Thursday, August 31, 2006

I still find it amazing that this blog that was intended as nothing but a personal diary of my reading has gotten response. Some people must hate me deeply-good! May I assure readers that most of the posts here will be very boring posts about scientific matters. Seeing as I am five chapters behind in the latest book I am reading, let alone the journal articles which have piled up I beg your indulgence in wasting your time further...
In regards to those who believe that they can appear to be intellectual by using the word "nascent"...I actually know the meaning of the word. But despite this I looked it up in a dictionary to confirm. It means "incipient" or "newly born". Of course this is exactly !!! the opposite meaning that I ascribed it to in a description of Wayne Price's EX-Trotskyism. The proper term in such a case would be "residual". It describes a habit of thought that has carried over into anarchism that leads to some very unfortunate conclusions.
These "conclusions",however, are much less unfortunate than the habits of thought amongst post leftists who imagine that they can misuse "big words" that they don't understand to "prove" the profundity of their desired conclusions.
Yes, I think that Wayne is wrong in his application of a private morality to "prove" that one should be in "critical support" of Islamic groups. But THIS is orders of magnitude removed from "critical support" of various things that NA "post-leftists" have advocated in the past. Do child molesters, psychotic murders such as the 'Unibomber' or people that believe that "civilization should be abolished" ,etc,etc,etc ad nauseum "really" deserve any argument besides the observation that they are weird,disgusting and insane ? These sort of things are archetypes of things that can ONLY exist in a cult that has ONLY recruiting members to the cult as a goal. So-called "intellectual" (pseudo) arguments around these matters merely demonstrate how far removed their advocates are from reality and how much they have taken a PSEUDO-MORALISTIC stance ie a private morality of "appearing to be more radical than others" as a way of governing their actions.
This pseudo-morality will be enforced in the same way as real morality is enforced, by ridicule and aggression. The pseudo-morality of the left where "critical support" is afforded to undesirable real actors in the real world actually has less of fantasy involved in it than the "critical support" afforded to much more marginal thugs by those who have unrealizable dreams.
Well, I'll continue to stand against this sort of horseshit. If anarchism becomes nothing but the emotional justification for desiring a good fight, I'll try and repell the nonsense as long as I can, and when I fail I am no longer an anarchist. As any anarchist who is sane would say.
There's an interesting article in the latest 'Straight Goods'- an on-line magazine of social democratic slant ( )- on the final results of the "Ippenwash Inquiry". This concerns a government inquiry into the shooting of native protester Dudley George during a police attack on a native occupation/protest almost 11 years ago in Northern Ontario. The inquiry "whitewashed" the role of the provincial government of Ontario at the time.
Lest you think that this is a "one-off" event I pull the following from memory. Many years ago an Indian was shot- THREE TIMES IN THE BACK- in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. One man was convicted of "manslaughter" in the murder. He was sentenced to a very short time in prison, and actually served less than a year. The CLINCHER was that the convicted murder was an agent for CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. He said, on his release, that he would take up a career as a speaker against "racism" as his original mission was to infiltrate the neo-Nazis in Saskatchewan. Of course he disappeared into the witness protection program upon his release.
Do inquiries EVER convict the guilty. Yes, rarely. The inquiry into the above case of Dudley George couldn't reveal anything as incriminating as the inquiry into the Air-India bombing here in Canada where there was more than a slight suspicion that CSIS collaborated with the Indian Security Service to "let a terrorist event happen". Of course nothing was proven in that case so why should it be any different here. RARELY is the operative word ie ONLY in the case of situations that do not carry implications that have "political consequences. False convictions, no problem. Collaboration of politicians or security services in murder- a great gross problem.
There's an interesting article in the latest 'Straight Goods'- an on-line magazine of social democratic slant ( )- on the final results of the "Ippenwash Inquiry". This concerns a government inquiry into the shooting of native protester Dudley George during a police attack on a native occupation/protest almost 11 years ago in Northern Ontario. The inquiry "whitewashed" the role of the provincial government of Ontario at the time.
Lest you think that this is a "one-off" event I pull the following from memory. Many years ago an Indian was shot- THREE TIMES IN THE BACK- in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. One man was convicted of "manslaughter" in the murder. He was sentenced to a very short time in prison, and actually served less than a year. The CLINCHER was that the convicted murder was an agent for CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. He said, on his release, that he would take up a career as a speaker against "racism" as his original mission was to infiltrate the neo-Nazis in Saskatchewan. Of course he disappeared into the witness protection program upon his release.
Do inquiries EVER convict the guilty. Yes, rarely. The inquiry into the above case of Dudley George couldn't reveal anything as incriminating as the inquiry into the Air-India bombing here in Canada where there was more than a slight suspicion that CSIS collaborated with the Indian Security Service to "let a terrorist event happen". Of course nothing was proven in that case so why should it be any different here. RARELY is the operative word ie ONLY in the case of situations that do not carry implications that have "political consequences. False convictions, no problem. Collaboration of politicians or security services in murder- a great gross problem.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Just as a little aside, I'm still trying to learn some Czech for the trip that is coming up in less than a month. I have great difficulty concentrating, probably because I have less interest in the language than I have in other languages such as French, Spanish and Greek that I have studied. There are fewer "cognates" between a Slavic language such as Czech and English as compared to a romance language or even Greek. the names of the months are instructive. Also Czech is a particularly complex language. I probably won't get beyond the simple politeness level before we leave for Praha.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Lessons for the Anarchist Movement of the Israeli-Lebanese War"
The above is the title of a recent article by Wayne Price on the Anarkismo site (see links on this blog). The author takes, as is usual for anarchists, quite a moralistic tone. He speaks of a variety of left positions from "the liberals" who basically support the US and Israeli governments but "wanted them to clean up their acts" through to the so-called "radical Left" who "became a cheering squad for Hezballah, as well as Hamas, as it had for the fundamentalist-led resistance in Iraq".
The author then goes on to say that anarchists have generally recognized the "reactionary nature of both sides in the war", but he also goes on to say that "many have tended to equate the two sides, to treat them as equally bad". This is a bad thing !, or so he says. Price goes on to a discussion of various types of "non-class" issues in which anarchists come down on one side or the other and says that national liberation is one such struggle in which anarchists must "be on the side of the oppressed" while, of course, "being in political opposition to the misleaders of that people". If this reminds you of Trotskyist "critical solidarity" you are dead on. It is that very same thing, though translated into anarchist terms.
Not that this is wrong. To a large extent it may be very right, but it lacks realism. As I said it is couched in moralistic terms. What does such "solidarity" mean when outside of a few large organizations such as the Spanish CGT the attitude of anarchists, in "solidarity or otherwise" has no effect on the actual course of events ? If advocated by even a small minority of anarchists in a country under attack, such as Lebanon, it makes a lot of sense. Such people are engaged in a political struggle to propagate their ideas in their society, and publically announcing positions that look like treason to their people is like having a "malignant dogmanoma tumour". It shows that dogma has invaded the central nervous system and is replacing brain cells.
But the same could also be said of American anarchists who fixate on the evils of their country's imperialism. Very few anarchists, even ex-Trotskyists like Wayne Price, understand the whole concept of "revolutionary defeatism" as practiced by such masters as Lenin or, less skillfully, by the historical Spanish anarchist movement. Skillful practitioners of this tactic understand that there is nothing moralistic about it. They understood that it was to be useful in a situation where the suffering of the people in the country in which they operated, suffering due to foreign wars, could be translated into rebellion against the government that ordered the war.
Certainly Lenin, and to a lesser extent the Spanish anarchists, made noises about "national liberation", but neither ever considered the idea important enough to become a major focus of their propaganda. Neither did they make it a touchstone of "moral rectitude" that would determine one's commitment to the cause of either Bolshevism or anarchism.
That, unfortunately, is what Wayne Price proposes to do. He is to be commended for ending his article with the recognition that "the world is a complex place, with much interconnection and overlapping of systems of oppression" and that "we need concrete analyses of each situation". But perhaps we don't need "analysis" so much as we need intelligent planning. Wayne is an American anarchist. What does his advise consist of but to dog-tail the American left in its constant knee jerk reaction to oppose any adventure of the US government and to make excuses for the foreign opponents of these adventures.
This secret is revealed in Wayne's stunning assertion that both WW 1 and WW 2 were nothing but "wars among imperialist states"-where not choosing sides was applicable. World War Two- stop and think a minute. This says....."that all the opponents of the USA and Israel are better than the allies in WW2, that Nazi victory is preferable in all cases to any American victory anywhere and at any time.
It means a lot of such things, and I'd bet that Wayne wouldn't believe them in his better moments. What it does mean, however, is that Wayne, like too many anarchists, has chosen his audience from amongst the debris of "the Left". Not the general American population !
Only "the left" believes that have a "sophisticated analysis" of each and every event in politics is cosmically important, and that thinking out such an "analysis" and publishing it in obscure websites and journals- or yelling its slogans during two hours of a small demonstration- is action, in solidarity or otherwise. I would like to suggest that ceasing to act like American leftists is a key part of actually beginning to address normal people.
It is NOT remiss of an anarchist organization to NOT have a convoluted position on each and every war or other events. . Should a anarchist organization be "in solidarity" with an "oppressed people" it is far more effective for them to send one single quarter to an aid group that is unaffiliated with any political organization in the country that has been attacked than to spend hundreds of hours in debating and thinking and thousands of dollars propagating the "correct line" that evolves from this. Let the outsiders keep on guessing about "which side you are on". In too many cases all that you prove is that you are on the side of domestic opponents (such as the American left) who have thoroughly discredited themselves by a constant assumption that they are morally and intellectually superior to the ordinary person.
This puts you in the strange position of assuming that Nazis are better than the American government and that one should be neutral towards them but always opposed to any action of the government that most Americans still see as their own.
This fantasy is a moralistic one in that it tries to stake out a moral position of being seen to be on the side of the angels, no matter how that side is defined rather than assessing the practical possibilities of the time and place. Revolutionary defeatism is of use if it can conceivably lead to a revolt against the rulers of one's own country. Otherwise it is useless posturing to an audience- the left- that will never appreciate you anyways.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Matters From The Latest 'Industrial Worker'
The 'Industrial Worker' is the house organ of the IWW ( , Box 23085, Cincinnati, OH 45223, USA).
The latest issue contains a few interesting matters. The first is an article by Eric Lee entitled 'War, Wobs and the Web'. Lee has a regular column in the IW, and he is also the webmaster for a labour solidarity site that I personally subscribe to. Seems that the IWW website linked to his personal webpage, but that some matters contained there were offensive to other Wobblies. No, it isn't what you think. FW Lee has been a member of the Socialist Party of the USA, a rather decent outfit, and his writings in this article and others make it very plain that he still holds a certain sympathy for their views. The problem was NOT "anarchist purism". The problem was that he also, horror of horrors, has sympathy for the people of Israel and, therefore, is less gung-ho to jump on the so-called "anti-imperialist" bandwagon of the American left in giving unconditional support to whatever is opposed to Israel.
Lee goes on the argue that there are disagreements in the IWW about such matters as Cuba or Iraq. He mentions these as examples of where an "agree to disagree" attitude holds sway because of the more important matter of "a different kind of trade unionism" which is actually what unites the IWW. There was a campaign waged against Lee from within the IWW, though you can bet that it gathered people who were not just non-members of the IWW but who oppose the organization. The campaign ignored Lee's work in raising solidarity funds for unionists in Lebanon because the American left DEMANDS total agreement with its goal of "politically correct" dogma. Lee mentions that he is probably in a minority within the IWW, even though his position is "up for debate" in England where he presently lives, "elsewhere in Europe" and in Australia. He even adds, perhaps as a slight, "perhaps even in the USA". I would express it in much stronger terms. The left in the USA is the most juvenile left in the world outside of a totalitarian regime. It always attempts to impose uniformity of opinion within its ranks with an arsenal of insult terms and with hysterical campaigns and conspiracies against any dissidence whatsoever. To make matters worse, despite its crude ideology of "anti-imperialism" it is always willing to try and impose its views on the left in other countries.
The American left is just as mindlessly convinced of its "righteousness" as the American right. When not cheerleading for restrictions of freedom within their own country or arguing for special privileges that almost always translate as not "uplifting the poor" but rather as schemes for getting money for those who "work product" could be defined as "social control"- if they have any product at all- the American left looks at those of us on the left outside of the USA as either benighted savages who have to be educated in the latest "ism" or, worse, as benighted savages whose abstract situation can be used for the furtherance of their own projects.
Lee ends his column with an argument for tolerance within the IWW of views that differ in matters that are NOT related to the goals of the IWW. I suspect that he is realistic enough to know that this will not end the campaign against him.
Also in the latest IW:
There's a report of an IWW gathering in the American Midwest entitled 'Midwest Wobfest". Besides being an encouraging sign of the revival of the IWW, something that real anarchists can be nothing but pleased by it has the very pleasing (to me) note that the gathering finished off "with a barbecue and more socializing". The reason I find this heartening is that you can bet bottom dollar that the barbecue didn't involve "tofu on a stick". One of the reasons why the IWW is worthwhile is that it attempts to go beyond the cultural ghetto of present day anarchism and engage ordinary people-most of whom yes do eat meat and commit dozens of other daily offenses against the political correctness that is fashionable but which has NOTHING to do with anarchism.
To be gross, you will know that anarchism has "arrived" when a hot dog salesman at an anarchist gathering can call out, "get your fried primmies, get your fried primmies here". At that point the primitivists will come to serve a useful purpose.

Friday, August 25, 2006

More on 'Breaking the Spell'
The author of this book finishes Chapter 1 'Breaking Which Spell?' with a section entitled 'Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, is which he basically lays out the goals/synopsis of the book. Like a good philosopher he goes through a series of meanings of the word natural, and the best that can be said for this is that it shows philosophy at its best in not taking a word or phrase at face value. "Natural" is a very misused word in (especially) North American society today.
A few good quotes from this section:
"Miracle-hunters must be scrupulous scientists or else they are wasting their time- a point long recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, which at least goes through the motions of subjecting the claims of miracles made on behalf of candidates for sainthood to objective scientific investigation"
I think the operative phrase here is "the motions" as standards of the miraculous are often bent for "political reasons" in the process of beatification and canonization. Some saints have a harder time getting recognized that others.
Also, concerning arguments for or against the existence of God, he says,
"I decided some time ago that diminishing returns had set in on the arguments about God's existence, and I doubt that any breakthroughs are in the offing, from either side".
He concludes by saying,
"What is this phenomenon or set of phenomena that means so much to so many people, and why-and how- does it command allegiance and shape so many lives so strongly ?"
This will be the focus of his book. The "why" and "how" of religion rather than its truth or falsity.
Thus ends chapter one.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Value of The Amateur:
Ancient ages ago there was a campaign against Dimitri Rousoupoulos of 'Black Rose Books' (who at that time also published 'Our Generation'). The accusation was that he was basically a "parasite" who "lived off the movement". Personal differences in Rousopoulos' circle in Montreal gave this accusation credibility. This dispute is long gone, but I find it interesting that nobody raises the same accusation today against some people who OBVIUOSLY "live off the movement" such as "Chucky-Poo" of Infoshop or "Crimeth(INC-TM) who have found a way to extract money from the gullible and avoid work. Both these people and others had personal connections to some of those in the USA who were Dimitri's greatest detractors. There were others such as Jason McQuinn who probably didn't live as a parasite off of their anarchist efforts but who OBVIOUSLY had an independent source of income that allowed them to publish a glossy magazine that would always lose money. Anarchy Magazine could even survive turning the treasury over to a drug addict who robbed them and keep on publishing as if nothing had happened. The NOTHING is what McQuinn wanted to convey as he covered his ass across a continent without ever sinking to rationality and common sense in saying that criminal behavior is wrong- except in his privileged case. God, these people make me sick to my stomach.
But to return to the "value of the Amateur". There is an argument to be made on anarchist principles-ie those principles that "post-leftists" borrow from while denigrating as "obsolete"- that an anarchist propaganda effort should be susceptible of immediate reproduction by those who agree with it. Unlike the glossy magazine of 'Anarchy'. Unlike the complex website of 'Infoshop'. May I say that the latter two are "money-making enterprises" while publications such as ATN which can be reproduced by anybody with a printer are "anarchistic" in a way that the arrogance of "post leftist commercialism" could never be.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm way behind on my notes on 'Breaking the Spell'. In chapter One the author attempts to refine his definition of "religion", as any good philosopher would. He hedges his definition by putting "belief" in quotation marks. He says that,
"To put it provocatively, religious belief isn't always belief".
His private definitions await elucidation. The author spends most of the remainder of Chapter One justifying his enterprise of subjecting religion to scientific inquiry, and one could be forgiven for seeing the author as being more than slightly arrogant in his assumption that HIS book is so important that it can not only influence the debate in a significant way but can actually "hurt" religious belief. Seems a little overplayed to me.
On page 16 the author contrasts the "belief" of religious people who think that the path to "peace" lies through religion, theirs' in particular but also some sort of synthesis of the major religions of the world (sort of a presumed intelligent application of fashionable New Age fuzziness) with the FACT that nobody knows if such a "path" would deliver any such thing. He also states that atheists share the same sort of unfounded optimism, though he notes that they are more than willing to see their beliefs "examined" (to the point that it "can become quite tedious", as the author says. This contrasts with the usual religious response to resist vigorously any examination of whether their beliefs actually produce good results.
More later...

From the pages of 'The Industrial Worker', the monthly newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World, a syndicalist union, mostly active in Canada and the USA:
The latest issue contains some articles on recent IWW organizing. The first is 'Starbucks Fires 3 IWWs For Union Organizing'. It is a report of the latest events in the ongoing campaign of the IWW to unionize workers at the Starbucks coffee shops. This campaign has been ongoing since 2004, and the IWW Starbucks Union has had at least some limited success in their organizing. This is, of course, a very difficult job considering the dispersed nature of the employer and the fantastically high turnover of staff at places such as Starbucks. The campaign has had the most success to date in NYC. Further information can be found at the IWW website at .
Also in this issue are reports on the Chicago Couriers Union (IWW), the Shattuck Cinema Landmark Theatre in Berkley, CA, the Ecology Center Curbside Recycling Program, also in Berkley, and the Pittsburgh East End Food Co-op. Though the astute may discern something of a "pattern" in the above, previous issues of the IW have reported on organizing campaigns in "non-fashionable" workplaces such as independent truck drivers in Stockton, CA and taxi drivers in California. Both of these campaigns have been about the organization of immigrant workers.
The IWW continues to grow, and its many recent organizing campaigns provide a much better example of anarchy in action than the silliness promoted by some who wish to prolong the long dead tactic of playacting at militancy by travelling anarchists who have no connection to a locality and no practical proposals but who want to seem so brave by challenging and losing against the police whenever an international meeting of the ruling class is held. Without, of course, any enduring results.
The IWW has become a lighthouse for NA anarchists who want to get beyond the stage of childish rebellion and actually create anarchism. It continues to attract the best of young anarchists today.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Horniness in a Perfume Bottle"
I can remember the days when a perfume was marketed that "claimed" to have androgenic pheromones in its odour. It sort of worked on one occasion when I was a "roadie" for a band and found one woman crawling all over me in public claiming that she "liked the smell of construction workers". Never seemed to work so visibly on any other occasion. That men's' cologne has been off the market for years, probably because it never worked in almost all situations. I suspect that the "secret ingredient" was boiled down tomcat piss or something similar.
In the august 3rd, 2006 edition of 'Nature Magazine' there is an article in the news section entitled 'Mouse Data Hint At Human Pheromones'. The article basically describes research (described further in this issue of Nature) that says that there are genetically encoded odour receptors in mice that respond to mouse pheromones that have human analogues.
This field has been very fertile for the grant grabbers over the years in both veterinary and human research, and the general consensus is that the jury is still out in both cases. The article describes some of the previous findings, but it conspicuously omits "negative results". So hold on if the next "wonder cologne" promises too much at too high a price.
Just a Little Postscript:
Just a little postscript to the last entry. It is no wonder that the USA is the throbbing centre of this sort of nonsense. Only in the USA has the consumption of food become such a matter of religious observance and a proof or disproof of one's virtue. The Americans tend to take these matters at a different level than the civilized world does. Thus the campaigns for virtue in terms of food consumption. Thus the throbbing centre of health food quackery. The trouble is that "so goes Chicago then follows Vienna". The American Empire is not just a matter of military and corporate penetration. It is also a matter of the penetration of the so-called "alternatives" as they are defined by the American "opposition". The world recoils from a world divided between the Mormons and the so-called "counter-culture".
"Genetic Horoscopes"
From the "made in the USA Department":
The August 3, 2006 edition of Nature Magazine contains a news article on a new scam now being offered in the USA. The scam is basically that a company advertises over the Internet that it can do "DNA analysis" and report back on the risk of future ailments. Affiliated companies- of course- then offer nutritional supplements that purport to reduce the risk of the diseases discovered by these "tests". The supplements are nothing but multivitamins dispensed with a hefty dose of quack medicine theories.
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted an investigation using the DNA of only two people in their submissions, a 48 year old man and a nine month old girl. The "results" from 4 companies surveyed were "contradictory and warned of various conditions". The study posed as 14 different individuals and the "results" for the 14 "individuals" differed even if the DNA was the same.
Littler better than your horoscope in the newspaper. Perhaps worse, but, once more, never trust anything with the adjective "natural" attached to it.
Frontiers of Chemistry:
A recent issue of Nature Magazine (August 3,2006) has an article on the "relevance of chemistry". This comes at a time when chemistry is increasingly seen as less exciting than physics, biology, astronomy,etc.. Other disciples are seen as "nibbling away at the edges of chemistry", and because chemistry is so important to industry, "the scientific enterprise that fuels industry" according to the article, it may be that chemistry is only "a form of engineering- a quest for particular solutions to particular problems".
The article above tries to set forth some of the big problems that working chemists see as important. Hence its title, 'What Chemists want To Know'. One of the core problems is, of course, the chemistry of life. As the article states,
"...many of the gaps in scientific understanding of the fundamental processes of molecular biology, such as protein folding, genetic encoding of biomolecular function, and highly selective molecular recognition, are fundamentally chemical problems."
The article go on to say that despite the misconceptions of many (most ?) molecular biologists that,
"Scientific understanding is still not good enough to provide a rational and predictive basis for the kind of molecular scale interventions needed in biomedicine and drug development."
The article goes on to mention that processes such as signal transduction are making chemistry part of information science. This leads via the study of self assembly to the information science of self organization in general.
Another of the frontiers is the design of "chemical learning systems" that can be "trained". This merges into neurobiology at its edges. There is also the unresolved problem of the interface between structure and function, and this is "...often possible only for relatively simple, small molecules-and even then there are many details of the problem that have yet to be clarified."
The article further goes on to state that "the dynamic behavior of molecules can play as big a role in their reactivity as their molecular structure.", and that, "the interactions between biomolecules aren't simply a matter of fitting a key into a lock".
As an aside I can see this as something that used to bother me a a chemist/biochemist. No matter the "perfect fit" of things such as an enzyme and substrate what are the stochastic probabilities of a proper conformational "fit" in the environment of a cell ?
It may be that the newer view of reactions as, "how the molecule's peptide chain negotiates a trajectory across this energy landscape so that it ends up in a 'valley' corresponding to the correct conformation" may contain many parts of the solution to this problem. In other words, the dynamics are key.
Some chemical reactions, but only the simpler ones, are now susceptible to guidance across an energy landscape by methods such as lasers. This comes back to the eternal problem of chemical synthesis- how to "assemble atoms into new molecules in a predictable and effective way". To be cynical about it- how to avoid the sludge that is only 1% desired product.
The estimate is that the number of possible molecules that could be made of the size of a typical drug is about 10 to the 40th power. The number of known natural chemical compounds and artificial ones doesn't even come close to 1% of that number.
The article ends with an aesthetic justification of the small problem approach of most chemistry today because,
" chemistry, as in any science, the biggest breakthroughs often come from unexpected directions"

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The local papers and even the national papers are reporting the case of 3 MDs from here in Winnipeg who were kicked off a flight back to Winnipeg from Denver earlier this week. The three were apparently all of East Indian descent, and a passenger sitting in front of them took offense when one of the three, Dr. Ahmed Farooq, exchanged seats with one of the others so that he could say his Muslim prayers unobtrusively. The guy in front had been drinking a little too much and started a bit of an argument. When he was moved to another seat he made a comment to the flight attendant that he had heard one of the three say, "now I can control the aisle". The three doctors were taken off the plane and questioned. The police were more apologetic than the airline.
A simple example of how to get a dig in via a false accusation. I do,however, wonder if this couldn't be worked up to accuse anyone with a southern accent. Perhaps, if American neo-Nazi terrorism was in the news recently. Something to keep in mind.
The drunk, by the way, wasn't taken off the plane !!!!
The quotation from Freud that opens Part 2 of Chapter 1 of 'Breaking the Spell' is as follows:
"Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until they retain scarcely anything of their original sense; by calling "God" some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves, they pose as deists, as believers, before the world; they may even pride themselves on having attained a higher and purer idea of God, although their God is nothing but an insubstantial shadow and no longer the mighty personality of religious doctrine."
-Sigmund Freud, The Future Of An Illusion

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Couple of Items From 'Straight Goods', an independent left wing cyber magazine ( )
1)The Most Militant Union In The World.
According to an article by Mike Martin in the August 15th edition of SG this title is held by the autoworkers of South Korean manufacturer Hyundai. They have held a strike in every year for the last 12 years and "won" every time. This union is attempting to negotiate a total industrial union for its industry with other workers represented by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, in imitation of the IWW's concept of industrial unionism- though I mean NO direct influence here.
2)I've seen this before on the internet, but SG reproduces another article here (The New Funding Heresies) on a conspiracy by American millionaires to fund "progressive" organizations in the USA. The author is Christopher Hayes, and the article is lifted from 'In These Times' (an American vague left publication that would be categorized in the civilized world as social democratic). The report is on a conference in early May, 2006 of the 'Democracy Alliance' in Austin Texas- held, of course, in the obligatory liberal smoke free environment. The nickname of what these conspirators want to build is "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy'. Vast ??? "Left Wing" ???? "Conspiracy" ???? In civilized countries the subsidization of harmless left wing opponents is a government function in that 1)the advancement of careers in leftism is considered part of educational and economic development and 2)civilized governments recognize the social benefits of channeling opposition towards bureaucracies of social control that have secondary economic benefits. Only in America is this considered a matter of private charity for a segment of the ruling class. What a weird country.
Question of the Day:
How close are cults such as Crimethink to the cults of the 1960s such as that headed by Jim Jones? The question may seem very rhetorical as they don't have a single charismatic leader but depend upon much more subtle and collective forms of interpersonal manipulation to maintain conformity. But leaders, and VERY stern leaders, they have none the less. These manipulators gain all the benefits that single charismatics leaders such as Jones did with considerably less responsibility. The word responsibility is key. When cult leaders (outside of the Crimethink cult but sympathetic to it) are the victims, or know the victims of, criminal acts they do their best to redress their own personal situation, or that of their immediate friends. But do they change their constant propaganda in favour of criminal behavior which, as most of these people are middle aged they know will expose young people to being victims ? Of course not. The ideology will be set aside for them but not for those who they know will become victims. When Jason McQuinn was conned by a drug addict to turn the finances of Anarchy Magazine over to said crook did Jason even consider for a moment that his glorification of criminal behavior was wrong ? Of course not ! He tried to limit the damage to himself and his close associates while trying to suppress the story as best as he was able. Has Anarchy Magazine become enlightened by this little affair ? Of course not !
When Chuck Munson's friend was mugged by thugs after leaving the classic lefty gathering did Chucky-poo reconsider his sympathy for criminals ? Of course not ! The blame that Chucky placed in his blog was NOT on the thugs but rather on the people who didn't give the victim a ride home. Considering Chucky's long standing desire to control all things in his field of vision I can see him as commissar of rides.
It is a cosmic understatement that I am infinitely glad that people such as McQuinn and Munson have such a limited ambition in that they want to make their living by selling false identities to the gullible. Both are actually quite intelligent and in other places and other times they would NOT be 'living off a movement" but rather plotting real political organizations that could challenge the powers that be in order to replace it with a very severe dictatorship. Thank God they are merely businessmen who don't want to work at a real service business. Too bad for their victims, but at least they are only small numbers.
The ideological beliefs of the Crimethink cult are bizarre on their very surface without any "deep analysis". They keep themselves going by living in a restricted world where they believe that they have a vision of reality that gives them the illusion of superiority over the "masses" that they demonize. This, of course, is pure illusion, but it can keep a cult going. It is, however, not politics but rather religion of a very sick variety. Its followers will always be susceptible to the rise of a charismatic leader within their ranks because they have NO external references in either logic, emotion, morality or simple common sense because they think that they are beyond such things.
I wait to see what rough beast slouching towards Jerusalem waiting to be born that such cultists will produce in the future. Their present actions cultivate victims and predators on a small scale. May it remain as tiny as it is.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"An Affair To Remember"
The July 29th-August 4th edition of The Economist has on the 1956 Suez Canal/Arab Israeli War. This is a Special Report and is unattributed. The report gives the background of this conflict that saw Israel, Britain and France pitted not just against Egypt but also a coalition of both the USA and the Soviet Union. The USA even applied pressure on Britain by making it plain that the IMF would not give emergency loans to a foundering British economy unless the Suez adventure was ended. Britain caved in. The Suez crisis was the last time in history that America acted strongly against Israeli interests, and the results of 1956 set the tone for most of the uneasy relationship between America and Europe during the Cold War. Nasser was the greatest beneficiary of the 1956 war. The canal was nationalized, and the revenues so obtained were diverted to paying the Soviet Union for development of the Aswan Dam, a dam that was far from an unalloyed good. Egypt's jails were filled not only with supporters of the monarchy that Nasser had overthrown in 1952 but also with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communists. Despite the latter the Soviet Union became and remained Egypt's good friend. Real geopolitical interests trumped "proletarian internationalism". As usual one might say.
What is most significant in terms of what the world may yet see is that the Suez crisis was a spur to the development of the EU. The French foreign minister was at a meeting, along with the French prime minister Guy Mollet, with German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer when they were informed by the British that they were terminating the invasion of the Canal Zone. Adenauer said to them, "France and England will never be powers comparable to the United States...Not Germany either. There remains to them only one way of playing a decisive role in the world:that is to unite Europe...we have no time to waste;Europe will be your revenge."
In years to come, as America's empire weakens as all empires eventually must, it remains to be seen what Europe's revenge will be.
Workin' For The Man
Seems like Infoshop is trying to set up its only little central clearing house for the travelling anarchist rent a riot. The "admin" of Infoshop has proposed a "new e-mail list for planning protests and actions". What will be posted there will OF COURSE be heavily censored by Infoshop as is made VERY plain in the proposal that is supposed (sic) to be an alternative to Leninist controlled groups such as 'ANSWER'. If anything deserves the term front it is this latest brainstorm from Chucky-Poo. Never mind having the hands on the "on-switch" at all times; Infoshop has brazenly declared that the "off-switch" will remain in the hands of ONE person, and this switch will be thrown instantaneously at will.
A few other things are made abundantly plain in this missive. One is that "diversity of tactics" ie DON'T YOU DARE CRITICIZE THE MOST VIOLENT WING OF ANARCHISM NO MATTER HOW MUCH IT BRINGS TROUBLE TO OTHER PEOPLE AND SERVES THE INTEREST OF THE POLICE is sacred. This is stated as plainly as an ideologue can state anything where it is said that "People who subscribe to this list should agree with the "diversity of tactics" philosophy" . "Philosophy" ??????????? Aren't we being a little pretentious here ? If you set this to music would it be Gregorian Chant or Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries ? This point is DOUBLY repeated in the guidelines where Uncle Chuck/Joe makes it plain that this is democratic centralism without the democratic part and NO dissent will be tolerated on this point.
There is also the obligatory childish playacting about "security culture" (sic), once more doubly repeated in the guidelines as if little magic tricks such as a "generic or anonymous email account" could delay a serious intelligence program by a nanosecond. To say that the 5 year old games of "cops and robbers" that some "anarchists" like to play at are totally out to lunch when the actual REAL police are looking for them is a great understatement. Besides the fact that you are hiding in a forest that consists of one leafless twig there is the OBVIOUS fact that a clearing house for clownishness and pretense makes things MUCH easier for the police who have more important things to do than watch the antics of deluded self important sectarians in infinite detail. I suspect that those who think that anarchist inspired riots are an harbinger of an immediate revolution would be disappointed to the point of tears if they were ever to see exactly HOW unimportant they are, not just in the view of the police-who have EVERY incentive to inflate the importance so as to get more budget money BUT WITHIN REASON- but in the perception of the public. YES...that great grey mass that too many leftists and ALL "post-leftist anarchists" like to look down on.
Seems that so-called post leftists have jettisoned the best parts of the left and treasured the worst.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Naturally Crooked"
A little item from the recent past here. In the March, 2006 edition of 'Scientific American' 'Skeptic' columnist Michael Schirmer takes aim at one of the more astounding purveyors of the "natural medicine swindle. This is the author Kevin Trudeau who wrote the book 'Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You To Know'. Trudeau has previously been convicted of credit card fraud and had spent two years in the federal pen. He had also been barred from his old scam of infomercials in any medium. yet books are protected speech under the US Constitution, and the old fox can go on with his old game if the matter is in print. The natural "cures" (of which Shirmer cites a humorous selection) that the book promotes refer the reader to Trudeau's website where a life membership costs $499- or $9.95 monthly. it's one way to keep on stealing even if you've been caught. Trudeau's book unfortunately reached the NYT's best sellers list.
Shirmer ends his article with an old Japanese proverb, "Baka ni tsukeru kusuri wa nai" which translates as "there's no medicine that cures stupidity".

Monday, August 14, 2006

From the Editorial section of 'The Economist', Aug 5th-11th, 2006 edition:
'Sins of Emission' is an editorial that discusses "carbon offset trading". There is a more detailed article on page 53 of this issue. More later when I read this. The greatest admission of this editorial is that there are two reasons for carbon offsetting. The first is "allows consumers to quell their eco-guilt even as they jet off to distant climes on holidays, and drivers of sports-utility vehicles to argue that they have atoned for the emissions produced by their gas guzzling cars". The second is that "image polishing companies that declare themselves carbon-neutral may have public relations as well as environmental benefits in mind". In other words the priests of a managerial market cater to the religious desires of a leftoid demographic that wants ritual absolution.
The editorial discusses various flaws of the carbon trading schemes, but perhaps a fuller discussion would best be left to the time after I have read the full article AND ALSO read the article in 'The New Internationalist' that anticipated this article by about a month. Not that carbon trading hasn't been up for discussion for some time, but I'd like to compare 'The Economist' and 'The New Internationalist'.
I'm now reading 'Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon' by Daniel C. Dennett (Viking, 2006, ISBN 0-670-03472-X). The author also wrote 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' . This book is a philosopher's attempt to study religion in the light of evolutionary biology.
Chapter One, 'Breaking Which Spell ?' introduces the idea of memes by an analogy to the lancet fluke Dicrocelium dendriticum which has an intermediate stage in ants where it "takes over" the ant's brain and "forces" it to crawl to the highest point of blades of grass in order that the ant may be ingested by ruminants such as cattle or sheep which happen to be the next host of this parasite's life cycle. This worm is very much like the memes which the author will be discussing. They are "selfish" in that there is a struggle for existence amongst memes, and the "fittest" survive.
The author next tries to define what he calls "religion", and he notes some of the problems in arriving at a definition. His tentative definition is, "a social system whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought". This sort of definition obviously excludes Zen and some other forms of Buddhism, but it does include most Buddhists and even most Daoists. The author opens this chapter with a quote from Freud's 'The Future of an Illusion'. More on this in the next post.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A tip of the hat to Larry Gambone (see his blog at ) for posting news of a recent interview with the anarchist grandson of Che Guevara on the Any Time Now discussion group (see link to sign up). He posted a link that he originally found on the NEFAC website ( ) of an interview with Canek Guevara . The interview was originally published in the French anarchist newspaper 'Le Monde Libertaire' on the 29th of January, 2006. It can be seen at the website of the group of the Federation Anarchiste affiliate 'Ici et Maintenant' at . The interview is in French.
There has been a previous interview with Canek Guevara in Spanish from the Spanish anarchist site Red Libertaria ( ) . For the full text see . An English summary of this earlier article can be accessed at the a-infos site ( ) at .
As the Cuban dictator slowly dies the question of whether the dictatorship can outlast the dictator comes to mind, I presume even to the mindless minds of what is left of the Stalinist left. Should the dictatorship falls it is likely to be one more nail in their coffins. The fall of the Soviet system left very few countries for them to hang their displaced patriotism on. China, Vietnam, Laos are now frankly capitalist. North Korea is too bizarre and obvious for all but the most fanatic of fundamentalist Stalinists to have any sympathy towards- though I have seen occasional squeaks of this even amongst anarchists who should know much better. But mercifully only occasional squeaks. Cuba, however, never reached the heights of brutality that other Stalinist regimes did, even though it was just as bureaucratic as any, perhaps even more so than some. To say, however, that it is "socialist" is to deform the word beyond all recognition such that "socialism" is nothing more than the class rule of a managerial ruling class with a delusion self-justification that it rules "for the good of the people". Pretty well all ruling classes have the same ideological justification.
While researching this I came on a few items of Castro's family, though none of them appear to have become anarchists. But that will be left to a further post.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

From 'The Beaver' :Canada's History Magazine August/September 2006 Issue
1) From the 'Currents' column. An history of the development of Winnipeg Beach and the railroads that used to run to it, giving people of lower incomes an affordable "getaway". The resort on Winnipeg Beach was opened in 1903 by the CPR, and a railway station, dance pavilion, midway, hotels, livery, and pier were built soon after. By 1910 almost 40,000 people were travelling by rail to the beach for holiday weekends. The Moonlight Express used to travel to the beach every summer night except Sundays, and couples could go to the beach for dancing and return late in the evening. In 1916 the Canadian Northern Railway opened a line to compete to Victoria Beach and built its own dance pavilion and resort. At the time most working class families could afford the fair. Even in the 1950s it cost only 50 cents for a return fair. It's sad that there aren't such vacation opportunities available to people of limited means in our own time of "progress".
2)There's an article 'Who Will Sell Prairie Grain' on the history of the Canadian Wheat Board. This institution had TWO birthdays. On July 31, 1919 the federal Conservative government of Arthur Meighen established the first Canadian Wheat Board. Unlike the subsidized price established in the USA by the United States Grain Corporation the Wheat Board bought Canadian farmers' wheat at a "base price", looked for the best selling price and then distributed the surplus to producers. This difference-"orderly marketing" versus "subsidy" has persisted to this day in the agricultural policies of Canada as opposed to the USA.
The advantage of orderly marketing to the small farmer is that, at harvest time, they delivered their grain en-mass because they had little leeway in terms of their debts. The price at harvest time naturally dropped because of the increase in supply. The CWB could hold grain for the futures market and thereby provide a larger return to the producer by eliminating the middlemen of the grain exchanges. In the USA the middlemen continued their profiteering.
During the Depression the federal Conservative government of R.B. Bennett passed the 'Canadian Wheat Board Act'. This is the second birthday. The CWB has decided to celebrate this date, July 5th, as its 70th birthday last year. The Board was originally created as a voluntary marketing agency even though small farmers wished it to be compulsory. The Liberal government of Mackenzie King, elected in October 1935, tried to abolish the Board but backed down in the face of protests from Western Canada. The Board became compulsory during the Second World War (September, 1943) when it became apparent that orderly marketing was also in the interest of a government financially pressed by wartime commitments to supply Britain.
In 1945 the CWB became the sole marketing agency for oats and barley as well as wheat. further attempts to abolish the CWB failed miserably despite heavy public relations campaigns by such "items" as the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. The modern opposition to the CWB began with the Palliser Wheat Growers Association, later renamed the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. The opposition grew during a period of depressed prices due to a world wheat oversupply. Today small farmers (more like medium-size farmers given the changes in rural Canada over the last few decades) continue to support the Wheat Board through their organizations such as the National farmers' Union while 'industrial agriculture' embodied in very large farms (probably realistically) believe that they can market their grain at a better price than the CWB can because their financial picture doesn't demand immediate delivery.
3)Another article in this issue, 'Back in the USSR' tells the sad history of Canadian and American radicals who believed the false dream of the workers' paradise after the Bolshevik Revolution and emigrated to the USSR to establish agricultural communes. Even Doukhobors were conned by the new Soviet government, and needless to say the promises to them such as exemption from military service were soon negated. Most members of this movement rapidly decided to try and make their way back to the "land of exploitation", and the Canadian government actually expedited their return because of the propaganda value of their disillusionment. This reverse colonization, mostly undertaken by Canadians of Ukrainian and Russian backgrounds virtually ended in 1926. As Stalin consolidated power the returnees were exterminated during the purges.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Sadness of the Left
Many years ago I was in conversation with a bookseller in Saskatoon who had had a very lengthy history of activism in the USA. I was in "recruiting mode" selling the soap of anarchism, and his reply was basically even though he agreed with what I said he saw little point in putting out any effort because, "there isn't any movement anymore". He was right even at the time he spoke-the late 70s.
There is a "continental difference" between leftism today and what it was in the late 60s/early 70s. At that time the general "aura" was one of "hope". To a large extent this can be put down to better economic times, to the entry of working class youth into higher education and to more than a little dose of naivety. In terms of the later you have to search far and wide to find apologists for communist dictatorship amongst today's left. Even those who have no moral compunction whatsoever about mass murder such as the "reformed communists" or even some Maoist sects have learned the virtues of monastic silence. The avenging angel of the lord of public opinion will pass over them if they simply shut their mouths.
But "hope" and "despair" are the primary differences between the left that existed then and what exists now. At the time of the late 60s/early 70s there was a VERY widely accepted delusion that revolution was both possible and imminent. Of course it never was, and even the closest approaches such as France 1968 founded on the gulf between desire/hope and intelligent thought. The result was indeed a "revolution", but like all revolutions before it it benefited those who had NOT made the revolutions. In this case it was the social controllers, the government managers, the social workers and (in North America and later the rest of the world) the purveyors of privilege for social controllers disguised as "activists"-the social workers, the psychologists and the "beneficiaries" of campaigns against "isms". There was gold in them thar' hills, and the gold was indeed mined.
In the earlier time it was indeed possible that large segments, youth or otherwise, would join the "counterculture"(sic), the "revolutionary movement"(sic) or whatever it was called. At Times they did. Today......leftism, in its historical expressions, has failed and is seen RIGHTLY as the class interest of those whose social product is NOTHING but social control. At its "best" it will continue to pass more laws and restrict freedom more and more, all in the name of the "greater good" of course and in alliance with other more traditional segments of the bureaucracy in which it has found a place.
To my great pleasure anarchism has become the dominant force on the "extreme left " today. This is despite the occasional blips of orthodox Stalinism or Trotskyism in a few localities. It is despite the almost genetic aversion of present days anarchists to the traditional methods of organization that anarchism advocated, and, hence, the attraction of pseudo-organizations that attempt to resurrect the corpse of Leninism.
But still...there are many attempts at anarchist organization in the world today. Often they are quite successful such as the CGT of Spain. But they operate in a milieu of what is essentially despair. The grossest examples of this occur in North America where such perversions as "primitivism", "anti-oppression work" have replaced the view that anarchism HAS a future with the view that building a cult is "What is To Be Done". Of course those within the cult cannot comprehend how glorifying Maoist bank robbers as heroes or babbling about the "end of civilization" inspires nothing more than disgust in normal people. But in the world of despair building your own fantasy world becomes the only thing you can do.
There is a distinct possibility that anarchism has a future and that this is being pointed towards by the efforts of the European syndicalists, the platformists worldwide and others who can see anarchism in a realistic fashion rather than a cultish fashion.
Let us hope so.
A Few Interesting Matters From Space.Com ( ).
This site is a gathering point for all things astronomical, cosmological and astronautical. What follows is a few articles that I found interesting in the last few posts. You can sign up for regular updates from this site. Good to explore.
1)Dirty Son-Of-A-Bitch division.
The annual Perseid meteor shower is due to peak tomorrow (August 12th). Best viewing is, of course, as with any meteor shower in the early morning of the 13th because of the angle of rotation. In the early morning hours the meteors are "oncoming" rather than playing "catch-up" But SDC says that a lot of this year's event will be obscured by an almost full moon (actual date August 9th). Posted on SDC on August 4th/2006.
2)Posted on August 7th/2006 the article 'The Universe Might Be Bigger and Older than Expected" discusses that a recent study of the distance to the 'Triangulum Galaxy', one of several "cosmological landmarks" suggests that the Hubble Constant is actually about 15% smaller than the accepted value. These results will be published in an upcoming issue of 'Astronomical Journal'. This would put the age of the universe at about 15.8 billion years rather than the commonly accepted value of 13.7 years. The study depends upon calculations of the 'true luminosities' of binary stars, just as calculations of true luminosity are often made via Cepheid variables. The new findings, of course, have still to be confirmed, though I must admit that the younger age implied by the previous estimates of the Hubble constant have always bothered me.
3)Finally, an article posted on August 8th/2006 entitled 'Organic Molecules Found in Diverse Space Places' (published in a recent edition of 'Astrophysical Journal') spoke about finding 8 organic molecules in as diverse places as nebulae and interstellar voids. The total # of biologically-relevant molecules now found in space is about 141, including even benzene (see the famous story of how the discovery of benzene was related to a dream about the self devouring serpent 'Tiamat'). All of this is connected to the origin of life. Is life indeed the dream of Tiamat ?
'Misquoting Jesus':The Conclusion.
Ehrman finishes his book with the summary chapter 'Changing Scripture'. He once more recounts how he "grew up" to appreciate the full complexity of scriptural interpretation from his fundamentalist youth. What has held his interest in the years that followed without the existential certainty of false "complete truth" is,
"...the mystery of it all. In many ways being a textual critic is like doing detective work. There is a puzzle to be solved and evidence to be uncovered."
This is certainly a more adult occupation than "spreading the word" of American fundamentalist dogma. My first thought is that Ehrman was able to grow up not just because he was intelligent and had 'lucky breaks' but also because he lacked a certain vicious streak that glories in the fantasy picture of one's enemies, real and imagined, suffering eternal torment. Also that he lacked a megalomaniac streak that sees one as a hero in a fantasy play about saving people from this fate.
One memorable quote from this section,
"The King James was not given by God but was a translation by a group of scholars in the early seventeenth century who based their rendition on a faulty Greek text. later translators based their translations on texts that were better, but not perfect. Even the translation you hold in your hands has been affected by these textual problems we have been discussing, whether you are a reader of the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the New King James, the Jerusalem Bible, the Good News Bible or something else. They are all based on texts that have been changed in places."
The whole litany quoted above is something to think about. What this book was about was a 'teaser' and and introduction to an intellectual world that only a small minority have any idea exists, and an even smaller minority are "educated laymen" in. It is, in fact, likely that more people have a layman's view of quantum mechanics than have one of Biblical criticism.
I found this book to be very interesting because the author takes the time to lay out the methods that his field uses, along with what is a small sample of the problematic texts for illustration. The idea of methods is important. Biblical criticism bears more than a slight resemblance to other, more modern, political controversies. For example, how many victims a communist dictatorship (or other dictatorship) has killed.
The resemblance isn't just that-to use the 'killing' metaphor- that if you killed off a few thousands of people across the world that the whole matter would be reduced to a "he said,she said" yelling match because it would take a long time for standard methods to be established again. The contrast between legitimate Biblical scholars and advocates of a given Christian sect is more than slightly obvious even in the rare occasions where the sectarians have enough knowledge to cherry pick disconnected facts to weave their stories with. What they lack is the methods of legitimate scholars.
The modern world is rife with such examples in politics. Every side has its "intellectual luminaries" that act like a Christian sectarian. What they ALL lack is any exposition of method . This is why somebody like Chomsky can impress people, not all of them young and naive, by obviously and deliberately picking holes in the periphery of a well established truth such as mass murder in Cambodia/Kampuchea while accepting ALL the same sort of evidence that he denigrates in the first case to "prove" the existence of atrocities in a second case such as East Timor. Chomsky's methods can only be discovered by a critical reading of what he does. Like any good propagandist he keeps the cards of his 'polemical plan' very close to his chest. It is likely that Chomsky mostly believes his own bullshit, though I get the distinct impression that sometimes he quite deliberately lies in a number of cases because he believes that small victories in polemics (and boy!, is he a polemicist) are important enough to justify a little 'fudging' if a bigger truth is served.
Very few people except Chomsky's right wing opponents bother to check his facts or note his methods. Perhaps nobody except they do this. Most people on the left, not just anarchists, accept his pronouncements with the same touching faith as the most traditional of Catholics would respond to a directive from the Vatican- with no interest in how the curia arrived at their decision. Such acceptance even gives a similar feeling of moral/intellectual superiority.
Biblical criticism may be a metaphor for politics.
Ehrman ends his book with a piece of apologetics for the scribes who changed the texts of the New Testament. He puts forward the trivial truth that reading any text is NOT simply a matter of "letting the text speak for itself". All texts have to be interpreted ie "put in different words" to be read at all. This is trivially true, and it might be characterized as post-modernism light.
But you can't read anything at all that you want into every text you chose. That is post-modernism the strong ale. The Gospel of Mathew is NOT an engineering diagram for a better water pump. The Gospel of John is NOT a manual of cruciate ligament repair. To bottom line it Revelations is NOT a history book of the 20th century. The above examples may seem extreme, but academia is full of 'failed revolutionaries' who produce "interpretations" of books that are only slightly less bizarre than those quoted.
That's about it for this book. I found it a valuable exposition of the methods of textual criticism, some of which I was familiar with and some of which I wasn't. The author is to be congratulated on presenting what may be the driest of all dry subjects in an interesting manner.
Just a final comment on my own mind. I've known for some years now that Mark was the oldest authenticated synoptic gospel, and that Mathew and Luke borrowed from Mark in writing their narratives. Yet that simple tiny fact kept slipping out of my mind because of a meme implanted in me in childhood. "The gospels are Mathew, Mark, Luke and John." It's amazing how such a simple recitation drilled into you can interfere with memory later in life. More on memes in other posts.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The disputes between Christians and Jews in the early centuries CE are a bit more well known than the disputes within Christianity concerning women. The idea of Jesus as Messiah was quite alien to Jewish thought at this time as he hardly conformed to the expected powerful Jewish leader that was anticipated. The social climate of the time also respected whatever was "ancient" and considered novelty as lesser. the Christians had every incentive to claim the "ancient" (much less so than imagined, even today, as evidenced by Biblical scholars other than the author in question) Jewish scriptures while still searching for a way to differentiate themselves from the Jews. One thing the author doesn't mention is that the Jews were also winning more than a few converts at this time. The author gives various examples of anti-Jewish alterations of the New Testament.
Finally, there were controversies between Christians and pagans. In connection with this it should be noted that "persecution" of the Christians was nowhere near as strong or persistent as Christian mythology makes out. As Ehrman says,
"Contrary to what many people appear to think, there was nothing "illegal" about Christianity, per se, in those early years. Christianity itself was not outlawed, and Christians for the most part did not need to go into hiding. The idea that they had to stay in the Roman catacombs in order to avoid persecution, and greeted one another through secret signs such as the symbol of the fish, is nothing but the stuff of legend."
The pagans saw the Christians as an anti-social group that was detrimental to society. They also mocked Christian beliefs and their supposed founder, as well as the -even then- obvious self-contradictory nature of the Christian scriptures. The alterations of the New Testament for "apologetic" reasons were basically done to "elevate" the persona of Jesus whose personality and origins seemed less than exalted to the "respectable society" of the time. There were also alterations to erase some of the contradictions that were pointed out by pagan authors. Though many contradictions still remain.
Tomorrow...summing up
I have now finished reading 'Misquoting Jesus'. The other triad of reasons why the early scriptures were altered are "social" rather than theological. They include the role of women in the Church, the antagonism between Christians and Jews and polemics between Christians and pagans. In regards to the first question the early Church varied in its practices. In some congregations women and men were more equal than in others. It's interesting that versus attributed to Paul such as 1 Timothy 2 (likely to have written by a 2nd ! generation follower of Paul rather than the apostle) and 1 Corinthians 14 (likely to have been inserted from a marginal note on a ms) are doubtful. The latter passages are in different places in different mss, are out of context in the letter and contradict other verses in 1 Corinthians. The passage about wearing veils while speaking in Church is considered authentic, but 1 Corinthians 14 seems to forbid women from speaking in Church ie he forbids what he has already given instructions for.
There are a number of other alterations mentioned.
More later.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

To continue with 'Misquoting Jesus', the author gives examples of two triads of reasons why the text of the New Testament was modified. The first triad is in the chapter entitled 'Theologically Motivated Alterations of the Text', and he gives examples of the way the text was modified by "proto-orthodox" copiers both before Christianity achieved state power (when the copyists were amateurs) and after (when they were professional scribes). The three 'heresies' which led the orthodox to falsify the text of the Bible that Ehrman mentions are 1)the "adoptionists" who believed that Jesus was not really "the Son of God" but rather was "adopted" by God as his son. I don't know if any of the Eastern Churches presently hold this view, but it would be interesting to see how close they come. The ancient example were the Judeo-Christian sect known as the Ebionites. and 2)The Docetists, the precise opposite of the adoptionists in that they believed that Jesus was NOT a flesh and blood human (unlike the adoptionists who believed that he was ONLY such), but rather that his humanity was mere appearance. The most prominent Docetist was a man named Marcion whom a lot of the "church fathers" polemicized against. The final 'heresy" were the "separatists" who, unlike the above two schools held that Jesus had indeed BOTH natures-human and divine- but that they were totally SEPARATE, and that the Divine nature infused the human nature of Jesus and later abandoned it at the time of the crucifixion. Only to later resurrect the human Jesus.
All of these heresies were actually more rational, in my opinion, than the later trinitarian doctrine that became Christian orthodoxy. The author gives a number of examples of where the text of the NT was modified to accord with the polemics of the orthodox.
More on non-theological reasons for text modification in the next post.
I have continued with the Murray Bookchin pamphlet project, and have produced an inside cover. Like the cover this turns out to be too large to send via a pdf on my present email. I have also sent a sympathy note to the family and friends of Bookchin in Vermont with the agreement of other members of the ATN group who have agreed to add their names. At a decent time I will contact Biehl about reprinting her obit and biography of Bookchin in the pamphlet, as well as Tokar's tribute. That will comprise the first section of the pamphlet. The others will basically be a running commentary on Bookchin's ideas, chronologically ordered, with hopefully some other comment from other members of the ATN group.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I have almost finished reading 'Misquoting Jesus' by Bart D. Ehrman (Harper ,SanFrancisco, 2005, ISBN 13:978-0-06073817-4 or 10:0-06-073817-0). the subtitles is "The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why".
The author was originally educated (?) at a fundamentalist training school, passed from this to an evangelical college and finally became a legitimate scholar. The book is partly a story of his journey to a vocation that he obviously loves and also a basic introduction to the textual analysis used by Biblical scholars, as opposed to fundamentalist apologists.
Ehrman gives a few basic examples of how the text of earlier versions of the Bible have been recovered through literary detective work and comparison of manuscripts, quotations. He also goes through a brief history of the art of Biblical scholarship.
Interesting points so far include
-the story of the woman taken in adultery, one of the most popular today-let he who is without sin cast the first stone, etc.- is a later addition.
-the 'Johannine Comma' a later addition to the Gospel of John that seems to justify the doctrine of the trinity was also an add-on.
-the King James version of the bible(1611) was essentially based on very faulty texts. The above two incidents and also the last 12 verses of Mark entered into the King James version via the fact that the Greek version that it was based on, that of Erasmus (1515) who had very few manuscripts to consult. One of those he did consult was forged to "settle" a dispute with other theologians as to the Johannine Comma. They essentially forged a copy with this insert after Erasmus had promised to include it in his edition if any such ms in Greek could be found.
-A comparative study of variants as to text by John Mill who in 1707 published an edition of the Greek New Testament which noted about 30,000 (!) variations amongst the 100 or so Greek manuscripts that he consulted. Ehrman later notes that there are presently more than 5,700 mss known, and the present estimates of variant readings range from 200,000 to 400,000.
-The Codex Sinaiticus is NOT housed in a monastery in the Sinai. It was swindled out of there via promises that its discoverer Von Tischendorf's patron, the Tsar of Russia, would reward the monastery. At the time of the Bolshevik Revolution the new government sold this ms to the British Library where it is housed today.
More later on this book

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hard to believe that somebody found this blog already while I still in the setting up mode. If anyone else comes across it in a presumed search for Murray Bookchin items please go to the Any Time Now website ( ) and get on the discussion group where a message of sympathy is being formulated for the public memorial service on August 13th.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

More From Scientific American, July 2006
1)Michael Shermer in his "Skeptic" column discusses political views as compared to scientific views. His conclusion is that political opinions are very much subject to the "confirmation bias" whereby we pick the evidence that we want to hear and ignore the rest. Interesting sideline is that he mentions MRI studies of an equal mixture of "strong Republicans" and "strong Democrats" presented with OBVIOUSLY self contradictory statements by both Bush and Kerry. Not surprisingly the subjects picked out the problems with the candidate that they opposed and ignored those presented by their favourite. The interesting part, however, is that the scans showed that the part of the brain most associated with 'reasoning', the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex', was inactive during this evaluation while the orbital frontal cortex (associated with emotional processing), the anterior cingulate (associated with conflict resolution) and the posterior cingulate (associated with judgements about moral accountability) were most active. Once the subjects had arrived at a conclusion the ventral striatum, associated with reward and pleasure, lit up.
2)'Hubble's Top Ten' is a collection of what are the probable greatest accomplishments of the Hubble Space Telescope. Wonderful photos of such things as the Cat's Eye Nebula, the impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter and much more.
3)'Stem Cells:The Real Culprit in Cancer'. Article on how not all cancer cells are "loci of regrowth" and how only a small proportion of cancer cells are involved in expanding and spreading the tumour ie "cancer stem cells". Gave me a different perspective on tumour growth and metastasis.