back but my brain's still somewhere else

Road trip successful.

There was the Rolling Stones for free on the hill behind Western Springs (two blocks from where we were staying), there was the narration of the bulls MENACING and MAULING the STUPID man and the small child, there was Sigur Ros being amazing, there was Ben losing consciousness and smashing his head up on the pavement and missing Sigur Ros being amazing, there was bookshops, there was EGG, there was random Welly faces in Auckland and a refreshing dearth of Aucklanders, there was a walk in the park by the lake with the birds, there was volleyballing argentineans, there was the dodgy nutena(?) feast, there was bootlegging, there was the 24/7 bar, there was more, and much moosey folly.

The fifth part of Dear Ethel… is pretty much written and I will get to editing it when my brain catches up. Probably tomorrow.

Cicciolina offers herself to Bin Laden for peace

Cicciolina – ex porn star and Italian MP, with her own theme song by PWEI – has come up with a novel plan to achieve a world free from terror.

“I am ready to make a deal, he can have me in exchange for an end to his tyranny. My breasts have only ever helped people while Bin Laden has killed thousands of innocent victims.”

We of the dancing moose await the day the next videotape is released from “al-Qaeda” and we can download their steamy encounter from the internet and peace rains down on us all.

You know, if Bush was serious about peace, he’d offer to blow Bin Laden. In fact, maybe that’s how to remove support for Jihad. Offer potential jihadis porn stars now instead of putative celestial virgins later. Porn for peace! Porn for peace!

Pope fears Bush is antichrist

Excellent.

Before he became pope, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla said, “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.”

(Via post-atomic.)

This leaps out at me because I saw The Sin Eater yesterday, which was pretty poor for the first half until it got seriously twisted with Black Popes and underground murder parlors and so forth.

Unrelatedly, I also saw Dogville yesterday, which once again confirmed that I should turn off Lars Von Trier movies at the three quarter mark. The man is undoubtedly a master of cinematic technique, specifically emotionally involving and manipulating the audience. However, he is a bad bad man, who probably needs to be locked in a shed and beaten for a year by large motherly women who tell him how much they love him as they insert broken glass and squirrels in his anus. Actually, that was probably his childhood. It would explain a lot.

Dear Ethel, Or, What Is To Be Done? (Part Four)

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three.)

Part Four: What is the Situation?

The situation we are in seems to be one of imminent massive change. Its components include the technological – fabbing, nanotech, communication, spimes – the environmental – such as global warming, and peak oil – social tensions , and a seeming inevitable collapse of the economic system when America’s insanely debt-ridden devalued-dollar economy collapses. ( The current run on gold seems a good indication of this uncertainty). Thus it seems the present way of life we experience has a limited shelf life.

Facing up to this seems a big part of our missing coherent world-view.

We face an amount of change unprecedented in human history. The technological forces likely to be unleashed will remake our lives in more extreme fashion than cars, electricity and the internet combined. Most of what we know is going to change anyway. These changes will also affect our view of the world. So in terms of our social organisation, we should accept that this too will significantly change: even more so than the shift from pre- to post-Industrial revolution world. In the face of this change, the survival of the present system, which seems inadequate to deal with the present circumstance, seems highly doubtful. Thus considering solutions to present problems which do not include the present political or economic systems but which are suited to the coming circumstance seems relevant. Any attempt to solve problems within the terms of present economic and political systems imposes grave limits on itself, and risks becoming irrelevant.

In George Monbiot‘s book Age of Consent: A Manifesto For a New World Order, he puts forward a model of how things could be. (Incidentally, on his terms I earned my right to criticise his book by writing my own about what could be done. :P) In doing so, he criticises George Soros‘ ideas of what it is possible to achieve within the current system, claiming that if we can achieve even those limited goals, we can achieve anything. I would turn the same criticism on Monbiot’s goals. Specifically his major original idea of a world parliament, operating on moral authority – (most of the rest of the book, the debt defaulting as a weapon and international clearing union and a fair trade organisation and so forth, are not new ideas (AFAIK), and are quite solid, although also unlikely in practice) – however, if we can set up a truly global, non-corrupt democratic body where everyone votes and which possesses moral authority, we can achieve anything, so why stop there?

We may be falling prey to the network metaphor of our age, but top down power structures seem to be the way of the past. A consistently misused tool in human history, responsible for more death and misery than any other, because it is the power structure which orders the use of force, and insulates the decision makers from the consequences of their decisions.

Some sort of global organisation seems necessary since cooperative human action now exists on a global scale. Present communications technology allows distributed self-management within an overall cooperative system based on shared values and goals. These goals and values should not be dictated from above, or based upon the ideology of the power with the greatest military might. Solutions to the crises the world faces require cooperation, not competition or coercion.

However, while I am against replicating systemic flaws of the present system, I also accept that we need not throw the baby out with the bathwater or reinvent the wheel. I am however suggesting that, in the face of massive change, we should adopt the most open and flexible system possible, based on human values such as compassion, as being more desirable than the attempted continuance of a corrupt and inflexible system based on inhuman values such as profit.

So, we’re getting closer to formulating a better question: how do we change from a worldwide capitalist system which appears deeply entrenched, to a different way of life based on values better aligned to human need and better suited to a finite world and to coping with the crises (social, political, economic, ecological, environmental) we face today and the massive changes we will face tomorrow?

People

The key factor in this process we have not yet covered is humans. In particular, human psychology. How we cope with change and challenges to our world-view and beliefs. Which cues the next post.

Next: People and change

french riots photostream

Huge, amazing slideshow of the recent riots in France.

London blasts had nothing to do with Al Qaeda

London blasts had no direct al Qaeda support

The London bombings last July were planned on a shoestring budget from information on the Internet and with no direct support from al Qaeda, a British newspaper on Sunday quoted a government report as saying

Just had a thought. Has anyone called the USA and its allies conspiracy theorists over their fear of Al-Qaeda? (As opposed to just calling them liars and fearmongers to create the appearance of a threat/war which justifies excesses of power which would never normally be tolerated?)

The next war: Hersh on Iran

I guess this is mandatory reading now: Seymour Hersh’s well researched piece on the US’s plans to invade Iran. He gets pretty comprehensive.

The picture which emerges is of the US again giving an impossible ultimatum (like over Kosovo, or Iraq) which is not intended to be met, because the intention is to invade for reasons of state and the charade is necessary only for those watching in TV land.

A discouraged former I.A.E.A. official told me in late March that, at this point, “there’s nothing the Iranians could do that would result in a positive outcome. American diplomacy does not allow for it. Even if they announce a stoppage of enrichment, nobody will believe them. It’s a dead end.”

Despite the seeming fact that most everyone in the world except a small group of policy hawks with power (and seemingly the willingness to use tactical nukes) think this is a terrible idea.

It was also interesting how they seem to categorise the leadership in Iran as “nuts”; (i.e.) they cannot be dealt with, so why bother? Thereby automatically reducing the range of solutions from reason to violence, entirely by means of a poor thought process.

pro-life nation

So what would a country look life if abortion was flat out illegal? And you would be imprisoned if discovered?

That’s the case in El Salvador, where you can get 30 years in prison.

Article 1 of El Salvador’s constitution declares that the prime directive of government is to protect life from the “very moment of conception.”

The NY Times has a long, fascinating and wide-ranging piece about it. (You can use bugmenot for a password if it asks.)

Here are three random quotes from it which stood out for me (they don’t form a coherent narrative, more a surreal one):

From the inarguable point of view

“The Devil, tireless Prince of Lies, has tried and will continue to try to change our laws in order to kill our babies.”

To the interesting perspective

For one thing, as Euteneuer sees it, the Salvadoran experience shows that all moves to expand abortion rights are pushed through by “elite” institutions of government (the U.S. Supreme Court, for example); by contrast, Euteneuer contends, when the laws are tightened, a grass-roots campaign is inevitably responsible.

To the most surreal:

In the event that the woman’s illegal abortion went badly and the doctors have to perform a hysterectomy, then the uterus is sent to the Forensic Institute, where the government’s doctors analyze it and retain custody of her uterus as evidence against her.

linux rules

Ages ago sometime, I read the essay In the beginning was the command line by Neal Stephenson. It’s ridiculously long but pretty worthwhile. (Somehow it manages to be funny and engaging while fundamentally being a history of operating systems.)

It sold me on the notion that Microsoft/Windows was dumb and Linux just made way more sense, and I decided when Linux got a graphical interface instead of command line unix, I would make the switch.

Yesterday, I finally did. (Thanks, D!)

It’s free, updates are free, everything about its design is smart, and it won’t open my computer to being raped by the internet like IE or Outlook do (not that I ever used them, at least). So far it seems to do everything I want.

And it’s just satisfying, somehow. Certainly philosophically, open source is the shit. Why ever go back?

the internet rules

Ain’t it neat how the internet can provide something like this:

yes, this is on my bumper

which has to be the most perfect bumper sticker ever for me. Download, print on sticky paper, and hey presto, slap it on my car.

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