Important Events Coming Up at The New School

Here’s a list of 3 important events I’m helping to put on at The New School in coming weeks:

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Aaron Dixon: My Life as a Black Panther

https://www.facebook.com/events/641091679259362/?source=1

Tuesday March 25th, 7pm

55 West 13th Street, Theresa Lang Center

Join S.O.A.D (Students of the African Diaspora) for an evening with Aaron Dixon.

In an era of stark racial injustice and decisive action, Aaron Dixon dedicated his life to the struggle for change, founding the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 at age nineteen. Through his eyes – in a memoir that begins with the story of his enslaved ancestors and takes us on a journey throughout America – we see the courage of a generation, and the unforgettable legacy of Black Power.

“Aaron Dixon is a courageous, compassionate, and wise freedom fighter whose story of his pioneering work in the Black Panther Party is powerful and poignant. Don’t miss it!”—Cornel West

“This book is a moving memoir experience: a must-read. The dramatic life cycle rise of a youthful sixties political revolutionary.”—Bobby Seale, founding chairman and national organizer of the Black Panther Party, 1966 to 1974

There will be a Q&A period during the event!

Refreshments will be served.

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Divestment Banner Making Party

Wednesday February 26th, 8pm

University Center, 65 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003, Social Justice Hub

https://www.facebook.com/events/1467992036753423/

Join the Sustainable Cities Club in the Social Justice Hub on the 5th Floor of the University Center to help us make banners and buttons for fossil fuel divestment! The University Town Hall is the next day, and we want to come into the Town Hall with a banner and buckets of buttons to hand out to people and raise awareness for divestment

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The Battle For Justice In Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement

https://www.facebook.com/events/522152761232508/?source=1

Friday March 7th, 7pm

66 West 12th Street, Room 404

Ali Abunimah is a world renowned Palestinian journalist and writer. He is co-founder and editor of the Electronic Intifada, has written hundreds of articles on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including his first book ‘One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’. His forthcoming book put out by Haymarket Books, ‘The Battle for Justice in Palestine” which has been endorsed by the likes of Joseph Mossad, and in the case of Alice Walker as:

“In The Battle for Justice in Palestine it is the voice of Ali Abunimah, fierce, wise – a warrior for justice and peace – someone whose large heart, one senses, beyond his calm, is constantly on fire. A pragmatist but also a poet. This is the book to read to understand the present bizarre and ongoing complexity of the Palestine/Israel tragedy.”

This event is part of NYC Israeli Apartheid Week and will be a stop on Ali Abunimah’s speaking tour for his latest book. In addition the event will be a chance to bring the growing discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions solidarity movement to The New School, through one of its most eloquent advocates. With the recent move by the American Studies Association to endorse the call for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel, and the resulting backlash from as high up as the New York State legislature, the time to engage with these discussions is now.

This event is co-sponsored by the University Student Senate and the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy

 

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The Rise of the Post-New Left Political Vocabulary

redpleb:

I think this is a very interesting take on the issues related to the current post-modernist infused discourse in left-wing radical circles. That though there are certainly issues with the New Left movements of the 1960s-70s that the post-modernist Left in the 1990s attempted to address, there is a problem that in the antithesis process the final goal of actually doing away with the status quo was lost. There needs to be a synthesis

Originally posted on The Public Autonomy Project:

By Stephen D’Arcy

If a handful of time-travelling activists from our own era were somehow transported into a leftist political meeting in 1970, would they even be able to make themselves understood? They might begin to talk, as present-day activists do, about challenging privilege, the importance of allyship, or the need for intersectional analysis. Or they might insist that the meeting itself should be treated as a safe space. But how would the other people at the meeting react? I’m quite sure that our displaced contemporaries would be met with uncomprehending stares.

It’s not so much that the words they use would be unfamiliar. Certainly ‘privilege’ is not a new word, for instance. But these newcomers to the 1970 Left would have a way of talking about politics and political action that would seem strange and off-kilter to the others at the meeting. If one of the time travellers…

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The Left and Rape : Why we should all be ashamed of the Left’s role in covering up the rape of 2 million women.

Originally posted on Facing Reality:

TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with accounts of sexual assault and may be distressing for some people

How I was a rape denier & accepted rape myths

Denial :Twenty odd years ago I picked up a battered old paperback in one of my city’s many wonderful second a woman in berlinhand bookshops.It was called “A Woman In Berlin”. Not only was it a personal testimony, in fact a diary, from the Second World War – a pet favourite subject. It was by a woman. And it was set in the Berlin of  Germany’s Year Zero (1945)

However, I stopped reading it when it became clear that the main bit of history it dealt with was the rape of two million German women by the Red Army, the Liberators of Europe. I stopped not because I couldn’t cope with reading personal accounts of being gang raped (though that would certainly put…

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Additional New School Student Senate Resolution on Fossil Fuel Divesmtnet

Divest_teaserPoster8x11-page-001Below is a letter from the University Student Senate encouraging all New School students to contact their deans and pressure them to support fossil fuel divestment. If you’re a New School student, please consider supporting this effort.

To all New School students,

The University Student Senate was created to express the concerns of the student body to The New School Administration. Our duty is to ensure that the actions taken by the administration accurately reflect the beliefs, values, and needs of the students it aims to serve.

In this light, the University Student Senate calls on The New School’s Board of Trustees to approve the Climate Change Action Plan proposed by The Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility. As a university which touts sustainability as one of its core focuses, and climate change as the issue of our time, it is imperative that we “put our endowment money where our mission is”. Divestment is a key step on the path towards a fossil free future, and if The New School wishes to remain a leader in progressive education and values – we must act now.

Fossil fuel divestment will not remain a progressive idea for much longer as the movement has already spread to over 300 campuses nationwide, and 3 universities have already publicly divested from fossil fuels. The New School however, would be the largest by a wide margin, and news of our action would reach the ears of every climate-conscience student around the globe – the very students we seek to invite to our campus.

We’d like to inform you of an opportunity to take action on the issue of divesting from fossil fuels in our university’s endowment. The Climate Change Action Plan, written by the Advisory Committee for Investor Responsibility, is making its way to the Board of Trustees and they are seeking support from Deans. It would be enormously beneficial to show all the Deans that there is student support behind this issue so that when they are approached, they will voice their support in turn.

Below we have provided a list of all The New School Deans with their respective divisions.  You can make a difference in two different ways:

1. Below is a sample email that you can send to your Dean.  Just copy the text, paste into a new email, sign your name, and send it along to your Dean.

2. We also highly encourage speaking to your Dean in person.  Feel free to reply here, to let us know if you are interested. We can then connect you with other interested students in your department to organize our efforts and make something great happen at The New School!

Joel Towers – Parsons (towersj@newschool.edu)

Will Milberg – NSSR (milbergw@newschool.edu)

Stephanie Browner – Lang (browners@newschool.edu)

Richard Kessler – Mannes (kesslerr@newschool.edu)

David Scobey – NSPE (scobeyd@newschool.edu)

Pippin Parker – Drama (parkerp@newschool.edu)

Martin Mueller – Jazz (muellerm@newschool.edu)

FORM EMAIL TO DEANS (COPY BELOW)

Dean [last name],

I am concerned about The New School’s efforts to address climate change. I want to let you know that I support the recent document created by the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility called the Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) in its efforts to make a difference through our university’s endowment.  This includes complete divestment from fossil fuels.

I believe this will have a positive impact on recruitment at this university in the short-run and will be financially beneficial in the long-run.

I hope you will consider supporting the CCAP for the reputation of our progressive university.

Best,

[your name]

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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program for … Doctor Who

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11, War Doctor, 10

Its time to talk about the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Initially I had thought to write this as a simple tumblr post, but then realized that I had too much to say so I decided to dedicate a whole (quite long) blog post for it. Some might wonder what is a discussion of the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who episode doing on a socialist lefty blog, and I’ll respond that this is my damn blog and I’ll bloody do what I want with it. So lets us then dive into the deep end of nerdom.

To begin with, I hate Steven Moffat. I hate him for his sexism, for his hack writing, for his massive plot holes, for his relying more on spectacle then substance, but overall, I hate Moffat for what he has done to Doctor Who. You can feel it in your bones every time you watch a episode since he took over, something has changed and not for the better. The crux is that Doctor Who shouldn’t have a single all-powerful show runner, it always worked better as a collective of writers working together. There was allowed far more diversity in story and themes, and the show wasn’t at risk of being warped and destroyed by one person’s vision. Though there was a show lead with Russell T Davies before, it wasn’t all dictated by him. What is more, Russell T Davies was a far better writer and even a better human being then Moffat. Davis actually seemed like he cared about people, whilst Moffat is just in it to sound clever. Pre-Moffat episodes always felt so much richer and had real heart, instead of now were everything is so forced, hollow and polished with special effects.

But when it comes to the 50th Anniversary episode, I will say this, its probably one of Moffat’s better jobs. That’s not to say that there aren’t significant Moffat-esque issues, and I will go into them, but the episode does feel like one of his better works and I actually liked it. Part of this is admittedly because they truly threw all the stops into this one, they went all out in this episode in the best possible ways, which helped significantly in covering up major internal issues of the episode. But there were still big problems.

For instance, the Moffat-esque sexism. Now I am listing this issue first not as a way to just talk about it quick to get it out of the way. No. I’m talking about it first because it remains the principle problem with Moffat. He is a sexist and his female characters are awful. Now many might take offense to, after I tell them to bugger off, I’ll point them to research the wealth of awful sexist things Moffat has said. He hates women, this is a fact. But prior to that, Doctor Who since the re-vamp in 2005 has been known for mostly really good female characters (my favorites being a close tie between the amazing Martha and Donna). But that completely went away with the rise of Moffat.

So as an example, take a look at the aliases/titles for the pre-Moffat female companions of the Doctor; Martha Jones – The Woman Who Walked The Earth, Donna Noble – The DoctorDonna, Rose Tyler – The Bad Wolf. All pretty epic and related to things these characters did and achieved. Now look at the Moffat era female companions of the Doctor; Amy Pond – The Girl Who Waited, Clara Oswald – The Impossible Girl. Notice the change? First and most glaring is the obvious infantilization. Its not “The Impossible Woman” it has to be The Impossible ‘Girl’. But more subtle is the fact that both of those titles are far more Doctor focused and dependent then the pre-Moffat companions. Though the story is always Doctor centered (who sadly thanks to Moffat is still always male) at least the female characters in the Davis days had some breathing room to develop without the Doctor as the absolute center of their universe. Not anymore. What is more I’d argue that the character depth of Amy, Clara and also River, has been greatly reduced and cookie-cuttered under Moffat’s direction.

[Note: from here on out is tons of spoilers as well as direct references to the Doctor Who series and this episode in particular, without any explanation for the uninitiated. If you haven't seen them then you will be lost. Sorry]

But in the 50th anniversary episode, these sexist tendencies took on a whole new life. In that episode there were 5 main female characters (which admittedly is nice seeing as there were 3 main male characters in the episode) Clara Oswald the companion, Queen Elizabeth the 1st, Kate Stewart of UNIT, Osgood a scientist as Unit, and The Moment console taking the guise of Bad Wolf (ie Rose Tyler). Though the episode does beat the Brechdal Test, I’d argue it presents absolutely nothing in terms of female character development.

Clara is an empty character and my least favorite companion so far. There is really nothing to say about her, she’s not memorable, doesn’t have much in terms of a motivation or story or really anything. She just exists, initially just to be an objectified mystery for the Doctor to solve, now as nothing much more. Kate Stewart is the typically cookie-cutter “military commander woman in charge” trope that we’ve seen before done far better in the series with the director of Torchwood One, Yvonne Hartman. Osgood (no first name) is another female character trope, “shy nerdy scientist woman” with asthma. If anything she had the most character development of all the female characters as she had to face her fears and fight back, but then learn to accept and reconcile with her former nemesis, but she was a secondary character at best. The Moment was very interesting, and I feel Billie Piper did a great job at portraying the consciousness of a dooms-day weapon, which is a pretty cool concept as is. Whether or not this was a developable character is up for debate, her role was more of muse like guidance for the War Doctor (who I guess now we can call him 9 but I’ll keep referring to him as the War Doctor for the remainder of this blog post to avoid confusion) and thats about it.

And then there was Elizabeth the 1st, good lord that was painful to watch. It was creepy even. Now it does fit totally within the continuity of the show, it was established on multiple occasions that 10 had married Queen Elizabeth the 1st. But I’ve never seen a worst portrayal of this historical figure that seemed so out of tone with everything we knew about the real person. Though that rather awful line of “I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but at the time, so did the Zygon!” was actually based off something Elizabeth the 1st was known to have said at times, coming from that particular portrayal written by that particular writer, it just even more off putting.

The male lead characters in the form of John Hurt as the War Doctor, David Tennent as 10 and Matt Smith as 11, was all well done. At times 10 came off as a more Moffat-esque thin caricature of the character, but I felt the true 10 more often then not. At the core this was what the episode was meant for, we wanted to see 10 and 11 work off each other and interact. So on that level, the whole episode was just service for the fans, but boy did I eat it up. But in its defense the relations between those three regeneration of the Doctor allowed for some deep inspection on the nature of the character. That’s sort of the beauty of when the Doctor meets with himself at different points in his history, you’re allowed for a chance for character analysis done by the character himself, self-reflection done as a dialogue between two actors.

So in that way the chief character hurdle for the Doctor is shown to be him coming to the grips with his past and what he has done, here personified by the War Doctor. Its pretty fun to watch. What is more, we get an interesting insight into the nature of each regeneration; 10 as the hero, which was established as far back as in his first appearance in the battle with the Sycorax and truly came to define his modus operandi across the seasons; and 11 as the Doctor who ran away. Or as The Moment described them, respectively, “the man who regrets and the man who forgets.” I always had mixed feelings on 11 (thanks to the bad writing of Moffat) but the moment it was said he was the Doctor who just wanted to forget, he immediately as a character gained like 30 more points in my books. His actions and personality suddenly made a lot more sense and took on a deeper meaning.

But on a certain level, the whole premise of the plot is a gimmick.

So it’s the last day of the Last Great Time War. The city of Arcadia on Gallifrey has fallen (a point referenced many seasons back when 10 said he survived the Time War by fighting on the front lines) and the Doctor has stolen The Moment from the Time Lords. Now it has been established since 10’s first battle with the Master in ‘The Sound of Drums’ that it was he who ended the Time War, the only way he could, by killing all of both parties, all the Daleks and all the Time Lords. It was then revealed in the episode ‘The End of Time part 2’ (which I will come back to) that the Doctor did this act of dual xenocide by using the weapon ‘The Moment’.

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8 in ‘The Night of the Doctor’

Now prior to this episode we didn’t know a number of things. We didn’t know which regeneration of the Doctor fought in the Time War and carried out the xenocide that ended the Time War, and thus we didn’t know where the War Doctor fit into things after his reveal in the end of ‘The Name of the Doctor’ (which I will also come back to). But with the mini-episode ‘The Night of the Doctor’ we did finally learn that our old friend 8, payed by Paul McGann, who hasn’t been seen since the one off made for tv movie in the 90s, had initially tried to avoid fighting in the Time War but was then convinced to regenerate as a ‘warrior’ and do so. This act itself was pretty heart-retching cause its been established that though the Doctor remains the same entity throughout his regenerations, the act is very analogous to death since his personality does indeed end in the process. So 8 was willingly killing himself so as to fight in the Time War, which just shows how much he didn’t want to be a warrior. (On a side note it was nice how 8 gave a nod to the Doctor Who books and other media that had sprung up around that character, making them all official cannon).

The War Doctor and The Moment

The War Doctor and The Moment

Another thing we didn’t know what ‘The Moment’ was, but with ‘The Day of the Doctor’ we actually get to sit down and talk with this dooms-day weapon. And there lays the gimmick that makes the plot of this episode. Cause the War Doctor is wrecked with guilt over the decision to exterminate all of his species (as you would) along with the Daleks. And when realizing that he would have to live on after all of the rest’s destruction (a very morbidly ironic move by The Moment to make it so that the price for her to destroy all the Daleks and Time Lords, I liked that) he muses on what sort of person he’ll become. So The Moment whisks him away to meet himself post Time War. Now that didn’t really need to happen, The Moment didn’t need to introduce the War Doctor to 10 and 11, it was all a gimmick to bring them together. But lord knows we loved it.

But back to the Time War and continuity discussions. For that’s where I feel the episode was at it’s weakest (after the sexism). As I said, the story about the Time War, that big scary event that occurred between the made for tv movie of 8 and the return of Doctor Who with 9 (expertly played by Christopher Eccleston, and I will fight anyone who says anything negative of 9), was revealed to us over many seasons bit by bit. And scarier and scarier as it went along. Then with the final episode with 10, ‘The End of Time part 2′ (and by far one of my favorite episodes) we finally got a more complete picture. In conversation with the master he said;

The Master: But this is fantastic, isn’t it? The Time Lords restored.

The Doctor: You weren’t there. In the final days of the war. You never saw what was born. But if the time lock’s broken then everything is coming through. Not just the Daleks, but the Star of Degradations. The Horde of Travesties. The Nightmare Child. The Could-Have-Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres. The war turned into hell! And that’s what you’ve opened. Right above the Earth. Hell is descending.

Wow. That sounds epic. “Horde of Travesties”, “The Could-Have-Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres”, “The Nightmare Child” who (or what) the Doctor had thought in ‘The Stolen Earth’ he’d seen swallow Davros’ command ship in earlier years of the war. All sounds horrible and scary and maddening. In truth, we should have only been left with our own imaginations when it came to the Time War. Any attempt to portray that on film or tv would have always been a disappointment. But then they tried with ‘The Day of the Doctor’ and I would say they failed.

During a flash back of sorts to the Time Lord high council on Gallifrey on the last day of the Time War in ‘The End of Time’ episode, a council member remarks after its revealed that the Doctor has stolen The Moment and will soon destroy them all;

Perhaps it’s time. This is only the furthest edge of the Time War. But at its heart millions die every second. Lost in bloodlust and insanity. With Time itself resurrecting them to find new ways of dying, over and over again. A travesty of life. Isn’t it better to end it at last.

One; this is just an epic image, the idea that Time War as a swarming mass of time paradoxes and destruction, raging throughout the universe. Two; this is not what we saw in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ when they showed us Gallifrey again on the last day of the Time War. We instead see Gallifrey as the front lines of the Time War, not the furthest edges, about to fall by relatively conventional means of Dalek lasers. There was no Nightmare Child. No Could-Have-Been King. No armies of Meanwhiles and Neverweres. No millions dying every second only to be resurrected to find new ways to die. What we saw was pretty mild in comparison to the expectations.

But we also, more importantly, didn’t get to see the dark side of the Time Lords, of what they become. As was said in ‘The End of Time’:

Wilfred: But I’ve heard you talk about your people like they’re wonderful

The Doctor: That’s how I choose to remember them. The Time Lords of old. But then they went to war. An endless war. And it changed them. Right to the core. You’ve seen my enemies, Wilf. The Time Lords are more dangerous than any of them

The underlying notion and the big reveal of that episode, and why I love it so much, was that the Time War by the end had truly warped and destroyed all that was good and noble about the Time Lords. That they had grown bloodthirsty and twisted. That when the Doctor made the choice to end the Time War for good by destroying all Time Lords and Daleks, there was more to it. The Doctor wasn’t trying to save the universe from the Time War. He wasn’t even trying to save it from the Daleks. He was trying to save the universe from his own Time Lords.

Again from ‘The End of Time’;

The Doctor: Just listen! ‘Cause even the Time Lords can’t survive that.

Lord President Rassilon: We will initiate the Final Sanction. The end of time will come. At my hand. The rupture will continue until it rips the time vortex apart.

The Master: That’s suicide.

Lord President Rassilon: We will ascend! To become creatures of consciousness alone. Free of these bodies. Free of time. And cause and effect, where creation itself ceases to be.

The Doctor: You see now. That’s what they were planning. In the final days of the war. I had to stop them.

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Rassilon and who I would argue is the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan on the right of him kneeling

To re-cap. In ‘The End of Time’ it is revealed that the Doctor stole The Moment in order to end the Time War by killing all Time Lords and Daleks. That he did this because he found out that the Time Lord high council, under the leadership of the resurrected Rassilon, had decided to end the Time War their own way, by destroying the entirety of the universe, all time and space, and then ascending above the fiery crucible of a dying universe as gods.

All of that is completely absent from ‘The Day of the Doctor’. That isn’t to say that any of that was directly negated or contradicted by what we saw on ‘The Day of the Doctor’, but rather that a far different picture is implied. The implied and altered story is that Gallifrey is about to fall, thus meaning the Daleks will then have nothing to stop them from spreading across and destroying the universe, so in order to prevent that, the Doctor must end it all with The Moment. Its a subtle change but with big ramifications for the depth and the complexity of the decision. For it seems any and all reference to the Time Lord’s degeneration in the later days of the Time War is completely absent from the 50th anniversary. That, to say the least, is disappointing for me. That critical edge of grey is gone and what remains is the standard “good v evil” black and white story.

tumblr_mwqmw3BY1R1qhfadgo2_500But anyway, after a minor little side-quest with Elizabeth the 1st and shape shifting aliens, involving 10, 11 and him, the War Doctor returns to activate The Moment and put it all to an end. But this time 1o and 11 join him, the Doctor has reconciled with his past (literally) and wishes to join himself in that fateful moment when he takes the lives of all Time Lords and Daleks so that he’s not alone (well, I guess he’s alone with himself in way, he’s really been talking with himself all episode). Its all actually a very touching moment, there’s probably a deeper message of learning to love yourself and positive mental health that can garnered from the scene. But 11 has a plan, he’s figured out a way to save the Time Lords and Gallifrey by hiding it away in a pocket dimension (which the cameo of Tom Baker who I believe was full cannon 4, assures us is the case) utilizing the skills of all 13 Doctors (including Capaldi), and letting all the Daleks destroying themselves in the cross-fire.

Now, a bunch of people have issues with this. I actually don’t mind this ending. Its been felt by some to take away the pathos that the Doctor has as a character by removing remove this key source of guilt and inner torment. That I don’t mind it. The Time War guilt complex, they have been relying on it for character development since 2005 and they’ve gotten all they could get out of it. Its time for them to move on.

(On a side note, initially I had thought this ending would have left this big plot hole that if Gallifrey is saved in a pocket dimension then isn’t Rassilon and the rest of the Time Lords planning the destruction of the universe so as to rise above it, is also saved? But then I remembered that Rassilon was killed by The Master in ‘The End of Time’ so it should be fine).

But still, this newly established quest has potential. Finding Gallifrey, there is something fitting about it. The Doctor, first ran away from home, then ran away from his past, now is reconciled with his past and trying to find his way home. I like it. I’m hopeful. I’m probably going to be disappointed.

For sadly this reminds me last time the Doctor, or at the very least the series as a whole, had been given a mission. Since the start of Moffat’s running of the show we’re been treated to a number of cryptic warnings about, “the silence will fall.” Then after we get introduced to ‘The Silence’ (a rather clever idea for an alien species, you lose all memory of them once you’re not looking at them) we’re finally given a better understanding of these cryptic warnings in season 6 finale of ‘The Wedding of River Song’:

Dorium: On the Fields of Trenzalore, at the Fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never ever be answered.
The Doctor: “Silence will fall when the question is asked.”
Dorium: “Silence must fall” would be a better translation. The Silence are determined that the question will never be answered, that the Doctor will never reach Trenzalore

Still cryptic, still not telling me the whole story, but you’ve peaked my interest. Tell me more Dorium, which he does at the very end of the episode (now as just a severed head in a box for unrelated reasons) when he drops this bombshell:

Dorium: So you’re going to do this—let them all think you’re dead?
The Doctor: it’s the only way. Then they can all forget me. I got too big, Dorium. Too noisy. Time to step back into the shadows.
Dorium: And Doctor Song, in prison all her days?
The Doctor: Her days, yes. Her nights… well. That’s between her and me, eh?
Dorium: So many secrets, Doctor. I’ll help you keep them of course.
The Doctor: Well you’re not exactly going anywhere are you?
Dorium: But you’re a fool nonetheless. It’s all still waiting for you. The Fields of Trenzalore. The Fall of the Eleventh. And the question.
The Doctor: Goodbye Dorium.
Dorium: The first question! The question that must never be answered! Hidden in plain sight! The question you’ve been running from all your life! “Doctor Who?” “Doctor Who?” “Doctor Who!”!

Holy Fucking Shit! Oh my god oh my god oh my god. I literally lost my shit when this happened. All of season 6th was pretty forgettable as far as I was concerned, a whole lot of meh. But that one freakin line delivered from a disembodied blue head made it all worth while. What does it mean? What does it mean!

tumblr_mwqhjj8amk1qijoeyo2_500Well we still don’t know. See in the episode ‘The Name of the Doctor’ the Doctor went to Trenzalore, which was revealed to be his grave (he’s a time traveler, so its possible to check out his own death if he wants), and he was asked the question hidden in plain sight that mush never be answered, “what is your name?” And, nothing really happened. The Doctor didn’t say his real name, the silence didn’t fall, even though the question was asked. If anything was revealed that episode was the existence of another regeneration of the Doctor in the form of the War Doctor, which was totally neat, but not what we were wanting. It was a whole bait and switch. There is a possibility that the upcoming Christmas special ‘The Time of the Doctor’ might resolve this as we know it will be Matt Smith’s last, but I remain suspicious. Fool me once and such.

So where does this all leave Doctor Who. I don’t know. Peter Capaldi will be coming on as the next doctor, which under the updated continuum puts him at 13, who by all accounts will probably be able to bring a refreshing amount of gravitas to the role compared to Matt Smith’s wackiness. But Moffat will remain. We all want a woman or person of color Doctor, but we’ll have to wait until at least after Capaldi is done, and most definitely until after Moffat is kicked out.

I’m trying to be hopeful. This show always has so much potential, not just because its more fantasy then sci-fi and can take you anywhere in time and space. But because it can do that while maintaining (or at least use to) a real socially critical edge.

‘The Day of the Doctor’ was good, it looked good, it had a good pile of easter eggs in it, it all fit together well enough plot wise and got good enough performances where it needed it most, but it could have been so much more. And thats really all you can say about the Moffat episodes in general. At best, they could have been so much more. But we’ll see.

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The Presidential Turkey Pardon and the Collapse of Western Civilization

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 5.00.17 PMLets talk about this website here http://www.whitehouse.gov/turkey. That’s right, there is a competition on the White House website to see which of two turkeys, Caramel and Popcorn, both male and born the same day (are they brothers?), will receive the traditional Thanksgiving presidential pardon, one of the most hallowed presidential traditions. But this year its up to America to decide! Yay democracy! Yay national celebrations of the genocide of the Native Americans by gorging ourselves and letting one turkey live! On Thanksgiving, most (white) Americans all reflect on how thankful we are that we are neither Native Americans or turkeys.

But back to this turkey pardon competition. I had to read through this website several times after the initial vertigo and shock I went through before I realized that apparently both turkey’s will live, but only one will get the official Presidential pardon. But still this is seriously insane. Like this is an absolute mindfuck right now! Like what is happening?! I can’t even…

And just imagine how I was when I first saw this website not that long ago I thought this was a competition to see which turkey would get the pardon and thus survive. “THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL DECIDE WHICH TURKEY LIVEs AND WHICH DIES.” And then I realized that you can listen to recordings of these turkeys. “THERE ARE RECORDINGS OF TURKEYS ON THE WHITE HOUSE WEBSITE! THERE ARE RECORDINGS OF TURKEYS WHO ARE COMPETING FOR THE AFFECTION OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN ORDER IN SURVIVE ON THE WHITE HOUSE’S WEBSITE!” Like what would you think they’re saying in turkey with those gobbles, like, “we who are about to die salute you.” WTF.

Still, this shit is insane. Like why is our government making up favorite songs for turkeys? Why is our government have people tasked with describing the walks of turkeys, “Steady and Deliberate,” WTF! Heck, why is the president even pardoning turkeys as a thing that exists! Also apparently the pardoned turkeys not just get to live but it also spends THE REST OF ITS LIFE AT DISNEY WORLD and gets crowned on a float in a fucking parade. So instead its a competition to get a free ride to Disney World and a crown and a parade, not a crowd sourced battle to the death. MURICA!! Celebrate genocide by sending a bird to Disney World!

But even the concept of pardoning a turkey is insane. Like this is how barbaric we’ve become as a country, where we treat pardoning and the death penalty as just fucking games to be added to a normal holiday about indigenous genocide. Never mind the fact that Obama waited 682 days of his term to use his presidential power of pardon on inmates, to date he has only pardoned 39 so far. Thats right, Obama pardoned his first Thanksgiving turkey (who was apparently named Courage) before he pardoned his first human being. So forget about addressing mass-incarceration and the new jim crow, cause we can now tweet our turkeys to freedom!

Like these are the signs of a civilization in decay (I know I’m saying “like” a lot, but that’s how fucking agitated I am). A total degeneration of a society. This is the moment people, this is our Nero moment. The utter collapse of the American political experiment wasn’t precipitated by the NSA scandal, or the Republican government shutdown, it was the moment there was a fucking website competition to decide which turkey we will crown!

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“Brocialism”?

Below is an opinion piece I wrote for SocialistWorker.org

In a recent and excellent exchange between Laurie Penny and Richard Seymour on the case of Russell Brand, I was pleased to see them use the word “brocialist” in their discussion. Pleased in part because, at least to the best of my knowledge, I’m the first person to ever use the word.

Brocialist came about some two years ago in one of my many arguments on Reddit forums, a noted Internet hive of sexism and misogyny. The word “manarchist” was becoming popular as a means to describe and call out the prevalence of sexists within the anarchist community, and I felt that there was a need for an equivalent epithet for the socialist movement. So “brocialist” and “brocialism” was what I came up with.

Much like manarchist, brocialist is really not high theory. It’s not some great contribution to Marxist thought or discourse, it’s just a silly little meme-like joke and insult designed to be hurled at sexists who falsely claim they are acting in the interest of socialism. But the word has aroused some disagreements and discussion that should be drawn out.

The first thing that needs to be said is what the word doesn’t imply. It shouldn’t be seen to mean that socialist men are all sexists, or that sexism is more common in the socialist movement then the rest of society. I’m of the opinion that the truth is quite the opposite–hat those movements, organizations and individual men who hold up the banner of socialism, the self-emancipation of the working class from the bonds of exploitation and oppression, are far more likely to see sexism and confronting sexist oppression wherever they find it as a higher priority then many others in society. But being “more likely to be a fighter against sexism” doesn’t equal a universal guarantee.

Sexist group dynamics and policies still exist within socialist organizations, as the utter implosion of the British Socialist Workers Party has shown. What is more, there are even supposed “socialists” who actually give theoretical justification for brocialism–that is, the dismissing of women’s oppression issues as “identity politics,” “middle class politics” and “divisive.”

These are trends that need to be combated. If people are finding some utility in a silly insult word like “brocialist,” it is only because they see a need for it. Calling out sexism in our movement, or privilege checking in general, should and needs to be accepted as a necessary part of the due diligence for all socialists.

We cannot pretend, as individual socialists or socialist organizations as a whole, that we are immune to the alien influences of the oppressive context that we emerged from. We have a responsibility to be aware of these privileges and oppressions, confront them when we see them, and not pretend that we ourselves are free of all “brocialist” influences. Your “red party card” isn’t a get-out-of-privilege-free card.

But I’d be the first the to say that calling out the sexist behavior of a comrade as “brocialist” or “manarchist” isn’t the best way of dealing with these issues. Those are paper-thin epithets and insults, coming from a place of justified frustration, that don’t nearly do the serious work that these issues demand. No one is going to be convinced to check their sexism, or even acknowledge the fact that they or their behavior is sexist, by calling them brocialist. To address oppressive group dynamics takes patient and serious work of political discussion and reflection.

I don’t purport to have any of the answers. This is a discussion still in its infancy. The use “brocialism” as a descriptive word is clearly not the answer alone–it has no postmodernist superpowers. It is only a reflection of a political need and a political problem. But much like “manarchist,” as long as those political problems remain, the word still has a certain amount of utility.

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Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution at The New School

ImageBelow you will find a resolution that I wrote and introduced to The New School University Student Senate on October 5th and was passed unanimously on October 9th.

The Brief

The New School University Student Senate aims to represent the voice of the student body to the best of our ability, to present to the administration and the Board of Trustees the concerns on the mind of students today. This can take the form of expressing concerns about the proliferation of unpaid internships, tuition hikes, student representation in the administration matters, the need to address student debt, or here, the important issues of the environmental destruction and global climate change.

The students of today have a strong ecological awareness, and they want to see their university’s practices and investments reflect these principles of environmental sustainability. By divesting its endowment from fossil fuel companies, The New School is putting itself on the right side of history and what’s best for the planet.

The Resolution

WHEREAS, In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the New School University Student Senate acknowledges that global climate change is the critical issue of our time and that energetic steps must be taken to address it.

WHEREAS, The New School has taken a strong stand of principle to be environmentally sustainable and ecologically conscious in its practices.

WHEREAS, Global climate change is caused by humans, primarily through usage of fossil fuels and other CO2 emitting processes. That those companies who are engaging in the business of fossil fuel extraction, refinement, production and consumption have a vested interest in continuing its exploitation and should be therefore seen as a principle obstacle in humanity addressing global climate change.

WHEREAS, There is a global movement of environmentally conscious universities, individuals and pension funds to divest their holdings from fossil fuel companies and those companies who profit from the continued emission of global warming gasses.

BE IT RESOLVED, the University Student Senate is in favor of The New School staying true to its sustainability principles and divesting its endowment away from all fossil fuel companies.

BE IT RESOLVED, the USS demands that the Board of Trustees and administration take immediate steps to divest from fossil fuel companies, and ensure that The New School remains a leader at the cutting edge of university environmental sustainability.

BE IT RESOLVED, the USS encourages the whole New School community, students, staff and faculty, to educate themselves about the issues surrounding fossil fuel divestment and assist us in pressuring the Board of Trustees to comply with the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility’s recommendations. We encourage all students, staff and faculty to attend the Campus Sustainability Day on October 23rd, from Noon-2pm in Arnhold Hall of the Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, to help show their support for this resolution.

 

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March on Washington

On Saturday 24th, 2013 I had the honor to be there for the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. It was by a far a really amazing experience, easily over a hundred thousand people, primarily African American, all there to both commemorate this historic occasion and continue the right for racial justice and social equality. There were many issues with the right-wing liberal politics coming from the front that Dave Zirin does a good preliminary job of going into. I will say that when we were marching in our International Socialist Organization contingent with pretty radical chants like; “Black! Latino! Arab, Asian, and white! No racism, no more, no more. Stand up and fight!”, “Stop and Frisk. Tear it Down. Stand Your Ground. Tear it Down. The New Jim Crow. Tear it Down. The Whole Damn System! Tear It Down!” and especially “Get back, get back. We want freedom, freedom. All these dirty racist cops, we don’t need ‘em, need ‘em!” we were incredibly well received and many many people joined in our contingent because of that energy an radicalism. We were also some of the only people there that outright confronted the anti-choice reactionaries who came to the March on Washington to troll it with their offensive anti-abortion propaganda You can see this all in the videos and photos that I took below.

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The Political Economy of Giant Robots

odaida_gundam-762559This is my latest piece for the Red Wedge Magazine. It may quite easily be the nerdiest thing I have ever written. But no shame!

With Guillermo del Toro’s new movie Pacific Rim out in theaters, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about my first true love. No not communism, giant robot anime.

Pacific Rim is itself a perfectly fine movie, nothing too amazing or deep, but a solid popcorn movie nonetheless. Delicious, but not too filling. I came there wanting my giant robot vs. monster fights and I wasn’t disappointed. If anything could be said about it politically its has a refreshingly diverse cast, with two out of the three principal characters being played by people of color, and the female lead is actually a character of importance to the plot with agency, as opposed to just a mere love interest for the male lead. Also it has Idris Elba and Idris Elba is a living god.

But Pacific Rim very consciously draws on a rich and long history of mecha genre of Japanese anime. This genre, which goes back at least to the 1950s with Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s Tetsujin 28-go (released in the U.S. as Gigantor) centers around a number of science-fiction themes and tropes of giant robots and their pilots.

The genre has been often divided into two halves, “Super Robot” and “Real Robot.”  By way of reference, Pacific Rim, like other series such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, falls sort of in between with certain tropes from both categories. Super Robots tend to revolve around giant mecha with quasi-supernatural abilities fighting mostly monsters. Think Power Rangers, though those series are really Super Sentais, which is a different genre altogether.

Real Robots on the other hand tend to have a larger focus on science-fiction and technical grounding for the mechas, they can be damaged and need to be repaired, as well as plots that are politically driven in war like conflicts for instance, as opposed to just smashing giant monsters. So the principal archetype that launched this sub-genre is without a doubt Yoshiyuki Tomino’s 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam as well as all the resulting multiple Gundam series as a whole that have continued to this day.

Mobile Suit Gundam tells the story of a bloody war in the future between the Earth Federation and the space colony dwelling Principality of Zeon. Zeon has initially the upper hand in this war due to their usage of both dropping orbital space colonies on Earth and their invention and mass production of “mobile suits,” giant humanoid robots, 18 meters tall, as their backbone military hardware. The Federation launches its own crash-course mobile suit program with the creation of the “Gundam” mobile suit, and in the end the Earth triumphs.

Politically, Mobile Suit Gundam is quite awful. Its pro-war reactionary to the core, with giant robot battles in space glorifying war, all played to the exciting background music of really bad disco. The war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon is a thinly veiled allegory for World War II, with the unquestionably good Federation against the Nazi-like Zeon. The name “Gundam” literally comes from Gun + Freedom, it’s a “good war” and you are suppose to cheer on accordingly.

Little nuance at all is shown in the competing sides, even the most relatable of the Zeon characters is revealed to be an effective double agent. What is more, this first series initiated essentially all of the principal tropes that would be repeated by subsequent Gundam series re-tellings and other “Real Robot” mechas from The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (released in a bastardize form in the U.S. as Robotech) to Full Metal Panic, Eureka Seven and that height of sheer utter ridiculousness Tengen Toppen Gurren Lagann. An idealized vision of war and violence is combined with saber-rattling and teenage wish fulfillment, as the majority of mecha pilots in these series are teenage boys who often literally just stumble across the giant robot they are destined to pilot to victory. Feel alienated and powerless, teenage boy? Well here’s a giant to smash all the people you don’t like, be the hero and impress the girls!

The mecha anime genre has largely fallen into the trap noted by Phillip K. Dick when he spoke about sci-fi in general of being, “inbred,” “derivative,” and “stale.” On top of that I can also add the tendency for it to be sexist, jingoistic, war-mongering and sometimes quite flat in message and political content.

Yet as the years went by, mecha series have somewhat progressed and have become more self-aware. The follow-up sequel to the original Gundam series, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was far grittier and bleaker, with the now more fascistic and genocidal Earth Federation as the enemy. The straight to VHS short series Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is told from the perspective of a young boy and presents the war between the Federation and Zeon as not something for children to fantasize about or include in their games and toys. The popular Mobile Suit Gundam Wing was about essentially terrorists from the space colonies engaging in a guerrilla war for independence on earth as the protagonists. Che Guevaras in giant robots.

A similar vein is taken up with my personal favorite Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (and yes, the creators of these shows are not that original when it comes to naming them). Its one of the most geo-politically astute of these mecha series (which is really not that hard of a competition) where in this future, slightly inspired by 1984, the world has been divided up into three imperialist meta-nations in a similar way as the EU. These three imperialist powers engage in proxy wars as they vie for dominance over the expanding space colonization efforts. The modern day conflicts in Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, Iraq and US pressure on Venezuela are directly alluded to (not always in the politically best ways though).

The protagonist “Gundam pilots” (one of Kurdish descent, another Catholic Northern Irish) are part of a paramilitary operation with the contradictory aim of ending all war through forcing the three meta-nations into one. It might be a rather naïve and already tried gimmick in fiction of creating world peace through giving the world a common enemy, but the series pulls it off quite well. There is also an underlying plot device of the paramilitary outfit using something similar to “psychohistory” from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series to plot out and predict geopolitical potential paths, a nod to classic sci-fi which I enjoyed.

But all of these musings on the problematic politics of this genre of anime is slowly getting me to what has often been the biggest question for me at times. Something that always leaves me wondering, as only a nerd who dives too deeply into a series can do. Where do they get all those wonderful toys? Where do these giant robots come from? How does the economies of these respective giant robot universes operate? Who pays for them? How are they built? What do the supply chain of raw materials looks like? And going even deeper; under capitalism, how does a military economy that utilizes giant mechas effect the circulation and reproduction of capital and surplus value? What is the political economy of these giant robots?

One often-cited estimate made by the Japan Science and Technology Agency for the cost of a stripped down Gundam style mecha put it about $725 Million in today’s money. Which is interestingly quite comparable to the cost of a B-2 stealth bomber. The difference here is that in most of these series, mechas constitute the backbone of their respective military; they are the centerpiece of all strategy and existing support equipment. We are talking about hundreds if not thousands of mass produced robots, five to ten stories high, armed to the teeth with sized-up weaponry, along with all the support equipment in the form of supply and carrier units that are required for such a force.

What is more, the futures that these series take place in are often characterized by truly mass constructions on a gargantuan scale. The moon is colonized, hundreds of kilometers-long manufactured space colonies orbit the earth, space elevators stretching from the earth’s surface to outer space have been built. This isn’t your great granddaddies’ trans-continental railroad, these are capital infrastructure investments that would bankrupt the world’s economy of today in one fell swoop.

In Marxist economic terms we are talking about massive outlays in both Sector I, production of the means of production, and Sector II, production of final goods using already produced means of productions, of the capital economy. I imagine decades of construction of lunar and asteroid mining for raw materials. Construction of habitable space zones to grow food to feed and house the variable capital, also called labor. A massive logistical transportation network to move materials and capital equipment in the form of mass-drivers and spacecraft. Then factories, endless, massive factories, to build all the necessary component parts. And at the end, the final glorious products produced for non-productive consumption in warfare, giant mechas.

If past armies marched on their stomachs, modern armies march on their logistics, then future mecha armies march on gargantuan capital investments.

But yet we see nothing. In just about none of these series is proper view given to the long-term production processes that have gone into building these weapons of war. We are often privy to the unveiling or delivery of a brand new prototype, but so rarely are we given the chance to see all the planning and manufacture that went into them Let alone the circuits of capital performed through money and commodity metamorphosis that go on in the market to ensure production and sale. Sometimes in series such as Neo Genesis Evangelion we hear complaints about budget constraints and acquiring funding for the latest 60 meter tall robot, but that’s about it.

I am reminded of Marx’s allusions in Capital when he said, “we therefore take leave for a time of this noisy sphere, where everything takes place on the surface and in view of all men, and follow them both into the hidden abode of production, on whose threshold there stares us in the face “No admittance except on business.” Here we shall see, not only how capital produces, but how capital is produced. We shall at last force the secret of profit making.” What things take place in that secret abode of production, behind closes doors, where the capitalists of the Gundam and other mecha anime universes build their machines of destruction. Their titanic, golem of war.

For that’s the greatest question when talking about a class society, even in a fictional anime society, who controls the means of Gundam production. Who benefits the most from this permanent arms economy of giant robots.

The mecha series Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and its sequel Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny were part of the larger more self-reflective series of the genre. They are near beat-for-beat retelling of the original Gundam series but this time with a far more nuanced and ambiguous context. In this war there is really no clear “good guys” rather multiple layers of grey. But something even more important here, for to my ears SEED Destiny contains one of the greatest musings on the political economy of giant robots anywhere ever.

In the episode “The Hidden Truth,” Gilbert Durandal, the leader of the government of the space colonists, is speaking with a number of his mobile suit pilots and officers and the discussion turns to why do wars keep happening. Here’s what he says:

Why do we continue fighting? Why won’t wars go away?” There is a more pathetic, hopeless side to wars. Take that unit for example. [pointing to a nearby parked giant robot] The ZGMF-X2000 Gouf. It just rolled out earlier from the military plant. Because we are in a time of war, new units like this are produced, one after another. On the battlefield, missiles are fired and mobile suits are destroyed. Therefore, the factories create unit after unit, manufacture new missiles and send them into the battlefield. It applies to both sides. The production lines are in such high demand, the manufacturing isn’t keeping up with it.

Please think about the costs associated with just one of those units. If you were to think of this as an industry, nothing else in the world would be as efficient and profitable. As long as we’re at war, such a thing is obvious and can’t be helped. However, its human nature to think the opposite when you realize that its profitable. Once the war ends, weapons will no longer be needed. They won’t be profitable. But if a war would start up again, you could profit again. Then for people like that, isn’t war something that they would definitely want us to be doing? “They are dangerous enemies for us. Lets fight them.” “We were fired upon. We can’t forgive them. Lets fight them.” In the history of mankind there have always been those who encourage people to initiate wars and then use it for their commerce. For the sake of their own profits.

This is one of the most brilliant explanations of how war-profiteering works inside any fictional world. In this statement is the entire perverse logic of permanent arms economies, where the more bullets are fired, the better it is for business. Hence the ever-present vested interest for the military giant robot industrial complex in perpetuating and perpetuating more wars no matter the situation. As Marx had said;

With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10% will ensure its employment anywhere; 20% certain will produce eagerness; 50%, positive audacity; 100% will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300%, and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both. Smuggling and the slave-trade have amply proved all that is here stated.

And I would add to this list of Marx’s the entirety of the modern arms industry, both “legitimate” and illegal, as well as any fictional variety or analog of such.

So bringing it all back to our start. The question is who was it that was making it rich off of the Jaegger (the name given to the giant mechas in that movie) program in Pacific Rim. Were there Jaegger producing Haliburtons, Lockheed Martins, Blackwaters and DynCorps that were raking in massive profits from no-bid contracts? Did they lobby to the hilt to continue production of their products and ensure a steady stream of tax dollars into their coffers? What was the profit rate like on just one of those machines and to what ends would their manufactures go to ensure their continued production?

Stepping even further back from the trip down the nerdy rabbit hole, there are a number of important issues for us. For one is to be aware of what it is we like and what is the implications of what we like. Damn near all culture is problematic under capitalism, it just goes with the corrosive profit seeking territory. It’s okay to have some guilty pleasures, but when it comes to something like media that glorifies war like violence as entertainment, we have to be aware of what kind of ideology it could be really us selling here.

Moving away from the personal to more of the political, the words of Gilbert Durandal from Gundam SEED Destiny about the dangers of an economy addicted to war and those who would gain from war, are quite astute. Or said another way, by a non-fictional anime character named Lenin, “in politics it is not so important who directly advocates particular views. What is important is who stands to gain from these views, proposals, measures.” Next time congress decides to pony up another $100 million to the Pentagon, ask yourselves, you stands to gain?

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