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The May 1 worker’s rights march in Portland was a resounding success (I have to admit it was, for all my purported radicalism, the first one I ever attended: people seemed to think I was an undercover cop or conservative.) A multicultural crowd “occupied” the streets of downtown Portland for a full hour, without incident — though the Black Bloc’ers became most strident as the march ended. Some mood music:

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Margaret Thatcher funeral set for next week

The funeral of Baroness Thatcher will take place on Wednesday, 17 April, Downing Street has announced.

The 87-year-old former prime minister died on Monday, after suffering a series of strokes.

Penis size a marker of male attractiveness, study suggests

A new study of women suggests size truly does matter when it comes to choosing a man.

Australian researchers showed female university students images of naked men, and determined that penis size is a predictor of male attractiveness. The researchers explained the attractiveness might be rooted in evolution.

Coincidence? I think not. Granted, the study didn’t cover rigid members…

Let us say North Korea is an example of leftism gone awry.

Though they were once the prosperous Korea — thanks to the largesse of the Soviet Union — the state of the country since Kim Il Sung died has been horrific, and their status in the world community atrocious. Though there is an element of hypocrisy in the international “nuclear club” going after smaller, angrier countries trying to develop nuclear weapons, I think most people can agree that nuking Seoul (or Washington, for that matter) is not an intelligible protest against global capital. Shame on the DRPK.

I hope it all ends well.


I imagine everybody in the world has heard by now that Hugo Chavez has died from cancer at age 58. The extent of the analysis has been gratifying — we saw very little discussion when Lula left office, for example. Although not every facet of the Chavez phenomenon was salutary, I think a consensus is emerging that Chavez was indeed a great man, who challenged the ingrate W. on everything North Atlantic consensus was ready to let slide. Chavez’ career and the simultaneous one of the chavistas required not a little courage, for the example of Allende and the Argentine desaparecidos would put a chill on any socialist movement not motivated by an immanent understanding of the people’s needs (and a dynamism inspired by Cuba’s long and largely successful experiment with popular democracy).

Instead of opting for “smart” austerity or curling up in a little ball, the Venezuelan left rekindled Latin American populism and made an example for the whole world; though violence in Venezuela is endemic, the crushing poverty of the old Venezuela and the devil-may-care insouciance of its elites are gone forever — and there would certainly never have been an Evo Morales, and possibly no Rafael Correa, without Chavez. The era of “banana republics” has definitively drawn to a close.

With a character as colorful and forceful as him in charge of a country, everyone is bound to find fault. I personally do not view the Iranian Islamic Republic as a “Bolivarian” riposte to the New World Order, and Chavez did not spend very much time institutionalizing his revolution — we shall see how hard the pushback is. But a charismatic leader of the people finally did “demand the impossible”, and we have seen just how “impossible” it really is. RIP, Presidente Chavez; when will we have a North American leader to show the way like you?

This business about section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is sickening. In their quest to prove that Founders hagiography constitutes the Absolutely Correct View on Everything, the Republican-appointed justices seem willing to engage in a breathtaking act of judicial activism by striking down portions of the landmark 1965 law that first provided effective tools for challenging “literacy tests” and other segregationist dodges intended to keep blacks “down on the farm”. The Bizarro Warren Court finds the cudgel of disenfranchisement charges aesthetically displeasing, as it proves a reminder that not every social ill is solved by faith-based charity and freely willed contract; but Barack Obama is not the only black person in America, and race prejudice is alive and well (at least here in the North — perhaps Bubba Sparxxx put an end to it in Dixie). More proof that “originalism” is a failed philosophy of law that merely embodies a certain, blinkered political perspective. Say no to stoned Republicans, OK?

Obama is on the warpath about equality; this ultimately may be something like a mid-life crisis, as Barry O. tries to prove to his early supporters that he’s still “cool” after years of drone warfare — but it is at least leftoid, and worth considering a little bit. Verso had a book from Negri out a couple of years ago called Political Descartes, a hatchet job on “possessive individualism” as a result of the familiar externalist litanies. But what if there really was more to political equality than meets the philosophical eye?

“I have never understood the passion for equality”, said Peirce’s friend Oliver Wendell Holmes. Yet waves upon waves of metaphysical anti-individualism have done little to disturb the importance of droits de l’homme, even if Simon Blackburn takes it as ‘obvious’ that some people have the worth of others many times over. Perhaps pragmatism was a first inkling of something that appeared full-blown in Chomsky’s theoretical writings, the idea that the equality of abilities among human beings is, roughly, empirically verified by enlightened measures.

In a surprisingly comic line, Adorno doubted that running a trust was ultimately more complicated than reading a meter; and perhaps once the still-existing left gets over a Deleuzist fascination with flows and flesh and all that rhizomatic jazz the early-modern era will appear like something more than a time when “the rich were so mean” — the structures of capitalism yield political equality as a matter of something more than ‘onto-theology’, more than denatured Christianity, but rather as a corollary of modern praxis.

An amusing entry from artist Tony Shin in the Post-Occupy Wall Street sweepstakes:

Rich People Are Unethical
Created by:

So, Moammar Quaddafi is dead. If there is a positive side to Quaddafi’s legacy, it is as a reminder to political fundamentalists of various kinds that political science is necessary. Quaddafi’s own tomes on his neither-Washington-nor-Moscow “Green Revolution”, accompanied by bizarre Islamic-socialist slogans distributed throughout his regime, remind us negatively that a positive alternative is possible, that political science includes an “Axiom of Choice”; the thought associated with changes coming to the Arab world hardly could end with the views of the “Project for a New American Century”. Let’s hope for some real freedom and progress for these countries, and a novel new look at the world.

Ten years ago today, I was working as a call representative for a class-action lawsuit by government workers related to their cost-of-living adjustments. I got to work at 7 AM Pacific time, and people were saying that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. I thought that it was unusual mayhem, but not more; When we got inside, it was revealed by a co-worker that the towers had collapsed. I said “that’s impossible”, relating to the incident where a US Army Air Force bomber hit the Empire State Building during World War II. It wasn’t impossible, and after an hour or two they let us go. I was pretty deep down the insanity hole, and instead of going home crying I went to Portland State University for a couple of hours of stimulating reading in the library. It seemed oddly beautiful, and oddly like being in New York itself [I haven’t been to the Big Apple since Dinkins – JR]. We found out later that day that air travel, and a thousand other things, were shuttered for an indefinite period of time as a result of the attacks.

Like I said, I took the War On Terror pretty casually; my whole life seemed like a terror attack, so I was dead to the deepening ethical significances of 9/11 as it ramified to Afghanistan (I was against it) and Iraq (I was for it, enough to write GWB an email telling him he was the commander-in-chief in a time of crisis; in a separate incident, I mailed him copies of Weber and Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus). Does any of this make sense? I don’t know what you would ask of my sensibilities at the time. We didn’t put up an American flag, or commiserate about the events; even as a cautious supporter of the Palestinian intifada against the Israelis, I didn’t feel like I had very much to apologize for in terms of Islamist attacks. In early 2002, I took a plane trip back to Pittsburgh, where I went to college and started going crazy. A country on edge, Eastern standard time.

I was struck by how very similar airplane travel was after 9/11, making me think that people weren’t taking the ramifications seriously enough. Then the very-casually related Iraq War started piling up casualties, and I, faced with aggressive new liberals slagging Bush, started to keep quiet about anything not related to my system of delusions about academia. Over the years, I’ve read many articles about the World Trade Center (which I visited the top of as a child) and how its powerful futurism — viewed from Arab-heavy Northern New Jersey, it was like landing on the moon — is about as obsolescent as Saturn V rockets. More and more obvious ramifications continued to pile up as many terrorism-free but wary years followed.

On this anniversary, I guess what I can say is that the system of ‘social and economic organization’ represented by the WTC and its victims seems alive in the Lebensform of many Americans today; and that those of us emotionally distant from the tragedy of that day have missed a lot since. Still, the truth is the truth and like a T-shirt on an old Riot Grrl record had it I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN —

There is a fantastically interesting new leftist magazine, Jacobin. It shows the present to be quite different than us old duffers might think; the struggle for freedom and a decent living mightily animates younger people, and with top-notch contributors like Slavoj Zizek and Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb the recent past is contextualized in a very interesting way. Check it out, at least online.