Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Local News: Demonstration at Legislature this Saturday:
A coalition of local Winnipeg groups, the Canada-Palestine Support Network-Winnipeg, the Peace Alliance Winnipeg and Jews for a Just Peace-Winnipeg will be holding a rally at the Manitoba Legislature this Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006 at 1:00 PM.
This event will be part of an international campaign to stop the attacks on Gaza and to pressure for the ceasefire in Gaza to hold. The demands of the demonstration will include that the Canadian government to condemn the actions of Israel in the massacre at the Gaza neighbourhood of Beit Hanoun and call for an end to attacks on the Gaza strip.
There will be actions on the same day in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, as well as in numerous other cities worldwide.

In a previous report on this blog we mentioned the case of Mansour Osanloo, the President of the bus drivers' union in the greater Tehran area of Iran. The website 'Labour Start' ( - see also our 'Other Interesting Links' section, now at the bottom of the blog rather than to the left) has an update on this case.
Osanloo is being held in the Evin prison where the authorities claim that they are "negotiating" with him. They claim that he is allowed only one visitor- his mother-, but when she attempted to visit him she was refused access. Family members cannot phone him either.
Since Labour Start initiated this campaign they have logged over 2,500 protests from around the world over this arrest. Go to LS's site to receive further updates and to see other labour related solidarity campaigns from around the world.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stop Building Igloos in France.
The latest edition of Science, the journal of the AAAS (Nov 17th, 2006) to arrive at my door has an interesting news-bite on the matter of one possible consequence of global warming. It's entitled 'False-Alarm:Atlantic Conveyor Belt Hasn't Slowed Down After All'. The basic point of the news-bite on page 1064 is that more thorough research has shown that previously alarmist reports of the "demise of the Gulf Stream" are "greatly exaggerated" because natural variation from year to year is far greater than the decades long "snapshot" that an original article in Science (Dec. 2nd, 2005, p 1403) suggested. So take heart. You won't be skating on the Thames in September, and you won't have to import Musk-Ox from Canada for livestock in Provence.
This doesn't mean that climate change won't have serious consequences, merely that one doomsday scenario has been proven wrong. Alberta will still likely go to complete desert conditions, as will the Western USA, hurricanes will still likely increase in ferocity in the Atlantic, etc.etc.,etc.. Just that one item is in serious doubt.
Harper Speech Disrupted:
Steven Harper has gotten pretty much of a free ride lately as his "nation within a nation but not a real nation" resolution in the Commons has had every party scrambling to sign up to a meaningless linguistic debate that will give him good press for at least two weeks. an election Stevy-poo ! Stevy-poo got a less enthusiastic reception in Montreal on November 24th when about 20 people turned out to protest his press conference at Montreal General Hospital . Another day, another photo-op. for the left wing photo-op go to the demonstration at .

The demonstrators handed out a leaflet criticizing the Harper government's record on a number of points, from Canada's role as mercenaries for the USA in Afghanistan, to the Harper record on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to the Harper record on native rights, to the Harper record on surveillance and deportations, to the Harper record on gay rights, the environment and social programs. All of this can be seen in the leaflet's full text at .

An interesting side note is that long time activist Jaggi Singh has scored another point at this event in his attempt to be "the most arrested man in Canada". When he was sitting in the audience, separate from the demonstration, he was escorted out and turned over to the police. The provincial government demanded that he be held without bail for six months. His bail hearing was yesterday. Please see the website above for further updates on this case.
A little Molly aside here. I'm sure that I could find points of "political disagreement" with Jaggi Singh as I am an "evolutionary anarchist" who does not believe in the concept of "revolution" at all and would prefer that "spectacular acts" were done as little as possible and only then when the "moral high ground" is so obvious that it would take an Adolf Hitler or a John Zerzan to lie about it. But what I must say about Jaggi Singh is that this person who was charged with the "possession of an offensive weapon" ie a "catapult to fling 'teddy bears' at the police" in the past is far less of a threat of violence than I could ever be with my beliefs. The Canadian state has very much demonstrated its paranoia in relation to Singh and made him into an hero. I'd prefer other types of hero, but the adjective is true. He is an hero, and his morality is a standing contrast to the lack of same in our political class. Morality and consistency are alien words to them. They are not to comrade Jaggi. Good speed fellow feline Singh.
Two Interesting Reviews:
A recent edition of Science Magazine (Nov. 10th, 2006), the journal of the AAAS, contains a couple of book reviews that I find interesting.

One review by Joseph T. Devlin is of 'Toward and Evolutionary Biology of Language' by Philip Lieberman. The review points out that the three critical differences between human language and other communication systems in other animals are, "...a large vocabulary, a rapid (and robust) transmission system and the ability to combine a finite set of words into a potentially infinite set of sentences." It also points out that, "...each of these is based on existing on linguistic abilities present in other species."

The reviewer goes on to present evidence given in the book that none of these abilities are unique to humans and all have their "prototypes" in other species. He goes on to discuss the vocabulary of vervet monkeys and, of course, the famous chimpanzee experiments in terms of "vocabulary". He states that the most successful chimps have learned about 150 to 200 words which they can combine in novel ways as a sort of "proto-grammar".
Molly aside: A little veterinary note here. Many people have made equal or even greater claims for the vocabulary of dogs. Little of this has been scientifically tested, though on an anecdotal basis I have met dogs who understood at least 6 verbs and up to 15 nouns (excluding "proper nouns" which might take the number much higher). What I have failed to see evidence for is that dogs have any concept of grammar. The whole idea of "a ball" versus "the ball" is beyond them, though I must admit that this distinction present in Germanic languages, Romance languages, Arabic, and Greek isn't present in most Slavic languages. It's minor actually.
What I usually struggle to communicate to people who were never taught grammar is that dogs are even more lacking than they are. Dogs do not understand such things as "tense" or "mood". My best example is the following. If you say to your dog,
"If you shit on the floor again, I will kick your ass"
The dog, being ignorant of both conditional and future tenses...and mood as well hears what you have said as,
"Shit...floor...kick ass."
Knowing the nouns "shit" and "floor" and being a bright dog who has picked up your use of the term "kikas" as one word signifying aggression the dog, being very eager to please, promptly shits on the floor and attacks somebody. The dog is very well acquainted with the imperative mood and takes what you have said as such. Actually, most dog's just cock their head in confusion and beg you to make a little more sense. This is, of course, the "eternal present" that mystic philosophers have always assumed is the best way for people to live.
Something to both think and woof about.

Back to the review. The reviewer goes on to compare the human ability to recognize "communication phonemes" at a much more rapid rate than they recognize other sounds. Phonemes are understood at a rate of 20 to 30 sounds per second while other sounds of 10 to 15 per second are hear as a "buzzing noise".
Molly Aside: I wonder if this is true of musical notes as well as random sounds ?

The reviewer notes that other animal species can produce every phoneme found in humans, even if all are not found in any given species in the variety found in humans. He goes on to state that "changes in the position and shape of our tongue, however, have enhanced our vocal communication by enabling us to generate more distinct vowel sounds that reduce ambiguity in the acoustic signal. Because these changes also increase the risk of choking on our food, the communicative advantages must outweigh the potential costs.
Molly aside: There have also been changes in the anatomy of the human larynx during the course of the evolution of hominids. This is a simplified statement.

The reviewer goes on to point out the differences between the model proposed by Lieberman and that proposed by people such as Chomsky and Pinker in terms of the production of grammar. the basic difference is that Lieberman proposes a "reiterative" system dependant on the basal ganglia structure of the brain that says that language is structured by a more or less simple process of repetition to produce a coherent whole ala a sort of "natural selection" in the brain reminiscent of "dance". The reviewer points out that the author wrongly attributes a greater specificity of cerebral cortex involvement to people such as Chomsky, Pinker and others than such people actually hold in their view of language-including the naming of specific cortical regions that such people simply don't name- as an "hierarchically structured" process that requires the "overwhelming" participation of the cortex. Very much a straw man argument on the part of the author.

The reviewer, however, points out that the author's enumeration of the prelinguistic abilities of other species is very valuable in laying out the evolutionary biology of the evolution of language and that the author's focus on the basal ganglia is a needed correction to something of an over concentration on the cortex in the neurobiology of language.
Molly's final aside. I think that I have pointed out one problem previously, that "music" may also be organized in an "hierarchical" manner similar to language in that rules of context may determine meaning. This is certainly true of the artform known as "comics", something that I have more familiarity with than "fine art", though I am pretty sure that it is true of other visual arts as well. I am very much the amateur in terms of the visual arts outside of comics, though I am familiar with at least a few of the rules, especially as they apply to art history. All that being said the point is that I personally "provisionally" favour the idea that many other modes of human communication are structured in an hierarchical rather than a reiterative manner. This points to an evolutionary conserved ability to understand many different modes of communication that is basically the same at its simple base. If this is right I am sure that both neurology and evolutionary biology will eventually converge towards a parsimonious explanation of why bower birds can understand both the communication of nests and of songs. Let's leave the humans for later.

For those interested in a "layperson's explanation" of the neurobiology involved in such debates I suggest the following site, formulated for teachers (which is about as "lay" as you can get in my arrogant opinion), 'The Evolution of Language' by Brian Peterson at 'Brain Connection' at

Anyways, on to the second book reviewed in said issue. This is a review of 'The Evolution of Animal Communication' by William A. Searcy and Stephan Nowicki, reviewed by Katherine E. Levan and Noah Wilson-Rich. This is actually a review of a subtitle in the Princeton series of 'Monographs in Behavior and Ecology', so it's hard to say if it deserves the title of "book". it's 286 pages long so maybe it does. The subtitle of the book, 'Reliability and Deception in Signalling Systems' really says much more about the "book" than the main title, as it hardly presumes to give an overview of "the evolution of animal communication" at all but merely deals with a few restricted issues in the sociobiology of same.

The main point to take away from this review is that there are three basic situations in which signalling takes place. There is, of course, a continuum between the various situations. They are a "yardstick" rather than "three colours", but research can be oriented by looking at the evolutionary interests of the "communicators" in these three different situations. One is where "the interests overlap" in terms of communication between "related" individuals. This shades because of degrees of relationship towards "where interests diverge" as in communication between the sexes and this, in turn, shades towards "when interests oppose" as between competitors. The monograph, as the reviewers point out, concentrates on the communication "within species" even though many of the most interesting questions revolve around interspecific communication. The reviewers also criticize the concentration on avian species, though this is excused by both the research interests of the original authors and the weight of the data accumulated for birds versus other species. The practical exclusion of the social insects, however, is deplored.

The point to take away from this review is that the evolve communication systems such as "language" have both cooperative and competitive aspects that have to be carefully diced apart by extended research. The whole idea of 'deception" is something central to both animal and human sociobiology and I can certainly see it at work in many (most ?) political statements including that of many people who share the anarchist "adjective" with myself. Some of this stuff is so cynical that I have a hard time imaging that the authors believe their own bullshit. It must be nice to have a totally sponge-like view of the world where you can assert anything, even things that totally contradict each other, at the same time. Liberalism as a malignant brain tumour masquerading as anarchism. The traditional commies at least took as few days to totally switch their views at the orders of Moscow. The great right wing example of this present use of communication as deception may be perhaps the right wing exponents of the "right to life" who want to even expand the death penalty. Left wing nonsense is too numerous to enumerate beyond what I have mentioned above.

Anyways, to get off my hobby horse, if you'd like a debate in left wing terms of the whole concept of "deception in communication" which brilliantly avoids left wing examples but is very penetrating in terms of right wing examples see the "debate" (more like a love-in) between sociobiologist Robert Trivers and Noam Chomsky at

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Oak Hammock Marsh:
The latest issue of 'The Conservator', the public organ of 'Ducks Unlimited', has a great two page article by the eponymous title 'Oak Hammock Marsh'. OHM is a conservation area about 20 minutes north of Winnipeg. It is a marshy area that began as roughly 47,000 hectares, was reduced to 60 hectares and, through reclamation efforts, has now grown to about 3,600 hectares. On a given day during the fall migrations it may play host to up to 400,000 waterfowl. Over 300 bird species have been identified at this site. The site contains an extensive interpretation centre and is the headquarters of Ducks Unlimited Canada.

The author of the article, John Geary, claims that the Oak Hammock site "topped" most places in BC and Algonquin Park in Ontario "in terms of variety and diversity in a close proximity, while providing an opportunity to get up close to birds in their natural habitat".
More on Ducks Unlimited can be found at their website at . More on the Oak Hammock Marsh can be found at .
Buy Nothing Day Comes and Goes:
or 'The Good Soldier Molly' does her little bit by doing nothing:
International 'Buy Nothing Day' happened yesterday, Nov 25th. There were a number of events across the world targeted towards making people aware of the problems with the "consumerist lifestyle". 'The Good Soldier Molly' did her little bit (by the way more will be presented on Jaroslav Hasek as part of my present love affair with all things Czech). She consumed absolutely nothing. As a matter of fact Molly didn't even leave the house yesterday. Pretty easy to be part of this army !
Anyways, if you want to learn more about the annual 'Buy Nothing Day' look up the following link: .
More From The Local Press:
That Molly, she has to quit reading the papers. It gives her hairballs.
Paul Samyn has an interesting article in the 'Perspectives' section of the Nov. 26th edition of the Winnipeg Free Press. It's titled 'Cold War Concentration Camps' and deals with the work of Winnipeg-born historian John Clearwater who unearthed various cold war files in his research for his new book, 'Just Dummies:Cruise Missile Testing in Canada'. The files unearthed have featured among the 'revelations" of some anarchist posters in Canada, even though the content is fairly obvious. Governments did have, do have and will have plans to lock up their opponents in the case of "national emergencies", however that may be defined. The most bizarre parts of the files uncovered date from the mid-40s when the RCMP planned to empty various prisons and even the 'Portage Home for Boys' to temporarily house political detainees before their transport to Drumheller, AB (for the males) or Joyceville, ON (for the females). Bizarrely enough plans were made both for treating inmates for the effects of nuclear fallout (the mind boggles at the ability of the Canadian government to both survive a nuclear war and also provide "pills") and for plans to steal children and turn them over to social workers without having appeared to have done so. As to the latter the same sort of plan was actually instituted during the "Dirty War" in Argentina vis-a-vis the children of the "disappeared". What wasn't planned was what to do with the internees once they were rounded up.
Let's see now, release the psychotic murderers from prison so you can lock up the "real threat". A clearer statement of the hypocrisy of government could never be given. By the way, the history of Canadian concentration camps for the Japanese in WW2 is available at and that of the Ukrainians in WW1 at .
More From the Local Press:
Winnipeg Free Press reporter Lindsay Weibe continues her month long account of "eating locally" ie purchasing only Manitoba produced food in the Sunday, Nov. 26th edition of the Free Press. Her latest item is entitled 'A Crisis of Conscience' and it meanders around the similarities and differences between "organic foods" and the "buy local" movement. They are not the same thing. While many local food producers are indeed "organic" much of the food displayed in organic food markets is transshipped from across the world. Wiebe mentions how the David Suzuki Foundation did a study on this contrast and came down firmly on the side of "local supply", "organic" or not. The contrast in energy consumption is so great that the often illusionary value of the word "organic" take a distinct second place.
Wiebe has detailed her "journey through locality" on her blog at the local WFP site at . She has been compiling a list of retailers and other sources that would allow people who were interested to search out local products. The Province of Manitoba has also recently launched a "Buy Manitoba" campaign, and the website that lists local producers is at . For those who take their organic ideology seriously there is the 'Organic Producers Association of Manitoba' at .
Weibe's journey has been mentioned before on this blog, and a visit to her blog at the WFP is very interesting. What I found the most "grabbing" was one of the commentators who pointed out the 'Slow Food Movement'. This an international organization, founded in Italy in 1989, as their website ( ) describes as,
"...a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world."
They go on to say,
"We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that makes this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy-a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.
Slow food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good;that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.
We consider ourselves co-producers , not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become a part of and a partner in the production process."
The Slow Food site, once more , will be added to our 'Other Interesting Links section. It's a movement that goes beyond the trendy and subcultural navel-gazing of "nnnnnnnatural". It's much closer to the heart of the matter.
The International Project for a Participatory Society (IPPS):
Activists in and around Znet and its views of "parecon" have coalesced around a new project to promote their views, the International Project for a Participatory Society following a conference in Massachusetts last June. The conference was attended by people from Europe, South America, North America and Asia and decided to form an organization to promote their ideas. Their statement reads in part as,
"IPPS stands for a classless economy based on self-management and equality, for democratic and participatory politics, and for the elimination of patriarchy, racism, and all other hierarchies and oppressions."
"The International Project for a Participatory Society (IPPS) is a group of activists, writers, media producers and others committed to the basic principles and values of solidarity, diversity, equity and self-management. Our mandate is to generate, promote and support vision and strategy for attaining a participatory society."
The website for the IPPS ( ) has been added to the links section of this blog. Their next conference is scheduled for July, 2007 on conjunction with the US Social Forum. Go to the website listed above for further details.
Molly Gets Her Fix:
It's the dead of night, a wild and stormy night of course. The pitter-patter of four little feet is heard on the stairway. A shot does not ring out. What is it ? It's a cat. It's Molly ! She's twitching and fidgeting. You might say she's as nervous as a cat. She pushes away the bags of litter and stack of cat food cans, reaches to the back of the closet and draws out a brown paper bag. What's in the bag Molly?
Molly thought she heard a voice, but..'naaaw''s just one more withdrawal symptom. With shaking paws she draws something out from her 'bag of sin', rolls it up and takes a deep drag. Ahhhhh! She leans back and does a credible imitation of the Cheshire Cat. "Purrr Bliss". What's in the bag Molly?
Molly is in a better mood to respond to the ghostly voices. She points to a label on the bag. It says "100% guaranteed pure Links".
So here's some more links that the good cat dragged in:
I've added a number of new links to the 'Anarchist Publishers and Distributors' section of these blogs. These are all infoshops. I've only listed the Canadian ones, as the full North American list would be too lengthy. A complete list, however, can be found at the 'Infoshop Network' ( ) link. An 'Infoshop' is, of course, something of a retail outlet where radical literature, anarchist and otherwise, is sold. It's "sorta..." a distributor. So there they land in that category. In Canada there are now links to La Page Noire (Quebec City), Uprising Books (Toronto), Mondragon Books and Coffeeshop (Winnipeg), Haymarket Books (Calgary) and Spartacus Books (Vancouver). This will hopefully be an ever expanding section of the links on this blog.
The site for Haymarket Books is both the newest and most interesting of these links. It took some years for the Calgary people to get their project off the ground, but it's going stong now. Their website also functions as a sort of Indymedia site for Alberta as that province no longer has a functioning Indymedia site. Of particular interest is a report of the recent national meeting of the Canadian Federation of Workers' Coops. Well worth browsing.
The general site for the Infoshop Network has a wealth of information on the process of starting an Infoshop as well as a portal should you wish to book speaking tours of such places.
Molly floats off on a swirl of purple smoke. She's OK until the next time.

Zabalaza Journal to Resume Publication:
'Zabalaza' the printed journal of the South African anarchocommunist Zabala Federation is due to resume publication in the next few weeks. Stay tuned to both the Anarkismo and Zabalaza links on the left for further details. The journal will probably be available in a downloadable pdf format.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

More of Peter on Peter:
As I promised I'll give more quotes of Peter Marshall on Peter Kropotkin.
Here's Peter Marshall on Kropotkin's view of two different systems of morality,
"Kropotkin never completed his work on ethics, and what exists is principally an account of the evolutionary origins of of the moral sense and a history of ethics from the Greeks to the end of the nineteenth century....He distinguished between our innate moral sense and the rigid moral codes imposed by authority. Where the former give rise to sympathy and solidarity. the latter find their origins in primitive superstitions taken over by priests and conquerors to support their rule".(1)
Molly aside- the way that "primitive superstitions" are "taken over" by "priests and conquerors" can be extrapolated to the anarchist movement today in North America where certain people attempt to advance their own agenda of control under the rubric of "primitivism" or "post leftism". The critical reader always has to ask in such cases the question of "sui bona". Who benefits ? Neither "civilization" nor "the left" will be abolished in the foreseeable future, but some people can make BOTH money and fame from promoting nonsense that is appealing at a superficial emotional level.

Marshall goes on to state that Kropotkin's view of social progress contrasted with that of Marx,
"Progress has resulted from the resolution of conflict, not, as in Marx's view, through a dialectical synthesis of opposing forces, but through the triumph of cooperation"(2)
Molly aside- Marx's view was, of course, heavily influenced by the Hegelianism that learned as an adolescent, and unfortunately he never grew out of his "teenage" view. Scientific socialism would have taken an entirely different cast if it had had any connection to reality.
Marshall goes on to describe Kropotkin's vision of the "free society" in the following words,
"Such a society would be composer of a network of voluntary associations of equal individuals who are consumers and producers. They would represent ' an interwoven network, comprised of an infinite variety of groups of all sizes and degrees, local regional, national and international-temporary or more or less permanent- for all possible purposes"(3).
Molly aside- the idea of "pluralism" here is important. It has escaped many serious anarchists today who see the future society as exclusively "anarcho-syndicalist" or "anarcho-communist". In a more important sense it has escaped the view of those who wish to promote "mindless activism" as both a tactic and a strategy. In some cases the origin of this foolishness is pretty obvious. You make your money by this bullshit. In other words -eat shit and die you fucks!! Sui Boni ? It ain't the foolish young people who get assaulted by the police and end up with criminal records. It is, however, the older people who promote this stuff while avoiding the actual violence of the police. The people who promote this sort of nonsense are generally well ensconced entrepreneurs who wish to promote their own view of anarchism that will lead to the greatest personal profit. It's a view that contrasts with the rest of us, who actually work for a living and give our anarchist efforts for free- like Kropotkin imagined. perhaps this is one more reason why I consider Kropotkin "incomplete". The view presented in 'Darwinian Anarchism' may be harsher than mine, but it describes some people within anarchism "very" accurately.
Molly Notes:
1)Demanding the Impossible: op cite p 321
2)Demanding the Impossible: op cite p 326
3)Demanding the Impossible: op cite p 327
New Links:
"Holy hidden meaning Batman, the Joker has aligned himself with the supervillain 'Mollymew', and they're throwing Links at us.
"Gacch, choke, gasp die !!!"
I've added yet more links to this blog. Under the 'Texts' section I've added three items from Sam Dolgoff ie 'The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective', 'Anarchists in Israel' and 'The Relevance of Anarchism to Modern Society'. I've also added the 'Kate Sharpley Library' to the list of 'Anarchist Publishers and Disributers'. Finally, I've added 'The Preservation Institute' ( ) to the list of 'Other Interesting Links'. these people are definitely not anarchists. They believe in the "greenie" version of the "limited state" that liberals believe in, but they have a number of interesting links to authors such as Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, Christopher Lasch and E.F. Shumacher.
Very Funny Molly....
More found jokes:
a)Billy does a funny. Ex-President Bill Clinton of the Republicans' 2006 campaign'
"You have to vote for us because "my opponent is a slug, and they're going to tax you into the poorhouse. On the way to the poorhouse you'll meet a terrorists on every street corner. And when you try and run away from that terrorist, you will trip over an illegal immigrant".
More proof that blowjobs are good for the mind-Molly.
b) Would you work for this company ?,
Do you fancy working for a company that has little more than 500 employees and has the following statistics?:
*29 have been accused of spousal abuse
*7 have been arrested for fraud
*19 have been accused of writing bad cheques
*117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
*3 have done time for assault
*71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
*14 have been arrested on drug related charges
*8 have been arrested for shoplifting
*21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
*84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year

Can you guess which organization this is ?

Given up yet ?

It's the 535 members of the United States Congress. The same group that cranks out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line.

Seems that I've seen something similar for the Canadian Parliament- Molly

c)Things Found Only in America:
1. Only in America...can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
2. Only in America...are there handicap parking spaces in front of a skating rink.
3. Only in drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front
4. Only in people order double cheese burgers, large fries and a diet coke
5. Only in banks leave both doors to the vault open and then chain the pens to the counter
6. Only in we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
7. Only in we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight
8. Only in we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place
9. Only in we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well: Poli in Greek meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning "bloodsucking creatures"
10. Only in they have drive-up ATMs with Braille lettering.

Many giggles,
Jumping ahead of myself:
In our recent trip to Europe we visited Vienna and Venice as well as Prague. Prague impressed me the most, but there were interesting things in the other cities as well. One of these was the Cafe Central in Vienna.
Vienna has long been known as the "home of the coffeehouse". According to legend the love affair of Vienna and coffee dates back to the siege of Vienna by the Turks in the 1680s. When the Polish army came to the rescue the Turks reportedly fled leaving a great number of sacks of coffee behind. The Viennese used these and became quite wired on the bean.
Whether this is an exact description of the rise of the Viennese coffeehouse is debatable, but there's little doubt that the institution dates back many centuries in Vienna, and the Viennese coffeehouses are the very model for the coffeehouses across the world.
The Cafe Central in the Palais Ferstl is perhaps the most famous of the lot. This cafe has been a Viennese institution since 1860, though its location has changed several times. There is some dispute about when the present location opened for business. Some say 1975. Others say the 1980s. In any case the present location is "high bourgeois" to say the least. From the plush armchairs, to the life size portraits of various Hapsburgs on the wall, to the little glass of water along with the coffee, to the delicate Viennese pastries served as an imitation of food, to the piano player whose repertoire is part classical and part movie scores and to the high gilt ceilings the place pretty well reeks of decadence.
In different locations in the past the Cafe Central was the meeting place of the usual motley crew of artists and bourgeois intellectuals and revolutionaries. It was frequented by the likes of Goethe, Freud, Beethoven, Mahler and even the trinity of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky. Even Adolf Hitler used to drop by to try and sell his paintings before his two rejections to enter the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts (though his usual haunt was a coffehouse closer to the school that rejected him). The ironies of history ! I have several photos of said school. If Hitler had been just "slightly" better as an artist or if the standards of the Academy had been just "slightly" lower what would our world have been like today. The entrance to the Academy is very much nondescript, and a casual passerby would never know that the history of a good chunk of the 20th century was determined behind those doors by a coterie of stuffy academic dons.
Anyhow, the prices in the Central Cafe were high but nowhere near as outrageous as I expected. I sunk myself in Cafe Mozart and Irish Coffee. The cafe has a little rep in travel books because of its association with Leon Trotsky who lived in Vienna from 1907 to 1914. At that time the coffeehouses provided not just coffee but also a mail drop, a meeting place and even a supply of pens and paper for the usual bohemian crowd. Given that rep I noticed a few entrants to the Cafe who were obvious Trotsyists. It's hard to mistake them. They have the air of innocence trying to be decadent and rebellious hovering about them that exudes across any room. From the carefully trimmed beards of the males to the very ! proper feminist attire of the females (not too loud and aggressive mind you, but very much a fashion statement) the crew is unmistakable. Cute, I must admit and probably much better people overall than some of my own insane anarchist comrades. Hard to dislike but basically very boring. (note to self- get a decent haircut and beard trim soon).
I wonder what these tourists would think if they found out that the bullshit-central of good old Lev was actually somewhere else- the guides usually don't mention the shifting of location. I even wonder whether the contrast between the high bourgeois atmosphere and the purported history strikes them at all. It certainly struck me. What came to my mind was not favourable to the average lefty plotter. It looked like a place where the "outs" of the declasse intellectuals would come to admire the works of the ruling class of their day and plot to become a new and "improved" ruling class. That sort of thing is usually beyond most Trotskyists- it's a "thought crime" to even slightly entertain the idea that this is the motivation of some "revolutionaries".
Ah well, be that as it may, Trotsky and Lenin were reported to have played chess in the confines of the Cafe Central. Obviously Trotsky won as Lenin had more than a few nasty words to say about good old Lev, like the following from 1912,
"I advise you to reply to Trotsky through the post: "To Trotsky (Vienna). We shall not reply to disruptive and slanderous letters". Trotsky's dirty campaign against 'Pravda' is one mass of lies and slanders....this intriguer and liquidator goes on lying, right and left....It would be still better to reply in this way to Trotsky through the post: "To Trotsky (Vienna). You are wasting your time sending us disruptive and slanderous letters. They will not be replied to."
Oh yes they were. This is a little example of high words substituting for the phrase "fuck-off" long before the internet could even be conceived in the imagination.
Tangential Comments:
One Justin who commented on one of the jokes posted here has an interesting website on pets. The address of his blog is . So...if you are into cats, dogs and (shudder!) parrots check it out. It has some really great cat photography...which Molly approves of whole heartedly. No litter there.
New Design for the African Anarchism/Zabalaza Site:
The comrades of the South African Zabalaza Federation ( , see also the Links section on this blog) have redesigned their site to make it more user friendly. Check out their new design at the address above. Also a reminder that they have the best selection of downloadable pdf anarchist pamphlets available anywhere.
More on the Site Meter:
Since I lasted posted the horses in the race for countries visiting this site have changed. Canada is up to 42%, and the USA is up to 37%. The UK is still at 8%. Australia has dropped well down, and The Netherlands now holds 4th place at 2%. India is tied for this at 2%. Italy has dropped to below the listings, but Turkey has come up to #6. Ireland, Spain, Czech Republic, Serbia, Chile and Australia are still in the running. Brazil has dropped out as has Estonia. Yeah Turkey ! Yeah Ireland ! Yeah Czech Republic ! Come on Argentina and get back up there. Much more on this later.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Links,links links; I'm drowning in links (glub*,glub*,glub*)
A couple more links have been added to this site. One is under the general 'Links' section, 'Question Authority'. This site also has links to a blog and to an on-line library with a few texts. The other is under the 'Texts' section, 'Darwinian Anarchism', another view of the intersection of evolutionary biology with anarchism. A review on the latter will eventually be produced here.
The Non-Event of the Leonids:
As I said previously, I was outside to try and view the Leonid meteor shower. To say the least it was a disappointment. I saw about 3 meteors until the cold set in. This was sort of expected as the peak viewing places were predicted to be in Europe and the East Coast of NA. Even there, however, the display was disappointing, as many people have remarked on the internet. Yet there is still hope for this year. The Geminid meteor shower is due on the evening of Dec 13/14. This year there will be only slight interference from a waning crescent moon. More on this later on this blog. Also more on the upcoming winter solstice.
Another Found Joke:
This one is from Straight Goods, an independent left wing Canadian ejournal. For the source see http://www.straightgoods or same under our 'Other Interesting Links' section.
1)You must first remove the plastic cover. By doing so you agree to accept and honour Microsoft rights to all TV dinners.
2)You may not give anyone else a bite of your dinner (which would constitute an infringement of Microsoft's rights). You may, however, let others smell and look at your dinner and are encouraged to tell them how good it is.
3)If you have a PC microwave oven, insert the dinner into the oven. Set the oven using these keystrokes: mstv.dinn//08.5min@50percentheat// . Then enter.
4)If you have a Mac oven, insert the dinner and press start. The oven will set itself and cook the dinner. Be forewarned that Microsoft dinners may crash, in which case your oven must be restarted.
5)Remove the dinner from the oven and enter to be repeated. Try unplugging the microwave and doing a cold reboot. If this doesn't work contact your hardware vendor.
6)Many users have reported that the dinner tray is far too big, larger than the dinner itself, having many useless compartments, most of which are empty. These are for future menu items.
7)If the tray is too large to fit in your oven you will need to upgrade your equipment.
8)If you want another variety, call Microsoft help and they will explain that you really don't need another variety. Microsoft Chicken is all you really need.
9)Microsoft has disclosed plans to discontinue all smaller versions of their chicken dinners. Future releases will only be in the larger family size.
10)Microsoft promises a desert with every dinner after '98. However, that version has yet to be released. Users have permission to get thrilled in advance.
11)Microsoft dinners may be incompatible with other diners in the freezer, causing your freezer to self-defrost. This is a feature, not a bug. Your freezer probably should have been defrosted anyway.
Peter on Peter:
I've mentioned both Kropotkin's view of human sociobiology and Peter Marshall in previous posts here. What follows are some quotations from Marshall on Kropotkin's view of "human nature". The sources are available in the notes.
1)Here's Marshall on Kropotkin's inspiration for his ideas:
"Kropotkin's views were first inspired by a lecture delivered in 1880 'On the Law of Mutual Aid' by Russian zoologist Karl Kessler, who argued that mutual aid is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle, but the former was much more important in the progressive evolution of the species. Kropotkin went on to argue that there is far more evidence in nature of co-operation within a species than of competition. In his most famous work, 'Mutual Aid' (1902) he suggests with a rich array of data that in the struggle for life mutual aid appears to be a rule among the more successful species and argues that it is the most important factor of evolution. " (1)
Molly's aside: This sort of thing is, of course, impossible to quantify even in the crude semi-quantitative manner of "more important". Kropotkin recognized that there was indeed "competition" amongst individual members of a given species. He wouldn't have been a Darwinist otherwise. But his extreme group selectionist views led him to look at the species level in a far greater focus than it deserved. It should also be noted that there is an extreme difference between most of what is called competition and what is called "agonistic" ie aggressive behavior. Neither the giraffe's neck nor the peacock's tail (to give examples from resource access selection and sexual selection) involve any agonistic interactions.

2)Here's Marshall again on Kropotkin's view of the "unit of selection"
"Kropotkin makes clear that the struggle for existence which takes place is a struggle against adverse circumstances rather than between individuals of the same species. Where the other Social Darwinists argued that the struggle between individuals leads to the survival of the fittest, Kropotkin asserted that the unit of competition is the species as a whole and that the species that has the greatest degree of cooperation and support between its members is most likely to flourish." (2)
Molly aside: Point taken and pointed out above.
3)Here's Marshall on how these views integrate with Kropotkin's anarchist views:
"Kropotkin did not hesitate to apply these observations of the animal world to the human species. he maintains that society is a natural phenomenon anterior to the appearance of man, and man is naturally adapted to live in society without artificial regulations. man is and always has been a social species. ...Unbridled individualism is therefore a modern growth. ...Evolutionary theory, if properly understood, will not justify the inevitability of capitalist competition or the need for a strong State but rather point to the possibility of anarchy." (3)
Molly aside: But only the "possibility". Kropotkin was, to say the least, "overoptimistic", and he usually believed that the trends that he observed in society were progressive in nature and almost certain to overwhelm other authoritarian trends. Kropotkin has a better "prediction index" from his view of science as a process of induction than the almost 100% wrong record of Marx's from his viewpoint of "science" (sic) as deductions from Hegelian wordplay, but Kropotkin more often than not let his desires get in the way of his inductions.
4)Finally, there is Marshall on Kropotkin's view of what is actually the "proximate cause" of mutual aid:
"Kropotkin rejected both religious and utilitarian ethics in favour of a third system of morality which sees in moral action 'a mere necessity of the individual to enjoy the joys of his brethren, to suffer when some of his brethren are suffering; a habit and a second nature , slowly elaborated and perfected by life in society." (3)
Molly aside: As will be made plain by future posts Marshall doesn't agree with Kropotkin's views. Marshall is actually close to being a believer in the "blank slate" theory of human nature. Also Kropotkin was presenting his views at a time when neurobiology and sociobiology barely existed. At least the outlines of the "roots of empathy", as the proximate cause behind the evolutionary psychology "cause" of cooperation, are much clearer today than they were in the days of Kropotkin.
More on Peter on Peter in future posts.

Molly Notes:
1)Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. Peter Marshall, Fontana Press, Great Britain 1993, pp 318-319.
2)Ibid, p 319.
3)Ibid, pp 321-322.

More later,

Mansour Osanloo is the President of the Syndicate of the Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company. He was arrested on Sunday, Nov. 19th, when he and two other union members were on their way to the Labour Ministry in East Tehran. The plainclothes police who arrested him assaulted him and discharged a firearm before forcing him into a car. he was granted a hearing on Nov., 20th. Mr. Osanloo had previously served about 8 months in Tehran's Evin prison following an action by his union in 2005.
Other union activists in Iran have also been targeted. Mahmoud Saleli, former President of the Bakery Workers' Association of Saqez City has been sentenced to four years imprisonment. Jalal Hosseini, a board member of the Committee to Form Workers' Organizations was sentenced to 2 years of prison, as was Borhan Divargar, also of Saqez.
The theocracy of Iran is determined to prevent the spread of any independent organizations, especially unions who might threaten the financial empire that they have built up through control of the state.
There is now an international campaign to demand Mansour Osanloo's release. You can learn more about this case and participate by going to the 'Labour Start' website at . This site has also been added to the 'Other Interesting Sites' section of this blog's links. It's a site highly recommended for those who want to keep up with union news from across the world and participate in solidarity actions.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Another Found Joke:
That Molly, she's one sick kitten. Cat's are supposed to cover things up, not dig them up.
A little boy goes to his dad and asks, "What is politics?".
Dad says, "Well son, let me try to explain it this way: I'm the breadwinner of the family, so let's call me capitalism. Your Mom, she's the administrator of the money, so we'll call her the Government. We're here to take care of your needs, so we'll call you the people. The nanny, we'll consider her the working class. And your baby brother, we'll call him the future. Now think about that, and see if it makes sense.
The little boy goes off to bed thinking about what dad had said.
Later that night, he hears his baby brother crying, so he goes up to check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his diaper. So the little boy goes to his parents' room and finds his mother sound asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny's room. Finding the door locked, he peers in the keyhole and sees his father in bed with the nanny. he gives up and goes back to bed.
The next morning, the little boy says to his father, "Dad, I think I understand the concept of politics now".
The father says, "Good, Son, tell me in your own words what you think politics is all about".
The little boy replies, "Well, while capitalism is screwing the working class, the Government is sound asleep, the people are being ignored and the future is in deep poo".
Ever heard a cat laugh ? It's a scary sound.
The End of 'Black Flag':
Recent comments on the 'Anarkismo' site (see 'Links' on the left) seem to say that the British anarchist journal 'Black Flag' may cease publication after 35 years of spreading the anarchist word. The ins and outs of this possibility are discussed in the post and comments, and I'm sure that other comments will be added.
One thing I have to object to, however, is the implication that the era of a "print journal" is over. This isn't directly stated, but a casual reader could take this meaning from the article. The net is great, but it lacks artistry. No e-site will ever equal the aesthetic appeal of a well produced book, or even a journal such as the Match.

Even more importantly, journals are for browsing in the home, in the bar or in the restaurant. They are "cosier" and "slower". I'd hate to see a bar where the only people reading were those reading a screen. When you're done you leave the paper on the table for the next person. Print can reach out in public places in ways that the internet never will. The screen tends to suck the attention from the viewer in a way that print does not. A reader can easily glance up at the surroundings and return to the text in a much more comfortable way than a captive of the computer can. The book and journal are not such hard taskmasters.

At the same time the printed word holds the reader's attention in a way that the internet cannot. Things that are read on the printed page are much more likely to both "stick" and to provoke thought than things viewed on a screen- where the temptation is always there to treat the text in the same way as we treat television programs. Fuzz,blur, skip, jump,etc.. Unless, of course, you're plotting retribution against the author of the word on the screen. A bad habit that I occasionally indulge in- mostly in reference to those with the all the morality of a bad strain of typhoid fever. That temptation isn't present in reading the printed word, or at least the act is far harder to carry out.
Anyways, check out the post on Anarkismo and join it if you like.
I'm Cheering for Argentina:
Larry Gambone makes a comment on the post entitled 'Crumbs From The Table of Advertising' about the "site meter". I've mentioned how much I enjoy this little item previously. One of the things I enjoy about it is that it allows me to track the visits to this blog by country. As the months have gone by the percentage of Canadian visits have gradually declined. They now stand at only 40% of the total. The other top 5 are as follows: USA (36%), UK (8%), Australia (2%), the Netherlands (2%) and Italy (2%). Other countries that the machine considers worthy of listing are in the following order: Spain/Brazil/Chile/Serbia/Unknown/Estonia/Ireland/India/Turkey/and the Czech Republic.
The order of the countries below the top three may vary greatly. At times Turkey, Taiwan, the Philippines and Malaysia have entered the competition. My favourite, however, is Argentina. Its name comes up and goes down again with fair regularity. I cheer that team with all my little feline heart. Hoping to hear from it soon.
Now if I could just figure out why the Ministry of Education of Thailand dropped by one time ??????
New Links:
The webcrawler says, "with great curiosity comes great confusion"- with apologies to Stan Lee.
I've added a number of new links to this blog. Three, AK Press, Red Lion Press, and See Sharp Press, are in the 'Anarchist Publishers and Distributors' section. This section will continue to expand.
The other two gave me more than a little puzzlement. Under the general 'Links' section I've added the 'Non-Resistance.Org' listing. These people are not "fine-tuned" Christian anarchists as they concentrate much more on pacifism that on opposition to the state. On the other hand they are not "non-anarchists' either. hence they don't belong in 'Other Interesting Links'. Plunk*- they landed in the 'Links' section.
Then there is Peter Marshall's site listed under the 'Blogs' section. It's a website rather than a blog, but it is highly personal and has a 'Forum' section. Perhaps all personal websites belong under the 'Blog' category. This is anarchist but also much more. Marshall is the author of the history of anarchism entitled 'Demanding the Impossible' and of other writings on anarchism. He is also, however, a popular travel writer and commentator on matters theatrical, ecological and esoteric. I'm sure that Peter would be "pleased as piss" that I couldn't slot him under the simple anarchist category. Maybe Molly's Blog is somewhat similar, though not as diverse.
More on Marshall later. It's also interesting that Marshall's blog/website ( ) has a link to an interesting article on Prague entitled 'Theatre of the World:Peter Marshall in mystical Prague'. This short essay that introduces one of Marshall's books is a truly poetic description of the "city of dreams" that Praha is. My own choice of "poetry" may be a bit more gritty than that of Marshall, but I can say that this is one item well worth looking at.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Survival of the Fittest Quotes:
More Well Evolved Flowers From 'The Quote Garden':
In light of the previous item on this blog here are a few items that have won the struggle for existence:
A. "Evolution is individual- devolution is collective."
-Martin H. Fischer
B. "We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."
-Charles Darwin in 'The Descent of Man'
C. "That in man which cannot be domesticated is not his evil but his goodness."
-Antonio Porchia in 'Voces, 1943'
D. "Modern man is the missing link between apes and human beings."
-Author Unknown
E. "A simple and irrefutable argument to knock creationism on its ass: 1)Humans are a mistake-subproof:opposable thumbs and enlarged brain capacity are the combined number one factor in the increasingly speedy destruction of our planet. 2)God doesn't make mistakes. 3)Therefore God couldn't have created people."
-Cassus Garrulitas

And here are a couple from Frans de Waal himself:
a)De Waal's Law: People such as primatologists and zookeepers who work on a daily basis with apes, always have a high opinion of apes' intelligence and abilities. Those who attempt to minimize apes' language abilities and cognitive skills are always people with little or no first-hand experience with apes.
b)The possibility that empathy resides in parts of the brain so ancient that we share them with rats should give pause to anyone comparing politicians with those poor, underestimated creatures.

Love the last one,

Monday, November 20, 2006

Darwin At The Zoo:
The latest edition of Scientific American (Dec., 2006) has an interesting review of Frans de Waal's latest book 'Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved' by science writer Jonathan Weiner. The title of the review comes from an experience that Darwin had in March, 1838, a year and a half after the voyage of the Beagle had ended. Darwin was an observer of what Darwin could only see as a "temper tantrum" that an orangutan took because of the "unfairness" of her keeper. Darwin speculated about the emotions and their possible connections with morality throughout his life. The culmination of this was his 1872 book 'The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals' (see Darwin-Online in the links section of this blog for the complete text). Therein he gives the key to human morality, empathy, in the following quote,
"The movements of expression in the face and body, whatever their origin may have been, are in themselves of much importance in our welfare. They serve as the first means of communication between the mother and her infant; she smiles approval, and thus encourages her child on the right path, or frowns disapproval. We readily perceive sympathy in others by their expression, our sufferings are thus mitigated and our pleasures increased; and mutual good feeling is thus strengthened."

The reviewer states De Waal' position in the following paraphrase'
"In his scientific papers and popular books (including 'Chimpanzee Politics', 'Our Inner Ape' and 'Good Natured') he argues that Darwin was correct from his first view of Jenny at the zoo. Sympathy, empathy, right and wrong are feelings that we share with other animals; even the best part of human nature, the part that cares about ethics and justice, is also part of nature."

The reviewer states that in this book de Waals "tries to refute a popular caricature of Darwinism...people assume that to be good, be nice, behave, play well with others we have to rise above our animal nature."

The truth is the exact opposite. Weiner says,
"In reality, as de Waal reminds us, dogs are social, wolves are social, chimps and macaques are social, and we, ourselves, are "social to the core". Goodness, generosity and genuine kindness come just as naturally to us as meaner feelings."

The reviewer quotes de Waal,
"Instead of empathy being an endpoint it may have been the starting point".
Weiner goes into the case of one of de Waal's most famous experiments in which he demonstrated that capuchin monkeys appreciate fairness and unfairness. The second half of de Waal's book consists of a critique of his theories by several commentators and de Waal's replies to them. The reviewer concludes that "it seems clear that we can no longer look at morality as a sort of civilized veneer on a cold and selfish animal, even though that view goes back long before Darwin went to the zoo. Its origins lie in the Western concept of original sin"

Frans de Waal has had a long and distinguished career in primatology. He was born in 1948 in Utrecht, the Netherlands and received his doctorate in Biology from the University of Utrecht in 1977. His dissertation was on aggressive behavior and alliance formation in macaques. At this time he had been 2 years into a 6 year project studying the world's largest chimpanzee colony at Arnhem Zoo. This resulted in a number of scientific papers and his first book 'Chimpanzee Politics'. In 1981 he moved to the USA, and in 1991 he took up his present position at Emory University and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. For a brief introduction to de Waal see the Wikipedia article at . For a more in depth profile see the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (August 1,2005) at . For a complete bibliography see his profile at the Emory University site at .
De Waal was one of those originally broke a long standing taboo in ethology, that one couldn't ascribe human like emotions to anaimals. Since the time of 'Chimpanzee Politics' the view has changed dramatically due to the work of people like De Waal, Jane Goodall and Donald Griffen. De Waal remarked,
"The time was ripe. If I had written that book ten years earlier, probably I would have been burned at the stake. Ten years later and it would have been after the revolution."
There's another interesting quotation from the PNAS article mentioned above (which also has a link to de Waal's "inaugural article" 'The Monkey in the Mirror:Hardly a Stranger',
"In this book I'm arguing that we have two sides. We're really a bipolar ape. We have a very nasty side to us, and we are nastier than almost any other animal that you can imagine. But we also have a very nice, altruistic side to us. And when we're nice, we're actually much nicer than almost any animal you can imagine."

'Primates and Philosophers'(ISBN 0-691-12447-7) is published by Princeton University Press. Ordering information can be seen online at their website where you can also view a fairly lengthy extract from the book at . The book contains a rather interesting quote on Kropotkin and other Russian naturalists in Chapter 1 that pup provides on their site. It runs as follows'
"It should be pointed out, though, that in Huxley's time there was already fierce opposition to his ideas (Desmond 1994), some of which came from Russian biologists such as Petr Kropotkin. Given the harsh climate of Siberia, Russian scientists traditionally were far more impressed by the battle of animals against the elements than against each other, resulting in an emphasis on cooperation and solidarity as against Huxley's dog-eat-dog perspective (Todes, 1989).'Mutual Aid' was an attack on Huxley, but written with great deference for Darwin.
Although Kropotkin never formulated his theory with the precision and evolutionary logic available to Trivers (1971)(Molly Note 1) in his seminal paper on reciprocal altruism, both pondered the origins of a cooperative and moral society without invoking false pretense, Freudian denial schemes or cultural indoctrination and both proved the true followers of Darwin. (Molly Note 2)."

If the reader is at all interested in primatology in general I can do no better than to refer them to 'Primate Info Net' at . This site contains numerous links to factsheets on individual primate species, on taxonomy, on the sociobiology of primates, to other primate related sites, conservation,etc.,etc, etc.. There is even a continuously updated listing of 'Primates in the News'.

Molly Notes
1) Triver's 1971 paper, 'The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism' (Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, 35-57) actually examined a "special case" of altruism ie between non-kin. The ground for his work had been thoroughly prepared by others such as J.B.S. Haldane and W.D. Hamilton who worked on kin selection and inclusive fitness. The ground had also been prepared by the development of game theory in mathematics.
2) De Waal refers-a little- to difficulties with the data that Kropotkin accumulated in his researches in Siberia but even more so to Kropotkin's attempts to theorize about same. Those unfamiliar with the field may find it startling that pretty well any legitimate sociobiological line of research takes observations by people such as Kropotkin (and Darwin and Kropotkin's Russian colleagues,etc.) as an historical "starting point" for what the perhaps the central question of sociobiology---how do you explain the obvious occurrence of altruistic behavior?.
The problems with Kropotkin are a)he was writing in a time when the modern science of genetics simply didn't exist. Kropotkin's genetics were Lamarkian to the core, a mistake that he actually shared with Darwin himself. b) Kropotkin was something of an extreme group selectionist. Kropotkin actually usually took the position that the "level of selection" was the species. This is extreme even by the standards of modern group selectionists who represent a distinct minority amongst present day evolutionary biologists. I tend to hold a rather a conservative position on this matter. I don't believe that "group selection" never happens, just that it is an uncommon and slight influence in most evolutionary situations. Conversely I have a hard time accepted a "genocentric" view of the unit of selection. Genes are always in "tight combinations" with tens of thousands of other genes in any individual so it is hard to see how selective pressure can operate at anything but the most demonstrable of genetic advantages. In most situations a "slight advantage" of a given gene will be drowned out by the "noise" of the random genes that it is combined with. and c) the mathamatical techniques of game theory were not developed at the time when Kropotkin wrote. While he was not a basic mathematical illiterate, such as Marx was, the mathematics of his time were simply not up to the demands of describing the social interactions involved.
3)The reader who consults the original review in SA will notice that this blog has wandered off the subject more than a little. Sorry...but some things seem to grow on their own.
New Item in Links:
As part of what be an endless series of "all things Czech" I've added a new link to the 'Texts' section of this blog. It's Michael Lowy's 'Franz Kafka and Libertarian Socialism' ( http://www.wpunj.ed/~newpol/issue23/lowy23.htm ). More items on Kafka will follow on this blog.
Also I urge readers to check out the comments on the item about 'Anarchist Film'. Stuart Christie has added some more information on films available and how to syndicate the film site on your website.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More on Czech Nouns:
Czech has borrowed a lot from German vocabulary over the centuries, but various reformers have tried to correct this defect in the past. The first was the famous Jan Hus (yea team) who was a linguistic as well as a religious reformer. Hus taught at the university founded by Holy Roam Emperor Charles IV in 1348. What Hus did was not just to try and eliminate German and Latin loanwords but also to provide a phonetic spelling that contrasts with Polish and even Russian in its accuracy in regards to the spoken word. After the 'Battle of White Mountain' in 1620 when the Czech Protestants (Hussites) were defeated by the armies of the Emperor and the Catholic League the Czech endured a virtual "linguistic reign of terror" under the thumb of the Jesuits. An entire national literature was the victim of an attempt at eradication as anything written in a language other than German or Latin was considered heretical. One monk named Konias was reported to have single-handedly burned 30,000 books in Czech.
The Czech language and its situation began to improve under the rule of Emperor Josef II who followed Maria Theresa on the Austrian throne in 1780. Czech teachers were allowed to teach in Czech again. This led to the Ceske narodni obrozeni, The Czech Peoples' Revival. In 1809 Josef Dobrovsky published the Ausfurrliches Lehrgebaude der bohmische Sprache (note the German title) that established the rules of modern Czech. later Josef Jungmann published a 'History of Czech Literature' and a Czech/German dictionary in five volumes.
Today Czech actually consists of three language subsets rather than one. There is "literary Czech" which is even more formal than literary or legal English or French(Spisovna cestina), 'spoken Czech', the usual "good language" form (Hovorova cestina) and "Common Czech" (Obecna cestina), the ordinary "street language". The latter has a simpler grammar, and it also has the greatest number of "loan words" from languages such as German, especially in swear words and insults. It also produces a large number of neologisms that take much longer to reach the other two versions of Czech. The street language of Czech shows the usual evolution of language away from inflexion.
The Polish language also apparently has 7 cases for its nouns just as Czech does (nominative, genitive, accusative, dative, instrumental, locative and vocative) , and, like Czech the declension is complicated by "animate" and "inanimate" variations. Russian, by contrast, has only six cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental and locative). It has the three genders and even three declensions but is less complex than either Polish or Czech.
One wag has commented that, "Czech may drive foreigners trying to learn it to utter despair. They can, however, take comfort in the fact that the language poses problems even for the Czechs themselves" and, "...Czech is so rich,precise and,unfortunately, also complicated that a foreigner trying to learn the language may be driven to suicide. Either because he or she never manages to learn it, or because of the utter depression that follows when the foreigner realizes how primitive his or her own mother tongue is".
Czech also has the "bizarre" character that consonants such as "r" can serve the function of vowels in many words. Thus it is possible to say a sentence in Czech such as "Strc prst skrz krk " -"Put a finger through your throat" that contains not a single vowel.
All told an interesting and unique experience in being introduced to such a language. More on Czech later.