The best Euro-commentary on Bush’s recent Euro-tour:
The best Euro-commentary on Bush’s recent Euro-tour:
Working at a library as I do, I get to see what books are popular, which are newly in print, etc. Sadly, a noticable amount of book traffic is composed of right-wing screed-a-thons by our favorite jackasses– O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, etc. But today one caught my eye that pissed me off even more.
You can tell from the cover that it’s a riff on Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” And the name of this new book manages to imply that Zinn and his book are traitorous dogs. Here’s how it describes itself”
For at least thirty years, high school and college students have been taught to be embarrassed by American history. Required readings have become skewed toward a relentless focus on our country’s darkest moments, from slavery to McCarthyism. As a result, many history books devote more space to Harriet Tubman than to Abraham Lincoln; more to My Lai than to the American Revolution; more to the internment of Japanese Americans than to the liberation of Europe in World War II.
Now, finally, there is an antidote to this biased approach to our history.
What the hell?
I took my high school history classes about a dozen years ago, which falls within that 30 year range. When we learned about the history of the world, we first learned about the “Fertile Crescent”, Mesopotamia, the “cradle of civilization” between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers (which, I don’t think anyone ever bothered to point out, is in modern day Iraq). Once we were done with Mesopotamia, we never, ever spoke another word about the region. What happened to the Mesopotamians, how did their civilization develop? The people in my history class will never know.
We then learned about Ancient Egypt, and the pyramids and the Pharoahs. Then Ancient Greece, again casting the previous culture to the dustbin of history. After Greece, Rome. From Rome, the Dark Ages, with a subtle, unspoken shift to Western Europe. We followed Western Europe through the Dark, into the Middle Ages, into the Renaissance, and then into the Age of Exploration. We then hitched a ride with the conquistadors into the Western Hemisphere, and pretty much ignored Western Europe from there on out, except as the setting for World Wars 1-2.
We then followed American history, from Columbus to the pilgrims, to the colonies, up into the mid 1950s. At this point, my history teachers invariably realized that there was little time left in the school year, and we hastily covered the remaining 40 years, arguably the ones most relevant to us. It’s no wonder American kids care so little about American politics, with no knowledge of the most recent past, they’re left trying to tie current events to Cotton Mather and the Teapot Dome scandal.
Where were Asia, Africa, Australia, and pre-Columbian North and South America in my world history class? We didn’t get any of that.
My world history classes seemed to be a clear narrative about civilization, progress and modernity. We followed human society from its primitive birth, to, apparently, its pinnacle: the US. And even when telling us about the dark stains of America’s past, these problems were either overcome (sort of), or were slowly dissolving naturally. Progress was a natural evolutionary process; so although sexism and racism still exist, we don’t need to worry about them because they’ll go away on their own. Just sit back and enjoy the ride to inevitable human perfection.
That’s what I learned growing up, that Americans are higher up the evolutionary ladder than other people of the world. And the patriotic jackasses above are condemning it because it’s too “PC”?
Zinn has always described his book as a project or supplement, independent of a real history ciriculum. He’s never said “my book is the Truth, it should be read instead of regular textbooks.” He’s always said that his book was just a look at American history through different sets of eyes– usually the eyes of the people getting the most fucked over in a given time period. That is evidence of a bias, as he could just as easily told the story of through the eyes of other “people”, instead of telling the story of the Civil War through the eyes of slaves, he could’ve told it through the eyes of, I dunno, milkmaids or steamboat captains or church ministers. He made a choice, a valid one, with a purpose.
But no, we get Mr. Patriot America here to save us from the mighty Zinn and his “history has many points of view” ilk as Stalinists, who have imposed their will upon the nation. Huzzah to the brave patriots, huzzah!
Just to jab those guys again, let me invite you to read this new piece by Zinn, about the process of positive social change by exposing reasonable people to factual evidence that might make them change their political stances.
It was an effort to deprogram myself of my schooling. Sometime during college, after some re-education and introspection, I wrote a nice response: a tiny, bitterly satirical history book, combining the patronizing tone of my elementary school textbooks, with the “American evolution” theme that permated high school, sprinkling liberally with jabs at American racism, sexism, and nationalism, and then threw in some eccentric stuff that probably lives just in my head. I posted it on my first website, “Jake’s ‘Wacky’ Page of Politics and Nihilism”, in a super bare-bones html format.
Then I lost the file for about 4 years.
But now, now I have found it again, and here is that history book in all its plain, boring, bitter glory. It’s… old. Hope it still stands up.
(I also thought of naming it “Let Freedom Wring”, but I didn’t know if everyone would catch the joke).
“Tom Ridge, you just spent three years as the head of America’s Department of Homeland Security! What are you doing now?”
“I’m going to Home Depot!”
Yes, after years of political scaremongering and whatever the hell else he did as America’s Security Czar, Tom Ridge is now leaving the ranks of our brave defenders to join the board of directors of a popular American construction supplies store.
But is Tom Ridge really qualified for this position? Will he use his knowledge of security issues to help build the company’s home security alarm section? Or perhaps he’ll train their human resources department to round up all the Arab-American employees and lock them in a tool shed?
I think my money is on “we just want to reward Ridge for skyrocketing our sales of plastic sheeting and duct tape by recommending it to a jittery nation.”
But more history-savvy readers might think back even farther and say “wait a minute, how was Ridge qualified for his previous position, as Security Secretary? Before this, he was just governor of Pennsylvania.” This is a valid concern, but you’ve got to remember that in the face of Islamic terrorism, Ridge brought his years of experience dealing with the Keystone State’s own fundamentalist extremists: the Amish.
The good news is that Ridge is not out of the government and can’t hurt us anymore. The bad news is that BushCo. has a track record of replacing bad guys with worse guys. Actually, given Bush’ penchant for cronyism and loyalty, I’m thinking that he’s going to appoint one of his daughters (his wife, as you’ll recall, will be too busy telling poor kids in the ghetto that they need to quit their life of gangs and violence and join the army).
After reading this headline, my eyeballs popped out of my head and rolled around on the floor.
Even though the two countries have not successfully negotiated a path for a border, Israel has gone ahead and built a “security wall” between itself and Palestine, with that wall frequently dipping deeply into Palestinian territory. Now the World Bank is talking about loaning money to the Palestinians to build checkpoints into this illegal security wall.
In other words, Israel has built a prison around Palestine, and now plans to bill them for the cost of the doors.
A World Bank lackey explains that paying for the checkpoints is in the Palestinians’ best interests, because “the project helps enhance the efficiency of the border crossings for the benefit of Palestinians”. This is bullshit.
Palestine is already criss-crossed by roads that only Israelis are allowed to use, which ends up carving the land into segregated pockets. There are also many checkpoints, controlled by Israeli soldiers, which Palestinians must go through to get from one part of their quasi-nation to another. All of this is allegedly to defend the Israeli people from Palestinian terror attacks, but that does not seem to be the case.
My friend Garrick Ruiz visited Palestine as part of the International Solidarity Movement a few years back, and I interviewed him about his experiences. He talked about the checkpoint issues (here, about 40 minutes into Part 2), and explained that many of the checkpoints a) were unmanned at night, b) were abandonded for days at a time, c) did not actually search people or cars, and d) seemed to operate in a random fashion, totally based upon the whims of the soldiers manning them. People can sneak across the unmanned checkpoints, but will wait for hours or even days to get through a manned checkpoint, because the soldiers there will allow or block passage as they please. Robert Fisk tells a similar story here, where he is forced to wait for hours at an Israeli checkpoint for no apparent reason, at which point he backs up and finds a side road that bypasses the checkpoint and gets him back on the main road inside of 10 minutes.
The only conclusions can be that Israeli security is massively negligent, or that these checkpoints are not intended to protect anybody from anything. In the interview, Garrick argues that the purpose of the checkpoints seems to be to make Palestinians so miserable that maybe they’ll move away.
Given the nature of the existing checkpoints, the idea that Palestinians should go into debt to buy some more “for their own benefit” is pretty fucking insulting.
It’s also interesting that I can’t find anyone in the article calling for this loan and this project who’s actually a Palestinian. It sounds like the World Bank, Washington, and Israel are drawing up all the plans and are going to notify the Palestinians when they’re all done.
Or maybe they’ll just start the construction and the Palestinians will just get a bill in the mail.
This anti-abortion attorney general has quite the interest in underage sex.
He’s basically asking for the medical records of “scores” of women who’ve had abortions. These records will contain information about these women’s sex lives, presumably information that they weren’t looking to give to a state prosecutor.
Why does he want these records? Because if any of these abortions were performed on pre-teen girls, then that means those girls were raped, and then he can go prosecute the rapists. Why he needs to see all these medical records instead of just the ones that might fit this rape profile is anyone’s guess.
I did have to smirk at this part of the article:
“When a 10-, 11- or 12-year-old child is pregnant, under Kansas law that child has been raped, and as the state’s chief law enforcement official it is my obligation to investigate child rape in order to protect Kansas children,” [prosecutor] Kline said. “There are two things that child predators want, access to children and secrecy…
He declined to answer questions about his investigation.
Yeah, I know, cheap shot.
But this next part is creepy too:
Mr. Kline’s efforts to obtain records from abortion clinics follows his failed attempt last year to require the state’s health workers to report any sexual activity of girls younger than 16, the age of legal consent in Kansas.
So fear not, young Kansan girls! Phill Kline is here to protect your virtue.
Or, possibly to punish you if you have sex. One or the other.
Now that I have my mp3 player loaded up with the majority of my music collection, I’ll do that “It’s Friday, put your mp3 player on shuffle and post the first ten songs it plays on your blog” thing. Hopefully by next month I’ll have radio show playlists to post instead.
The Roots- Double Trouble
Johnny Cash- Hard Times
System of a Down- Highway Song
Ani Difranco- Dilate
DJ Dangermouse & Jemini- Bush Boys
Blur- Trouble In the Message Center
Panjabi MC- True MCs
Radiohead- Paranoid Android
Cocteau Twins- Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires
Here we are, the future of Iraq.
The new Iraqi assembly meets in about 2 weeks to vote for the nation’s new president and vice presidents (two veeps). The president and VPs will then vote for a prime minister, and the prime minister will “put together a government”, says the article above.
The president and his sidekicks must be elected by a 2/3 majority. The popular United Iraqi Alliance, the Shia party backed by Ayatola Sistani, has just over 50% of the assembly seats, and they’ve got a guy they want to be prime minister. Their most logical manuever would be to strike a bargain with the Kurdish Alliance, which has 27% of the seats.
So what do the Kurds want? The oil rich city of Kirkuk, and “a degree of autonomy which is close to independence”. As I have mentioned many times, Iraq’s neighbor Turkey is utterly opposed to these things, as it fears that they will incite a similar desire for independence/secession among its own Kurdish population. Turkey has already claimed that they are willing to use military force to prevent the Kurds from taking Kirkuk.
Will Iraq’s attempts at creating a new government end up breaking it into pieces?
They’re Heere- BWAHAHAHA!!! News anchor and “serious journalist” Peter Jennings will be hosting a news special about… UFOs. And it’s not even sweeps yet! When May hits, watch for Jennings to do special, hard-hitting reports about NASCAR while wearing a thong.
Love Hurts (.pdf)- “Murder at the hands of a romantic partner is a leading cause of death among African-American women between the ages of 15 and 24.” Damn. Sad and infuriating article about domestic violence by African-American men against African-American women, that examines how the actions and lyrics of high profile hip-hop artists might play a role.
Toronto Police Complain About The News- “Bad Cop, No Donut” is a brief weekly radio program that reports on police abuse that happens in North America. The show airs on a Canadian college radio station, and surprise surprise, the Toronto police chief is trying to pressure the college into pulling the plug on the show. He calls it “hate mongering.”
Only one thing to do, of course. Listen to, and promote the show. I’m reaching out to all my radio contacts.
The show’s a good listen. Lot more crime committed by police than you’d probably think.
Germans Trust Putin More than Bush- wow. You know who Germans trust more than George W. Bush? A former KGB operative. You know you’re unpopular when people like you less than the secret police.
Raising children as vegans ‘unethical’, says professor- wow, what a lousy article. Scientist does experiment in which some impoverished African kids are given meat in addition to their regular, unbalanced diet (other kids get additional food as well, but not with same nutrients). Meat-eating kids are healthier than other kids at end of study. Scientist heralds the benefits of meat, claims that “Animal source foods have some nutrients which are not found anywhere else”, and announces that “There’s absolutely no question that it’s unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans.”
Okay, when scientists start throwing around phrases like “ethical” and “absolutely no question”, alarm bells start going off in my head. Most scientists I know are so conscious of the multitudes of variables, factors, and points of view that they would never say that something was absolutely true or false, and would dodge any sort of question about ethics.
So we need to look at just one other about this study and see it start to unravel.
After condemning vegans for their nutritional deficiencies, “She accepted that adults could avoid animal foods if they took the right supplements.” Wait, what the fuck? She’s gonna talk about “meat-only” nutrients and wail about the need to eat meat, and then say “or you could take some vitamin supplements instead?”
Oh, how was this study funded? “Partially supported by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.”
Social Anxiety: Privatization Unpopular At State Level- as Bush continues to plot to throw you in the poorhouse by
dismantling privatizing reforming Social Security, this report shows that when state governments have followed similar programs, that no one seems to want them, and that the workers who adopt them end up with less money
Nurses, teachers take on Schwarzenegger- steroid-bloated quote-machine Arnold Schwarzenegger calls California’s beseiged teachers and nurses “special interests” as he screws them over. Those greedy nurses and teachers, binding our wounds and teaching our children! Where do they get off asking for better nurse-to-patient ratios and school funding?!
Could his disdain have anything to do with the fact that these two fields are dominated by women? Nah.
Poor, White and Pissed: A Guide to the White Trash Planet for Urban Liberals- pretty much what the title promises. The point of view of a self-deprecating good ol’ boy about working class, white, Southern culture.
“My people are not the people in the cubicle next to you at work (though they might well be cleaning it at nights when you are sleeping.) Mine are not people complaining about paying off their college loans or who got the best parking spot at their office campus complex. They are people with different problems entirely. Mostly related to truck payments. Or people like my old tree service boss Danny, who cut off a finger working with a chain saw, wrapped it in a McDonald’s foil wrapper and ran to the hospital to get it sewn back on. Or any of the thousands of people in this town who smash apples into apple sauce or boil them into vinegar at National Fruit Products, performing soul grinding shift work year after year with no opportunity to ever be promoted, or obtaining health care at all. Just the seasonal layoff when all the apples are smashed and the millions of gallons of vinegar bottled. Working class people going nowhere in a town that smells like vinegar…
The political left once supported these workers, stood on the lines taking its beatings at the plant gates alongside them. Now, comfortably ensconced in the middle class, the American left sees the same working whites as warmongering bigots, happy pawns of the empire. That is writing working folks off too cheaply, and it begs the question of how they came to be that way — if they truly are. To cast them as a source of our deep national political problems is ridiculous. They are a symptom of the problems, and they may be making it worse because they are easily manipulated, or because they cannot tell an original idea from a beer fart. But they are not the root cause by any means. The left should take its cues from Malcolm X, who understood the need to educate and inform the entire African-American society before tackling the goal of unity. Same goes for white crackers. Nobody said it would be easy.”
“Branded entertainment” is a newish advertising buzzword for “the medium is the salesman.” Basically, the concept is for advertisers to jam their hands so far up your favorite TV show’s ass that… I don’t like where that metaphor is going.
Advertisers want to a) intrude more blatantly and explicitly into television programs and movies and such, and b) create their own entertainment, so that you’ll say things like “I can’t wait to see that new short from Pizza Hut Films™”.
I read about this in an article about this year’s “Madison + Vine” conference, where movie producers fornicate with advertising execs and produce all kinds of ravenous, nightmarish, gibbering abortions.
Actually, the article did give me a bit of hope. The piece has a whiff of desperation about it, a feel that the author is trying to pretend that a series of lifeless presentations and unproductive panel discussions was a raging meeting of the minds. While the article talks a good game about “the future”, I think its lack of specifics is telling.
The article does mention that creepy idea of “relationships with consumers.” When I think of the relationship between advertisers and consumers, I think of Godzilla, stomping through the streets. As thousands run screaming, he grabs handfuls and stuff them into his gaping mouth. As a man tries to escape into a building, Godzilla razes it with his atomic breath.
No sanctuary, nowhere to hide.
George Bush’s brain is apparently so small that he can only remember the names of a few dozen individuals. Don’t know how else you can explain why he keeps recycling the same few folks over and over again whenever a new position becomes open in his administration. Oh wait, yes I can, his insane demand for secrecy and loyalty.
So Bush has announced his nominee for the new National Intelligence Director position: John Negroponte. Before this, Negroponte was Bush’s ambassador to Iraq. And before that, he was Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.
And before that, he was Regan’s ambassador to Honduras, whitewashing that nation’s hideous human rights record.
Actually, let’s do something about that faceless term “human rights”. In the 1980s, members of the Honduran government, police, or military could, upon a whim, kidnap, imprison, torture, and murder the citizens of Honduras. This treatment was usually reserved for “subversives” (i.e. people who thought that the government shouldn’t kidnap, imprison, torture and murder), but being a “suspected subversive” was enough. And “suspected subversive” just meant “hey you, get over here.”
Of course, Negroponte denies that this was going on (2001: “To this day, I do not believe that death squads were operating in Honduras.”), but I think that this article from the Baltimore Sun is damning evidence that these things happened, and that Negroponte most certainly knew about it.
And Negroponte wasn’t covering up for the Honduran government because they were pals. He did so because Honduras was aiding the US’ bloody proxy war in Nicaragua. In other words, Negroponte whitewashed the actions of one set of death squads to maintain the operations of another set of death squads. Does anyone fit the description of Ward Churchill’s “little technocrat Eichmanns” better than this guy?
So this guy is now in charge of all American intelligence. Lovely.
And how did the “opposition” party, the Democrats, react to this nomination? By making me vomit.
Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
“He (Negroponte) brings to his job experience as a consumer of intelligence.”
Sen. Jay Rockefeller:
“I think that Ambassador Negroponte is a very sound choice. Ambassador Negroponte has served bravely and with distinction in Iraq and at the United Nations during a time of turmoil and uncertainty. He brings a record of proven leadership and strong management.”
Rep. Jane Harman:
“John Negroponte is a smart choice for a very important job. He’s a seasoned and skilled diplomat, who has served with distinction at the United Nations and in Iraq — and he has the full confidence of the president.”
I have no snappy conclusion for this.
[title stolen from “SWR” over at Steve Gilliard’s blog]
After Bush Leaves Office, His Budget’s Costs Balloon- one of the Bush administration’s key rhetorical tricks is to always talk about the future. Economy doing badly? Bush’ll just tell you he thinks it’s going to get better. Iraq going badly? Well that’s going to turn around. Without a time machine, it’s impossible to argue with someone like that. But we now see one reason he’s always talking about the future: his back-loaded budgets. For example, this article notes, Bush’s plans for ruining Social Security will cost taxpayers $79 billion in 2007 and 2008, but in the five years after Bush leaves office, it’ll cost us $675 billion. The article is vague on specifics, but predicts that Bush’s budget eats America alive once he’s nice and retired.
Bush wants $82 billion more for Iraq, Afghanistan- you’ve also gotta love how the White House will draw up a complete budget, and then say “oh yeah, and we need more money for blowing shit up”.
Iraq Winners Allied With Iran Are the Opposite of U.S. Vision- and you’ve got to love the irony of the necons spending $300 billion to beat the Middle East into its political shape of choice, only to have Iraq on the verge of becoming a Shia quasi-theocratic state. Remember, the US paid Saddam Hussein to battle the Shia in Iran for a decade. Now the two states are likely to become pals.
Shiites Take Absolute Majority in Parliament, Iran Scores Victory in the Iraqi Elections- article by Juan Cole about the Iraqi election outcome. I am intrigued to see that Cole claims that the (Shia) United Iraqi Alliance party has won a majority of the seats in the new Iraqi parliament, while CNN Headline News has been saying just the opposite (seemingly to downplay the US failure). But Cole points out that it’s very likely that the UIA will form a coalition with second-place party the Kurdish Alliance, leaving the third-place Iraqiya (Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s party) out in the cold.
CNN is now saying that the UIA did indeed get a majority of parliamentary seats, 140 out of 275.
Frankly, I don’t know if this election could’ve gone any worse for US plans. The UIA is looking towards Islamic Sharia law , and the second plank of their platform was to ask the US to make public their plan for departure from Iraq. And the Kurdish Alliance’s prime interest is in Kurdish autonomy, if not outright independence– which would greatly piss off US ally Turkey.
And what are the odds that this neocon clusterfuck will cause these puppetmasters to pause briefly and reconsider their plans to invade Iran and Syria? I’ll grip my “Understatement of the Year” trophy and say “slim.”
Palestinian caution is warranted- Eric Margolis sums up the state of the Israel-Palestine conflict in a heartbeat:
The basic problem is this: Israel already has what it wants, the most fertile or militarily important parts of the West Bank and Golan, which it continues to colonize at a furious pace. So it’s stalling.
Only two things will motivate Israel to relent — intolerable Palestinian violence or enormous U.S. pressure. So far, neither seems likely. Nor does a genuine, lasting peace, if Palestinians see that nothing will change and Abbas is merely the latest U.S.-imposed overseer in the Arab world.
He also sums up Israel’s goals:
[Ariel] Sharon’s vision of a Palestinian “entity” is three of four separate cantons, or apartheid-style Bantustans, isolated by Jewish-only security roads and checkpoints, all surrounded by a high “security wall.”
Jewish settlements may occupy up to 58% of the West Bank. Palestine’s air, land, sea and telecommunications contacts with the outside world will be entirely controlled by Israel. This is not peace. It’s a penitentiary.
And he also announces his suspicion that Yasser Arafat was killed by foul play. I don’t rule out this possibility, but Margolis really gives us little reason to accept his theory. Maybe in another column.
More on Wal-Mart’s Sweetheart Deal with the DOL- long story short: the Department of Labor has agreed to let Wal-Mart shred all of its incriminating documents before it launches an investigation into any of Wal-Mart’s misdeeds. Essentially.
Beyond ‘Fair and Balanced’- an in-depth look at the nefarious Sinclair Broadcast Group. Partisan, nutjob bullies.
The News Is Broken- well, we knew that. Actually, the article is a summary of the “Jeff Gannon” scandal. Who’s Jeff Gannon? Long story short, it’s the pseudonym of a Republican hack, masquerading as a journalist, who’s role seems to have been to ask Republican-friendly questions at White House press conferences.
No Cities Left- anecdote and thoughts about the nature of alienation and social relationships in the Big City.
I think that the Lying Media Bastards radio show is off the air for at least another few weeks. I did unexpectedly help interview Avi Lewis, director of documentary The Take (a movie I talked about here) with DJ Lotus on Thursday, but I don’t think that counts (during the interview, Lewis used the phrase “turbo-capitalism”, which I am totally gonna steal from him).
When I do start the show up again, it will be coming from radioActive sanDiego. I still have a few hoops to jump through to become a full-fledged member of the station and start webcasting again, so maybe we’ll see some shows in early March?
RASD has a pretty sweet little set-up, far homier and more social than Kill Radio has ever been to me. Of course, this could be due to the fact that my KR shows have always been daytime affairs when most folks are at work, and my visits to RASD have been in the evenings.
Also, RASD has cats. And weiner dogs.
Which brings me to the issue of scheduling. I think I’d be inclined to switch my show to an evening slot, but I wouldn’t want to move my show to a time when my regular listeners couldn’t tune in. Of course, I’m planning on recording and archiving my shows online from here on out, so maybe that’s a moot point. So to anyone who does, or would like to listen to the show, when’s a good time for you?
And finally, I think I need a new intro/theme song. For quite some time I’ve mostly used RJD2’s “The Horror”, a dramatic/spooky instrumental hip-hop jam. I’ve also used Michael Franti’s “Music and Politics”, the X-Ecutioners’ “DJ Song”, the Seat Belts’ “Tank!” (aka the Cowboy Bebop theme song), and The Donnas’ “Gimme My Radio”.
So I’m looking for suggestions. I’m looking for a great song that’s 2 minutes or less, preferably instrumental, but if non-instrumental, the lyrics should somehow relate to music, media, politics and/or rebellion. If you’ve got some ideas, please list em in the comments.
Expect the new LMB radio show to be an awful lot like the last version (music, snarky/bitter news commentary, media analysis, sarcasm), except with more interviews with activists, experts and musicians. And probably more comments about petting cats.
So who here has actually read the dreaded Ward Churchill essay?
It’s quite the scandal, despite the fact that it was written more than three years ago, as a “gut reaction” to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Churchill was going to speak at a small east coast university when conservatives suddenly found a passage in one of his old essays that they could take out of context and use to once again tar everyone left of Bob Dole.
The intentional misreading is that Churchill said that all of the victims of the attack on the World Trade Centers were “little Eichmanns”, like Nazi Adolf Eichmann.
A loose-yet-contextual reading could be “stockbrokers are evil”, a statement that probably not too many folks would get upset about.
But the most exact reading would be “just as many Germans had to plan the mundane logistics necessary for the Holocaust to take place, many of the ‘technocratic’ workers in the World Trade Center have to plan the mundane details necessary for American corporate and military carnage to take place.”
It makes me think of the post I made lately about WR Grace. A real person had to draw up train schedules to transport Jews to Auschwitz. A real person had to sign purchase orders for fresh cannisters of Zyklon-B for the gas chambers. A real employee of WR Grace had to fabricate reports and lie to the cancer-stricken citizens of Libby. And just as these villains played out their mundane treachery, so did capitalists in the WTC, building lucrative ties with brutal dictators and such.
Now, nutjob conservatives are pushing to have Churchill fired from his professorship at the University of Colorado, and even a few wanting him tried for treason. Whether you agree with him or not, this is an odd freedom of speech issue. His First Amendment rights aren’t being violated, but people are looking to hurt him as possible for what he’s said. Even stranger, Churchill isn’t even being punished for what he said, but for what scummy conservatives have said that he said. I guess I feel that Churchill should have freedom of speech, even for things that he didn’t actually say? Something like that.
No idea if it’ll have even a tiny impact, but there is an online petition supporting Churchill’s right to free speech here.
Here’s an interesting story.
Bullitt Central High School, Shephersdville, Kentucky. Two students are allowed to violate the schools strict dress code. Why? Because the school decides that the federal government’s protection of religious garments supercede their local dress code, allowing the two girls to wear Muslim hijab headscarves.
Some white kid decides that this is a grave injustice (teachers scolded him when he wore the wrong kind of shirt to school), so he protests by wearing “a T-shirt with the words ‘FBI’ and ‘Firm Believer In Christ’ on it.” Not surprisingly, the school told the kid that it was unappropriate. His mother then took him out of school (although it’s possible that this was partially due to other conflicts with the administration), and the boy and his mother began protesting outside the school.
After several days, boy and mom were joined by the Klan.
As the Ku Klux Klan is known for their, decades of attacks against non-white people, it would be easy to see this as an attack on two Muslim girls. But nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the Klan is just ultra-sensitive garment discrimination, due to the mockery that their own garb receives in public. Therefore these daring, costumed rednecks decided to fight like lily-white tigers alongside the white boy and his white mother.
Boy and mother then say that things “went too far”, and that they had never wanted the Klan to get involved. Fucking whatever.
Utterly bizarre, isn’t it? Two girls who just want to wear headscarves and go to school inspire such anger in one boy that he lashes out against his school, and such hate in the local bigots that they show up in their Klan robes and wave Confederate flags.
I was very pleased to see that the school’s students seemed to back the Muslim students, launching counterprotests against the KKK and posted messages of tolerance on their school marquee.
I liked this bit:
[Student Cayce Deaver] said that when she participated in a counterprotest last week with other students, she spoke with protesters standing with [boy and mom] and told them that federal law protected the Muslim students’ cultural dress.
“They said I didn’t understand because I didn’t have white pride,” Cayce said.
“I said, ‘I have American pride.’ “
There’s an awful lot wrong with America, but Cayce and her pals are part of what’s right with it.
Recently purchased an mp3 player (don’t know how it could have taken so long, combining my love of music and for technogeekery), and I feel I have some worthy tips to give to people who might start looking to buy one themselves.
1) Size. Obviously, you want to buy one with enough storage space to hold the amount of music that you’re looking to carry with you. The average rule of thumb is that one minute of mp3 music takes about one megabyte of storage space, and most popular songs are about 3-5 minutes long. If you just want something to listen to while bopping around town, I think that one of the cheaper 5 gigabyte models would work fine. If you want to store your large record collection, I think you’d need a 20+ gig model.
2) File Transfer. Surprisingly important issue. To transfer songs from your computer to your iPod, you have to open up the proprietary program iTunes, put all the songs you want to transfer into a specific file folder, plug your iPod into your computer, and then all the songs are supposed to automatically migrate. My brother bought an iPod last month, and no matter how he tried, his songs would not transfer and he had to return the damn thing. Due to this possible hang-up– not being able to put mp3s on your mp3 player–, I have to recommend a player that puts file transfer in your hands. You can plug in some players and then just drag and drop the songs like the player was an extra hard drive, and not have to rely on an opaque process by some mysterious software to get the job done.
Also, I found out by complete serendipity that most mp3 players “require” you to use a USB 2.0 port (or Firewire, of course) for file transfer. My elderly computer only had a USB 1.0 port, and my brother’s brand new laptop only had a USB 1.0 port. The guy at the iPod store said that file transfer for the 2.0 was “like half a second per song”, while the 1.0 was “3-5 minutes per song”. If you’re trying to upload your record collection, that makes a difference. Luckily, you can install 2.0 ports pretty cheap (I got a card for my desktop for about $15, we got one for my brother’s laptop for about $25).
3) Bulk. In my mind, only important if you need to fit your player into a pocket, or if you’re going to use it for jogging. The smallest players can be the size of a snail’s shell, the largest are usually no bigger than an man’s overstuffed wallet.
4) Extra Features. This is what ended up making my choice. Found a model with a built-in microphone and a “line-in” feature that would allow me to record interviews (or whatever) directly to mp3. Once that idea entered my head, it was hard to give much thought to other players.
Now, going back to my “pod” title, I think I’ve finally unraveled the mystery of how to podcast.
What you need:
1) an mp3 file
2) a webhost to store your mp3 file
3) an RSS feed
The first two should be obvious. The mp3 file is your radio show, and and the webhost is the paid-for or free site that will allow you to upload your file.
The RSS feed is a little trickier. RSS is essentially a way for frequently-updated websites (mainly news sites and blogs) to notify people that a site has been changed. If you have an RSS-reader program, you can subscribe to multiple RSS feeds and have a little window full of the latest headlines, which you can then click on and read the contents.
Podcasting is basically just an RSS feed that says “here’s the latest edition of Radio Show X.” And if you have the right software and devices, it’s an RSS feed that also says “hey, let me download the latest show straight to your mp3 player so you can listen to it on the way to work.”
Most blogs create RSS feeds automatically (although I’m told that podcasting requires a “RSS 2.0″ feed).
So essentially, you can just set up a blog, activate the RSS feed, upload and link to your mp3s, and bam.
My absolute only remaining concern is whether or not the podcasting RSS feed needs to be exclusively podcasts/links to mp3s, or if I can just post entries with the links into my regular blog and go from there. Li’l help?
V for Vendetta was written in the early 80s about a fictional 90s Britain, which has become a totalitarian state. Gays and immigrants have been exterminated, freedom has been extinguished, and the powerful rule the weak with utter contempt. It can always happen “here”, wherever “here” happens to be.
However in this dystopia, the good fight is fought and victories are achieved– totally unrealistically– by a single man. Late in the storyline, the freedom fighter known as “V” manages to cripple the government’s surveillance infrastructure, and broadcasts a message to the people, ending with this:
“To commemorate this most glorious of evenings, Her Majesty’s government is pleased to return the rights of secrecy and privacy to you, its loyal subjects. For three days, your movements will not be watched, your conversations will not be listened to, and ‘do what thou wilt’ shall be the whole of the law. God bless you, and goodnight.”
Although there is plenty of powerful stuff in the book, this bit really struck me. Three whole days where no one is being watched? That’s a pretty nice gift. The degree to which we’re watched now is pretty grim. Every time you use an ATM card, check your email, or make a cellphone call, you’re leaving a digital trail. Grocery stores and credit card companies monitor your purchases and create databases of your buying patterns. And let’s not even get into Echelon/Carnivore/DCS1000. Every store and workplace has security cameras, and increasing amounts of businesses install cameras facing the outside world. More and more traffic lights have cameras mounted on them. High-tech spy satelites apparently have the ability to see just about anyone, anywhere. And hell, I just read about a high school that is forcing its students to wear ID badges with tracking devices in them at all times.
I don’t mean this to be a “the CIA and the Illuminati are controlling our minds with the flouride in our drinking water” conspiracy rant, just pointing out the extent to which we can be surveilled, if the right people wanted to do so. We do not have the “privacy and secrecy” in our lives that V refers to above, and the way that we all cope with this frightening fact is to just pretend that we do have it.
But to some extent, this desire for privacy and secrecy is mysterious. Some things we want to keep secret because they might negatively effect our public image, like a particular sexual preference or a medical condition. Some information we want to keep hidden because it could be used to hurt us, like credit card numbers or your drug stash. But even if someone gathered information about us that they could never use in any harmful way, I think many of us would still be upset.
I think this is because control over information about ourselves is vital to our social relationships. We choose when to give it out, who to give it to, and how much to give them. You tell strangers very little about yourself, you tell acquaintances more, and to those special intimate friends, you’ll tell very sensitive things.
Just as importantly, this doling out of personal information is almost always reciprocal. You tell me about what you had for dinner last night, I tell you about the movie I saw last week. You tell me about your stamp collection, I tell you about my favorite band. You tell me about about a scary surgery you had as a child, I tell you about the death of a loved one. When you tell someone something about yourself, you can usually expect them to respond in kind. This back and forth builds trust, leading to deeper disclosures, thus deepening the relationship.
Therefore surveillance and data-gathering force you into a one-sided, trust-less “relationship”. You lose control over the information that makes up your life, and in exchange, you receive, at best, nothing.
No wonder we get so upset about it.
Good catch by Atrios. From Bush’s State of the Union:
We must free small businesses from needless regulation and protect honest job-creators from junk lawsuits. Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back, by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims.
Frivolous asbestos claims like these, I suppose, where the W.R. Grace chemical company knowingly poisoned the residents of Libby, Montana with asbestos from the Grace mine there for nearly 30 years, sickening more than 1200 people, and apparently killing some of them.
Grace and its employees are being prosecuted for their crimes (although I notice that neither “manslaughter” nor “reckless endangerment” are among the charges). The company faces as much as $280 million in fines, and some of the guiltiest executives might spend 50-70 years in prison, which is still galling. If I walked into town spraying cans of poison into the air that resulted in several deaths, I’d probably never see the light of day again.
Why do the people of Libby hate America? Why won’t they take one for the economy and die painfully and quietly?
A Cookeville (Tenn.) High School administrator said Veterans for Peace and a Quaker group can’t come back into his school with materials considered ‘’anti-American'’ and ‘’anti-military.'’
The groups plan to go before the Putnam County school board tomorrow with claims that they’re being denied privileges afforded to other organizations, including military recruiters…
‘’The information was brought to the attention of administrators because of the influence it may have had,'’ said [Principal] Shank, who restricted future visits by the groups. ‘’I felt, from a principal’s viewpoint, that the students were being put into a position that they shouldn’t.'’
…Shank said he didn’t tell the groups that they couldn’t come back into the school.
He required that all their materials get advance approval, a rule he said also applies to military recruiters.
The principal also said their literature could be shown only in a classroom setting that would allow an opportunity for a ‘’balanced'’ presentation. Military recruiters and other groups don’t face that restriction, the peace activists said.
Y’see, the problem here was that the veterans and Quakers tried to influence the students. They should have followed the example of the military recruiters, who simply present impartial, factual information, without making any attempt to influence the students’ actions whatsoever. Like on TV, in those ads, when the half-naked women rub wet, sparkly bottles of Coke all over their chests, they are not attempting to encourage nor discourage people from buying Coke. They’re just presenting the facts.
If only the peace movement had the same sort of ethics as America’s military or advertisers. For shame.
I haven’t seen anyone else mention this, so I’ll reach all the way back into last week’s news.
From Bush’s State of the Union Address:
Tonight I propose a three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs, and show young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence… And I am proud that the leader of this nationwide effort will be our first lady, Laura Bush.
Dude, did he just call his wife a man?
In related (?) news, a New York State court has ruled that is unconstitutional to prohibit Spongebob from marrying.
Many months ago, I discovered that Jeff Chang had a blog– zentronix: dubwise & hiphopcentric. Jeff walks that odd writer/journalist/participant line, and his articles about music, art, race and politics were always very good.
He’s just released a book, “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation”. It looks to be a history of the individuals behind and influenced by, the rise of hip-hop culture (it’s not just rap music, people) from the 70s through today. Looks like good stuff.
But on top of that, he’s on a book promotion tour right now, and some of the stops seem like some pretty interesting events, with authors, intellectuals, DJs and MCs.
If anyone attends one of these events, I’d appreciate it if you could pick me up a Can’t Stop Won’t Stop mixtape. I’ll pay ya back, honest.
There is also a tiny snippet on Jeff’s site which really got me thinking. In the Q&A section, he mentions how hip-hop was founded in the South Bronx, an area that was “abandoned by government, business, and frankly, the white middle class”. This lead to increased poverty and gang violence. Then, abruptly, “against all odds, the gangs forge peace, and an unimaginable explosion of creativity happens.” Then, in 1990s, Los Angeles, there was a near identical pattern of abandonment, poverty-violence, gang truce, and explosion of hip hop. He then concludes:
What comes out of that is this intense mass longing to create history, to paraphrase Don Delillo, a deep desire to crush invisibility, to make culture that impacts the world and says “we’re here”.
I have seen that exact desire to “crush invisibility” in the writings of the zapatista rebels in Mexico. They are impoverish Mayans who have been likewise abandonded, who decided to wage war upon the Mexican government. They call it “the war against oblivion”, the fight to exist in a world that would like to forget them. The zapatistas donned balaclavas and bandana-masks as part of their uniforms, and then remarked with dark irony that they only became visible once they hid their faces.
Maybe that’s basic humanity. When you’re desparate, and have been abandonded by the rest of the world, you feel an overwhelming need to stand up and scream “I Exist!”, amplifying your voice with a microphone, a bullet, or a can of spray paint.
Superbowl Sunday really is the most American of holidays, isn’t it? It’s about being with friends, television, advertising, consuming large amounts of fat, salt and alcohol, and sitting on the couch watching other people do things instead of actually doing anything yourself. Shit, if you threw in some American flags, guns, tits & ass, and a message that we are better than all the other people of the world, you’d have a perfect map of the American psyche.
Well, I guess you’d have to work Jesus in there somehow too.
Jesus’ General advises President Bush on the content of his State of the Union Address.
I wrote 3/4 of an article about the Iraq elections yesterday, only to have it eaten by the tiny hyenas that hide in my computer waiting to pounce when I accidentally hit “ctrl-f4″.
To summarize what I originally wrote: “yeah, what that guy said“.
I don’t have a lot to say about the Iraqi elections because it’s way too early to know exactly what happened and what its ultimate effect will be…
And the Bush invasion of Iraq has managed to overtake the Reagan team in the categories of cynicism, dishonesty, unreliability and media manipulation—and we are reliably informed that we’re going to get the death squads back too. Given the fact that they have purged their remaining truth-tellers, literally nothing they say can be accepted at face value. I suggest that a considerable degree of skepticism about what we are seeing and hearing on Day One might be in order. (The imaginary turnout numbers have already fallen from 72 percent when I checked at 6.00 pm yesterday, to 57 percent this morning. At that rate, they will be negative by Wednesday.)
What’s more, elections do not a democracy make, and democracy is not necessarily the first or most important thing needed in Iraq to make that country safer and more secure—much less to accomplish the goal of reversing the hatred of the United States sown across the Arab world by the malignant policies and pronouncements of the Bush administration.
So yeah, too early to tell, and elections do not necessarily equal democracy (remember, there were elections both under Saddam Hussein and Josef Stalin). Just the fact that the Iraqis are under a military occupation, and face the threat of violence by insurgents (and by the US military) radically undermines the “democratic” nature of these elections. As does the fact that thousands of Iraqis were denied their right to vote, seemingly due to technical problems.
Also, I fear that the voter turn-out was artificially high because of a persistant rumor that people’s food rations would be withheld if they did not vote. I’ve even read reports that these were more than just rumors, but threats used by government officials to encourage voting. If true, this means that the election was less national discourse on the nation’s leadership, and more a referendum on “do you want to watch your children starve to death?”
And with all of the self-congratulation by Bush and the war supporters, it’s important to remember that they’ve re-written history fairly successfully. Today’s triumphalists wants us to forget the war rationale has metamorphosized at least half a dozen times since 2002. Even as the war took off, the US wasn’t looking at democracy, they were looking at installing that lovable con-man Ahmed Chalabi as presidente. And “swopa” has this great post documenting how the US actively opposed democracy in Iraq before finally caving in to popular pressure organized by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
At this point, the three key issues of Iraq’s future are the Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and rebels.
The Sunni Arabs boycotted the election en masse, which gives them little representation in the new assembly, little representation in drawing up a new constitution, and little chance of controlling the executive branch. This automatically allows them to call the new government’s legitimacy into question based upon this lack of representativeness. And they will be right, even though this bias was artificially engineered. I don’t know how this will play out.
The Kurds look to have increased autonomy, which is a Turkish nightmare. Turkey has long repressed its own Kurds, and fears that a Kurdish quasi-state at their doorstep could encourage a renewed secessionist violence. Turkey is already making noises about stepping in to put a stop to this.
And the insurgency, what happens there? Iraqi officials have said that it will take about 10 days to count all of the ballots, so it’s not yet impossible for the insurgents to disrupt the election. Since the goal of most of these groups seems to be to drive the US out of the country, I imagine the violence will continue until there are significant signs that the US is planning to leave (if that ever happens).
Even anti-war folks have agreed that this election is a “turning point” for Iraq. There’s just a lot of disagreement about if things change for the better, or for the worse (or, as the world is a complex place, better in some ways and worse in others). Maybe you get something resembling a corrupt, corporate-friendly republic like the United States, maybe you get a years-long civil war.
Like most leftists, I’m torn about all this. On the one hand, I want Iraq to be all peace and freedom and rainbows and puppies made of candy. I want to see the Iraqis melting down tank shells to make “I hear U” ashtrays, and to see Sunnis and Shias dancing in grassy meadows and making babies. I want “Kumbaya” to be their national fucking anthem. But at the same time, I fear that a happy Iraq will encourage the Bush administration to line up Operation Kill for Peace 2, in which more people will die in some other country, and there’s no guarantee of a Hollywood ending. Well, I take that back. BushCo. will probably be lining up their next invasion no matter what happens in Iraq.
Maybe we should be following Naomi Klein’s advice and shifting from “anti-war” to “pro-democracy”. Not like “oh, Lord Bush, you are so wise and we support your selective plans to liberate the world with violence”, but like “we want to hear what the Iraqi people want, we want to get them real democracy, and we want the US to pay reparations to help the country get back on its feet.”
I dunno. Gotta admit, I don’t have any real answers on this one.