Monday, May 04, 2015

Closing a Door, Opening Another

This blog has been in operation for nearly 10 years, which is much longer than I could have imagined it going when I first started. I feel now is a fine time to "close up shop" if you will, and I put together a book of essays from the last 10 years. It is available at Amazon now for anyone one interested in that kind of thing. If you do happen to buy a copy, and like what you see, a review at Amazon would be appreciated!

I have started up a new blog at In Hope and Darkness. The direction will be a tad different, but thinking about radical politics will still be at its center. Follow me there if you are so inclined; I look forward to continuing the debate/discussion.

I am reprinting the introductory chapter of my book below, which should give more context for the change of digital locations.

....

There is a lot to be said for letting the past unassumingly crumble with time.  Not every creation deserves to be enshrined in memory or cataloged for future generations to discover.  Yet, our desire to save portions of our past, snippets of contemplation and conception, appears to be a universal human aspiration. We place pictures into sturdy photo books, or records in protective vinyl sleeves. We carefully store legal documents, birth certificates and marriage licenses, in locked fire-proof safes. Surely, there is a practical reason for this, but part of this meticulous cataloging is the desire to preserve a small part of who we are, even if we as individuals are the only folks who will ever care about such items.

This book is a testament to that. There may be few who were clamoring for an anthology of this sort, but it serves an important purpose in my eyes.  Most of the pieces collected here were written during the heydays of blogging; the format has declined in popularity, but it proved to be a worthwhile experience for my own political development. As I have gone back and read through all I wrote in the last ten years, I was not surprised to see significant change in my attitude and approach to culture and politics. This anthology of essays, in the literal sense, is meant to be a bookend to my last decade of debate, inquiry, and political discovery. While I hope some readers see elements of their own ideological growth present in the trajectory of these essays, this is more an attempt to make sense of where I was when I began writing, where I trekked, and where I may be headed.

When I left my university in 2004, I had grown tired of the brand of leftist politics I formally practiced and participated in. I walked into college a committed radical; attending one of the more “liberal” universities in the UC system was by no means an accident.  I dedicated large swaths of time to socialist, communist, and anarchist causes and the various parties that propagate those movements. I wrote obtuse essays on the merits of Marxism and the inevitability of worldwide revolution, while still finding time to pass my classes and debate the finer points of punk rock over coffee at local cafes. My time on the radical left may appear to be cliché; a young man far from home at a bastion of leftwing thought, playing the part of a diminutive Che Guevara from the comfort of a middle-class, predominantly white, California town. However, I sense my commitment to these causes was more staid than your average college radical. I believed I had found the answer to life’s problems, and was working diligently to implement said solutions.

A number of events challenged my commitment to the Left, or at least how it was practiced in Northern California in the early 2000s. Like many of my generation, the events of 9/11 significantly changed the world around me, and subsequently, my perspective on. Now that nearly fifteen years have obscured those events, it may be hard for some younger radicals to understand how the debate on campus tempered as a result of the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. In fact, my impetuous to start blogging was an attempt to work through issues I had with other activists, and “think aloud” about my previous years as a youthful radical. Now that I was far from the ideological puritanism of college leftist networks, I could begin to contemplate what I truly believed publically without fear of communal reprisals. Was there anything from my time as a radical that could be salvaged? Did I still share aims and ends with my old comrades on the left?  Could I remain friends with people I had spent so many hours collaborating with? I didn’t know the answers to these questions, and blogging became my tool to address these concerns.

While I approached blogging initially as an insular activity, I quickly realized that others were experiencing a profound questioning of their previously held truths. Connecting with other writers, both young and old, expanded my horizons beyond the shallow pool of activists I had formerly been exposed to. I recognized that I was not alone in my “loss of faith.”

Yet, reading through these essays, I realize that I am no closer to finding an ideological home than I was in 2005 when this project began. The trouble with bringing up past work bathed in youthful exuberance, is the difficulty my now seasoned self has in accommodating the tone and claims formulated.  I shake my head in disbelief at some of the causes I publicly supported (prolonging the Iraqi occupation and stumping for John McCain being the most egregious).  Others feel like they are heading in an interesting direction, but were not fully realized. Thus, the essays collected here were not necessarily the most popular or profound, but ones that give a window into my thinking at different stages of my ideological development.

As for this book’s title, it is a play on the byline used at my predominate online home (But I am a Liberal!) for the last ten years. Oddly enough, the blog’s title started as a bit of a joke, borrowing from a film I had seen called But, I am a Cheerleader! The film, about a fictional high school student sent to a summer camp to reform homosexuals, reiterated that she could not be gay, as she was a cheerleader. I felt the same way about being a liberal; even when my opponents derided me for a perceived move to the right, I felt my ideological heart still belonged somewhere on the liberal left.

I am not sure I feel that way anymore. One of the reasons for my abandonment of the website for newer writing pastures was how uncomfortable I felt having the “liberal” term hung over my head. While liberalism acts as a place-holder for a multitude of perspectives in this era, I now find myself having a harder time fitting comfortably into any of its existing definitions.

Under the blog’s title also hangs a phrase I feel increasingly prickly conforming to: Words From a Wandering Internationalist. Between the years 2005 and 2011, I spent most of my time away far from California, living in various parts of the US, Asia, and Europe. I wandered both physically and ideologically, looking for a home. I consider myself a citizen of the world, but internationalist carries its own set of preconceptions and ideological baggage. Baggage I am less willing to carry forward.

Thus, as I move forward, I am looking to recapture that same sense of wonder and discovery I experienced when I first acquired socialist texts not allowed by my teachers in high school. When I left the university, it felt like breathing fresh air to read some of the great conservative minds of the 20th century that had miraculously been left off all my reading lists. I want to feel that frightening sense of discovery that comes with thoroughly considering and digesting new ideas. To do that, I must leave all previous identities behind, and chart a new course into the dark unknown.


I hope these essays stand on their own and can further generate debate among my friends, allies, and enemies. They may not be where I stand politically today, but they represent a worn path, paced countless times, in search of meaning and truth.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christopher Nolan and Fascist Cinema

Christopher Nolan's recent space-epic Interstellar has done well at the box office and garnered a great deal of critical acclaim. The Dark Knight director seems to have found a comfortable space dancing between the big-budget blockbusters devoid of thought and the art-house devoid of heart. Some of his detractors argue his films make little sense, are overall jargon heavy, and dumber than they think. Debating the finer points of the worlds he creates is not of interest to me. I don't need the internal scientific logic of the film to be accurate to make it enjoyable (although I do think Nolan is prone to bludgeoning his audience with exposition that is inherently unnecessary). What I find much more interesting is the discussion currently ragging over the political and social themes apparent in his work.

Eileen Jones at Jacobin Magazine sees Nolan's films as fascist and imperialist in design. Noting the lack of interest in the world the characters leave behind, she sees a brutal celebration of the pioneer:
And they live on a flat plain in Middle America, so there’s no gazing out on beautiful trees or mountains, taking a last look before blowing dust blots them out forever. No one laments the lost lakes and rivers. No one looks at old photos of a green world. The Nolan boys don’t cast a backward glance — the Earth is unsalvageable and there’s no further point in trying to figure out how to live here. It had gotten to be a bad place for us anyway, in existential ways preceding catastrophic conditions. Good conditions made us too comfortable, soft, and decadent. We were practically turning back into Europeans again. Far better to devote all scientific brainpower to a billion-to-one shot space adventure of maximum danger! 
The mysterious forces that seem to operate in the world, the “gods” or “ghosts” or “aliens” who were trying to communicate with and possibly aid the characters early in the film, turn out to be just human characters from the future, maneuvering to redirect their past selves onto more favorable courses. In order to save humanity, see, Cooper has to go adventuring forward in time so his wiser future-self could come back and send Morse-code messages to Murph through the space-time continuum bookcase. Or something. The Nolans have dreamed up an appalling anthropocentric cosmos in which, ultimately, no living thing, no force of any significance exists but the human. That’s my idea of Hell, by the way. But the Nolans have other views that seem widely shared — celebrating humanity as it enacts American-style “dominant individualism” all alone in the empty universe.

Some might see this is as nothing more than an over-analysis from some hard-leftist, but she isn't the only one who sees such themes. Over at right-wing Radix Journal, Mark Barhim celebrates the rise of Nolan's ethos:
It is, of course, a mistake to view Interstellar as a racialist or “right-wing” film. Yes, Nolan is, quite admirably, calling for a return to nobler virtues embodied in the great explorers of the Age of Discovery and the American Astronauts of a more recent period. Though beyond this explicit message lies a crypto-Christian allegory. Here, it seems, Nolan is implicitly endorsing Christianity as the faith of the West, intrinsically bound to it, as its bedrock even, and as a necessary or inevitable part of cultural, civilizational, and even scientific renewal, much as Spengler fastened Christianity to The West through his coinage of “Faustian.” And Nolan optimistically seems to be signaling for a Faustian Indian Summer, if not the appearance of a new Faustian Age all together. Here are the clues.
Quite explicitly, there is a Christian theme of death and renewal (or resurrection), of which even the characters in the film are cognizant. They have named their missions, which are intended to save all mankind, Lazarus missions. Nolan also slyly follows James Cameron in The Terminator; both give their protagonist the initials of Jesus Christ—John Conner and James Cooper, respectively. And there is also doubtlessly a reference to Christ’s (and Dionysus’, Balder’s or Adonis’) pre-resurrection descent into the underworld or hell, seen especially in Copper’s disappearance into the black hole. In this myth, it is understood that Christ’s resurrection and apotheosis (as is the case with his pagan equivalents) is only possible by his suffering and gaining of wisdom in hell. Likewise, this is the case with Cooper. Additionally, Cooper becomes a sort of Holy Father in Heaven (or Space), contrasted with Murphy, an Earth Mother or Mary, both daughter and, as it will be revealed, mother and liberator of Christ (Cooper). To wit, Murphy is virginally “impregnated” by the Spirit, Message, and Word of God, as the Catholic Nun is, and thereby becomes the mother of the world as well as the mother of Cooper, The Savior, who is also reborn by her efforts.
It is the Faustian greatness of Nolan's films that I find appealing. Sure, his Batman films are still big, dumb superhero movies (regardless of what comic fans may try and tell you), but the Batman he crafted does have its "fascist" characteristics and bring to light some politically-incorrect truths. In the Nolan Batman universe, order in society requires someone taking extrajudicial action against the enemies of the common man. Bureaucrats, politicians, and legal authorities are at best ineffective, and at worst corrupt.

Yes, Batman defeats totalitarian villains, but his very approach thrashes at the soft, liberal state we live within. It takes a strong individual, willing to break the law, to protect "tradition." By tradition, I mean a community that exists prior to the current state of affairs in Gotham (i.e. order, family, and community prior to the unknown and unresponsive bureaucratic state). What we must understand, is that this element of Nolan's Batman is what we, as an audience, find most appealing. We intrinsically know that the forces responsible for protecting us and our way of life are unable to do so. Capitalism and finance are a multi-headed hydra that has no center and yet has sway over all levers of life. Globalization, mass migration, and eviornmental destruction continue unibated regardless of their unpopularity. We want a "Batman" to confront the problems we know the authorities can not.

Nolan's work grasps this core emotional fact and why his films, regardless of their anti-liberal qualities, have such a strong connection with audiences. In fact, I feel that it is the anti-liberal (even fascist) qualities that speaks to the average viewer.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

New Right Meets New Left

I have written a number of things on the convergence between the Far Left and Right over the years, and became increasingly interested in the topic upon entering UC Davis as a graduate student. I spent my formative, youthful years on the Far Left, but found myself disillusioned with many of its core beliefs and organizations towards the end of my undergraduate life. After leaving school, I began to read many works in “the opposition,” and found that I had a very shallow understanding of the alternative ideological precepts active in the political realm. By the time I entered graduate life, I was familiar enough with Right-wing thought to see the similarities between it and my Left-wing counterparts at Davis. I won’t rehash my previous arguments on this subject, but you can find some of them here.

Counter-Currents and Radix Journal are two of the leading “traditionalist” or neo-fascist publishing houses/blogs on the net, and reading their work the last few months has been intriguing on a few levels. For one, it is clear that both sites recognize that the Right has an image problem. If you drop in to sites like StormFront, or attend a white-power hardcore show, you will likely be exposed to a crass portion of the political community. Men with little education and intelligence, celebrating Adolph Hitler, and engaging in tactless violence over political engagement make up a majority of participants. It is easy to paint the Far Right as nothing more than a handful of brutish thugs when exposed exclusively to this crowd. Counter-Currents and Radix definitely (and defiantly) bring an academic focus and facade to their side of the debate, one that is required if the Far-right is to extend its reach beyond a few ruffians.  

While I have no way of knowing just how extensive this outreach has extended into radical communities, from my experiences, it appears that the philosophical underpinnings of their arguments have found allies well beyond a skinhead mosh-pit. A recent piece published at Counter-Currents by Eugène Montsalvat titled “Turn Left, New Right!” demonstrates how the Right has embraced many of the Left’s main tropes, and provides a place for significant crossover between communities.

I will start with some praise for Montsalvat’s piece, and a recognition that the existing Left/Right divide has always been more complicated than it is made out to be at universities and in the media. Many of the traditional conservative arguments (both in Europe and America) for keeping stable, vibrant communities afloat, and the nefarious role finance plays in breaking said community’s bonds, mirrors arguments made by leftists intent on preserving “indigenous, ethnic communities.” Additionally, fascist and totalitarian movements of last century almost always contained working –class and socialist roots. With large portions of the working class embracing fascism prior to the war, and their unwillingness to work towards the New Left’s stated aims in the 60s and 70s, continues to produce animosity and conflict between activists and workers.
With just a few alterations, this statement from Montsalvat could easily be found in a slew of Left-wing publications (and one I found myself finding shreds of truth within):
“First, we must recognize the real enemy. The enemy is liberalism, which is the global imperial agenda foisted upon the world by the United States and its allies. Their goal is the creation of an atomized, global consumer society, a pleasure dome police state. Our enemy is the totality of the system, the empire, consisting of those who control the government, corporate, media, and academic institutions globally.”
As Montsalvat uses liberalism to describe the American political and economic system, one can simply change the world to “capitalism” to better meet the tastes of his leftist brethren. Eugene makes the following point about culture and identity that may also ring true to many post-modernists on the Left.

“Colonialism can also take upon a cultural form, the advocacy of Western standards, or lack of thereof, to people who have yet to reach our stage of enlightened progress. Western capitalism exports cultural norms of the west through media and entertainment, the McDonaldization of the globe. In addition to market mechanisms, cultures are often subverted by the governmental sponsorship of anti-traditional movements, such as the CIA funding of abstract expressionist art, or the National Endowment for Democracy’s connections with the feminist, anti-Orthodox, punk collective Pussy Riot. Whether it uses the avant-garde or pop schlock, the ultimate goal is the dissolution of a nation’s unique cultural identity into the wider trends set in Hollywood.”

While he won’t win scores of friends on the Left with his support for Orthodox Christianity and his disdain for Pussy Riot, the heart of his argument is that a community should not be forced to conform to American liberal, capitalist norms and practices. Diversity of political practices and norms is a hallmark of the New Left, as it looks to defend nations and states that do not conform to the predominant American practices.
It is Montsalvat’s attack of Capitalism that may surprise those on the left unaccustomed to the diversity of opinion coming out of the Right. He writes:


“Capitalism knows no country, no faith, no ideology other than the pursuit of money. The capitalist will gladly abandon whatever roots his corporation has to gain a competitive advantage. Moreover, capitalism will fight any ideology that seeks to impose a limit on the quest for profit, its goal is a world where anything is possible, so long as it gets paid for. The traditions, identity, or beliefs of a society that get in the way of business must be discarded. Thus capitalism calls for open borders, fluid identities, and social liberalism.”


This may come across as blasphemy by Republicans and American conservatives, but it would likely find support with many who consider themselves dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. The complete embrace of free market ideals and assumptions by American conservatives has always struck me as odd and disingenuous. There is a cultish adherence to markets, as if all problems in the world can be solved simply by complete economic freedom. Yet, the community, norms and values adhered to by said conservatives are continually dismantled and undermined by the free-market. I have found Rick Santorum to be an interesting case in this regard. He champions the working class and traditional families in stump speeches, but fully embraces the myth that free, unregulated markets will preserve the values he claims to defend.

Simply because something is profitable or popular does not mean it has value and worthy of celebration. One has to look no further than the knee-jerk merriment by the Republicans in response to welfare state attempts to limit consumption of harmful products. Since many people enjoy drinking soda and buying cheap goods from China that remove jobs from the U.S., it must be good right? The Market has spoken!

While I am omitting Montsalvat’s frequent references to Jews and “Zionists” (exposing just how backwards thinking his “New Right” is), this final point is one that requires serious consideration, as it provides a counter to many voices on the Right in regards to immigration. He writes:

“Second, we must distinguish between the agents of the system, and the victims of the system. It is fruitless to criticize immigrants, who have no power, and let the corporations and businessmen who clamor for more cheap labor, and politicians who maintain power from their votes, escape guilt, which is wholly theirs. The Mayan farmer in Chiapas is as much a victim of the system as the unemployed white coal miner in Kentucky.”

One needs look no further than the current refugee crisis on the U.S. boarder to see how this plays out. The working man and woman is often the first to feel the heat for conditions they had little to do with. Workers are uprooted from their communities and the bonds of kinship by an international capitalist system that produces and desires a transient workforce at every turn. For Republicans to relish in punishing poor workers escaping environments directly related to the economic and political decisions made by the U.S. government, while saying not a word about the corporate desire for cheap labor, is treacherous and erratic. I don’t know if this means a sea-change on the Right that may spill over into mainstream conservative circles (rank Jew hatred surely won’t get them very far), but the boundaries between the Far-Left and Right seem to be getting smaller by the day. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The "New Right" is a lot like the Old Right

I recently picked up a copy of New Right versus Old Right by Greg Johnson, the founder and editor of Counter-Currents, an overtly fascist-aligned publishing house and blog operating out of San Francisco. I found a used copy of another book from the publisher called Summoning the Gods, a neo-pagan argument by Collin Cleary stating that we need to search out the old gods of our forefathers and move beyond the Christian moralism now synonymous with "The West." I found it an interesting read, even though I recognized that the argument behind his work was anti-Semitic in its foundation (as some neo-pagan's profess, Christianity is a Jewish conspiracy to undermine traditional European culture). None-the-less, I was intrigued enough to hear how Johnson sees his "New Right" as distinct and dissimilar from the totalitarian, fascist, and conservative varieties that came before him.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the "New Right" sounded just as ridiculous and conspiratorial as the movements Johnson wanted to move past.

Johnson does make an attempt to repudiate genocide and totalitarianism embedded in right wing movements from the last century. Much like the post-modern left, the language of the "New Right" is one of community control, ethnic self determination, and cultural (yet separate) pluralism. In fact, if you replaced all of Johnson's talk about the "white race" with some other ethnic variety, much of his argument would be indistinguishable from the "cultural studies" pushed at many of our liberal arts institutions. I have written about this before, but it is telling how academics on the right have basically adopted the same approach used by their counterparts on the left to push for a white homeland here in North America.

What I did not expect from Johnson's work was an overt fascination with Jews. Anti-Antisemitism and racism was a hallmark of national socialism, and while fascism is not necessarily racist, historically it often manifests as such. I would have thought the old-fashioned Jew hatred would be tossed to make it more palatable and acceptable for the general audience, but I guess the "New Right" still sees Jewish manipulation behind every event.

Each year, prominent white-nationalist thinkers gather at a conference called the American Renaissance. Although the conference is overtly radical, prominent conservatives still show up to sabotage their careers. Having followed the conference for years now, I have seen fault lines develop between various white nationalists over "the Jewish question," especially following 9/11. An exchange between David Duke and Michael Hart at the 2006 conference pushed these divisions to the forefront.
"It began when David Duke, the former Klan leader and author of Jewish Supremacism, strode to a microphone after French author Guillaume Faye wrapped up a talk vilifying Muslims entitled "The Threat to the West." Duke thanked Faye for remarks that "touched my genes." But then he went one further. 
"There is a power in the world that dominates our media, influences our government and that has led to the internal destruction of our will and spirit," Duke said, according to an undisputed account in The Forward newspaper. 
"Tell us, tell us," someone in the back yelled. 
"I'm not going to say it," Duke replied. Laughter began to fill the room, until a short, angry man leaped from his seat, walked up to Duke and began to curse. 
"You fucking Nazi, you've disgraced this meeting!" he said. 
And with that, Michael Hart, a Jewish astrophysicist and long-time attendee at American Renaissance conferences, headed for the door. As many as 50 people at the conference began to jeer and point at the rapidly disappearing Hart. 
This extraordinary incident marked the beginning of an open rift between those on the radical right who see blacks, Hispanics and Muslims as the primary enemy, and those who say "the Jews" are ultimately behind every evil -- a split that has usually stayed just below the surface but now threatens a leading institution of American extremism. While in the past he has managed to bridge this divide mainly by ignoring it, American Renaissance founder Jared Taylor now must finally come to terms with the split. His dilemma boils down to this: Throw out the anti-Semites and try to build a larger movement with electoral possibilities like those increasingly seen in Britain and Germany; or openly join hands with the very energetic neo-Nazis even though that means the loss of any remaining shred of respectability."
Jared Taylor eventually came down against the anti-Semites, but it divided his community. Johnson references this specific incident in his book, clearly siding with the David Dukes of the world. Johnson argued that the movement must be bold enough to say what it knows to be true, and not fear the stigma against anti-Anti-antisemitism in our society. In his chapter titled "Why Conservatives STILL Can't Win," Johnson states:
"We few who know the most important truth in the world - that organized Jewry (not "liberals," not "Cultural Marxists) have set the white race (not "conservatives," not "Christians," not "Western civilization") on the path to extinction - have an absolute duty to get this message out and wake our people up."
In his chapter titled "Hegemony," Johnson argues:
"Of course Jewish hegemony extends well beyond two-party politics into all realms of culture - education, religion, the arts, literature, pop culture, economics, etc. - ensuring that all whites are distracted with an endless array of options, as long as they are trivial options that do not threaten Jewish hegemony."
Sounds a lot like the "Old Right" Johnson is claiming to be distinct from. There is even an attempt to present this out-dated, conspiratorial world-view as philosophical sound. The likes of Rene Guenon and Julius Evola are evoked to give this concept (that a grand conspiracy of unimaginable complexity is out to destroy "whites") ideological traction. The fact that both men were instrumental in the "Old Right" Johnson is attempting to distance himself from doesn't help his argument.

Upon finishing this series series of essays, I had the same nagging suspicion that Johnson is doing what the remaining dyed in the wool communists do: claim that they recognize the devastation their ideas have caused in the past, argue that their movement will never indulge in such destruction again, yet support the same initiatives and assertions that produced aforementioned ruin. There is very little in the way of "new" ideas here, just the same failed concepts repackaged for a new generation. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering CPT. Scott Pace

Monday is Memorial Day here in the U.S. While many Americans take advantage of the national holiday by going on road trips and having picnics, the day is intended to honor and remember those who gave their lives serving this country. As the structure of the U.S. military morphed following Vietnam War, fewer and fewer Americans have an intimate connection to the wars our nation has fought since 9/11, and the men and women who actually risk their lives and well-being to serve in those foreign lands. Far too much media ink has been spent lauding celebrities and athletes for their self-congratulatory "bravery," all the while providing nominal time to the honorable members of our community that gave everything when asked by their government.

Anytime a soldier dies in combat, a great deal is itemized and assumed about their personal character. From personal experience, I can say CPT Scott Pace was a man who earned every positive eulogy he received.

We went to high school together in Brawley, CA, although he graduated a few years earlier than myself. I was close friends with his brother, who also attended West Point and served in Iraq. We were all members of the swim team, and spent many summers working at our local city pool. Even in my youth, I could see that Scott was a standout individual. Academically clever, athletic, but compassionate and concerned with applying ones efforts in a manner that made the world better for others. I held a rather immature set of leftist positions in high school, and we would debate these issues during and between our shifts. Never once did I hear anyone say anything about Scott that wasn't laudatory. 

While he always seemed to have his sights set on serving his country, his road to the military was on the unconventional side. The Los Angeles Times writes:
"After graduating from Brawley Union High in Imperial County, he attended Brigham Young University in Utah for a year. He spent the next two years on his Mormon mission in Argentina and then returned to BYU. 
Meanwhile, his brother Rick, two years younger, had entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Rick knew how much his brother loved basketball — he had been all league in high school but wasn't good enough for the BYU team. 
After watching the West Point team play, Rick told his brother he could play there. 
So Scott received an appointment to West Point, where he majored in nuclear engineering. But unlike transferring to most other schools, Scott had to start over as a freshman. Because his brother also took two years out for his Mormon mission, the two graduated together in 2005. 
After West Point, Scott Pace attended flight school, where he learned to fly the Kiowa Warrior OH-58 helicopter. He served two tours of duty in Iraq, where he was hit with shrapnel in the arm and hand, and one in Afghanistan."

Scott would die on June 6th, 2012 in Afghanistan. His father and brother expressed that Scott had always stressed duty and honor, but he took no solace in the death that war brings. "He wasn't like a caricature of a soldier. He was very tender" his father said. I never saw Scott as one to thump his chest and talk up his tough-guy credentials. Unlike the image sometimes presented by members of the left, he was not bloodthirsty nor uninterested in the casualties of war. He believed that serving his country was important, and that it took the individual efforts of its members to make the world a better place.

On the 68th anniversary of D-Day, Scott was flying to a local Afghan political office that had come under attack by Taliban militants in Qarah Bagh. It is telling that on that very day decades prior, countless young men stormed the beaches at Normandy to help bring an end to fascism in Europe. Scott, along with his fellow co-pilot, gave their lives to help a fledgling democracy get its feet. I don't know Scott's feelings on the war or its direction, but his efforts to help defend a population against attacks by religious totalitarians intent on keeping their nation from modernity should not go unsung. 

Our country (and his family) lost a great man. A man that was great in-spite of his military service, but who demonstrated just how brave and honorable a young, tender man can be in spite of the difficult situation he found himself in. My only hope is that his sacrifice, and that of others like him, is not forgotten in the political debates around the Afghan War. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Indymedia Misses the Cold War

Some things never change. As a young activist, I once used Indybay as a tool to help advertise events and learn about like-minded activities in the Bay Area. When I became disillusioned with this segment of the radical left, I began writing for a website that followed the insane underbelly of the Indymedia community.  Eventually, I stopped following the site closely. I moved away from the Bay, entered my professional career, got married, and lost interest in keeping tabs on some of my old comrades.

With recent events in Venezuela and Ukraine, I figured I would drop into Indybay to see if any protests were planned this coming weekend in San Francisco. Low and behold, I saw that the site had changed very little since the early 2000s, and was still the stomping grounds to totalitarians and useful idiots. Here are just a few choice pieces.
Belarus: President Lukashenko Vows to Prevent a Coup Similar to Ukraine – Steven Argue 
On February 22, 2014, a far right movement overthrew the elected government of Ukraine and seized power in Kiev. They did this with major U.S. and European Union sponsorship. Since taking power that movement has abolished the language rights of Hungarian, Romanian, Tatar, and Russian speaking minorities, banned political parties, announced their intention to ban abortion, given neo-Nazis important positions in the new government, and announced their intention to carry out extreme austerity as demanded by the IMF as a condition for membership in the European Union  
In the wake of the U.S. engineered coup in Ukraine, Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko reflected on the tragedy saying:  
"Our military will carry out duty and tasks to maintain peace and stability in the country. We should not lose vigilance here. We should learn from other people's mistakes and prevent even the slightest manifestations of instability in our country."
 
With big limitations, Belarus is better off than its former Soviet neighbors due to its planned socialist economy.
I wrote about Steven Argue and his deranged worldview years ago, and I guess I should not be stunned to see that he is still plugging away on this nonsense. Belarus is a poor country, with a highly volatile economy. Yet in the world inhabited by Steven Argue, being a deformed Soviet state with the last standing dictator on the continent, is a positive sign.

All the nonsense about the changes in Ukraine being the product of the U.S. is shared by more than a few of the deranged left. My favorite was the following.
Crisis in Ukraine – Stephen Lendman 
Washington bears full responsibility. European partners share it. Obama claimed another imperial trophy. Whether he'll keep it is another matter entirely.  
Vladimir Putin supports resolving conflict conditions responsibly. Western officials irresponsibly criticize him. Media scoundrels bash him mercilessly.
I spent all weekend hearing that Obama was too weak to deal with the Russian incursion in Ukraine, but on the opposite end of the debate, we see he is the mastermind imperialist! Thus, Putin is the responsible actor, and the EU wants nothing more than a fascist takeover of the country. To live in this ludicrous head space must be disorienting.

What I gather from the entire discussion around events in the Ukraine, is the desire for the old Cold War dynamic that the modern left and right developed within. Some conservatives saw this as a sign that the Soviet Union was again asserting itself and required the hard-nosed leadership to deal with this emerging, global threat. Portions of the left, represented by Lendman and Argue, would like nothing more than to have their old dog back in the fight. Communism may not be the language the Russian state uses to justify its actions, but crass anti-Americanism requires a lion to stand against anything remotely liberal and Western, so Russian and Putin will do. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Around the Web

We are finally getting some rain in my neck of the woods, which helps our water table and my reading habits. Here are a few choice bits.

Martin has an excellent series of pieces on Christian anti-Zionism. The New Centrist is back with a vengeance, and adds to Martin's conversation.

Bob on the recurring "crisis of the left" and an attempt to state what pathological and negative values the broader movement finds itself.

Michael Totten has a book coming out on Cuba in the near future, and he has been posting choice pieces to his blog. His recent bit on the myth of Che Guevara is especially strong.

JD at Shiraz Socialist answers Roger Waters' recent nonsense.

Nick Cohen on the threat the UKIP plays to the right and left in UK politics.

Ron Radosh on the Russia's Olympic fantasies.

A. Jay Adler on academic boycotts and re-colonization by theory.

Tablet has a great interview with Art Spiegelman.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Why You Should Hate the Coke Super Bowl Ad

Perhaps you don’t live in the US. Or perhaps you fall into that large number of Americans that do not bother to follow or watch American football. If you fall into either of those categories, you likely missed the benign controversy over a Coke commercial that aired during the game. The ad in question had “America the Beautiful” sung in a slew of different languages while typical American pastimes played through several clips.

Apparently, this angered some conservative pundits, who felt that this went too far in pushing America down a multicultural rabbit hole. This resulted in a knee-jerk defense of the commercial from liberal pundits, looking to score a few cheap points at the expense of scarce right-wing blowhards. Jamelle Bouie at the Daily Beast argued:

“Every so often, there are cultural hubbubs (like this one) that inspire a little liberal triumphalism—a sense that we’re on the “right side” of history, and that, in the end, we’ll win. This is nonsense. Laugh at the right-wing reaction to Coke as much as you’d like, but don’t think this reflects a favorable balance of political power.”

You see, people take Super Bowl commercials seriously for some odd reason. It’s not enough for financial interests to just sell a product, but to make a statement that will reverberate beyond the game itself. This is when American corporations try and convince us that they are as American as apple pie and Taco Bell. As ridiculous as conservative criticism of the Coke ad is, I simply have to ask: when did we buy into the idea that corporations are patriotic and moral based on their unambiguous breed of advertising?

The celebratory nature of this ad demonstrates the shallow nature present in our national discussion on social and economic issues. Columnists and media pundits have merely accepted the ubiquitous role corporations have staked for themselves in our social fabric. Did folks like Bouie consider the fact that Coke is eyeing for the largest market possible, and not interested in pushing progressive social reform? The fact that only a few morons came out in opposition to the ad demonstrates just how safe their marketing strategy is. Taking a swing at the likes of Glen Beck and Allen West is not bold, just easy. Worse yet, Coke knew that they would be championed by pundits and media personalities for free in the pages of their newspapers and outlets.

For Christ’s sake, Coke sells fizzy water packed with corn syrup. The only reason they make a “political statement” is to generate more buzz which keeps their brand name in the public discussion. We have let these soulless, nationless, capitalists frame the entire debate in a way that benefits them and their financial interests. We treat them as if they are part of our social fabric, a representation of our culture as a whole, when they are nothing more than massive companies intended to sell us goods they know we don’t need. You might enjoy a cola from time-to-time, but don’t buy some soda company’s line that they are part of our nation.
And with that, I have now added time and bandwidth discussing Coke’s ad like it matters.


God damnit.