Loyalty without truth
is a trail to tyranny.
|Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 20h 58m 31s|
Reason versus faith
"You cannot reason a person out of a position that they did not first
reason themselves into."
-- Jonathan Swift
|Wednesday, 9 November 2005 at 17h 35m 13s|
The Problem with Frenchness
This is a great post by Juan Cole. The piece so definitively
situation in France that I am reproducing the entire post on my own blog. The
hard-link at juancole.com
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
-- by Juan Cole
The Problem with Frenchness
Readers have asked me for comment about the riots in France that have now
provoked emergency laws and a curfew. What I would rather comment on, however,
is the myths that have governed many rightwing American comments on the tragic
events. Actually, I can only think that the disturbances must produce a huge
ice cream headache for the dittoheads. French of European heritage pitted
against French of African and North African heritage? How could they ever pick
I should begin by saying how much these events sadden me and fill me with
anguish. I grew up in part in France (7 years of my childhood in two different
periods) and have long been in love with the place, and the people. We visited
this past June for a magical week. And, of course, I've been to Morocco and
Tunisia and Senegal, and so have a sense of the other side in all this; I
rather like all those places, too. How sad, to see all this violence and
rancor. I hope Paris and France more generally can get through these tough
times and begin working on the underlying problems soon. At this time of a
crisis in globalization in the wake of the Cold War, we need Paris to be a
dynamic exemplar of problem-solving on this front.
The French have determinedly avoided multiculturalism or affirmative action.
They have insisted that everyone is French together and on a "color-blind" set
of policies. "Color-blind" policies based on "merit" always seem to benefit
some groups more than others, despite a rhetoric of equality and achievement.
In order to resolve the problems they face, the French will have to come to
terms with the multi-cultural character of contemporary society. And they will
have to find ways of actively sharing jobs with minority populations, who often
suffer from an unemployment rate as high as 40 percent (i.e. Iraq).
Mark Steyn of the Chicago Sun-Times commits most of the gross errors, factual
and ethical, that characterize the discourse of the Right in the US on such
For instance, Steyn complains that the rioters have been referred to as "French
''French youths,'' huh? You mean Pierre and Jacques and Marcel and Alphonse?
Granted that most of the "youths" are technically citizens of the French
Republic, it doesn't take much time in les banlieus of Paris to discover that
the rioters do not think of their primary identity as ''French'': They're young
men from North Africa growing ever more estranged from the broader community
with each passing year and wedded ever more intensely to an assertive Muslim
identity more implacable than anything you're likely to find in the Middle
East. After four somnolent years, it turns out finally that there really is an
explosive ''Arab street,'' but it's in Clichy-sous-Bois.
This paragraph is the biggest load of manure to hit the print media since
Michael Brown (later of FEMA) and his Arabian Horse Society were profiled in
Arabian Horse Times.
The French youth who are burning automobiles are as French as Jennifer Lopez
and Christopher Walken are American. Perhaps the Steyns came before the
Revolutionary War, but a very large number of us have not. The US brings 10
million immigrants every decade and one in 10 Americans is now foreign-born.
Their children, born and bred here, have never known another home. All US
citizens are Americans, including the present governor of California. "The
immigrant" is always a political category. Proud Californio families
(think "Zorro") who can trace themselves back to the 18th century Spanish
empire in California are often coded as "Mexican immigrants" by "white"
Californians whose parents were Okies.
A lot of the persons living in the urban outer cities (a better translation of
cite than "suburb") are from subsaharan Africa. And there are lots of Eastern
European immigrants. The riots were sparked by the deaths of African youths,
not Muslims. Singling out the persons of Muslim heritage is just a form of
bigotry. Moreover, French youth of European heritage rioted quite extensively
in 1968. As they had in 1789. Rioting in the streets is not a foreign custom.
It has a French genealogy and context.
The young people from North African societies such as Morocco, Algeria and
Tunisia are mostly only nominal Muslims. They frequently do not speak much
Arabic, and don't have "proper" French, either. They frequently do not know
much about Islam and most of them certainly don't practice it-- much less being
more virulent about it than Middle Easterners.
Aware of their in-between-ness, young persons of North African heritage in
France developed a distinctive identity. They took the word Arabe and scrambled
it to produce Beur (which sounds in French like the word for "butter"). Beur
culture can be compared a bit to hip-hop as a form of urban expression of
marginality and self-assertion in a racist society. It is mostly secular.
Another thing that is wrong with Steyn's execrable paragraph is that it assumes
an echt "Frenchness" that is startling in a post-Holocaust thinker. There are
no pure "nations" folks. I mean, first of all, what is now France had a lot of
different populations in it even in the 18th century-- Bretons (Gaelic
speakers), Basques, Alsatians (German speakers), Provencale people in the
south, Jews, etc., etc. "Multi-culturalism" is not something new in Europe.
What was new was the Romantic nationalist conviction that there
are "pure" "nations" based on "blood." It was among the more monstrous mistakes
in history. Of course if, according to this essentially racist way of thinking,
there are "pure" nations that have Gypsies, Jews and others living among them,
then the others might have to be "cleansed" to restore the "purity."
Yet another problem: France has for some time been a capitalist country with a
relatively strong economy. Such economies attract workers. There have been
massive labor immigration flows into France all along. In the early 20th
century Poles came to work in the coal mines, and then more came in the inter-
war period. By the beginning of the Great Depression, there were half a million
Polish immigrants in France. Their numbers declined slightly in the next few
years. There were even more Italians. There isn't anything peculiar about
having large numbers of immigrants who came for work. And, few in France in the
early 20th century thought that Poles were susceptible of integration into
French society. Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, who has made himself
unpopular by exacerbating tensions with intemperate language, is the son of
immigrants (I guess he does not count as "French" according to Steyn's
Steyn wants to create a 1300-year struggle between Catholic France and the
Muslims going back to Tours. This way of thinking is downright silly. France in
the 19th century was a notorious ally of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and fought
alongside Muslims against the Christian Russians in the Crimean War. Among
contemporary French, 40 percent do not even believe in God, and less than 20
percent go to mass at all regularly. Many of the French of non-European
heritage are also not religious.
The French repaid the compliment of Tours by conquering much of the Middle
East. Bonaparte aggressively and viciously invaded Egypt in 1798, but couldn't
hold on there. But in 1830 the French invaded Algeria and incorporated it into
France. Algeria was "French soil." They reduced the Algerian population (which
they brutalized and exploited) to marginal people under the colonial thumb. The
French government of Algeria allowed hundreds of thousands to perish of famine
in the 1870s. After World War II, given low French birth rates and a dynamic
capitalist economy, the French began importing Algerian menial labor. The
resulting Beurs are no more incapable of "integrating" into France than the
Poles or Jews were.
So it wasn't the Algerians who came and got France. France had come and gotten
the Algerians, beginning with Charles X and then the July Monarchy. They
settled a million rather rowdy French, Italians and Maltese in Algeria. These
persons rioted a lot in the early 1960s as it became apparent that Algeria
would get its independence (1962). In fact, European settler colonists
or "immigrants" have caused far more trouble in the Middle East than vice versa.
The kind of riots we are seeing in France also have occurred in US cities (they
sent Detroit into a tailspin from 1967). They are always produced by racial
segregation, racist discrimination, spectacular unemployment, and lack of
access to the mainstream economy. The problems were broached by award-winning
French author Tahar Ben Jalloun in his French Hospitality decades ago.
(Americans who code themselves as "white" are often surprised to discover
that "white people" created the inner cities here by zoning them for settlement
by racial "minorities," excluding the minorities from the nicer parts of the
cities and from suburbs. As late as the 1960s, many European-Americans were
willing to sign a "covenant" not to sell their houses to an African-American,
Chinese-American or a Jewish American. In fact, in the US, the suburbs were
built, most often with de facto government subsidies in the form of highways
and other perquisites, as an explicit means of racial segregation. Spatial
segregation protected "white" businesses from competition from minority
entrepreneurs, who couldn't open shops outside their ghettos. In France,
government inputs were used to create "outer cities," but many of the same
forces were at work.) The French do not have Jim Crow laws, but de facto
residential segregation is a widespread and intractable problem.
The problem is economic and having to do with economic and residential
exclusionism, not with an "unassimilable" "immigrant" minority. (The French
authorites deported a lot of Poles in the 1930s for making trouble by trying to
unionize and strike, on the grounds that they were an unassimilable Slavic
On the other hand, would it be possible for the French Muslim youth to be
pushed toward religious extremism if the French government does not address the
underlying problems. Sure. That was what I was alluding to in my posting last
The solution? Recognizing that "Frenchness" is not monochrome, that France is a
tapestry of cultures and always has been, and that sometimes some threads of
the tapestry need some extra attention if it is not to fray and come apart.
|Monday, 7 November 2005 at 17h 20m 9s|
An advertiser's nightmare.
I listen to the radio. I learn that I am holding back my money-
and should spend thirty-nine ninety-nine to release my subconscious fears that
cause me to make less money. I discover that I have nagging fears about paying
my five monthly bills, and should consider getting advice from the experts --
for only nine ninety-nine a month, and that's just pennies a day mind you. I'm
not yet good enough, I don't look right, I'm not doing something correctly, but
sure enough, for only a small fee, I'll get to be perfect and dandy.
When the courtesy calls come, I hang up the phone. When I get the endless mail
concerning pre-approved debt, I toss the letters in the nearby trash can.
Sometimes I'll talk to the Indian telephone worker calling from Bank of America
to sell me Life Insurance, but only to ascertain from where on the global map
the call is coming. I am 36 years old, and have no children or wife. Giving
the bank more of my money so they can use it to play with securities and bonds
is ridiculous. The only difference between Insurance and Ponzi schemes, is the
size of the fund. They use your money to invest and play the stock market,
with the understanding that the percentage of claims will always be less than
the initial funds growth potential. However, the institutions often separate
collection (sales) from investment (profit) to the extent that there is little
communication between the 2 operations. And that is why insurance rates have
skyrocketed over the last 4 years. We are paying higher premiums for their
foolish stock-market escapades.
So when I discover via television advertising that Mr. Greybeard won't get the
hottie, or, if the sexy momma likes me only when I use Gilette, you can still
I am not moving a millimeter at all to the nearby store. Nope, not at all. I
know I'm missing
out on all of what each and every one of the rehearsed roles say, but alas, I
guess I'm just gonna buck the TV crowd nevertheless. I admit, I've always been
a god damn independent, but what these people do is much worse -- they guilt
trip you when you don't act like them. Or they try to. As far as I'm
concerned, you can just be you, that's good enough for me.
Are these people really paid well to push this pap psyco-babble?
|Monday, 7 November 2005 at 6h 34m 43s|
I love Jim Hightower
"To measure the vitality of a town, don't look for corporate logos but for
signs that the community has some semblance of a soul."
Jim Hightower, 4 November 2005
In other words, the town center is more vibrant without a McDonalds, Starbucks,
and B Dalton Bookstore located where a small local business used to be. In the
name of progress called corporate profit extraction we have torn the heart of
living out of our chest, so that we can receive the advertized version.
When big business replaces small business, lots of middle men get cut out
because the market operations and the local business spending shrinks, and
becomes reallocated. The above businesses have their own warehouses and
financial centers far removed from the thousands (millions even) of retail
stores and their locales. Decisions are made by persons who will never meet
the people affected
by those decisions, and so those persons do not at all weigh upon the factors
which go into the decisions. Indeed, the sole weight becomes pure financial
So when Starbucks goes into a new market and buys up the surrounding property,
they are doing so to control the competition. When McDonalds sponsors and
supports the unhealthy raising of cattle and the bad agricultural practices
which enable its world-wide array of supplies, they do so because they want to
experience economies of scale. Local businesses sponsor local sources of
supply, which is where the restaurants of San Francisco obtain their grass-fed
beef. For small proprietors , the demand for economies of scale are not
possible at the magnitude of large corporations because they do not have the
market power to force or create suppliers that cut costs at the expense of
health or quality.
Personally I think no retail or food business should be allowed to cross state
lines, and I also think limitations should be placed on how many businesses any
one controling group can own. Right now we are just creating an aristocracy,
and a polity which is merely the well-funded propaganda arm of the rising
|Saturday, 5 November 2005 at 1h 20m 23s|
Excerpt from my soon to be finished novel
I really liked this exchange, and thought I'd share it with
Juvi raised his beer. “I hear you, dog.” He then added sincerely, “But I grew
up in that park, man. It was hard to see it go. And now ... and now there
ain’t nowhere for the young brothers to go hang out except on street corners
and in automobiles. I mean shit. It never was about jobs. It was always
about ownership. You know they talk about everyone being able to buy a piece
of the corporate ownership, but fuck man, I got maybe 10 or 20 grand surplus
cash in any given year, hows am I supposed tuh compete with mother fuckers who
gots 10 to 100 millions extra in the bank? Sooner or later the little people
get priced outta da market and the rich people own everything. Then they start
pushing judges and politicians on us, trying to convince everyone that their
self-serving philosophy is beneficial. That’s all corporations do for America.”
“Put a man in a strait-jacket”, Jim began, his beer grasped firmly in
his right hand, “ and call the few who escape entrepreneurs or men of
genius. Everyone else is a loser, but at least the strait-jacket makers come
with a lotta money.”
The men laughed.
|Thursday, 3 November 2005 at 18h 15m 32s|
Another judge with integrity
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.
I got this from Atrios, who quotes from a Boston Globe
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. ruled in a 2002 case in favor of the Vanguard mutual
fund company at a time when he owned more than $390,000 in Vanguard funds and
later complained about an effort to remove him from the case, court records
show -- despite an earlier promise to recuse himself from cases involving the
The case involved a Massachusetts woman, Shantee Maharaj, who has spent nearly
a decade fighting to win back the assets of her late husband's individual
retirement accounts, which had been frozen by Vanguard after a court judgment
in favor of a former business partner of her husband.
Her lawyer, John G. S. Flym, a retired Northeastern law professor, said in an
interview yesterday that Alito's ''lack of integrity is so flagrant" in the
case that he should be disqualified as a Supreme Court nominee.
Maharaj, 50, discovered Alito's ownership of Vanguard shares in 2002 when she
requested his financial disclosure forms after he ruled against her appeal to
the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
In 1990, when Alito was seeking US Senate approval for his nomination to be a
circuit judge, he said in written answers to a questionnaire that he would
disqualify himself from ''any cases involving the Vanguard companies."
According to a 2002 court filing submitted by Flym alleging the conflict of
interest, ''Alito owned shares worth $390,000 to $975,000 in seventeen Vanguard
Surrounded by piles of legal documents at her temporary home yesterday, Maharaj
held up one of the briefs in the case submitted to the Third Circuit and
pointed to the listed parties, which included The Vanguard Group Inc., Vanguard
Fiduciary Trust Company, and Vanguard/Morgan Growth Fund Inc.
''How could [Alito] not have known Vanguard was a defendant?" she asked. ''He
had to have."
So Alito can't recuse himself from the court, even though he said he would on
a 1990 questionnaire?
It appears that Judge Alito is more "in the mold of Justice Scalia" every
day. How could anyone have any doubts? Of course this judge's perspective is
tainted with his own fudiciary interest, as well as his own position in the
same society over which he finds himself presiding. In the Globe article,
Alioto says that he is only "an investor" not an owner, apparently oblivious of
his ownership of contractual rights to profit disbursement -- ie. financial
It is infuriating to me, how anyone can say otherwise with a straight-face.
Owners might be the big bosses, they might work at the company everyday and
know the employees; but how many mom & pop self-proprietor's do people invest
their money? Investors put their funds in the stocks and bonds of the
financial system and corporation assets. In the narrowest sense, investors
want to make a high percentage per year on their initial purchase of dividend-
bearing paper. Judicial decisions that cost their investments money directly
affect them financially when the corporation has to decrease the dividends.
Antonin Scalia, chief Justice of the Supreme court, went on a duck-hunting
expedition with Vice President Dick Cheney weeks before a case involving
documents from Cheney's 2001 Energy commmission was to come before the Supreme
Court. Judicial Watch sued for those documents and was able to get some of
them before a judge issued an injunction and the legal case took the path upon
the 2004 Supreme Court case.
One of the documents obtained was a map of all the Iraqi oil fields marked over
with 11 oil companies. What was Cheney doing in April of 2001 with all of the
large energy companies? Planning for the California Energy Holdup to make a
few bucks for his Enron buddies, AND preparing for the Iraq carve-up they were
also planning. They knew Al Quada would soon make a terrorist attack, and they
were anticipating with salivation how they could best manipulate the event for
their own ends.
Yes that's what kind of men we have in the Adminstration. I admit this is
rather harsh, but it is also the truth. They said so much themselves in 1997
when they signed a document which laid out their plans to invade the middle
This was the same court that cast the deciding vote to enable Bush into
office in the first place, despite all of the many shenanegans during the
recount process, and the felony lists that disenfranchised 90,000 people, most
of which were not even felons because the Republican company (Choicepoint-DBA)
that collected the lists were apparently very sloppy. Mind you that all of this
occurred in brother Jeb Bush's state of Florida. Kenny Lay's Enron jets flew
Congressional staffers to West Palm Beach to scream up a fake popular protest
and slow down Democracy when the law was being followed and the votes were
being counted. Meanwhile recently appointed new Supreme Court Justice John
Roberts was at the time providing
the guidelines and legal planning for the Bush team. I'm sure his legal advice
was ... non-partisan and unbiased.
The counting of those votes were all ordered stopped by an unprecedented
injunction from the Supreme court. The reasoning laid out in the decision was
that it would have unnecessarily disrupted the nation, the people's will be
Can you say Dred Scott? The court could have just as easily ruled that the
votes of all Florida be counted, or the court could have voted in favor of
democracy. The American people could have waited another 2 weeks so long as
the process was fair, and without the legal manuevering and political posturing
that occurred by the Bush administration. Bush was already making a pompous
show about picking and selecting his cabinet within 3 days of the election.
Instead of working out a way to follow Florida Law and count the votes without
disarray, the Bush people sued to have the counting of the votes stopped. They
would have almost had the Florida State Legislature vote for new electors that
would have nullified the counting had not the Supreme Court stepped in with the
The supreme court could have decided and could have made any different amount
of decisions based upon many different precidents. The sanctity of the vote
could have been upheld. It's not hard to count votes really. The myth about
the hanging chads has belittled the history of counting ballots, and ignored
the long struggle of Americans to make democracy real. The constitution did
not guaranteed the right of all persons to vote. Voting is a legal province of
the States, and was only gradually Federalized over the last 200 years, with
the civil rights struggles of the 50's and 60's representing the latest in a
long struggle over equal rights and representative government. I believe
election 2000 was the watershed of a new struggle.
It's called a Coup D'Etat. They stole the election and now they are destroying
We can't expect them to nominate anyone but people like themselves to the
|Wednesday, 2 November 2005 at 22h 31m 42s|
More principles at work
|Wednesday, 2 November 2005 at 22h 25m 24s|
You just Gotta love those principles
|Wednesday, 2 November 2005 at 19h 17m 0s|
Looking in the mirror, again.
I really am a leader. I am . I am.
Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
"The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership. They
have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas."
What a way to complain that Senator Harry Reid motioned to convene a Senate
meeting behind closed doors to investigate how the Congress and nation was lied
to about the war. I suppose the principle of the truth, and a conviction about
ideas concerning good government are alien notions in the addled brain of
What exactly are your own principles and convictions, Mr. Frist? To attempt to
politicize the death of a clinically diagnosed brain dead women. To add rider
bills and admendments to non-discretionary bills that favor the corporate
lobbyist groups that fund your political campaigns. To sell stock based upon
insider information in order to spare your own ass. To profit off of sick
people by buying up non-profit hospitals, gutting the staff and the budget at
the expense of the rising costs of health care.
Most people don't get their mendacity spewed on the front page like you do,
Senator Frist, and none have aided and abetted greater corruption and decay
than yourself. Indeed only a pompous ass would presume his lies could spare
him from the inevitable truth. You must think Americans are god damn idiots
because you can't look at that man in the mirror, so you describe him to us
every time you smear and denounce "the opposition."
There is no opposition. That is merely an illusion of our own fears. No one
really competes either, but instead, we try to take control over others if not
ourselves by "defeating" them. These are but symptoms of a sick mind riddled
with mental disease.
I sense a collective purging of the veins, much like the medieval doctors would
bleed their patients -- to rid them of the evil spirits who were said to lurk
in the blood.
|Tuesday, 25 October 2005 at 17h 8m 9s|
The story of life
I thought this was cool.
"Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the
power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as
times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts."
-- Salman Rushdie
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