Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Concluding remarks (hopefully) on the Birthers...

There are plenty of spaces from which to be VERY critical of Obama--from the left or the right, from anti-statism to anti-capitalism, etc. But the unique suspicion of Obama (no president having ever been accused of being an Islamic, Afrocentric "manchurian candidate" before, no president EVER being asked to verify his birth certificate before) proves the Birthers aren't using systemic critique as their starting point, but white populist suspicion of the dark Other. You find me a Birther who is also a left-wing internationalist anti-capitalist, or even an intelligent, articulate libertarian of the classical rather than the Lew Rockwell variety, and I'll change my theory. But if you are in any way concerned about charting a critical course that transcends Obama, Bush, and the two-party system, the Birther fantasy needs to be thrown into the trash. Factually, it is an absolutely fabricated and impossible allegation, and connotatively, it is fueled by racism.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brechtian Naughtiness

Came across this bawdy little sonnett by Bertolt Brecht, sure to raise your eyebrows or pulse a it to the person you love.


Your ample peasant skirt's the one to pick
Where cunningly I emphasise the length:
Lifting it off you to its full extent
Revealing thighs and bottom, gives a kick.
Then when you tuck your legs up on our sofa
Let it ride up, so that, hidden in its shadow
Through deep discussions clouded in tobacco
Your flesh may hint our night is not yet over.

It is more than a base and lustful feeling
That makes me want a skirt as wide as this:
Your lovely movements bring to mind Colchis
The day Medea strolled towards the sea. -
These aren't the grounds, though, on which I'm appealing
For such a skirt. Base ones will do for me.

Hey Shatner!

Most of the Priceline "pricebreaker" deals aren't really that good at all, unless you live in Burbank and want to go to Vegas for the weekend, or take that trip from Miami to Orlando. I want Salt Lake City to Paris for 99 dollars each way, chumps. Do it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cambridge Conundrum

The cops likely responded to Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s acerbic tone by throwing their proverbial balls around, like so many cops do. Professor Gates lost his temper and likely exacerbated the situation. Such a reaction is understandable, not at all warranting of _moral_ condemnation. Speaking with the pragmatism of an activist, however, it's an argument for tactical self-discipline. There is a bit of threatening abstractionism in Gates' victimage and post-incident rhetoric. More than a few people are watching, with more than one set of eyes, this incident involving a wealthy Harvard professor. Today's pseudonymous piece in Alternet is one good read. Irene Monroe's description of Black life in Cambridge is another.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Amis on Nukes

What is the only provocation that could bring about the use of nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the priority target for nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the only established defense against nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And we can't get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons. The intransigence, it seems, is a function of the weapons themselves. ~ Martin Amis

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

two brief remarks about anti-obama loonies

Everyone knows I think Obama is a moderate apologist for (and servant to) a fundamentally corrupt system. But I simply cannot countenance conspiracy theories based on latent (and sometimes blatant) racism and inconsistent application of the standards of logic and politics. Plus they smell bad.

With that in mine, two things I want to mention this morning before I head to work: First, I briefly believed I had invented a new term: birth-baggers. Self-explanatory to political junkies. I googled it and found only one other reference--from some tweet a couple of days ago. Amazing how language develops, huh?

Second, am I the only person who thinks this woman demanding the birth certificate is, um, well...a wee bit tipsy? I mean, hey, if being drunk at town hall meetings were part of the deal, I'm sure more people would become wingnuts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

who's the tail and who's the dog?

I am tired of conservatives whining about how the mainstream media continues to cover Sarah Palin's awkward, at times painful fall from grace (a perpetual fall, really, since last summer...). The Palin anti-anti-apologists say "you lefties (by which they mean anyone to the left of Fox) sure care about Palin, you sure hate her, you talk about her all the time" as if that --by itself-- demonstrates anything beyond the propensity of the media to like train wrecks.

But in fact, Palin's humiliating political pants-pooping is news. Her inability to write, speak, or think is certainly news in the context of the millions of educated conservatives who support her. It demonstrates that she represents the unthinking, unreflective, theocratic leadership desired by the faintly burning embers of the GOP's right wing. All you conservatives shedding crocodile tears about the mainstream media covering Palin's embarassing idiocies should realize that if millions of wingnuts didn't support her, liberal news commentators wouldn't pay attention to her.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In memory of Ross Smith

Tonight I am just one among thousands who can't imagine intercollegiate debate, or a significant portion of our lives, without Ross Smith of Wake Forest University, who passed away unexpectedly. He was the love of the game, the craziness, the seriousness, the friendships, the late-night conversations, the unreasonably hard work, the joy of the win and the shrug of the loss.

Ross is to contemporary academic debate what Richard Rorty was to academic philosophy: master of a technique not loved by all, but personally respected by all, and a champion of the whole enterprise, appreciative and honest and above all in love with the intellectual endeavor. I don't know a single person--not a single person--among the thousands of people in the college (and much of the high school) debate community who had anything more than a bad joke to tell about him; not a single detractor, not a single person who would deny the positive difference he made in the lives of everyone he met. Rare? One of a kind.

Forgive the brief array of debate geekery as I imitate Ross talking about critical theory: " An alternative would be nice."

Miss you, sir.

Sunday afternoon work music: Dresden Dolls, "Coin Operated Boy"

I was afraid this wouldn't sound all that good live--but the DDs are incredibly tight on this piece, Amanda's vocals are on, and there's the usual great interaction between Amanda and Brian--with little or no eye contact. Overall one of their best live performances. Warning: Amanda changes a lyric (hilariously in my opinion) in a way that might offend the fainthearted.

Mouthpiece for tobacco lobby circulates anti-health care reform petition

An organization cleverly calling itself Patients First is inviting people to sign a petition telling the government to keep its dirty hands off our health care.

Patients First, however, is controlled by Americans for Prosperity. AFP is a mouthpiece of, among others, the tobacco lobby. They have continued the old Phillip Morris strategy of portraying smoking as a property right. Not terribly concerned with placing health first, they are against clean indoor air laws, indoor workplace smoking bans, and cogent arguments.

Is there an equivalent petition demanding that insurance companies in the status quo keep their hands off health care? No? Why not? Is it because they have absolute power over health care policy and practice? Is absolute control categorically bad, or only bad if it's da guvmint?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

the thankful for a little time to blog blog

Happy to feature the work of dear longtime friend Caitlin Myer in this week's "Best of Shared Sacrifice" edition.

Morton Montgomery gets my first annual, maybe only, award for being a Daily Kos diarist who actually pushes the Kossacks forward by explaining why it's unlikely Obama will fix the economy...
Writer Joe Gregorio expands on the popular Free Market Fairy concept:
There is nothing benevolent about free markets, they are a natural force, like gravity, and aren't magical, good, or evil. The free market will maximize efficiency and it will do so in a manner that is blind to externalities...

Maximizes efficiency and is blind to externalities. That's the market, not good or evil, simply a force, with a will to live and colonize. That's the "invisible hand." It's true that the Hand has fallen out of fashion, but give it time to recover. Already, libertarians insist that the current crisis is merely a natural fluctuation exacerbated by government intervention--this 20 years + into deregulation.

A much more depressing story, I suppose, because I recently had a falling out over this argument, and because there are so many human faces in Dion Nissenbaum's account of Israeli soldiers confessing to practices that range somewhere between illegal and legally-murkey-over-the-top-brutality:
Soldiers described incidents in which Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white cloth, an elderly woman carrying a sack, a Gazan riding a motorcycle, and an elderly man with a flashlight[...]The 110-pages of testimony — along with 16 video clips — of interviews with 26 unnamed Israeli soldiers offers the most comprehensive look inside a military campaign that's become the subject of an unfolding United Nations war crimes investigation.

No longer perceived as the cohesive, smart, morally pure army, the IDF response is clumsy and circular...
The Israel Defense Forces dismissed the report.
IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said Tuesday that the IDF now is conducting dozens of investigations into troop conduct during the Gaza operation and that more than a dozen cases led to police investigations.
In April, the IDF announced it had concluded five high-level investigations, including one into the use of phosphorus to burn down buildings, and cleared itself.

So this week, instead of pointing out the misleadership of the Palestinian resistance and pissing off my progressive friends (I routinely do this and they accuse me of an irresponsible neutrality), I suppose I'll piss off ex-friends by pointing out that failure to condemn Israeli violence and seriously engage the issues separating the people of Israel from the people of Palestine is not only moral tunnell vision, but also pragmatic paralysis...and a death sentence for more Israeli and Palestinian children.

Finally, the Pentagon and others apparently want to expand the size of the U.S. Army. Part of me actually thinks this is a good idea. Get more people over to Iraq and Afghanistan so that they can see what a folly of a mess U.S. imperialism has created. Sure, most will come back with the same uncritical love for U.S.-imp they had before, but more and more will come back critical thinkers and progressives, while zero will experience a net increase in blind patriotism. As predicted by all sorts of radical commentators, war is revolutionary. But on the other hand, I don't want more of my brothers and sisters in uniform to experience danger in a world they never made.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Al Jazeera: Honduras may grant Zelaya amnesty

But more importantly: "Honduran police on Saturday night detained for several hours members of television crews of the Venezuelan state channel VTV and Telesur, which have extensively covered pro-Zelaya protests."

Wonderful to see the new Honduran regime behaving so lawfully and democratically, after having painted Zelaya as a thug and a threat to democracy.

Al Jazeera English - Americas - Honduras may grant Zelaya amnesty

Shared via AddThis

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The lie on which all the other lies are based?

If this is true, then yes, this is the lie which gives putative justification for all the other lies being told by the spin-in-overdrive Honduran media and coup apologists in the rest of the world.
In fact, there was no way for Zelaya to "extend his rule" even if the referendum had been held and passed, and even if he had then gone on to win a binding referendum on the November ballot. The June 28 referendum was nothing more than a non-binding poll of the electorate, asking whether the voters wanted to place a binding referendum on the November ballot to approve a redrafting of the country's constitution. If it had passed, and if the November referendum had been held (which was not very likely) and also passed, the same ballot would have elected a new president and Zelaya would have stepped down in January. So, the belief that Zelaya was fighting to extend his term in office has no factual basis -- although most people who follow this story in the press seem to believe it. The most that could be said is that if a new constitution were eventually approved, Zelaya might have been able to run for a second term at some future date
I've seen this clarification a few times now. It seems almost understated. But if it's true, then Zelaya could not have run for a successive term regardless of the outcome of the nonbinding referendum. You could argue that he would have done other things, but assumes facts not in evidence.

Friday, July 10, 2009

racism as drug-resistant pathogen?

Think racism is a thing of the past? Go to the comments section of any race-related news story in the media-and-blogosphere, and you'll not only see it's still around, but you'll see the degree of rage --pure, unfiltered rage-- that some whites have towards nonwhites.

This was a post in response to a story about a Huntingdon Valley, PA swim club that allegedly cancelled a contract because its members were allegedly upset about an influx of minorities in the club's pool. It's merely the longest and most articulate of several more like it. This one's going to be very difficult to read, and that's why I want you to read it. Just read it, and know that there are people who believe this, feel this, and want to act on this:
I have seen Philadelphia collapse under the infestation of black and hispanic people. Beautiful neighborhoods, local churches and shopping streets have become downright horrible and dangerous due to the influx of these new parasitic residents. People moved to the suburbs to get away from this scene and now the scene is following them. If a private club wants to put up a sign "no blacks need apply" that is their right to do so. We have freedom of association and if I were a member of that swim club and it became overun with 50 pickaninnies, I would reflect on the days of shopping on Kensington Avenue as a child and then going back 50 years later to see what God hath wrought. Stay in your own neighborhood and if you don't like it and are so proud of being an African-American, then you should return to the land of your roots and leave us alone.

Sometimes people ask me why I "give a platform" to extremists on my blog and when I share news stories with the thousands of people I'm connected to out there. It's not about giving a platform. It's about placing this shit under a microscope, and then projecting the images like a scientist, in a lecture hall full of scientists, might project the images of the newest strain of a drug-resistant pathogen. We are the scientists. The epidemiologists.

And civil society is still quite ill.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

no longer available, chumps

AP pulled its piece suggeting that the Iraqi peace that followed U.S. pullback was due to "fear" rather than genuine stability. The reasons for pulling a piece are many and most of them perfectly innocent. But citizen blogging can, at least presently, patch over the memory hole. So we'll see if they put it back. The teaser was still up on Yahoo, and it said:
"AP IMPACT: It's fear that keeps Baghdad's peace (AP)
AP - The streets are calmer now. The fighting between Shiites and Sunnis has largely ceased. But this is not a sign of normalcy in the Iraqi capital. It's fear that keeps the peace."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Occam's Palin

A.J. at Feminist Queer just put into words exactly what I've been trying to say about Sarah Palin's resignation speech yesterday, watching the mainstream media fall over themselves in a futile effort to make sense of the senseless words she babbled.
The woman called a meeting to announce her decision to step down as the governor of Alaska. And outside of that statement, everything else that came out of the woman's mouth was pure, and i mean utterly pure, nonsense. I mean it's difficult for the left to even criticize it because there just really isn't any level of substance to be criticized. And besides that, she just made absolutely zero sense.

Exactly (emphasis mine). Every time she says something, I think we listen charitably, thinking we're being too impatient or judgmental about her speaking ability. We know what her ideology is; her policies are a matter of record. We needn't try to play text-interpreters every time she speaks. In this instance, her words were a paradigm instance of doublespeak to the point of nonmeaning, and that's the most sensible (and least time-consuming) reading of this embarassing, terminally weird person.

Friday, July 03, 2009

White Supremacists: Tea Parties = Recruiting Parties

Interesting. Not surprising. Will all the libertarian and conservative tea party attenders renounce this? Will the ones I know personally renounce it? Should I hold my breath? What? You WANT me to hold my breath? That's cold.

(via AmericaBlogNews)
From the Anti-Defamation League.
White supremacists and neo-Nazi hate groups plan to take advantage of the anti-tax “Tea Parties” set to occur in more than 1,000 cities and localities over the July 4 holiday weekend to disseminate racist fliers and other materials and attempt to recruit others to their cause, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
ADL’s Center on Extremism, which monitors extremist groups and provides information to law enforcement and the public, has released information on its Web site describing the attempt by white supremacists to co-opt the anti-tax message of the events as a means to spread racism and anti-Semitism.
On Stormfront, the most popular white supremacist Internet forum, members have discussed becoming local organizers of the “Tea Parties” and finding ways to involve themselves in the events. Many racists have voiced their intent to attend these rallies for the purpose of cultivating an “organized grassroots White mass movement,” with some suggesting that they would do so without openly identifying themselves as racists.

Armatrading Rules -- young ones take note

You could learn a thing or two. And I don't usually say that. But Joan Armatrading is what about two dozen different contemporary divas and soul singers wish they could be. This footage from '79 is fooking brilliant!

Thoughts about Jesus over Morning Coffee

Rather randomly, I came across Dutch scholar G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga, and his 1930 work "Does Jesus Live, or Has He Only Lived? A Study of the Doctrine of Historicity." Immediately thought of two or three friends who might be interested.
"The most human Jesus," he writes, "is unanimously that of the Synoptics, especially Matthew and Luke. It's only in a doctrinal sense that Paul appears interested in the humanity of Jesus. But one doesn't get any biographical hints out of the epistles of Paul. Paul presents a myth and divine drama."

Falsification and mythmaking of characters, and the role their struggling literalism versus nonliteralism plays in the manufacture of ideology, are fascinating topics for anyone, but especially for those interested in fighting fundamentalism and promoting a more metaphorical reading of scriptures. I've blogged, and written more seriously, about the need to de-literalize scripture as a political tool to fight extremism. Someone asked me to clarify what I meant by the "instability of text." In awkwardly trying to articulate an answer, I talked about how power and ideology interact with interpretation, yada yada. I should have just advised the reader to read van den Bergh van Eysinga.
The metaphysical Christ of the Gnostics predates the biological Christ of the churches. As Huikstra showed around 1870, Gnostic topics prevail in Mark's gospel, where the human character of Jesus is minimal. And even if, as Hilgenfeld showed first, Matthew's gospel preceeded Mark's, Mark's gospel demonstrates the most original core. Van Manen showed the Gnostic character of the supposable common ancestor of all canonical gospels.
The whole struggle between Catholic and Gnostic Christians was thus about a realistic Jesus of the Catholics versus a metaphysical-idealistic Christ of the Gnostics, not a dispute about "historicity" in the modern sense.
The Gnostic says that the Christ's essence is a perennial, spiritual one, whereas this world is woven of phantasm and error. The Catholic says that this world is divinely created; consequently, the Gnostic Christ is wholly separated from the world, the Catholic Christ is interwoven with it and participates with it in the flesh, and Catholic doctrine identifies the creator with the father of the Christ.

There are dozens of books about Jesus as a "revolutionary" and this makes him attractive to progressives. But the more important question may be the manner in which the orthodoxy crushed the gnostics.

The interesting thing is that I did all this after reading Robert Jensen's call for a new progressive theology in today's Alternet. Thought the new religion Jensen was calling for seemed amazingly like Unitarian Universalism, except that a rejection of fundamentalism is an intrinsic part of UU theology.

Lots of cloudy stuff to thing about, I suppose, before a day devoted to bare-bones logistical planning at work. So thank you, Jesus, whoever the heck you are. Cheers.

And here are links to the RadikalKritik home page and their articles in english.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Honduras Update: Mass Protests, U.S. Handwringing, Iran versus Honduras Via Tweeting Liberals

Mass demonstration against the ouster of Manuel Zelaya--video and the story can be found here.
The march started with about 4,000 people, but throughout the day numerous people arrived from other parts of the city and the rest of the country, despite the fact that the highways remain blocked either by the army or the demonstrators themselves.
Since last Sunday, popular movements have been demanding the restoration of the government headed by Manuel Zelaya, the legitimate president of Honduras, and they vow to advance the call for a Constituent Assembly to reorganize the various branches and institutions of the country which have been devastated following the coup d'état.

The number of demonstrators against the coup in Honduras has absolutely, overwhelmingly outweighed the small numbers of coup supporters, although you wouldn't know that reading AP or the Washington Post...or Bloomberg News, which simply lied about the number of protesters.

Meanwhile, the U.S., characteristic of the Obama regime, is trying to have it both ways:
The US has refrained from formally declaring Zelaya’s ouster a “coup,” a designation that would, under US laws, require Washington to cut off military aid to the country and impose sanctions. Nor has it recalled its ambassador.

Allison Kilkenny writes that Iran, whose "reformer" dissident candidate is a pro-big business, who-cares-about-the-poor kind of guy, inspired millions of liberals in the U.S. to practically swear blood-oaths with Iranian protesters; Honduras, on the other hand, whose deposed president had taken a hard line against neoliberalism, globalization, and the failed war on drugs, just isn't glitzy enough for the soft left. Maybe somebody could make some t-shirts or something...
The Hondurans have reacted to this coup with as much gusto as the Iranians did during their supposed election fraud. The military has shut down public transportation and put up roadblocks to prevent protesters from reaching the capital. ¡Presente!'s Kristin Bricker writes that unknown numbers of citizens have taken to the streets, and she even includes photos in her report that are available for the taking by any network (CNN, MSNBC, FOX).
Somehow, the U.S. media isn't picking up on these details. A democratically elected president has been ousted by a military strongly supported and trained by the US government as apparent punishment for his adoption of progressive ideals. Where is the outrage, or at the least, the intrigue? Where are the solidarity movements?
The hashtag #Honduras quickly disappeared from Twitter's Trending Topics. It was replaced by Wimbledon, Michael Jackson, and Iran. Since Twitter siphons news from traditional media sources, it's only logical to assume that the focus on Honduras has diminished in the micro-blogging world because it has vanished from the U.S. media.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Honduras Updates: still a coup

The "crime" for which Zelaya was "arrested" seems to be for holding a non-binding referendum: I keep hearing people say Zelaya wanted to be "president for life" but other reports refer to him seeking "a second term." The suspicion is that his membership in ALBA has turned him into a potential democratic dictator...
In October 2008, Zelaya joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA in Spanish), a regional alliance organized by Chávez that includes Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. Member states receive subsidies coming largely from Venezuelan oil earnings. One provision, which Zelaya chose not to ratify, calls for common defense in case one of the member states is attacked by the US.

But those defending the coup as constitutional have a heck of a lot of explaining to do:
The broadcast of at least some news media is currently suppressed in Honduras, with members of the Honduran military reportedly shutting down at least one radio station and halting TV transmission of teleSUR and CNN en Español.

Two of the coup-plotters, Army chief Romeo Vásquez Velásquez and head of the Honduran Air Force General Luis Javier Prince Suazo are graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas. In a sickeningly sweet example of the interaction between political economy and culture, the documentary "School of the Americas Assassins" went up 29% in popularity on this week.

The media is divided among familiar lines, with the relatively conservative Washington Post reporting that "[t]housands of Hondurans rallied Tuesday in the central plaza of the capital, Tegucigalpa, to support the forced removal of Zelaya and to shout their support for the armed forces." How many is thousands? I'm pretty sure that piece of information is being cut and pasted as spin. The Associated Press, famous now as an Obama-bashing, reactionary wire service, reports Zelaya is accused of allowing "tons of cocaine" to flow through his country. We didn't hear anybody complain about this before because? The AP continues: "In October, Zelaya proposed legalizing drug use as a way of reducing the violence. He also had pledged to double the country's police force, which reached 13,500 last year, up from 7,000 in 2005, according to the State Department report."

At 6:24 AM on Wednesday, neither Zelaya nor Honduras is on the short list of "in the news" news on Googlenews. Mariah Carey is.

My unabashedly liberal friend Stephen Heidt points out that "There's something fishy about this story. If, as seems true, Zelaya was after a naked power grab, and it was illegal and universally condemned by the Congress, Supreme Court, and military, then why was he not impeached? ...why deport him? Why not put him on trial in Honduras?" At worst, I agree with Stephen: "this was the precursor to the naked power grab, not the naked power grab."

If this is a naked power grab question, and those defending the coup are prepared to say that extraconstitutional means are justified to counter constitutionally-allowed attempts to change the constitution (legal naked power grabs) then that is a lot different than saying extraconstitutional means are justified in response to unconsitutional, illegal naked power grabs. Because at the very least, that position says "might makes right, which side are you on?" And the defenders of the coup can pick their side and I'll pick mine. But if working people have an interest in a consistent rule of law, then the right thing to do is unconditionally condemn the coup, then criticize and encourage remedies to Zelaya's excesses.

If, on the other hand, this is the class war and there is no rule of law...well? But I'm hesitant to say it's that simple yet.