Sunday, November 14, 2004

[politics] Freedom to

I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between "Freedom from" and "Freedom to". While this distinction was probably subconsciously clear to me for a while, it was in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale that this struggle was first clearly delimited for me. In my America, there is only "freedom to". Freedom to succeed regardless of your race (or lack thereof), religion (or lack thereof), or class (or lack thereof). Freedom to thine own self be true. Freedom to fail regardless of your race (or lack thereof), religion (or lack thereof), or class (or lack thereof). Freedom to not give a shit what anyone else thinks. Freedom to tell anyone that you don't give a shit what they think. Freedom to stand up against any enemy, foreign or domestic. Yet we have been sold on 'Freedom from'. We've been promised freedom from terrorist attacks, even though the powers that be know that another one will be coming. We've been promised a Ponzi scheme of freedom from taxes, even though the backers of this lunacy know full well what the result will be. We've been promised freedom from government interference, which really only applies to big corporations and wealthy investors, and explicitly doesn't apply if you're gay or unmarried or poor or trying to get an abortion or trying to expose graft and corruption or unionize or clean up your drinking water. We've been promised freedom from poverty, but been given policies that will increase the numbers of the poor, uninsured and underemployed. We've been promised freedom from impure thoughts and deeds, while corporations laugh all the way to the bank with their profits from tobacco, alcohol and smut. We've been promised liberation from the snares of the effete Hollywood intellectual crowds: you know, the ones who believe in civil rights and evolution and that gays are people (oh, and Arabs might be too) and that science is not just a goddam theory and that the schools should not be instuments of any Church and that taxes should be progressive and that... ...wait... Just what are we being freed from? If I'm going to be given 'freedom from', I want it to be this: Freedom from the dominance of any institution: Church, State, Corporation. If I can't have that, I want the power to create and associate with institutions that can counteract those that benefit from the current corporatist system. Freedom from fear: I want speech, association, and assembly given their due. I want a truly blind system of Justice. No one should have to fear speaking their mind, living their lives, acting on their beliefs, or simply being themselves. Freedom from want: It disgusts me that this nation has as much poverty as it does. Health care, food, fair wages, shelter; these are not merely good ideas. These should be fundamental rights. Do I want the security posed by the concept of 'freedom from'? You bet. But until I can be sure that this security will not be had at the price of our liberties, I will always err on the side of 'freedom to'.

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[politics] With progress like this...

...who has time for failure? Tip of the hat to Atrios. Folks, I can't make this shit up - we're so far down the rabbit hole, it isn't even funny anymore. Hell, it stopped being funny almost as soon as we started chasing the white bunny with the watch and waistcoat and asking about Maryann, but when will the so-called 'Liberal Media' stop letting these bastards engage in such Orwellian double-speak?

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Friday, November 12, 2004

[random] housekeeping

Until I feel adventurous enough to implement one of the hacks that allows blogger to mimic post categories (hey, I'm a rich-client/Wintel code monkey - I know next to nothing about HTML or CSS...) I'm gonna use little [comment] thingies in the post titles to indicate an approximate category under which my posts should be filed. So far, we've got C#, politics, poetry, and random. I expect to add music as well, though what I'd really like to do is either implement one of the aforementioned hacks or try hosting my own blog using something I have a prayer of understanding better, like .Text (now called "Community Server::Blogs" or some such...

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[politics] where's FDR's spirit when you need it?

"The only thing we have to fear... is Fear itself." So, what's a closer-to-forty-than-thirty-year-old geek doing quoting FDR? Roosevelt had been dead almost 25 years by the time I was born. At the time of my birth, we were mired in Vietnam: liberalism was stalled at home, drained dry by the costs of an unwinnable war and the exit wounds left by a 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano rifle in Dealey Plaza, Dallas TX and a .30-06 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TX. How can FDR be relevant to someone who came of age and political awareness during the Reagan-Bush years? Easy. The GOP has decided to become the Crazy Eddie of fear. Fear of swarthy, bearded, hook-nosed foreigners; fear of men fucking men; fear of men liking fucking and being fucked by men; fear that you might have to read something other than the Bible; fear that having a penis no longer means being lord and master of all you survey; fear that somehow, somewhere, a dark-skinned evil-doer might have a bigger gun than you; fear that freedom of religion might actually mean freedom from religion; fear of pornographers and pederasts and pushers; fear that the ACLU might actually be right; fear that Darwin might have been right; fear that you might actually have to be nice to one of those people; fear that you might actually have to work for one of those people; fear of a world in which the Pill and abortion and equal access to education and equal pay for equal work mean that women can't be treated as chattel. Sell these fears below cost; you'll make it up in volume. My first memories of 'history' unfolding are also of fear: gas lines, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Northern Ireland, 3-Mile Island, race riots over school integration and court-mandated busing, hostages in Iran, the sack and rape of Afghanistan, heavy-handed nuclear gamesmanship, cruise missle deployments. To me, the choice always seemed obvious: closing your mind to the complexities of the world was a dead end. Letting fear take over can only result in a society (and a world) that isn't worth living in. Reacting to fear with more fear seemed to me to be pathological. Welcome to that pathology incarnate. A couple of nights go, for the first time in years, I re-read the historian Richard Hofstadter's essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics". Some 40 years old, it is particularly trenchant today. Observe:
If, after our historically discontinuous examples of the paranoid style, we now take the long jump to the contemporary right wing, we find some rather important differences from the nineteenth-century movements. The spokesmen of those earlier movements felt that they stood for causes and personal types that were still in possession of their country—that they were fending off threats to a still established way of life. But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.
Okay, remember: this is 40 years old. Our current situation is the product of a movement some 60? 70? years in the making - the New Left flared out after a mere decade, squandering the intellectual capital and hard-earned lessons of a full century of Leftist words and deeds. Among other reasons, I believe a factor in it's decline was that it fell prey to it's own version of this psychosis. What scares the hell out of me, though, is this: the beliefs that these lunatics espouse are a lot closer to the core beliefs of most Americans. The GOP has found a way to package this fear and make it palatable. 9/11 certainly helped facilitate this transaction, this transition from 'reality-based' politics to something more akin to Napoleonic or Romanic Imperialism. The Enlightenment is the Enemy; Thomas Jefferson would be deemed unfit for office in this day and age. Cotton Mather has returned to the dual-use pulpit of Church and State. I don't know how we can resist this fear-mongering, nor do I see how we can avoid sinking into our own fear-based economy, our own paranoid body politic. The alternatives that seemed so clear to me in my youth stand in even starker contrast today. The once-obvious choices to be made, paths to take, words to say; once-clear ideas to promote, territory to proudly stake, legacies to claim and embrace; these now all seem much less so definite.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

[C#] iterating through collections

I Googled this today - it explained nicely a problem I was having, and got me to start thinking about the differences between a loop that reads:
MyObject obj = null;
for (int i = 0; i < someCounter; i++)
{
    obj = MyObjectCollection[i];
    obj.Foo();
}
as opposed to this:
foreach(MyObject o in MyObjectCollection)
{
    o.Foo();
}
I'd always suspected that there were likely overhead/performance problems with the foreach/in statement, but damn is it convenient. I'd never suspected that the loop used a fundamentally different mechanism to achieve that ease of use. What I found interesting is that while the author of the referenced blog entry took home the lesson that 'mutable value types' == potentially harmful, the lesson I got was 'foreach/in' == potentially harmful. I agree that structs that act more like classes should probably be classes - on the other hand, if you can't predict what is going to come out of a statement shouldn't that be viewed as the problem? (And I'm going to have to find an addition to my css in order to format code snippets better...) [Update 11/12/2004: found it! Right here; prettified the code, though I'm not too sure about the absolutely stark-white background. It'll stay that way for now]

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

[politics] The basic things...

...expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are: Equality of opportunity for youth and for others. Jobs for those who can work. Security for those who need it. The ending of special privilege for the few. The preservation of civil liberties for all. The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living. These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech to the 77th Congress; 6 Jan 1941 This is bad? Some of the friends and allys of our newly elected administration seem to think so.

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Friday, November 05, 2004

[politics] I can't say it any better

I'll let this speak for itself.

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

[politics] In defense of 'loser' issues

This is something I posted earlier today on dKos (yeah, that's the site I'd referred to earlier as 'liberal-ish'. I stand by that characterization.) It started off as a passionate comment, an impassioned response to a diary entry I vehemently disagreed with. By the time I was ready to hit 'Post', I realized that it was a full-fleged diary on it's own. It's a very personal response to the shrieks of fury emanating from the bloody center of the current anti-Bush coalition (no, I didn't forget Poland) - those who would abandon core constituents and loyal supporters in the name of political expediency. If the future of American politics is going to be about nothing more than God, guns, and gays, so be it. You see, there are a lot of things we need to reclaim on our way to reclaiming this country from the theocrats and plutocrats. We need to reclaim the language of abortion, of queerness, of labor. We need to embrace the past of the Progressive movements while trying to be aware of our historic blind spots. With that in mind, I wrote the following:
I volunteered as a patient escort in 5 states (DC/MD/VA, MO/IL) over almost 10 years, and I've talked to a lot of patients and their partners and companions. Here's why we shouldn't back away from this fight: I've talked to many women who didn't realize that they were even pregnant until they were well into their first trimester and by the time they were able to schedule an abortion they were starting their second trimester. I've talked to women who were in denial, or too strung out, or too depressed to begin with to even deal with the fact that they were pregnant. By the time they came to, they were further along than they realized. I've talked to women who couldn't afford an abortion (or the plane/bus tickets to get somewhere they can legally get an abortion) and by the time they got the money, they found out that they were actually into their 2nd trimester during the exam at the clinic. I've talked to the families of women who travelled across 3 or 4 states to get a late-term abortion because the woman was carrying a dead fetus and their state wouldn't allow them to get an abortion because it hadn't turned septic yet and there was no imminent threat to the life of the mother. I've talked to women who didn't find out that they were carrying an unviable fetus or a fetus that wouldn't survive longer than a couple of days until late in their pregnancy. I've talked to women who had been told that their pregnancy was probably (but not definitely) life-threatening, who would have had to wait until even further along into the pregnancy before an abortion would have been approved in their home state. I've talked to the sisters and aunts and grandmothers of pregnant women whose parents or partners tried to force them to have the baby, and they couldn't find a sympathetic ear until late in their first trimester/early into their second. Here's why abortion is a 'loser': I've talked to a lot of women who thought abortion was murder but that their circumstances made it okay - it was those other sluts and tramps who were going to Hell. I've talked to more women and their companions/family members/partners than I care to think about who said words to the effect of "I never knew anyone who had an abortion" followed quickly by "I never though it could happen to me/us". I've had to listen to hours of blind vitriol from the other side: racism, sexism, homophobia, you name it. I've had to endure the near-orgasmic verbalizations of fantasies about bringing back the Inquisition or hastening the End Times. We've lost these people; I'm okay with that. We haven't lost the others yet, the 'it can't happen to me' people, the 'sluts and whores get what they deserve' people, the 'this isn't important because it doesn't affect me directly' people. I understand why the "we need to back off 'loser' issues" crowd is saying what they are, but the reality of life is a lot messier than most people will ever admit. And if we keep backing away from these 'loser' issues, where do we stop? When the Jim Crow laws are reinstated? When it becomes illegal to unionize? When gays, intellectuals, and other 'undersireables' are deemed to be threats to the state? That's too high a price for me to pay.
You see, most people are blind to the way so many of these issues tie together unless they impact upon them directly. These 'loser' issues are interrelated, and we've lost our political souls if we walk away from them in order to gain seats in Congress or the White House. Once we do that, we've lost in our winning.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

[politics, poetry] we are two nations

"we are two nations America our nation has been beaten by strangers who have bought the laws and fenced off the meadows and cut down the woods for pulp and turned our pleasant cities into slums and sweated the wealth out of our people and when they want to they hire the executioner to throw the switch" -- Jon Dos Passos, "Sacco & Vanzetti/The Camera Eye (50)"
I'd forgotten how much I liked Dos Passos; a tip of the hat to the Rude Pundit. He isn't work-safe, nor is he for the faint of heart or overly-politically-correct, but damn! when he's good, he's good.

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[politics] anger is a gift

On a liberal-ish blog I frequent, someone posted something to the effect of "well, it's wrong to tell your kids how to think - let them figure it out on their own when they're old enough". Bullshit. What is wrong is teaching your kids to hate. What is wrong is telling your kids who to hate. What is also wrong is living in a relativist Shangri-La, where all points of view are equally valued. Guess what? Judge Roy Moore doesn't value your point of view. Ralph Reed doesn't value your point of view. And W sure as fuck doesn't value your point of view. Grover Nordquist has never valued your point of view. Scalia and Thomas? Please. Be serious. The challenge with your children, as I see it, is to not let your fear and anger show. Am I scared today? Yes. Am I angry today? Boo-yah! Did I let my son see that? For the future of this country, I sincerely hope not. My son is four years old. He's got a very advanced grasp of the world, and verbal skills to match, so we've been very open with him about our beliefs and we've tried to explain as best we can why we hold our Truths to be self evident. At some level, he gets it. We've explained that some people have different points of view, and that they are entitled to their point of view, but we've also made damn sure that by the end of our discussions of current events, our views are not changing because they aren't in synch with the larger electorate. The 'winning' views are not superior morally or intellectually. They just won. This time. This he also gets. So, apart from being a line in a song by Rage Against the Machine, where does the title come in? Anger is a great force for change; sometimes positive, sometimes negative. It is something we must harness and direct into purposeful action. Action will be different things for different people. But action of some kind there must be. Look at the sea changes of early modern Western thought: the Reformation and Counter-Reformation; the end of absolute Monarchy in the Age of Reason; the birth of Socialism out of the ruins of Merchant-Capitalism run amok. Look at American history: Abolition, the Labor movement, Civil Rights. Anger. Martin Luther? Ignatius Loyola? Jean Rousseau? Tom Paine? Pierre Prudhon? Fredrick Douglass? Mother Jones? WEB DuBois? Martin Luther King, Jr? Anger. Anger is in seeing the gulf between what is and what should be. It is in seeing the hypocrisy of the ruling elites as they manipulate the masses. It is in seeing clearly the injustice and exploitation rampant in the world. Anger is what will drive us forward. We are right, and we are certain, and ultimately (I hope) we will not be denied. But we can't feed our children on anger. We must nurture them on reason and hope, and that must prevail; anger they will discover soon enough.

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[politics] fuck

I'm going to bed. Looks like I was wrong about those Molotov cocktails.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

[politics] Do it!

Vote, dammit! (Besides, it's safer than Molotov cocktails...)

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