Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Fix is In...

...Get Used to Saying, "President Trump!"
from The Daily Caller
Democrats have seen a 26 percent decrease in the number of voters and caucus goers who have showed up to the polls this year compared to 2008, when the party last had a competitive primary race.

Interestingly enough, that steep decline is the inverse of the spike in Republican turnout this cycle compared to 2012, when Mitt Romney earned the party’s nomination.

Clinton routed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in South Carolina on Saturday, winning 74 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 26 percent. While the huge margin of victory is good news for Clinton — polls had her winning, but more narrowly — the overall voter turnout must set off alarms for her campaign, as well as for the Democratic party. Whereas 532,000 South Carolina Democrats voted in 2008, only 367,000 showed up Saturday.

That’s a 31 percent decline.

Last week’s Nevada caucuses saw a similar fall. An estimated 120,000 caucusgoers showed up in 2008 compared to 80,000 this cycle — a 33 percent ding. Clinton bested Sanders in that contest as well.

The decrease in the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primaries saw turnout fall as well, though the least of the four Democratic contests so far. In 2008, 288,672 Democrats voted. In 2016, 250,983 did so. That marks a 13 percent decline. Sanders won handily, taking 60 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 38 percent.

Just over 171,000 Iowa Democrats took part in the Feb. 1 caucuses. That’s 29 percent fewer than the estimated 240,000 who showed up in 2008.

All told, about 1.18 million Democrats across those first four states went to the polls in 2008. Just under 870,000 showed up this go-round.

That 26 percent slide mirrors the increase on the GOP side.


Just over 1 million showed up to the first four caucuses and primaries in 2012. This cycle, nearly 1.27 million Republicans have cast a vote.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Breaking Old Paradigms

Just a shadow. Hardly that. But audible.
Coming out of the woods, whispering
Happily Ever After.
Even in that light—
stars with the skeletons of animals
and old friends—
visible
to the eye behind the one always
left open on the east side of the house,
downhill. Where the coffee trees
and hemp and the graves of old dogs lie,
buried themselves in leaves and left
to the sputtering wind of memory.

& if that's not enough (he says
to himself in the voice of a black-and-white
actor whose name is a moth that keeps
avoiding the tip of his flaming tongue)
to bring you home, well, there
it is again,
already exhausted
by your efforts to make it
comfortable
enough to stay. Impatient,
already headed
back down into the woods, whispering
Once Upon A Time . . .
- Paul Grant, "Just Another Paradigm Shift"

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Two Party State Citizen's Dilemna

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They hope to get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is:
If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)

Radical MultiCultural Stupidity

"The common curse of mankind, folly and ignorance."
Shakespeare's Thersites, "Troilus and Cressida" (Act II Scene iii)
---

Pick your poison: Open borders OR the Welfare State? You CAN'T have BOTH.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Receding Democracy

If Yanis Varoufakis was going to make a comeback, it had to be in the German capital. Varoufakis, who resigned as Greece’s finance minister last summer rather than bend to Germany’s diktat of austerity, came to Berlin last week in a bid to steal back the limelight. Saving Greece was apparently not challenging enough. Now Varoufakis wants to stop his former nemesis – the European Union – from devouring itself.

In the half year that he led Greece in debt talks with its European creditors, the bullet-headed economist transfixed the continent with his unconventional style. Varoufakis shunned neckties and pounded the parquet of European ministries in his Doc Martens. Germans nicknamed him “the Greek Bruce Willis.” In his Twitter profile, Varoufakis describes himself more modestly as “economics professor, quietly writing obscure academic texts for years, until thrust onto the public scene by Europe’s inane handling of an inevitable crisis.”

Last Tuesday night, Varoufakis hosted a show in a sold-out Berlin theater that was as much about him as it was about his new movement: DiEM25, or Democracy in Europe Movement 2025. The assembled ex-hippies and students were heeding Varoufakis’s call to “put back the demos in democracy.”

“Europe will democratize or it will disintegrate. That’s not a scare tactic but a fact,” Varoufakis said as he took the stage as MC and keynote speaker. The core of his thesis is that a cadre of bureaucrats has usurped the European Union, which is not only undemocratic but anti-democratic. The “depoliticization” and secrecy of decision-making have estranged the majority of Europeans from the European Union, leading to a rise in nationalism. Given the economic havoc wreaked on large parts of Europe through forced austerity, Varoufakis said, the continent is facing “a post-modern version of the 1930s,” the heyday of European fascism.

Despite his reputation, Varoufakis is not a firebrand and can hardly be called a politician. He delivered his speech in precise but colloquial English like the professor that he is. When Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called him into his government a year ago, Varoufakis was teaching at the University of Texas at Austin.

Not surprisingly then, the first DiEM25 event turned into part university lecture and part Communist Party congress – with little of the energy or participation one would expect at the founding of a grassroots democratic movement. A dozen speakers, mostly left-wing European politicians, followed Varoufakis to the podium.

The most rousing speech came from Miguel Urban, one of the founders of the insurgent left-wing Podemos party that entered the Spanish parliament in December. Urban’s voice rose in crescendos while his index finger jabbed the air. “You don’t need tanks for a coup d’état anymore, as we saw in Greece,” Urban said. “Debt is being used to blackmail southern Europeans.”

The audience reserved the greatest applause for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose stubbled face was beamed in live from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he sought refuge from a Swedish arrest warrant in 2012. While Assange claimed to have contributed to the DiEM manifesto, his exact connection to the movement was unclear. The Australian hacker repeatedly referred to Europe as “a country” and exhorted supporters to “seize the night.”

Two hours of fanciful left-wing terminology – “organic construction of daily struggles,” “regime of suppression,” “normalized precarity” – began to wear down even the most committed activists. Varoufakis paraphrased a saying by Oscar Wilde, joking that “socialism will never work because the meetings are too long.”

It would take another hour until the question-and-answer session – but not before Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek confused everyone by comparing DiEM to an “old-fashioned, paranoid science-fiction film.” One of the first questions from the audience was inevitably: “What is DiEM?”

Varoufakis’s vision is to begin with concrete demands, such as pushing EU institutions to become more transparent, then develop detailed policy proposals, eventually convening a “constitutional assembly” where citizens will determine how to democratize the European Union by 2025.

While its criticisms of the status quo are on the mark, Europe’s left has been incapable of presenting workable solutions. In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Varoufakis dropped a hint as to why. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European left was drained of moral strength, or as Varoufakis put it, carried “collective guilt” for some of the worst crimes committed in the 20th century.

There are also other reasons. Since the times of Karl Marx, one of the paradoxes of leftism has been that it is an anti-elite ideology designed by elites. In his speech, Varoufakis said he was also addressing those people who were at home “watching reality TV shows to drown out their anxiety.” It’s not clear that he will ever reach them.

The live Internet transmission of the theater event seemed like a conceit. DiEM’s first demand is for secretive EU institutions to live-stream their sessions. But the movement’s own meetings Tuesday afternoon were closed to the public and the press.

[Reuters]
The New-New Left's Plan to Conquer Europe

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Coming Totalitarians

The exercise of authority is an “irrational” act of contingent decision which cuts short the endless chain of enumerating reasons pro et contra. Is this not the very rationale of Hegel’s defense of monarchy? The State as a rational totality needs at its head a figure of “irrational” authority, an authority not justified by its qualifications: while all other public servants have to prove their capacity to exert power, the king is justified by the very fact that he is a king. To put it in more contemporary terms, the performative aspect of state acts is reserved for the king: the state bureaucracy prepared the content of state acts, but it is the signature of the king which enacts them, enforcing them upon society. Hegel was well aware that it is only this distance between the “knowledge” embodied in state bureaucracy and the authority of the Master embodied in the king which protects the social body against the “totalitarian” temptation: what we call “totalitarian regime” is not a regime in which the Master imposes its unconstrained authority and ignores the suggestions of rational knowledge, but the regime in which Knowledge (the rationally justified authority) immediately assumes “performative” power – Stalin was not (presenting himself as) a Master, he was the highest servant of the people legitimized by his knowledge and abilities.
- Slavoj Zizek, "King, Rabble, Sex, and War in Hegel"

The Queen is Dead!

...now feel the Bern!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Time to Fatten Up!

...the Turkey?
The well-coordinated official Turkish campaign against me deserves a short conclusive comment. Some on the Turkish side twisted the New Statesman’s apology for the reference to a fake interview into an apology for (i.e., the revocation of) all the main claims of my text. However, my text published in the NS was not “based” on the fake Andalou interview, it was written and published elsewhere (in Germany) before, without the reference to that fake interview, and the claims contained in it echo hundreds of critical texts on Turkish politics. My only “lie” was to refer to a fake interview available on the web – an error that can happen to anyone these days.

As an ordinary reader of public media, I, of course, have no first hand knowledge of what goes on in the Middle East; no way to investigate the details for myself. But I can do something with the public materials available to anyone. What I do know is that no effective ideology simply lies: an ideology is never a simple mystification obfuscating the hidden reality of domination and exploitation; the atrocious reality obfuscated and mystified by an ideology has to register, to leave traces, in the explicit ideological text itself, in the guise of its inconsistencies, gaps, etc.

The Stalinist show trials were, of course, a brutal travesty of justice concealing breath-taking brutality, but to see this, it is not necessary to know the reality behind them — the public face of the trials, the puppet-like monstrosity of public confessions, etc., made this abundantly clear. In a homologous way, one doesn’t have to know how Jews really were to guess that the Nazi accusations against them were a fake — a close look at these accusations makes it clear that we are dealing with paranoiac fantasies.

This, of course, in no way implies that the disclosure and analysis of facts are not important: one should bring out to light all the details of their atrocious brutality, of ruthless economic exploitation, etc. However, in order to explain how people often remain within their ideology even when they are forced to admit facts, one has to supplement investigation and disclosure of facts by the analysis of ideology which not only makes people blind to the full horror of facts but also enables them to participate in activities which generate these atrocious facts while maintaining the appearance of human dignity. Ideology does not reside primarily in stories invented (by those in power) to deceive others, it resides in stories invented by social agents to deceive themselves.

And is Turkey today also not an exemplary case of all this? It is enough to read carefully the public proclamations of Erdogan and his government, the furious paranoiac tone of accusing opponents for being national traitors, of reducing legitimate political parties to the public face of terrorists, of denouncing opposition as one big secular-kemalist-zionist block, of arresting intellectuals who sign an appeal for peace, etc, to see that something is rotten in the land of Turkey.

So, to conclude, let me compare my “lie” (referring to a fake report on the web) to how the Turkish governmment reacted to the Cumhuriyet's claim that Turkish intelligence agencies were smuggling arms to Islamist groups in Syria. When my “lie” was revealed, it was immediately set straight, i.e., the passage referring to the fake interview was withdrawn. When the lie of the Turkish government (which denied supplying arms to the Syrian Islamists) was revealed by Cumhuriyet (which published the pictures and video of the border incident), the whole affair was proclaimed a state secret and journalists were arrested. Is this not the clearest contrast imaginable between modest honesty and a brutal lie sustained by state oppression?

Turkey now sees Vladimir Putin as an enemy, and I have no great sympathy for him - I am very critical about Russian military intervention in Syria. However, what cannot but strike the eye is the similarity between the two official enemies, Putin and Erdogan, who more and more stand for the two versions of the same political regime – one that, while formally remaining democratic, de facto functions in an authoritarian way.

What if Putin and Erdogan are two embodiments of the same figure that we can call Putogan?
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Spectre of Putogan"

When You're About to get Eaten Should You Stop Feeding the Wolves?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Conflicts - Internal/External

“To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul.
To write is to sit in judgement on oneself.”
― Henrik Ibsen, Peer Gynt

Friday, February 5, 2016

Dreaming in Memphis


...not exactly Natalie Merchant or Suzanne Vega, but in the same league, vocally.
...or doing one's best "Bruce" impersonation

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Trump & Putin - Brothers of Another Mother?

That Leader Who Sent Me to Lhasa, I Will Give Him…
(Criticising Reality, Building a Better and Harmonious Tibet)


That leader who sent me to Lhasa
I will give him some musk
Because poachers were plentiful in the past
My sister found some musk
That musk
Might be enough to cure the leader’s avarice
But he should beware of growing unwanted hair

That leader who sent me to Nyingtri
I will give him bear gall
Because poachers were plentiful in the past
My father found some in the forest
That bear gall
Might make the leader strong like a bear
But he should beware of growing unwanted hair

That leader who sent me to Lhokha
I will give him bear paws
Because poachers were plentiful in the past
My brother found one on the border
That bear paw
Maybe can cure the leader’s alcoholism and cirrhosis
But he should beware of growing unwanted hair

That leader who sent me to Shigatse
I will give him 50,000 Yuan
Because my father is an officer in the army
My mother is the commissioner of this district
50,000 Yuan is not that much
This amount of money
The leader can spend it in an entertainment hall
It will be sufficient
But be careful it doesn’t grow thorns

That leader who sent me to Nagchu
I will give him two yaks
Because my family live on the plains
My father is rich with the wealth of the land
Maybe after the leader has eaten the yaks
His tummy will bulge out
The leader’s spirit will be brighter
But I hope the leader won’t grow any more hair…
A Tibetan Poet

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Impatience

“Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

... and utility

QFT

No vacuum or void, no emptiness,
But filled by evanescent pairs
Of particles which free themselves
From nothing, for a time:
So our silence (to a stranger's ears)
Reverberates with memories
And images and secret words
Surrounding, enfolding us both.
-Philip Hart, "Quantum Field Theory"