Saturday, September 30, 2006

Catching Up With the Days:
Sept 27th in History:
Today is the festival of Varuni, goddess of wine in Hindu mythology. Also called Varunani, Mada or Sura. Varuni is also a given name in India. Like Aphrodite and Venus Varuni is sometimes considered to have arisen from the churning waves of the ocean. The name means "
heavenly nectar". Wife of Varuna in the Rig Veda. See for a short intro to the various gods and goddesses of ancient rather than modern idea. Then take a break and have a glass in her honour.
1540: Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, founded by Ignatius Loyola. Considered the "elite commando unit" of the Catholic Church for centuries. Very controversial history. Once banned in most of Europe. See for the official view. See also http://en.wikipedia/wiki/Society_of_Jesus for an overview. Look at Joseph McCabe's critical history at for a sensible critic. When searching down the Jesuits on the Internet look out for evangelist nutters who think they see them as a counterpoint to the Illuminati. It actually fact one Jesuit equals 25 masons in bare handed intellectual combat. Did I say that they were the elite ?
Often take the "long view" of the Church's interests in contrast to the temporary politics of the Vatican. Hence their opposition historically to the savage policies of the Spanish Crown in Latin America (see the 'Jesuit plantations), their historical rivalry with the quasi-fascist Opus Dei organization, their support for 'liberation theology" in the recent past and their lack of favour from the present Pope and his predecessor.
Famous people educated by the Jesuits...Lenin, Mussolini, Castro and...ME.
Often stylized as the model for Leninism, but the paternity has never been acknowledged.
1880:USA invades Columbia. Later leads to the new creation of the country of Panama. All in the name of "justice,freedom,liberty,democracy,etc.,etc.,etc.". A canal obviously had nothing to do with it, just like the invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with oil. How could you think such a thing?
1892:Patent awarded for the invention of the match book to Josua Pusey of Pennsylvania.
1907: Death of Andalusian anarchist Fermin Salvochea Alvarez(1842-1907). Fifty thousand people attend his funeral. People still place flowers on his grave to this day.
1932:Home of Judge Thayer bombed, presumably for his "judgement" in the case of Sacco and Vanzetti.
1950: Invention of the answering machine. President Truman announces the seizure of American railroads to prevent a general strike. Presumably he tried phoning first but got nothing but a recorded message.
1960:Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst(1882-1960) dies. Feminist but also the very model of the "useful idiot" in terms of her apologetics for the Communist Empire. The term "useful idiot", by the way was not coined by Lenin, no matter how much it may have expressed his real views. It was first !! used in the USA !! to describe an event in Italian politics in 1948 and only later became used to describe fellow travellers. See and also 'They Never Said It:A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes and Misleading Attributions' by Paul F. Boller and John George.
1962: Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' is published. It is preceded, however, by 'Our Synthetic Environment' by then-anarchist Murray Bookchin writing under the pseudonym of Lewis Herber. See the 'Institute for Social Ecology' website under the links section of this blog for any details that might gladden your heart.
1988:Shroud of Turin proven to be medieval forgery. Well maybe, but probably. See for the miracle that will not die despite the fact that the church craftily hedges its bets by refusing to authenticate the shroud.
1992:Bob Dylan plays for the Catholic Youth Rally in Bologna, Italy. Vatican spokesman says that Dylan "was chosen for his sincere religious sentiments". You don't need an Inquisitor to know which way the wind blows from the auto da fe ?
2000:Anti-IMF/World Bank protests in Prague. See for your daily fix of riot porn.
Molly, spinning her tiny little legs to catch up with the days on Sept. 30th.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Other Affirmative Actions:
There's an interesting article in the latest issue of 'The Economist' to arrive at my door (Sept 23rd-29th). The title is 'Poison Ivy', and it's under the Lexington column, written by The Economist's American columnist. The columnist discusses the research of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden who has recently expanded his observations into a book titled 'The price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges-And Who Gets Left Outside the Gates'. The author Lexington says,
"Mr Golden shows that elite universities do everything in their power to admit the children of privilege. If they cannot get them through the front door by relaxing their standards, then they smuggle them in through the back. No less than 60% of the places in elite universities are given to candidates who have some sort of extra "hook" from rich or alumni parents to "sporting prowess". The number of whites who benefit from this affirmative action is far greater than the number of blacks."
So...when you think "sport related acceptances" don't just think basketball and football. Think the "sport admissions" that Lexington and the author he reviews mention. Think "...preppy sports such as fencing, squash, sailing, riding, golf and, of course, lacrosse. The University of Virginia even has scholarships for polo players."
The way that the American ruling class perpetuates itself would put the Soviet nomenclatura to shame. Notre Dame University, for instance, accepted 70% of the children of university employees as opposed to 19% of regular applicants despite the fact that the "hooked" applicants had a far lower average SAT score. The author asserts that university applicants without connections compete for only 40% of the class placements. The rest are "reserved" for the children of privilege.
All this is occurring at a time when the income inequality is growing and social mobility is lessening in the USA, not just in comparison to other countries-where the USA has usually cut a poor figure- but in absolute terms.
Have a look at the article in the print edition of 'The Economist'. The website presently puts it under the "privileged" category so you'd have to subscribe to read it there. Remember who really benefits from a much larger form of "affirmative action" the next time the subject is raised.
Overheard Joke:
Q: What's the definition of a politician ?
A: A man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Excerpts From The Diary of An Obsessive Compulsive:
There are exactly two books that I can remember not finishing in my life. This from a guy who has read the Bible cover to cover, the Koran three times in three different translations (it's shorter than the Bible, but my Arabic is still confined basically to the alphabet) and the collected works of Aeschylus,Sophocles,Euripides, Shakespeare,George Orwell, and -yes- Edgar Allan Poe. Many authors are still on the list. Reading the collected works of Marx and Engels up to the end of 1848 may count as a "quit", but, trust me, I'll get back to it. Honest. Reading Capital to the end counts as a "plus" in my scorecard even though I read it with an expectation that was totally fulfilled; that Marx deserved little of his his historical following.
Anyways, the two books were1) 'Against Reductionism' which supposedly gave forth an "alternative view" of biology which was so full of nonsense that I quit about 1/3rd of the way through. It did NOTHING but spin words against the legitimate enterprise of biology, words that were- AT BEST- lies and were usually meaningless. My early introduction to "post-modernism" before it became fashionable. The second was 2)the Rig Veda. This may be under the category of the 'Collected Works of Marx and Engels' in that it is moldering in a corner on the main floor until the time I can get through "one more" hymn to Agni. The Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana were much better reads from Hinduism. I actually loved the Ramayana. Watch out for monkeys.
All that being said my continued project to detail on this blog my reading of 'Breaking the Spell' is taking on the aspect of "slogging through" that I had during my reading of either the Bible or Marx. The book promised a "evolutionary psychology" view of religion, but it is rapidly turning into a simple apology for atheism, with the evolutionary aspect shoved well into the background. I've almost finished the book, but I doubt the wisdom of continuing to chronicle it chapter by chapter, even though I've bookmarked it for same.
But occasionally you may find gems in the worst trashpile. The gem that I recently found is the legal concept of "attractive nuisance". This is the concept in law that compels you to do things like fence your swimming pool and remove the doors from your discarded refrigerator. It's like "due care and attention" in traffic law. The assumption is that you have a "responsibility" to safeguard your property from actions on the part of other parties-such as children- that may lead to their injury IF such actions are "reasonable" despite whatever likelihood of injury may result. It's an interesting argument in law about what is "reasonable" and what lengths you have to go to to prevent injury. Each case may be unique.
It's ALSO interesting if we step outside of law into the realm of simple morality that law is supposed to represent. Anarchists have always criticized "the law" for representing either "class interests" or "the interests of power", but more rational exponents of the anarchist ideal recognize that there is a substratum of "civilized behavior" that is at least partially represented by "the law" that we cannot do without. The argument is over HOW MUCH of this restraint has to be "written down" by communities that replace the state and how much can be left to "human nature". In evolutionary biology the problem is framed in terms of "altruistic punishment", a mechanism that any cooperative society can't exist without. (blog "altruistic punishment" for references).
In terms of this blog, for those who may be naive to it, I will OFTEN criticize some VERY evil trends in modern anarchism. This is in the light of the author of 'Breaking the Spell' who puts the onus on the adherents of a religion to SAFEGUARD naive adherents from harm. The "nuisance" is "attractive", but it is NOT as "attractive" as the lure of say Islamic fundamentalism. The simple counting of half-ass "eco-terrorists" who "go rat" when they are caught in the USA in recent years shows JUST HOW SHALLOW A CERTAIN ANARCHISM IS AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR RELIGION. This is despite their megalomaniac claims to "greater knowledge and insight". The claim is more than falsified by the record of its adherents "discovering reality" under far less pressure than the adherents of other ideological systems.
No amount of pseudo-intellectual word spinning will eliminate this FACT. For myself I promise NO "great revelations". Neither do I promise the romance of "revolution", let alone the disgusting "romance" of taking revenge against an uncaring society that you feel superior to. My own personal anarchism is rooted in a simple belief that decentralism and personal power-such as workers' control- are better ways for a society to govern itself. I have faith in the continued efforts of ordinary people to form cooperatives and to challenge government decisions AND to organize in general. I believe that my faith is backed up by biological facts just like I believe that the tactics of "wandering riots" is NOT backed up by such facts. It may actually nowadays be a matter of manipulation of those who want to create cults for their own benefit. That's MY anarchism.
In any case that's where I stand today,
Four New Links:
I've recently added four new links to the list- still at the bottom of the page unfortunately. Under the Scientific Links there are now;
1)Discover Life. For those interested in taxonomy. On going project to describe all known species. Presently listing 306,345 species. Wealth of information and links to other taxonomic and conservationist projects.
2)The Brain From Top To Bottom. Introduction to neurobiology and self tutoring on same with choice of three levels of difficulty, from beginner to advanced.

Under the Other Interesting Links Section what's new includes
1)The Canadian Worker Coop Federation. Source on worker coops in Canada.
2)Straight Goods. An independent on-line Canadian news magazine. Social democratic in viewpoint.
Much more later,

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Today in History: Sept 26th
1919: Anarchist Makhnovist army counterattacks the forces of White Army General Denekin near the village of Peregonovka, routing the forces arrayed against them. The Makhnovischina goes on to cut the supply lines of Denekin's forces driving towards Moscow, forcing him to abandon the advance. The Bolsheviks repay this kindness by betrayal of their anarchist allies on more than one occasion. For more on Nestor Makhno see the 'Nestor Makhno Archive' at
1936: Oops !!! Three anarchists, Juan Domenech, Juan Fabregas and Antonio Garcia Birian compromise and betray anarchist principles by joining the government of the Catalan Generalidad. This is the first move in a series of depressing compromises that the Spanish anarchists make in the name of "anti-fascist unity". The main beneficiary of these compromises is the previously insignificant PCE - The Spanish Communist Party. This Stalinist party-of course- goes on to betray its allies, anarchist and otherwise. Do we see a pattern here ? Finally the great and glorious bastion of the working class against fascism forms a "temporary, eternal friendship" with guess who on the signing of the Hitler Stalin pact.
For more on some of the anarchist opposition to the collaborationist policies of the CNT-FAI see 'The Friends of Durruti Group:1937-1939' (Agustin Guillamin) at .
1969: Eighth Conference of the Situationalist International held in Venice. The SI lasted until 1972 when it dissolved at the point when it had only two members. Most of the internal activity of the group consisted of the search for grounds for expulsion. Hence the fact that it rarely had more than 10 or 15 members at a time. You might say that heresy hunting was a "matter of everyday life" for them. Despite admirable bursts of creativity the SI remained a basically incoherent group. There was thus always good grounds for expulsions. Should it have continued until only Debord remained the combination of incoherence and megalomania would possibly have led him to expel himself. But that would be expecting a little too much from someone fantastically convinced of his own importance.
Anyways see the Wikipedia article on the SI at
. You can also access the actual texts of the SI at the 'Situationalist International Online' at .
All being said the SI was more than a slight cut above some of its progeny.
That's about it for today. Sorry about the slim picking.
More On Avian Influenza:
Lest some might think that the article mentioned before on 'Bird Flu' from 'The Conservator' might be a case of an organization, Ducks Unlimited, making a special case for its own interests I went back in Science magazine to look up the topic a bit more thoroughly. The April 21 edition (312, issue 5772, pp 379- 399) has a special topic section on this virus.
The various articles in this section cover a number of different topics from a general overview, through vaccine development, manufacture of anti viral drugs, development of viral resistance to same, preparedness in the event of an outbreak and host species barriers to cross infection. The article that is relevant to what was previously mentioned is titled 'Global Patters of Influenza A Virus in Wild Birds' by B. Olsen et al. The article discusses the epidemiology of influenza A viruses in various wild bird species and their potential as a source for human epidemics.
The basic question of the source of H5N1 outbreaks to date, whether it is connected to wild bird migration or to the international poultry trade can best be summed up by the following paragraph,
"With our current limited knowledge on HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza- Molly) in wild birds, there is no solid basis for including wild birds in control strategies beyond the physical separation of poultry from wild birds. Even in areas with significant outbreaks in poultry virus prevalence in wild birds is low, and the role of wild birds in spreading the disease is unclear. It is clear that the H5N1 problem originated from outbreaks in poultry and that the outbreaks and their geographical spread probably cannot be stopped without implementation of proper control measures in the global poultry industry. However, there is at present no scientific basis for culling wild birds to control the outbreaks and their spread, and this further highly undesirable from a conservationist perspective."
Stupid Computer tricks:
For the usual "just because" reason the links for this site have ended up at the bottom of the page rather than in the sidebar. I'll try and correct this problem. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Today (Sept 25) in History:
1868: Michael Bakunin and friends establish the 'International Alliance of Social Democracy' as a splinter group at the meeting of the 'League for Peace and Freedom' in Berne Switzerland.
1870: The Marseilles Commune announces the abolition of the state and all debt.
1919: Anarchists, in cooperation with Left Socialist Revolutionaries, bomb the Moscow headquarters of the Communist Party in response to continued repression and murder of members of both the anarchists and the Left SRs on the part of the Bolsheviks. A job done poorly as the Communists later go on to slaughter 25 million ordinary Russians once the supply of political opponents runs out.
1960: Fourth Conference of the Situationalist International. Besides adopting the "Statement on Madness' they spend their everyday life in electing a central committee.
1962" US backed coup in the Dominican Republic overthrows mildly leftist president Juan Bosch.
1977:Anti-apartheid organizer Steven Biko is buried in South Africa after being murdered by the police during detention. A little quote from Steve,
"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."
1999: The 'Friends of the Modern School', a collection of alumni and others meet at Rutger's University. The Modern School movement was founded in many countries after the judicial murder of Francisco Ferrer (Jan 10, 1859-Oct. 12, 1909) by the authorities in Barcelona. He was falsely accused of being part of a "plot" during the 'Semana Tragica' in Catalonia that year. The events of the 'Tragic Week' led to the creation of the Spanish CGT. For more on Ferrer see . For more on the American Modern School Movement see 'A History of the Stelton Modern School' at and 'The Modern School Collection' at .
As a little aside on a past visit to Barcelona I discovered the monument to Ferrer on the way up to Montjuis. It's a little bit damaged but still standing after decades of Francoism. It has an appropriate anti-clerical quote on its base. Modern Barcelona; where public transportation hubs have been named after anarchist Juan Peiro and there is an 'Avenida Durruti'. The Catalans have named their Olympic Stadium after Companys, but they aren't above adding anarchist names in their nose thumbing at the government in Madrid.
2006:Nothing at all happened today. Time to go to sleep already.
One More Little Ad:
For those interested in Dr. Seuss fandom I've added the 'Dr Seuss Web Page' to the list of links on the left, under the heading of 'Other Interesting Links'.
Primitivism's Greatest Hits: Item #1:
(or, "if you can't detach the leech from your body at least make a joke about it)
One of my favourite "stupid primmie tricks" comes from a gathering of Earth First held some years back in one of the northern Plains States. The advertising for the event included an item about "do it yourself vasectomies" presumably to kiss Mother Earth's ass and act directly to reduce the number of evil human parasites on her glorious and holy body.
This is the sort of thing that you should never read while drunk because you keep coming back to it over and over thinking you've hallucinated what you just read. But yeah, it was true. The first thought that comes to mind is, "What a wonderful idea" because I can think of only a few categories of people more deserving of a 'Darwin Award' for removing themselves from the gene pool. Maybe the primmies can become one of those problems that automatically corrects itself. No need for any external intervention here. Something like turkeys who are bred for such big pectorals that they can't copulate anymore. Without AI they are screwed, but their very anatomy says they aren't screwed.
Well the fantasy of these half baked idiots "playing doctor" under the blazing sun of a prairie summer day is appealing-if sick. All that I can add is a little technical detail about how they could make their experience more "natural", "wild", "unalienated" and "in solidarity with both Mother Earth and her remaining tribal children. Forget those evil industrial alienating tools of sharpened scalpels that rob you of your connection to the universe. Two big rocks smashed together will do the job just fine.
This would indeed be primitivism's #1 hit.
Or as Mollymew would say, "There's more than one way to un-nut a nut".
One more from Dr. Seuss:
I forgot to include a quote the other day. In 1974 the noose was closing on President Nixon. Syndicated columnist Art Buchwald was part of the pack tracking tricky Dicky through the swamps of his misdeeds, and Art sent Seuss a copy of his book 'I Never Danced At The White House' and dared him to write a political book. Seuss replied by lifting an excerpt from one of his previous books 'Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!' and changing it to the following for publication in Buchwald's column.
"Richard M. Nixon, will you please go now!
The time has come.
The time is now.
Just go.
I don't care how.
You can go by foot.
You can go by cow.
Richard M. Nixon, will you please go now!
You can go on skates.
You can go on skis.
You can go in a hat.
Please go.
This became the header for Buchwald's column on August 8th. The son-of-a-bitch actually did go nine days later when he resigned.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Today in History:
1900: Fourth International Anarchist Congress held in Paris. Previous ones held in Paris(1889), Zurich(1892) and London(1896). Renegade socialist Minister of the Interior bans the anarchist meeting but allows the parliamentary socialist congress held at the same time to proceed. The anarchists hold their congress anyways in secrecy. Final international congress will be held in Amsterdam in 1907 where the rejection of "propaganda by the deed" is finalized.
1918: IWW declared illegal in Canada. Relegalized next year.
1968: Mexican soldiers murder 17 students in battles at the National University in Mexico City.
1969: Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial Begins. Judge Julius Hoffman to try David Dillinger, Rennie Davis, Thomas Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Froines, Lee Weiner and Bobby Seale. The defendants have little to do with each other but were picked to represent a wide cross section of the opposition to the war in Vietnam. The trial degenerates into a farce.
1991: American children's author Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel 1904-1991) dies. Often miscast as an anarchist by comrades too used to taking their desires for reality. Too bad it's not true. He was a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party. From his early anti-fascism and opposition to the American right wing he went on to numerous children's' books that showed a libertarian spirit even though he never held the label. These include:
a)Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose (1948). Seen as anti-hunting
b)Horton Hears a Who ! (1954). Said to be a statement on atomic weapons.
c)How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957). A polemic on materialism.
d)Yertle the Turtle (1958). An allegory on tyranny and a statement that one single act of resistance by one individual can topple a regime.
e)The Lorax(1971). Something of an environmentalist tract. Interesting that lumber companies in Laytonville CA tried to have the book banned on the grounds that it was unfair to the lumbar industry.
f)The Sneeches (1961). A satire on racism.
g)The Butter Battle Book(1984). A parody of the Cold War arms race suggesting that the two sides differ only "on which side they butter their bread".
A few random quotes from the good doctor:
1)"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple".
2)"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind".
3)"Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them".
4)"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go."
From: Oh, the Places You'll Go (1990)
5)"Don't give up ! I believe in you all.
A person's a person no matter how small !
And you very small persons will not have to die
If you make yourselves heard ! So come on, now, and TRY !"
From: Horton Hears a Who ! (1954)
6)"And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course...all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be. "
From: Yertle the Turtle (1958)
7)"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not.
From: The Lorax (1971)
That's it for tonight kiddies. Sleep tight and don't let the ruling class bite. More from Molly tomorrow. Too bad Seuss wasn't an anarchist.
"Mollymew, she was a cat.
And Molly said that that was that.
If anyone wants to gripe and linger,
Mollymew she gives 'em the finger"
Why I hate the word "activist".
I hate this word first and foremost because it has a meaning in the popular press that says, basically, "someone who makes their living by advocating certain social causes" ie a "professional leftist". There may indeed be "professional rightists" as well, but they are far outnumbered by their left wing brethren. The right generally has an easier time of rounding up volunteer labour than the left does. Right wing causes may often be controlled by the same set of personal manipulators that left wing ones are, but they rarely achieve the degree of "hollowness" that some leftist " government grant machines" achieve. It's the old "too many chiefs..." story.
In the popular press, left or right, the term "activist" that they assign either neutrally or in praise, means, in 19 cases out of 20, somebody who makes their money by petty politics. Now, I'm of the opinion that Canada would have a much more vibrant and realistic left if the government ceased to spend one single cent in support of these "activists". What activity there was left would be far more in touch with reality and far more independant. Today it is neither.
I also hate the term "activist" because it still carries a "connotation" of self sacrifice from past decades when one's activism in various political opposition groups demanded self sacrifice rather than being a path to financial benefit -pretty well the "denotation" today. This "taking up the cross" is a sure pathway for the activist to sacrifice others in the same way as he or she sacrifices themselves if they ever gain power. Saints easily become inquisitors.
So, whether it refers to the self-deluded or simply cynical present day opportunist or to the old style puritanical fanatic the word makes me more than slightly queasy. Not that the old style "activist" has entirely disappeared. One may still find them acting out petty fantasies of two bit terrorism or blathering on about "anti-oppression", or lurking in the moldy caverns of failed Leninist sects. But they are much rarer than the "new style" activist. Somebody who gains tenure in an university by churning out "leftism 101" is flogging others, not themselves. They actually profit handsomely from it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Last Minute Plus One Dept.
"Yesterday" in History ie Sept. 23rd
480: Battle of Salamis. Original "clash of civilizations". One pita awarded to those who guess the winner. That'll teach them Ayatollahs.
1779: The beginning of 'Post Modernism'. US Naval Commander John Paul Jones of the ship Bonhomme Richard takes major damage during the early battle against the British ship Serapis. The British commander, Richard Pearson, asks him if he has "struck his colours" ie surrendered. Jones replies, "Well, that depends on what your definition of "is" is. " Jones later goes on to win the engagement. Patron saint for numerous American academics.
1818: Percy Bysshe Shelley's 'The Masque of Anarchy' first published. But does it rhyme ?
1864: The IWMA association (the First International) founded in London during a solidarityh meeting for a Polish uprising. Unfortunately infested with "the tapeworm of socialism" (guess who ?) from birth.
1881: Founding Congress of the Federacion de Trabahadores de la Region Espanola (dates Sept. 23- 26) in Barcelona. Forerunner of the CNT.
1895: Founding convention of the French CGT in Limognes. Originally syndicalist. Infested by the "tapeworm's eggs" several years later.
1908:Manifesto of the Junta of the Partido Liberal de Mexico (Mexican Liberal Party), anarchist despite the name.
1930: Birthday of Ray Charles, jazz and soul great. No tapeworms him.
1930: Sigmund Freud enters the unconscious. Not very "complex" at all.
1950: Congress overrides US President Truman's veto and passes the McCarron Internal Security Act' requiring registration of members of groups deemed to be communist fronts by the attorney general and establishing "emergency concentration camps". Most victims fail to quote John Paul Jones as to "Well, it depends on what your definition of "was" was". Too bad.
1955: Jury in Sumner MI acquits Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam of the murder of 14 year old black child Emmett Till even though they admitted kidnapping him. The "out" was the fact that the body was in a state of advanced decomposition that "precluded positive identification". Perhaps there were too many stray bodies around.
1963: Margaret Faas-Hardegger (1882- 1963) dies. German anarchist romantically linked with Gustav Landauer and Erich Muhsam. Also friends with Fritz Brupbachert and Gertrad Wiker. Established anarchist communist community in Minusio in 1912.
1994: The final credits for American horror writer Robert Bloch. When asked why he wrote horror fiction he replied, "I have the heart of a small boy...I keep it in a drawer at home."
That's all. Make sure to keep your file drawers in order. "H" is for both heart and horror.
The Moons of the Year:
In the USA each full moon of the year has an unique common name. These names are an amalgam of the names given to them by various native tribes in the American North East and the early settlers. From here they are. Note: months may vary depending upon the year:
Jan: The Full Wolf Moon. January is the hungry time. It's also known as the 'Old Moon' or the 'Moon After Yule'. Some tribes applied the name of the next moon to this one.
Feb: The Full Snow Moon. In the NE USA the snows are heaviest in this month. Because of this some tribes referred to this moon as the 'Full Hunger Moon'. Hunting is more than difficult in heavy snow.
March:The Full Worm Moon. In the NE of the USA the ground softens in this month and the earthworms return. Other native names for this moon are 'The Full Crow Moon' because of the crows signalling the end of winter, the 'Full Crust Moon' because the thawing of the snow causes it to "crust" and the 'Full Sap Moon' marking the time of maple tree tapping.
April: The Full Pink Moon. The grass pink or the wild ground phlox were among the earliest wildflowers of spring. Hence the name. Other names include 'The Full Sprouting Grass Moon', 'The Egg Moon' and the 'Full Fish Moon' for when shad came upstream to spawn. This is also the Pascal Full Moon, and the first Sunday after this will be observed as Easter. Don't laugh. The fate of Western Christendom once hinged around this date.
May: The Full Flower Moon. Obvious. Also known as the 'Full Planting Moon' and the 'Milk Moon'.
June: The Strawberry Moon
July: The Full Buck Moon. When deer antlers make their appearance.
August: The Full Sturgeon Moon. The best month for fishing on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. Also known as the 'Full Red Moon' because of summer haze, the 'Green Corn Moon' and the 'Grain Moon'.
September: The Full Corn Moon.
October:The Full Harvest Moon. Usually, but not this year.
November:The Full Beaver Moon. Time to trap the beavers before freeze-up. Also called the 'Frosty Moon'.
December: The Full Cold Moon. No explanation needed. Also known as the 'Full Long Nights Moon' and the 'Moon Before Yule' amongst European settlers.

Shine on, shine on Harvest Moon.
"Achoo!!- I Mean "Croak".
There's an interesting article in the latest 'Conservator', the publication of "Ducks Unlimited Canada'. It's entitled 'What We Know: Avian Influenza and Wild Bird Populations", and its written by Catherine Soos of Environment Canada and the University of Saskatchewan and Jane Parmley of the Centre for Coastal Health in BC. Both are research oriented veterinarians.
Every once in a while the media reports a "scare" about discovery of influenza viruses in Canadian birds. This article puts this in perspective. Influenza viruses are ubiquitous in the avian population, and the media hardly does the public any service by dredging for a story on the usual "slow day". The authors also note the role of the international poultry trade, as opposed to migratory birds, in the spread of the H5N1 virus. They say,
"...most scientists now agree that wild birds could play a role in the spread of the disease, at least for short distances (!- Molly). However, most also agree that the poultry industry and movement of birds and bird products (legal or illegal) have likely been the predominant routes of spread, given that many outbreaks in poultry appeared to have followed roads, railway systems and international boundaries, and did not correspond to migratory bird routes or timing of migration".
Adrift in a Sea of Ads:
Just wanted to call attention to 4 new links that I have added to the 'Scientific Links' section on the left. They are:
1)The World Health Association (the WHO)
2)The World Organization for Animal Health (the OIE)
3)The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (the FAO)
4)The Centres for Disease Control (the CDC)
All of these are great sources for up to date information, statistics and surveys. Good places to look first before making an argument.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Today in History:
1692: The last 8 women hanged for witchcraft in Salem MA today. Coincidentally today is the fall equinox and therefore the time of the Wiccan festival of Mabon. A good time to "hang around". This years actual harvest moon will be coming up soon in early October. It usually falls in September, but this year the one in Oct. is closer to the equinox. Each full moon has a traditional name, but this year there will be a stutter as the hunters' moon becomes the harvest moon.
1792: Legislation passed in the French National Assembly establishing the new revolutionary calender. Came into force in 1793. There was a week of ten days and 12 months of 3 weeks each. The left-overs- well have a good party. This would be the first day of the month of Vindemaire- fine wine. But who's counting.
1862: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation put forward. Due to take effect on jan. 1st, 1863, but only in states "in rebellion" against the federal government. Seems there was something missing here.
1871: Japanese anarchist Shusui Denjiro Kotoku(1871- 1911) born. Executed in connection with a plot against the emperor.
1903: Patent issued for the ice cream cone. No kidding ! How cool ! More licks, less drips.
1912: Mexico- the anarcho-syndicalist Casa del Obrero Mundial founded.
1973: Spain: Anti-fascist anarchist guerrilla Salvador Puig Antich arrested because of his part in the anti-Franco campaigns of the MIL (Iberian Liberation Movement). Later garroted by the Francoist government on March 2, 1974.
1975: Your Personnel Department Sucks Dept.: Sara Jane Moore attempts to kill US President Jerry Ford. The interesting part is that she a paid informant for both local police and the FBI
1985: France admits planting bomb that sank the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand. Not, definitely not, absolutely not part of any international terrorist conspiracy. Who us, Non, absolutement Non.
A Little Frustration of Blogging:
One of the tings I find frustrating about this "blogging matter" is the process of adding links. Every item has to be proofread. When a link doesn't appear to work it is sometimes because I've made a typo, but more often it's "just because". The links on the left contain two dead links under the texts section. I'm trying to repair these now, but I may end up deleting the items totally, as I have done for other things in the past.
Not fun.
Transmissible tumours:
The September 7th edition of Nature Magazine has an article under the News and Views section entitled 'Infectious Tumour Cells' (Vol 443, pp35-36). This article discusses the two types of cancer that are directly transferable from individual to individual under normal conditions. These are the canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT) and the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) of Tasmanian Devils. I have read articles on the latter, but, like most veterinarians, I have been familiar with CTVT for much longer. So my memory lapse can perhaps be forgiven when I quoted to a client recently that CTVT was the only cancer known to be directly infectious "as a cancer". My stock of Tasmanian devil faces in memory is exactly zero, so the second fact easily slips my mind.
In any case the article presents the evidence that these tumours are in fact infectious clones of original tumour cells that arose in animals other than those infected rather than being malignant transformations of the cells of the present host animal. The evidence is much stronger in the case of CTVT. Murgis et al (Cell 126 ,477-487-2006) show that the tumours from dogs across 5 continents are closely related genetically and distinct from the genome of the host dog. They use a combination of techniques [dog leukocyte antigens (dla similar to the human hla), haplotyping (chromosome analysis), microsatellite DNA and mitochondrial DNA sequencing]. The various tumours, "had less genetic variability than that observed within even the most inbred breed of dog".
The evidence for the facial tumours of Tasmanian Devils is less robust. It consists merely of consistent patterns of chromosome abnormalities.
The authors of this review (David Dingli and Martin A. Novak) go on to discuss the limited ways in which tumours are transmitted directly in humans. These include mother to fetus transfer, interfetal transfer in multiple pregnancies and transmission via organ donation. Mercifully such events are quite rare. In the case of organ transplants the rate is 0.04% of solid organ transplants and 0.06% of haematopoietic stem cell transfers.
The reason why cancer generally is not transferable is graft rejection due to the MHC antigens that distinguish self from non-self. CTVT cells reduce their expression of MHCs (the DLA previously mentioned) and thereby avoid graft rejection on the part of killer T cells. They do not, however, totally inhibit the expression of such antigens as this would stimulate attack by the NK (natural killer cells), a less specific form of the cellular immune defenses.
The authors go on to say that this phenomenon is evidence of the theory that the MHC evolved mainly as a defense against tumours.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Today In History:
1888: Science fiction writer and sorta socialist H.G. Wells born
1897:"Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter published. The world still awaits the "Yes, Virginia, there is an honest politician" article. With bated breath of course.
1921: Russian anarchist poet Lev Cherny executed by the Cheka. One of the first of 25 million victims of the "workers' paradise".
1934: Songwriter Leonard Cohen born in Montreal.
1948: Falke Bernadotte, U.N. mediator assassinated by Zionist terrorist in Palestine. "One person's terrorist is..."
1963: US War Resisters' League organizes first anti-Vietnam War demonstration in NYC.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Little Funny From Time Magazine:
Time Magazine runs a page in each issue consisting of a)Punchlines ie humor and b)Numbers ie a collection of oddball statistics. From the Punchlines section of the Sept. 25th edition :
"Several Democratic and Republican primaries were just held across the country. It was evenly split between those who forgot to vote and those who chose not to vote."
Conan O'Brien
I came across an interesting book in an used bookstore the other day. It is 'The Un-Marxian Socialist:A Study of Proudhon' by Henri De Lubac (Sheed and Ward, New York, 1948). The interesting thing is that the author is a Jesuit who actually !! has sympathy for Proudhon and who sees him as a "noble opponent". The book naturally concentrates on Proudhon's connection with religion-both pro and contra. Should be interesting to read some day.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More on 'Breaking The Spell'
Dennett begins Chapter 2.4 of his book with a number of quotations including one that follows'
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"
- Jesus of Nazareth in John 8:32
As may be guessed from such an opening the author continues his argument here as to the value of scientifically investigating religion. He notes that the opposite case has two presuppositions:
1)"that religion provides net benefits to humankind" and
2)"that these benefits would be unlikely to survive such an investigation"
Neither of these propositions is a certain fact, and the author goes further in stating that,
"There is really no way of showing the first point without actually engaging in the investigation".
The author spends the rest of this chapter arguing for the value of his study, arguing with various "stage opponents" including the fundamentalists and evangelists of his home country who have little purchase elsewhere.
Better to pass on to the rest of the book.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Other Losers of 9/11
To continue this thread, another of the losers who lost via 9/11 was the 'American Left'. By this I mean not the "liberal left" of neo-conservative "horror dreams" but rather the left in the USA extending from what would be called "social-democrats" in civilized countries, through more dogmatic socialists and into the eerie netherworld of Leninist sects and "left-over new leftists" ensconced in various parts of academia. I deliberately leave the anarchists for later, even though the rise of the modern American anarchist movement is intimately connected to the lost opportunity that the American left was a victim of.
Remember the time. It was a time when the events of Seattle 1999 were fresh in memory. Intelligent leftists such as Barbara Ehrenreich and many others were reaching out to this new generation of radicalism. Meanwhile the Stalinist and Trotskyist sects were pretty well moribund. Their potential for lasting another decade was remote.
Here's the astonishing fact. The American left "lost" by winning. The fact that what they had been saying to a diminishing audience for decades was getting further and further from reality was gradually dawning on them. many "protestants" had arisen to proclaim that the left should recover its connection with ordinary people. The birthing pains of American anarchism were only !! a part of this. The left stood poised to recover the commitment to such things as participatory democracy and a genuine populism that decades of identity politics had obscured. The Leninist left looked poised to finally fall into the trash-bin of history, a fall very much predestined with the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1989.
This didn't mean that the American left would likely become "anarchists", though it did mean that they would be more than willing to "steal from the anarchist kit of ideas", often giving a version more sensible than that of the originators. It meant that they could have reformed and abandoned so many of their practices that made them a running joke amongst those who had the misfortune of coming in contact with them.
What happened ? An out-of-control imperial crusade on the part of the American government suddenly breathed new life into the terminal patient of American leftism. The Leninists began to recruit again. The academics found a cause to escape the growing knowledge of their futility. The inevitable reckoning was put off- perhaps for decades.
The gift that the Bush presidency gave to a tiny minority of their opponents was a gift of inestimable value. "War" tends to focus the mind just as almost dying does. This focus,however, pushes other matters way into the periphery. The left will now coat-tail the more "loyal" liberal opposition and imagine that it is gaining success after success. The success will be entirely illusionary.
The left would have had a very important role to play in "remaking America". Now they have put all their eggs in the one basket and continued on with business as usual in other matters that are more important in the long term. They will ignore pressing matters just as much as the conservatives that they hate do.
The left has failed because it has missed an opportunity for reformation, for abandoning a lot of its very bad habits. The opportunity will come again, but at a less opportune time. Perhaps when the American public is mindlessly casting around for villains to blame for its defeat, a defeat for which hubris is far more responsible than so-called traitors.
Next installment: We finally go overseas in examination of the losers.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Little Aside on "Imperialism",
I realize that a previous post mentioned the fallacy of the popular leftist impression that the ordinary American person is a "beneficiary" of something called "imperialism". This view is held by Leninists and those influenced by them more as a matter of religious dogma than as anything attempting to "explain reality". But it is also held to by the American left for reasons other than lazy habit. It helps them to hold to some very self-defeating (in the sense of gaining popular approval) beliefs that have some very valuable (in the sense of reinforcing the psychological benefits of illusionary "superiority" vis-a-vis ordinary Americans that the "left"-including too many anarchists!- clings to today).
Let's try to convince those who believe in politics to adhere to "the scientific method" - or the simple common sense that science is a distillation of. Everything here is a matter of publicly available statistics, and you can verify it for yourself. Begin with the GDP of the USA and then go to the GNP. Note the following. The balance of payments for the the USA has been "negative" for decades. In other words the "profits drained" from the USA exceed the profits imported. Seems like the USA is the "victim" of imperialism rather than the other way around.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, let's assume that such gross economic statistics can't tell the whole story. Let's examine the record of trade and "economic transfers" between the USA and the rest of the world. Little comfort for leftists here. About 2/3rds to 75 % of US trade and economic transfers are carried out between the USA and other developed countries. That leaves about 1/3rd of these transfers to buttress the case of the guilt mongers in the American left.
Examine these numbers closely, and see if the ordinary American makes a dollar a year from "exploitation" of the 'Third World'.
Note that I don't deny the "reality" of imperialism here in terms of the desire of national entities to control "strategic resources". What I convinced myself of over 30 years ago and what has become even more apparent since then is that the economic theory of the "left" has been perverted for domestic reasons. It has elevated anecdotal evidence to the level of "laws" while ignoring the total picture. It has done this because it is no longer a "left" in the traditional sense of wanting to change it own society. It has become a "left" whose opponents are not the ruling class but rather a majority of the population in the countries that this left inhabits.
All the nonsense that the left produces hangs together upon this simple fact.
More later,
More on 'Breaking the Spell'
Gotta love some of the quotes the author uses to introduce his chapters and subchapters. It may be good proof that an education in the 'Humanities' is worthwhile after all. The third section of Chapter 2 is entitled, 'Might Music be Bad for You ?', and one of the the introductory quotes is from Shakespeare ie
"Is it not strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of men's bodies ?"
The author compares the fact that music has been subjected to scientific study and the "magic" and the benefit of music have "survived such study. The author says,
"The comparison of religion to music is particularily useful here, since music is another natural phenomenum that has been ably studied by scholars for hundreds of years but is only just beginning to be the object of the sort of scientific study I am recommending"
Thus the author makes his case for the scientific study of religion by an analogy that may seem a little less painful to some. The author also says,
"I recognize that many people feel about religion the way I feel about music. They may be right. let's find out. That is, let's subject religion to the same sort of scientific enquiry that we have done with tobacco and alcohol (two other things that also make people feel quite good- Molly) and, for that matter, music. Let's find out why people love their religion, and what it's good for."
The author goes on about music,
"Music may be what Marx said religion is: the opiate of the masses, keeping working people in tranquillized subjugation, but it may also be the rallying song of revolution, closing up the ranks and giving heart to all. On this point, music and religion have quite similar profiles. in other regards music looks far less problematic than religion. Over the millenia, music has started a few riots, and charismatic musicians may have sexually abused a shocking number of susceptible young fans, and seduced many others to leave their families (and their wits) behind, but no crusades or jihads have been waged over differences in musical tradition, no pograms have been instituted against the lovers of waltzes or ragas or tangoes. Whole populations haven't been sunjected to obligatory scale-playing or kept in penury to furnish concert halls with the finest acoustics and instruments. No Musciians have had fatwas prounced against them by musical organizations, not even accordianists."
The comparison and contrast is very apt. Music is also , like religion, a biologically based substratum of human evolutionary psychology, but it seems to be a much more benign one. Religion no more deserves to escape scientific inquiry than music does, despite the fears that benefits may be lost.
More later

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Another Goddamn Ad:
I've just added 'The Tree of Life' to the Scientific Links on the left. This is the website of the 'Tree of Life Project'. It attempts to post all that is presently known- and unknown about phylogeny and give a continually updated web accessible "state of the art" overview. Very interesting and worth looking at.
Also Larry Gambone-once more see the links on the left under Blogs- has posted a good opinion piece on the recent shootings in Montreal. Also well worth looking at.
We return you to our regular programming...
Losers of 9/11 Part 2:
Many other actors lost opportunities due to the events of 9/11. The lost opportunities of the American ruling class were discussed in Part 1. The ordinary American people also lost as well. Their interests are not the same as those of their rulers. Certainly not the same as all factions of that ruling class, for the ruling class has factions that have different interests. This may seem a truism, and most of the American left will make ritual genuflections in this direction just like a good Catholic will before the host contained in the tabernacle whether they really believe that that piece of bread is the body and blood of Christ or if it is just a verbal formula. The more radical and academic sections of the American left adopt a general attitude towards their fellow countrymen that is, in fact, the precise opposite of seeking to aid the aspirations of ordinary people.
The Leninist theory of imperialism- factually wrong in terms of modern economics, assuming it ever was right- that explained the ability of some sections of the western working class to better their condition by imagining that they participated in some "looting" of the imperial colonies is a mere newly hatched chick to the dinosaur sized Great Rock of modern American leftist "guilt spinning". This web of feelings and rhetoric assigns an "ist" and an "ism" to so many conditions of life that presumably (whether they do in reality of not) "give benefit" to some imaginary oppressing group that it pretty well excludes 100% of Americans and 99.9999% of the world's population from the ranks of the "totally oppressed". The end result is psychological one-up-man-ship, not politics.
What follows is not anarchist propaganda. It merely assumes that the American people are mostly decent and that they deserve benefits which they lost due to a misguided reaction on the part of the American government to the events of 9/11. None of the opportunities that they lost really have much to do with anarchism except in a peripheral sense in the loss of their liberties and potential for security through greater self sufficiency and conservation. What they lost presumes basically the same general political economy that they have had in the past, but one managed a bit more intelligently than it has been in recent years.
Some of the losses of the American people are obvious. They have far fewer civil liberties today than they had six years ago. It is doubtful that this has increased their security any more than a focused effort on Al Queda, without the distraction of the Iraq invasion, would have done. The likelihood is precisely the opposite. The Americans are losing "the war of ideas" because of the domestic actions of their government, just as they are losing it because of its foreign adventures.
But there are other losers that they have suffered that are much more in the way of lost opportunities. Before 9/11 America was in a much better fiscal position that it is now. Not that their position was perfect, but matters such as the deficit and the negative balance of payments were at least possibly fixable. Add a trillion dollars via the undertaking of a hopeless war and the problems become insoluble. similarly, other pressing matters such a an infrastructure deficit, a poorly performing educational system, loss of innovative capacity, growing social inequality that threatens the implied "social contract" of America's myth of equality, etc. get swept away from consideration by the breeze generated by so many waving flags. These problems don't disappear. They fester and become worse the longer they are ignored. In a climate of war hysteria generated by a government determined to widen an inevitable war into a series of optional wars they will continue to grow in magnitude.
As America wastes its resources trying to achieve the impossible other, more sensible, countries become much better at competition because they use their resources wisely. In the end the living conditions of the American population stagnate at best and, more likely, begin to decline. The Americans are presently paying the price for allowing themselves to be swept up in the ideological myth generated by the present government. They have begun to wake up, but precious time has been lost. An hopeless crusade to try and monopolize Middle Eastern oil has put the necessary development of energy conservation and alternative sources of energy in the USA back at least a decade. Ignoring this necessity is treason to the American people because it perpetuates the dependence of the USA on vulnerable foreign supplies. The Republicans end up giving Al Queda greater assistance than the most "liberal" of American politicians ever could.
All the above is written from an "in their shoes" point of view. It assumes the general perspective of a rational citizen of the USA with all their general beliefs about politics and economics. It doesn't contradict any major system of American belief. When I examine the other "losers" I will indeed go beyond these beliefs. But for now...
More later

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lost Opportunities of 9/11
Many countries, peoples and movements lost opportunities due to the events of 9/11. Either that or they left opportunities untouched. The losers come from all points of the geographic and political spectrum. As I said I'd like to explore what was lost. This will be in no particular order, and what is said below doesn't mean that I approve of the ultimate goals of any of the collection of losers that I will present. When I do I'll try and make it as plain as possible.
So, beginning in the refrain of "I could do it better", let's look at the self interests of the American Empire. This whole matter is actually quite well hashed out in the popular and intellectual press of many different countries, and I don't expect that I'll say anything new here.
The American government was presented with an unprecedented "gift" by the events of 9/11. This was perhaps the ONLY time since the second world war that the USA received pretty well universal sympathy, at least from other governments-both "friends" and "competitors". Even Cuba. More determined and ideological opponents such as Iran maintained a polite silence. The sympathy was actually pretty reflective of public as opposed to government opinion in most countries as well. Even in the Middle East those who "celebrated" the attacks were a distinct minority, and the general population rejected them for at least "tactical" reasons.
It's perhaps symptomatic of the decline of politics in a worldwide sense that the American government had a George Bush at the helm in this moment rather than a person who could act as a "statesman". The era of the "statesman" has really been over for some decades. To my knowledge there is only one such item in power today. I imply no sympathy for the decaying dictatorship which he tends when I nominate Castro for this accolade. His junior partner, Chavez of Venezuela, is more of a clown and megalomaniac than old Fidel, and he hardly inspires the "vision" that old Fidel's revolutionary model did when it was still vital. the only other living statesman that I can think of is the retired Nelson Mandela.
Talent simply doesn't come to the halls of power anymore. A truly statesman-like American president could have parlayed the sympathy the USA received because of the events into a much more refined project for the "second American century" that American ideologues dream of. The configuration of events might have been rather different than what we see today. There was no reason why Saddam Hussein could not have once more become the American puppet he once was, and why he could not have become the regional counterweight to the ideologues of Iran that is so lacking today. The history of the American imperium has been marked for decades by alliances of convenience. Deadly communist foes such as China or the Kymer Rouge have ended up receiving American support just as surely as Saddam once did.
No doubt the imperium would still be an empire, with all that implies, but you can be assured that its machinations would be better covered with the cloak of "ethics" and "multilateralism" than the shredded image that America projects today. Those in control of the US government at the time were blinded by their ideology. From a simple real-politic point of view they can be seen as the intellectual pygmies they are when placed beside a truly intelligent advocate of the American Empire such as Henry Kissinger. Even more they were blinded by hubris, by an almost total overestimation of their power and even popularity. It would be hard to imagine Kissinger making such a mistake. Detente with China occurred because the US government of the time realized in a totally realistic way that it could not afford to wage a cold war against BOTH the Soviet Union and the PRC. There was a realistic understanding of the limits of American power that is lacking in the present American rulers.
Middle Eastern oil could have been much more securely in the American pocket with BOTH Iraq and Saudi Arabia as client states. The crusade against Islamic fundamentalism would be far more effective with Saddam's coterie of murderers on the American side. With the diversion of American forces and interests from the latter to the former objective BOTH objectives have now become exceedingly precarious. The reaction of the "Arab street" that the USA's actions constitute a crusade against "all" of Islam has been echoed by a loss of sympathy amongst non-Islamic countries. They can plainly see that the ultimate targets of America's wars in the Middle East is actually their own economies. Very few world government leaders express this bluntly, but it is an unstated reality behind growing scepticism elsewhere, whether in Europe, China or Russia.
Once more, the USA could have gained from the opportunity presented by the events of 9/11, but they foolishly frittered away their advantage by overstepping sensible limits on the reality of their power. They were one loser. The conservative movement in the USA mirrored this debacle on a domestic scale. The invasion of Iraq destroyed an opportunity that they had to become hegemonic in domestic politics- perhaps for decades to come. The liberal opposition has made a comeback because the conservatives were too foolish and arrogant.
These opportunities that were lost will never come again short of the success of Al Queda in actually deploying a real weapon of mass destruction- less likely than some Americans imagine- or a total loss of realism on the part of a future Iran armed with nuclear weapons. this is also unlikely for a number of reasons. Given the probable course of events in the near future the lost will never be recovered.
More on other losers later.
A Water Tower Obsession:
I've taken to looking for water towers on top of every building I drive by these days, and I think I may have spotted one. It sits on top of an ancient building in downtown Winnipeg, and I can't think of anything that it could be other than a disused water tower. I'm going to keep trying to find out exactly what it is.
As an aside I have a book titles 'The Works: Anatomy of a City' by Kate Ascher. It is a description of the technological details of New York City. The sheer magnitude of the many systems that have to be kept running on an almost minute by minute basis in the case of New York in order to keep the city "somewhat" habitable and many of its millions of inhabitants alive til the next dawn should give pause to any advocate of the romantic concept of "revolution". Cities like New York cannot endure chaos.
In any case New York does have a system of water towers. The author estimates the number at between 10,000 and 15,000. Nobody seems to know the exact number. Interesting, that fact. More modern buildings tend to rely of basement located pumps. this is despite the fact that the water towers are more reliable. Pumps do fail after all. They are also certainly more efficient in terms of energy consumption.
Having mostly been familiar with metal water towers out here on the prairies (mostly in small towns), I was astonished to find out that NY's towers are generally made of wood. This seems like a rather inexpensive mode of construction. No adhesive is needed as the wood swells to block leaks, and galvanized steel hoops hold the wood in place. The insulating properties of wood are also quite good. Three inches of wood has the same insulation factor as 30 inches of concrete. I would still wonder about freezing in the conditions of a Western Canadian winter however.
New York also has a system of reservoirs, divided into collecting, storage and distributing reservoirs. Amazingly NYC has only the same number of distributing reservoirs that Winnipeg has- four, but these reservoirs are, of course, much bigger. To gauge the size of this system Ascher cites the statistic that the reservoir system of NYC covers an area greater than that of the State of Deleware.
Water towers ! Seems to me that cities could do with more. Looking at NYC I can see that the cost of construction would be far less than I imagined. I'm sure that there are many engineering problems, particularly in a cold dry climate like the Canadian prairies, but I doubt that these would be insoluble. Construction of neighbourhood systems of water supply, coupled with methods of water collection and conservation (if a desert like Indian Rajasthan can do it why not Canada ?) might make many cities less dependent on megaprojects for water needs. I doubt that such a system would suffice for all years. This year in Manitoba, for instance, was particularly hot and dry. But they could make cities independent from the need for further expansion of the centralized systems they presently employ.
More on water in the future.
9/11 Five Years and 2 Days Later:
A World of Lost Opportunities:
The fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington has come and gone, and the commemorations have begun to fade. The myth making has added another brick to the mental monuments that both sides, the USA and fundamentalist Islam, have constructed to justify their actions. On the one side the toll of innocent victims is being used to continue to cover the far from innocent role of American foreign policy and American business in fostering the sort of mindset that sees the USA as "the Great Satan". The idea is now being mooted by, not just the American government, but even the present Canadian one that outfits like Al Queda carry out their attacks because "they hate the way of life and the freedoms of the West". I'm sure that they do indeed have such hatred, but it is hardly the reason why they have declared war on the USA. That sort of propaganda falls pretty flat outside of the USA and a minority of Canadians.
On the other side the death toll and the spectacular nature of the events has undoubtedly fed the delusion that a world spanning empire such as the USA can be defeated by a handful of terrorists carrying out such actions. No matter if the toll rises to 100 or 1,000 times the present toll an empire can never be defeated by such actions. Asymmetric war is, after all, asymmetric, and in the end the USA can outlast its present opponents until the time that its competitors overtake it on the economic front. At such a time Islamic fundamentalism may find itself pining for the "good old days" of fighting the Americans rather than a less constrained opponent.
Be that as it may the next few posts will look at the missed opportunities that the 9/11 events led to- for all sorts of different parties.
Til then- Molly

Monday, September 11, 2006

Latest ASR Now Out:
The latest edition of Anarcho-Syndicalist Review (Summer, 2006) is now available. Subscriptions are $15 US for issues. The mailing address is Box 42531, Philadelphia PA 19101, USA. The website is (see contacts on the left under 'Anarcho-Syndicalist Contacts').
With this issue ASR celebrates its 20th year of publication. The magazine is a high quality source of anarcho-syndicalist news and opinion. This issue features 'Against Class Injustice:Direct Action and Solidarity' by the AIT/IWA, 'Clausewitz on the Pampas:An Argentine Snapshot as Latin America Moves Leftward' by Loren Goldner, 'Anarchist Visions, Argentina' by Maria Trigona, 'Venezuala 2006: Anarchism Against All Odds' by the Comision de Relaciones Anarquistas de Venezuela, 'The VI Declaration of the Lacadona Jungle & the New Latin American Left' by the Movimienta Libertario Cubano, 'Chinese Anarchism in the U.S.' by Mitch M., and a great number of reviews and brief notices from all across the world.
Have a look, and subscribe if you like it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Another Little Ad:
Anyone paying attention to the ever-expanding links list on the left may have seen 'The Making of Medicine' that I have added under the scientific links section. This Swedish produced site - in English- is much more than a simple text history of medicine, and it's well worth checking out for a number of good reasons.
Ad over.
As to Winnipeg's lack of water towers I think I know the reason. The city has four reservoirs to supply various parts of the city. The pressure generated by the large amounts of water stored in this reservoirs is sufficient to compensate for the fact that they are not as elevated as the usual water tower. I wonder what happens in American cities.
An aside,
Scientific American always has a 'Working Knowledge' section in each edition dealing with various practical technologies. In the September edition that I have mentioned previously the title is 'Tall Task', and it is on water towers and their role in the water supply system of towns and cities. What I find odd is the mention of rooftop water towers in cities. To be honest I've never seen such things in prairie cities. But now I am on the lookout for them here in Winnipeg. If they aren't there why ? Are they an affectation of American rather than Canadian cities ? Are they unnecessary in prairie cities ? A question to ponder.
More on Breaking the Spell:
Jesus, am I ever way behind on this, but I suppose it's useful to review Chapter 2 of a book when you're on Chapter 7. Anyways...
Subchapter 2 of Chapter 2 is entitled ' Should Science Study Religion ?'. it begins with a quotation from Aesop, the old, "look before you leap". The author begins by advancing five hypotheses about "the future of religion" and goes on to note that foreknowledge is one of the best aspects of our species. He says that,
"In general, knowing more improves your chances of getting what you value...suppose there is a limit on how much knowledge about some about some topic is good for us...It may be, then that some of our major disagreements in the world today are about whether we've reached such a limit....sometimes ignorance is bliss. we need to consider such possibilities carefully".
So on to other arguments. Seems like the author is a a typical philosopher. Never say anything in one sentence that can be expressed in 50 pages.
But, anyways, here are the hypotheses for the future of religion:
1)The Enlightenment is long gone; the creeping "secularization" of modern societies that has been anticipated for two centuries is evaporating before our eyes. Molly's note- this may be similar to the theories of sociologist P.A. Sorokin.
2)Religion is in its death throes; today's outbursts of fervor and fanaticism are but an brief and awkward transition to a truly modern society in which religion plays at most a ceremonial role.
3)Religions transform themselves into institutions unlike anything seen before on the planet: basically creedless associations selling self-help and enabling moral teamwork, using ceremony and tradition to cement relationships and build "long-term fan loyalty". Molly's note- something like the United Church of Canada today.
4)Religion diminishes in prestige and visibility, rather like smoking:it is tolerated, since there are those who say they can't live without it, but it is discouraged, and teaching religion to impressionable young children is frowned upon in most societies and actually outlawed in others. Molly's note- a good metaphor.
5)Judgement day arrives. The blessed ascend bodily into heaven, and the rest are left behind to suffer the agonies of the damned, as the AntiChrist is vanquished. Molly's note- the author has already stated that he is speaking to an American audience, the only country in the world where such an "alternative" is 'known' to large numbers of people and not mocked when it is known.
Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker is the author of 'The Blank Slate' and numerous other works, professional and popular. he is a professor of psychology at MIT, and the essential gist of his work is the application of evolutionary psychology to visual cognition and language.
The Blank Slate is subtitled "The Modern Denial of Human Nature", and this really says it all. Evolutionary psychology is a thriving scientific field, but, shades of the 'two cultures of Snow', most non-scientific intellectuals deny that there is anything like "human nature". This denial is hardly echoed in "folk wisdom" where it is simple common sense that there are both commonalities and differences amongst people that are 'inherited'. The denial spans the political spectrum, and it is in the self interest of both the left and the right-for different reasons of course- to deny human nature. Even amongst anarchists who venerate, sometimes excessively, a man named Peter Kropotkin who could best be described as the "great grandfather of socio-biology" this prejudice continues.
Anyways, I'm not reading 'The Blank Slate' now, but it's in the stack of things I read while on the can. I knew beforehand that Pinker is nowhere near the demon made out in leftist mythology, just like almost all the researchers in this field are remote from the descriptions that dogmatic leftists assign to them. But imagine my surprise on coming upon the following jem on page 331 of the book,
"As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin's anarchism. I laughed off my parents' argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 AM on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike...
The author goes on to list the various aspects of the crime wave that broke out and continues...
"...By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order. This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist)."
The author refers to the habit (definition pretty well) of science as being the method of making predictions from a theory that can be proven right or wrong. The success of the predictions is evidence for or against the theory.
What Pinker relates is, of course, more than slight evidence against "the anarchism of Bakunin". Bakunin had a lot of dark shadows in his life, and he spouted a lot of foolishness. He had the good luck to 1)make a very few incisive observations that can be "cut out" from the rest of his words and deeds, 2)be opposed to somebody-Marx- who made him look like a saint by comparison and whose ideas have been falsified to the tune of almost 100,000,000 victims and 3) gather followers who were much more intelligent than he was and who corrected his errors without- unfortunately - ever acknowledging the magnitude of same.
Anyone who reads what Bakunin wrote and what he did in his life will, if they can set aside his contest with Marx while looking at it- a contest that was really a contest of national movements rather than one of personalities, and which was at least 5!!! pointed (Marx's followers, English trade unionists, the followers of Lasalle, the Proudhonists and the people gathered around Bakunin and his leftenants) rather than two pointed- will see that Bakunin wrote far too many things that are simply despicable. His actions remind one of a hyperactive true believer rather than an intelligent revolutionary.
Bakunin's anarchism can indeed appeal to a "teenager" where hormones and an urge to action can easily blind anyone to obvious deficiencies in one's "heroes". To my mind it is sad that too many otherwise rational people in the anarchist movement try to cover up the glaring deficiencies of someone who deserves far less than Proudhon to be seen as a "founder". As to the romantic trend of pseudo-anarchism popular in some quarters today where minor riots are seen as a substitute for real movement building and where sympathy is extended to pretty well anyone with criminal intent providing they can mouth PC rhetoric above the level achievable by any three year old- well, once more, of course.
As to what happened in Montreal i can just imagine the sort of results that would happen here in Winnipeg with a well publicized police strike. The differences would be instructive. Six banks ??? That would be what happened in the FIRST six hours once robbers realized the strike was for real. Arsons? Twelve ? It's hard to say. Here in Winnipeg that may be a very bad day with the police. But the local street gangs have gone on to new initiation fads so there may easily be less. Broken glass and looting of shops ? Not likely. maybe Winnipeg thugs are just too lazy and disorganized to form a mob. Maybe a bit in some neighbourhoods, but less than in Montreal. Killings ? Make it 6 or 10 not one. Pinker didn't mention simple assaults or robberies, but Winnipeg would probably have at least twice as many as Montreal experienced in that time. Etc. Appreciate that Winnipeg circa 2006 is NOT Montreal circa 1969. It's not even Montreal today. With a population of about 1/5th that of Montreal Winnipeg would far exceed what happened then in many ways and have far less crime in others.
Nobody except those who expend tremendous effort in justifying criminals while looking down their snotty noses at ordinary people can imagine that a simple immediate release from the state would result in-at best- something like what happened in Montreal in Pinker's adolescence. But...I am still an anarchist. Why ?
Unlike Pinker I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan where there was a grand total of one time that the police came to down- to take a man into custody who had murdered his wife and who had come down to the general store to confess and wait for the Mounties. Seems like Pinker and I have seen different experiments run and have drawn different conclusions from them. I have drawn the conclusion that, given slow gradual change towards a less statist society, that different living arrangements can reduce and perhaps even eliminate the need for police. It actually worked and I had 13 years of observation to generalize from. Pinker had 24 hours.
The bottom line is that the "anarchism" that Pinker found so much in contradiction to reality is not all of modern anarchism. It may indeed be the anarchism of Bakunin. In Bakunin's time the police in the majority of European countries represented little more than tax collectors preying on peasant communities who upheld their own "law and order", just like the people in my home town did. It may indeed also be the "anarchism" of far too many people who mistake a violent outlook for commitment to just social change. These people exist today. They have always existed. It's the old con of gathering followers by beating your chest harder and yelling louder.
The "anarchism" that Pinker found to be false is a false anarchism. Period. end of discussion.