Tuesday, March 30, 2010

State of the Blog, not that anyone cares

Hey, I've found a new toy, and as my days at U of I are more-or-less over, I'm not sure whether to rename this blog, scrap it, or what. Anyone interested should check out mfstrong.tumblr.com for what I'm doing these days, mostly on fascism and history.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Utterly surprised

Remember this toolbox? Turns out his is climbing the Republican ladder pretty quickly. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Alleging a plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility. (source)
I expect great things from this young man. Great things.

Monday, January 25, 2010

That was the week that sucked.

The MA-SEN election has been dealt with better elsewhere, so I'm going to restrict my comments to the recent SCOTUS decision Citizens United v FEC. A few thoughts, then:

  1. This is why elections matter. Two of the five justices in the majority were appointed by G.W. Bush after his 2004 re-election. 2 out of 5. Enough to swing the court. The only justice appointed by Obama so far wrote a dissent challenging the current views on corporations as people and money as speech. Elections. Matter.
  2. The Roberts Court is ideologically driven. There's an excellent piece over at The American Prospect about the trend of the Roberts Court to take the side of the corporation over the citizen and the strong against the weak. Pandagon noticed this trend all the way back in may.
  3. This is not the end of the world. Man up and stop saying things like "I'm going to move to Canada" or "America...RIP." We somehow managed to pull ourselves out of a similar state of affairs once already.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I'm going to come out and say that the Conservative Bible Project is both blasphemous and idolatrous. Infact, there's a passage in Revelation that deals with this (Rev 22:18-19):

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.
Which seems to me to be exactly what the CBP is doing. Let's take a look at Philemon, one of the books they've translated.

The KJV Philemon Chapter 1, verse 1:
Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
And the same in the CBP translation:
Paul, in prison for Jesus Christ, and our brother Timothy, say to our friend and fellow volunteer Philemon,
The reason? ""fellowlabourer" is misleading today, and falsely connotes socialism."

Yes, fellowlaborer, laborers in the vineyard, all of that is to be replaced by "volunteer." Now, I have a serious problem with this. Paul, the author of Philemon, was concerned with nothing less than the complete transformation of the human being through the power of Jesus Christ. "Volunteers" doesn't do justice to Paul's vision.

And then there's the politics. This tremendous act of arrogance is all about politics, after all. "The Greek language may have been inadequate to convey the immoral overtones" goes the analysis for one verse. This is along the lines of "we had to destroy the village in order to save it," in terms of mind-boggling double think. Attempting a translation of the Bible, apparently from the original Greek, and deciding that the original is inadequate? Quite a feat. And that's not even the most nakedly political part. the CBP translation of Mark 3:2 is:
The Liberals watched Jesus to see if they might catch and accuse him of healing on the Sabbath.
Yes, the CBP uses Liberals for Pharisees. The note on that verse reads:
Tentatively using "Elite" rather than "Pharisees" or skeptical "teachers" for more modern accessability. See talk. - "Self proclaimed elite" = "liberals", fits modern terminology, see talk.
Words. Mean. Things. Words mean things even when they're in dead languages referring to events long past. You cannot change the wording, blatantly or insidiously, because 4 writers in the ancient Near East were more concerned with the good news of salvation than the invisible hand. From the Parable of the Sower:
KJV: And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred
CBP:"But some seed fell upon good soil and produced a great deal of fruit, thirty, sixty, even one-hundred times the original investment."
This is inappropriate. It is simply an excuse to get the word "investment" in there, to make it seem like Jesus was a free-marketer. It is blasphemous, there's no way around it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


According to my boss, modern philosophy is "something they did to Hume and Hobbes and now I have to learn it."

Just a thought.

On whatever Deutsche Welle radio show our NPR station carries, they were talking this morning about Italy's free speech problem, and had an Italian journalist talking about how free American speech is.

I think, in some respects, he's right. There's no way American's would elect someone president who owned his own network of TV stations; I think we'd wince at it the same way we'd wince at electing a preacher (and, no, Huckabee's success in Arkansas and the generally high religious sentiment in this country notwithstanding, I don't think we would). And, yes, we have more robust legal freedom of speech protections than most people.

What we have are massive barriers to entry. Of course, the Founders couldn't have seen that coming, but the result of over a century of media consolidation is a very high price to enter the marketplace of ideas in any meaningful way, and it's co-option by elites.

Now, the irony of this is that I am writing in a blog - a medium, I have been informed, that is the most powerful force for free speech ever, as citizen journalists raze the ivory tower, etc. And blogging is all well and good - I read at least 5-10 regularly, and about 3 religiously. But it hasn't surpassed the barrier to entry problem. "Citizen Journalists" have descended into self-parody. Ideologically driven, irresponsible with the truth and, high-minded claims notwithstanding, essentially useless as journalists in any responsible sense of the word.

Why? Lack of time, for one thing. Lack of the infrastructure to report on anything not strictly local, lack of access to many important databases, lack of legal protection, inability to publicize one's ideas and reporting, inability to bundle one's content with similar ideas and reporting, isolation from the types of channels that assure access to the dominant media and ghettoization of the blogging world.

There have been some attempts to vault these barriers. Current TV produces some content (including the hilarious Target Women and That's So Gay), but leans heavily on links to the ideologically-similar Guardian. Talking Points Memo produces rather good content, but tends towards commentary. Overall, the role of new media seems to be as an adjunct to traditional media, rather than a replacement.

So, what will happen? Will traditional and new media reach a modus vivendi? Will traditional media collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, or will it rally and crush the usurpers?

I'm not sure of anything at this point.

Gore Vidal, and why do we still have aristocrats, anyway?

The obvious answer being, of course, "because we live in a society structured such that the rich and privileged tend to pass that on to their children, allowing them to take the time to be Olympic decathletes, friends with presidents, and famous men of letters."

I'm not at all surprised about the recent interview in the Times of London with Gore Vidal, where he predicts a dictatorship in the US and says that Americans "don’t have any thoughts, they have emotional responses."

This is, basically, the flip-side of the nuts on the Texas school board who want textbooks talking about creationism and southern pride. America is caught between our native aristocrats on the one hand and a vast anti-intellectual tradition on the other. It was reflected in the original design of the House and Senate with the House being elected directly by the fickle people for 2-year terms and the Senate being chosen by the state legislatures. And, to some extent, this is still the case. Political dynasties tend to be in the Senate, after all. But Vidal's contempt for, say, every American not fortunate enough to go to Phillips Exeter Academy is toxic. It's the kind of thinking that leads to, among other things, fascism.

When the elites take the contemptuous view of the rest of the country, we end up with demagogues wielding massive influence over factions of the population, and the "well, they deserve what they get" attitude from Vidal doesn't help. Fascism doesn't just spring fully-formed, it grows out of the cracks in public trust, which Vidal is helping to expand.