Monday, December 31, 2007
From: Long time listener
I don't know how often you hear this from people or whether you find it embarassing, lame, irrelevant to the concerns of your status quos, whatever.
But this afternoon, as I often do, I put on Everything Crash and began going through my normal routine of paperwork, writing, etc. And then "Easily Impressed" came on, and my brain just stopped everything and listened to it all the way through...and again. Then did the same with "Pacemaker." I probably listened to those two songs over and over for a good 20-25 minutes. Let them really get deep into my mind.
And I just wanted to let you know, you got it. You really got it. I'm happy to see the continuing, growing interest in your stuff, because you really went somewhere musically and politically few dared to go. Well done, and thanks. --mjs
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Long story short, I can't find anything profound to say for Christmas this year. But Stephen Leah, a progressive Christian activist, wrote this updated hymn that I found very moving--even as someone who's tried to be equally critical of the violence on both sides of the Israeli occupation, to the point of pissing off my friends--and not just accurate, but poetically accurate. I don't agree with the theology of the guy giving the sermon where the Leah hymn appears, but the hymn itself is simple, unapologetic, and makes me shiver a bit.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Imprisoned you now lie.
Above thy deep and silent grief,
Surveillance drones now fly.
And through thy old streets standeth,
A huge illegal Wall.
The hopes and dreams that peace will come
Are dashed in this year’s Fall.
O morning stars together,
Look down upon this crime.
The people sing to God the King
But justice, who can find?
Yes, Christ was born of Mary,
God’s love remains supreme.
But mortals sleep as children weep,
Their pain is never seen.
How silently, how silently,
The world and Church protests.
As checkpoints grow and towns confined,
As settlers steal and rest.
No ear may hear the outcry,
As Israel’s Wall is built.
While meek souls muse, Apartheid rules -
We speak or share in guilt.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Give strength to us,
Cast out our fears and open eyes.
O give us voice today!
We stand against injustice,
The Occupation must end.
May justice rule our Lord’s birthplace,
May now Christ’s peace descend.
Maybe this Christmas, Christians in the U.S. could think about what agents of the Israeli government are doing to Christians as well as Muslims in Palestine. It's time for a mass demand that violence, brutality and misleadership stop there, and everywhere. And the next time you hear a Christian in the United States assume that the default position on Israeli occupation is uncritical support, do some homework and challenge them on that. (And I'll include my obligatory but important acknowledgement that Palestinian leadership is cynical and exploitative, and unconditional support for either side in this conflict is not the answer). Peace on earth, good will to all. Yeah, that's what I was looking to say...something like that. Happy holidays everybody.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Orgasms, Peace, and Population Control: Err…that’s a yes on the first two and a no on the third, y’all…
But this part of the announcement upset me greatly:
“Remember, over-population (6.8 billion people and counting) is a major cause of ‘peak everything’, so please don’t make more babies in the Global-O.”
With that single, out-of-place sentence, BaringWitness.org turned their advocacy of unbridled joy into bridled partisanship. The problems of “overpopulation” are really the problems of imperialism and class inequality, and the invocation of overpopulation without any prior acknowledgement of classism or imperialism is a tired and dangerous discourse indeed.
Others explain it better than I could: Steve Rosenthal has a fine piece elucidating the fascist nature of overpopulation science (tied to sociobiology and a fixed view of human nature) in the context of Africa. More sweeping commentaries address the way in which population discourse is used to obscure the role of capital and class inequality in either enforcing an artificial scarcity or ignoring real scarcity (see, for example, Louis Proyect). Population control isn’t progressive. Repeating unreflective causal assertions about population is not pro-peace. In fact, it’s a pointless and potentially dangerous distraction.
Not to mention, it’s a serious downer. What if a baby is made during this all-important moment of collective bliss? That could be a very special baby. Who is BaringWitness.org to tell me, or anybody, not to make a baby while participating in a worldwide collective sex act for peace, for crying out loud?
Finally: If anything, progressives need to make more babies. Nuff said.
I’m open to discuss any of these arguments, but all I am saying is the little self-righteous warning was neither necessary nor desirable, it’s in poor taste and if it does indeed reflect a dominant ideological outlook in the people responsible for the Global-O, then it’s time for them to re-think this or turn the project over to somebody else. I’ll close with some vintage Fred Engels:
it is absurd to talk of overpopulation so long as "there is 'enough waste land in the valley of the Mississippi for the whole population of Europe to be transplanted there"; so long as no more than one third of the earth can be considered cultivated, and so long as the production of this third itself can be raised six fold and more by the application of improvements already known.Seriously, though: We should all participate in the Global Orgasm for Peace tonight/tomorrow. There’s simply no downside to it. It will lift our spirits and has the potential to make us aware of a fundamental, deep and ineffable connection between the individual erotic and the universal imperative of love. Happy orgasming. Remember: Solstice Day - December 22, at 06:08 Universal Time (GMT)
Monday, December 10, 2007
Paris is a site of multiple perspectives, multiple struggling forces, a plurality of currents sometimes cooperating and sometimes competing. This is fully reflected in the Père Lachaise. The cemetery seemed to me to be a site of free expression, within the boundaries of acceptable communication about the dead (and such boundaries are relatively loose and negotiable) and political struggle. Royalty being royal, military heroes glorifying their sacrifices, communists and socialists (graves piled with flowers) displaying the symbols of revolution for a better life, Holocaust victims and survivors... As in other parts of Paris, the self-reflection and contradictory nature of the French state, and French civil society, was apparent in the very design of things, in the the way the materials were themselves arranged, from the stone work and symbols to the layout of the whole place to the management of the many trees and bushes growing in it. This feeling is difficult to describe in writing, but maybe the photos will help make sense of it.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The remedy for improperly pardoning one's own convicted subordinates to cover up one's own ongoing criminal conspiracies is already in the Constitution. We do not need a new amendment. The remedy is impeachment and conviction. The House of Representatives should impeach both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for their role in this entire conspiracy to obstruct justice. A simple majority in the House of Representatives would be sufficient for that. The Senate poses a somewhat more difficult problem, because it can be expected that the Republicans (either as parties to, or in furtherance of, the same conspiracy to obstruct justice) will not vote to convict. The remedy for this is also in the Constitution; it is Article I, Section 5.And to anyone who suggests this is a stretch, even an elaboration of the original intent of I:5, well, is your objection that our leaders shouldn't creatively interpret the law for their own purposes? Is your solution, then, to Presidential and Vice Presidential "creativity" to look the other way, or to find a more legitimate way of holding the executive accountable? My question for you is: If impeachment proceedings should not begin now, what, precisely and exactly please, should happen? If nothing can happen...is the admission that there's nothing we can do about it an admission that the system is broken?
The Senate is perfectly free to determine the "Qualifications of its own Members," and the Democrats could thus refuse to seat the Republicans if they refused to convict. (The Republican Senators could be re-seated after conviction, if they agreed to be bound by its result.) President Pelosi would then presumably direct the Justice Department to initiate ordinary criminal prosecution of both Bush and Cheney, for their roles in the conspiracy. Think it's radical? It is--but not unprecedented. Our Constitution's guarantee of the "equal protection of the laws," the Fourteenth Amendment, was ratified 139 years ago this Monday, in exactly that
fashion. Some things are worth fighting for, and the rule of law is one of them. I doubt very much that Congressional Democrats will do these things, but I don't doubt whether they should.
Not yet two, Abigail paints and draws for a significant portion of every day. We set up huge canvases for kids (of all ages) to express themselves. Nobody took advantage of the free space for any political slogans, electing instead to paint anti-republican jokes on port-a-potties (see below)...
Although undoubtedly talented and creative, Andrew isn't quite as much of an art junkie as his sister, but he's capable of wearing the proverbial smock...
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
For a long time now Castro has deployed a skill that he undoubtedly views as necessary to his, and Cuba's political survival: Talk like a socialist to your own people, but talk like a left-liberal to the rest of the world. Notice, for example, early in the piece, his sentimentality when speaking of JFK junior...
Nevertheless, the piece is insightful...Castro finds "the high level at which the decisions for actions against our country were taken" to be an especially surprising revelation in the new information. His skepticism about the project is probably on-point:
It is notable that the administration which has declassified the least information in the history of the United States, and which has even started a process of reclassifying information that was previously declassified, now makes the decision to make these revelations. I believe that such an action could be an attempt to present an image of transparency when the government is at an all time low rate of acceptance and popularity, and to show that those methods belong to another era and are no longer in use. When he announced the decision, General Hayden, current CIA Director, said: "The documents offer a look at very different times and at a very different Agency."Although much has already been made of his insistence that Lee Oswald couldn't have acted alone in shooting JFK, this piece of information is even more provocative:
Needless to say that everything described here is still being done, only in a more brutal manner and all around the planet, including a growing number of illegal actions within the very United States.
Oswald wanted to come through Cuba on his trip to the USSR. He had already been there before. Someone sent him to ask for a visa in our country's embassy in Mexico but nobody knew him there so he wasn't authorized. They wanted to get us implicated in the conspiracy.
So he's seen better days and it's disappointing that he doesn't use this unique forum to mention the relationship between intelligence agencies and global capitalism, but viva a free press, and the opportunity to hear the rather reasonable memoirs of a U.S. "enemy."
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
why is al queda in iraq "dropping off" car bombs in london? Suicide attacks seem to be their typical MO.
Granted IED's have been an oft used weapon, but these cars are not seemingly the way to introduce ied's to the west when much smaller easier to build devices are more simple and in some senses more terrifying.
Car bombs of this style seem to be the work of secular terrorists like tim mcveigh or the ira at points during the last several decades, But AQ-I car bombs seem their most effective when the driver sticks with the car till the bomb goes off, and this makes sense given the ideology of the org (as represented in the west). Why would AQ-I waste valuble resources like doctors on half assed car bombs, clearly they have people who can build car bombs.
And apparently they have strategic interest in doctors, but it seems like its against the stated strategic interest to have doctors who dont die in car bombings, get arrested.
It seems like before these guys blew up aq-i 's british doctor spot they would have done the things that doctors can uniquely do and would have risked it on something that a variety of people could do better.
Why is the terrorism link to the british medicine system being drawn out in the media right as michael moores critique offers it as an alternative?
I already told Andy that I think he may be discounting one possibility: that Al Qaeda, as lucky as it has been in the past (and really only a few times, kind of like a lucky streak), is an incompetent organization. Their high-casualty attackes (only a few successful ones, and we're not exactly talking mass casualties even in those) are creditable mainly to the even more blatant incompetence of the west. But my answer doesn't make even a few of Andy's questions go away. What's going on doesn't make any sense. Someone's narrative has been disrupted.
His last question--about Michael Moore--is only wacky-sounding in proportion to the likelihood of strange things happening. But how many times have strange things happened--things so outlandish that they seemed utterly inconceivable beforehand? Did Zarqawi even exist? Remember that conversation?
When one considers how closely tied are the original, foundational and most powerful financial and political interests in both the west and "radical islam," it doesn't seem so farfetched: the idea that their strategies and the representations of those strategies bleed in and out of one another.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Castro charges CIA more murderous than ever
HAVANA (Reuters) - Convalescing Cuban President Fidel Castro charged on Sunday the release of classified CIA documents detailing past abuses was a smoke screen behind which the Bush administration hoped to hide even worse methods. "I think that this action could be an attempt ... to make people believe that these methods belong to another era and are no longer used," Castro wrote in an editorial published by the communist country's official media. "Everything described in the documents is still being done, only in a more brutal manner around the entire planet, including an increasing number of illegal actions in the very United States." The CIA declassified on Tuesday hundreds of pages of long-secret records that detailed some of the agency's worst illegal abuses during about 25 years of overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying and kidnapping. The documents are known in the CIA as the "Family Jewels" and some describe the agency's efforts to persuade Johnny Roselli, believed to be a mobster, to help plot the assassination of Castro. "Sunday is a good day to read what appears to be science fiction," Castro began his three-page editorial, titled "The Killing Machine." He went on to quote extensively from material covering the attempt on his life, as well as a New York Times analysis of all the documents. Cuba charges that Castro has been the target of hundreds of assassination attempts. The Cuban leader has said numerous times that President George W. Bush has ordered him killed. Castro also reiterated in detail his long-held belief that U.S. President John F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1963, was the victim of a plot involving elements of the CIA and militant anti-Castro Cuban exiles. Castro, a
master sharp-shooter with a telescopic rifle, insists Lee Harvey Oswald could not have been the only shooter in Dallas. "You lose the target after every shot even if it is not moving and have to find it again in fractions of a second," he said. Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July last year, when he handed over power temporarily to his younger brother, Raul. But the 80-year-old revolutionary has returned to public life since March by writing occasional articles, called "Reflections of the Commander in Chief." He has been writing more frequently in recent weeks, fueling speculation that his health is improving.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Gore is in a lot of corporate interests' back pockets, and has a pretty sordid history of supporting systems that hurt working people (issues I will explore here in the near future). But let's see what the progressive pollyana argument about him really is... It begins with a piece by Ted Daley--a smart left-democrat activist with loads of experience, including working for the Rand Corporation (ouch) and serving on the staffs of Alan Cranston and Dennis Kucinich. His case for the merits of a Gore presidency is indeed rather rose-colored, but his confidence that Gore can win is not, in my opinion, misplaced. On the question of Gore's electability, Daley writes:
there is one more asset that Al Gore brings to the table. Something unique only to him. In 2000 --even with Ralph Nader siphoning 2.8 million votes from just over 100 million ballots cast -- the sitting vice president still beat the sitting governor of Texas nationwide by more than half a million votes. In addition, a great deal of evidence indicates that more Floridians tried to vote for Al Gore than for George Bush -- which means, of course, that Gore actually won in the Electoral College as well.But, at least according to five Supreme Court justices, George Bush won and Al Gore lost. That means that millions of Americans, even many who might not necessarily adore the former vice president, hold a rough recollection that in 2000, Al Gore had something taken away from him that he rightfully earned. And deserved. And won. And that is why the "RAG" bumper sticker, in itself, will be worth ten million votes next time around, for this candidate and this candidate alone. First in the primaries, then again in the general election.What is the "RAG" bumper sticker? "RE-ELECT AL GORE."
Pretty optimistic, Ted. But realistic? I think so. Keep in mind I won't vote for Gore and people like me will be blamed if he gets robbed again... But yesterday's AP reported that "A New Hampshire presidential poll by WHDH-TV and Suffolk University shows that local Democrats prefer Al Gore to any of the current contenders ... Al Gore ... could enter the race as the leader. When his name is added, Clinton loses more than a quarter of her support, while Gore is backed by 32 percent."
1. Moral capital from the 2000 election. Nobody else has it, obviously. He's handled the debacle amazingly well, balancing acceptance with focused political anger.
Gore's negatives? Please, there are no new ones. Climate change "extremism?" I suppose that might be a risk, but it's a purely defensive one: Being a warming believer doesn't COST you capital these days. At worst it's a neutral, but all the momentum is going positive. He's boring? Arrogant? Umm...none of that mattered then, and it matters even less now. Plus we know he's funny. He's the motherf****n Goracle, for hells' sake. Self-depricating humor always rules...
Is he sexy? Rection is somewhat mixed, but his looks certainly aren't a liability. Here's what a quick buddy list poll revealed:
--"not in the traditional sense, but in the nerdy sense"
--"Obama's got him beat, but yeah, I could see it"
--"i don't find al gore sexy because he put on that weight and is championing a fight against global warming."
--"not just kind of sexy...he's SEXY, even after putting on weight."
--"Obama is sexier than Gore, but Gore is sexier than Senator Clinton."
Here's the clincher, though, folks: What most people believe killed Gore in 00 was his willingness to alienate the left. I disagree that Nader "cost" Gore the election, but in any event I don't think it would happen again; Gore will be able to exploit his opponents' weaknesses in the primaries to get his lefty credentials out early and often. In the bitterest of ironies eight years after the proclamation that liberalism is dead, a liberalism that includes not sending troops to die for lies is extremely fashionable. Gore's eventual Republican opponent, whoever it is, will not be able to spin a countervision that overcomes Gore's multiple tiers of capital (see above). Next thing you know, he's in the White House...possibly for two terms.
Daley also points out that a Gore-Obama ticket will look very attractive to Obama's handlers.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
From Robert Scheer's well-titled "The Banality of Greed:"
This week's evidence of the continuing corruption of Halliburton and its subsidiaries profiteering from contracts costing American taxpayers an unbelievable $22 billion stems from a report by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. The report, only one of many about Halliburton's recently severed subsidiary KBR, focuses on work done in Baghdad's super-secure Green Zone. While parent company Halliburton insults U.S. taxpayers by relocating its headquarters to the tax shelter of Dubai, subsidiary KBR has been spun off to focus more directly on the American military contracts that form the core of its operations. Those operations have already produced a litany of condemnation by congressional and administration oversight bodies, and the June 25 report hardly details the company's most egregious activities. However, the Green Zone, the site of this latest instance of taxpayer fleecing, is instructive because, safely removed from the risks of battle, it deprives these war profiteers of their favorite excuse: that construction in a battle zone is inherently more costly. While KBR's Green Zone shenanigans covered by this report may seem small in comparison with the enormous waste attendant to the U.S. reconstruction program in Iraq, they are illustrative of the feeding frenzy that has fueled the American effort.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Sunday, June 03, 2007
"Stop being a reductionist," you say. I'm proud to be a reductionist, thank you, but seriously, this isn't even about reductionism. This is about excluding any mention whatsoever of economic motivations, of ignoring even the mention of economic motivation alongside a dozen or so other factors for this or that situation or this or that individual policy decision.
Would it kill them to do that? Just consider economic interests alongside other things? As a matter of fact, it would. Literally, if by "them" we mean the business interests that sustain the increasingly useless and boring mainstream media mansions like the NYT and the Washington Post. It would kill them in the short term because they would be bombarded with accusations of "class warfare" from the far right, upon whose approval they depend far more than they ever admit. It would kill them in the long term because they are the corporate interests they'd be exposing.
Friday, June 01, 2007
Wed May 16, 2007
By Deborah Cohen
American original Studs Terkel, the author and oral historian who for decades gave a voice to working men and women, turned 95 on Wednesday. But don't worry about his memory. He's sharp as a tack. In fact, he's the one doing the worrying -- about what he describes as the memory loss of a country he suggests may be more interested in the transgressions of celebrities than more substantive affairs such as thepolitics of the Bush administration, which he characterizes as a "burlesque show." ... Terkel's latest book attempts to connect Americans with their past, touching on themes where he staked his claim -- labor, war and race. ...Terkel, a pro-union voice who was blacklisted during the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s McCarthy era, bubbles with strong opinions and surprising bursts of energy for a man who had heart surgery at age 93. He sits upright in his easy chair, dressed in his trade-mark red-checkedshirt and matching red socks, sawing the air for emphasis. In less than an hour, he ranged over topics from President Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada to Enrico Fermi and the creation of the atomic bomb to "Medium Cool," the film by Haskell Wexler that chronicles Chicago during the tumultuous summer of 1968 when protests against the Vietnam War included bloody clashes in the streets at the Democratic Convention. ..."I have great faith in the people, provided we give them the news," said Terkel, who thinks the American media has moved too far to the right. ... "If I did one thing I'm proud of, it's to make people feel that together, they count," he said.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
This is a big deal. Although many of us weren't surprised they would do it, the Democratic leadership's compromise on Iraq has provoked an outrage that has the potential to expose the duplicity of the so-called opposition party, perhaps the bankruptcy of the "twin parties of imperialist war," as Jack Barnes often calls them.
Olbermann says both parties have failed the American people. A letter-writer suggests to the New York Times that, the next time Democrats are pissed off that people are voting for third parties instead of them, they should remember that they backed down on Iraq. They didn't need to; in a legal sense they could have done what voters allegedly (in the cotton candy narrative of bourgeois politics) elected them to do. That they did not means that more people will die, with certainty in the immediate future, with likelihood further on.
This will surely cause at least a hard ripple against the Democrats, and at least a few people will rethink things...
Monday, May 21, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Now, this might very well be true. And it's always nice to see various sections of the ruling class tearing each other down.
But in other news, Charles Manson called John Wayne Gacy a murderer. Augusto Pinochet came back from the dead to condemn the human rights violations of Idi Amin. Peter Griffin called Eric Cartman a cartoon character. Snoop Dog accused Li'l Jon of smoking weed. Matt Harpring called out Steve Nash for being a caucasian player in the NBA. George Walker Bush called George Herbert Walker Bush filthy rich. The American Watersports Association accused the American BDSM Society of having weird sex fetishes. And Ann Coulter accused Michelle Malkin of being intellectually shallow and a poor writer.
Tornado Ravaged Greensburg, Kansas:
Kansas Mutual Aid Relief Workers forced out of city by police
Saturday May 19, 2007
by Dave Strano
On Saturday May 19, five members and volunteers affiliated with Kansas Mutual Aid, a Lawrence based class struggle anarchist collective, made the trek back to Greensburg to again help in relief efforts in the tornado ravaged city. A week earlier, four KMA members had traveled to Greensburg on a fact finding mission to assess the situation there. What KMA members found was a militarized, entirely destroyed city where relief efforts were moving tragically slow.
Today's trip back to Greensburg by KMA members and volunteers was intended to solidify the bonds we had created in the first trip, and establish a base of operations for future relief efforts. KMA spent the morning working on a house with members of AmeriCorps, and then proceeded to meet with contacts with the Mennonite Disaster Services.
We then headed out of town to a church just outside of city limits that we were told would be a place we could probably set up a base camp for our work. The church had been converted into a fire station by the state, so we continued down the road and met a farmer who was willing to work with us and let us use his land.
Soon after meeting the farmer, we were approached by officers with the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department. After a brief exchange, the officers left, and we were told to report to the Kiowa County Emergency Response Command Post to receive official permission to set up our base of operations. We were notified that if we did not do so, we would risk having our operation ceased by the state.
Two of our delegation went to the Command Post, while the other three of us went to the County Courthouse to pick up some water and provisions being offered by the Red Cross. While we were picking up water and food, I was approached by an Olathe Police Officer named Ty Moeder who knew my face and identity. I was ordered to take my hands out of my pockets and follow the officer to a side street "to avoid making a scene".
I and the other people with me followed the officer, and were repeatedly ordered to keep our hands out of our pockets, where they could be seen by the officer. Soon more officers approached, as well as at least one member of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and some people from FEMA. Surrounded by agents of the state, we were ordered to produce our identification.
When I asked the police why we were being detained, Officer Moeder responded "We need to check to see if you are affiliated with the anarchists." At this moment, our remaining two comrades approached to see what was happening. They were detained as well, and made to produce their identification.
Officer Moeder asked how we had gotten in to the city. "We drove in," someone replied.
"They weren't supposed to let you in at the road block," responded Moeder, seemingly frustrated and perplexed by that answer.
"They even gave us a day pass to drive in and out," we shot back.
A waiting game ensued for the next several minutes, with more officers approaching, now numbering almost fifteen. A Lawrence police officer approached, and was ordered to take photos of the car we had driven that was parked down the street. Officer McNemee from the Lawrence Police Department took extensive photos of the car, even of the inside contents of the vehicle.
Officer Moeder ordered me to step away from the rest of the relief workers and speak with him. "You're being ordered to leave and not return. This is not negotiable, not appealable. You can't change it. If you return you'll be arrested on site. And believe me, you don't want to push that right now. This system is pretty messed up, and you wouldn't be issued bail. You'd disappear in the system."
I asked repeatedly what we had done and why we were being ordered to leave the city. "You're part of a dangerous anarchist group that will only drain our security resources," he responded. "We've been monitoring your website and e-mails, we know what kind of agenda you have." "So this is about our political beliefs?" I asked.
"No," he responded. "This is about you being federal security threats. Kansas Mutual Aid is not welcome in this city, end of story. I know you are going through legitimate means to work in the city, and you're story seems picture perfect, but we know who you are, and you're not allowed here."
We were ordered back into our car and escorted out of the city by several police vehicles with their lights flashing, and left just outside the city.
We returned to Lawrence just moments ago, unhindered in our resolve to provide support to the people in the disaster area. We will continue to work in whatever capacity we can in the areas around the city that we may still be allowed into, and provide support to those entering the city.
The area is a police state, to be certain. Police and Law Enforcement from across Kansas and the country are making the rules about everything. Relief workers were banned from Greensburg today because of their political beliefs and work against oppression and tyrannical state control.
A longer, more in depth update with an announcement for future action will come soon. Please spread this story far and wide.
In love and solidarity,
Dave Strano, on behalf of KMA
So I've been a hardcore Utah Jazz fan for twenty years now. In 1987-88, Utah took the then-dynastic Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference semifinal, and I was hooked. I'd been a fairweather fan before then, despite growing up in Salt Lake. I was an undergrad, and my roommates (and debate teammates) Jimmy, Tom, Tony, Howard and I, along with our constant stream of guests, sat and watched every game, transfixed at the transformation of this hitherto underachieving team.
From that time on, I have lived the agony and the ectasy; mostly, as you've already guessed I will say, the agony. It's the soft bigotry of high expectations; it's the serendipity and instability of what success really means. After watching them win most, but not all, then really, really most, but not all, I have concluded that true satisfaction in being the fan of a good (but not the best) team lies in watching them play. John Stockton faking left then going in for a layup, time after time. Jeff Hornacek goofily tossing up another three. Mark Eaton, like a mobile crane, mechanically rebounding, pivoting, and passing. And Karl Malone. Greatest. Power. Forward. Ever.
When Malone left for the Lakers, my wife (also a Utahn, also a fanatical Jazz fan) fell into the "screw him, he betrayed us" camp, while I fell into the "yeah, it's kind of selfish of him, but I can understand that he wants a ring" camp. These were really the only possible camps among Jazz fans. Neither of us were particularly upset about the trouncing the Lakers' took from Detroit that year in the NBA finals.
Nor was I, at least, particularly sad for Utah. Time to rebuild, and the miracle is not only that they have done it so quickly, but that they have made things better than they were. Granted, without the pressure created by the aging (albeit still brilliant and dominant) Stockton-Malone duo in the old Jazz's later years, the players naturally will be more free and energetic. But they have lifted the yoke of old Jazzdom while simultaneously hanging on to the Jazz philosophy of basic playmaking, selflessness and hard work. A couple of things about this philosophy: First, it seems to be primarily Jerry Sloan's philosophy, but he took some of it from Frank Layden, and obviously it's endorsed, if not shaped, by much maligned owner Larry Miller. It's really in the players, and Sloan, though. And second, and related to this, it's a real philosophy, not just a few catch-words. They really are selfless. This time around even moreso. There are leaders on the team but not "stars," and particularly not "star personalities. They run the same plays over and over again and mix it up just enough to make the defense more predictable than the offense. And their own defense is stifling, rough, intimidating, and energetic (Andre Kirelenko is an incredible, prolific shot-blocker, for example). They are the "new and improved" Jazz, and their numbers, if they stay this way, will rapidly be on par with their predecessors. Deron Williams is a John Stockton who can dunk; Carlos Boozer a young Malone who already possesses the outside shot it took Malone years to develop. I could go on. If they play well in this round, I probably will. But even if they lose now, my gosh--the conference finals. Most of the time, the old Jazz couldn't get there even when they were outplaying 99% of their opponents.
One more thing: Although I still hear announcers, from time to time, marginalize the Jazz, it's nowhere near as bad as they would even during the height of the Stockton-Malone years. There are still haters. Militant Jazz-haters are like those irritating militant atheists who raise the nonexistence of God whenever they meet someone new. But the tide of opinion is turning, another reason why losing the stars of the past also means emerging into a low-pressure, high-praise open field. The era of the superstar is over (Kobe, Yao, McGrady, Iverson, Shaq, and more, didn't even make it past the first round of the playoffs). Utah's defeat of Houston even disproves the "two stars theory."
Of the new Jazz, one columnist writes
...to posit the Jazz as some makeshift foil, Aryan-centric, basic and defensive-minded. The Jazz possess style as well, though of a subtler form. Whereas the Warriors emit warmth and color, the Jazz players convey a chilly nihilism -- an indifferent isolation in which one draws the conclusion: I have no one else to live for except me.
I would simply amend this to read "We have no one else to live for except us," because the new Utah team reminds me of nothing if not a family that everyone resents but respects, and who fight for one another even if they don't always know why. It's a communal nihilism.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Remember, also...these people are handled very well...on both sides of the two-in-one party. The GOP handlers want their guys to keep repeating simple, sweeping, enthymematic platitudes. I'm reminded of a line from Xtal, a great band that's no longer around: "The overfed apes cavorting on the big stage spewing sanctimonious lines about good and evil. Then they make a big mess and gallop off into the sunset while middle management hands out the brooms and mops."
Despite the cynicism of the above, I really believe that a lot of people are smarter, not dumber, than these handlers, and those apes tend to underestimate us insects. But these are confusing times, and I think there's a good chance that some factions of the GOP want to keep going, (like the Utah Jazz with the pick and roll, except that the pick and roll is cool) the same old strategy, because it's worked thus far. Jack up the terror and talk about values. Ain't saying it will work, but it may well come closer than we think.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Since 2003, I have wrestled with myself and others over the issue of who enjoys “ownership” of the street struggles in Iraq. My position has always been that neither U.S. and coalition forces, nor “insurgents” or “terrorists,” ever received the opportunity to define themselves and define each other through the establishment of communicative understanding. They lost this ability by virtue of their material servitude to others—to the American and global ruling class that sanctioned this war, to practitioners of backward ideological wars from both the East and West, to a power structure that considers the life of workers (in or out of uniform) expendable. Since the initial invasion and occupation, through periodic revelations of particularly brutal behavior by various factions there (including “ours”), I have posited an admittedly unreasonable, utopian counterfactual: A world where the effort to discern the understanding and perspectives of those affected by a decision (eg, invading a country to remove a dictator) precedes the decision itself, and a world where the powerful would have to justify, really justify, their decisions to the powerless.
The late Robert Anton Wilson wrote “the power to define is the power to destroy” into his play Wilhelm Reich in Hell—and I’ve spotted the occasional use of that phrase, without attribution to Wilson, throughout the blogosphere…including, ironically, on both a Canadian First Nations site and a “Vanguard” White Power site. Wilson writes the phrase coming from Dr. Reich himself, meaning that this discursive power is tied to a network of material and psychic power, in the pursuit of manufacturing more power, in the form of authority, predictability, and the deployment of “primal might” in the form of face-to-face killing.
To some degree, the management of that primal might, the ability to keep it from getting “out of control” and crossing unacceptable lines, is the razors’ edge of managing an occupation. The recent Mental Health Advisory Team report that created a ripple of concern for a few days a couple of weeks ago, confirms the suspicion that we are dealing with extremely an extremely raw human condition.
The study exposes the deteriorating behavioral health status of US troops—including depression, anxiety, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), marital problems and suicide. These mental health and personal problems are shown to directly influence the attitudes US soldiers hold toward the Iraqi population—resulting in increasing levels of terror and brutality meted out to civilians.Although the United States may be failing strategically in Iraq,(there are not enough coalition soldiers, nor would it be possible to send enough, to gain a strategic advantage), U.S. forces are holding their own tactically, insofar as face-to-face violence is a tactic, where the primacy of the enemy-other eludes definition. The indefinite nature of the occupation further exacerbates this looseness of identity. “We at home,” (the artificial "affected public"), who know nothing about Iraq or Iraqis, know more about the ideologically-assigned identities of Iraqis than those of us who are there.
Asked whether “all non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect,” less than half of soldiers agreed. Close to a third of all soldiers reported they had insulted or cursed at non-combatants in their presence. Twelve percent of marines and 9 percent of army soldiers said they had unnecessarily damaged or destroyed Iraqi property; 7 percent of marines and 9 percent of soldiers said they had physically hit or kicked civilians.
The moral superiority we draw from lawful punishment of our own soldiers for their brutalities serves to further strengthen our claim to superior brutality. Demarcations of violence exist, which intersect with the rhetorical demarcations of law (itself backed up with the promise of still more violence). We create a spectacle that would have been the envy of all the Caesars: A few of our soldiers slaughter civilians, which is wickedly, impressively brutal, but our legal apparatus is more impressively brutal still, and even has the power to kill our own slaughterers—an act we’re willing to commit in the name of a higher justice than violence, even as we are the masters of violence. Life becomes doubly expendable: those who are initially slaughtered get to have their deaths justified on multiple grounds: It was war, and look, we found out who did it and we’ll punish them; those who did the slaughtering can be trotted out, imprisoned, even executed, to provide closure to the moral questions posed by these relatively un-nuanced displays of violence.
One of the legal-rhetorical demarcations that intersect with the real levels of violence in Iraq is “the power to define.” It’s a question of words, but it has real consequences in the effort to manage perceptions of brutality. In 2004 Paul Craig Roberts wrote that
the US has largely destroyed Fallujah, once a city of 300,000. Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians have been killed by the indiscriminate use of high explosives. To cover up the extensive civilian deaths, US authorities count all Iraqi dead as insurgents, delivering a high body count as claim of success for a bloody-minded operation.Now, think for a moment about the demarcations that erase each and every one of the noncombatants killed indiscriminately in the battles of Fallujah. The ethical differences (that is, the way we negotiate the meaning of each other, the treatment we stand to receive from each other, the struggle for identity in each others’ eyes) between those unfortunate civilians in Fallujah and those in Haditha is virtually nonexistent. Once we cross the line and decide that innocent, non-involved living beings are expendable in the service of geostrategic objectives, then all that’s left are legal demarcations, the occasional sacrifice of a few particularly brutal sacrificers, and inevitable cover-ups in a never-ending information management war that follows the real war around like Mother Courage.
Of course, if U.S. forces leave Iraq, atrocities against innocents will continue. There may be other reasons for the U.S. and coalition forces to leave, but the overall level of brutality will remain constant, because the “causes” of that brutality are not found in the national identity of the perpetrators. Instead, brutality is the inevitable outcome of a system that entitles the commission of certain acceptable violence against certain acceptable others—all of those, and all of us, who lack the agency to define our status and identity.
The cry of the dispossessed, whatever their relative level of disposession, in contemporary society is a whispered: We can't afford to be. And yes, the low-level brutalizers now sitting in an air-conditioned American military court are crying it too.
 Robert Anton Wilson, Wilhelm Reich in Hell, see http://www.wilhelmreichinhell.com/.
 Kate Randall, “Pentagon survey exposes deep demoralization of US occupation troops,” http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/may2007/pent-m09.shtml.
 See Dana Cloud, “Therapy, Silence, and War: Consolation and the End of Deliberation in the 'Affected' Public,” Poroi Online, http://inpress.lib.uiowa.edu/poroi/papers/cloud030816.html.
 Paul Craig Roberts, “There is no one left to stop them,” Counterpunch 19 November 2004, http://www.counterpunch.com/roberts11192004.html.
 Bertold Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children, see http://prp.contentdirections.com/mr/cupress.jsp/doi=10.2277/0521597749.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Why has Barack Obama's candidacy spurred so many racist emails, many with threats of physical violence, murder, etc., that servers and news networks are disabling reader and viewer comments about Obama?
Why have there been so many death threats that Obama uniquely merits Secret Service protection?
Why does Rush Limbaugh keep his job after saying things about Obama on par with the worst Imus said about anyone?
I won't vote for Obama, since I don't vote for Democrats or Republicans...and yeah, I try not to "overdetermine" "identity politics" and all that jazz, but I have seen enough garbage on message boards and in political chat rooms, enough openly racist shit about any and every political subject, that I am long past the illusion that there aren't, in our midst, straight-up white supremacist nazis. Potential stormtroopers (along with a whole lot of people willing to look the other way) for use by demagogues as politics in America continues to run its course. And not just a few of them. People who hate other races, plain and simple, and lots of 'em. He is in danger. What should we do about that?
(Sheez, I have a hard enough time figuring out why anyone from Wyoming, one of the northernmost states, would have a confederate flag on their truck...)
It's not enough just to say "well, I'm not a racist," anymore than, upon seeing a person getting assaulted next to you on the street, it would be enough to say "well, I'm not assaulting anybody."
What is to be done about those among us who tactictly or actively encourage, justify, excuse or execute violence against racial minorities? What are you personally going to do? What would you suggest others do?
Thursday, April 19, 2007
carrolltondebate [11:39 A.M.]: a belated mea culpa
carrolltondebate [11:39 A.M.]: that Dixie chicks record was awesome
carrolltondebate [11:39 A.M.]: you could not have been more correct
In 'Sniper in the Tower' I concluded...that "[Whitman's] actions speak for themselves"....Charles Whitman was a murderer; he killed innocent people. We should not forget that. In Virginia we appear to have a Whitman-like character. It is vitally important for all to remember that there is only one person responsible for what happened in Blacksburg, and that is the man who pulled the trigger....Before we identify and learn the lessons of Blacksburg, we must begin with the obvious: More than four dozen innocent people were gunned down by a murderer who is completely responsible for what happened. No one died for lack of text messages or an alarm system. They died of gunshot wounds. While we painfully learn our lessons, we must not treat each other as if we are responsible for the deaths that occurred. We must come together and be respectful and kind. This is not a time for us to torture ourselves or to seek comfort by finding someone to blame. Maybe as a result of the tragedy we will figure out how to more effectively use e-mail and text messages as emergency tools for warning large populations. We may come up with a plan that successfully clears a large area, with a population density of a midsize city, in less than two hours. Maybe universities will find a way to install surveillance cameras and convince students and faculty members that they are being monitored for their own safety and not for gathering domestic intelligence. All of those steps might be helpful in avoiding and reducing the carnage of any future incidents. But as long as we value living in a free society, we will be vulnerable to those who do harm -- because they want to and know how to do it.
While there is a certain emotional appeal to the idea that we should isolate the blame, and not "blame each other" (not the same, he ignores, as identifying institutional faults that exacerbated the tragedy), his argument simply isn't true. There is not, there is never, only "one person responsible." There may be one person responsible if we file down and systemically demarcate and limit the meaning of responsibility, but such a finding only occurs after we do the philosophical work (consciously or unconsciously) to so limit. The problem is not merely that more systemic and "radical" interpretations of responsibility exist (although I find those explanations much more compelling than a lot of other people do because they help me understand and forgive individual transgressions). The problem is also that even within the very same code-system of bourgeois legalism and individualism this author assumes, we routinely make judgments opposed to the "one person responsible" thesis. We do so every time the state brings charges against a tavern for a drunk driving death, charges against a doctor or hospital for misdiagnosing a patient who then goes on to kill others, charges against a Nazi hate group for a series of racist murders committed by someone who read the group's literature. We routinely hold that there are several, often complex, varying levels and degrees of responsibility. And that's a good thing. This author has no moral or legal basis to declare the shooter to be the ONLY one responsible for what happened. And for him to go further and declare that it is "vitally important" for us to remember this...well, that seems to betray an agenda that makes his argument fair game.
Meanwhile, President Bush did his presidential duty and spoke at the memorial service for those killed at Virginia Tech. Best summary of the implications of that visit comes from David Walsh's article yesterday:
As governor of Texas, Bush presided over the executions of 152 human beings; as president, he has the blood of thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Afghans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on his hands. His administration has made unrelenting violence the foundation of its global policies, justifying assassination, secret imprisonment and torture. Speaking of the Blacksburg killings, Bush commented: “Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they’re gone—and they leave behind grieving families, and grieving classmates, and a grieving nation.” If he and his cronies were not entirely immune to the consequences of their own policies, it might strike them that they could be speaking about the masses of the dead in Iraq, who have also done “nothing to deserve their fate.” The president, in his perfunctory remarks, appeared anxious, above all, to put the events behind him. Bush’s comment that “It’s impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering” comes as no surprise. He recognizes instinctively, or his speechwriters do, that considering the “violence and suffering” in a serious manner would raise troubling questions, and even more troubling answers.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Only the monstrous anger of their guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid fire
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
The recent news that anti-globalization movements have directly reached out to, and worked with various Islamic groups, including sexist, homophobic, and anti-democratic groups, should disturb us deeply.
There are plenty of progressive, democratic religious groups, including Islamic groups, to work with. They may not attract attention because they don't kill babies or assassinate people with whom they disagree, but they're there, and they're far better candidates for progressive causes.
Last year, Fred Halliday put it very well:
(More about the status of women in conservative Islam here...straight from the proverbial horse's mouth, in a clumsy attempt to disco around the issue...)
...while it is true that Islamism in its diverse political and violent guises is indeed opposed to the US, to remain there omits a deeper, crucial point: that, long before the Muslim Brotherhood, the jihadis and other Islamic militants were attacking "imperialism", they were attacking and killing the left - and acting across Asia and Africa as the accomplices of the west. [...] The reactionary (the word is used advisedly) nature of much of their programme on women, free speech, the rights of gays and other minorities is evident.There is also a mindset of anti-Jewish prejudice that is riven with racism and religious obscurantism. Only a few in the west noted what many in the Islamic world will have at once understood, that one of the most destructive missiles fired by Hizbollah into Israel bore the name "Khaibar" - not a benign reference to the pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the name of a victorious battle fought against the Jews by the Prophet Mohammad in the 7th century. Here it is worth recalling the saying of the German socialist leader Bebel, that anti-semitism is "the socialism of fools". How many on the left are tolerant if not actively complicit in this foolery today is a painful question to ask.
I think it's time to start a drive to get a broad coalition of progressives, socialists, and left democrats to publicly denounce, and renounce affiliation with, all religious extremism, and all religious movements that advocate the persecution of (or any degree of violence against) labor movements, religious minorities or members of other religions, sexual minorities, women, etc. This is not about being unduly "purist" or fragmentory. This is about foolishly --fatally foolishly-- assuming that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Halliday concludes that the left
does not need slogans to understand that the Islamist programme, ideology and record are diametrically opposed to the left – that is, the left that has existed on the principles founded on and descended from classical socialism, the Enlightenment, the values of the revolutions of 1798 and 1848, and generations of experience. The modern embodiments of this left have no need of the “false consciousness” that drives so many so-called leftists into the arms of jihadis.
Maryland today became the first state to require contractors to pay workers a living wage, the fruit of a months-long coalition campaign that included union members, religious leaders and civil rights advocates. On its last day in session, the Maryland Senate voted, 31-16, to approve the measure, which was passed by the state House last week. Gov. Martin O'Malley(D), who campaigned for the legislation, has promised to sign the bill.
The new law will require service contractors doing business with the state to pay employees $11.30 an hour in urban areas and $8.50 an hour in rural areas. The state's minimum wage is $6.15 an hour.
The final vote is another step toward lifting thousands of Maryland workers out of poverty, says Fred Mason, president of the Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO.
Monday, April 09, 2007
In case the hinted argument isn't getting through, gentle reader, I'll be more blunt: Religious pluralism is more progressive, more advanced, more morally and politically defensible, than the lack of religious pluralism. Progressives should not feel the need to defend repressive versions of Islam any more than they would feel the need to defend repressive versions of Christianity, Judaism, or (if a repressive version of it existed) Zoroastrianism. We need not take sides in the pointless and destructive battles between reactionary right wingers of the Christian and Islamic variety.
And if you get a chance, read Mansoor Hekmat's "Rise and Fall of Political Islam."
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Harvard Law School's "gadfly" (and recently converted torture advocate) Alan M. Dershowitz has made it his personal cause to convince DePaul Law School to deny tenure to Norman G. Finkelstein. In addition to writing a book taking Dershowitz and others to task for exploiting the Holocaust, Finkelstein also accuses Dershowitz of plagiarism, saying some of the things Dershowitz wrote in his 2003 book The Case for Israel were not quite original.
How does a professor at one university communicate his desire that a professor at another university shouldn't receive tenure? As documented by the April 5 Chronicle of Higher Education, well, ruthlessly:
Last fall, with Mr. Finkelstein up for tenure, Mr. Dershowitz sent the DePaul law school faculty and members of the political-science department what he described, in a letter dated October 3, as a "dossier of Norman Finkelstein's most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions." "I hope that this will serve as an introduction and primer to the so- called scholarship that Finkelstein will present this term as he is considered for tenure," Mr. Dershowitz wrote. Mr. Finkelstein said in an interview on Monday that Mr. Dershowitz had embarked on "this frenetic and relentless campaign to deny me tenure." "He sent to every member of the law school ... a dossier which came, I think, to about 50 pages, leveling or, I should say, recycling all of the allegations he's been putting forth for the past couple of years. And he sent a copy of that dossier to every member of my department."The packet included what Mr. Dershowitz's letter called "some of the lies I am absolutely confident that Finkelstein told" on such points asNow a lot of people say that academic politics are "small." Small-minded, perhaps, but in some cases, hardly small in magnitude...and, to be fair, most bourgeois politics fit that description: petty in conception but not in impact. And as much as I thought Dershowitz's book on the O.J. Simpson trial, Reasonable Doubts, was enjoyable, well-argued, and enlightening, I must say I have found most of Dershowitz's attitudes and positions to be not only reactionary, but the kind of reactionary one would expect from someone of great material and institutional privilege.
Israeli torture and whether or not Mr. Dershowitz writes his own books. In a telephone interview on Wednesday with The Chronicle, Mr. Dershowitz confirmed
that he had sent the information to "everybody who would read it." He said he had compiled the material at the request of some two dozen DePaul students, alumni, and faculty members who were alarmed at the prospect of Mr. Finkelstein's receiving tenure.
But more importantly: If Dershowitz did indeed plagiarize sections of his 2003 book, there is no doubt in my mind he won't lose his job, and it's doubtful that Dershowitz's immature nastiness will ruin the academic career of Finkelstein--all of which is more than one can say about Ward Churchill, whose head will end up on a platter for alleged sins just-short-of-routinely committed by other scholars. Not only were the findings in the Churchill case dubious, but the process itself violated the very rules of procedure and due process laid out in the Colorado University rules.
(In a phenomenon that is equally demonstrative of academic politics as microcosm, Churchill's situation has been exacerbated by his own long-term tendency to threaten, verbally brutalize, and dismiss others on the left who might otherwise have come to his defense more frequently and enthusiastically.)
The Churchill case, the battle between Dershowitz and Finkelstein, and countless other academic battles demonstrate that academic politics are not merely localized and irrelevant, but alternate as either microcosms or instantiations of larger political battles. This is a lesson which (although I won't get into the details just yet) I am learning myself as I attempt to make my own little section of the Communication Studies discipline more critical and educational. People get pissed off at you, and not merely for reasons of petty academic territoriality. Ideologies and empires are at stake--and given the fact that millions of working class youth (as well as nontraditional students) go through state universities, and that the line between private school privilege and public university access is at times thinner than we might think, the stakes may be very high indeed.