Friday, December 31, 2010

The Walk

You are walking, on your way somewhere or other. You are a busy person, with lots of things to do and lots you want to see accomplished. 

Today is another day full of things to do, with nothing particular or unusual about it. You are crossing the street between a small parking lot and a many-storied contemporary condominium building, moving between cars and around other people automatically, effortlessly.
    You step onto the opposite curb, automatically, effortlessly. Your feet orient you in the direction your business lies. The bank is three blocks ahead and one to the left.
    And then it’s dark, and you are gasping for breath. Your body is shockingly, suddenly cold; it knocks the breath out of you. Your limbs feel strange and heavy and as you desperately inhale another little mouthful of water you realize it’s because you are floating, floating in icy dark water, pulling and thrashing your limbs around in panic. It is completely dark. You can’t see yourself, your own body at all and for a moment you are struck with a deep, irrational fear until you realize you can hear the sound of your own gasping breath and therefore you are still in your body. You move your head left to right, in the total dark, hair whipping like cold little ropes, and there are no little points of light in the dark, no hints, no reference points to provide you perspective or allow you to see what you are floating in.
    You can’t see anything around you and the cold has weakened your limbs and you are certain that you are about to drown, that you will inevitably and very soon be unable to keep yourself afloat, and in panic, in the dark, you begin to reach for something to hold onto, anything; after all, moments ago you were crossing 23rd street toward West Grand and you must have fallen in to some reservoir under the sidewalk, or you’re stuck in a pipe or a utility tunnel, there must be some explanation for this, and some stray chunk of the world above, something broken loose in the little catastrophe that sent you down here, that you could grab onto and maybe pull yourself up… so you thrash your arms wildly in the dark, kicking harder and more desperately to keep yourself afloat, turning and reaching, and it becomes harder and harder to breathe, exerting yourself like that, and you realize with terror that it takes all the energy you have left just to stay afloat.
    Suddenly you freeze, in the dark, and the noise of your thrashing, which you did not hear, settles down to the relative stillness and quiet of your floating, scissoring your legs steadily below you, which you do hear, now. The cold water, which is still very cold but is no longer such a shock, laps gently against you.
    In this moment of calm you can hear that the sound of your body in the water doesn’t stay with you, but carries away and disappears like sound does in a park; wherever you are, in the dark, you are not confined. It is impossible to say how large, but you are certainly in a large space. Maybe, you think, there is an edge, an end to the water, a shore to climb onto.
    In the dark there is no way to ascertain what might be the correct direction It’s possible that it might take you a long time to find whatever shore may be there. Taking a breath to calm yourself, you begin swimming.

 (written by request of Shayna Yates, as a script for a collaborative one-page comic. It may yet appear. Shayna's work is extravagantly displayed on her own website, Go there.)

Subculture as a popular response to modernity


    If, as I suspect, modernity creates the conditions that allow multiple, simultaneous, antagonistic cultural threads to exist within the same greater culture-that is, if modernity is the force that allows differences in perspective to exist as a result of its dissolution of previous ways of knowing-then subculture itself is a modern phenomenon, a product of modernity.  

Culture, sub- or otherwise, is practically by definition a product of the popular collective imagination-only in the fantasies of Maoists does culture come from anyone other than the great collective. So, I could point backward at the history of subcultures as a history of popular response to modernism. If I did, I could point to trends within these popular responses that group them loosely into two categories: alternatives to modernity, and engagements with modernity. Alternatives to modernity suggest (aesthetically or explicitly) a way of life that circumvents the problems inherent to modernity. Engagements with modernity suggest, inherently or explicitly, ways of life that attempt to rectify or incorporate the problems inherent to modernity.

ALTERNATIVES TO                                                ENGAGEMENTS WITH
    MODERNITY                                                                MODERNITY
     Heavy Metal                                                                        Punk
      Steampunk                                                                     Jazz/Beats
 Renaissance-fair type events                                           Dada/surrealism
   Anarcho-primitivism                                                          Situationists
  Nazism/Nationalism                                                Soviet communism/Maoism
Dropouts/back-to-the-land                                                  Industrial music
   The Occult/New Age                                               “Rave”/early techno scene
 Dungeons and Dragons                                                    Mod/60’s Psych
        Italian Futurism                                                    Cybernetics/Futurology
        Pop Psychology                                         Pop Psychology/human potential
   Organized Racism                                          Alternative fuels/technology nerds          Religious Right/fundamentalism                        Anarchism/lefty political radicalism  Postapocalypse/Zombie apocalypse fantasies                         Queer
                                                                                           Organized Labor

What is Steampunk about?

       If subcultures are ever about anything, they are always about aesthetics. This is not to demean or belittle the political aspirations of subculture, nor is it to say that subcultures cannot produce culture, ideas and artifacts of real depth and value. Subcultures articulate their politics through aesthetics, which is after all only a way of speaking...

Some subcultures express an inherent, unarticulated politic, which is no less a politic for having not been referred to or thought of directly. For example, Goth, an ostensibly apolitical subculture, derives its essential themes (transgression, alienation, a romantic insistence on the legitimacy of individual perspective, the invasion of fantasy and art into everyday life) from the political philosophy of the Enlightenment, just as gothic literature did, as well as its countercultural antecedents of the 20th century, notably Dadaism, surrealism and 60’s psychedelia. Other subcultures, most noticeably the –punk (punk-as-suffix; crust-punk, peace-punk etc.) family of subcultures, explicitly and deliberately develop a politics both through their aesthetics and independent of aesthetics, in the realm of critical writing in zines and elsewhere. The greatest commonality among subcultures, that which aids them in transcending “mere” fashion, may be in this relationship, in which a look or aesthetic speaks to a greater idea that in turn charges the aesthetic with meaning.
    It is fascinating, and problematic, therefore, to witness the persistent popularity of a style-cult in which, for the life of me, I cannot detect the necessary depth to develop an articulable politics or an aesthetic of substance and depth. This is the thing (probably the only thing) that fascinates me about Steampunk. Aesthetically it is of so specific a range that I don’t see a lot of room for individual expression, which restricts its popular appeal and staying power. Conceptually it is so specific that I have a hard time relating its founding concepts to larger, more universal social ideas and experiences-or, at least, to larger ideas that I would want to align myself with. If Goth offers an impassioned, informed humanist nihilism, if Punk offers an existentialist moral framework peppered with righteous indignance, if Rave (god rest its soul) managed to offer an ecstatic, transient utopianism, what does Steampunk offer?
    It is always dangerous to stand outside of a culture (which in Steampunk’s case is certainly where I stand) and offer judgments and analyses. I am only bothering, in this case, because I recently had a moment of revelation in which I could suddenly recognize what exactly it was Steampunk might be about; not only this, but that Steampunk and I might, each in our own way, be “about” the same thing. That is, the Big Idea that Steampunk may be trying to articulate through its aesthetics may be the same Big Idea that I spend a lot of energy attempting to articulate in words. We may, Steampunk and I, be two dissimilar children of the same horrible parent, the same ongoing and unanswerable cultural moment. 
    Steampunk may be an attempt (primarily, I would guess, an unarticulated and unconscious attempt) to imagine an alternative Modernism.
    Steampunk may be an attempt to redefine the relationship between culture and technology.
    Steampunk may be an attempt to extricate social life from the hostage position technology currently holds it in. It may be an attempt to rehumanize technology, to place it in a human scale and within a “human” (that is, pre-modern) social and cultural continuum.
    The Steampunk aesthetic produces endless fetishizations of antique and obsolete machinery. These machines and peoples’ relationships to them seem to me to be the most fundamental conceptual element of Steampunk. In Steampunk’s vision of Technology there is a much greater degree of human agency over and interaction with technology than the relationship to technology we are privileged to experience today. The obsession with tinkering, with technology whose operation is rooted in observable, comprehensible physics, reveals an insistence on a technology without experts, and without necessary abstraction into the incomprehensible. Steampunk attempts to refer to, or imagine, a cultural moment before modernism and its social consequences had so totally transformed our relationships to one another and the natural world, while insisting on the privileges, possibilities and comforts technology offers.
    Of course, every subculture has its conservative elements. In Steampunk’s case it is exactly the premodern world it invokes as ideal, with its unambiguous gender roles and preoccupation with social class, with its premodern certainty and order, that allows its adherents the security of not having to stray too far afield in order to enjoy themselves. The Steampunk world is curiously full of queens (and I don’t mean the fun kind), nations, colonial adventure, military pomp, the romanticized underclasses, rigid and restrictive gender production, and a quaint and tolerant attitude toward social institutions like international finance. The whole nauseating, premodern-edwardian horrorshow, itself at the root of the modernism Steampunk may be attempting to escape, is treated with a sentimental fondness, as a backdrop for narratives of adventure that (so far, in my experience) never issue an explicit challenge to the structures of power.
    Maybe more significant, and more disturbing, is Steampunk’s challenge to present-day modernism. Steampunk’s collective imagination continues to produce visions of a technology that provides the same extravagant privilege that we enjoy as a benefit of our real-world technology, but without the social and ecological costs that we cannot help but acknowledge. Despite its focus on machinery and its uses Steampunk is actually a disengagement with the challenges of Modernism, a social conservatism that, unlike alternatives to modernism like anarcho-primitivism, includes the pleasure and privilege of modernism’s toys. My understanding of Steampunk is that it is essentially conservative, in the classic 20th century meaning of the word-the old ways are the best. Beneath the tarnished brass it bears a strange resemblance to the late-modernist fantasies of the Eisenhower American 1950’s: all of the convenience, none of the ambiguity.
    What a subculture is ever about is, like all culture, an ongoing and collective process, the product of the efforts of its adherents. Steampunk’s DIY-technology ethic and desire for another world could transform it into a subculture to be proud of, if it develops a political and social consciousness.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

    The world we live in is full of noise. It is difficult to perceive it because it is so pervasive-there are few silences that are not given shape by the hum of the computer or the faraway roar of traffic or the steady whisper of the lighting. Silence, like many other aspects of preindustrial human experience, is now among the privileges reserved for the very wealthy. They and a few others have the necessary frame of reference to understand how pervasive, and how definitive, noise is to the world we have created. The sound of the contemporary world is absolutely unprecedented in human history.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Molecule of Social Physics

Social life is the means by which the Individual recognizes itself. Social life is life itself, to human beings, is the key to a living world, a world animated by reflections of the self. Having feelings is Human, as human as having thoughts. Expressing feelings, therefore, belongs to the realm of the Political as much as it does to art. 

Expressing feelings is political in many senses of the word-not only because we happen to live (for the moment!) in a culture and economy where denial of our desires is a source of profit to some, not only because we are denied self-knowledge through the denial of emotion, leading us to look for answers outside ourselves, but also in a more fundamental, more significant sense: namely, that emotions form the essential core of our subjective experience, and in attempting to express that we engage in the most human and most political act. All social life is made up of these exchanges of subjectivity, and politics, which is the science of social life, is a theory derived from what is known through the expression of these subjectivities. The story of political change is the story of the struggle for inclusion of denied or ignored subjectivities-of women, of oppressed ethnicities, of people subject to categorization by class-into the body of what can be known, of what can constitute “politics”. To express yourself, then, which implicitly includes the emotional aspect of experience, is fundamentally political.
    Imagine a world that allowed for the total inclusion of all subjectivities. Some of the most important political work we can do is to attempt to contact the subjectivities of others, or Others-they are like Prometheuses that have come down a mountain to bring us secret knowledge, knowledge that can free us. Contact with subjectivity, with experience, is the trick that transforms the –isms that seem to separate us into extensions of our own interests. The expression of the emotional, the subjective, is fundamental to political life and political change and so is acceptance of the emotional, because through recognition of another’s experience we can understand their desires. They no longer seem so irrational.
We use the inclusion of subjectivity to judge the integrity of an artistic expression as much as a political expression-we believe a statement to the degree we believe it to be “authentic”.
    (We could define “courage” as the resistant assertion of a subjectivity that is perceived by its object to be unwelcome.)


How To Read Peoples' Diaries


      People seem to have the strangest relationship to disagreement. They seem to defend the most irrelevant assertions or differences in perspective as though the assertion of one variation of viewpoint over another threatened their very selves. They also treat a statement that contradicts or adds to the collective conception of what is true as an attack on territory-they mistake a suggestion of what might be true for an assertion, a command, an act of violence, an invasion of what is currently true. 

This is an everyday hassle for people of all walks of life (happens to everybody-watch drunks at bars argue sometime) but I see it as especially problematic in circles where language and critical thought are deliberately and consciously used to develop theory-a tool that reshapes thought and behavior in social life-circles like the social milieu of Anarchism and Punk Rock here in the US. In other words, we, who have made it our business to advance certain dialogues, seem to have placed ourselves in a position in which disagreement-the means by which dialogue is advanced-is a highly risky proposition. Slander and ostracism are no joke. Advance a dialogue once and it might take you years to find the courage to speak again. I want to find a way out of working this way, and I need your help to find it. This is an open conversation.
               If you tell people what you really think and feel, you put yourself in danger. Their ability to hurt you rests in their ability to touch on what you have always suspected about yourself-that your feelings and thoughts make you weak and foolish, that your thoughts are a theoretical dressing around your essential cravenness. Saying what you really think and feel is hazardous because nobody, no matter how earnest, can conform perfectly to the standards of their community, no matter which community they belong to.
           All communities, even (especially?) radical ones, tend toward a hegemony of thought-it’s part of what defines a group of people as a community in the first place. And while the tension between the standards of the group and the perspective of the individual is itself what lends dynamism to social groups, it’s just as easy to be judged an asshole for your honesty as it is to be a hero. Honesty offers no assurances.
        It is my intention to give you, reader, plenty to judge me with.
        I would rather not write than keep us both safe from my self, from what might later become Truth but what currently constitutes me, my thoughts, my feelings. I am at your mercy. I only hope your humanity is as strong as your politics.
    Nobody gets to speak or act, to say nothing of write, without being judged. Evaluation of actions and their consequences is a natural and indispensable part of social existence. You will judge me, which you should. But whatever judgement you make, and especially if you find something you disagree with, take your feelings and do something with them. All disagreements are potentially utilitarian; they all have a potential to turn into dialogue, which itself contains the potential seed of theory, the flashlight with which we stumble toward the Future, if you, reader, refuse to refuse to discuss them. It’s easy to stay in a social/theoretical space where ideas are Good or Bad, where they are considered as propositions or rejected outright; it’s easy (and, currently, less socially hazardous) to deal with an idea by agreeing with people that agree with you that this idea is Bad. It’s harder, and more useful, to take an idea that you disagree with seriously for a few moments. It is a leap of faith, and that leap of faith is the root of critical thought.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Social Remedies for Social Diseases

                                                 Social Remedies for Social Diseases
                              <The necessity for DIY porno and the Sex Ed of the future>

The fundamental experience of being human is to be social. Sexuality is politically significant in itself, then, because it is a social act, a relationship between two or more people that exists in the context of the social. 

Cultural conceptions of sexuality in the West place sexuality in an atomized, alienated sphere; we seem to expect our “private lives” to exist in a cultural vacuum, unaffected by and unable to affect the rest of our lives. At the same time we implicitly acknowledge, with great nudging and winking, that our sexualities so pervade social life as to be mistaken by some for the primary cause of social life (as though we were insects!); it is when someone proposes to apply a socially critical lens to our “private lives” that the division reasserts itself.
The atomization of the sexual aspect of social life is a problem in itself, but it allows for a more significant problem-it not only prevents us each from thinking clearly about our lives and the relationship of sexuality to them but also prevents us from speaking clearly about sexuality to one another-that is it prevents us from creating a collective cultural and social conception of sexuality guided by our own experiences and feelings. As usual, in the (conspicuous) absence of a popular cultural dialogue, the Marketplace is ready to step in and provide a profit-driven alternative.
Despite the best well-meant efforts of parents, educators and others, children in our Western culture receive the overwhelming majority of their socialization through representations in the mass media. Sexuality is not only included in this but is central to it; children are protected from the obscenity of seeing real sexual contact between adults but cannot be saved from the real obscenity of the Free Market’s neurotic, alienated for-profit presentation of sexuality, which is as pervasive for them as it is for us. Media speaks louder than any childhood authority, and as a result we learn what we know about sex (no wonder we’re so confused!) first from the pervasive images of desire and relationships shown in movies and magazines (and cartoons) and later, from pornography.
Mainstream pornography is currently the only graphic representation of human sexuality (not mere anatomy) available. Children inevitably learn about sex from pornography, and thereby inherit its accompanying cultural conceptions about gender and sexuality, not only because it is pervasive (and it certainly is!) but because there is no other authoritative source. Moreso, mainstream pornographic representations of human sexuality trump well-meant sex ed portrayals because they lack life and feeling, and aren’t consistent with the rest of the mass media’s portrayal of adult relationships. That is, the logic of mainstream pornography is consistent with the logic of the rest of social life as portrayed in the mass media-it and its horrifying, alienated misogyny are the logical extension of greater cultural attitudes around human relationships.
I may need to qualify my argument in that when I say “children” I may mean boy children. My observations are drawn from my experiences as a boy, and from observing other boys and men. I suspect that girls and women also learn much of their sexuality from mainstream pornographic representations, and have certainly heard from many who did, but I also have reason to believe that little boys have a privileged access to pornography; it is implicitly permitted or even encouraged, part of our culture’s sentimental construction of boyhood and masculinity.
Regardless, all children in the West are subject to more or less the same exposure to mass media images of sexuality. There is little new in my assertion of this except what I see as the pervasiveness and significance of this gendered education, this education in gender-I want to assert that the majority of sexual socialization in the majority of young boys comes from mainstream pornography. Mainstream pornography, in the absence of more humanistic representations, constitutes the foundation of most boys’ instruction in masculinity. I believe this to be one of the roots of the crisis in masculinity that is expressed in the everyday violence of Patriarchy.
My argument may also be unusual in that I am not arguing for the categorical elimination of pornography but for the seizure of the means of dissemination, for the destruction of pornography as it is made today to be replaced with a humanist, feminist, living pornography. The problem with pornography is not that it is part of our socialization in sex but that it socializes us in what I would call an undesirable way. I see pornography as a tool with great potential, a site of resistance by which we may force changes to the socio-psychological superstructure of everyday life. I also want it made perfectly clear that I stand for the total destruction of the pornography industry that exists today, a hypercapitalistic nexus of sexism that hurts those who consume it as much as it may hurt the women that help produce it.
Mainstream pornography’s contribution to Capitalism, its own crime against humanity, is its reduction of possibility to a single, monolithic, monotonous Product. It mutilates heterosexuality as eagerly as it excludes what it has decided falls outside of it.
I want to see the mainstream pornographic industry lose its balance and fall, toppled by a New Wave of expressions that come from the hearts and minds and genitals of all kinds of “regular” people, unrestricted by the profit motive, dedicated to representing themselves, wrenching open the cultural conception of what’s possible. Capitalism survives, according to John Berger, by fooling us into defining our own interests as narrowly as possible; it is an act of self-defence to widen those definitions, to reconquer space in which to exist, for all those of us who fail to meet an increasingly narrow definition of what is desirable, thusly what is sexual, and thusly what is social, and thusly what is human.
DIY pornography, home-made pornography, is politically significant in that it opens up space for each of us to express ourselves, which may be especially important for those of us whose bodies and desires are excluded from the present cultural conception of sexuality; the mass media’s powers of dissemination have made the right to be included in social life, inclusion of what is taken to be real, a question of representation-what is permitted to be represented is what is taken to be real. DIY pornography provides the possibility of representation for that broad spectrum of bodies that are excluded currently, a family of humanity that ranges from people at the edges of gender definition to those over the age of 30. More broadly speaking it may redefine sexuality for all of us, providing a form of sexual pedagogy (one that we might acknowledge this time!) and benefiting adults as much as children. DIY pornography constitutes the potential for a coup.
The pornography I want to see, the pornography that belongs to the Future and will be instrumental in the creation of that future, has no Porn Stars. We will not need to believe in them anymore because we will understand that we intrinsically possess that which we now believe only they have-that we can act as the representatives of our own desires, that we each contain a sexuality worth expressing. The pornography of the future will not be populated by Whores that permit us to remain Madonnas at home, but people-the same class of people as those that watch it.
It is our duty as human beings to deliberately and consciously guide the development of our collective life, to seize the reins of culture. Pornography, I have decided, belongs to our realm of concern because this part of our cultural and social life, and therefore our future, is currently being decided for us. As ever and always, their interests are hostile to ours; they will rip apart any human relationship, deny any need, turn any of us against the other as long as it continues to bring them profit. It may be our duty, then, to go out and make our own fucking porno.

DIY porno and its political significance has been a favorite hobby horse of mine for some time-imagine my vexation when i discovered i was beaten to the critical punch by the estimable Dylan Ryan, SuperQueero porn star and part-time Canadian. Her essay has the experential, human flavor mine might lack, and you can read it on her blog here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Human Freedom is not a Cafeteria


    It is very important, for certain interests, that people everywhere continue to believe that the world is none of their business. A world full of people who believe that the operation of the world is none of their business is convenient for certain interests, who believe that the operation of the world should be their concern exclusively. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kevin VonMutant's Voting guide! (for CA. and Alameda county residents)

     I stayed up into the wee hours poring over the state AND county voting guides, only to decide (for reasons we shall not compromise ourselves by revealing here) that it might be prudent for me to abstain from voting. But rather than let those two hours go to waste, i present to you
    KEVIN VONMUTANT'S VOTING GUIDE, in regards to the state of California and Alameda County, for the election to be held this November 2nd, 2010.
   Please bear in mind that these recommendations are NOT the product of meticulous internet research, or any research at all, and might be thought of more as suggestions than imperative commands. 


Proposition 19: NO 
Proposition 20: NO 
Proposition 21: NO 
Proposition 22: NO 
Proposition 23: NO 
Proposition 24: YES 
Proposition 25: NO
Proposition 26: NO 
Proposition 27: YES 

Proposition 19: NO 
( Marijuana is for most practical purposes already legal in California. While this law would further decriminalize marijuana possession, it would also disrupt the cash flows of many whose livliehood depends on the extant black market and funnel all the profits from the legal sale of marijuana into the pockets of a few conspicuously invisible parties whose money backed the inclusion of the proposition on the ballot. The sitch in northern Mexico should also serve to remind us that the disruption of highly profitable trade (illegal or otherwise) tends to result in an increase in street violence. I would be all about this thing if i thought it would mean a reduction in the Prison-Industrial Complex's strnglehold on the state, but with the fed gov reserving the right to enforce as they choose, this looks like it could-and according to those axioms about power, therefore will-result in an increase in profits for the new weed barons and no shortage of new, totally unnecessary incarcerations for the Prison industry.)
Proposition 20: NO 
(This proposition proposes to consolidate the power of a 14-person "citizen's redistricting" committee [read: business interests] instead of letting the determination of defining voting districts remain in the hands of the state legislature. A 'yes' vote, by my reckoning, would serve to promote the interests of business and the transfer of state control from Government cigar-chewing white men to Business cigar-chewing white men faster than allowing redistricting to remain the province of the state reps and governor. Lesser of two evils. Yay democracy!)
Proposition 21: NO 
(This proposition proposes to establish a fund to maintain state parks by levying an additional $20 to automobile registration in the state of California. Twenty more dollars is a lot of money to a lot of unemployed, underemployed, working poor Californians, who might also be the least likely people to have enough free time to go enjoy California state parks they've been funding. Why would THIS be the way to provide funding to maintain state parks? No thanks.)
Proposition 22: NO 
(This law would prevent state government from diverting funds earmarked for transportation and redevelopment to other needs. Those "other needs" actually means public schools. "Redevelopment" actually means eminent domain land grabs. The law as it stands prevents a legal loophole for developers to get bailed out by state government after they put themselves in debt [and further into profit]. State schools lose poitentially billions of dollars if this passes. I researched this one pretty minimally, if anyone can rebutt please do!)
Proposition 23: NO
(This proposition proposes to suspend state standards for reducing the impact of global warming. There is no sensible reason to do this. Whatever giant corporations who sponsored this embarassingly transparent profit-grab want us to believe that voting against emissions standards will somehow create jobs, as if they can't wait to spend thier extra billions paying peoples' paychecks. I think not.)
Proposition 24: YES
(Proposes to repeal a piece of legislation that essentially increased taxes for everyone except gigantic corporations, who recieved a massive tax cut. Once again, there's no reason in the world to vote against this, unless you happen to be a shareholder in a gigantic corporation, in which case you can't read my blog but you CAN buy me a donut. Repealing this monumentally cynical legislation promises to benefit the state treasury to the tune of approx. 1.7 billion.)
Proposition 25:NO
(This proposition is an attempt to restructure the legislative vote requirement to allow a simple majority vote instead of a two-thirds vote. Laws of this type have been passed all over the place to allow government organs with a high republican consistuency to have things thier way quicker and easier. The spoonful of sugar here is that a 'yes' vote would punish legislators who don't produce a budget on time by suspending thier salaries. Both sides of the arguement make senseless, irrelevant statements in the voter's guide, both full of loaded language and lacking in enough content to allow me to think critically about the proposition. I would highly recommend doing your own research here.)
Proposition 26: NO
(This proposition would require that the state legislature have to vote before levying fees against industries in-state whose business produces adverse social or ecological impact. Naturally this is a means to legally set up payola relationships between state legislators and big businesses. I would like to think that nobody would be stupid enough to vote for this. No, no, no.)
Proposition 27: YES
(Can this really be prop 20 in reverse? Yes, it can. This proposition allows the voter to choose between allowing a gang of definitely unaccountable, possibly shareholding 'citizens' [business interests; the specifics say you can be on the committee if you are registered to vote and 'are chosen according to specified rules, no further details in the voting guide]' ) to determine the assembly and senate districts, or allowing that responsibility to belong to the legislature. A 'yes' vote erects at least one more barricade between business interests and total control of the state.)


  I'd forgive you if you ignored this section; i don't believe in representative democracy. I don't believe that anyone can accurately or honestly represent the interests of a whole group of people, especially one as heterogenous and chaotic as California. But some of these people really want to represent your interests, while others would probably be happiest drinking beer and watching you break rocks in a work camp. And, yes, some big money deal somewhere has probably already made all of these decisions for us, but i've already done the hard work. You just have to put the tallboy down long enough to scratch a little bubble with a pencil. 
   You'll notice that everyone is representing either the Peace and Freedom party or the Green party. The peace and freedom party are an awesome, frizzy-haired, wide-eyed bunch of socialists-thier blurbs for election say things like "Tax the rich!", whcih stands alone against an entire paragraph of empty promises and bullshit by the democratic and republican candidates. They haven't got a chance in hell, but we all know this is mainly a game, right? Every once in a while i chose to promote a green party candidate over a peace and fredom candidate, on those occasions where they had a more considered economic strategy or otherwise seemed a little more realistic.

US SENATE-Marsha Feinland, Peace and Freedom party
GOVERNOR-Laura Wells, Green
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR-C.T. Weber, Peace and freedom. (Fuck you, gavin newsom.)
SECRETARY OF STATE-Ann menasche, Green (the peace and freedom candidate for secretary of state sounds like a 1st year college student)
CONTROLLER-Karen martinez, Peace and freedom
TREASURER-Charles "Kit" Crittenden, Green 
ATTORNEY GENERAL-Robert J. Evans, peace and freedom
INSURANCE COMISSIONER-Dina Josephine Padilla, peace and freedom
SUPERINTENDANT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION-Larry Aceves (candidates for this position are not divided by party representation. I chose larry over the other guy because he used less language around standardized testings and generally seemed more relevant)
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, DISTRICT ONE-Sherill Borg, peace and freedom ("tax the corporations.")
DISTRICT TWO-Toby Mitchell-Sawyer, peace and freedom
DISTRICT THREE-Mary Lou Finley, peace and freedom
DISTRICT FOUR-Nancy Lawrence, peace and freedom


  This, if anywhere, is where your vote actually counts. Local elections operate at a smaller scale, which tends to contribute to a greater degree of transparency, and the potential payout isn't great enough for potential investors to profit too greatly and slant political outcomes too much. If you're going to vote at all, vote local. 
   The county of alameda voters guide, incidentally, is much funnier than the state voter's guide. Whereas  trying to understand the state voter's guide is like negotiating with a series of implacable, impersonal supercomputers that might kbe programmed to exterminate you, the Alameda county voter's guide is like a po'-faced satire. Half of the pro- and con- arguments in regards to the proposed initiatives seem to be written by the same person, whose written voice is strongly reminiscent of the more vocal wingnuts at the Long Haul. The catalog of candidates for mayor includes numerous magnificent unintentional satires. It's actually kind of fun to read. On with the 'suggestions'!



    MAYOR, 1ST CHOICE-Marcia Hodge (Moderate left with an excellent, higly visible campaign. African-american. Will probably turn out a two-faced democrat sellout, but could be an honest populist with an extremely long walk ahead of her.)
2ND CHOICE-Donald Lachlan Macleay (Clearly farther to the left than Marcia. Uses lots of progressive jargon in his statement. More likely to attempt to actually make changes to social and economic realities iin oakland, significantly less likely to be elected.)
3RD CHOICE-Rebecca Kaplan (Moderate. Least loathsome/ridiculous of the remaining candiates, who include a semiliterate escapee from a drum circle and an accountant.)

(Increases property tax in the city to help offset budget cuts to the oakalnd school district. Most poor, working or otherwise, are renters, who may be less likely to see the cost transferred to them.  A low-income clause protects low-income homeowners from having to pay the additional tax. I say yes.)
(Levys an additional $10 to auto registration costs in the county to pay for transportation improvements, mainly road repair. No to more increases to the cost of living and working for the citizens of Oakland.)
  (This measure proposes to increase the business tax on medical marijuana dispenasries from $18 to $50, with proceeds to benefit the city's general fund, and the counterarguements are pure People's Park gibberish. Had i ever in my life given a fuck about the rights of marijuana enthusiasts, or believed, as many of them seem to, that they are among the planet's most downtrodden, i might find this mild increase in administrative tax unacceptable, but i don't, and i don't, and it is. Yes on V.)
(they almost had me on this one. This measure would establish a fee, between $2 and $13, on all phones, including cellphones, in the city of oakland, to be paid into the general fund. A long enough analysis of the language revealed that MOST phones would fall into the $13-per category. No thanks.)
MEASURE X (how mysterious!):NO
(This measure proposes to levy a $360-per-single-family-unit property tax, essentially to pay for expanded policing. No, no, no. Leaving aside the fact that police are clearly an ineffective and dangerous tool for maintaining public order, if you really want more cops you can write a tax specifically for "mixed income live-work lofts".)
(If i understand this byzantine tangle of a proposal, which i probably don't, this would allow the city of Oakland to continue to collect an extra tax, levied since 2005, and continue to NOT spend the collected money on more "public safety", IE police. Neither a yes or a no vote guaruntees more police on Oakland's already-besieged streets, but a no vote does make it harder for city officials to quietly collect more undedicated funds.)

   You have until October 26th to register and until November 2nd to vote. Don't make me break this down for nothin'.