Thursday, August 30, 2007

(cheese)headin' to packer country

Another summer in the city is coming to a close so I'm taking a trip to Packer country (art nerds, that's an NFL team) for the coming holiday weekend. Exotic for sure, some might even say an unconventional holiday destination.

So what is there to do in Green Bay, WI?

Here's my to do list as a first time visitor.

1. Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame and the famed Lambeau Field
2. Bay Beach wild life sanctuary
3. Brett Favre's Steakhouse
4. Oneida Bingo and Casino !
5. Ignore 24 hour coverage of Senator Craig's bathroom mischief

and that's about all I can up with.....any suggestions????

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

in memorium

It's been two long years in the Big Easy. Here are some of the ongoing stories.

Friday, August 24, 2007

cocerning political theology

The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong. - Mark Lilla (NY Times mag)
The above quote from the this article - The Politics of God.

I confess I haven't read it but on the surface it seems relevant but then again the media seems to fail a lot at understanding the "faith factor" in contemporary American politics. Yes we have our fundamentalists and they are in major seats of power. This is not simply an Islamist phenomenon or the oriental other.

Larval Subjects produced this great quote from Marx on his blog thread about the above article.

There’s that terrific passage in Capital– “The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret” –where Marx remarks that Protestant Christianity is the perfect religion for capitalism:

For a society of commodity producers, whose general social relation of production consists in the fact that they treat their products as commodities, hence as values, and in this material form bring their individual, private labours into relation with each other as homogenous human labour, Christianity with its religious cult of man in the abstract, more particularly in its bourgeois development, i.e. in Protestantism, Deism, etc., is the most fitting form of religion. In the ancient Asiatic, Classical-antique, and other such modes of production, the transformation of the product into a commodity, and therefore men’s existence as producers of commodities, plays a subordinate role, which however increases in importance as these communities approach nearer and nearer to the stage of their dissolution. Trading nations, properly so called, exist only in the interstices of the ancient world, like the gods of Epicurus in the intermundia, or Jews in the pores of Polish society. Those ancient social organisms of production are much more simple and transparent than those of bourgeois society. But they are founded either on the immaturity of man as an individual, when he has not yet torn himself loose from the ummbilical cord of his natural species-connection with other men, or on direct relations of dominance and servitude. They are conditioned by a low stage of development of the productive powers of labour and correspondingly limited relations between men within the process of creating and reproducing their material life, hence also limited relations between men and nature. These real limitations are reflected in the ancient worship of nature, and in other elements of tribal religions. The religious reflections of the real world can, in any case, vanish only when the practical relations of everyday life between man and man, and man and nature, generally present themselves to him in a transparent and rational form. The veil is not removed from the countenance of the social life-process, i.e. the process of material production, until it becomes production by freely associated men, and stands under their conscious and planned control. This, however, requires that society posses a material foundation, or a series of material conditions of existence, which in their turn are the natural and spontaneous product of a long and tormented historical development. (Fowkes trans, 172-173)

The operative words here are “cult of man in the abstract”, where the subject is conceived as separate and independent of his social and historical relations, i.e., bourgeois individualism reflected in the “personal relationship with God” and the ahistoricism of these religious movements. Yet how are Badiou and Zizek not simply giving us simply a secular form of this structure or phenomenon, and thereby reproducing, at a certain level of social relations, the very thing they claim to be targeting

Good question...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

side dish

Todd Gibson has a well timed (for me) guest post over at Modern Art Notes on the nature of the creative side life. It comes on the heels of a recent discussion with a friend about William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens which are aptly highlighted in Todd's post! I hadn't even thought about WCW in years and now two mentions in one week. Funny that internet thing.

To quote Todd:
How did Stevens and Williams find the strategies they needed to feed and sustain their craft in the midst of their demanding professional lives?

Stevens and Williams did change the course of American poetry and the circumstances from which they did it is incredible - from the very bowels of employment - the daily grind, the ordinary life. They do really bust the myth of self-destructive creativity. I'm amazed by the strength of their accomplishments. In other words they were like the vast majority of artists. Regular working people with an open eye for something other.

I'm not trying to mythologize the working artist because as we all know mediocrity reigns within the ranks as much as anywhere else but I too find myself fascinated by the ability to negotiate both spheres and succeed creatively at a very deep level. Not only straddle divergent careers in turns of output, but to continue to have growth while spending the majority of your time in the service of others. Giving 40-50 hours of your week is no small commitment to someone who has no vested interest in your creative life cycle. That fact alone feels numbing to me on a regular basis and adds a vicious level of stress to an already stormy sea. And what of the common demons of self doubt which can multiple out of nowhere for a myriad of reasons and perceptions (both true and false) ?

It is hard say what one does to continue on. I look back over the years and still feel amazed that I'm still pushing paint around on nearly a daily basis. Still trying to figure "it" out, looking for the next idea in a long line of claimed and aborted ideas, millions to be sure. It isn't therapy, it isn't religion, and it certainly isn't about expressing myself. There are no cheering crowds for the visual artist, no signing bonus or world tour. There is the solitude of work peppered by sporadic openings with some interesting people and some not so interesting people sipping free drinks and feeling both entitled or awkward.

It is a strange field to inhabit and if one is constantly pulled by "opposing" career paths how does that affect the work you make? Do you go deeper because you have to in order to survive or do you skim the surface always wondering what it might have been if you had had "more time"? I wonder if these poets felt that tug that perceived loss which quickly to turn to a conflation of rage and fatigue.

Primarily you are drawn the experience of the creating. All the moments that only you encounter. The rough patches, the easy passages, the accidents and the endless questions about resolution. Those belong to you and no one else. I think that teaches one to persevere through the work world situation. It doesn't make it any easier, but there is a lesson about acquisition and loss when you create. That means something I think. That sticks and keeps you coming back for more.

So like Todd, I'm left with a big question - and a personal one - why this life? this path?

Is this some idea of love?

tip: Deborah Fisher

the great independents

Maud Newton has been running a great series on independent booksellers near and far. Be sure and check out these local refuges!

pictured: Powell's in Portland, OR

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

reproduction of the enemy

Reading accounts of the treatment of Padilla and the psychiatrist’s description of what remains today of the battered spirit of Jose Padilla, it is clear that the Bush Administration has fully availed itself of these concepts. The Jacoby Declaration makes clear that “breaking” the subject is in fact the object of the process. The psychiatrists’ report shows that Padilla was essentially brainwashed. He could not really even mount a defense to the charges against him because he loved George W. Bush and he found it physically impossible to oppose him.

And the charges brought against Padilla are “thought crimes.” He is accused of thinking bad thoughts about America and the Bush Administration. - Scott Horton - Harper's

So the part that almost makes me cry is that this man, who has been treated so abominably, still believes in the integrity of the Office of the President. And that the person sitting in the White House MUST be a person of fairness and justice, and that somehow he must not know what is happening to Mr. Padilla because surely if he did, it would not continue to happen. - Lokywoky - Jesus' General

I have to admit I got emotionally rattled by the piece over on Alternet about the case of Jose Padilla - our fellow citizen and accused "dirty bomber". It reads like a horror film or some black ops scenario dreamed up by James Ellroy. It is dark, dark stuff, complete with cliches - mind altering drugs, years in isolation (yes years), false sounds, and endless other forms of torture for a man who's real crime was a relationship to gang life and filling out an application to "study" terrorism abroad.

Padilla was surely a messed up guy, petty criminal type but the treatment he has received and the ensuing brainwashing and ultimate conviction of conspiracy should give everyone pause. The charges amount to an admission by the government that they don't have real proof of anything - just a gut instinct about what might have happened and who he might have been in contact with. Match that with the new FISA regulations and our evolving environment starts to taste a little bit like the Inquisitions of the past where everyone saw there neighbor as a witch or satanic cohort and were quickly put to torture for their shape shifting associations and coerced into confessions.

The Padilla case is constructed, shaped and vetted by brainwashing. Helmut at Phronesisaical aptly calls it a reproduction of the enemy .
Our ability to distinguish between the real and artifice is again severely compromised.

Well said.

image, titled "Solitary Confinement," from wolispace]

Thursday, August 09, 2007

wall of sound

whoa....but in a different world I can see a sitcom slot with Bea Arthur

Monday, August 06, 2007

slip sliding away

I remember how relieved and excited I was back when the Dems re-took Congress. Despite the narrow margin I felt relatively sure that we would have at least a chance at reversing some of the inane as well as criminal maneuvers by the current administration and if not, that we would at least stop the bleeding long enough to get us to the '08 election. Perhaps even some civility might return to politics. Well in my defense, artists are prone to dreaming.

Of course the Pelosi/Reid Congress has done better than the diseased body of DeLay/Frist and they get credit for moving important measures forward. I can even be realistic about the battle they have in changing the course of the war. Ramming through legislation like that is never easy - just ask the Christian Right, who have been trying to overturn Roe v. Wade for 4 decades. Getting the procedures and the votes is painstaking and at best a shifting sand.

Now however I have to give this group an F - for FISA. How can a majority party cave to a president who's approval is around 26% (who is not seeking re-election!) and grant unprecedented legal powers to an attorney general that is on the cusp of censure/ impeachment?? This same Congress has been in hearings for weeks to basically remove this man and now his illegal spying program is made legal by the very same body? Breathtaking - and disgusting.

In case you have not been following, here are the basics behind the argument to revise FISA - beyond the "protect America" rhetoric.

This essay argues that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act should be restructured to account for changes in communications technology and Fourth Amendment law since FISA's enactment in 1978. FISA reflects the person-focused assumptions of 1970s-era technology and constitutional law. At that time, foreign intelligence monitoring necessarily focused on subject identity and location. Although some modern investigations track this traditional approach, many do not; investigations involving packet-switched networks often start with data divorced from any known person or location. FISA should be amended to create two distinct authorities for surveillance: data-focused authorities when the identity and/or location of the subject are unknown, and person-focused authorities when the identity and/or location are known. A two-pronged approach can best implement the goals of foreign intelligence investigations given the realities of modern communications networks.
Imagine that the government has reason to believe that an Al-Qaeda cell uses a particular Internet service provider in Kabul and a particular type of software to communicate about a terrorist plot targeting the United States. In this case, the government has probable cause to believe that monitoring the ISP would uncover terrorist intelligence information. But how broad can the monitoring be? Can the government look at all of the traffic coming to or from that ISP in Kabul? Or can it only look at traffic to or from that ISP that uses that particular software? Or only some specific portion of the traffic from that ISP using that software.
-Orin S. Kerr

The Administration has taken this position that it is hamstrung by FISA do to technological advances since the late 1970's, and that is why it had to break the law in the first place for it's domestic spying program. The previous law insisted that any administration get a FISA Court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on communications and the point was to keep oversight of such activities in order to prevent the abuses that the CIA had become associated with by mid-70's. Somebody to watch the watchers.

So thanks to another rush-job by Congress, ala Patriot Act 1 and 2, the president now has the ability to not only eavesdrop on foreign communications without a warrant but also domestic communications. The new bill appears to go well beyond the "tweaks" Bush sought.

How bad is the new law?

Congressional aides and others familiar with the details of the law said that its impact went far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists. They said seemingly subtle changes in legislative language would sharply alter the legal limits on the government's ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States.

....For example, if a person in Indianapolis calls someone in London, the National Security Agency can eavesdrop on that conversation without a warrant, as long as the N.S.A.'s target is the person in London.

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said Sunday in an interview that the new law went beyond fixing the foreign-to-foreign problem, potentially allowing the government to listen to Americans calling overseas.

But he stressed that the objective of the new law is to give the government greater flexibility in focusing on foreign suspects overseas, not to go after Americans.

"It's foreign, that's the point," Mr. Fratto said. "What you want to make sure is that you are getting the foreign target."

....The new law gives the attorney general and the director of national intelligence the power to approve the international surveillance, rather than the special intelligence court. The court's only role will be to review and approve the procedures used by the government in the surveillance after it has been conducted. It will not scrutinize the cases of the individuals being monitored.

- NY Times

I think we can all read between the lines on this one. All that is needed from now on is "significant purpose" - not terrorism mind you - "significant purpose". No court is needed, someone just claims "sp" and approves it, done, no oversight and your privacy trampled. This is shattering stupidity, and criminally colossal with regard to potential misuse and incompetent implementation.

Our Congress has failed us and once again proves that it does not understand its constitutional authority.


Here's a great take on the cave in or chess match if you will over FISA. Obsidian Wings
Also this from Balkinization.

image: Brueghel the elder