September 24, 2011

A Brief Thought


Here’s something that made me think of something I hadn’t thought about in a long time.

This is right in line with something we’ve been batting around here about how the nonviolent occupation movement is still in its infancy – and its participants/leaders are still getting their feet wet with organizing. Movements like we’ve seen elsewhere don’t just appear no matter how suddenly they explode into national/global consciousness. It’s a long and (usually) slow learning curve. This means the MSM blackout may not be so bad – folks can gain expertise and make their mistakes out of the unforgiving light of saturation coverage. And it drives those interested to alternative outlets – building them up. Win/win!

Many years ago, when I used to think a lot about art, I thought about how, historically, new ideas in art would have years, decades, even centuries to naturally, organically develop without much temporal pressure upon them. Only later would come the pressures of publicity, the surge of competition, the art’s becoming of interest to those who would place monetary and power demands upon it, the need to please a public, to meet deadlines, etc. Although these too can be spurs to creativity, I had the sense that they probably work this way where dealing with something which has already put down firm roots.
By contrast, the modern media tended to deny new ideas this period of quiet, timeless ferment. Nowadays the early adopters tread upon the heels of the pioneers, and the early majority upon those of the early adopters, and so on. While there may be individual children who can thrive where cast into chaos during their critical early years, I think far more would do far better with some level of stability, security, predictability. So I thought that on the whole the modern media omnipresence and insatiability (until it’s drained all the life out of something, and as quickly as possible) were detrimental to art.
(The last thoughts I had about art were several years ago, just the barest notes on what a Peak Oil aesthetic might be like. Richard Heinberg’s written more on it if anyone’s interested, an essay in his book Peak Everything.)
So I used to think about that but hadn’t in awhile, until I saw this piece which suggested that this may be one benefit of the media blackout on alternative politics and economics. While only history will tell if this turns out to be true or not, it’s at least something to consider. Since it’s a fact that we’re now in obscurity and likely to remain there for awhile, we might as well think about how to make the most of obscurity and slow development in themselves, if there’s a way to do so.
(On the subject of MSM spotlights, here’s two NYT blog pieces on time banking. They’re pretty good on the basics with some good examples, and there’s some even better comments. Some dumb comments too, of course, but on the whole the idea gets a good reception.)   


  1. Russ,

    Sorry to go off topic here, but I have just a couple of things concerning Yves Smith, then I’ll let it go.

    First, Yves Smith, as everyone knows, is in fact Susan Webber of Aurora Advisors, a former employee of Goldman Sachs whose clients at Aurora include Dresdner Bank, Lehman Brothers and Soros Fund Management.


    On June 16, 2011 at 9:40 AM, Stephen Malagodi posed the following question to Yves:

    Stephen malagodi says: (June 16, 2011 at 9:40 am)

    “what do you think about not posting articles from or links to HuffPo until Arianna gets right with the writers.

    Yves Smith says: (June 16, 2011, 3:43 PM)

    “I hate to tell you, I’m not sympathetic. I have written for publication for nearly 20 years. If you want to get paid, you sign a contract which specifies how you get paid and what copyright they have v. you.
    This is a bread and butter skill if you are a writer. These people cannot say they did not understand what they were doing. And it was ALSO well known that Arianna had venture capital money, so it was really clear she intended to or would be pressured to sell HuffPo to produce an exit for her investors.”


    And this is how Chris Hedges responded to the same question:

    “Any business owner who uses largely unpaid labor, with a handful of underpaid, nonunion employees, to build a company that is sold for a few hundred million dollars, no matter how he or she is introduced to you on the television screen, is not a liberal or a progressive. Those who take advantage of workers, whatever their outward ideological veneer, to make profits of that magnitude are charter members of the exploitative class. Dust off your Karl Marx. They are the enemies of working men and women. And they are also, in this case, sucking the lifeblood out of a trade I care deeply about. It was bad enough that Huffington used her site for flagrant self-promotion, although the cult of the self has reached such dizzying proportions in American society that such behavior is almost expected. But there is an even sadder irony that this was carried out in the name of journalism.”


    Following is an article which exposes Jane Hamsher’s appalling labor record. (Yes, the same Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake who Yves went out of her way to defend on many occasions):

    “Yesterday I confronted Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake, over her refusal to honor a labor boycott against the Huffington Post that two major writers unions, The Newspaper Guild (TNG-CWA) and National Writers Union (NWU), have called for.”

    “AFL CIO President Richard Trumka and the heads of nearly all the major unions have honored the picket line and refused to blog at the Huffington Post. These union leaders have been sacrificing badly-needed publicity for their labor causes in order to show their solidarity for writers like me who work in an industry with low pay and practically no job security.
    Meanwhile, people like Jane Hamsher–who already have well-funded sites with huge traffic volume– have continued writing on the Huffington Post, promoting their already high profiles without giving thought to the damage they cause to struggling writers and bloggers…..”


    Draw your own conclusion. I could go on with more examples such as the two provided above, but why bother? It should be clear by now whose side Yves is on and it’s definitely not the side of exploited workers.

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — September 25, 2011 @ 1:38 am

    • I saw all that, and it’s typical stuff. Certainly, the writers were stupid to have faith in Huffington. That’s where the cult of Better Elites gets you. (There’s really no end to scamming the stupid “progressives”, is there? And Huffington showed how lucrative it can be.)

      But that’s no reason not to recognize and deal with her as a criminal exploiter. Yves no doubt sees herself as a potential mini-Huffington. That may explain the often-discussed mystery of why she’s been pushing the likes of Pilkington while systematically driving the real critics from the site. She perhaps sees it as marketable. Same for the Roosevelt 2.0 stuff and the Warren cult. (The funny thing is that she still can’t bring herself to fully embrace all this drivel, and frequently undercuts it in comments. That kind of lack of discipline ain’t gonna get the job done, if one’s a Huffington wannabe.)

      (If that analysis is true, what’s most ironic about it is that she’d have a better chance if she went all the way in the opposite direction, and turned the site into a no holds barred revolutionary critique. Such a site would not only be doing great good, but it would “do well” as well, just as a politician who chose to really fight for what the people want would do well.

      But like I said in the other thread, here we have typical mushy lukewarm reformism, which is untenable.)

      Hamsher, of course, has a long record as a scam artist herself, most notoriously her double-bait-and-switch scam on the health racket bailout. And FDL’s basic record is as a Democratic party astroturf. They don’t explicitly say so the way Dailykos does (i.e., Kos is honest about it), and the level of thug enforcement isn’t as extreme. But the end goal is basically the same. (I have seen moderators say that only advocacy of “legal change within the electoral system” is allowed. But Hamsher’s too cowardly to explicitly enshrine that as site policy.)

      The fact is, almost all existing elites, including big names, including in the blogosphere, are either pro-criminal or always on the verge of becoming so. (For that matter, Hedges himself is good only within his own radical-liberal boundaries but not one inch beyond. Faced with the ideas on this blog, Hedges would likely side with Goldman and Monsanto.)

      Comment by Russ — September 25, 2011 @ 2:55 am

      • Yeah, you’re right about Chris Hedges, I was just using that quote from him in order to contrast it with Yves’ response.

        My take on why Yves is promoting a bankster accomplice such as Pilkington while driving out real critics such as you or DownSouth is pretty much in line with yours. Turning NC into a pro-Establishment, status quo defending blog is strictly a business decision from Yves’ point of view.

        With its Mosler bonds and Elizabeth Warren reformist bullshit, etc, NC pretends to criticize the status quo, but of course this is deliberate misdirection just to make it look like they’re doing something. Yves must be well aware that no one gives a shit about that garbage or takes any of it seriously.The middle path, Yves’ recommended path of moderation, leads nowhere, especially when the force you’re up against is not one of moderation, but rather an extreme form of kleptocracy.

        The primary focus is to increase traffic, increase the number of hits in order to generate more ad revenue, and perhaps one day become Arianna.

        Next target on her hit list will probably be find some excuse to get rid of Hugh. For instance, if one of her Pay Day Loan advertisers complained to her about Hugh’s comments, she might send an email threatening to ban him unless he stops referring to the ruling elites as kleptocrats and instead starts referring to them instead as “captured”.

        Once an employee of Goldman Sachs, always an employee of Goldman Sachs, at least in spirit. Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.

        And you were probably right before: six months from now the focus of NC commentary will be whether or not to vote for Obama in 2012. After endless discussion of lesser evil this, better democrat that, ad nauseum: 95 percent of remaining NC readers will probably throw their support behind the the kleptocrat in charge, once again, despite all his crimes.

        By that time Yves blog will have come full circle and it will be a fitting end: Naked Capitalism and Obama deserve each other. (Not that Obama will even notice its existence.)

        Comment by Frank Lavarre — September 25, 2011 @ 6:48 am

      • “(For that matter, Hedges himself is good only within his own radical-liberal boundaries but not one inch beyond. Faced with the ideas on this blog, Hedges would likely side with Goldman and Monsanto.)”

        On what basis do you make this claim? I’ve seen a number of comments about Hedges’ alleged ideological problems here, and none of them seemed to have any reference to any of his actual work. Hedges’ ideas are fully congruent with everything expressed on this blog. I’ve said this before, but if Hedges is beyond the pale here, this is truly an ideological ghetto- there’s no good faith interpretation of any of his work or actions that could possibly extract a pro-bankster, pro-corporate position. The guy is more or less constantly railing against corporatism and insisting that direct action against the banks and a concerted program of disengagement from the corporate economy and relocalisation is the only viable way forward.

        Comment by paper mac — September 26, 2011 @ 12:16 am

      • OK, let’s get to the bottom of this. My reading of Hedges has been ad hoc and, to some extent, at second hand. I gather that you’ve read him more systematically than I have. (And looking at it again, my phrasing there at the end was a little excessive beyond what I meant to say.)

        I agree that Hedges is one of the best analysts of kleptocracy and of the moral and policy bankruptcy of reformism. His prescription is vague, but he repeatedly trots out the same list of names – Wolin, Nader, Chomsky (by which I assume he means the latter-stage Chomsky rather than the earlier anarchist one, given the juxtaposition with Nader) – as exemplary of where he stands.

        I’ve also frequently seen other commenters refer to his attacks on the substance of anarchism even if he sometimes claims to agree with much of it in name.

        Based on strange and gratuitous MSM-style straw-manning toward the term “anarchism” like in this piece


        and other things I did read, which caused me to consider Hedges a radical liberal, I found the unlinked criticisms plausible.

        But if you’ve read more of him, and vouch that my view is incorrect, I’ll be glad to change it. I’ll take your word for it, but do you have a link where he does clearly prescribe? And perhaps where he’s clear on anarchism? For this comment I did a quick search and didn’t find anything dispositive either way, which is probably evidence for your contention. But the first thing I found was that straw-manner, which I had seen before and which played a role in my opinion formation.

        (Not that I care much about making a big deal out of this. I never insisted on anything against Hedges the way I have about e.g. Krugman. But I don’t want to be accused of this being a “ghetto”, so if you want to set the record straight please do so.)

        Comment by Russ — September 26, 2011 @ 6:27 am

      • I like this


        Hedges was particularly impressed by the significance of Saturday’s mass arrests on the part of the New York Police Department. He told the interviewer, “The real people who are scared are the power elite. Of course, they’re trying to make you scared and us scared. But I can tell you, having been a reporter for the New York Times, that on the inside they’re very, very frightened. They do not want movements like this to grow, and they understand on some level — whether it’s subconscious or, in other cases, even overt — that the criminal class in this country has seized power.”
        Hedges went on to say that the protesters should be seen as “conservatives” because “they call for the restoration of the rule of law.”

        “The real radicals have seized power,” he asserted, “and they are decimating all impediments to the creation of a neo-feudalistic corporate state, one in which there is a rapacious oligarchic class, a thin managerial elite, and two-thirds of this country live in conditions that increasingly push families to subsistence level.”

        and obviously I agree that the rule of law message is a good one for public consumption nowadays. Thus I used to use it myself here, and I probably still would if writing for a general audience.

        If I were going to nitpick, though, I have to wonder – does Hedges really believe in some Better Rule of Law other than the pro-elite kind which has always existed? Would he draw the line at those who want to transcend “law”, the way anarchists do? The communities Graeber discusses didn’t have the Rule of Law the way the modern State knows it. That’s the kind of issue I alluded to above, albeit with excessive rhetoric about Monsanto and such.

        Comment by Russ — September 26, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

      • Russ- my comment was intemperate and was written shortly after I got done writing someone a nasty email picking a scientific fight, LOL. That said, I really do think Hedges’ analysis and prescriptions align closely with the ones described here. Hedges comes from a liberal theological educational background, and I don’t think it’s any surprise that he frequently refers to those sources for some of his analysis. That article you link with the anarchism straw-man seems to be more of an inartful wording than anything else- Hedges self-identifies as a Catholic anarchist along the same lines as Dorothy Day. In any case, the point I was making with the (likewise inartful) “ghetto” comment is that it’s possible to come to more or less exactly the same conclusions about the necessity of relocalisation, the absurdity of reform, and the moral necessity of resistance (regardless of the chance of success) from a variety of ideological backgrounds. Given that he self-identifies as an anarchist, advocates strongly for disengagement and relocalisation to small communities using sustainable agriculture, identifies the corporate government as totalitarian and fundamentally evil, and walks the walk (he’s currently at the Wall St occupation- see his interview here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SKw2j3XOY0&feature=related which touches on a lot of this stuff), I see attacks on people like him as basically counterproductive to building the kind of coalition that we need, so that’s why I reacted the way I did.

        Comment by paper mac — September 28, 2011 @ 1:13 am

      • With regard to the “rule of law/we’re the real conservatives” thing, I’m pretty sure that’s messaging- Hedges has repeatedly stated that he is deeply suspicious and mistrustful of any and all concentrations of power. So “rule of law” for him definitely isn’t “better elites”.

        Comment by paper mac — September 28, 2011 @ 1:14 am

      • Points good and taken, paper mac. I do think I’m sometimes prone to see the glass more empty than it really is. (That’s because it usually is empty, if not filled with poison.)

        But you’re right that where it comes to the better writers it’s stupid to nitpick. While I can’t and won’t abide actual attacks or selling out even from otherwise excellent writers, mere rhetorical ambiguity, perhaps tactically deployed, is something we all evince.

        Comment by Russ — September 28, 2011 @ 3:46 am

    • So she’s a Harvard brat? That figures; she comes off as somewhat of a snob to me and exhibits some paranoid characteristics as well. Just the other day she was trying to instill fear in her readers saying that if you use encryption, you’ll attract The State’s ire, and they’ll monitor EVERYTHING you do. Mwahahaha. Bring it on, I say. What is with cowardice in Americans these days anyway?

      Comment by antiks72 — September 26, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

      • I hate it when I see defeatist stuff like that. It’s a kind of trolling. But Smith herself used to sometimes argue with those who’d spew versions of “we’re doomed, and there’s nothing we can do”, or paranoia along the lines of “don’t do anything to attract attention”.

        Comment by Russ — September 26, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

  2. I think that’s a likely prognostication. It might be tougher for her to justify booting Hugh, because he’s more moderate in his tone. But I have noticed her picking fights with Tao, who’s also more moderate tonewise. (At least that’s the way I saw it, though Tao might see it differently.)

    I hope we’ll shortly be moving on from talking about Reclothed Capitalism.

    I feel derelict about not keeping better tabs on Occupy Wall Street, which I admit I thought at first wouldn’t hang on. But in spite of a near-total media blackout, including subversion and censorship on the part of Yahoo, Youtube, Twitter, and others, it’s been developing and strengthening. Corrente has some good stuff.


    (I haven’t been back over to Costumed Capitalism to see if there’s any ironic links about the censorship of the protest.)

    Comment by Russ — September 25, 2011 @ 7:28 am

    • Yeah, that’s all I wanted to say about “Regalia Capitalism”. Changing the subject, Alexander Cockburn has written a pretty good article for this weekend’s edition of Counterpunch:


      And I’ll check out the Occupy Wall Street link. Maybe this thing has legs?

      Comment by Frank Lavarre — September 25, 2011 @ 8:12 am

      • Maybe! In the long run, for sure, whatever happens proximately here. The more people get the sense that protest (and not just some picayune petition) is what they’re supposed to be doing, the more they’ll do it, and the more skilled and confident they’ll get at it.

        Comment by Russ — September 25, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  3. As Monty Python says, “And now for something completely different…” This brought a large smile to my face and I thought of you immediately when I came across it.


    “I am not a builder or carpenter, my experience is only having a go at one similar house 2yrs before and a bit of mucking around in-between. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverance and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.”

    Why do people still want to make life so complicated?

    Comment by Pete — September 25, 2011 @ 9:06 am

    • That’s cool, Pete, thanks. We see how easy and inexpensive good housing could be if it weren’t for the land enclosure barriers to it. (The piece didn’t say what the land itself cost.)

      No one wants to make life complicated except those who profit from it.

      Comment by Russ — September 25, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

      • Amen

        Comment by William — September 25, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

      • That’s about the size of it. I’m convinced that it is the religion of money itself that is the superweed. Pull that ‘thought weed’ up by its roots and humans can be humans again.

        Hopefully our “rugged individualist” is squatting somewhere on some underutilized property.

        I’d love to get you and this guy bouncing some ideas around. Currently reading his books about the transition to gift economies. His presentation makes it easy for those who struggle with the psychological hurdles, which seems to be the biggest barrier imposed by the criminals. He seems to be gently plucking on the mind’s harp strings. Pretty simple. Choose one, empathy or domination? Come on people.


        Comment by Pete — September 25, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

      • Thanks Pete. I wasn’t criticizing him when I mentioned the land, I just wanted us to be clear on the accounting.

        Money’s a religion all right, and like you say the psychological hurdles you mention are among the toughest. If more people could overcome those, all the other hurdles would be diminished in size. There’s an inverse proportion there.

        Comment by Russ — September 26, 2011 @ 6:33 am

    • Thanks for this. Straw bale, timber, lime plaster, turf. Beautiful work.

      Comment by paper mac — September 26, 2011 @ 12:03 am

      • Is that like the techniques you were researching?

        Comment by Russ — September 26, 2011 @ 6:33 am

      • You are most welcome. Some similar techniques being applied here, outside of Asheville, NC. http://www.earthaven.org/natural-building/

        Gets the juices pumping. I’ll stop hijacking your threads here.

        Vigorously working to escape Chicago for a more sustainable & natural setting.

        Up and over ~ Pete

        Comment by Pete — September 26, 2011 @ 10:45 am

      • That’s not hijacking. That’s the good stuff we want to see around here.

        Comment by Russ — September 26, 2011 @ 11:06 am

      • Yep, at the moment I’m working on some drawings for a house and a brewhouse that use straw bale, timber framing, sod/clay roofs, and compressed earth blocks. The impressive thing about this house is that the fellow seemed to just build it with what looks like basically driftwood (or the land-based equivalent)- I have no idea how he got this past a building inspector, but it’s beautifully organic.

        Comment by paper mac — September 27, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

  4. Russ,

    So far I haven’t noticed any of the Occupy Wall Street protestors calling for Mosler bonds or Elizabeth Warren for Senate.

    What’s wrong with those people?


    Comment by Frank Lavarre — September 26, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

    • When I was first reading about the thing, at the “official” website the organizers wanted to make “One Simple Demand”, which turned out to be a lame-ass petition to Obama. I was pleased to see the comments shredding that idea.

      It looks like the street had its own ideas on that, and the last I heard, although many are still using the One Simple Demand slogan, what people really want is something vaster than can easily be phrased.

      I have One Simple Demand as well. This whole blog expresses it. Democracy is one word for it. Humanity is another.

      Comment by Russ — September 26, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

  5. The following video, “No one can predict the moment of revolution” (Occupy Wall Street) is pretty good:

    In case you have trouble with the link above, you can also find a link to it at Zcommunications in an article entitled “Occupying Wall Street on a Saturday Afternoon:.

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — September 26, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

    • Thanks Frank. This stuff is right now small, but a promising start.

      Comment by Russ — September 28, 2011 @ 3:47 am

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