Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dixie Chicks: Vindicated, Never Silenced, Leaving Conservative Nashville in the Dust

They're about to release a new album, produced by Rick Rubin, the cat who saved Johnny Cash from those same Nashville corporate a-holes.

Moreover, we now know that, contrary to what puke-helmets like Bill O'Reilly claim, they were never seriously hurt by the weak, disingenuous "boycots" organized after Natalie Maines's remark about President Bush. Doesn't make the attempt to silence them excusable, but it does prove what I've been saying all along: conservative culture is a mile wide and an inch deep.

In fact, they not only have the last laugh, but a loud one at that: the country music establishment doesn't want to lose them, but they will; and the politically conservative foundation of the Nashville establishment is itself beginning to crack.

I eagerly await the release of the new album.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For, WSJ...

David Graeber replied to that idiotic Wall Street Journal editorial:

To the editor:

I am writing in response to your editorial of January 3rd ("Bourgeois Anarchy"). Charmed though I am to receive advice on anti-capitalist ethics from the Wall Street
Journal, I must draw attention to an error of fact. The first paragraph ends "Last spring, Yale denied him tenure." This is false. What happened was that the senior anthropology faculty attempted, and ultimately succeeded, in denying me what is
ordinarily a routine promotion, refusing to give any reasons for their decision, and thus cut me off from any possibility of even coming up for tenure. This decision was
extremely unusual, and the refusal to give a reason even more so. It sparked immediate protests by undergraduate and graduate students (not, initially, by me) that the real reasons were political in nature -- above all, that they had to do with my defense of a graduate student who the senior faculty had attempted to expel from the program because of her work as a union organizer.

I did submit a formal grievance. Battered by an unprecedented outpouring of outraged letters from across the discipline, the Yale administration eventually offered
a compromise -- a sabbatical -- if I dropped my complaint. On learning that a grievance committee would only be allowed to judge whether there had been a violation of formal process, would not have the power to reverse the decision, and
even if it were to find in my favor, would still never reveal the reasons for my original dismissal, I accepted the compromise.

As for the substance of your editorial: I must confess myself confused as to why accepting a job teaching and conducting research for an annual income roughly
equivalent to that of a train operator (at roughly twice the hours) qualifies me as a member of the employing class. Or is your real point to assert a more general principle: 'capitalism, love it or leave it'? If so, where exactly am I supposed to
go? Outer space? Do you really think all employees who don't share their employer's economic and political philosophy should be terminated? Actually, that might be an excellent idea, since it would instantly destroy capitalism. Be careful what you wish for.

David Graeber

Monday, January 09, 2006

Methinks They Doth Protest Too Much

On January 3, the Wall Street Journal devoted one of its all-important house editorials, the smaller one in the middle, to a single human being, a person hitherto known only to some on the left, denied tenure.

The editorial, entitled "Bourgeois Anarchy," purportedly seeks to rebut David Graeber's suspicion (nothing more) that he was fired from Yale because of his political activism (Graeber is an anarchist and a member of the IWW), but since it's only a suspicion, there isn't much work to do on that front. So the editors spent roughly one fourth of the space of the column quoting from the Preamble to the IWW Constitution, emphasizing the passages about the workers and bosses having nothing in common and the repudiation of the wage system.

With the self-perceived, smirking cleverness of a pansy prep school debate team, the editorial goes on to ask why Graeber would even "covet" a bourgeois post like Yale, then answers its own question by saying "even anarchists have their bourgeois ambitions," then speculates that Yale's decision was not political.

Besides the obvious way in which the WSJ misunderstands the category "bourgeois," the entire editorial seems out-of-place, Even if it were a slow news day, that wouldn't explain why the WSJ chose to compose this mocking and meanspirited little column. Surely, I think, the folks at the WSJ can't feel threatened by the Wobblies...? And surely there are more pressing things to attack (through mockery or otherwise) than the IWW and a radical professor...?

Unless, of course, there is a lesson to be learned from Graeber's situation that the WSJ thinks we all should learn...?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Rest in Peace, Hugh Thompson, Jr.

Hugh Thompson, Jr. died yesterday of cancer at age 62. I'll bet many of you don't know who he was and what he did.

Thompson was a war hero, but not the kind you'd normally think of. And he never wanted to be one. Originally volunteering for the most thankless and luckless of duties (drawing enemy fire), Thompson eventually chose an even more dangerous task: stopping his fellow soldiers from massacring civilians.

"Thompson joined the US Navy in 1961, then US Army in 1966 and trained as a helicopter pilot. He volunteered for the Aerial Scout Unit and assigned to Task Force Barker to fly over Vietnamese forests and try to draw enemy fire, to pinpoint the location of troops...

"After coming across the dead bodies of Vietnamese civilians outside My Lai on March 16, 1968, Thompson set down their OH-23 and the three men [Thompson, Crew Chief Glenn Andreotta and Spc Lawrence Colburn] began setting green gas markers by the prone bodies of the Vietnamese civilians who appeared to still be alive. Returning to the helicopter however, they saw Captain Ernest Medina run forward and begin shooting the wounded who had been marked - and the three men moved their ship back over the village where Thompson confronted Lt. Stephen Brooks who was preparing to blow up a hut full of cowering and wounded Vietnamese; he left Andreotta and Colburn to cover the company with their heavy machine guns and orders to fire on any American who refused the orders to halt the massacre. (Needless to say, none of the officers dared to disobey him, although as a mere warrant officer, Thompson was outranked by the commissioned lieutenants.)

Thompson: Let's get these people out of this bunker and get 'em out of here.
Brooks: We'll get 'em out with hand grenades.
Thompson: I can do better than that. Keep your people in place. My guns are on you.

"Thompson then ordered two other helicopters (one piloted by Dan Millians) flying nearby to serve as a medevac for the 11 wounded Vietnamese. While flying away from the village, Andreotta spotted movement in an irrigation ditch, and the helicopter was again landed and a child was extracted from the bodies, and brought with the rest of the Vietnamese to the hospital at Quang Ngai.

"Thompson subsequently reported the massacre, whilst it was still occuring, to his superiors. The cease-fire order was then given."

(The above is from,_Jr.)

"With Colburn and Andreotta providing cover – he told them to shoot the Americans if they opened fire – he coaxed the Vietnamese out of the bunker so they could be flown to safety...

"After the My Lai story broke, some Americans accused Thompson of treachery and called Lieut. William Calley, who led the massacre, a hero.

"In 1998, however, Thompson and his crew were awarded the Soldier's Medal, Andreotta posthumously. The medal is the highest U.S. honour for bravery not involving conflict with the enemy.

"The medal citation credited Thompson with saving at least 10 civilian lives directly and with taking back reports that led to a ceasefire order and ended the killings. He died Friday at a veterans hospital outside Washington.

"The only American punished for the massacre was Calley, who spent three years under house arrest before getting parole."

(The above is from

People on the left often malign military service and have a hard time viewing those who serve as heroes. It's one thing to express the view that the U.S. should never have gone into Vietnam. Fair enough. But given that the U.S. did go into Vietnam, imagine what would have happened if Hugh Thompson had not.