Moving to Wordpress!

8:31 PM

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To all 0 of you who read this, I'm moving to Wordpress and making an attempt at being (yet again) a bit more serious.

Iris Star Chamberlain

How to Discover the Truth (Maybe, Sorta)

1:06 PM

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I've probably talked a lot about this before, since it's been driving me nuts lately, but I try to explain often that I don't really believe we have access to the Truth very often (but we're always looking for it). This is most frustrating when you run up against two completely different explanations for something. When trying to school oneself in politics, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that there's a lot of competing and contradictory information out there, and at some point you have to ask with whom the truth lies (haha.... pun).

I think at a high level, it depends on the situation, and each issue should be evaluated separately. This can be a pain in the ass so my decision has been to find a source I trust and research what I can when I have time but generally accept what they say. If you don't find someone whose analysis you trust, but you still search for knowlege, you're just going to drive yourself insane.

Most of us have a source we trust. For many right-wingers it's Fox News. For moderates perhaps it's The New York Times or NPR. For me it's Socialist Worker. From what I've discovered on my journey, there are some useful steps to finding someone to trust:
Look for a source that shares your morals and desires.
Ask yourself what they might have to gain from printing inaccuracies or misleading through omission, spin or specific language.
Find out what sources they use, and if you find those sources to be trustworthy.

For me, I trust Socialist Worker because the people who write for that paper share the same morals and goals with me: We are against bigotry, oppression, imperialism and poverty, and for the idea of putting people before profit. I personally believe that they have nothing to gain from misleading the public (it would only hurt their cause), because if they achieve their goal, everyone in the world will benefit. They do use loaded language, but since I agree with their cause, it doesn't bother me.

I also tend to trust NPR because it seems like a reputable and largely neutral source, likely do to its funding by the public rather than corporate interests. I also get a lot of my news from The Guardian, a british newspaper that isn't afraid to comment more bluntly on United States news (it may however, be not so great for British news).

I don't trust sources run by bigots of any kind, because we don't share the same morals or goals. In addition, information motivated by hate is often even more colored by biases and intense emotions, so you end up with really dumb stuff like "Feminazis are Jews" (go ahead, google it). I haven't yet figured out if something motivates people to spread misinformation for their cause or if they just see what they want to see. These warnings apply for everyone of course.

In any case, I mistrust most mainstream news because news outlets like Fox, CNN, The Washington Post, etc are companies - they don't exist to inform the public, just to make money, and a lot of people have interests in this success including many people in government. Media and government have a mutually beneficial relationship. I think this is becoming common sense among people now, but it seemed very much like a conspiracy theory for the past 8 years or more. I think a lot of people assume people in government and media are just like us, clueless. I personally don't believe that.

So we're all going to come to different conclusions based on our own experiences, beliefs, and biases. I'm sure there are a lot of people who think that Socialist Worker would benefit from misleading the public because the people who run it want to turn the world into marching formations of grey uniforms and want no one to have choice and want to kill a lot of people. I personally don't believe that. :)

The other step to moving um, closer to the truth, is to get as many perspectives as possible. For most people (perhaps unless you're Noam Chomsky or something), your first impression is going to be missing a lot of pieces. As a radical leftist with a socialist perspective, I make sure to read views that I tend to agree with, but in order to get any context at all I have to understand what the mainstream media is saying. That way I can compare the status quo storyline to the radical storyline and ask which makes sense.

This process became really apparent in the past few weeks as I've tried to school myself on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I tried to understand it a bunch of times in the past and I just couldn't get my head around it for some reason (mostly because I couldn't remember who the Israelis were and who the Palestinians were - pretty dumb huh?). My first impressions came from hearsay and the mainstream media. What I heard was that the terrorists in Gaza, Hamas and normal people, were shooting rockets at and killing Israelis, so Israeli responded. Shamefully I have to admit, at this point I still had some inkling that "that's just how they are in the Middle East", because that's what I've been told my whole life. People are poor, and poor people are more prone to violence, and everyone over there hates everyone else because they're a different religion. I never really realized how little sense this made, and while I still think it's true for some people (it's no different from thoughtless and hateful racists and such over here in America), I don't think it's the rule any longer.

Looking at the socialist perspective (and even the regular left perspective like from the documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land) really made things make a lot more sense. Israel occupied Palestinian land tens of years ago, kicked people out and forced them to live in horrible conditions for years, so a ruling power called Hamas retaliates by firing crappy rockets that have killed very few people. Israel responds disproportionately and kills over 1,250 Palestinians (so far) not just out of racist Zionism, but because they are imperialist and because the US supports and funds their bullying in the Middle East. That's obviously not even half the story but it makes a lot more sense than the idea that Israel was defending itself, or that all Middle Easterners just like killing eachother.

So find a source you trust. Find a perspective and an analysis you trust. Mine is the Marxist analysis. Make sure to compare the mainstream story with your trusted perspective and ask yourself what actually makes sense. It's amazing what idiocy they'll try to stuff down our throats and we simply accept it because it's repeated and supposedly spouted by professionals (remember "the terrorists hate our freedom"?).

Of course, I'm not an expert on anything except attempting to learn.

Iris Star Chamberlain

The Techno is the Political?

5:21 PM

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Ok I'll admit it. I love techno. I'm an ex raver. I love all the little kandi kids. Some rave songs make me cry. Techno has taken me to "a higher plane" at times in the same way that drugs have. Not really why I'm writing this post though.

I recently discovered hardstyle (a fusion of hard trance and gabber), which I think is just flipping amazing. The silly video above shows some really cool shuffling set to hardstyle music as an example. So what I want to know is: Why do so many hardstyle tracks sample audio clips of people talking about women in a derrogatory fashion? The last one I listened to was about prostitutes, and before that every derrogatory word for a female you can think of. I guess it's a "problem" with techno in general. You don't hear a whole lot of samples depicting men as objects or scratching of men moaning or anything. Obviously there are more male djs than there are female djs (although I'm not sure why - doesn't it seem like a gender neutral kind of scene?). There's a lot of girl skin shown at raves, and that's played up in a big way online.

Anyway. Could you save the 5th grader crap for some other genre that I don't like? Cause you're really killing the PLUR. Srsly.

Iris Star Chamberlain

Review of the Inauguration

10:07 AM

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I have little to compare this inauguration to as I don't think I've ever watched an inauguration before. I imagine it was quite a bit different in rhetoric from previous inaugurations, although there was still a LOT of god talk, an overuse of the word "freedom" and the overall feeling that America is in the right even if we're a little broken right now.

There are a few things that made me twitch:
  • Dianne Feinstein spent a lot of time talking about the importance of nonvoilence and then mentioned the people who are dying for our right to be nonviolent.
  • Why is there an anti-gay bigot offering up a prayer for Obama's family?
  • Why is there a prayer?
  • Aretha Franklin's singing! Cue emotional montage!
  • Find the cutest little Kenyan girl and focus on her.
  • For that matter, get as many shots of black people crying as you can find. I know, I know it's an important moment, it's just that the presentation is so transparent!
  • Even as Barack Obama seemed to burn bridges and talk about a new America, and getting rid of the old ways of doing things, he still spoke in grand generalizations which portrayed America as broken, but still the best damn country in the world. A friend to everyone, unless you do the same things that we do, like finance genocide or silence dissent, and then we will defeat you.
  • "...for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you." So does that mean he'll stop being pro-Israel and stop the genocide in Gaza?
  • "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history;" Sooooooooo, does that mean I have no fear of being beat up by riot cops the next time I go to a protest?
  • What's with the "we will not apologize for our way of life" thing?
  • I don't think I've ever been called a "non-believer". Isn't that usually used in the derrogatory sense? Or most commonly used when yelling about how all the non-believers are going to hell? The term is religion-centric rather than objective. It's kind of like calling religious people non-atheists or black people non-whites. Anyway I just thought it was weird.
  • I still don't get America's obsession with "freedom". It's such an abstract concept. How is it defined? People just cling to it without questioning what it really means. And I get that we don't live under an oppressive dictatorship exactly, but there are a lot of insidious ways to control people in this country and they're put to good use.
Hm, I wonder what David Cross would have to say?

Iris Star Chamberlain

Communal vs Individualist

11:02 AM

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I just received an email from the Barack Obama mailing list pointing me to a new government-endorsed volunteer site, complete with the the supersexy site design. Although there are plenty of really good volunteer sites already out there, the first thing I thought to myself was that it's really cool to live in an era where your president encourages you to volunteer.

However I've been trying to examine the purpose behind Obama's rhetoric since he began, and I wonder if this isn't another mindshift that actually benefits the status quo.

When Barack Obama said that change comes from below, me and every other socialist just about choked on our own tongues. "That's what we've been saying all along!" we said. It seemed completely contradictory to everything we'd been taught, which we considered false by that time, so it seemed really radical of him. Now he's talking about a new age of service - of volunteerism. Funny how just that added element can make me wonder if he isn't changing his tune.

The idea behind the classic idea of "change from below" could perhaps be called collectivism (?), and is the idea that struggle by The People is what changes the world and creates progress. This is not what we're taught in school - textbooks tend to heroify one person, generally whatever president was in power at the time. For example, FDR is given all credit for the New Deal, when the only reason he even considered it was because of considerable pressure from below. The effect this has on the collective psyche is to discourage collective action, and make us feel powerless, because none of us see ourselves as heroes.

So when the president-elect "endorses" change from below, it very much seems as though he is humbling himself and recognizing the need for social movements to put pressure on not just him but on everyone in power.

This whole service thing has me thinking though. I never thought of it before, but I think the idea of volunteerism is incredibly individualist. While I agree it's necessary (it helps some of the problem immediately, it's a great exchange and very fulfilling), I think it's potentially damaging to suggest that "change from below" EQUALS "volunteerism", because volunteerism is nothing more than a band-aid. It's great that people are feeding the homeless and planting new trees as I type this, but no amount of volunteering will change the fact that homelessness and polution are created by our flawed system.

I've come to believe that the president understands these sorts of things. I'm fairly sure that they have access to a LOT of smart people, sociologists, psychologists, public relations specialists and all kinds of powerful people who know how to essentially control the populace (if you don't believe me, try watching BBC's The Century of the Self or reading Edward Bernays' book Propaganda).

Even keeping that in mind, I have to wonder - what is Barack Obama's intention? Is someone or some idea pulling his strings in this? Does he intend for us to feel both empowered and responsible for fixing the system that can't be fixed? How are people going to react to this, if at all?

PHOTO AT TOP: That's actually the LA Burrito Project - a volunteer effort which I think is REALLY cool. It's actually illegal to feed homeless people in a lot of cities, hence the masks.

Iris Star Chamberlain

Kill them all? Really? A total rant.

11:13 AM

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It's REALLY unfortunate when ignorant, hateful assholes put their support behind a cause, because it encourages viewers to assume that these people represent what they're supporting, when really they're tarnishing its reputation. The pro-Israel people that came out to support Israel's massacre in Gaza are some of these assholes. Although Max is patronizing his interviewees just a tad, I don't think any clever video editing was necessary to show exactly how twisted these people's perspectives are.

This rally was an overtly racist and hateful gathering. To support the mass killing of a people is just fucked up. I think I can confidently say that if there's a universal truth, I'm on to it. That's where trouble comes from I suppose, the assumption that you're Right, but at least the ideas I ascribe to are support the elimination of suffering, rather than the spreading of more.

Hearing people say that everyone in Gaza should be "wiped out", that all Palestinians are extremists and terrorists, calling them "a cancer" - this is the worst part of humanity.

Where does it come from? Who benefits? Perhaps from stubborn bias, misinformation, perhaps a need to belong or a feeling of being wronged and a need to retaliate, and it obviously benefits the United States.

It's really unfair though. My gut response was "wow, Jews are really messed up", and I immediately caught myself, because I don't think any of this has to do with being Jewish. I guess this is where my stance on personal responsibility comes in - I'm much more inclined to think that this is a matter of cultural brainwashing than of someone really sitting down to try to understand their lives and finally deciding to support the mass murder of people they think they disagree with.

It's the same situation as with the Westboro Baptist Church (you know, the Christian fucks who protest soldiers' funerals and think that the whole army is gay and therefore an abomination under God or something like that) - yet I know a lot of really great non-hateful Christian people. It's the same situation with Stalin who claimed to be a Marxist but made to suffer the people that Marxism is supposed to save, and the Socialists I know are anti-Stalin. It's the same with the nameless African Americans who voted against gay marriage in California right after Barack Obama was elected, which made us all wonder how any or all black folks could be prejudiced against another group. It's the same with any racist white person. We can't take these people as representatives for the whole group (although I'm consistently curious about the statistics and the cultural factors that may make it LIKELY for a certain group to take a certain stance).

Fortunately there's usually another voice, like the Jewish Voice for Peace and the Shministim.

I guess I just wanted to let off some steam. Seeing the footage from that protest seriously enraged me (like watching Bill O'Reilley). Even before I began reading the socialist perspective on the situation in Gaza, it seemed to me that the situation was pretty clear-cut. Palestinians in that area were moved into this small piece of land called the Gaza Strip and forced to live in horrible conditions. Surely they must have asked nicely. Surely they must have spoken out. Surely the must have begged and pleaded for mercy from someone. And when no one listened, they started screaming - with rockets. Rockets which I've read haven't killed more than a couple people in all the time they've been utilized. And as "retaliation", Gaza gets massacre, and there are people who think this is fair. Can you really blame the oppressed for fighting back?

What really gets me is the teen who thinks the Holocaust is upon her. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't realize that Jewish folks were still oppressed? I mean I guess anyone who dresses "out of the norm" (including me) may get looked at funny or beat up in highschool, but I don't think that constitutes a holocaust. On the other hand, institutionalized racism against non-whites, and as late specifically Middle Easterners, is rampant, and the situation in Gaza can surely be called genocide, because it certainly isn't self defense on the part of Israel the oppressor. What kind of twisted self pity is this?

Recently, Socialist Worker interviewed Haidar Eid (a professor and activist) who is in Gaza,
"Things are getting worse--really much, much worse. We can't find food. We're surviving on canned food. We have a serious water crisis. We still haven't seen any electricity. And we don't know what to do... More than 40 percent of those who have been killed are children and women... We can't sleep because of the shelling from the Apaches and F-16s. And the drones, 24 hours a day. And now the mortar shells, because they have tanks around the city now. We can't sleep, and you can it in the eyes of the children. It's really horrific."
And the protesters just say, "kill them all". Completely fucked up.

I know it's a bungle. I know I can't know the truth of the matter, but it really does seem simple. Shouldn't we be beyond this kind of thing, as a species, by now? Shouldn't it be easy to stop killing each other and try to figure out a solution? I mean surely the politics of religion, which refuse to give way regarding the promised land and such, are a barrier. But beyond that, I mean seriously. What is it about our culture or our biology that makes some of us (and not others) so bloodthirsty? I guess the reason remains that some very powerful people benefit.

Just to be clear, I really think this struggle risks people becoming anti-Israeli or anti-Palestinian. I don't think it's about the people. Likely, most working people are just caught in a battle between powerful groups acting in their own interests. I am in support of peace, and I really think what Israel has chosen to do to Gaza now and in the past is completely messed up, but I'm wary that that stance should come off as anti-Israeli.

One lady in the rally video (the one who talked about cancer) said something I thought was pretty profound:
"...When people don’t want to talk and just want to destroy you and not allow you to live, there’s only one thing you can do."


Iris Star Chamberlain

Ideas for Change in America

10:52 AM

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I'm writing to tell/remind you about the Ideas for Change in America "competition". This project was created in response to Barack Obama's call for increased citizen involvement in government. The final round of voting began on January 5 and is comprised of the top 3 rated ideas from each of the 30 issues in the first round of the competition, which collectively received more than 250,000 votes.

The top 10 rated ideas from the final round will be presented to the Obama administration on January 16th at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, co-hosted by the Case Foundation. At the event we will also announce the launch of a national advocacy campaign behind each idea in collaboration with our nonprofit partners to turn each idea into actual policy.

A bunch of great ideas (and ones that would have been taboo and unthinkable just a year or so ago) have made it to the final round. I want to encourage all of you to sign up for an account at, and VOTE for each of the following issues (that is, if you agree and you're not too busy organizing rallies). There's probably plenty more that I missed if you check the main page.

1. Free Single Payer Health Care
2. Pass Marriage Equality Rights for LGBT Couples Nationwide
3. Leave Iraq Now!
4. Take Care of Disabled Veterans
5. Forgive Student Loans: Stimulate the Middle and Lower Middle Class

I will of course be the last person to tell you that this is real democracy, that the systems in use on the website work flawlessly, that 250,000 people represent everyone in America and that Barack Obama will obviously do anything in his power to make these desires happen. It's pretty unlikely that any of those things are true. But as someone I greatly respect has recently said, since Barack has opened the door a bit with his rhetoric about participatory government, the people of America have a chance to drive a truck through it. And we should. Even excluding the idea of what to do with this information, you have to admit it's a pretty awesome public opinion tool.

Brief rant: Most of you probably know that I'm very interested in socialist theory (ie: I eat babies). I just want to say that I think technology like this has great potential for mass collaboration and coordination. I don't think that these technologies and interactions are bringing us closer to a socialist society necessarily (they may actually create a false sense of power), but I do wonder what we can we learn about people and cooperation in the age of the social internet, and how these technologies could benefit coordinated action and decision-making. It's fascinating even outside of Marxist theory, fully relevant to the work I do ( and beyond), and obviously highly relevant to activism for reform in the world today. Just in the past few months we've seen huge turnouts for rallies against Prop 8 organized largely through Facebook! Times are certainly a changin'.

Of course, this project alone will not change America. If we want to make an impact, we must join movements, attend protests and rallies, sign petitions, start grassroots projects, and make our voices heard in as many ways as possible. Still, I hope you'll take the time to participate in this fascinating experiment. This may be one of the most important eras in our lives to create positive, non-capitalized, non-trademarked change.

Get More Involved (Seattle)
There are various Inauguration Day actions, partially celebrating Obama's historic election, and partially looking to make these demands of the upcoming administration:
  • End the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Defend Gay Marriage -- Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act
  • Support the Employee Free Choice Act
  • Money for Education, Healthcare, Housing, and Jobs – Not for Jails and War
  • End the Budget Cuts and School Closures.
  • End the Attacks on Immigrants Arabs and Muslims. Stop the I.C.E. Raids and Deportations.
  • End US Support for Israel's War on the Palestinians.
3 Events on JANUARY 20th (facebook):
+ Walkout @ 1pm @ Westlake Park
+ City-Wide Inauguration Day Celebration and Rally from 12pm - 4pm @ Seattle Central Community College
+ Inauguration Day Rally @ 11am at University of Washington

Iris Star Chamberlain