Through The Static

August 13, 2008

US blamed over S Ossetia crisis

Filed under: Gargoyles,Government,War,World News — disciplepete @ 7:54 pm

So you’ve probably heard about Russia’s invasion of Georgia, which was in response to Georgia’s attempt to militarily assert itself over S. Ossetia…if you haven’t heard about it, read some news!! Anyways my buddy Al has a good piece speculating on the U.S. role…Al is so damn patriotic, that’s why I love him.

The US has had stern words for Russia over its military intervention in Georgia to back South Ossietian separatists, but many analysts say that the Bush administration must share the blame for the crisis.

Washington has formed a close bond with the government of Mikheil Saakashvili since he came to power in the 2003 ‘Rose Revolution,’ offering military and economic aid and encouraging Georgia to join Nato.

Jon Sawyer, the director for the Pulitzer Centre for Crisis Reporting, said US politicians had encouraged their Georgian counterparts to think they had the backing of the US when Tbilisi decided to launch its attack on South Ossetia last week.

“The US has for several years now mishandled the situation in Georgia,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The way that Mikheil Saakashvili has approached this [has been by] thinking that he could be an extension of the west, a partner of the United States.”

“In many ways we have given him cause for thinking that, with the many visits to the United States, the talk of Georgia as a beacon for democracy.”

Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, agrees that US encouragement may have made Saakashvili “miscalculate” and send Georgian troops into South Ossetia…

…The US may have welcomed Georgia as its key ally in the old Soviet Union’s sphere of influence.

But analysts point to the presence of key natural resources as a reason for the scale of US largesse.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline runs through Georgia, allowing the US access to oil and gas supplies not pumped through Russia to the north or Iran to the south.

“Underlying all this is a larger, more significant contest: a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West over the export of Caspian Sea oil and natural gas,” Michael Klare, the author of Resource Wars told the New American Media website….

…Other’s believe that while Georgia have miscalculated the level of support it had from Washington, the US has also erred in thinking it could influence events so close to Russian borders.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the old Soviet Union, said the US had made a “serious blunder” by allying itself so closely with Georgia.

“By declaring the Caucasus, a region that is thousands of miles from the American continent, a sphere of its ‘national interest,’ the United States made a serious blunder,” Gorbachev said in an opinion piece to be published in the Washington Post US newspaper on Tuesday.

Other analysts say that US diplomats may have underestimated the level of anger the US recognition of Kosovo created in Moscow, leaving it fearful that Georgia would assert itself further in South Ossetia.

“The Kremlin made abundantly clear that it would view Kosovo’s independence without Serbian consent and a UN Security Council mandate as a pThe US has had stern words for Russia over its military intervention in Georgia to back South Ossietian separatists, but many analysts say that the Bush administration must share the blame for the crisis.

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July 5, 2008

Cynthia McKinney Deserves Your Support, Obama Does Not

Filed under: Elections,Gargoyles,Government,Politics — disciplepete @ 12:47 pm

Article from Black Agenda Report about…well, look at the title.

Obama’s modus operandi is consistent and, especially after his recent flurry of policy reversals, transparent to all who care to observe him dispassionately. He is a word-hustler, a slickster, a politician/actor who has always been eager to serve the global aims of the very rich. That’s why, back in the summer of 2003, while a candidate for the Illinois Democratic U.S. senatorial nomination, he had to be pressured (by Bruce Dixon and me) to have his name removed from the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council membership list. And that’s why, five years later, he stripped off his anti-NAFTA clothing to announce on CNBC, the businessman’s cable source: “Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market.”…

But there is an unwavering progressive in the race. “The  practical effect of NAFTA is that it is an anti-union policy,” says Green candidate Cynthia McKinney. “Why US unions would support a political party [the Democrats] that has decisively contributed to their own demise, is beyond me.  I support the international right to unionize.  My legislation, the Corporate Responsibility Act and the TRUTH Act sought to compel US corporations operating abroad to abide by U.S. labor, environmental standards, thereby lifting up workers in other parts of the world, not exploiting them.  The Reconstruction Movement Draft Manifesto also calls for repeal of Taft Hartley, to strengthen workers’ rights in this country.”…

Cynthia McKinney offers real change – peace for a change.

“The United States should and must engage the world, but not in empire, not in military,” said McKinney, who was first elected to the U.S. Congress from a suburban Atlanta district in 1992. “Ninety percent of the US security budget is dedicated to some military engagement with the world.  The United States should stop arming factions, supporting factions, new elections should be held [in Iraq] with international advisors, and the “coalition of the willing” should work with the United Nations to disarm and restore to the extent possible the Iraqi civil sector.  The Reconstruction Draft Manifesto calls for an end to US militarism and the establishment of a Department of Peace by restructuring the US State Department.”

June 25, 2008

Albanian Custom Fades: Woman as Family Man

Filed under: Gargoyles,Gender,World News — disciplepete @ 6:15 pm

This is a pretty fascinating article from the NYT about a fading tradition in Albania: when there were no men around in a family, a woman would take an oath to be a virgin, dress up as a man, take on male roles, and be recognized in society as deserving the privileges of a man. The trippiest thing for me in this article is how some of these women who became men have stereotypical male chauvinist attitudes and seem pretty pleased with the choice they made.

The tradition of the sworn virgin can be traced to the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a code of conduct passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than 500 years. Under the Kanun, the role of a woman is severely circumscribed: take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same: 12 oxen.

The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the family patriarch died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.

They dressed like men and spent their lives in the company of other men, even though most kept their female given names. They were not ridiculed, but accepted in public life, even adulated. For some the choice was a way for a woman to assert her autonomy or to avoid an arranged marriage.

Looks like things are changing:

…”The Albanian woman today is a sort of minister of economics, a minister of affection and a minister of interior who controls who does what,” said Ilir Yzeiri, who writes about Albanian folklore. “Today, women in Albania are behind everything.”

Some sworn virgins bemoan the changes. Diana Rakipi, 54, a security guard in the seaside city of Durres, in west Albania, who became a sworn virgin to take care of her nine sisters, said she looked back with nostalgia on the Hoxha era. During Communist times, she was a senior army officer, training women as combat soldiers. Now, she lamented, women do not know their place.

“Today women go out half naked to the disco,” said Ms. Rakipi, who wears a military beret. “I was always treated my whole life as a man, always with respect. I can’t clean, I can’t iron, I can’t cook. That is a woman’s work.”

June 4, 2008

U.S. Loses Trade Ruling

Free markets are one of those things often preached and selectively practiced. Al Jazeera:

A World Trade Organisation (WTO) appeal panel upheld on Monday a ruling from December that found that the US had breached trade rules over its subsidies to cotton farmers.

The ruling means that Brazil could now seek one billon dollars in sanctions until the US stops payments to its farmers.

Developing nations, especially in Africa, say the US subsidies lower global prices, squeezing their own poor farmers out of the market.

The US government is estimated to have paid its cotton farmers $2bn to $4bn in subsidies in most recent years.

However, Tony Avirgan from the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit think-tank, told Al Jazeera that the US government is unlikely to comply with the WTO ruling and has shown no inclination it will do so.

May 29, 2008

Vatican says will excommunicate women priests

Filed under: Gargoyles,Gender,Religion — disciplepete @ 9:05 pm

The Catholic Church doesn’t allow women to be priests, and they’re trying to get the idea out of the heads of Catholics who support the ordination of women priests. We’ll see how long the Church can hold this position. I think the Church needs to also allow priests to get married; my dad actually used to be a Catholic priest, it was his first career, and he left because he had some beef with his superiors. My dad wrote a book about his experience in the Church, and if my memory serves correct, he argued that the Church forces priests to be celibate in order to exercise control over them.  That really seems to be a strong hypothesis on the face of it. Anyways, here’s some of the article about the women priest issue, from Yahoo:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican issued its most explicit decree so far against the ordination of women priests on Thursday, punishing them and the bishops who try to ordain them with automatic excommunication

…A Vatican spokesman said the decree made the Church’s existing ban on women priests more explicit by clarifying that excommunication would follow all such ordinations.

Excommunication forbids those affected from receiving the sacraments or sharing in acts of public worship.

Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said he thought the decree was meant to send a warning to the growing number of Catholics who favor admitting women to the priesthood…

The Church says it cannot change the rules banning women from the priesthood because Christ chose only men as his apostles. Church law states that only a baptized male can be made a priest.

May 13, 2008

Hundreds Are Arrested in U.S. Sweep of Meat Plant

Filed under: Culture,Gargoyles,Immigration,Race — disciplepete @ 10:29 pm

NYT:

In the biggest workplace immigration raid this year, federal agents swept into a kosher meat plant on Monday in Postville, Iowa, and arrested more than 300 workers.

The authorities said the workers were suspected of being in the United States illegally or of having participated in identity theft and the fraudulent use of Social Security numbers.

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not say how many people had been rounded up beyond the initial 300 or whether the management and owners of the plant, AgriProcessors, would face criminal charges.

The plant has 800 to 900 people and is the country’s largest producer of meat that is glatt kosher, widely regarded as the highest standard of cleanliness…

…A spokesman for Representative Bruce Braley, Democrat of Iowa, said the number of arrests was expected to increase, perhaps even double, as the investigation continued…

Federal authorities have been conducting workplace raids across the country in recent years, with the pace accelerating since the failure of immigration legislation last year in Congress.

The raid had been planned for months and was conducted in coordination with local law enforcement, according to the news release, released jointly by Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for the ICE regional office in Bloomington, Minn.

May 12, 2008

“Science Versus Religion”: What Doth This All MEME?!!

It annoys me when the very idea of spirituality is equated with stuperstition in favor of science’s empirical evidence. This is not to say that we should be ruled solely by myth, legend, or religion — or that science and spirituality cannot be reconciled. Whether or not Religion or Spirituality is accepted as Truth or Reality, it is the human imagination and intellect that created and continues to create and refine these rituals, these codes of human ethics, and I do believe there’s got to be something more than human irrationality that allows for these patterns, practices, and belief systems to persist.

stained glass

But then again, this is all coming from a gal who has a weak spot for, oh, I don’t know, Neon Genesis Evangelion, LOST, Gargoyles (greatest American animated series of my generation), Ayashi no Ceres, Calculating God, Octavia E. Butler stuff, and Death Note. And did I mention that I’ve been particularly enamored with Battlestar Galactica for the past 52 hours? In the midst of FINALS???

gargoyes

Sure, I had a crush on Goliath, like 92% of the audience, but I always had a soft spot for Lexington!  BTW, am I the only one who found Xanatos hot?  ::fans self to cool down circuits::

I am not going to romanticize the unexplained phenomenon ingrained within the very fibers of science or bash the “pseudo-scientific” qualities of established fields such as psychoanalysis. Science is just as rationally irrational and driven by speculation and human imagination as spirituality and the ideological values we are willing to die for. Whether it is the as hokey as The Secret or as moving as those hidden meanings in formation of water crystals, it is important to have seemingly contradictory fields engage in a process of dialectics — having their ideas bounce off one another until alternatives are found and new contradictions are produced. ANYWAY, I’ll get on with the uber cool article I picked up on Truthdig.com.

From Truthdig.com

Render Unto Darwin That Which Is Darwin’s

The German chemist August Kekulé fell asleep in his study after a fruitless struggle to identify the chemical structure of benzene. He dreamed of a snake eating its own tail and awoke instantly. The dream gave him, through the ancient language of symbolism, the circular structure of the benzene ring that had eluded his conscious mind. The dream may have had its basis in Kekulé’s experiments, but it was the nonrational that brought him his discovery…

Science is often as inexact and intuitive as theology, philosophy and every other human endeavor. A mirror demonstrates the randomness of nature. A mirror reflects about 95 percent of light hitting it. The other 5 percent passes through the mirror. Photons, which are invisible, are either reflected or pass through the mirror’s surface. But there is no way of knowing which photons will be reflected and which will be absorbed. Electrons are also subject to these quantum effects. This led Werner Heisenberg to formulate his “uncertainty principle.” This principle states that we cannot know everything about a particle. If we can determine a particle’s position we cannot determine its momentum. We can measure momentum, but in this measurement we lose the particle’s exact position. We can know a particle’s momentum or its position. We cannot know both with definitive accuracy.

Science is not always directly empirical. Science is not governed by absolute, immutable laws. Science, and especially quantum mechanics, far from telling us we can know everything, tells us there will always be things we cannot know. No one ultimately understands. Science affirms the complexity and mystery of the universe. Science, like the religious impulse, opens us up to a world where we face mystery. There are forces in the universe that will always lie beyond the capacity of the human mind.

Another bone of contention: why is it that when we do not know the answer, cannot find the answer, that we go off on a holy grail search for an empirical explanation? AGAIN, I am not saying that for every answer we cannot find, we should ascribe to the holy hands of God(s). I mean, that would be an intellectual cop-out as well. But would it be so horrible to find a rationale, a mode of logic, that lies outside the linearity of empiricism?

water crystals

Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese quantum physicist, performed a series of experiments on water crystals and revealed the fact that water is receptive to external messages. The formation of water crystals is positively correlated to exposure of the water to messages from human language, music, and printed characters.

The New Atheist writers from Richard Dawkins to E.O. Wilson to Sam Harris have become the high priests not of science but the cult of science. Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmore, for example, call religious beliefs “memes.” Memes are defined as cultural artifacts—prototypical ideas—that invade and restructure minds in order to reproduce themselves. A meme replicates in human minds, they argue, the way genes replicate in human bodies. Memes include a word, belief, thought, religious ritual, dance, poem or any of the myriad of behaviors that are copied and reproduced in human societies. Although memes, unlike genes, are not identifiable physical structures, Dawkins uses the image of a virus to describe them. Religion, for Dawkins, is equated with a disease, and the religiously inclined are disease carriers.

Again, religion, like homosexuality, femininity, and trans fats are pathologized in the Name of Science. No, I belong to no church and believe that religious doctrine is about as problematic as the protective ideologies that lie behind the idea of the nation state — but it’s interesting when it is framed as a disease. A disease erodes health, which therefore implies that without this “disease” human society would be healthy. Without religion, human society would be that much stronger. Just like in the past when science classified homosexuality as a mental illness, or that female brains were that much smaller and limited in intellectual capacity in comparison to male brains (assuming a binary division of gender.)

And yet I don’t want to totally reject the idea of memes. This IDEA (ie, speculation, ie product of irrational logic) holds value. If inherent human behaviors and ideology are things encoded within our very genes, then there must be something in its persistence and survival that contributes to a much larger pattern and design that may lie beyond the capacity of strictly empirical understanding.

tap that WATER

yeeeeah, TAP that water! Tap it, now!

Random question: who OWNS Science, anyway? Who does ScienCe BELONG to? (I ask this question a lot in relation to Culture with a capital C.)

The attempt to equate patterns of human society with the behavior of genes, while it sounds plausible, and may even be instructive in some settings, is part of this cult of science. The genetic coding that permits the transfer of DNA-encoded units of information is fairly precise. But this model fails to work for the transfer of cultural, social, ethical and political behavior. Patterns of morality are easily reversed or erased, especially in ages of revolutionary fervor, war, anarchy, fear, social decline and despotism. Those who are schooled in identical religious texts, even within the same communities, have different views of morality and ethics. It is possible to transfer literal meaning. It is possible to transfer genetic information. It is possible to pass on heritable characteristics mediated by hard-and-fast rules of chemistry and physics. These rules, however, have no counterpart in the dissemination of ideas. Ideas do not replicate like genes. Ideas are snuffed out or forgotten, often for centuries. Ideas that prevail are often not the best ideas but more often ideas backed by power. The rise of Christianity owed more to the brutality of Constantine and the Holy Roman Empire than it did its particular theology. Those who advocate the theory of memes ignore the role of power, repression, persecution and force in human history, as well as the inherent chaos and irrationality of human thought. Human thought cannot be treated like an object in a laboratory. There is no scientific mechanism that explains cultural evolution.

goliath vs

Those who endorse the meme theory speak of memetic engineering. This memetic engineering would involve the conscious manipulation of intellectual evolution by disseminating good memes and curtailing bad ones. The question of who decides which memes are good and which bad is not raised.

CYLON!

Hmmm… looks like “SCIENCE” can be as scary as that oft-talked-about “Hand of GOD.” Still, I am wary of the bashing of an idea because there are holes that which cannot be explained…YET. This is where I disagree with the writer — “Well, you can’t explain THIS, therefore this idea of MEMES is BULLSH*T.” Of course, as delicious as the prospect of mimetic engineering and, from the fragments of our human flaws, the behavioral construction of Cylons sounds, perhaps it would be wise to not ignore these quibbles.

Einstein’s quest for a unified field theory explaining subatomic structure or the Big Bang no more undermined religious contemplation than evolutionary biology. The questions of science are not the questions of religion. Science does not attempt to address, nor is it capable of addressing, the final mystery of existence, our moments of transcendence, the moral life, love, our search for meaning and our mortality. Science, limited to what can be proved and disproved, is a morally neutral discipline. It serves human needs and human ambitions. There are times when it protects and advances life. There are times when it empowers ambitions that are immoral and deadly. Science, like all human endeavors, comes with good and bad, possibilities of hope and possibilities of destruction.

Speak on it, Mister! Science, like spirituality, is a tool and can be utilized in an endless variety of ways. Science has no endeavor, no final aim or goal. But there is a design to it. A pattern that can sometimes be supported by mathematics — but not always. In any case, it is the ulterior motives of those who use science or spirituality that determine its direction and its capacity for destruction/reconstruction. If there is anything that can be described as a potential pathogen, it would probably be human ideology. Hm… let me refine that — ideology that divides the world into 2 categories: Inferior and Superior.

death note ryuk

People interested in the greed behind holding the keys to deciding what is Inferior and Superior, the barometer of human life value, should definitely check out Death Note. (De-su Noo-to.) Are you more of an L or a Yagami Light? I’m quite partial to both.

When Darwin published “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life” in 1859, he named natural selection as the mechanism that drives and defines life. Evolutionary science, however, swiftly became for many a surrogate religion. It was used to promote racism and pseudo-science, such as eugenics, a theory of biological determinism invented by Francis Galton, Darwin’s cousin. It was turned like a club on religion and used to justify exploitation and neglect of the poor and disadvantaged.

There are unfortunate implications in Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin believes in the possibility of compassion and benevolence. He argues that these adaptations give one species advantage over another. He uses compassion to insist that sooner or later the “superior” races—those with compassion—will exterminate the “more savage” races. Compassion, he implies, does not exist, or certainly not in the same abundance, in others as it does in us. But Darwin left the championing of these implications to others such as Herbert Spencer, a utopian and a doctrinaire Malthusian. It was Spencer, not Darwin, who argued that step by step we were progressing as a species and would end with the perfect human being. And it was Spencer who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest.”

neon genesis evangelion

Darwin would sooooooo be a Yagami Rai-tto. (Yagami Light.)

Wilson and Dawkins build their vision of human perfectibility out of the legitimate theory that human beings are shaped by the laws of heredity and natural selection. They depart from this position when they assert that we can leave that determinism behind. There is nothing in science that implies that our genetic makeup allows us to perfect ourselves. Those who, in the name of science, claim that we can overcome our imperfect human nature make a leap of faith. In this leap they leave the realm of science. They operate on a belief system that functions like religion. It gives meaning. It gives purpose and hope. But it is a myth. It is not true. And there is nothing, when you cut through their scientific jargon, which supports their absurd proposition.

dharma initiative

There is value in this assessment. Science and religion aren’t exactly incompatible or mutually exclusive. Both can operate on disturbingly similar wavelengths when it comes to pushing towards an idea of an Ultimate Truth. The idea that there is One Truth, like there is only One God, or One Religion, can be as dangerous as those who work to promote this.

The attempt to impose the methodology of science onto collective and personal relationships also has grave consequences. If a scientific hypothesis does not work it is discarded. Pluralism has no place in science. Neither do competing truths. Science, when set up as a model for our moral and social existence, implicitly banishes compromise and tolerance. Scientific ideas, because they can be demonstrated or disproved, are embraced or rejected on quantifiable evidence. But human relationships and social organizations interact and function effectively when they are not rigid, accept morally ambiguity and take into account the irrational. Politics, for example, is about channeling and managing human drives and desires. It is only fitfully in contact with reason. This profound understanding of the irrational element in politics led Sigmund Freud to write his masterpiece “Civilization and Its Discontents.” The secular fundamentalists, in a gross misuse of Darwin and of science, turn biological evolution into a methodology to champion moral progress for the human race. They seek to give to their arguments the patina of unassailable truth. But what they sell are myths, bizarre utopian visions of a new heaven and a new earth dressed up in the language of scientific rationalism.

ayashi no ceres

Oh, Chris Hedges — you ALMOST had it — ALMOST! For me, at least. Sometimes when trying to counter the argument of one party, we BECOME the other party, or use the very methods we argue against. This is Hedges’ One Truth. He’s not anti-religion and is critical of science that uses the same ideological methods to assail religion — but in the end, Hedges also uses the very same methods to assail some of the nefarious aspects of Science with a capital “S”.

stained glass

Picking sides won’t help propel us beyond the binary or trying to understand new truths and creative practices. When it comes to fields of science and spirituality, sometimes it’s most helpful to follow what’s helped me digest Freud in my gender politics class: “You’ve got to assume that he’s always right and that he’s always wrong.” Sometimes getting stuck on just one inconsistency or contradiction can paralyze us from finding new alternatives, visions, and solutions.

Bottom line: instead of bashing contradictions, maybe we should try diving into them to see what we can come up with.

Bottom line #2: I dunno about y’all but I am craving the first season of Gargoyles. I still get chills every time I hear the opening theme of Gargoyles: <– please click to shiver along with me!

“One thousand years ago, Superstition and the Sword ruled.

It was a time of Darkness, it was a world of Fear.

It was the age of Gargoyles.

Stone by day, warriors by night,

we were Betrayed by the humans we had sworn to protect,

frozen in stone by a magic spell for a thousand years…

Now, here, in Manhattan,

the spell is broken, AND WE LIVE AGAIN!

::THEMATIC INTERLUDE, TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP::

We are defenders of the night!

We. Are. GARGOYLES!”

goliath and desdemona

Okay, as much as I was an Elisa Maza/Goliath fan (interracial coupling, anyone?) I still felt quite torn about and secretly rooted for the connection between Desdemona and Goliath. Sometimes politics trumps the irrational mind of RUV, but when one does embrace the heart of the illogicaL (Goliath + Maza = 4EVA!), sometimes one will be pleasantly surprised by the productive forces that proliferate.

Do not be prisoner of history, my friends! We all have the capacity to endlessly create ourselves!!!

::circuitry experiencing sensory overload::

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