Wednesday, September 30, 2009

you keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means...

I think Obama is incompetent. I just don't think so the way you think so.

me & the Iranians

If, as it appears, Iran's government is developing nuclear weapons, then we need to remember our common interests with the Iranian people. They just want to survive, raise their families and live in peace. So do we. The 9400 warheads maintained by the U.S. are a hideous, colossal waste and an instrument of exploitation. Solidarity with the people of Iran and a pox on both our ruling classes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's on in Honduras

A little over two hours ago CNN reported that the coup-government in Honduras is holding Brazil responsible for harboring Jose Manuel Zelaya in its embassy in Tegucigalpa. As a result, the coup-government claims, Zelaya's presence has caused instability.

This is childish doublespeak. The coup government of Honduras has had the people under a state of siege for weeks now. If they were smart, they'd have seen Zelaya's return as inevitable; for them to now accuse Zelaya or Brazil or anyone but themselves of instigating instability is laughable and, I think, rather evil.

Wouldn't this make for a great science fiction story?

A race of beings emerging from a warlike state of nature begins behaving cooperatively in their attempt to master the material externalities around them. They develop agriculture, husbandry, and productive industry. For whatever myriad explanations, hierarchy ensues, manifested most starkly in (1) material distribution and (2) access to both the reception and production-distribution of information. This results in a small class of these planetary dwellers enjoying almost complete material and ideological control.

Among other strategies to maintain this control, the elite beings keep the rest of their race in a state of deliberate under-education; more to the point, among the elite beings, there may be some debate about whether their non-elite counterparts (who outnumber them by approximately 80-1) should receive an enriching, empowering education, a functional, technical education, or no education at all. Most of the time, the middle position prevails, since technical skill among approximately half of these worker-citizens is necessary to keep the by-now-rather-complex infrastructure running for maximum material convenience. However, the more conservative and authoritarian elements of the elites constantly exercise pressure on their government to cut off the provision of resources to the education system, able to appeal to several configural, unrelated, and largely contrived arguments, from hypocritical appeals to resource shortages (hypocritical because the elites are busy funding all sorts of generally non beneficial things) to theological and ideological attacks on the entire educational enterprise.

So emerges an increasingly permanent, larger, and progressively more problematic mass of uneducated beings, their heads filled with mythology and distrust, given to anomie and alienation, malleable for immediate political purposes by some elites but ultimately unmanageable, or controllable only through unbearable brutality.

In fact, similar sci-fi stories abound. As I was writing this allegory, I remembered "The Cloud Minders," an excellent Star Trek TOS episode, as well as the Residents' album "Mark of the Mole," and I could probably think of four or five short stories, novellas, and novels that at least play with, and perhaps even epitomize, the structure of my story. But what inspired this particular angle was the education question. It has ever been thus: Reinhold Niebuhr's classic turn of phrase captures the problem as paradox: "dominant classes have always tried to withhold the opportunity for the exercise of rational functions from underprivileged classes and then accused them of lacking capacities, which can be developed only by exercise."

I would love to edit an anthology of science fiction stories, one perhaps from every age or era, dealing with the question of material hierarchy and its resultant ideological control.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creationism is stupider than a sack of bones

Viewing this video of a creationist instructor talking to an audience of children at the Big Valley Creation Science Museum makes me question the limits of free speech. Those kids can't defend themselves against the dumb shit they are hearing from this cretin, and they think it's "science." Watch this one to be simultaneously amused and enraged. And remember--this is what creationists and their naive "moderate-pluralist" allies mean when they say their perspectives should be given equal time. They mean ludicrous, insulting crap like this.

It was a little hard to dance to, I'll give it a 6...

My first thought is, oh hell, now the Republicans will blame this on the hapless foreign policy of the Obama administration (they're hapless, but not for easing back on American thuggishness). But then I was gripped with the regret that I hadn't actually attended the speech. Muammar G-g-g-gaddafi that is. His first visit to America, more a comedy tour than a visit by a head of state.

He tore up a copy of the UN charter in front of startled delegates, accused the security council of being an al-Qaida like terrorist body, called for George Bush and Tony Blair to be put on trial for the Iraq war, demanded $7.7tn in compensation for the ravages of colonialism on Africa, and wondered whether swine flu was a biological weapon created in a military laboratory. At one point, he even demanded to know who was behind the killing of JFK. All in all, a pretty ordinary 100 minutes in the life of the colonel.

Note to The Guardian's Ed Pilkington: That last sentence was a little awkward; either make it its own paragraph to give yourself comedic pause, or eliminate it altogether for comedic understatement (I prefer the latter).

Tearing up sacred things in front of audiences in New York is not always good for your career...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hey conservatives: stop lying about ACORN

Once again, the right is lying about ACORN--in this case, not only Fox News, but the individuals who made those notorious videos--and they're apparently lying on an epic scale.

I may not have a huge dog in the ACORN fight, but I have the biggest dog in the world in the truth-telling fight. Moreover, as a friend of mine said today, "[We] took their first time home buyers class - it was amazing. They do good work. They help people get and keep their homes. Any large organization can have employees who make bad decisions. I would just like to say - cut them some slack. The good outweighs the bad by far."

Police report filed by ACORN exposes false claims by individuals behind videos

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Shared Sacrifice Weekend--Melissa Sue Robinson

Our guest tomorrow is Melissa Sue Robinson, Mayoral candidate in Nampa, Idaho: progressive, transgender activist, and human rights campaigner. You can read about Ms. Robinson at
Call-in number is (347) 327-9615. Don't miss this important interview.

Shared Sacrifice Weekend--Melissa Sue Robinson

Shared via AddThis

"Here's the deal: you get the needle, and I'm banging the prosecutor. Any questions?"

Not a whole lot to say about this.

I love the reaction of the ADA, too..."significant procedural victory" indeed...
What makes the ruling perhaps a bit curious — a point made by the three dissenting judges — is that the affair was not confirmed until last September, long after Hood’s trial. Defense attorney David Dow seized on that fact Wednesday, saying he was stunned by the ruling. When the Court denied a stay on the issue last year, said Dow, “it denied a stay because it said ‘There’s no proof. Come back to us when you have some proof.’” According to Dow, he landed the proof, in the form of sworn testimony from the judge and prosecutor. “And what do they say?” Dow asked. “‘Tough, you lose anyway.” The ruling came despite the fact that the lower court judge had recommended Hood be allowed to pursue the claim, going so far as to say the state’s “hands are unclean.” John Rolater, assistant district attorney for Collin County called Wednesday’s ruling “a significant procedural victory.” Hood is on death row for the 1989 robbery and murder of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace in Plano. His attorneys had tried to explore the issue of whether the relationship between judge and prosecutor had affected the trial for years but had little except rumors.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

I love this list of "tips" guaranteed to prevent sexual assault. I think it sends an extremely powerful and necessary message, and let's just say it gets closer to the root of the problem.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

Well done,!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Photo of the day

Thanks to Travis Neal for this one...In case the picture is too small, the guy in top center's sign says "We have no idea what we're talking about!"

Morning Music: "Love Is Our Cross to Bear"

A great cover...

"Love can pull you out of yesterday..." I sure hope so.

It's always good to stick to your agenda

Several people have already reported this story: "A Johns Hopkins University student killed an apparent burglar with a samurai sword after discovering the man in his garage, police said Tuesday."

Forgive my morbid sense of humor this morning, but...

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You have invaded my garage. Prepare to die."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Update: Banton show CANCELLED in Salt Lake, still scheduled in Aspen, Denver; my conversation with representatives from those venues

Lots of news about the Buju Banton controversy. Salt Lake's Urban Lounge has now cancelled the October 8 show. And I just finished having two very interesting conversations with the venues in Aspen and Denver regarding Banton's tour dates there.

At 1:27 PM, the Deseret News released the following information:
The Buju Banton concert scheduled at the Urban Lounge on Oct. 8 has been canceled. Urban Partners Inc., the company that books the shows for the Urban Lounge and Kilby Court, axed the show after it was brought to their attention that gay organizations consider Banton's lyrics homophobic. "When initially scheduling the Buju Banton event, we were unaware of his hateful anti-gay message," Urban Partners said in a statement. "Upon further review, Urban Lounge has decided to cancel the event."

Denver update: I called the Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom. The receptionist took a message for me, and confirmed that they had received several inquiries and complaints about booking Mr. Banton. When I asked whether these were local or national calls, she said they were local. At the time of my call, she said she could "not presently confirm" whether the show would go on as scheduled. She said she would have one of the owners call me back. And, to my pleasant surprise, I received a call a few minutes later from Jay Bianchi, co-owner of Carvantes. "We are not cancelling the show," he confirmed, and said he believed the truth is "somewhere in between." He also pointed out some other interesting insights: The Cervantes, he said, is "not in the financial position" to cancel the show. He said one Denver-area activist who complained was invited to attend the show for free to find out for himself what Mr. Banton is saying and singing presently. Mr. Bianchi also admitted that rumors that Banton has been videotaped singing "Boom Boom Bye" in more recent years did raise troubling questions.

One of Mr. Bianchi's more insightful comments was that most of the emails he has received from GLBT activists did little more than cut and paste already-used message points. Mr. Bianchi seemed to imply (reasonably, I think) that such emails were probably not as persuasive as ones that were unique and written personally by the senders.

My conversation with a promoter from Belly Up Aspen was equally productive. She told me that the owner, Michael Goldberg, was extremely concerned about the complaints he'd been receiving, and that the venue was connected with many progressive, pro-gay causes (which is true). She believed that those who were complaining about Banton were relying on outdated information, and that she believed Banton had apologized. In fact, however, she was referring to the same press release I posted in last night's blog post, which did not, in fact, contain a personal apology from Mr. Banton, and contained some other inconsistencies. I assured her that Shared Sacrifice Media was not on a witch hunt, that we believed the Aspen community and the Belly Up venue were respectable, progressive entities, and that we just wanted every side of the story. She promised to have Michael Goldberg get back to me. She said they had received some "uneducated" emails by protesters relying on the previously mentioned outdated information. She said "we support the gay community." No reason to doubt that, even though it's questionable whether Mr. Banton and his publicists have sincerely repudiated the hateful language of his past.

Here's a request--something that would be very helpful for us. It's been alleged that Mr. Banton recently said "the war between me and faggots will never end." If anyone has a citation or reliable link confirming or denying this allegation, PLEASE send it to me at

Also, of course, we're going to be podcasting on this controversy again tonight, from 8-9 PM mountain time. You can find the podcast at

UPDATE: Thanks to Jimbo Maritato, Shared Sacrifice's resident culture guru, we have an answer to the reference question above: The line is from the song "Fire Burn Batty." The video is here. Jimbo advises: "The line you are looking for is belted out at the 2:20 mark." He found the information from a comment on Robin Gorsline's blog.
The video contains other seemingly demeaning references to gays. See for yourself. I may have to email the venues in Denver and Aspen for follow-up commentary.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Have I (and others) judged Buju Banton unfairly?

I love bloggers and podcasters, as well as readers and listeners. When things come together right, these netizens update and contextualize mainstream media stories that get the big picture wrong and then move on to their next wrong big picture.

Thanks to Andy, who in his unique way forced me to get more facts, and Jimbo, who found some of those facts for me, I was led to LA Weekly music blogger Randall Roberts, who found this public statement by allegedly homophobic musician Buju Banton, in the context of the protests I've mentioned in my last two posts:
For the record, [Boom Bye Bye] is the only song he ever made on the subject - and he does not perform it today. ...
He does not advocate violence. There has never been a shred of violence at any of his live shows. In fact, he commonly preaches against violence - against all people. Buju's consistently positive messages of peace, love and enlightenment have never been lost in the music. His 1995 Grammy-nominated album 'Til Shiloh marked a spiritual and musical transformation that yielded the classic narratives "Untold Stories," "Wanna Be Loved" and "Murderer," which personified the horrific increase in gun crimes in Kingston's inner city. His Grammy-nominated Inna Heights (1997) garnered him numerous comparisons to the late, great Bob Marley. Long before Hollywood raised its collective consciousness about Darfur, there was Buju Banton wailing about the genocide happening in "Sudan" on 1999's Unchained Spirit. His Friends For Life (2003) and Too Bad (2006) projects were both acknowledged with Grammy nods for Best Reggae Album. Buju's latest Roots Reggae opus, Rasta Got Soul (2009), has already been welcomed with critical acclaim in the US, Europe and Japan.
The artist's love for humanity is not just demonstrated in words but also in deeds. Twelve years ago he responded to the AIDS crisis in Jamaica by launching Operation Willy, an organization focused on raising monies for HIV positive babies and children who lost their parents to the disease. For three years he served as a celebrity spokesperson for Upliftment Jamaica, a US-based non-profit committed to working with underprivileged youth back home.
Yet none of these personal and professional accomplishments matter much to a gay lobby hell bent on destroying the livelihood of a man who has spent an entire career making amends -- his way. Sadly, their 17 year fixation on waging war against one artist has prevented them from turning this initiative into a larger, more fruitful discussion that could perhaps effect real change.

Questions remain. What has Banton himself said? Has he apologized and repudiated his statements? Is he letting his progressive activism and philanthropy speak for itself? Is his PR machine just spinning to get back at what it sees as a heavy-handed "gay lobby" (why would they use such a loaded, conspiratorial term)?

And what about this inconsistent bit of information? The Guardian reports that Banton signed a pledge against homophobia. Pink News, however, reports that Banton denies signing that pledge, but they don't attribute a source to that report. Meanwhile, the previously cited Guardian article also says (in 2007) that Banton "was filmed performing Boom Bye Bye at a concert in Miami last year"--which means 2006, which renders his PR outfit's statement that he "does not perform it today" rather curious. Did they mean "today, as in the Thursday evening while we're writing this press release"?

This is certainly an opportunity to step up discussion of identity politics, media manipulation (to which something some of our listeners on the podcast think I've fallen victim), and the need for a common progressive movement against all violence, homophobia and racism. And Buju Banton deserves his due--whether contempt for preaching hate, commendation for correcting himself and doing the right thing, or the acknowledgment that he is neither villain nor victim in this increasingly confusing controversy.

UPDATE: Banton cancelled in several cities: Does this include Denver, Aspen and Salt Lake?

By the time I found out about his murderous lyrics and the prominent tour dates he was playing, the campaign to force cancellations of Buju Banton concerns had already succeeded in cancelling several of his big shows:

AEG Live/Goldenvoice (producer of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival)
and Live Nation, parent company of House of Blues, all announced last night that
they have canceled their respective concerts by Buju Banton. The cancellations
followed a huge outcry from people all over the country, angry that these
companies were promoting a singer whose lyrics glorify the murder of gay people.
Banton was to perform at Los Angeles' Nokia Club (Oct. 14), in San Francisco
(Oct. 10), Philadelphia (Sept. 12) and at the House of Blues in: Chicago (Oct.
1), Las Vegas (Oct. 15), Dallas (Oct. 20) and Houston (Oct. 22).
I could be wrong, but Banton's shows in Denver, Aspen and Salt Lake appear to be scheduled. The Gay Liberation Network had all three shows still scheduled as of August 30.

Chicago's Gay Liberation Network, which lobbied Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino
to quit trafficking in Banton's hate, also notes these upcoming tour dates with
AEG Live: Philadelphia (Sept 12); Providence (Sept 15); Portland, ME (Sept 17);
Revere, MA (Sept 18); Charlotte (Sept 23); Raleigh (Sept 24); Norfolk (Sept 25);
Richmond, VA (Sept 26); Detroit (Sept 30); Denver (Oct 6); Aspen, CO (Oct 7);
Salt Lake City (Oct 8); San Francisco (Oct 10); Tallahassee (Oct 11);
Jacksonville, FL (Oct 12); San Jose, CA (Oct 13); Charleston (Oct 14); Los
Angeles (Oct 14); Raleigh (Oct 15).
Since only the national campaign to cancel the tour has information about each local city, it's unclear what coalitions have been mobilized in those cities. I also found this more local Salt Lake article. Tomorrow I need to call these venues and also get a hold of some friends in Salt Lake.

And by the way...travellers concerned about homophobic violence may wish to consider avoiding Banton's home nation of Jamaica. "Feel alright" indeed...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Action needed against murderous anti-gay singer

ACTION: "Faggots Must Die"

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[Buju] Banton is a singer whose music promotes violence against LGBT people through lyrics such as, "Anytime Buju Banton come, faggots get up and run ... they have to die." He sings that he will shoot them in the head or "burn them up bad."
Just YESTERDAY, The Independent published an article on yet ANOTHER anti-gay murder on the island of Jamaica, where Banton's lyrics and the hate behind them are openly celebrated and (according to Amnesty International) at least 35 gay men have been slaughtered since 1997.
Now this man is bringing this "murder music" to the USA.

I am particularly interested in this news in terms of the singer's visit to Salt Lake City, Denver, and Aspen. I want to know whether there is a potential coalition of interested folks in those areas--enough for us to coordinate action between now and the concert dates. I will be contacting friends and activists in all of those areas in the days to come.

October 6th:
City: Denver, CO
Venue: Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
Owner: Jay Bianchi & Scott Morrill
Call: 303.297.1772
Email:, &

October 7th:
City: Aspen, CO
Venue: Belly Up Aspen
Owner: Michael Goldberg
Call: 970.544.9800

October 8th:
City: Salt Lake City, UT
Venue: The Urban Lounge
Call: 801.746.0557

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Birther Soldiers: The New Section Eight!

Another Army officer is using the conspiracy theory of Obama's non-U.S. birth to get out of serving in Afghanistan.

Connie Rhodes has retained that stunning example of articulation and stability, attorney Orly Taitz.
The complaint of Capt. Connie Rhodes, filed Friday in the Columbus division of U.S. District Court, is similar to the July 8 suit filed by Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook, who sought conscientious objector status and a temporary injunction. Taitz represents both...“Plaintiff ... submits and charges that the current de facto president is an illegal usurper, an unlawful pretender, an unqualified imposter ...” the complaint states. “(She) submits that she cannot lawfully act under his authority, but that she is being forced to do so without any opportunity or remedial avenue whatsoever.”
Rhodes seeks to stop U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the commander of Fort Benning and others from giving any order to her or others until Obama’s legitimacy is established, the complaint states. She also seeks conscientious objector status based on her doubts of Obama’s constitutional qualifications.

If you can make this claim, what can't you claim?

good mid-week music selection: Saul Williams, "List of Demands"

"I want my money back, I'm down here drowning in your fat/ You got me on my knees praying for everything you lack/ I ain't afraid of you, I'm just a victim of your fear/ You cower in the tower praying that I'll disappear."

Extremely appropriate for the mood I've been in lately, almost every day...

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Political Implications of the Van Jones Resignation

At midnight on Saturday night (a pre-arranged time facilitated in order to avoid media scrutiny; a clumsy attempt from an administration full of clumsiness), the White House announced it had received a resignation letter from so-called "Environmental Jobs Czar" Van Jones. Jones had come under attack from Glenn Beck, a demagogic radio and television host. Beck's attacks subsequently became talking points for Republican Senator Kit Bond and Representative Mike Pence, both right-wing extremists. Jones had committed a series of sins that would only be considered sins under the inconsistent, arbitrary and ever-shifting standards of contemporary American politics. He had once been a self-declared "communist" (more accurately he joined a Maoist-led group devoted to fighting police brutality). He had signed a petition calling for a more thorough investigation of the events surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001. And he had called some Republicans "assholes." The last charge is particularly laughable: Dick Cheney told Patrick Leahy to "F-off" on the Senate Floor, while George Bush had referred to a news reporter as, you guessed it, an "asshole."

The great anti-racist writer Tim Wise reports:
The right has shown no shame in their relentless pursuit of Jones’s political scalp. They have fabricated from whole cloth details of his life, calling him a convicted felon and instigator of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. This, in spite of the fact that he has no criminal record whatsoever and wasn’t even in Los Angeles when those riots were happening. His arrest at that time was part of a sweep of dozens of peaceful marchers in San Francisco, involved in a protest at the time of the riots. He was released, charges were dropped, and he was paid damages by the city. This is not what happens to criminals, but rather, innocent people who have done nothing wrong. Jones should sue the living shit out of Glenn Beck, his employers at Fox News, and every other prominent liar who has repeated the baseless allegations of his criminal record in recent weeks. He should wipe them out, take their money, leave them penniless and begging on the streets, without health care. They would deserve it. Perhaps Beck's AA sponsor or the Mormons who he credits with "saving" his wretched soul can then take care of him and his family. Since surely he wouldn't want the government to lend a hand.They have twisted other aspects of Jones's past, suggesting his brief stint with a pseudo-Maoist group makes him a secret communist in the heart of government, this despite his more recent break with such groups and philosophies, in favor of a commitment to eco-friendly, sustainable capitalism. They have called him a black nationalist, which he admits to having been for a virtual political minute in his youth, and have suggested he’s a “truther” (one who believes George W. Bush masterminded the 9/11 attacks as an “inside job”). As for this last charge, their evidence consists of Jones’s signature on a petition, which originally called merely for more openness about the pre-9/11 intelligence available to the former administration, but which was later altered to reflect the conspiratorial lunacy of its creators. Jones, and many others who reject the truthers' nonsense, were tricked into signing and were appalled by the final product. But none of this matters to the right. Because after all, none of it was ever the point.

Jones was devoted to moving this country into a world of green, environmentally-friendly technology and jobs, and that posed a direct threat to oil interests. In fact, if you want to know who was really responsible for Jones' dismissal, you can look to the oil lobby, and their financing of the outfit known as "Americans for Prosperity."
AFP, and its former incarnation the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, are the third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family of Foundations, which is run by the ultra-conservative oil baron Charles G. Koch. The Koch Family of Foundations has been a major funding source for many of the think tanks that are in the business of delaying action on climate change issues.

AFP, by the way, is also behind the campaign to keep 50 million Americans from getting health insurance. In the past, they have opposed efforts to curb smoking, because they have also been funded by big tobacco, an industry that has been proven to be one of the most dishonest and destructive in the nation. This is an organization with tremendous power. It is a proto-fascist organization, meaning an organization supported by the corporate elite, with the purpose of fermenting street-level intimidation, thuggery, and the disruption of the democratic process through shouting down and intimidating people at political events and open forums.

The Van Jones dismissal reveals the extent to which Barack Obama and his chief advisors have granted "veto power" to a relatively small minority of the U.S. population. The small size of that population, of course, is compensated for by two facts: First, that population represents the political views of a large section of the corporate elite. And as we know, democracy in America is a function of how much money you have, not simply the virtue of being a citizen. Secondly, this small minority of Americans has indicated a willingness to use violence to achieve its political agenda. Much of this violence, from hate-filled rhetoric to actual deployment of guns and homemade bombs, is deployed against people of color. But much of it is deployed against government officials. There's a new term for Glen Beck, Phil Kerpen, and their ilk: McVeigh-ites. And it appears that the most CHARITABLE interpretation of the Obama administration is that they are caving in out of fear that this unstable 20% of America, urged on by the McVeigh-ite party, will begin shooting and bombing. That's a legitimate fear.

But there's a less charitable interpretation, and I often believe it is the more accurate one. At least since the Great Depression, the self-appointed and sociological function of the Democratic Party has been to contain, rather than ferment, grass-roots social action, social unrest, and revolutionary progress. The Obama administration is no exception. Now, some people, our moderate friends, may believe this is desirable. Indeed, I am not currently going to take a position on whether it's good or bad. I just think it's important for people to realize what it means. It means that, sure, the election of Barack Obama might represent a step forward in some ways--particularly identity politics-based ways. But it did not represent a step forward materially or economically. Obama's election served the social function of containing and conservatizing the overwhelming, historical opposition to the excesses of the Bush administration. Do you see what I'm getting at? The election of Obama served a particular, nuanced political function. It said: "Let's take this potentially revolutionary energy and make sure it doesn't go anywhere that would threaten the material interests of the elites." The point was not merely to channel that revolutionary energy. The point was to blunt its sharpness, to cool its fire, and not because anyone feared mob rule or despotic totalitarian socialism, at least not anyone in the know, and not anyone educated. The point was to prevent the change from really being change. The nation would be immeasurably better off if we eliminated the corporate model of capitalism, as well as the corporate control of the electoral and policymaking process. Those things could be accomplished without a single drop of blood being spilled, and without a single person being taken to a gulag. But the purpose of electing Obama was not to push us in that direction, but precisely to prevent us from going in that direction.

What does this have to do with the firing of Van Jones (for it was a firing, regardless of what Jones called it)? This administration facilitated that firing as an act of penance, an acknowledgment to corporate America that the "change" the Democrats will allow will be blunt- rather than sharp-edged. The firing of Jones was a disciplinary action. But it was us who were on the receiving end of that discipline, not Van Jones. Van Jones will continue to be an activist, he'll continue to write books, and he's doing quite well for himself (not that we wish him ill). But it is we who are being disciplined. It is we who are being reminded that if we have unorthodox views, we are subject to humiliation and personal attacks and the curtailment of our professional lives. And it's not enough for us to have unorthodox views--to be disciplined, humiliated, and ostracized, those views would have to be leftist and even some liberal views. Perpetuate the myth that Obama wasn't born in the United States, and you keep your job as a Senator, Representative, or cable news host. Question capitalism, and there's no frigging way you're ever serving in the White House--even if you change your mind later. This may sound absurdly obvious, but it's important to point out, just as it's important to point out that such rules are not the result of the will of the American people (the American working class, like the working class in the rest of the world, is fairly evenly divided on the capitalism question; according to a Rasmussen poll, only 53% believe it to be better than socialism). Some opinions matter more than others. Some animals are more equal than others.

The reason Obama caved in to far right lunatics isn't out of fear of unrest, or fear of appearing extremist, or fear of losing his job. Obama didn't even cave. Obama cooperated. He fundamentally agrees that it's unreasonable to question the underlying assumptions of the dominant social paradigm. Oh, it's fine to question it in obscure books that a few dozen people read, or in a law seminar, or at an upscale party in a supporter's mansion. But don't be a street radical. Don't question it while the rabble are listening. Obama, we're told, flirted with some street radicals and found it not only distasteful, but dangerous. There's not a whole lot of street credibility in him, after all; we've always known that.

But if Obama, Axelrod and Emmanuel believe that making Glen Beck co-POTUS will get the far right to get off the moderate right's case, get the administration a pass, or even a few minutes of breathing room, that's where they're wrong. Instead, the firing (sorry..."resignation") of Van Jones marks the biggest turning point so far in the incipient comeback of extremist conservatism. What I wrote back in July is even more true today:
The reason the whole plurality of left groups, from moderate lefties who want health care reform to those opposed to imperialism and war, need to prepare for a coming rightward shift is that the antecedents are still there. The same people own the same stuff and are capable of generating more mass ideology, and if necessary more bullets, than we would ever think of producing or using. And the right has smelled blood.

And they've sure smelled blood now. We haven't seen anything yet. The implication of all this is exactly what you'd expect: The far right has forced the Obama administration to throw Van Jones under the bus. This is a major concession, and a sign of Obama's utter spinelessness. The Glenn Beck and tinfoil hat crowd will take this as a signal that they should step up their attacks, and the mainstream media, who has a stake in making conservatism look bigger than it is, will faithfully follow.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Let's re-name them

Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, Phil Kerpen, and all the other personalities who are implicitly and/or explicitly calling for violence, or purposely riling up the lumpen in order to physically intimidate government officials, health care reformists, moderates, liberals, and leftists, deserve a new name. Courtesy of Bennet Kelly, who posted the suggestion on his Facebook page:

We shall call them "McVeigh-istas."

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Crazy 20% 1, Spineless Obama Administration 0

The righties have forced Van Jones to resign from the Obama administration. This is a major concession, and a sign of Obama's utter spinelessness. The Glen Beck and tinfoil hat crowd will take this as a signal that they should step up their attacks, and the mainstream media will faithfully follow them.

The crazy 20% is winning.

Damn...they were right all along!

there's legitimate criticism of Obama, and then there's crap...

...and spraying perfume on crap doesn't change the fact that it's crap. In this case, the perfume consists of soliciting an article from a Johns Hopkins professor and placing it in the Wall Street Journal, thereby giving it the illusion of legitimacy.

The article, by Fouad Ajami, contends that it is the left side of the political spectrum that is unthinking, demonizing, and addicted to Barack Obama's "politics of charisma." In Ajami's world, the right wing protesters at town hall meetings are the epitome of reasoned, well-founded discourse. The problem, of course, is that Ajami's column doesn't demonstrate even a minimal level of understanding concerning what reasoned discourse actually is. If this is an example of his argumentation skills, one can only conclude that Mr. Ajami shouldn't be teaching at all. His column demonstrates that he lacks the capacity to warrant his arguments. The column is full of sweeping claims about political history (with no data), Obama's intentions (impossible to demonstrate, and no data), comparisons between Reagan and Clinton (with no data), and laughable valorization of town hall meeting attendees (with no concrete examples of any good arguments being advanced at those meetings, while Ajami completely ignores facts like half-drunk protesters shouting "I want my country back" while holding up birth certificates; shouting down women in wheelchairs; threatening the president and supporters of reform with guns; and spurious, ill-informed charges of "socialism"...) Nor does Ajami acknowledge the meta-criticism that most of these protests that give him such a hard-on are carefully engineered "astroturfing."

There are plenty of good criticisms of Obama out there. This one is an unsubstantiated piece of crap.

Willingham case: New Yorker writer David Grann responds to the prosecution's response

It was inevitable that the prosecutor would respond to articles by David Grann and others regarding the unwarranted execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. As Grann demonstrates in this rejoinder, the prosecution doesn't have a lot to offer, however. And Grann is being nice: In his reply, he doesn't even mention that multiple experts have concluded that the fire was not arson. The entire enterprise of arson investigation has been revealed to be a house of smoke, mirrors, and folklore. Then there's the issue of unqualified and biased psychiatric testimony, including testimony by a pro-death penalty hack who was thrown out of the APA shortly after Willingham's execution.

David Grann: The Prosecution Defends Itself

Friday, September 04, 2009

Shared Sacrifice Weekend: Sara Robinson on American Fascism

Our guest this Saturday is Sara Robinson, Fellow at the Campaign for America's Future, and a consulting partner with the Cognitive Policy Works in Seattle. One of the few trained social futurists in North America, she has blogged on authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus since 2006, and is a founding member of Group News Blog. She is the author of numerous articles for Alternet and other publications, including "5 Ways to Build a Fascist-Proof America," and "Is the U.S. on the Brink of Fascism?" Call-in number is 347-327-9615.

Shared Sacrifice Weekend: Sara Robinson on American Fascism

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The casualties of war

Greg Jones' sister just died because she couldn't afford quality health care. I have nothing, really, to add to this. Solidarity, Greg. We will win this.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

AARP poll: VAST majority favors the public option!

These are the numbers Obama seems prepared to ignore. Dare we ask who he's listening to instead?
All: 79 percent favor/18 percent oppose
Democrats: 89 percent favor/8 percent oppose
Republicans: 61 percent favor/33 percent oppose
Independents: 80 percent favor/16 percent oppose

Once again...any questions?

quote of the day

"I really do think that the Michele Bachmanns of the world and the Glenn Becks of the world are actively, consciously or subconsciously trying to get, I'm just going to say it, they are trying to get the President killed." ~Dan Savage

Conservatives on Obama's stay-in-school speech: "Indoctrination," "brainwashing," Communist China, Hitler Youth

Republicans are now calling on parents to keep their kids home from school on Sept 8, when Obama will give a speech urging students to work hard in school.

Conservatives on Obama's stay-in-school speech: "Indoctrination," "brainwashing," Communist China, Hitler Youth

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pedagogy of the obsessed

From a brilliant anonymous comment on Alternet this morning:

Progressives: "Let's fix the health care system so that everybody is covered and so that we can control the escalating costs!"

Astroturfers: "You un-American marxists! Revolution! I've got an automatic rifle, See?"

Progressives: "But health insurance is too expensive and too many people are flooding ERs."

Astroturfers "Health care is for pussies! Don't tread on me! Don't tread on me! you Godless homosexuals."

Progressives: "America spends twice as much on health care as any other western industrial country yet our nation is not as healthy as those."

Astroturfers: "Rationing! DEATH PANELS! Water The Tree Of Liberty! Obama is from Kenya! Lookit my big gun!"

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Well folks, Obama has "given up" on the public if he ever wanted it in the first place. This article says that's good--because it shows he's willing to "stare down" his own party. Of course, he has NEVER demonstrated a willingness to stare down Republicans. Ralph Nader was right when he said, months ago, that Obama would never bring us public health care.

Don't blame me--I voted for McKinney. But all you progressive Democrats should take a long look into your souls; you will conclude that it's time to build a new, independent progressive movement. Because so many people on the left put blind trust in Obama, millions of people will continue to be uninsured, and many of them will die...just like the deaths in Afghanstan and Iraq, also on Obama's hands.

Barack Obama: Corporatism with a human face.