politics

Jesus Was a Feminist

Lately, as is my wont from time to time, I have been rereading the gospels. As I've been doing so I came to the rather surprising conclusion that Jesus was advocating a sort of feminism in much of what he said.

Take for example his admonitions against adultery and divorce. Taken within the context of the times and the rights of women at the time, I think it's quite clear that these admonitions are in fact pragmatic pronouncements meant to help women in a time when they had very little ability to support themselves without male patronage in the form of a father or a husband. In fact, an adult woman of the time only had the options to live as a beggar or a prostitute if she was turned out of her father or husbands house. From this perspective, the prohibition on adultery, a prohibition that I had previously taken to be little more than typical of jewish prudishness about sex, made a lot more sense. The law, after all, is aimed at a male audience, so in a sense the prohibition on adultery is saying to men not to take sexual liberty with a woman and then leave her to fend for herself and your offspring, because to do so is to condemn her to poverty and prostitution. The same is true of the ban on divorce, that is, it is wrong for a man to set his wife aside because without him the realities of the times doomed her to a life of ignominy.

Doing a little googling, I found out that I was not the first person to come to this conclusion. I found the following excellent article which I think sheds a lot of interesting light on the sexual mores found in the New Testament, and which I think put some of the more offputting and strange ideas to be found in the gospels into a better light:

http://www.godswordtowomen.org/feminist.htm

Also interesting were several statements in the gospel of thomas about making the female male and dissolving the distinction of male and female into spirit.

Round Up of Current Right Wing Bugaboos

Here are some things I've learned about how crazy conservatives are simply by reading the #tcot (top conservatives on twitter) hashtag on twitter:

1.) Barack Obama is not really the president of the United States because, although he is the son of an American citizen born on US soil, his birth certificate has the title "Certificate of Live Birth" rather than "Birth Certificate."

2.) Barack Obama is the first American President (if he is President, see above) to use a teleprompter. They find the use of a teleprompter so remarkable that they have given it a name: "TOTUS"

3.) All democrats are communists who should be "gillotined" [sic]

4.) Cap and Trade is actually a fifth column designed to tax the poor 1800 dollars a year on their electricity bills

5.) Sarah Palin was forced out of office due to harassment by marxist journalists.

6.) The Army Reserve Major who is refusing to go to Afghanistan because Obama isn't really president is not really an insubordinate criminal in violation of the UCMJ, but is in fact a sort of hero for refusing to follow illegal orders and commit warcrimes by joining his brothers in arms going into harms way.

Y'know, as disappointed as I am that the Democrats are not seizing the day and taking every opportunity they can to run roughshod over the extremely weak republican party who are so far out of power at this point that it's fucking comical, at the same time I'm glad the Republicans are getting as crazy as they are in order to sabotage their chances of reclaiming any power.

Why "Racism = Prejudice + Power" Is The Wrong Way to Approach the Problems of Racism

Critical Race Theory is a popular pass-time among my comrades on the radical left who ascribe to various positions within the broad political ideology of identity politics. Since I'm a Marxist, or at least a Marxian, it's largely been something I've ignored. This is because for the most part it has appeared, looking in from outside the social circles where this particular family of ideas have currency, to be little more than a self-serving rhetorical tactic of petit-bourgeois academics seeking, out of narcissism, to claim for themselves and certain of their peers some of the political capital owed to the working class and won by them through hard graft during the civil rights movements of the fifties and sixties. The basic tactic as I see it is that Theorist A looks on the problems of some segment of the proletariat to whom he is peripherally related via an essentialized category established by historical capitalist precedent and Theorist A claims that rather than the disadvantages owing to oppressive economic structures, the actual oppressive structure is something else which is specifically in place to target whatever group Theorist A can make a case for his or her own membership of. This move is then co-opted by non-members of the cohort as a further disenfranchisement of the proper class consciousness, and all turned on its head as a condescending way to tell working class folks that they're really the oppressors in society, rather than the victims of the Capital that has been so kind to the afforementioned theorists in their cozy endowed fellowships and well funded "activist" groups, funded primarily by the tax breaks given to capital so that it can spend more of itself extracting surplus labor from the workforce. No One Is Innocent. But I digress.

Conservatives Sill Twats and DRM is Still Stupid

First, in a fit of irony, the Creationists behind the movie Expelled created a video to lampoon atheist scientist and critic of religion Richard Dawkins. Except to any athiests watching, Dawkins actually comes out looking awesome. ("I'm smarter than you, I have a science degree," raps Dawkins in the video. And he is probably smarter than you, and, yes, his science degree does make him more qualified to talk about things like the origin of the universe than someone whose scientific education revolves around the Bible.)

Meanwhile the Ayn Rand branch of the Republican party are busy trying to put together events to protest bailing out homeowners. Cause, you know, giving money to poor people is so un-Christian. (The meshing of the pro-big-business libertarian mindset with Christians whose doctrine tell them to give to the poor and that a rich man has a hard time entering the kingdom of God and so on never made any sense to me at all.) No, don't give the money to the homeowners, give it to the banks who lent them the money in the first place and then repackaged it on the market and screwed up our whole economy. That's SO much better.

Meanwhile, Amazon reveals that it can cancel your Kindle account at any time, making the device you paid $400 for instantly useless. This is why DRM'd books are a bad idea, as I talked about in my review of the Sony Reader. If you're considering buying an ebook reader, for the love of god buy one that reads unencrypted ebooks, and not not not the Kindle.

Don't believe me that DRM is bad? I have mixed feelings about Cory Doctorow's fiction, but when speaking about DRM he has a knack for putting things in the right perspective. Here's his talk at the TED (Tools of Change for publishing) conference:

And lastly, thank God Time Warner Cable caved in and decided not to meter people's Internet usage anymore. If they'd tried that shit in NYC I would have switched to DSL so fast there'd be a blur where my cable jack was.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Pages 12-18: Enter Mary Sue Rosenbaum

In 1973 Paula Smith, the editor of a Star Trek Fanzine, wrote a story called "A Trekkie's Tale" as a satire of the kind of strange wish fulfilling fan fiction that she received from people writing themselves in to the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The story featured a character named "Mary Sue" who was a fifteen and a half year old wunderkind who in the course of a few brief paragraphs earns Captain Kirk's love, Mr. Spock's respect, is revealed to be half vulcan, and then runs the whole ship while the main characters from the TV show are languishing with a sickness. In the end she dies of the sickness herself, mourned by the entire crew, and is given her own "national holiday" aboard the enterprise. The story spawned the term "Mary Sue" as a pejorative term for an authorial surrogate whose primary purpose is to live out the fantasies of the author in a fictional world. This criticism has worked its way into the sort of collective unconscious of amateur writing, and admonitions to avoid writing Mary Sue characters is well known in the fan fiction world.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Pages 3-12: Who is John Galt?

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is the worst book ever published. The characters are poorly drawn, the story is ridiculous, the philosophical underpinnings are incoherent and morally repugnant, and the writing is incompetent. Quite frankly and put as simply as I possibly can, there is no value to this book, it should not be read by anyone for any reason. And yet it is. By millions. It has sold a bajillion copies and is a touchstone of political thought for a wide swath of the American public who for some reason have come to the conclusion that it has something to offer. I offer in return the thesis that these people are fucking idiots. As a public service in order that no one else should ever have to read this garbage, I am undertaking the following analysis, in detail, of the book in its entirety, page by excruciatingly awful page. If you're interested in following along, it will be useful to know that all page references and quotations are from the 1999 Plume Paperback edition with a new introduction by Leonard Peikoff. But I discourage anyone from following along. It's my hope that this summary and close reading will be more entertaining than the actual text, and that one can read this instead of ever having to suffer through the actual book.

Man Conservatives Really Are Twats

Today in the New York Times Paul Krugman points out that the GOP, once the party of ideas, has "become the party of Beavis and Butthead."

I couldn't agree more, but I think they're actually a little more Butthead than Beavis these days. See, apparently some C list pundit on CNBC went off on a tangent about the Boston Tea Party and how apparently he sees some link between The Stimulus Package and the Stamp Act or something, because he has called for Americans who agree with him to re-enact the Boston Tea Party in protest of it.

Apparently, the wealthiest 5% of americans are unhappy with the fact that under the Stimulus act with it's extension of the waiver for the AMT, they're going to save only somewhere in the vicinity of a few grand on their taxes this year vs current law, and really they think that they ought to be getting an even bigger tax break.

And somehow, and the way these scum do this never ceases to astound me, those wealthiest 5 percent have convinced a bunch of other idiots to go out protest with them that they didn't get enough of a tax break.

That's right folks, the conservatives are having themselves a good old fashioned patriotic street protest. Because apparently not happy with putting the economy in a tailspin with their disastrous dogmatic adherence to a bullshit economic theory that most of them don't even know the name of, they would now like to take this opportunity to whine about the fact that while the income by percentage of the population increases exponentially across the populations in the top ten percent of earners in the US, the tax brackets barely increase at all over that range. Meaning that a person who makes 300,000 grand a year pays roughly the same percentage of his income in taxes as somone making in excess of 2 million a year.

Of course, it's no secret that taxation is bordering on regressive in the USA. The Republicans have been trying to make that happen for decades now, and the result is the monstrous increase in deficits and debt that have been happening since Saint Ronnie Ray-Gun had the purse strings in the eighties. And, y'know, I've watched Fox News, so I know that these fucking scumbags are capable of getting their panties all twisted up at the drop of a hat.

But to actually stage a Nation Wide Protest because the aren't getting still MORE money? That's just ghoulish. They've turned into that douchebag who insists on splitting the check evenly at the end of the night even though he had three times as many drinks and the live Maine lobster while everyone else picked at appetizers. Seriously Republicans, we on the left, we know a little something about staging a protest. We've been at it a lot longer than you, and we picked up a few things over the years. One of the most important rules? Surprisingly enough, it's the rule that says you should never protest over an issue that makes you look like a greedy sack of shit. Funny how this one works out, but when you go out in public and make a lot of noise about what a greedy sack of shit you are, you don't win over a lot of new political allies super anxious to be your best friend so that everyone will think that they are greedy sacks of shit too.

But by all means, if you all insist on having your little jamboree, go nuts. But you really should be ashamed of yourselves.

UPDATE: I am sort of annoyed that more people aren't as annoyed by this as I am. Maybe it's just that word hasn't got out enough. Still, even if these things are a raucous success, it's not going to change anything. Obama is still president. Democrats still control the legislature. And conservatives are still too dense to realize how effete and privileged organizing a national day for a tea party makes them.

Elizabeth Alexander?

While many have maybe come to the conclusion that the history book is closed on the Obama administration and the narrative went something like this: "Progressive Ideals Betrayed, Politics as Usual, Banal Centrism, What a Phony," I for one am of the opinion that we ought to actually wait for there to BE an Obama administration before we start passing judgement on what an abysmal failure it was.

That having been said there is one decision made by the president to date that I think does bear some pretty harsh criticism, and that's the selection of Elizabeth Alexander as the author of the inaugural poem.

Now, if you're like me you aren't super accustomed to hear the naming of a poet for a major job like that and thinking to yourself "who the fuck is that?" So imagine my surprise as I was reading various op ed pieces on the selection of Rick Warren as the Invoker of the ceremony (whose counterbalance in Joseph Lowery chronologically later in the series of events I read as a subtle idictment of Warren's cro magnon ideas), when I discovered that none other than eminent scholar Elizabeth Alexander who I've never heard of is going to be writing and reading a poem to commemorate the occasion.

Now if, like me, you've never heard of Elizabeth Alexander, that's not really surprising. After all, her biggest laurel to date is a nomination for the Pulitzer. Which, as poetry laurels go, practically guarantees that she's not of any real note. Of course, it's clear to me at this point that her selection probably has more to do with the fact that she's reportedly a "close family friend" of the Obamas than her books. Never the less, given that she's now stepping into the footsteps of such luminaries as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, both of whom I have no patience for, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on just what it means to be a good poet in America today.

Take the moment.

Have you come up with anything?

Me neither.

Not a Hologram

According to Wikipedia, a hologram is "a technique that allows the light scattered from an object to be recorded and later reconstructed so that it appears as if the object is in the same position relative to the recording medium as it was when recorded".

What CNN did on election night was take an all around picture of someone and put it on a TV screen. There was no 3D image in the room with Wolf Blitzer. There was no flickering Princess Leia you could stick your hand through. This is not a hologram. This has no relationship to a hologram.

I don't know why anyone thought that it was a big deal to put a picture of someone on a screen. We've been doing that for a very long time now.

Actually, One More Thing

This is how I feel right now: