Monday, July 31, 2006

We're all red states now

Looks like a Red State sensation sweeping the nation!
Who wants to put money on the NYC Blackout of 2006?
I'm betting its starts around rush hour tomorrow....

its only the natural summer cycle for you enviro-fascists out there - 110 is normal for the northeast.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pew/Internet Report: bloggers

A really interesting report was published Pew Research a week or so ago on the general makeup of bloggers in the U.S. This is a great bookend to the Economist's New Media Survey from some months back.
Pew states the following:

A national phone survey of bloggers finds that most are focused on describing their personal experiences to a relatively small audience of readers and that only a small proportion focus their coverage on politics, media, government, or technology. Blogs, the survey finds, are as individual as the people who keep them. However, most bloggers are primarily interested in creative, personal expression – documenting individual experiences, sharing practical knowledge, or just keeping in touch with friends and family.

Here are some highlights from the Pew pdf, which is well worth the read.

While many well-publicized blogs focus on politics, the most popular topic among bloggers is their life and experiences.

The Pew Internet Project blogger survey finds that the American blogosphere is dominated by those who use their blogs as personal journals. Most bloggers do not think of what they do as journalism.

Most bloggers say they cover a lot of different topics, but when asked to choose one main topic, 37% of bloggers cite “my life and experiences” as a primary topic of their blog. Politics and government ran a very distant second with 11% of bloggers citing those issues of public life as the main subject of their blog.

Entertainment-related topics were the next most popular blog-type, with 7% of bloggers, followed by sports (6%), general news and current events (5%), business (5%), technology (4%), religion, spirituality or faith (2%), a specific hobby or a health problem or illness (each comprising 1% of bloggers). Other topics mentioned include opinions, volunteering, education, photography, causes and passions, and organizations.

The blogging population is young, evenly split between women and men, and racially diverse.

The following demographic data comes from two surveys of internet users conducted in November-December 2005 and February-April 2006 (n=7,012).

The most distinguishing characteristic of bloggers is their youth. More than half (54%) of bloggers are under the age of 30. Like the internet population in general, however, bloggers are evenly divided between men and women, and more than half live in the suburbs. Another third live in urban areas and a scant 13% live in rural regions.

Another distinguishing characteristic is that bloggers are less likely to be white than the general internet population. Sixty percent of bloggers are white, 11% are African American, 19% are English-speaking Hispanic and 10% identify as some other race. By contrast, 74% of internet users are white, 9% are African American, 11% are English-speaking Hispanic and 6% identify as some other race.

Only one-third of bloggers see blogging as a form of journalism. Yet many check facts and cite original sources.

34% of bloggers consider their blog a form of journalism, and 65% of bloggers do not.

57% of bloggers include links to original sources either “sometimes” or “often.”

56% of bloggers spend extra time trying to verify facts they want to include in a post either “sometimes” or “often.”

Bloggers are avid consumers and creators of online content. They are also heavy users of the internet in general.

Fully 79% of bloggers have a broadband connection at home, compared with 62% of all internet users. This high-speed access translates into heavy media consumption and creation.1 For example:

95% of bloggers get news from the internet, compared with 73% of all internet users.

77% of bloggers have shared their own artwork, photos, stories, or videos online, compared with 26% of all internet users.

64% of bloggers say they go online several times each day from home, compared with 27% of all internet users.

Bloggers are major consumers of political news and about half prefer sources without a particular political viewpoint.

72% of bloggers look online for news or information about politics; by contrast, just 58% of all internet users do so.

45% of bloggers say they prefer getting news from sources that do not have a particular political point of view; roughly the same percentage of the general internet population agrees.

24% of bloggers prefer political news from sources that challenge their viewpoint; and 18% choose to use sources that share their political viewpoint. Again, bloggers’ responses are similar to those of the general internet population.

Bloggers often use blog features that enhance community and usability.

Community-focused blogging sites LiveJournal and MySpace top the list of blogging sites used in our sample, together garnering close to a quarter (22%) of all bloggers. Features such as comments, blogrolls, friends lists, and RSS feeds on these and other blogging sites facilitate a sense of community and offer readers additional ways to receive and interact with the blog’s content.

87% of bloggers allow comments on their blog.

41% of bloggers say they have a blogroll or friends list on their blog.

Only 18% of bloggers offer an RSS feed of their blog’s content.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Alien Intelligence (III)

This is the third installment of "Alien Intelligence". (see post1 and post 2) Although many have come to some conclusions, I’m going to proceed with this.

The subject of decline and mediocrity began with a discussion of Eric Larsen’s book A Nation Gone Blind which has been covered here, here, here , here and here respectively by Deborah Fisher and Christopher Jagers. In my previous posts I presented Morris Berman’s Twighlight of American Culture as an older and distinct investigation into the subject of collapse which I am admittedly, slavishly delving into quite deeply.

The subject of collapse was recently cited by Tyler Green in an interview with

Tyler Green in response to this question:

What is the single non-art-world factor that is the greatest influence on art made today? (For instance, environmentalism, animal rights, worldwide feminism, the spread of digital technology?


This is a big and excellent question. Degeneration, particularly of societies, cultures, and political systems. Regardless of whether I’m in New York, LA or in between, I see artists making art about things falling apart. Look at last year’s top news stories: Iraq, Katrina, the London bombing, the Indian Ocean tsunami, the BTK serial killer, the continuing struggles of the Bush presidency, even the death of Terri Schiavo. They’re all about degeneration.
I’m surprised that no contemporary art curator has seized on this and created a big group show about it. It could be a great example of an artist-driven show that mixes contemporary art with contemporary life.

“Alien Intelligence II” left with this synopsis from Morris Berman:

The conclusion is that there are 4 basic tenets of collapse:

1. Accelerating social and economic inequality
2. Declining marginal returns with regard to investment in organizational solutions to socioeconomic problems
3. Rapidly dropping levels of literacy, critical understanding, and general intellectual awareness
4. Spiritual death – that is, Spengler’s classicism: the emptying of cultural content and the freezing (re-packaging) of it in formulas- kitsch

Berman continues with his parallel of the contemporary situation with that of that late Roman Empire. We have heard this sort of thing a lot but look at just these brief but striking parallels:

“During Nero’s rule all taxes were going to the military and all land in the empire was owned by 2000 men. The economic and cultural life of the cities collapsed for lack of funds. For centuries the aim had been to Hellenize or Romanize the rest of the population – to pass on the learning and ideals of the Greco-Roman civilization. But as the economic crises deepened, a new mentality arose among the masses, one based on religion, which was hostile to the achievements of higher culture.”

We see this played out in Islam over the past couple of centuries and a parallel dynamic which began to gain strength within the US during the 1970’s evangelical movement. The American fundamentalist movement also happens to parallel the steady decline of middleclass incomes as a result of the shift from a manufacturing economy to a service and investment economy. Hostility towards intelligence is now a part of American political culture as well as the culture at large. Amazing how powerful politicians such as Tom DeLay, the mainstream media, Mega-Churches and the general pop citizenry call intellectuals – who have no power at all – elitist, or worse. Yet somehow remain ignorant or silent on the real elitists – the oligarchic class, the “corporate hegemony”.

Berman: “A concern for literacy and critical thinking is only democratic. Society can’t function if everyone is stupid. Dumbing down is the formula of a doomed society and not a vital one.”

Berman continues:

“This was the most conspicuous development in the ancient world during the Imperial Age, primitive forms of life finally drowning out the higher ones. The truth is civilization is impossible without the hierarchy of quality. By the Third century if not before, there was an attitude among many Christians that education was not relevant to salvation, and that ignorance had a positive spiritual value”.

We hear this echoed directly and indirectly so often now. Even more ominous is the Christian marketing and consumerism that is on the rise. People are increasingly equating their spiritual life with materialism and economic gain. It is no so distinct from what you see in the secular church of the Artworld. Interiority is now discarded for more outward rituals of acquisition, spectacle and praise. Money as proof of spiritual success or Godly favor seems to be the perverse message that is now being accepted by millions under the guise of “investing” in likeminded, faith-based products and politics. It’s a dangerous breeding ground and a certain death for any mainstream Faith not mention cultural freedom as a whole. We certainly see the rise in “mysticism” throughout popular culture and a general belief in special knowledge – a knowledge by revelation (Da Vinci Code, all the bad psychic TV shows). Americans overwhelmingly believe in angels and overwhelming reject Evolution.

Retruning to “Twilight” - Berman looks at structural inequality first. World Systems analysis contends that world inequality is structural. To paraphrase, this draws the distinction between core and periphery. Core countries are those in privileged of the northern Hemisphere such as the United States and Western Europe (increasingly China). In these regions financial, technical, and productive power is concentrated power – power controlled by an elite. The periphery on the other hand contains exploited regions that sell their resources and labor to the core without ever having access to the latter’s wealth. The enrichment of the core is structurally dependent on the impoverishment of the periphery.

Ex. Pacific periphery: Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.
EU Periphery: Africa, Middle East
US Periphery: Central and South America, Middle East

The structural inequality that we see or don’t see today, in what is likely the third and perhaps final wave of globalization, is argued by Christopher Chase Dunn to have “its historical roots in the “Commercial Revolution of the 16th century – plunder of the Americas was crucial to the emergence of industrial capitalism in the core, and the direct use of coercive force eventually evolved into institutionalized economic power based on law and private property”

Berman adds that today “a network of independent markets is the main glue of our global system, bolstered, when necessary, by the military power of the core states. Today the political coercion coming from the core has become less central to the structure of exploitation and the domination, since the core can rely on local coercion – that is authoritarian client states in the periphery to do its dirty work in exchange for economic aide to the elite in the periphery. Economic exploitation, organized through the production and sale of commodities, is a more effective, less dirty means of control."

Think - World Bank, IMF, NAFTA, GATT, etc. I think it is also important to notice how Saudi Arabia and Israel are used within the Middle East and directly benefit from $billion arms deals from the US and the EU. They are the strongmen in the region but it remains to be seen as to how wise or applicable this will be in the long term – history has a way of biting back.

It's easy to recognize these patterns of coercion and influence within periphery zones, especially as it relates to shrinking energy sources and the desire to open new international trade markets and exploit cheap labor to those ends. This seems a natural extension of colonial structures that worked largely to do the same albeit for more nationalistic reasons rather than corporate ones.

Christopher Dunn Chase goes on to state:

“Both the penetration of a peripheral nation by foreign investment and the creation of debt dependency by means of foreign credit actually serve to damage that nation’s economic development, and to increase inequality within that country. The net effect is the replacement of direct colonial control by neo-colonial economic mechanisms. The structure of dependency provides support for elites in the periphery and keeps wages low relative to the income of the elite. (see dozens of elections since 2000) These elites are in fact linked to the interest of the transnational corporations and the international economy – NOT to their own nation or peoples.”

One can conclude quite quickly from news reports that no only does this apply to the international situation, but these "feudal" boundaries are also set up at home. These peripheries are established within one’s borders as they are imposed outside one’s borders. The psychology and implementation within this dual dynamic is rigorous, impacting everyone one of us on a daily basis - not in just economic terms, but in terms of personal/collective liberty which affects the very nature of creative solutions for growth and human progress. You can see that this kind of inequality will eventually be able to destroy the entire social fabric as it nearly has in the case of public schools, inner cities, rural communities. It is spiritually corrosive and demoralizing.

Berman: “A concern for literacy and critical thinking is only democratic. Society can’t function if everyone is stupid. Dumbing down is the formula of a doomed society and not a vital one”.

to be continued....

image Gilbert Garcin

Friday, July 21, 2006


Here's the transcript from the Bradblog RFK interview from a couple of days back. Its not news if you actually follow our collapse, but its worthy read.

Recently, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. , wrote the article: "Was the
2004 Election Stolen " where he examined the election fraud in Ohio that took place during the last Presidential Election. He also has written a book "Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush & His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy". Mr. Kennedy along with Mike Papantonio have filed a "qui tam" lawsuit [6] against some of the voting machines companies, in an effort to save our Democracy.

I've long had a deep respect for Robert F. Kennedy for his dedicated work as an environmental advocate. Tom and I ['Bradblog'] enjoyed interviewing him and were moved by his passion and dedication to our country and our Democracy. We spoke to him via phone at his office at Pace University's Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains, New York, which he founded, about the election of 2004. This was an experience to remember...

BRAD BLOG: In your book, "Crimes Against Nature," you said that Bush won the 2004 election because of an information deficit caused by a breakdown in our national media. You go on to say that "Bush was re-elected because of the negligence of-and deliberate deception by-the American press." Your recent article in "Rolling Stone" seems to suggest that your opinion has changed, focusing more on the fraud and deception in Ohio with the computerized voting machines. What was the most important thing that made you suspect fraud and decide to investigate the 2004 election?

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: Well, my opinion hasn't changed, that the press has been negligent, and that the large amount of support for the President, and for the people that did vote for the President, that large numbers of them would not have done so, had they known the truth about his policies, and his record. You say my opinion changed, but it hasn't changed.

You know I've known this for many years, because of my anecdotal experience. I give about 40 speeches a year, in red states to Republican audiences, and I get the same enthusiastic responses from those audiences as I get from Liberal college audiences. The only difference is, is that the Republicans often say to me, "How come we've never heard this before?" I made the conclusion many years ago that there's not a huge values difference between Red State Republicans and Blue State Democrats. The distinction is really informational. 80% of Republicans are just Democrats who don't know what's going on. And my anecdotal conclusion was confirmed by a survey done immediately after the 2004 election called the PIPA [7] report, which tested Bush supporters and Kerry supporters based upon their knowledge of current events. It found that among Bush supporters, they were widespread in its interpretations, or there were factual errors in the way that they viewed Bush's major public policy initiatives.

For example, 75% of the Republican respondents believed that Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center, and 72% believed that WMD had been found in Iraq. And most of them believed that the war in Iraq had strong support among Iraq's Muslim neighbors and our traditional allies in Europe, which of course is wrong. The Democrats as a whole had a much more accurate view of those events. And then PIPA [8] went back twice to these same people. The first time it went back to the people that had these misinterpretations, and asked them where they were getting their news, and invariably they said talk radio and FOX news. And PIPA went back a third time, and made inquiries about their fundamental values, and it did start with a string of hypotheticals:

"What if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What if Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with bombing the World Trade Center?
if the U.S. Invasion of Iraq had little support among Iraq's Muslim neighbors and was largely opposed by Iraq's Muslim neighbors, and by our troops and allies in Europe? Should we have still gone in?" And roughly 80% of Dem and 80% of Rep said the same thing, "We should not." And so the values were the same. It was the facts, the information, it was the access to information that was different.

BB: Are you then adding a layer of suspicion about the direct manipulation and fraudulent counting through computerized voting?

RFK JR.: That also happened, that was another factor. Our democracy is broken. Our democracy is broken because of our campaign finance system, which is just a system of legalized bribery, which has allowed corporations and the very wealthy to control the electoral results. Let me go back and say our electoral system is broken for three reasons, in three large
respects: The first is our campaign finance system, which is a system of legalized bribery, and which has allowed corporations and the very rich to control the results of our electoral process. Number two is the failure of the American press and that is also a function and result of corporate control, as I showed in my book. Number three is the election system itself, which is broken. We've privatized it and allowed four large corporations to count our votes on machines that don't work.

But also the Republican party has inculcated a culture of corruption.
The Republican party has adopted a strategy of denying votes to blacks and other minorities, and to other people more traditionally Democratic, suppressing Democratic vote and fraudulently expanding Republican vote.
this is happening all over the country. I would urge you to read Greg Palast's latest book, Armed Madhouse [9]. He does for the national elections what I did for the Ohio election, which is to synthesize the information that's out there into a readable document, in which he shows exactly how this election was stolen-not just in Ohio but in many other states as well.

BB: Have any of your expert witnesses or anyone referred to some of the stringent requirements in the gaming industry which uses computerized slot machines, poker machines and so forth involving the levels of certification and disclosure of the security requirements of its vendors?

RFK JR.: Well, you see this was just another corporate boondoggle that gave the most venal mendacious corporations charge of our most sacred public trust, which is the right to vote. These corporations were making hundreds of millions of dollars. The machines, as it turns out, were manufactured by wireless companies and were just a cheap piece of junk that cost less than $100 to manufacture, and they were selling them for $2400 apiece. And they were using Jack Abramoff and other corrupt lobbyists to persuade federal officials to pass the federal act to appropriate the money and then to persuade state and local officials to purchase the defective machines.

BB: Jack Abramoff was involved in this?

RFK JR.: Oh yes. Jack Abramoff, and Bob Ney [10](R-Oh), the principle figure in the Abramoff scandal and he's the author of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). And Diebold contributed millions of dollars to these guys, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to Abramoff to lobby on behalf of HAVA, and to lobby states like New York and the other states, to adopt the Diebold machines.

BB: So HAVA was "created specifically to disenfranchise voters and verfication"?

RFK JR.: HAVA was written specifically to require the states to buy Diebold machines. I mean one company basically had control of the whole legislative process. That's why HAVA has a provision in it that discourages vote verification by paper ballots. Both Republicans and Democrats tried to reform the HAVA, saying of course we should have paper verification of the vote. Paper verification would allow you to go in, make your vote on the electronic machine, and you get a receipt that is a copy of who you voted for and you are allowed to examine that receipt. You deposit it in a locked box in the voting area. That way, if there's ever any question, if you need to count, you can count the papers, and see if it compares to what the machine says.

But Bob Ney fought tooth and nail against that provision because Diebold made a machine that does not provide a paper ballot. And he went so far, because Diebold contributed a million dollars to an organization that purportedly protects the rights of blind people. And in exchange for that, that organization got one of its officers to testify on Capitol Hill at the HAVA hearings, that blind people in America did not want paper ballots - voter verified ballots - because it would deprive someone of the right to vote secretly. Now the other organizations that support handicapped rights and rights of the blind, do not take that position. This was a position that that organization adopted after accepting a million dollars from Diebold.
The whole operation was corrupt and now Bob Ney is going to jail for it.

BB: Also, speaking of those guys, election officials in several states, most notably Ken Blackwell in Ohio and Bruce McPherson here in the state of California, appear to be be deliberately flaunting established law and procedures as well as direct court orders, and they seem to be just "getting away with it". How can that be?

RFK JR.: Well, again, it's because of the failure of the American press.
This is the most important issue in American Democracy and the press isn't covering it. So the politicians who want to fix the elections, and who want these fraudulent machines, can get away with it, don't take a position because it gets no traction in the press.

BB: But then why didn't people like Kerry want to contest the results?

RFK JR.: You'd have to ask Kerry.

BB: Why hasn't the DNC done anything about this?

RFK JR.: You'd have to ask the DNC.

BB: We watched Howard Dean on television having a hack demonstrated to him by Bev Harris [11], and he doesn't seem to say anything... I guess we'll have to ask them! But there seems to have been a pattern here in the leadership of the Democratic Party....What I was getting to in those questions was not for you to interpret the actions of the those in the DNC and so forth, but there seems to be a pattern in the leadership of the Dem Party that shies away from direct conflict in this....

RFK JR.: The Democratic leadership on this issue has been abysmal.
particularly since this is a civil rights issue and it's a racial issue.
machines themselves are kind of a distraction because the machines are recent innovations. The Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, has been using, old-fashioned, Jim Crow, apartheid-type maneuvers to steal the last two national elections.

BB: Like in Georgia, who were trying to establish the Poll Tax again...

RFK JR.: And this has been happening all over the country. If you look at who's being denied the right to vote, on absentee ballots, on provisional ballots, it's Hispanics, it's Blacks and it's Native Americans, and the Democratic Party ought to be touting this as the biggest civil rights issue of our time. But they are ignoring it, and that really is shocking. It's shocking that the Republicans are not up in arms about this too, because this should not be a partisan issue. This is a fundamental basis of our American value system, which is representative Democracy. For a party that claims to speak for "American Values" to ignore the fact that other members of the party, that the leadership of the party is involved in an active national campaign to stop black people from voting, and to steal elections, shows the moral bankruptcy of everybody in that party!

Why aren't Republicans standing up and speaking on this issue? Why isn't Republican leadership standing up and speaking on this issue?

BB: California just recently went to Diebold machines, all over the state. If California "goes" Republican, do you think we will be able to say, ok, there's no doubt anymore?

RFK JR.: Listen: all I can say is that the Diebold machines are among the worst. They break down, they are easily hacked, Diebold uses fraudulent misrepresentations to sell the machines, and they should not be part of our voting system.

BB: Are there any plans on a national or state level to contest suspicious results this time around?

RFK JR.: They make it very difficult to contest crooked elections.
Nebraska is one of several states that have now passed laws, and I believe Florida is one of those states, that prohibit counting paper ballots in votes that were originally counted by machines. The only way that you can count votes is the original way in which they were counted. And so, of course, that makes it easy to fix any election and make sure that nobody has the right to challenge it.

Many other states, including Ohio, have made it impossible for anybody to challenge an election, even if it was obviously fixed. And these kinds of initiatives are happening all over the country. Why would any state legislature vote for such a rule unless they were Republicans who felt that elections would be fixed in their favor? Why would any American vote for such a rule? It is completely anti-American and un-American. We should be encouraging Americans to vote and encouraging EVERY American to cast a vote and to make sure that every vote is counted. And both parties should be working toward that.

But instead you have a Republican party that is trying to suppress votes and trying to defraud the public. And you have a Democratic party that is like the deer in headlights. And the Democrats are never going to win another election if they don't fix this issue because they are starting out every election with a 3 million vote deficit, and those are mainly the black voters in this country and who no longer have their votes counted.

And you know, this may sound shrill, but look at the facts. And I challenge anyone who says that this is shrill and inaccurate to read Greg Palast's book, to read my article, to look at the facts, because the facts are infallible.

BB: Do you think we are going to need a reaction like they are having currently in Mexico?

RFK JR.: Well, I wish the Democratic Party had the cojones that the Mexican opposition party has! They're saying "We're not gonna stand for our elections being stolen anymore!" It's great for these (our) political leaders to stand up and say "I will gracefully concede" but what does that mean for the rest of us? We are getting stuck with these governments that are absolutely running our country into the ground.

BB: You said in your recent interview with Charlie Rose, that this is the worst Presidency we've ever had, and they've ruined our reputation in the world. So if you had your ideal President, what kind of things would he or she need to do to restore our credibility?

RFK JR.: Well the first thing we need to do is to restore American Democracy.

Number One: Fix the campaign finance system to get corporate money out of the electoral process. Corporations are a great thing for our country.
They drive our economy but they should NOT be running our government because they don't want the same thing for America that Americans want.
don't want democracy, they want free markets, they want profits, and oftentimes the easiest path to profits is to use the campaign finance system to get their hooks into a public official and to use that public official to dismantle the marketplace to give them monopoly control and a competitive edge and to privatize the commons-to steal our air, our water, or our public treasury, and liquidate it for private profits.

Number Two: We have to fix the press: restore journalistic ethics in this country, and that is by bringing back the fairness doctrine and strengthening the FCC. The Fairness Doctrine was abolished by Ronald Reagan in 1988, and it recognized that the airwaves belong to the public; that the broadcasters can be licensed to use them to make a profit, but they use them with the proviso that their primary obligation is to advance democracy and promote the public interest. They have to inform the public because a democracy cannot survive an uninformed public. As Thomas Jefferson said, "An uninformed public will trade a hundred years of hard-fought civil rights for a half an hour of welfare." And they will follow the first demagogue or religious fanatic that comes along and offers them a $300 tax break.

Number Three: We have to fix our electoral system so that every vote is counted. Those are the first three things that any President should do, Republican or Democrat, to restore American Democracy.

BB: Now all these state laws that are being put in place could be trumped by Congress...

RFK JR.: Of course, we should have a federal law that creates federal standards for elections. All federal elections have to be verified by paper ballots. Election officials, whose job is to ensure the integrity of federal elections, cannot simultaneously serve as campaign managers or candidates who are participating in that contest. Many states already have that rule, but Florida and Ohio do not. It's a formula for corruption!

BB: In summary, how optimistic or pessimistic are you about our ability to get our country back?

RFK JR.: Well, you know, my attitude is that I don't try to predict the future, I can only say that those of us who care about this country have to keep fighting, and whether you think you're gonna win or lose, you gotta just keep slugging and you gotta be ready to die with your boots on, because that's what our forefathers did, they started a revolution, and they put their fortunes and their lives at stake. And we need to summon the same kind of courage from our generation, and demand that kind of courage from our leadership.

BB: And we have to get that message out to the Democratic leadership as well.

RFK JR.: And that's what you guys are doing....

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sand Waves

Over at BLDGBLOG today there is a great read.

From today's San Francisco Chronicle: "'These are some of the largest sand waves in the world,' said Patrick Barnard, a coastal geologist with the Santa Cruz office of the U.S. Geological Survey. 'They're certainly in the upper 10 percent ....Unfortunately – or perhaps more interestingly – they're underwater, lining the bottom of San Francisco Bay like tectonic corrugation:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Brink and The Pump

Really want an excellent critique of US Media and the lack of humanity that TV instills during times of crisis (or any other for that matter)?

Then watch this scathing rebuke from Jon Stewart at Truthdig.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Alien Intelligence (2)

"We can Understand our political and social life simply by looking around us. The job is not to be intellectual but to be INTELLIGENT – to our best talents. We need to seek a passion for the literal actuality of life, not an abstraction of individualism or the current enterprise built upon irony, lies, and the selfish capital of fashion.

I’m increasingly concerned with the notion of survival – my beliefs, my preferences and my prejudices and what these mean for an artist. Who is the moral personality behind the work? Do I have the ability to be virtuous in the face an ideology of debasement or what Larsen calls simplification? Can I understand beauty and justice? “
In my previous post I posited this series of observations and questions as a reference to Lionel Trillings fabulous introduction for Homage to Catalonia and George Orwell himself. The post was a direct reference to that as I applied these thoughts from Trilling to myself as an artist in response (of sorts) to the week’s art blog euphoria surrounding these posts by Deborah Fisher, Non Prophet Art, and Speaking of Ashes. Eric Larsen, author of A Nation Gone Blind , caught on to Deborah’s post and ran with it on his own website. The result was a conflation of my intention with the Trilling piece (and I think Ashes response to it) but thus is the nature of a discussion that gets caught chasing its own tail, out of sheer excitement for the subject and the personalities behind the discussion. If you have ever tried to have a political debate after a bottle of Jameson you know of which I speak. 

I’m continuing this discussion, perhaps on my own (which is fine), because I am pre-occupied by the state of things, or at my perception of the state of things. I am also trudging forward not only in response to Larsen but because of some thread comments by The Art Soldier and Dilettante Ventures from the previously mentioned post by Deborah Fisher.

Art Soldier
(referencing Eric Larsen on art):
Yet, while making your appeal for an art-art that is opposed to an art that refers to non-art (i.e., socio-political conditions), you fail to explain what makes your "art-art" the product of someone "striving for and implementing the good and just." But you don't have to, as we've seen this line of reasoning before. Its logic is particularly Modernist (having originated with the philosophy of Kant), and argues for the inherent virtue of an autonomous art separated from any reference outside of itself. It's the very justification used for establishing a 'high-art' that is exclusive and elitist. So the question is not "what is the social role of people?", but what kind of art "implements the good and the just?" This officially brings us right back to where we started -- the moral dilemma of art making -- and so far you haven't demonstrated why art-art is any more desirable than an aesthetic that engages with a lived experience outside of itself.
Dilettante Ventures
A few problems with Berman's Twilight of American Culture (which has popped up a couple of times in comments): His "great books" prescription is a bit puritanical. Funny how his argument reeks of indie rock hipsterism - if everyone knows about it, it must suck. He plays pretty loosely with anecdotal evidence of the decline of American culture. Jay Leno's show isn't exactly "evidence" by any reasonable meaning of the term.
He cites Lyotard favorably, and then decries the "nihilism" of postmodernism. Many would consider Lyotard a "postmodern" philosopher. The problem here is that Berman doesn't really get specific about who he's implicating and which "postmodernism" he's talking about. He seems to collapse identity politics, political "correctness," and postmodernism into one big relativist soup.
This commentary is the thing I love most about blogging and has led me to re-examine the book The Twilight of American Culture by Morris Berman as I have not yet read anything by Eric Larsen except his commentary on these various posts. The Twilight of American Culture (in addition to the thoughts by Trilling) is my stepping off point for a series of posts under the title, "Alien Intelligence". I’ll begin however with a comment by Tyler Green in an interview conducted a couple weeks back which in actuality may be what brought me to the broader discussion in the first place.

Interview by Will Lager of

Tyler Green in response to this question:

What is the single non-art-world factor that is the greatest influence on art made today? (For instance, environmentalism, animal rights, worldwide feminism, the spread of digital technology?

This is a big and excellent question. Degeneration, particularly of societies, cultures, and political systems. Regardless of whether I’m in New York, LA or in between, I see artists making art about things falling apart. Look at last year’s top news stories: Iraq, Katrina, the London bombing, the Indian Ocean tsunami, the BTK serial killer, the continuing struggles of the Bush presidency, even the death of Terri Schiavo. They’re all about degeneration.I’m surprised that no contemporary art curator has seized on this and created a big group show about it. It could be a great example of an artist-driven show that mixes contemporary art with contemporary life.
Degeneration and collapse is after all what we are all talking about. To what degree is it happening? How do I adjust to this conclusion of disintegration? What strategies to employ for the sake of changing direction(s) – if that is even a possibility or desire. At the center of this is “the moral dilemma of art making” – as noted by The Art Soldier above. You can assume that I do not separate artist from citizen throughout this discussion but that I do believe artists have the responsibility of being leaders in their own right.

I’ll begin with some observations by various people that Morris Berman uses to discuss the idea of collapse and the degeneration of a society and its political aims of democracy or civilization at large.

From Berman himself:
The concept of decline often involves organic metaphors – notions of birth, maturity, and senescence. This way of viewing civilization goes back to the 18th century (Giambattista Vico) and perhaps even to the Ancient Greeks, but it came into common currency in the 19th century through the writings of the German Idealist School of philosophy. Hegel, for example, saw history as a kind of spiritual journey, in which Geist moved around the globe, generating the Renaissance in 15th Century Florence, and sowing the seeds of decay when it subsequently departed.
(Note: I’d like to argue that we are in a Neo-Hegelian moment and that perhaps the 19th century actually began with the French Revolution – which Berman himself alludes to in the book. I’ll look at Neo-Hegelianism in a subsequent post)

From Berman to Oswald Spengler who observes:
Civilization was organized around a central ideal, or some of what Platonic Idea, and that the process of civilization involved a stage of aging, during which the Idea hardened into pure form. This process of formalism or as he called it “classicism” was happening to the 20th century West and it would be on the Western agenda for the next few centuries.
Then Joseph Tainter:
It’s important to note though, that civilizations are anomalies and the statist configuration of hierarchy-specialization-bureaucracy, is little more than 6 thousand years old. Constantly reinforced and legitimized. It requires an expanding materials base and a constant mobilization of resources, and the trend is always higher levels of complexity. There is the processing of greater quantities of information and energy, the formation of larger settlements, increasing class differentiation and stratification, and the development of more complex technology. Collapse, which involves a progressive weakening of the political and administrative center, is the reversal of all this, and a recurrent feature of human societies. As the center weakens there is no longer an “umbrella” to guarantee safety. The strong savage the week, and there is no higher goal than survival. Literacy may be lost entirely, or decline so dramatically that a dark age is inevitable.
(FEMA, Homeland Security, Bush Administration)

Berman goes from there stating:
“Economic decline has a spiritual component which shows up as apathy and meaninglessness -Emilie Durkeim’s “anomie”. This lurks behind Spangler’s classicism. In the classicist phase, culture no longer believes in itself so it typically undertakes phony or misguided wars (Vietnam/Iraq) or promotes its symbols or slogans (Plan for Victory) all the more. As the organizational costs rise, yielding increasingly smaller benefits, so does the formalism, the pomp and circumstance.”
The conclusion is that there are 4 basic tenets of collapse:

1. Accelerating social and economic inequality
2. Declining marginal returns with regard to investment in organizational solutions to socioeconomic problems
3. Rapidly dropping levels of literacy, critical understanding, and general intellectual awareness
4. Spiritual death – that is, Spengler’s classicism: the emptying of cultural content and the freezing (re-packaging) of it in formulas- kitsch. (fashion, Chelsea)

* Parenthetical notes are my assertions

I’ll stop here for tonight….

image: Gilbert Garcin

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Alien Intelligence

To find the truth is not the only moral imperative of the writer. What one does with that truth is incredibly pertinent.” – Deborah Fisher

I’ve had some time to digest Deborah Fisher’s excellent post regarding Eric Larsen’s book, A Nation Gone Blind. The intellectual work of exposing lies is her focus and that of the author. A perilous world is acknowledged but to despair is not the answer. As Larson states in repsonse, “Despair is silent. Despair is doomed”. He heralds as inspiration the inherent optimism of the 18th century English satirists, though they teetered on the edge of sanity and yes, despair. Looking at things simply or directly can do that to a person.

I’m now inclined to think upon Lionel Trilling’s introduction to George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.
A politics which is presumed to be available to everyone is a relatively new thing in the world. We do not yet know very much about it. Nor have most of us been especially eager to learn. In a politics presumed to be available to everyone, ideas and ideals play a great part. And those of us who set store by ideas and ideals have never been quite able to learn that just because they do have power nowadays, there is a direct connection between their power and another kind of power, the old, unabashed, cynical power of force. We are always being surprised by this.

These thoughts of course date back to 1952 but I think largely they are still holding true as we witness an unraveling around us, if we witness anything at all.

These are perilous times. Language has become so politicized and polarizing, so savage and intoxicating that with each misuse, across all spectrums of media, education, and politics we seem ever more diminished. “Newspeak” is our political language, our legalese, and our executioner. We once again face leader-worship, religious zealousness, disinformation tactics, patriotism and an infantile love of war. So what is the job of the artist, the citizen?

We can understand our political and social life simply by looking around us. The job is not to be intellectual but to be INTELLIGENT – to our best talents. We need to seek a passion for the literal actuality of life, not an abstraction of individualism or the current enterprise built upon irony, lies, and the selfish capital of fashion.

I’m increasingly concerned with the notion of survival – my beliefs, my preferences and my prejudices and what these mean for an artist. Who is the moral personality behind the work? Do I have the ability to be virtuous in the face an ideology of debasement or what Larsen calls simplification? Can I understand beauty and justice?

I close with this from Trilling:
If only life were not so tangible, so concrete, so made up of facts that are at variance with each other; if only the things that people said were good were really good; if only the things that were pretty good were entirely good; if only politic were not a matter of power – then we should be happy to put our minds to politics , then we should consent to think! …but Orwell never believed that the political life could be an intellectual idyl.

image: Gilbert Garcin

The Madcap more

Syd Barrett R.I.P. - it was a long tortuous road.

Here's the Rolling Stone interview - 1971.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Immigration Equation

Not sure if you read this in the Times Magazine but
The Immigration Equation by Roger Lowenstein is an excellect dissection of the supposed economic fallout of illegal immigration. This does a good job of examining both sides of the economic side effects of the influx of unskilled labor - Lou Dobbs, pay attention.

It doesn't address the cultural or assimilation issues but at least the economic red herring doesn't seem so rational or factual for that matter. Read Kevin Drum and the comments for more insights.

Image from The Times Magazine

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Screaming Down a Well

You know just as I was feeling a high from the international spirit of today's World Cup [which was an awesome game, congrats Italia] I get a grim reminder of how disturbed this world actually is right now.
Juan Cole gives one hell of a run down today on events that are spilling out from all the seams in the Middle East and yes - Turkey. Just read it.

If that's not enough sobriety for you, follow this link to read a little on the long evil history of Dickie and Donnie. Its about their pattern of carnage cover ups, dating back to the early 1970's and the Tiger Force military scandal - rather nightmare. To say it is savagery implies that there are words to describe to the horrors of Tiger Force. Gitmo, Ghraib and Haditha are just the latest chapters in a big book.

Back to Italy though. Kevin Drum has this to report on what a serious press core and some not for sale bureaucrats can actually do when they remember their CIVIC DUTY. Perhaps there is hope for America and perhaps today's World Cup win is a harbinger for change across the board.

Becher on Becher

If you are a fan of Becher and Becher like me, you'll love these pieces by Idris Khan. I have to say they are more interesting than the original works. Quite haunting. The full disclosure is at Gravestmor. Reminds me of the equally disciplined work of Vera Lutter.

Don't forget World Cup today - art history buffs and wine enthusiasts should appreciate the fact France and Italy go head to head. (yuk yuk) Les Bleus or Azurri? hmmm who will it be...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How I Hitched a BLOG and Ditched My Artist Statement

TOP TEN REASONS to Ditch Your Artist Statement for a BLOG:

1. A good blog post is around 500 words and can be scanned by someone at their crappy day job. No more swallowed-the-dictionary writing!

2. Geoffrey's "Compilation of Tinkerings Maxim". Any blog entry is, by definition, not the last thing you have to say.

3. Blogs do not stand next to your art, cannot be confused for your art, and cannot prop up your art.

4. The success of a blog is determined largely by the number of links. Linking to what is outside is very different from cleaving to that special little nugget locked within the Individual Artist.

5. Comments, comments, comments.

6. Blogs encourage regular writing. No more constipated, vague language!

7. It's just a blog. Bloggers are, by definition, not authorities. They're just folks, and the writing bloggers do tends to be more exploratory than authoritative.

8. People actually read blogs.

9. The word Blog is just as ugly as the art you're supposed to love.

10. My friends think I'm sexier with a blog!!!

Courtesy of Deborah Fisher + a couple from HLIB and a little nod to Geoffrey Non-Prophet

The Death of Cheato Lay

Acknowledging that we have a small tradition here at HLIB of posting front page zingers from the NY Post and NY Daily News, I thought today would certainly add to the carnage.

You know that secretly you question this man's death...

... and I seriously want that headline job!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Would You Like to Make a Statement?

Ok - so I am so behind on this and I'm sure everyone has long moved on but I gotta put my spin on this. Thanks to Chris Jagers who led me to the excellent interview of Tyler Green, who seemingly is almost always dead on. The lightening rod within the interview seems to be the question of the importance of the artist's statement - or as Green states, "Text-Love". Funny because I see something more urgent within the interview. More on that later - for now here's the jist of the artist statement debate.

Tyler Green

Yes. Blame art schools, which require artists to produce statements and such. Then blame galleries for including artist statements in press releases/etc. Written artists’ statements are a total waste of time. When an artist receives his/her BA or MFA, he/she should be required to burn anything resembling a written artist’s statement. An artist’s statement is his/her work.

(BTW, curators are responsible for text-love too. They’re in love with wall-text. The Whitney, in particular, seems unable to present an exhibit without accompanying novel-length texts. This year’s Whitney Biennial was a bad show for plenty of reasons, but the thousands of words of wall-text the show apparently ‘required’ should have been a tip-off to the Whitney that it had a disaster on its floors. Same with another recent Whitney curatorial clumping: “Remote Viewing.”)
This response produced a spirited reply over at Art Fag City and at Deborah Fisher respectively.

While I agree that wall text* and artist statements are often poorly executed, I think it is a mistake to lump the two text related activities together, because the assumption is then that the purpose of an artist statement is solely to do with the viewer and the mounting of exhibitions. Artist's statements are not a waste of time, and to suggest otherwise does not take into account the value in articulating ones art making objectives. Since the rules of writing require focus to build effective arguments, the practice can in turn have significant payoffs in the studio. It can help an artist find focus in the studio if this is lacking, and can also lead the artist to some clarity on whether the work they are making supports the statements they have spelled out. Greater standards need to be applied to the practice of artist writing, because it is a proven means of advancing art.

For this reason I am almost always dismissive of work that is accompanied by poor statements. It is indicative of an artist who is either not sufficiently engaged in the work they produce, or merely submissive to the rules of formalism. In either case, the work has limited value. Moreover, history proves this point several times over. With only a few exceptions, the major artists of the 20th century have all written statements on their work that match publication standards. If we are to learn anything from history, it is that the best artists do not work solely within the confines of their studio.
Deborah Fisher in response to both:
The thrust of the AFC argument is that statement-writing clarifies "artistic objectives" and helps artists to build effective arguments. But art is not a term paper, and great art is great because it denies one clear argument or objective! To frame one's art verbally, with an artist's statement, is to close doors that could remain open, and to depend on verbal explanations of visual and spatial expressions dulls the potential for art to actually do that voodoo that it does so well. Visual and spatial expressions of ideas are non-linear, non-hierarchical. Multiple reads can co-exist in time. Writing doesn't kill this. But writing an artist's statement can.

The artist's statement as taught in school asks me to tell you what my art means. It answers the questions: What is my art doing? How is it doing it? Why is it doing it? And these are great questions for a viewer to ask themselves when looking at a work of art, but my relationship to what I make is different, and these questions are uniquely unimportant to me. These questions privilege one meaning, expressed in a linear fashion, over the tapestry of simultaneous and interlocking meanings that compel me to create visual art. The whole reason I make visual art and don't write for a living is because of this tapestry and what it can do, and the very nature of this love affair I am having with this tapestry of meaning is that it is impossible to verbalize with anything other than the most hackneyed, imprecise, insufficient metaphors.

I make art specifically because I am trying desperately to understand something that my verbal self can't touch. Writing a statement about what my own work means is therefore an unhelpful enterprise. This is not because I am an illiterate artist, but because I am compelled to make visual art for specifically nonverbal reasons. I want to embrace paradox, not resolve it. I want to ferret out all those fat spaces of uncertainty and becoming that an essay cannot get at.
All have very valid and I think sincere takes on the malady know as the artist statement. All the posts mentioned above actually prompted Chris Jagers to remove his statement from his artist site. I think he should reconsider that move. Here's what I think :)

Tyler is right to critique the simplification of the artist statement and the narrowing effects it has had on how art gets consumed. That's why it is there after all - packaging of the art. It tells people (including the gallery) how to understand the work and where to file it - under rock, electronic, hip hop or folk? It is also another example of how an arts education is producing standards - but weak standards. Let's face that head on ok? If a school actually takes the time to address professional issues, (I'm wagering most don't) such as a statement, do you really think they are helping to make these statements instructive or cogent? In my experience, no.

Tyler is somewhat overreaching in conflating artist statements with wall text. I agree that wall text is overly dense in many cases and irritating to the initiated, but time and time again I see that people outside of the art bubble really do get a valid entry to the works thanks to wall text. I think it is better suited to historical exhibitions though and should never outway the visual work. It should be viewed as a supplement not an equal unless your work is TEXT. It is important to note that an artist like Carrie Mae Weems currently doesn't use wall text or labels because she wants the viewer to engage with the work first and then read later if they like. That's a big political statement within a large political body of work. It says - I'm an artist first and this a poetic space first - other politics and history come second within this created world. It is a challenge to the viewer to figure it out and a challenge to herself to make works that speak clearly - speak visually.

Paddy suggests that an artist statement is critical practice for an artist. That it helps an artist to locate themselves and done correctly, can inspire and be a part of one's art practice. I agree with that too. Every artist should explore writing on some level because I do think that in most cases she is correct. It is important to be able to convey your thoughts on paper as it may open up some blocked pathways. I think it is also important for artists to speak in public as much as they can for the same reasons. It acts as a spring board. You can hear yourself in the public sphere and it helps you edit out what isn't clear or making sense. It may inspire you as well. Where I think Paddy runs off the road though is when she suggests that bad artist statements are a direct link to bad art and dumb artists. This is very elitist and self righteous and frankly too narrow. Plenty of bad artists are good writers and talkers and vice versa. One's reading list is never going to make the work or make the work good.

Look, I've read hundreds of crap statements that slaughter the english language and amount to the worst pile of gibberish on the planet. To say they are inane is to be polite. Is it all the artist's fault though? On one level yes, but I think we have to look at the overall education failure. I'm speaking to high school education, not everyone has the same educational experience. Far too many students entering college have sub-par composition and language skills. Some students I had once were really operating at a 9th grade level despite being in college and despite being generally bright and interested in the larger world. An arts degree doesn't fully address short comings because the focus is so much on studio hours that the humanities are sort of deleted. It is a shame because these young artists aren't being helped. It leads to junk statements. An artist needs to address this if they are intimidated with writing. They need to practice and find someone who is comfortable with writing to help them as an editor. The last thing an artist needs is for the gallery or the curator to do all the talking for them. You have to be able to speak for yourself and write clearly. The best advice is to write from the artist perspective and not to act like a curator or an art historian. Be clear and make demonstrative statements. Then let the work do the talking.

For artists who do have a writing "gene", I think Deborah hits it dead on - the catch 22 so many of us face. How to be literate and accessible while maintaining the primacy of the visual without be trapped by this question:
"what is your work

This is the most feared question I ever face - and I can blab for hours about what my work is about. I hate the question for all the reasons Deborah mentions. I always seem to fail at it and I always feel that I cheat the work when I try to 'nutshell it" for someone. Because honestly, on many levels I don't know what the work is about -beyond it is about itself, and me and everything else under the sun! It is about discovery and mystery and struggle with materials, feeling and ideas. It is the intangible and it owns me.

Sometimes I just want to say its about life - ya dig?