"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Socialist Cerials

Komrade Krunch

Trotsky Treats

Black Earth Bran Flakes

Lennin Loops

The People's Puffed Rice

Dr. Fredrich Engles' All-Natural Cinnamon Surprise (organic)

Come on, it's fun. Add you own. For more fun, read the debate over the meaning of socialism on wikipedia.

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Somethin' Happenin' Here

It's hard to read the news. Very hard. Taking in the broad scope of human events around the world, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that things are going seriously wrong. I call myself an optimist, and I believe that I am, but I also have a sense of urgency about things.

Here's the short and sweet: A coherent energy policy is vital to the safety of US citizens, and in its absence we are becoming a brutal and dissipated imperial power. The lack of a such a policy in the US is our greatest security liability, and the lack of an effective message on the issue is our greatest political failur. As it stands, if gasoline prices spiked, Bush would like be able to advance an unvarnished "blood for oil" campaign as a pure kitchen-table pocketbook issue.

Meanwhile, we're beating POWs to death faster than the Communist Vietnamese because no one has any better ideas. This is lunacy. (1,200 words)

It's three and a half years after 9/11, and my country is engaged in an ill advised imperialisic misadventure that it cannot win without resorting to pure barbarism. By my standards, barbarism is in itself be a loss, and unfortunately it's already happening.

In case you didn't hear, we've killed about as many prisoners of war in the past three years as the Communist Vietnamese did in a decade. Yeah, and that's not counting people we turned over to Egypt or Pakistan with a nudge and a wink. Nobody really keeps track of those people. Oh, and the guy who wrote the legal mumbojumbo that made it all possible? He got a promotion, got made the official layer for the Department of Justice.

This kind of specific brutality, torturing prisoners, beating them to death, is part of the bigger picture. At the moment, our United States is spending about a hundred billion borrowed dollarsand near a thousand American lives -- plus maybe 100x that many non-American souls, however much they're all worth -- every year to occupy a couple countries in the Middle Aast in an ill-advised attempt to control the entire region.

This is a criminally stupid waste of life and energy. These wars have been promoted under various auspices, but as the motive of Fear has waned (and "weapons of mass distruction" failed to materialize on cue) they have increasingly been sold as acts of revenge and liberation. These are dangerous illusions.

The people who attacked us were not from or supported by Iraq. In fact, the people who attacked us are flourishing as a result of our invasions. This is a hard fact. If our goal is to neutralize these terrorist networks by reducing their numbers and sapping their base of support, our actions sine 9/11 have been an abject failure. We are not getting revenge. We are giving aid and comfort to our enemy.

Furthermore, the notion of libearation is deeply flawed. US troops were not "greeted as liberators" because this is not what they are. The US has never been in a position to "give" freedom to people halfway around the world. The notion of bringing democracy to a country by force is a nice fantasy, but it is self contradictory and has no grounding in history.

In every historical case, the idea of unilaterally liberating the people of another nation has been a rationalization of empire-building. Just as Stalin had "socialism," the Modern American Empire has "freedom," an ideal which the people at home unquestionably support but which has no real meaning or true moral content.

This is all plainly obvious to anyone who cares to look, but American politics is a total mess. There are no prominant voices of principled opposition to this misguided policy of neo-imperialism, and more importantly no prominant voices advocating smarter alternatives.

And there are alternatives! Anyone who believes that our current allocation of resources is wise should have their head examined. If we are willing to spend $100 Billion and risk killing a few thousand solders, there's quite a lot we could do for standing up to dictators and making ourselves safe without occupying countries. And it would be more effective.

You want a strategy to win peace in the Middle East? Stop buying oil, start supporting civil society and education directly rather than through oppressive regimes set up around petrolium exports (whether that's the Saudi Royals or our own occupation force). This will be incredibly expensive and dangerous, but it's far more likely to succeed and it will make the US safer from attack and more secure in the long run.

Radical Islamic terrorist like Al-Qaeda are not motivated to attack the US because they "hate our freedom" (notice again the use of "freedom" as a meaningless abstract associated with war), but because they want to make significant changes in their own area of the world, and are finding it difficult to engage or topple the power structures which we support. This is a hard fact, and has been clear for more than a decade. If we want to deal with the threats that we face, we need to understand them in real terms and put away childish rhetoric.

Now, Radican Islamic ideas for running a society based on a harsh interperetation of Islamic law are objectionable -- particularly with regards to the role of women -- and we're quite right to oppose this, but it's important to realize that opposing someone else's cultural values (no matter how disagreeable) can only be done effectively through political, cultural and economic engagement or through the rule of law. Using military force to achieve cultural change is a loosing strategy1.

The truth is that our hands are tied in Middle Eastern geopolitics because of the oil question. Not only does it prevent us from standing up to oppressive regimes, it also taints our every move in the eyes of the population. Until we can put this question to rest, we will have no peace.

Currently, we consume 72 billion barrels of oil a year, more than half of it imported. In terms of the energy it takes to "power America," this oil represents more than 10x our total electricity generating capacity, including all coal, nuclear, hydro and natural gas generators. About 70% of all this oil goes to transportation.

Changing this will be an enormous challenge, but this cursory analysis of the numbers shows it is emminently possible. Our oil consumption is way out of step with any other country in the world. Part of this is because of our geography, but mostly it's a matter of the political influence of the petrochemical and auto corporations. It will take significant public investment in research, infrastructure and urban planning to change the nature of US energy consumption, but it's something we're going to have to do sooner or later.

This is a national calling; it requires political will. But it's a damn better step to take for our national security than beating a bunch of Arabs, Pakistanis and Afghans to death. What we're doing right now is literally digging our own grave.

1But then, if you think these invasions are really about protecting women in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'm afraid you've been taken in by more of that "freedom" rhetoric. While it's true that the Taliban were really awful in their treatment of women and that Saddam's sons were power-mad monsters, the real situation for women in both places has not improved since we bombed, invaded and occupied. In many cases, because of lawlessness and chaos, it's gotten significantly worse.

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Saturday Night; Oh Yeah!

Saturday night is already booked, yo. I'm hitting my man Frank's show (Suburbia) and then coming though strong for Wes's birthday. Bother are recommended enterprises.

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Senator Clinton Slams GTA

I'm living in New York at the moment, and so I guess that makes Hillary my Senator. So I'm a little annoyed that she trotted out the old hooker killin' line attacking violent videogames (and in particular Grand Theft Auto) today.

I'm annoyed by what she said, but what really ticks me off is the fact that it's a 100% politically moronic thing to do.

Look, you can take the perfectly respectible position that young children should not play violent video games. You can call for game retailers to be more responsible in who they sell to, and to parents for what they buy for their kids. But seriously, don't go and replay the whole partental advisory scene over again. The only hope the Democrats have as a party is cultivating support among young americans. Attacking our culture with right-wing talking points isn't going to help you out.

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A Glimmer; A Way Forward

Consider the following. I have a potentially livable source of income with my techie skills and political connections, and if I can make myself enough of a commodity I think I can keep from having to work for anything i really don't dig, at least in anything exceeding the capacity of a pure technician.

This isn't really what I want to do with my life in the long run, but it works and I enjoy helping good people and causes get a lot out of this old internet.

So that's a way to live which will give me time and space to do other things if I want, or if I want to work more I can probably even save up some money. Let's call that idling. Idling isn't going to cut it, but it's there. Bracket that for now, and let's assume that questions of survival are academic.

What I want -- apart from what I know is possible -- is a much more interesting (difficult) question. (1000 words total)

When I really think about this sort of stuff I always get extremely meta. The pressing questions are really on the level of "how do you want to be?" I'm thinking of Staruday's conversation when Christine asked me if I still considered myself an artist. It reminds me of another time, and it makes me want to be able to say yes to that question, because it has always felt good what I have done that.

I wanna be an artist. I'm not entirely sure of this, but it feels kindof right. To cut to the quick, this is a moral issue. On my friendter profile I've listed my occupation as "Velvet Revolutionary," and if you want to talk about artistic/political crossovers you can't get much better than Vaclav Havel. Without getting egomaniacal, those are huge shoes to fill, but the general model of establishing social, cutural and ethical capital through artistic endeavors and then turning that towards actionable political ends seems generally appealing.

Accepting the moral challenge of "being an artist" is a risk. Nothing ventured nothing gained, this is true, but I'm not sure if this risk is really the one I'm looking for. The world of "art" as currently concieved is a raging maelstrom of insignificace. It is not socially or culturally material. It exists chiefly through largess of the upper-upper class. I am not inclined to climb that ladder.

But then again I'm not inclined towards shimmying up anyone's ladder. It's not in my nature. I've yet to encounter an institution or arena of human endeavor that's much bigger than a few hundred people which I can really admire and respect. Perhaps my standards are unrealistically high, but I'm sick of situations overrun with dumb rich kids and people who get off on ascending one hierarchy or another. I'm sick of wannabe revolutionaries who haven't thought it through, of greedy pirate utopians and associated attention whores.

Maybe this is why I haven't yet gotten much traction here in NYC. I just don't know where it's at, and my attitude is generally pretty poor. But it's fucking depressing. To the best of my knowledge, I've been bouncing around some of the better enclaves of this country for the sorts of things I'm interested in, and I've yet to really find anywhere I feel I fit, or anyone I really think I can follow.

This is hard. I can't do it alone, yet I don't have any contemporary models from which to draw strength, no footsteps to tread in which don't seem antiquated. There's great hope in Robert Owen's example, but that's 200 years old and no one's really picked up on it since then. There's great wisdom in some of the old hippy screeds like, "Enlightenment is getting off your tail and doing something," and "We are this season's people, and if we don't do it, it won't get done," but those are more motivational than directional. "In all fairness there is more than enough to go around," is a pretty cool general ethic, but the devil is still in the details.

It occurs to me that I've given relatively little time and energy to introspection lately, and that I've got to figure out how to make myself happy if I want to have any kind of shot at a good life. I guess that's what I'm trying to chew through here. I'm also lonely. That doesn't help any of this out. I'm in a desparately precarious position, personally. That's another big wordy piece, so I'll leave it at that for the moment.

To sum up, I like telling people I'm an artist, but I don't like the position which art currently occupies in the world. I want to influence the political process, but I don't want to call myself a politician or have to put up with the BS of working through those systems myself. I want to make use of the still breaking tech reformation, but I don't want to be tied into the role of technician.

Where that leaves me, I'm not sure. Still stuck in the middle. I'm not-so-secretly hoping that The Road Trip will shake some things loose, but I'm not counting on it.

Well, there's not much for it but to keep breathing and living and striving and sweating. Life is holy and every moment precious. Time to get vested.

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Sweat Notes - Media - Women

Working out with a huge hangover hurts. I'm getting though the crippling soreness part and starting to feel results, but today was bad shaking. Forearms got real tight off the bat, and I was pooped out after about 45 minutes. Trying to steer my bike around the city afterwards was a struggle. Back hurting; feeling kind of like I had a flu or something. Getting winded, overwhelmed by details. But it's good to keep up with the schedule.

After that and a bizzy meeting at the Tank I went to have tasty cheap BYOB Thai food in the East Villiage with good old Christine. She's getting round to having her masters degree (media studies) from the New School; catching up and life in general made for quality conversation. Another great smart beautiful women who treated me better than I deserved and who I didn't really appreciate, she's got a pediatrician boyfriend now -- who I checked out on friendster; seems quite allright there -- which feels about right. I'm happy that people are happy, and I'll take a good friendly conversation anytime.

Friday Night began slow, but pretty quickly turned into a blur, something usually driven by women, or at least some abstract thereof. I was out with Julia and her friend Karena at a local hipster joint where they let people smoke and have a dance party in spite of some truly inept DJing. I'm not about to go out and hit on anyone, but it's stimulating to be in the pool. When it got to be too crowded and haughty we bailed out and hit up Pete's, which is still solid and friendly and warmly lit and smelling of Czetch sandwiches.

That seemed to be the end of things, with everyone being tired from the week and Karena having a presentation to give to her colleagues at NYU's Cinema Studies on how Meg Ryan's career was entirely based on faking orgasms (literally and figuratively... it's a nice little thesis), so I slid over to the PFC for a cheeseburger. Bumped into Capodice who was looking haggard, and I took the haul back to the Lyric, where things were still running strong and I realized after the burger and fries and yet another beer that it was in fact 4am and I had in fact spent entirely too much money and the only sane thing was to drink a quarter gallong of water and slip warmly below consciousness.

If this is all going to start working, I'm going to need to open it up a little more. I haven't had a good flash of writerly inspiration in quite some time; still waiting for the muse to hit. The mix is getting close though. I have a feeling if I can kep my current momentum and trajectory that I might cross into sweet territory pretty soon here.

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Closing Time

It's 4am, and you wonder how it got here, how the last three hours since you looked at a clock flashed by. But it's ok. It's all in good faith.

Still, a lot to tell though. Another time.

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Crooks and Liars -- Daily Show Video

Jon Stewart continues to reveal the naked lunch of 24-hour cable news: video here.

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What Does It All Mean?

Today in the world of IM, a conversation about the issues which plague us all.

Chat today about work

I really have to redesign my website, man. I really have to launch vagabender, man. I really have to get some more work done, man.

Actually, what I really have to figure out is why I'm doing what I'm doing. Work, Life, Art, Friends, Politics, Philiosphy, Vice, Places, Stories, Hopes, Dreams, Revelations. It's good though, all this stirring. I think the workout regemin is paying psycological benefits. Stay the course. Ride the butterfly.

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Politics in the Temple

There's a movement afoot to "unmuzzle" religious leaders and allow them to directly speak to political issues from the pulpit. This is, understandably, causing some consternation on the left, coming on the heels of an election where with the help of an energized conservative/evangelical network, the Republican party beat the Democrats (across the board, though clearly with some dirty tricks too) on turnout.

However, I think this could be a good thing, as long as there are a few exceptions.

1) If Churches are allowed to retain their tax exemption and speak to political issues, there must be a secular equivalency created so that non-religious community and charitable organizations can enjoy the same freedom, or else the IRS definition of "church" itself must be expanded somewhat to accomodate secular communities of conscience.

2) Any Church (or secular community organization) which decides to take advantage of this new-found freedom must have more strict financial reporting requirements. We don't want our communities of concience to become political money-laundering operations, so greater financial transparency and due dilligence are a must. For those churches who don't see a need to bring politics to the pulpit, the more relaxed rules could remain in place.

In real terms, politicized preachers already give endorsements from the pulpit. Allowing it to happen openly and honestly is a winner for us. It's not going to boost turnout on the right or markedly increase the political power of already polticized churches. However, when you give individual pastors, ministers and priests the ability to speak freely from the pulpit you increase their political independence.

Currently, the hands-off relationship allows dedicated political groups -- closely tied to churches, but professionalized, tolerant of hipocrisy, and with cozy relationships to the party -- to more or less fix who the "annointed" candidates are for most spiritual communities. Allowing individual religious leaders to find their own way in the political landscape will sap the power of the moral majority. This will hasten to fracturing of the conservative coalition as individual churches more actively advance their own favorite candidates.

Lifting a ban on political speech from the pulpit would decentralize the political power of churches in America. It's not only the right thing to do, it's a winning strategy for progressives.

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