitor quotes Richard Land, a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention: "The liberal secularist's worst fears are coming to pass: a grand alliance of white Evangelicals, black Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons," A 'moral voter' majority? The culture wars are back. Do the democrats purge tone and shade from their wardrobe and take the dim view of expressionist culture of the social conservatives. Social conservatism covers a lot of ground, it doesn't drop off the shelf three feet out into a libertine excess. There are a number of contradictions along the conservative road, which will become more apparent the more the course is pressed. Eventually someone will notice that the free market is a boundryless ideology and it replaces morality with the chimera of efficiency. The religious right is just that, it is a dogma of privilege and social control. Attempts to name it different or assign a big tent populism to it is simply obscurist. Looking at the solidity of red in certain geographies; I can't help thinking of Bill Maher's comment from his show last Friday "If at first you don't secede try, try again." I wouldn't follow the rabbit down that hole.

All this isn't to say the democrats shouldn't pander, or consider themselves above pandering. But they ought to pander equally to eastern and western crowds. Pander to labor, pander to environment, and health, to life quality issues. Let people know these are real problems, not hobgoblins of the imagination. That they won't be solved unless the people in turn demand it of their politicians.

The other big question seems to be: can any of labor, black, hispanic, or progressive voting blocs be taken for granted. This is a little tougher to parse. It is admirable to take the stance that no one or group ought to be taken for granted, and that you get what you deserve, loss of their support, if you do. I would argue at the same time that a voting bloc is one level of abstraction above this group or identity politics . Not pluralism per se but the politics of pluralism - a game everybody plays - where coalitions of groups join, throw their lot in with a party, or adhere around a standard bearer. I think it is a human trait to try to reduce counting games to something you can do on your fingers maybe adding a toe or two (ask Hollywood how many main characters ought to be in a movie, or Wall street how many voting members are good for a board.) the idea is to build coalitions until you can talk of voting blocs and if you can't keep you ducks in a row; well that's just bad parenting. So you do ask questions like : Will base appealing tactics, folding into the left corner, gain any or all of them? Or will new tactics, based on the political center ie a return to third way; the frankly pro business attitudes of the Clinton years. Anecdotally I know of some specific drop outs from the grand democratic coalition of the type talked about. Three of my co-workers, two of them life long democrats could not bring themselves to vote for Kerry. These are clerks like me, members of the greying white-collar working class. One of them couldn't not vote for George Bush because he represents himself as a born again Christian, another because her priest said Kerry was a sinner and divorcee (not that that should be held against other divorcees, certainly not against those who have bought anullments after years of marriage). Yet another voted for Bush because she does see a parallel between Iraq and Vietnam, despite the many protestations. Having grown up in Vietnam (peoples republic of, from age 3), now living in Wheaton these last nine years. She voted for the man who talked about staying the course and fighting for democracy against tyranny. Religion and resoluteness resonate. With this last person I never tried to change her mind.

Some things I read but couldn't work into a direct link, Including some from today(17 Nov 04)

These republicans who form the Bush Administration are elites, the monied industrial/globalizing elites of this world. Their populism begins and ends in it's utility as strategy. The strategy is simple: taking the debate on national policy away from opposing elites; intellectual/academic, established church elites, and presenting it to non elites. A position that might seem admirable except these republican elites presented it with no little demogogory. They gave people their standing and position as a (pre)packaged deal and took their proxy away, without waiting for, or needing any discussion. I recall someone making a point I would be willing to second barring better information, swing voters are not moderates. Some felt the democrats figured they were and would respond to moderate rhetoric. I don't think they do, Undecided or swing voters are essentially personality cultists. They respond to strong personas and robust opinions delivered with the repetition of a pop diva's latest single.

There was of course a great sub-text washing over this whole election. Over the next ten to twenty-five years the American standard of living is going to decline. Likely it will decline rather equally, but there will be strong perceptions that it isn't, spurred by what bifurcation can be seen. It will be harder to make and stay in the middle class. In this election people were being encouraged to see and identify with difference and to believe it may serve them in this future. On the backs of this politics of resentment future elections will be waged and won.

This leads on to framing and coding, the processes by which policy debates are turned into exercises in tautology and unspoken meaning. If you take up a discussion on the words and definitions others have set forth you will find nothing can be redefined and a particular vocabulary will supply its own conclusion. Alternet has featured several pieces written by linguist George Lakoff describing this AlterNet: MediaCulture: The Power of Framing most recently. For a similar analysis look to the web pages of last weeks Frontline episode The Persuaders for the interview with republican consultant Frank Luntz. The democrats are realizing this machination occurs, but seem to be in the very early stages of countering it, or using it themselves. For me this is where it starts. I concede no word or metaphor. For me government is no more capable of being the the ever problem and never solution than any other vector of power and coercion. Nearly all republican policy revolves around the gain and wonder from freeing the individual from government regulation. When the power of government leaves the stage, only other manifestations of power stand on. Over whom, I inevitably have less real control. Government is man living in society. Our nature is social, it is no part of nature or reason to be freed from it.

11:44:11 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Friday, 5 November, 2004

I've been trying to put together some thoughts on the recent election. But at the moment that will have to wait for another day. Right now I want to put up this picture here of the the crew of the Francis Robinson. A picture named Bratton002.jpg The Francis Robison was a Buckley class destroyer escort launched in February 1944. Somewhere in this picture is my friend Rob Bratton's father. (Robert creatively populates the comments of this site regularly). He is one of the ordinary seamen in the back rows up on the ships bridge. Rob himself wasn't sure which one he was, when he e-mailed me this picture back on the 10th of last month. Both our fathers were in the U S Navy in the immediate post war years. Rob was the baby in his family. I wasn't - I got a few years on Robert. Rob's father passed away last week. Rob went back down to Roanoke VA.  where he and his wife are from for the funeral. So I'm putting this picture up. It's what I can do.
The spot where this picture was taken,  I know where it is (yes, Key West, the picture says as much. )  I believe I've stood on that spot. I was stationed at NAS key West when I was with the RA-5C squadron, RVAH-7.  That's on Boca Chica key about 12 miles up the road from where this picture was taken. Prior to joining the squadron for the month or so I was taking class C school, we stayed at the Navy Annex next to the old closed down base. This picture is on that base. I used to love the look of it, it was a ghost town frozen in time in the 1950's when I was there. Somewhere I have a few pictures I took ( I was still shooting with the Bolsey then so they're not great pictures),  had to climb over a 12 ft barbed wire fence to get into the place. It was quite empty. So while I never met Mr. Bratton, I still feel a certain kinship with him.
12:55:24 AM    comment [];trackback [];

Tuesday, 2 November, 2004
Election day Adelphi elementary school cafeteria/gym

I thought I might pass along some observations of the mid morning polling at my district. There where already long but optmistic lines when I got there at midmorning. I've been going to this polling place for several elections cycles now, and know to wait til I get in the building to assess the conditions. First obeservation was that there were a significant percentage of elderly voters at that time and the diebold touch -screen machines were alien and confusing to them, many who showed signs of not having really dealt one on one with a computer before. Likely as not no one in the state elections office thought of that before they went out and bought these machines. One Chinese or Vietnamese woman seeming to be in her late 70's or 80's was told to fill out a provisional ballet, because they couldn't find her name (though she had her registration card) she didn't understand what they were telling her so she pulled a chair out into middle of the floor and sat down looking sad and defeated. Fortuneately she was assisted by energetic woman, seeming to be in 60's who knew here and spoke the same language she took charge got her provisional ballet and had her fill it out and turn it in.

It was also apparent that the diebold machines were equally confusing to the polling assistants many of whom were qually elderly. These machines had been used in the March primary and it had seemed to go well but under the pressure of a mass turnout , it wasn't going well. Then machines began going down. At least half the 10 machines were down for much of the two hours I was there. They stopped letting people in the building which I didn't notice at first until people started commenting on the large crowd outside. The polling workers were trying to place calls to repair techs (presumably diebold techs) but told us they could not locate any. About the time I got to the front of the line briefly it appeared that the last few working units went down. Word filtered in that people in the line outside were begining to bail. The head polling station person decided on a special provisional emergency reboot (he unplugged the machines from the strip outlets they were plugged into, then plugged them back in) the machines came back up. I was glad I hadn't cast my ballet yet.

When I finally got to a unit to vote, I noticed the Diebold machine's idiot lights indicated it was in low end of a recharge cycle.This didn't seem right as obstensively it had been plugged in the whole time. It seemed (in PC terms) to take a long time to get through the "load ballet" and "save ballet" cycles. When I got home tonight and caught up on the bits of the Sunday paper I hadn't read yet I came across this comment in E. J Dionnes column When did voting get so intimidating speaking is Dan Trevas, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party talking about Republican strategies at polling places: [the idea is] "to slow up the system so people are back in the line, looking at their watches and saying 'do I have time?'" I laughed. Mission Accomplished!

11:20:27 PM    comment [];trackback [];
New Risk Society

Of all the rhetoric I've heard bantered about in this election cycle; what sits least comfortable with me is talk about the new ownership society. In general This pertains to various initiatives that seek a wider base of investment income in the American population, specifically what they mean is essentially privatizing social security, medicare, or any other area where a federal program institutionally invests. The idea is that stakeholders are the ones that really care. Citizenship, home-ownership are outmoded concepts, our portfolios make us American. I don't want to seem too disparaging because the idea of a what a nation state is and what belonging means is an evolving thing. At the same time under guise of 'the ownership' society the Federal Government t is heading toward renegeing on a set of implicit and explicit deals made half a century or more ago to keep American exceptionalism exceptional. In reaction to the great depression and the socialist labor movement. There were degrees of risk the Federal government took on - a burden lifted, and assorted guarantees that stabilized the working class and helped foster a expanded middle class, much of that occurring simply through home ownership and 80 years of rising real-estate returns.

Think of programs like the Glass - Steagal act of 1933 which created the FDIC, which guaranteed the savings of the small depositor. The home owners loan act of 1934, the establishment of the National Labor Relations board by the NLR Act of 1935, and the Fair Labor standards act of 1938 which put forward the concept of a minimum wage. In return - in the title words of Seymour Lipset's book: It didn't Happen Here: Why socialism failed in the United States.

I wouldn't want anyone to get the idea that the current end of history and triumph of the market means that all that can be pulled back and swapped for a ceasing of investment income taxation. Or that upward and geographical mobility means that air and water pollution issues ought not be a problem for people of means, sensible enough to get out of the way.

9:55:21 AM    comment [];trackback [];

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Last update: 12/01/04; 12:13:35.