Thursday, March 08, 2007

Long Time No Post

     Hi everyone, sorry the posting has been very light lately. I recently joined a research group and have been very busy getting myself settled in and trying to get something productive done. It's theoretical physics, although at the moment I spend a lot of time looking at computer code and debugging it before submitting jobs to the supercomputers we have access to. Although I haven't been posting, I have had a little time to read and watch a few interesting things that I'd like to share with you in case you're interested.

    I recently finished a book called America Beyond Capitalism by Gar Alperovitz. There's 4 clips of the author talking at a bookstore on this website so you can get an idea of what he talks about in the book. In addition to some interesting facts and statistics, probably the biggest idea that I took away from it was the importance of local democratic structures and participation as a means of exerting democratic influence on a more larger scale. As Alperovitz says in his book:

The heart of the larger foundational argument-and this is a critical emphasis-might be put thus: Is it possible to have Democracy with a Big D in the system as a whole if you do not have real democracy with a small d at the level where people live, work, and raise families in their local communities?

In this goal of having a true democracy Alperovitz looks at other conditions that are necessary if a government is truly going to be democratically controlled. A lot of this obviously has to do with how wealth is distributed. He looks at a variety of institutional changes, some of which are very radical and some of which are not, and often cites some current trends as to how things are leaning in this direction. Some of the things he proposes are good ideas but have no chance of actually coming into being in the near future. However, he says that he realizes that things are likely to get worse before they get better, and cites a number of issues such as health care, social security, the environment, and a population which sees themselves working harder and harder despite huge technological gains that could drastically minimize work as factors that could radicalize the mainstream of America. Watch the video if you're interested in more.

     A good documentary I recently saw is Militainment, Inc. which is a film about the military and war as entertainment. There are a lot of very good clips of the mainstream media in there that are worth watching. It's available on Youtube, and I've included the first of the 12 portions below for convenience.


    Also, a few days ago I ordered a book called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by divinity school graduate Chris Hedges. I usually don't read books by christians, but this guy's politics impressed me in his interview with Democracy Now! so I decided to give it a shot. Apparently in the book he compares the Christian Right in America with young fascist movements in Italy and Germany at the beginning of the century. If you have time check out the interview, he makes a couple good observations. It blows my mind though to see someone who apparently have such a clear depiction of how the world works yet still describe himself as a Christian. Maybe he does it because it will make him more effective in communicating his ideas to a wider audience, or maybe he just can't completely let go of superstition I don't know. But it looks like a good book.

     I'm currently reading Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky. I'm about 1/3 of the way through and have found it fairly engaging. A number of the events he cites I actually know a fair amount about, but there are some things that I hadn't heard before and even with the things that I've had, it's nice to hear his opinion and analysis of it.

    Hope everything is going well for you all. I don't know if I'll be getting any less busy in the next month or so, but I'll try to post every so often and check in with your blogs.