Attack of the Killer Tomatoes/Robots?

robot
For those of you who remember, the Killer Tomatoes were a hoot.

Now let’s see how funny you find this article on robots, by Paul Craig Roberts.

Military training and the spreading militarization of many police departments has a basic goal: teach your troops to regard their targets as objects rather than human beings deserving of concern, mercy or even common decency. The cost of that indoctrination is horrendous to both the victims and the practitioners. By denying the humanity of the enemy or the supposed-enemy, the criminal or assumed criminal, the annoying and troublesome protester, the soldier and policeman are free to inflict anything up to and including death on their targets. In doing so, they forfeit their own humanity Those in control of the process are themselves inhumane, else they would not install, sustain, exercise, project and protect the process. Those soldiers and police whose personal integrity and sense of humanity prevents the indoctrination are marginalized or booted out. Those less strong end up doing things that haunt them the rest of their lives and leave them psychologically crippled.
How much worse when the killers have no conscience?

And we voted for them or the people who appointed them.

The US government no longer pays any attention to the Geneva Conventions and the international laws once supported by the United States until “the war on terror” took over the government. The Bush and Obama regimes have eliminated morality from the picture. Any combatant who surrenders or is captured is likely to be illegally tortured, as all available evidence shows. Paul Craig Roberts

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The Cockleburs of Culture

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Fortuitously or otherwise, events public and private have combined recently to focus my attention ever more closely on downsizing, reducing and simplifying my life, making it more satisfying, more useful to myself and others, eliminating the unnecessary, distinguishing between what I merely want and what I need.

Having spent the last 50 years doing high-profile IT work, much of it ‘bleeding edge’, having worked 140-hour weeks for months at a time, having been on-call 24×7 most of those years, the artificiality of that work was never questioned, certainly not by me. Yet the work and the life it consumed were essentially ‘virtual’ compared to the reality of making cheese, building furniture or houses, knitting scarves, raising children, tending the ill and elderly. Manipulating bits and bytes was interesting, challenging and financially rewarding but ultimately unsatifying.

I’d call it a mid-life crisis, except that that phase came and went decades ago. What’s happening now is deeper, more basic to the experience of modern America. In the process of reconstructing my world, I began to realize how plugged in I am – how plugged in we all are – to the Zeitgeist.

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Family Matters

English spelling has changed a lot over the centuries and there were often several acceptable spellings of many words.
‘Potatoe’ was one such alternate spelling, circa 1600s, so when Dan Quayle spelled it that way in 1992, I just figured he learned his spelling where he learned his politics.

Similarly, when I hear the blather of the Family Values crowd, it reminds me very much of the 1600s in New England:

In theory, the seventeenth-century family was a hierarchical unit, in which the father was invested with patriarchal authority. He alone sat in an armed chair, his symbolic throne, while other household members sat on benches or stools. He taught children to write, led household prayers, and carried on the bulk of correspondence with family members. Domestic conduct manuals were addressed to him, not to his wife. Legally, the father was the primary parent. Fathers, not mothers, received custody of children after divorce or separation. In colonial New England, a father was authorized to correct and punish insubordinate wives, disruptive children, and unruly servants. He was also responsible for placing his children in a lawful calling and for consenting to his children’s marriages. His control over inheritance kept his grown sons dependent upon him for years, while they waited for the landed property they needed to establish an independent household.

I think ‘authority’ is the key word here. And they too pretended their rights were God-given, didn’t they?
Sound familiar?
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Downsides and Upsides

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Interesting post from Ian Welsh.
The upside is that catastrophe brings out the best in people.
The downside is that it takes a catastrophe to bring out the best in people.

Pov4

The great problem we have today in improving our society, in fixing our economy, is that so many people don’t want to give up what they have.

But what the past 40 years have proven is this: if you lose your job, you’re on your own. If you’re in your 40s and 50s and you lose a good job, you’ll probably never, ever, have a good job ever again. People who are displaced by economic change, good or bad, aren’t taken care of. We have reduced retraining, made welfare and unemployment insurance harder to get, increased university tuition, not made efforts to find or create new, good jobs. We hire foreigners to take over the job of older techies, since they cost too much.

So they grasp tightly to what they have, and everyone fights to make sure that nothing really changes. Each person, with their little or big piece of the pie, fights viciously to keep it whether it’s good for society or not.

…only in extremis, [] people realize that everyone is in it together, will they be willing to take care of each other. And only in time of catastrophe, when so many have lost everything, will they be willing to change society.

Death of the dream
Consuming Democracy

Agonist Going Forward

GuessCool1boat1

Images: WTF?    Stay Cool    We’re all in the same boat

Now that the dust has been stirred up and most of it has settled, I would like to solicit ideas from the entire Agonist community, from the top to the bottom.
I am seeking thoughts on how best to administer the site, keep posts flowing and serve both our writers and our readers going forward.

If the thread gets too long it will be closed to comments and new thread started, so feel free to let your creative juices flow.

Thank you.

BTW: With a Nor’Easter headed my way, my access to the ‘Net might be interrupted, so don’t panic or be offended if a response is not immediate over the next couple of days.

 

Future of The Agonist

where play

The Agonist has always been a labor of love for those who contribute to it. We’re not looking for glory and we are certainly not making any money from it. The quality of our efforts have earned us a decent level of recognition and a good reputation on the ‘Net. We would like to see that continue.

In lieu of participation and management by the owners of The Agonist domain or their designate, the community seems to be continuing without editorial guidance or focus. While this provides a forum at least for now, the long-term viability of an undirected forum is unpredictable. The Internet is full of sites which degenerated into tiny communities preaching to their respective choirs, yet there are also communities which operate productively simply because of common interests and a tacit agreement of what constitutes appropriate postings and comments.

It may be that the inherent interests of the editors, authors and contributors will coalesce into a useful and productive whole and will thereby provide a focus for going forward. For that to happen, those who post (or comment) should bear in mind that without any central guidance, their actions are the only thing that define the site to our subscribers and the blogsphere. Please behave accordingly – keep your comments on-thread, argue politely, play nice.

Good luck to us all.

 

(Update from actor212: I’ve pinned this post to the front page so that we can continue a really good discussion more easily)

Protecting the Commons

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Common: [kom-unhn] noun
belonging equally to, or shared alike by, two or more or all in question: common property; common interests.
pertaining or belonging equally to an entire community, nation, or culture; public: a common language or history; a common water-supply system.
joint; united: a common defense.

Interesting post by Thomas Hedges at Truthdig.

I wonder if-and-when along the road to disaster Capitalists will recognize they are also part of and dependent upon the Common.

as the basic needs of fresh water, energy and food are being overproduced or vanishing because of climate change, companies are finding that their only options are to draw from the scant resources of Third World communities to meet their profit margins. It is a test to see what, in the end, neoliberalism holds higher in value: money or life. [] that question has already been answered in the building of the coal-fired Medupi Power Station in South Africa.

[] water isn’t fungible. If I give you my gallon of water and you give me $1,000, I can’t drink the thousand dollars.

[The commons] is an intellectually coherent way of talking about inalienable value, which we don’t have a vocabulary for…,” >
It is a way [] of formally introducing the “political, public policy, cultural, social, personal, even spiritual” aspects of life into our economic system, which now can deal only with monetary value. The commons introduces a role for organized self-governance as opposed to government, [] although they can be made complimentary. The community manages the resource and has an involved interest in keeping others from decreasing its supply, he says, because the license belongs to the public.

Enclosure, [about patents and private ownership] is about dispossession. It’s a process by which the powerful convert a shared community resource into a market commodity. This is known as development. The strange thing about the commons is that it’s invisible because it’s outside of the market and the state[], It’s not seen as valuable and isn’t recognized because it has little to do with property rights for markets or geopolitical power … but there’s an estimated 2 billion people around the world whose lives depend upon commons like fisheries, forests, irrigation water and so forth. The neoliberal market does not, paradoxically, grasp the purpose behind the commons. Our current system is one-dimensional [] and is designed to attach a price to everything. This is the result of an economy based on the philosophies of Thomas Malthus and John Locke, whose models do not guarantee the right of existence.
To exist, one must have money.

It [money] becomes the defining characteristic of life.

Other Horizons – Poetry

Why Poetry Matters

weldon-kees Patrick_Pearse corso

What is the point of an art form so utterly uncommercial, impractical, and distant from the prosaic focus of our daily routine?- Julian H Lowenfeld
The point, as Wordsworth put it, is that “the world is too much with us, late and soon…” and we sometimes need release from that imprisonment of our mind and soul.
We need poetry because “Poetry is the link between the real and the ideal worlds” and without an Ideal, the Real descends to chaos and decay and barbarism.
And the less we seek and experience the ideal, the faster and worse our descent. Poetry civilizes us by keeping us in touch with what really matters.


Years ago, browsing through the great bookstores that used to be so plentiful, I began to wonder if anyone read poetry except poets and the occasional reluctant student. Certainly many people dabble in writing poetry, and while chatting with others in the poetry section, I found all of us were ‘amateur poets’. I suspect we dilettantes are the only market for poetry, a fact that professional poets probably find depressing. (Many poets of an earlier time had mundane professional lives. Their poetry was ‘dilettante’ by definition, but age seems to have cast a patina of respectability over their efforts. Go figure.)

Back in my Greenwich Village days in the golden ’60s, I wrote pretty consistently, to the point that I finally had to decide whether I wanted to Become-A-Poet or just write poems. I very deliberately chose a different livelihood. Marriage and family were added to the mix, and poetry was moved to the back burner. Whether I should have taken the other road is a question that will always haunt me.

It wasn’t so much a question of time to write, as a poem can be written in a matter of minutes. However, it may take hours or days or even weeks to achieve the necessary mental and emotional ambience for those few minutes of actual creation. I passed on becoming a poet because I was unwilling to accept, or at least uncertain about living in a poet’s mindset. And if you know much about the lives of most modern poets, you can understand my reluctance. There are many poets whose work I respect and love – and whose lives I would definitely not want to emulate. (My liver probably wouldn’t take it).

To the extent that art concerns itself with the Ideal World, artists will always be out of step with those whose lives are an attempt to master the Real World. Neither the artist nor the non-artist will ever really ‘master’ their respective worlds, but at least the artist is striving for something worth attaining, something which is intrinsically valuable.

In my view, art of any sort has two components. The first, and lesser of the two, is the craft to embody the artist’s perception. The more vital component is that perception; the ability to look at the same things we all look at and see something different, something extra, something beyond. It is this ability of the artist which expands our perception, enhances our grasp of the world, increases our humanity. All true art does that.

Poety is “Language that tells us [] something that can not be said…” – E. A. Robinson

Sir Philip Sidney also noted “…poetry is of all human learnings the most ancient [] from whence other learnings take their beginnings…”

Man’s first attempt to grasp the nature of the world and our place in it was expressed in poetry. It was the language of Truth and universally recognized as such by all cultures. It is no accident the ancient bards stood high at the king’s court; that a composition of a bard might settle a dispute that would otherwise mean battle; that all tribal societies seem to have a sacred language.

How does one identify poetry? Robert Graves quoted Houseman’s practical test:
Does it make the hairs of one’s chin bristle if one repeats it silently while shaving?

I have my own criterion:
Can I recite it aloud without breaking down mid-poem

The final chorus of Eric Bogle’s “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda:
But the band plays Waltzing Matilda and the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear.
Someday no on will march there at all.

Padriac Pearse’s “The Mother”
I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed;
But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
We suffer in their coming and their going;
And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow–And yet I have my joy:
My sons were faithful, and they fought.

Excerpt from Padriac Pearse’s “The Fool”
And the wise have pitied the fool that hath striven to give a life
In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things,
To a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.

Think this is Arthur Symons from Poetica Erotica anthology but could not verify
All that I know of love, I learned from you,
And I know all that lover ever knew,
Since – passionately loving to be loved –
The subtlties of your wise body moved
My senses to a curiousity
And your wise heart adorned itself for me.
Did you not teach me how to love you? How
to win you? How to suffer? I suffer
For you now with that same skill
Of self-consuming ecstatsy whose thrill
– may Death someday the thought of it remove –
You gathered from the very hands of Love.

Stella Maris

An Ancient Gesture

Interregnum

For My Daughter

Covering Two Years

The American Way
Excerpt from The American Way – Gregory Corso

What is the Way?
The Way was born out of the American Dream a
nightmare—
The state of Americans today compared to the Americans
of the 18th century proves the nightmare—
Not Franklin not Jefferson who speaks for America today
but strange red-necked men of industry
and the goofs of show business.

Americans are a great people
I ask for some great and wondrous event
that will free them from the Way
and make them a glorious purposeful people once
again
I do not know if that event is due deserved
or even possible
I can only hold that man is the victory of life
And I hold firm to American man.

What poets/poems enrich your life?

h/t Carol Lea Booth And as long as we’re on the subject…

Rubber Meets Road Time For Immigration Reform

The big political story today is that the “Gang of Eight”, a  Senators has proposed comprehensive legislation on immigration reform, including a path to citizenship. The trouble is, that would be contingent on ” a commission comprised of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders living along the Southwest border” concluding that the border had been fully secured – which since those leaders would include Govs. Brewer and Perry may never happen.

But even before we get that far, the legislation has to pass through the House’s Republican hardliners, and may die there.

No More Mister Nice Blog

If I had to bet, I’d assume that nothing passes — that the House GOP will make the bill even tougher on immigrants, possibly even stripping out any path to citizenship, and it will still be deemed “amnesty” by most of them, while going too far to the right even for willing-to-compromise Democrats.

Mother Jones

The Gang of Eight’s framework isn’t all terrible—it’s just unworkable. It places conditions it’s unlikely to meet, and then further compounds the problem by putting a veto in the hands of people who are likely to oppose the plan even if those conditions were met.

NYT

He [McCain] added, “We can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status.”

Mark Kirkorian at The Corner is typical of the hard right’s response: “Eight members of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body have labored for months and delivered unto us — Bush’s amnesty plan.”

The fact that everyone seems to agree that Something Must Be Done doesn’t mean this go-round will get it right.

I really want to see Obama’s proposals and see how they match up with the mutual backscratching in the House & Senate.

It’s rubber-meets-the-road time.