Saturday, May 24, 2014

Amazon, thy stupidity is legend...

Amazon.com and its children everywhere across the globe have many flaws. Of these a number are avoidable. One of Amazon's most avoidable sins is the penchant of its demithinking heads for reposting reviews for earlier releases of DVD's and CD's on the pages of recent releases of DVD's and CD's. This idiotic policy with its assumption that all DVD and CD releases are alike is once again on the prowl on Amazon.com. Recently the BFI released a new edition of Scottish director Bill Forsyth's wonderful film That Sinking Feeling. The new release, unlike the previous BBC/2Entertain release contains both the original Scottish soundtrack and the English redub. So viewers can watch the film in the original Scottish or in the redubbed English. Unfortunately, given Amazon's just plain stupid policy of copying and pasting customer reviews of previous releases on new releases this pertinent fact can get lost in the confusion Amazon's bizarre policy creates. Why o why is the world full of such idiots and such idiotic policies?

Monday, May 12, 2014

You Say Legitimate While I Say "Legitimate"...

If there anything that produces more crap than the mouths of politicians and their journalist running dog lackies I don't know what it is. The Western powers that be talking heads have been uttering a word from Kiev to Berlin to Washington DC over the last several days, that word is “illegitimate”. According to politicians and journalists all across the Western world, politicians like Britain’s Conservative Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague and journalists like NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, the elections in the eastern part of the ethnically and culturally divided Ukraine, are “illegitimate”.

“Legitimacy”, of course, and this appears for whatever reason not cross the minds of politicians like Hague and journalists like Nelson, is not some transcendental or universal phenomenon that was given by god to humankind from some distant mountain in some distant past. “Legitimacy”, as Max Weber made clear some years ago, is cultural and ideological. Governments, people, institutions, votes, whatever, are ascribed legitimacy because people, for whatever reason, usually ideological, believe they are “legitimate”. Usually, individuals or institutions are considered legitimate because leaders or the institutions they lead are ascribed legitimate charismatic, traditional, or bureaucratic authority.

It is during times of crisis with "legitimacy" thrown into confusion that those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear can and may see that notions of "legitimacy" are really situational and relative. A recent example of how situational or relative "legitimacy" is, is clear in the differential Western responses to the interim government in the Ukraine and the referendums that took place in the eastern part of the country over the weekend. The powers that be in the West maintain that the unelected government of the Ukraine which came to power in a coup is "legitimate" while the referenda held in the largely Russian eastern parts of the Ukraine are "illegitimate". How such referendums that were held in the Donbas are any more or less “legitimate” than the unelected government in Kiev is, empirically speaking, unclear. What is clear is that the West, the US and the EU, wants and has worked its imperial magic to establish a government in Kiev that is friendly toward them so they can box Russia in and make it impotent in the great power struggles of the early twenty-first century. A sign of how far the West is willing to go is its mad support for presidential elections in the Ukraine in late May while the country is in a state of chaos. This itself tells you something about the what America’s powers that be and its EU lackies are up to.

How many people will buy the ideological and imperial crap coming out of the mouths of the Western powers that be remains unclear. One poll found that the less people in the US know about where the Ukraine is the more they want to intervene on the side of the "Ukrainians". Needless to say the powers that be prefer their “citizens” to be ignorant because that means it is easier for the powers that be to manipulate the masses through their propaganda arms including the media. A sucker, as they say, is born every minute. And that is what is really trul scary in the modern world, suckers are born every minute, suckers who, unaware, eat up the ideological gruel their leaders feed them on a regular basis.

Finally, a question remains above all of this relativistic ideological fray, why is that the powers that be in our world so afraid of votes on greater local autonomy for regions within national borders in an age of global economic integration?

Friday, May 9, 2014

I See the Mulberries but Where is the Forest?

Recently I watched Mulberry Child, a 2011 documentary about Jian Ping, a young girl who came of age during Mao's great leap forward and Mao's cultural revolution, on PBS's Asia Pacific Heritage Month. Like so many documentaries of this ilk, however, Mulberry Child, which is apparently based on a memoir of the same name, fails to put events in post WWII China into broader contexts, in this case the broader context of Western imperialism. It should not be surprising, by the way, that this is the same problem with the Western media coverage of the current crisis in the Ukraine. Mulberry Child has two other major problems as well. First there's that pesky Western penchant for personal interest stories, a genre that seems to demand the disappearance of broader contexts, and second, that pesky documentary tendency for reenactments, a penchant I find jarring, ahistorical, fiction like, and unfortunate. All this said, I still recommend this documentary. But watch it with a critical sense of history in mind.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An Open Letter to the Honest Weight Food Co-op Members...

I have had several members of the Honest Weight Food Co-op tell me that for them the elections held on Sunday 27 April for the Coop Board were tainted. And to tell you the honest truth, I agree in large part with these sentiments. Valid questions can be raised about the elections that took place at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Albany for five positions on the Honest Weight Food Co-op Board. The reason for this is simple. Lynne Lekakis's remarks about the dangers of having too many staff people on the Board, a point in part valid given that staff already have representation on the Board and too many might, MIGHT, make Board operations problematic, was undermined by Lekakis's discussion of the issue in an almost McCarthyesque way. All Lekakis attack mode strategy ended up doing, in my opinion, was to taint the election which followed.

Beyond the issue of staff on the Board one must ask why Ms. Lekakis singled out Board members who were staff for singular condemnation when other even more fundamental issues needed to be addressed when it came to Board candidates. Why did Ms. Lekakis, for instance, not raise the issue of whether candidates for the Board had prior relations with members of the Leadership Team, a leadership team the Board is supposed to act as a check and a balance on? Why did the moderator not ask this critical question of each of the candidates? This is clearly an issue that goes more directly and crucially to the heart of conflict of interest at the Coop.

It is for these reasons that I think the Board elections in April need to be declared null and void, a new meeting called for new Board elections, and a moderator who is familiar with Honest Weight and with the broad issues of potential conflicts of interest at the Coop needs to be hired to ask questions of those candidates who wish to stand in new Board elections. Anything other than this means that the Board as presently constituted might and certainly can be seen as the product of an unfortunately tainted election.