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kakistocracy

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[15 Dec 2008|02:56am]
I have decided to start taking recommendations, as I will soon be constructing my 20 greatest albums of all time.

The only rule I seem to have right now is that I won't include the same band more than twice.

Keep in mind that this is my top 20, so you should not recommend things that I will gruff at you about.
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[01 Dec 2008|02:22am]
There's snow falling here and we left foot and paw prints on the sidewalk and somehow it all reminded me of this old arcade game which I need help remembering:

It seems to me that there was some kind of a Pac-Man like grid where you were trying to roll over all of the grid and turn it all a solid color, but there were things to avoid, and also something that would come out on the board and leave some kind of a trail which you would have to go back and clean up.

This must have been an old game - I'm thinking it's from a similar period as Rally X and must have been at old arcades in Rockford, probably at Aladdin's Castle at CherryVale.

Does this ring a bell to anyone?
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Reflections on a Historic and Disappointing Day [05 Nov 2008|12:47pm]

Originally published at huckelburgers. You can comment here or there.

When it finally became clear some months ago that Barack Obama was going to win the Democratic nomination, I felt that it was all but inevitable that he would win a convincing victory in November. If any aspect of the final results surprises me, it's that the election was seemingly so close.

Landslides, of course, are rare, not because the candidates are perpetually evenly matched, but because the design of the system is such that in the aggregate there is a faux polarization. It's not sensible to beat up on the millions of people who voted for McCain, or who voted for Bush previously, because they exist within a paradigm that makes those votes exist. It's not the voters to dump on. It's the paradigm.

That the paradigm has evolved to the point where a black man could be elected President of the United States is no small thing. But don't be deluded into thinking that this represents a fundamental shift in the machinations of the paradigm. Racial division is simply no longer as useful a tool as it once was in perpetuating the paradigm; in its place, other tools have come to the forefront. It is a testament to the American people that racial division has been replaced. But the American people have still failed to confront the core realities of the paradigm, and have simply allowed themselves to be duped by the glitziness of what has replaced race.

The centerpiece of that paradigm is of course the two-party system, but even the two-party system is itself a particular expression of something deeper: the idea of a societal polarity, where one is expected to take one side or another. This polarity represents itself not only in politics but in so many other aspects of our culture. It's divide and conquer, on the most sophisticated of levels, and the conquering is perpetually done by the moneyed interests in a society.

From my perspective, the day was deeply disappointing because the depth of the paradigmatic control so clearly expressed itself. I'm not really talking about mere coattails here, though I think it's reasonable to say that Obama ran ahead of his party in more ways than one and dragged much of the party along for the ride.

See: a candidate so charismatic, so seemingly visionary, so indisputably timely as Obama should never fail to win 60% in a national election if all things are equal. All things, of course, are not equal. And the relative closeness of the race, far from stripping Obama of whatever mandate he might now have, is instead something for the Democrats to celebrate, something that helps them maintain what they wish to maintain. It allows for the perpetuation of the faux polarization vis-a-vis the Republicans, and a return to the early Clinton mode of allowing conservatives to flip their wigs about supposedly liberal solutions while perpetuating undemocratic bullshit like expanding the American occupation of Afghanistan, or finding new ways to give handouts to insurance companies.

I'm not uplifted by yesterday's results. When worthless pawns like Debbie Halvorson commandingly win races, that's not a good thing for America. When sellout scum like Luis Gutierrez can operate with complete impunity, to the point of not even bothering to show up for elections, and still win 80% of the vote from an electorate who they truly do not represent, then it's not time to celebrate.

Our work is cut out for us. Barack Obama's victory is important and meaningful in many ways, but it does not profoundly alter the core of the status quo paradigm. For those of you who wish to embrace the deep symbolic importance of Obama's victory, I understand, and I think that that importance is very real. But what is also very real is that so much of the Hope that has been promised by this Obama victory is undermined by that same victory and the way in which it played out. Celebrate today. Tomorrow we need you back to work, fighting to subvert the dominant paradigm.

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Some reminders about voting this Tuesday [02 Nov 2008|01:50am]
Originally posted at huckelburgers

Reminder #1: There are other races on the ballot besides President. And if you want to affect real change in this country, that means getting rid of the people who are currently in office and who are maintaining the status quo. If you live here in Cook County, you might be able to vote Green as many as nine times, from President to Circuit Court Clerk to State Representative. Look down ballot, and make a vote for change, and in some cases, you may even help us elect Greens to partisan office for the first time here in Illinois.

Reminder #2: Greens can win races on Election Day. Look: when I ran for State Representative the last two times, I knew that it would have taken a miracle to have won, because I was running against the most popular politician in the county. But the deck isn't stacked like that against every Green candidate. We will almost certainly win a State Representative seat in Arkansas this year, we've got candidates polling neck and neck in Minnesota and Maine, and here in Illinois, we have at least three candidates who I feel have legitimate shots at winning their races.

Reminder #3: A vote for Obama is a vote for war, a vote for the bailout, a vote for nuclear power, a vote against universal health care, and a vote for maintaining most of the status quo. I know a lot of you are going to vote for Obama, and I understand why. But don't be deluded into thinking that you're voting for something other than what you're actually voting for. Yes, an Obama victory will be a powerful symbol of the progress America has made in the last 40 years. No, an Obama victory will not achieve tremendous policy strides. He wants to throw more troops into Afghanistan, he strong-armed other Democrats into voting for the bailout, he's come out in favor of nuclear power for no sane reason whatsoever, he's not in favor of actual universal health care... the list goes on and on. If you actually want to see peace, if you want to see no bailout, if you want to see a serious push for renewable energy, if you want to see actual universal health care, then vote for Cynthia McKinney. Vote your hopes, not your fears. And if you can't get over those fears, then consider that a) Obama is going to throttle McCain anyway, and b) for almost all of you reading this, in your state, the race isn't even close, and we're still saddled with the Electoral College, so you have nothing to worry about.

Reminder #4: Whatever happens Tuesday, Tuesday is not the end-all be-all; it's only the beginning. The next election cycle here in Illinois has already begun, with municipal primaries in February and many thousands of people elected in April. Don't tune out after Tuesday. Run for office yourself (if you live out of Chicago; there's nothing to run for here because the city is a virtual dictatorship.) I'm serious about that. If you live in downstate Illinois and want to run for library board, I'll help walk you through the steps. Chances are, if you're reading this, you'd do a better job than whoever the incumbents are for whatever office you're thinking about. If you want to really make a difference, then don't vote for someone else, run for office yourself, you know?

Reminder #5: Keep it real. You've always got to keep it real.
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now it looks like a web page from 1999 [02 Nov 2008|01:48am]
Originally posted at huckelburgers

I finally played around with blog design here. Now it looks like a web page from about 1999. Fancy.

I intend to start using the blog more frequently, with live blogging over the course of Election Day, especially as returns come in on Election Night. Maybe by then I'll have done some more design updates, but don't count on it.

The turtle background is available in the classic red-white-and-blue, looking just like the good old donkey and elephant. I strongly recommend that people start utilizing it. Here's the image:

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Two-parter: Worst VP choice, and Worst VP [07 Oct 2008|01:02pm]
Originally posted at huckelburgers

Strange parallel conversations last night lead to the following scintillating two-part question:

1. Who was the worst Vice-Presidential selection ever?

2. Who was the worst Vice-President ever?

Now, the word "worst" can mean a lot of different things, so to simplify it, I'll define "worst" differently for the two questions.

1. Who was the worst Vice-Presidential selection ever - whether the person was elected or not - where by "worst" we mean a poor choice on the part of the Presidential nominee because the VP selection wound up being a bad addition to the ticket, an embarrassing Vice-President, or just an all-around laughingstock?

2. Who was the worst Vice-President ever, where by "worst" we mean, if we were to rate in terms of performance as a candidate and/or incumbent, we would say, this person was simply bad, vile, a disgrace to the office?

Provide as many answers as you like. I'll offer my own choices later.
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the dearth and/or birth of activism [22 Aug 2008|11:20am]
Originally posted at huckelburgers

When I talk about my political background, one of the things I inevitably bring up is how I went to college during the heart of the Clinton years. Not only that, but I went to a place which was fairly conservative, both in terms of who made up the student body, and in terms of the surrounding community. There was little to no activism to speak of, and what activism there was tended not to interest me very much.

Now, it sounds like I'm dismissing something which might be important, and which ultimately, probably is. So first, I should be clear that what was happening then did not interest me then. Therefore, I was likely not all that aware of a lot of it. Second, I should speak to the activism that I did see going on, and why it wasn't that interesting to me.

I got to college in 1994. When I think back to campus-based activist groups, not a lot comes to mind. I recall that a new chapter of Amnesty International had started up, but not only did I not know much about what AI was, the people who started it up were some of the biggest jerks I knew. There was an environmental organization called ECO, but honestly, I have no idea what they did. The activist groups which were most visible were groups that were only partially activist groups, and all of the ones I can think of were primarily demographically defined: Black Student Union, CLASE (for Latino students), the Gay-Straight Alliance. I could actually probably make an argument that the College Republicans were the most visible activist group. Overall, there was little in any of this that was especially appealing to me.

I had tried to throw my lot in with the Argus, the campus newspaper. That blew up. It's a good story, but it would be a ridiculous tangent here. So instead I wound up throwing my lot in with WESN, our radio station.

As it so happened, WESN wound up being, in a lot of respects, the most serious activist organization on campus. In other respects, of course, that's an absurd, irrational thing to say, probably something which would offend some people. But ultimately, when you actually look at the dominant social-cultural-political paradigm, I think we were doing more at WESN to try and push the envelope than any of the other groups on campus were doing. We were, after all, the main anti-corporate entity on campus (and really, throughout the entire community), and toward the end, we'd even started using the airwaves to do more overt "normal" activism, like anti-sweatshop stuff.

As a history and political science major, and someone who did Model United Nations, blah blah blah, I was already interested in world affairs, but I certainly wasn't an activist as regarded anything like that. The interest in world affairs and the immersion in music eventually bore fruit, largely because of the work the Beastie Boys did in promoting the Free Tibet movement. Via Free Tibet, I wound up dipping into anti-sweatshop stuff, and actually started getting serious about checking labels, trying to avoid stuff made in China, etc. Of course, there's deep irony in all of this, because the most high-profile activist stuff musicians were doing were so high-profile because they had major labels - i.e. massive corporations - acting as their amplifiers. But rock and roll, of course, has always been about the yin of rebellion and the yang of cooption. Irony is part of its fabric.

My senior political science research paper, which was frankly pretty dumb overall, was called "Politics and a Red Guitar", and the premise of it was that there was a correlation between musical preference and political awareness. More specifically, I demonstrated that people who liked certain bands were more likely to be aware of certain activist or social causes, and not just the ones most closely associated with those bands. Fans of Rage Against The Machine were more likely not only to know what the Zapatista Movement was, but were more likely to know about social causes generally. Fans of 311, however, were not more likely to know about social causes generally. And, lest you think that all of the causes were things like Free Tibet and the Zapatistas, I did throw a couple of highly mainstream things in there, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I figured everyone would claim to be highly familiar with MADD. They didn't. Overall, one of the more interesting results was that people with the lowest musical awareness score - as in, the people who knew the least about these bands and didn't rate any of them as particular favorites - were the people who were least aware of all social causes generally. In my 21 year old mind, that meant something big. Maybe it still does. But I'm not sure what it really means.

So for me, rock and roll was the real gateway to activism, directly and indirectly. My anti-corporate mindset developed not only from Dave Grohl talking about sweatshops, but from seeing band after band screwed over by major labels who put profit before art (what a gripping recognition to galvanize the hamburger-consuming nerves of the 20 year old American!) This isn't to say I wasn't predisposed to head down that path - certainly my father's years of complaints about corporations had something to do with where I was coming from - but the key point may be that much of my activist mentality upon leaving college, and today 10 years later, is colored by rock music. And as I have drifted away from those kinds of roots, I am increasingly finding myself at something of a spiritual crisis as an activist and in my daily life generally; or, perhaps more accurately, the crisis has been lingering for a while, and only this year am I really starting to put the pieces of it together.

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tears of a blog [22 Aug 2008|11:20am]
Originally posted at huckelburgers

This time it's been almost three months. Poor, poor blog.

Here is the deal:

Not only is the writing bug strong, but actual ideas are circulating. Ideas which I need help whittling down, massaging, etc. Because it's finally time to start writing serious articles, and time to start thinking of what the first book will look like. And I have a couple of book ideas, one thanks to my father which would be more personality oriented, the other less formulated but something which would be more comprehensively Green.

I've decided that I'm going to try to use the blog to bounce some general ideas off of people, and see where it gets us. This is a dicey proposition since it's not like anybody is currently reading the blog, seeing as how there's no content and all that. But I'm hoping that between the blog proper and the Facebook mirror that it will attract at least marginal attention, and that a few people will be interested enough to become regular idea-consultants. This, after all, is the era of consultants. One day we're not even going to have spouses and parents, we're just going to have consultants for family members. For some people, they're probably already there.

So the next entry will be an actual idea, as opposed to a prelude to an idea. Prelude to an Idea sounds like a particularly lame something, a film or an album or more likely a cutting-edge sculpture. Sometimes there is little that can be done except to embrace the lame.

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[19 Aug 2008|11:37pm]
[ mood | pissed off ]

I had to think for a while about what music was appropriate for the guy who has been pissed off all day, and wants to listen to something which is good music for those who are pissed off and who aren't happy about it but who nevertheless don't feel like apologizing for being pissed off. lossfound will likely remark on this, especially given my selection.

Murray has managed to wound himself in two spots on the same foot, which is the rear right foot. One is a bug bite or something which he won't stop messing with and the other is his somehow having ripped the rough paw pad skin off of one of the smaller pads. A cone has been procured, and right now, he is wearing a remaining piece of one of Michelle's ridiculously small socks, wrapped with a copious amount of athletic tape. It's all precisely what I would expect with Murray, and, for that matter, precisely what I would expect with me.

I have an itching desire to throw away half of the remaining things I own. This is not especially new. What is slightly newer, though not brand new, is my desire to own three times as many shirts.

I am really growing tired of many liquids.

Anyway: increasingly it seems to make no sense to have the 700 or so remaining CDs which are here, or at least to have a large chunk of them, since they get listened to so sparingly in the house, and since we're now down to one car which I'm not driving to work, and so I'm wondering what it would be like to make a really drastic cut through a larger chunk of all of this and rip whatever isn't ripped and just dump a lot on an external hard drive which I could pay for with the meager proceeds from the sale of these discs which cost so much more brand new than they are worth now in this post-digital-digital-post era.

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