Saturday, April 17, 2004

"...the war could have been stopped."

Something Atrios notes in his blog today. That's one of the things that really frustrated the fuck out of me early last year. There was more than a critical mass of anti-war activity around the globe as the run-up to the war in Iraq unfolded, and close to a critical mass here in the US. Thousands of lives (civilian and military; Iraqi, American, British, etc.) later, was it worth it?

Here's a good read for this evening (or Sunday morning)

The Fashion of the Priced II, a sequel post of sorts by Pessimist of Left Coaster fame. The bulk of this post is the contents of SF Chronicle columnist Mark Morford's own insightful, amusing, and in spots downright hilarious review of the Mel Gibson's Jesus Chainsaw Massacre The Passion.

One thing that absolutely astounds me is that parents would actually bring their young children in to see this thinly disguised snuff film. We all have our kinks, I suppose, and I certainly have my own, but witnessing a brutal half-hour beating scene (that as portrayed was probably physically impossible in reality any way) is not one of those kinks. Personally, I suspect that Herr Gibson's fetish for extreme torture is going to cause far more nightmares for children and adults alike than say something more benign, such as Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction." Then again, I think it's safe to say that the fundies to whom Gibson's slasher flick is aimed are not likely to be a clear-thinking lot to begin with.

In any event, worthy of a read.

One More For the Road

Some Humor


As of this weekend, I am officially a Futbol Dad

So possibly light blogging for Saturday. We'll see how Sunday goes.

This Weekend's Must Read

Looking Ahead: Some Thoughts on the Youth Movement in the USA

A clip:

Some of our biggest advantages lie in the already existing poles of activity. Youth activism of recent years has already taken root in the most crucial areas of political contention, ones that involve the central tensions and contradictions of US capitalism. Let's look at the most visible and strategic of these hubs:

1. Economic/class justice: living wage campaigns, campus-labor alliances, graduate student union movements, the Students Against Sweatshops movement

2. Anti-imperialism: campus anti-war coalitions and intra-campus anti-war networks, justice for Palestine organizing, movements for campuses to divest from Israel; various global justice organizing

3. Anti-racism: struggles against police brutality, the death penalty, and the prison-industrial complex; defense of affirmative action and immigrant rights (the latter often being tied to worker/union struggles and education (such as teaching English))

4. Environmentalism: various groups and networks fighting for fair trade, environmental justice and safety, against the ills to the environment intensified by neoliberalism

We're on the right track and feeling the pulse of the times pretty clearly. Naturally, the areas of activism I delineated above are not isolated from each, and all different kinds of issues and struggles interweave with each other. This is not to say that they are integrated enough; as I'll discuss below, one of the major tasks ahead for the youth movement to bring these struggles together under a broader organizational framework and plan of action for fundamentally challenging the key power structures in the United States.

Read the rest. There's some very rich material there. Check out the rest of Left Hook while you're at it.

Shorter Tony Blair

You know, it's bloody impossible for me to have my head this far up my arse without getting a crick in my neck.

Roger Ebert speaks out on Rush and Howard Stern:

via the Hamster:

It is a belief of mine about the movies, that what makes them good or bad isn't what they're about, but how they're about them. The point is not the subject but the form and purpose of its expression. A listener to Stern will find that he expresses humanistic values, that he opposes hypocrisy, that he talks honestly about what a great many Americans do indeed think and say and do. A Limbaugh listener, on the other hand, might not have guessed from campaigns to throw the book at drug addicts that he was addicted to drugs and required an employee to buy them on the street.

But listen carefully. I support Limbaugh's right to be on the radio. I feel it is fully equal to Stern's. I find it strange that so many Americans describe themselves as patriotic when their values are anti-democratic and totalitarian. We are all familiar with Voltaire's great cry: ''I may disagree with what you say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.'' Ideas like his helped form the emerging American republic. Today, the Federal Communications Commission operates under an alternative slogan: ''Since a minority that is very important to this administration disagrees with what you say, shut up.''

Here at The Left End of the Dial, we give Roger Ebert "two thumbs up" and a "high five." We give the FCC "the finger."

(Updated bonus: Correctly guess the movie reference in my last paragraph, and win a prize. Nothing monetary, just some props on my blog for your pop culture expertise).

Apparently I'll Be Updating My Reading List Fairly Soon.

Just need to wait until the end of the month, when my regular university paycheck and a check for some of my consulting work make their way to the bank. Apparently the new Bob Woodward book is fairly explosive stuff from what Steve Soto at The Left Coaster writes.

Atrios also has something to say about Bu$hCo illegally stealing money from humanitarian and economic assistance funds for Afghanistan in order to finance their plans for the Iraq war. Impeachable offense? Looks like it. Will a GOP controlled Congress actually take a look at the serious ethical and Constitutional breach that has occurred under Junior Caligula's watch? Highly doubtful, although I for one believe that these Congress members' collective feet should be held to the fire.

Steve Reid

From the original liner notes from his 1976 album Nova:

Born Sun in Aquarius, New York City, Steve Reid began his professional career with the Charles Tyler Ensemble (with whom he's working now) while still in his Twenty-first year. Upon graduation from Adelphi University, 1965 Steve toured West Africa for over a year. Thus early 1966 found Mr. Reid playing sambas in the cafes of Las Palmas, sitting in at the 1st International Festival of Negro Arts, as well as touring Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, appearing on numerous African radio and T.V. shows. Returning to New York Mr. Reid joined Sun Ra's Science Myth Solar Arkestra until Uncle Sam called. As a conscientious objector he was sentenced to 4 years. Before being paroled after 2 years he taught a Black history course and music to his fellow inmates. New York Times' John S. Wilson had just called Mr. Reid's work "...remarkably adept...highly propulsive...tireless...inventive, extremely skillful...relentless attack that had its virtuoso qualities." Early 1970 Steve Reid and Joe Rigby founded the Master Brotherhood, a collective group of third world musicians playing third world music at clubs, concerts and colleges throughout the N.Y.C. area. Economics prevailed and the group disbanded. Steve Reid then worked with such as Weldon Irving, Charles McPherson, Tyrone Washington, Frank Lowe (Arista 1015), Lester Bowie, Arthur Blythe, Cedar Walton, Junie Booth, John Ore, Ronnie Boykins, etc... Steve Reid then received the 1st of 4 grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for originating and teaching a free jazz drum clinic in the ghettos of his native N.Y.C. His teaching genius has been acclaimed in Billboard's More About This Business of Music and in the A.F. of L./C.I.O.'s International Musician. The critics of the Big Apple have already began forecasting the talents of this dynamic drummer. Garry Giddens " exceptional drummer." Peter Occhiogrosso "...shifting multitextural approach and appreciation for the more varied dynamics than many new music drummers." Bob Palmer "...disciplined extraordinary drummer." Mr. Reid is currently finishing a drum techniques book. Today we are experiencing the Great Rhythmic Cycle. Steve Reid and the master musicians on this album are a vital part of this cycle.

NOVA is a positive force against a conspiracy of businessmen, large record company executives, radio program directors, club owners, critics, promoters who knowingly or unknowingly control the quality, style and quantity of the music that YOU hear. We at Mustevic Sound Records invite you to travel with us, FREE SPIRITS-UNKNOWN, to the temple of the SIXTH HOUSE in the land of THE LIONS OF JUDA. Let your soul taste the bittersweet nectar of A LONG TIME BLACK. MUSIC FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE.

The album, Nova is a short (clocking in at barely a half hour) but powerful statement of the free spirit, that while recorded in the mid 1970s, is fairly reminiscent of some of the more beautiful Afro-inspired jazz albums of the late 1960s and early 1970s. His sax player blows like Pharoah Sanders in spots, and the influence of Coltrane, Sun Ra, Marion Brown, and others is evident.

According to the additional liner notes included in the reissued CD:

At the beginning of the 1970s he started his own label, Mustevic Sound, on which he released four LPs of which this is one. Self-produced, self-distributed, these records are classic examples of radical thought, both musical and ethical. The concepts of self-determination, spiritual consciousness and musical questioning had become central themes to Jazz musicians ever since the arrival of, on the one hand, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, and on the other, Martin Luther King and Malcom X. As a conscientious objector to Vietnam, Steve Reid spent two years in jail at the end of the sixties. Self-determination, both politically and musically, became a key factor for many radical Jazz musicians. Artists such as Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders have all had similar inspiration. Musical collectives such as The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Tribe (in Detroit), BAG (Black Artists Group) in St. Louis all arrived as means of making music with a different agenda. At the same time independent labels began to release this music; Nessa, Tribe, ESP, Strata-East. As a whole these labels tried to reflect the radical ideas connected with the music in the way the labels were run with many being self-distributed on a small scale. Steve Reid's label, Mustevic Sound was one such label.

Steve's musical life has taken many turns since this record was originally released in the mid-70s and is a snapshot of a period of time.

Steve is a living example of an artist who has kept true to their musical spirit. He has lived a life within music for over forty years and is still playing. Asked if his son plays an instrument, he replied that yes, he sometimes drums for some Hip-Hop group called NWA.

Steve Reid currently lives in Germany and has just released a new record, "Live in Europe" on the Living Masters label.

Suffice it to say, I'm searching for this relatively new release of Steve's. He stands as part of a diverse set of musicians who, while operating at the edges, blow away the stereotyped notion of jazz as a museum antique by playing vibrant, forward-thinking, challenging music that defies easy classification.

Update: Steve Reid's discography, and his official web site, for your reading, listening, and viewing pleasure.


Friday, April 16, 2004

From the "Dark Side of the Spoon" Department:

Via Atrios:

Q: (Egyptian President) Hosni Mubarak is saying the new U.S. policy on the West Bank could escalate violence. How do you respond to his concerns?

BUSH: Yes, I think this is a fantastic opportunity.

A fantastic opportunity to escalate violence indeed. That's one of those exchanges that leaves me wondering, "what is Junior Caligula thinking?" Then I realize that the answer would be far from satisfactory.

From the "You've Gotta Be Smoking Crack" Department

General Calls Insurgency in Iraq a Sign of U.S. Success

A clip:

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday that the deadly insurgency that flared this month is "a symptom of the success that we're having here in Iraq" and an effort to undermine the country's transition to self-government.

I'd hate to see what a sign of US failure would look like.

Rappin Friday

Non-Prophets. Got a tip on these cats from ttagris' diary at Daily Kos. From their main page check out their "media" link, and then click their "audio" link, and look for an mp3 for "Makeshift Patriot". Check it out.

Here's the lyric:

Makeshift Patriot

The Flag Shop Is Out Of Stock

Hang Myself...Half Mast

Makeshift Patriot

The Flag Shop is Out of Stock

I hang myself...via live telecast.

Coming live from my own funeral...the beautiful weather offered a nice shine,

Which is suitable for a full view of a forever altered skyline.

It's times like these I freestyle biased opinions every other sentence.

My journalistic ethics slip when I pass them off as objective.

"Don't gimme that ethical @#%$."

I've got exclusive, explicit images to present to impressionable American kids,

And it's time to show this world how big our edifice is!

That's exactly what they attacked when a typically dark skinned Disney villain

Used civilians against civilians and charged the trojan horses into our buildings.

Using commercial aviation as instruments of destruction,

Pregnant women couldn't protect their children. Wheelchairs were stairway obstructions.

Now I have to back petal...from the shower of glass and metal,

Wondering how after it settles we'll find who provided power to radical rebels.

The Melting Pot seems to be calling the kettle black when it boils over,

But only on our own soil so the little boy holds a toy soldier...

And waits for the suit and tie to come home. We won't wait 'til he's older,

Before we destroy hopes for a colder war to end. "Now get a close up of his head..."

Makeshift Patriot

The Flag Shop Is Out Of Stock

Hang Myself...Half Mast

Makeshift Patriot

The Flag Shop is Out of Stock

I hang myself while the stock markets crash

The city is covered in inches of muck

I see some other pictures of victims are up

Grieving mothers are thinking their children are stuck

Leaping lovers are making decisions to jump

While holding escape the brutal heat. Sometimes in groups of the three.

The fall out goes far beyond the toxic cloud where people look like debris.

But all they saw after all was said...beyond the talking heads

Was bloody dust with legs looking like the walking dead calling for meds.

Hospitals are overwhelmed. volunteers need to go the hell home.

Moments of silence for fire fighters were interupted by cell phones.

Who's going to make that call to increase an unknown death toll?

It's the one we rally behind. He's got a megaphone...and he's promising to make heads roll,

So we cheer him on, but espestos is affecting our breath control.

The less we know...the more they fabricate...the easier it is to sell souls

An addictive 24 hour candle light vigil in TVs.

Freedom WILL be the cost of civil liberties.

Viewers are glued to television screens. Stuck...'cause lots of things seem too sick.

I use opportunities to pluck heart strings for theme music.

I'll show you which culture to punp your fist at and what foot is right to kiss.

We don't know who the culprit is yet...but he looks like this.

We know who the heros are. Not the xenophobes who act hard,

"We taught that dog to squat. How dare he do that @#%$ in our own back yard!"

They happened to scar our financial state and char our landscape.

Can you count how many times so far I ran back this same damn tape?

While a camera man creates news and shoves it down our throats on the West Bank,

With a 10 second clip put on constant loop to provoke US angst.

So get your tanks and load your guns and hold your sons in a family huddle,

Because even if we win this tug of war and even the score...humanity struggles.

There's a desperate need of blood for what's been uncovered under the rubble,

Some of them dug for answers in the mess...but the rest were looking for trouble.

Makeshift Patriot

The Flag Shop Is Out Of Stock

Hang Myself...Half Mast

Makeshift Patriot

The Flag Shop is Out of Stock

I hang myself.

Don't waive your rights with your flags.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Feeling a Draft?

An editorial by Paul Craig Roberts.

Some clips:

Lawrence Kaplan, neo-Jacobin ideologue and shameless apologist for the carnage in Iraq, claims that Americans wouldn't mind having 30,000 of our troops killed in Iraq if it achieves Bush's "strategic objectives."

No one knows any longer what these objectives are unless it is to start World War III. The original strategic objectives were all propagandistic lies to justify a gratuitous invasion of a Muslim country, an irrational act that was a strategic blunder that wrecked US foreign policy and isolated the US from the rest of the world.

...Moderate Shiite clerics, who have been attempting to hold the US to its promise of democracy and elections, have indicated that an attack on Najaf would lead to a generalized Shiite uprising.

Such an uprising would involve huge numbers. The calls for more US troops would be urgent. The only source of those troops is to reinstate the draft. If the insane idiots running the Bush administration persist in their macho bully mentality of escalating the conflict, we will have a test of Kaplan's prediction that Americans will gladly sacrifice 30,000 of their sons.

Concern over the possible (perhaps probable?) reinstatement of a military draft seem to be coming from a variety of people from a variety of ideological positions, ranging from the conservative libertarianism of Roberts to the various liberal and progressive perspectives offered by me and Kurt Nimmo among others. I've seen the day when a draft might be imminent coming for a while now, as the long-term trend has been to slowly prepare the American public for the return of forced military servitude. During the last flareup in the "Cold War" we saw the beginning of draft registration, followed by increasingly draconian laws to enforce registration. We've seen otherwise liberal legislators, since the 1980s, reframe a return of the draft as a means of advancing the cause of racial equality (a total crock, but hey, I guess they can at least sufficiently delude themselves so they can sleep at night).

Since Reagan's Grenada adventure, subsequent presidents have taken on bigger military adventures such that during much of the 1990s I would have characterized Bill Clinton as a "war president." And now we have Junior Caligula who's managed to get the US military deeply involved in two major military operations - neither of which is going well. To keep going down the path we're taking, something has to give. To the ruling elites, the path of least resistance is to draft a bunch of kids and turn them into moving targets. Heck, it's not like today's youth actually organize themselves or vote or anything like that. Right?

This is the wake up call. If Junior Caligula has four more years, a draft is inevitable. You might as well get set to trade in your Playstation 2 for a machine gun and maybe some body armor if you're lucky. As I've said before, I would counsel against being sanguine if Kerry gets the White House. From what I've seen of "New Democrats," they too seem to have rather ugly foreign policy leanings. To the younger readers I suggest that you keep the following in mind:

It's you're country and your life. Get organized. Make some noise like your life depends on it (and your life probably does depend on it). There's no time like the present. There may not be a second chance.

Junior Caligula a Dry Drunk?

Thanks to a post and comments at Counterspin Central we have some grist for the mill.

Heavy social drinkers show brain damage - US study

Dry Drunk: Is Bush Making a Cry for Help?

More Evidence that Bush Is a "Dry Drunk"?

The research on alcoholism and brain damage is pretty solid, and it does appear from the data that one consequence of chronic heavy drinking is damage to the prefrontal area of the cerebral cortex: the region in the brain most responsible for complex decision-making, impulse control, formal reasoning.

I want to add this as food for thought, however: there are other possible explanations for the behaviors of Junior Caligula. One could, for instance, take a look at existing personality constructs, such as right-wing authoritarianism (a construct that's been researched extensively by social-personality psychologist Bob Altemeyer at the University of Manitoba). Much of the rigidity of thought, obsessiveness, and so forth that characterizes Junior Caligula's behavior could merely be markers of someone who's highly authoritarian, a "normal personality trait" rather than resorting to an armchair diagnosis of pathology.

I'm not saying that Junior Caligula isn't a dry drunk. To repeat: we do know from the available research that chronic alcohol abusers are at risk to suffer permanent damage to parts of their brains -- especially those parts of the brain responsible for rational thought (e.g., the prefrontal region of the cerebral cortex). Maybe that's what's going on with Junior Caligula. Maybe not. Without some sort of additional evidence, there's no real good way to test the "Bush is a dry drunk" hypothesis. And I think for now a healthy dose of skepticism would be wise, especially that more parsimonious explanations for Junior Caligula's behavior exist. Interesting all the same, though.

From the "Winning the Hearts and Minds" Department:

Iraqi 'beaten to death' by US troops

An Iraqi has died of his wounds after US troops beat him with truncheons because he refused to remove a picture of wanted Shiite Muslim leader Moqtada Sadr from his car, police said today.

The motorist was stopped late yesterday by US troops conducting search operations on a street in the centre of the central city of Kut, Lieutenant Mohamad Abdel Abbas said.

After the man refused to remove Sadr's picture from his car, the soldiers forced him out of the vehicle and started beating him with truncheons, he said.

US troops also detained from the same area five men wearing black pants and shirts, the usual attire of Sadr's Mehdi Army militiamen and followers.

Qassem Hassan, the director of Kut general hospital, identified the man as Salem Hassan, a resident of a Kut suburb.

He said the man had died of wounds sustained in the beating.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition could not confirm the incident

So that's what Junior Caligula calls liberation.

Science Thursday

Girls have been faster learners for six million years, chimpanzee study shows

A clip:

A study of young chimpanzees living in the wild might explain the biological reason why infant girls tend to learn faster than infant boys.

Primatologists have discovered distinct sex differences in the ability of young male and female chimps to acquire new skills "taught" by their mothers.

The scientists believe these gender differences in man's closest living relative could have a common evolutionary root with the differences seen in the speed of intellectual development of infant boys and girls.

Educationalists researching how young children learn complex skills should study the findings and take gender differences into account, said Professor Elizabeth Lonsdorf, head of field conservation at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Professor Lonsdorf and her colleagues Lynn Eberly and Anne Pusey of the University of Minnesota believe that the gender differences in learning behaviour seen in young chimps and children could date back to when apes and humans last shared a common ancestor, about six million years ago.

The rest of the article is worth reading.

Now this is just too funny!

with apologies to Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Faith Based vs Data Based Presidency: Or Why Are We Saddled With an Anti-Enlightenment President

William Saletan hits on an important problem with Junior Caligula's approach to governing in his latest essay, Trust, Don't Verify: Bush's incredible definition of credibility. The upshot of the article is that Junior Caligula defines credibility in a rather strange way: merely saying it is so repeatedly makes it so.

A clip that especially stands out for me:

He's impervious to evidence. "I look forward to hearing the truth as to exactly where [the WMD] are," he told Time's John Dickerson at the press conference. A year after Saddam's ouster and four months after Saddam's capture, Bush continued to insist that "people who should know about weapons" are still "worried about getting killed, and therefore they're not going to talk. … We'll find out the truth about the weapons at some point." You can agree or disagree with this theory. But you can't falsify it.

And the part I highlighted is really the crux of the problem with having an anti-Enlightenment President. He simply refuses or fails to accept that his claims can be falsified. As a social scientist, I find this facet of Junior Caligula's presidency to be especially frustrating. Our primary job in the sciences is to test hypotheses. A hypothesis is a tentative statement about a particular phenomenon or event, oftentimes stated in an "if-then" format. A good hypothesis is one that can be falsified. The principle of falsification comes from Karl Popper, and works as follows: if a single piece of evidence is found that disconfirms a hypothesis, then the hypothesis is not valid. It is said to have been falsified. Most of us in the sciences accept at least some variant of Popper's principle of falsification as a guide to our own research. One of the important consequences of accepting a falsificationist perspective is that one is required to actively seek out evidence that would rule out one's hypothesis.

Let's put the above into practice. Junior Caligula has a theory about Saddam Hussein: namely, he theorizes that Saddam's regime poses an imminent threat to the US. One hypothesis that might flow from his theory is as follows:

"If Saddam Hussein's regime is an imminent threat to the US, then we should find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

That is a hypothesis that can be empirically tested. Indeed the UN weapons inspectors who were working furiously in Iraq during 2002 and early 2003 were involved in testing that hypothesis. Of course, US-run efforts to test the hypothesis were embarked on soon after the initial success of the invasion.

So how has the hypothesis panned out? Not terribly well. If the hypothesis were to be supported, we would need positive evidence of WMDs. Indeed given the rhetoric of Rumsfeld and others, it's rather amusing that efforts to date to locate said WMDs have drawn one big goose egg. To a rational scientist, this failure to produce WMDs would sufficiently falsify the hypothesis, and make the theory of Saddam's imminent threat to the US look shaky. Fortunately for Junior Caligula and his minions, there is no need to be inconvenienced by such trivialities as empirical evidence. Instead, they can fall back on claims that the WMDs are "out there somewhere" and that "we will find them eventually" and if worse comes to worst, they can always fall back on some vague reference to WMD program-related activities. If the evidence fails to confirm their pet hypotheses and the theory on which those hypotheses are based, they merely ditch the evidence. And indeed that has been the persistent pattern as hypothesis after hypothesis has been shot down in the war's aftermath. But like spoon benders, psychics, and spirit channelers everywhere, our wily White House residents remain undaunted. There is always a handy excuse for why the data is not available to support their claims. They haven't had enough time. Their potential informants are too scared to talk. Those skeptical liberals keep giving of "bad vibes."

That is what a faith-based presidency has done for us: spread what Frank Zappa would rightly refer to as "cosmik debris".

Look here brother, Who you jivin' with that Cosmik Debris? Look here brother, Don't you waste your time on me

To continue to make outrageous statements that have no basis in empirical evidence would get a regular scientist laughed out of his or her profession. The sciences have been served well by rigorous skepticism. Why not expect the same of our elected public servants? What we've got in the White House right now is no better with truth than Uri Geller, John Edward, or Miss Cleo. Surely we can do better.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The Masthead for Rorschach's blog "No Capital"

Political blog from the radical left, because the Invisible Hand is giving you the finger.

Now that's a keeper!

"When Ya Get Drafted"

Lyrics by Dead Kennedys (now there's a prophetic blast from the past):

Are you believing the morning papers?

War is coming back in style

There's generals here, advisors there

And Russians nibbling everywhere

The chessboard's filling up with red

We make more profits when we blow off their heads

Economy is looking bad

Let's start another war when ya get drafted

Fan the fires of racist hatred

We want total war when ya get drafted

Drooling fingers

Panic buttons

Playing with missiles like they're toys

There's easy money, easy jobs

Especially when you build the bombs

That blow big cities off the map

Just guess who profits when we build 'em back up

Yeah, what Big Business wants Big Business gets

It wants a war when ya get drafted

Trilateral Commission goonies laugh

and scheme for more when ya get drafted

Call the Army!

Call the Navy!

Stocked with kids from slums when ya get drafted

If you can't afford a slick attorney

We might make you a spy

Forget your demonstrations

Kids today sit on their ass when ya get drafted

Just a six-pack

And you're happy

We're prepared

For when ya get drafted

What Junior Caligula Does Not Want You to See

Why I think third parties' voices deserve to be heard

It really comes down to the simple fact that the third party and independent candidates and their supporters are willing to say things that the two major parties' candidates and supporters won't.

Take the possibility of the reinstatement of the military draft here in the states, for example. Kurt Nimmo, in this post discusses the warnings being raised by both Ralph Nader and possible Libertarian candidate Aaron Russo regarding the draft's imminent return.

Some clips:
Young Americans need to know that a train is coming, and it could run over their generation in the same way that the Vietnam War devastated the lives of those who came of age in the sixties," said Nader.

"I don't think that Ralph feels that the draft is imminent, but we are looking at the shortage of troops in Iraq and the calls from [Senator John] Kerry for 40,000 more troops. What Ralph is saying is that if students don't start to organize right now, it will be too late," said Kevin Zeese, a spokesman for the Nader campaign.

..."Another third-party candidate, Libertarian Aaron Russo, has joined Mr. Nader in warning Americans that a draft is a real possibility, despite denials from all quarters of the Bush administration... Mr. Russo, one of three front-runners vying for the Libertarian nomination, said at a party forum in Virginia last month that 'the draft is a bipartisan effort between Republicans and Democrats that will start after the 2004 presidential election, for obvious reasons,' a prediction he repeats on his campaign Web site."
Nimmo argues that unless our young people, today's high school and college students, get organized and get their acts together - take it to the streets - they could easily be cannon fodder in the not-too-distant future. It's a theme he's discussed before and one that bears repeating. He also correctly notes that today's young anti-draft protesters will likely face some challenges that their 1960s and early 1970s counterparts did not face: Ashcroft's aggressive pursuit of progressive organizations, a high-tech COINTELPRO, the Patriot Act. The forces of oppression have in other words some legal machinery at their disposal that didn't exist forty years ago. Of course these very same forces also suggest to me that if a draft is indeed reinstated, it will be all the more difficult to abolish. It's a different ballgame, and the stakes for today's draft-age youth and those of the coming generation (my son recently turned eight, and will be potential cannon fodder for some future mis-leader's war machine) who are most at risk.

Although I am squarely in the ABB (or anyone but Bush) camp, I am far from sanguine about the prospects of continued military misadventures on Kerry's watch at the expense of, well, all of us who are not part of the ruling elites. The differences in foreign policy between Kerry and Junior Caligula are probably fairly minimal, but as Chomsky has pointed out, those small differences are significant. As an aside, I can use my expertise in research methods in the social sciences to make a quick point about the importance of small effect sizes: just because a difference is very small does not mean that it doesn't have important consequences. Take the research on the effect of Aspirin in preventing future heart attacks. Compared to a placebo, the difference is small, but a tremendous number of lives have been saved by that small effect. Perhaps the same could be said in the case of Kerry, and if so would make a Kerry election worth the while.

That said, if Kerry manages to pull off a victory in November, I'll breathe a sigh of relief, but that relief will be short-lived. Those of us who have a stake in preventing the draft from rearing its ugly head will end up needing to work just as hard in 2005 regardless of who occupies the White House.

And keep in mind that the Greens, Libertarians, and independent activists and politicians such as Nader have some worthwhile ideas. Keep an open mind. As for myself, as messed up as Oklahoma is with regard to third parties, if there's a Libertarian or Green running in a local or regional race, there's a good chance that person will be getting my support.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Junior Caligula's performance

was mediocre at best. I was hoping the press corps would have been a bit more assertive. As it was, with few exceptions, the press members who did ask questions were disappointingly docile. Fortunately, Ol' Junior Caligula seems very adept at messing up at even the easiest questions. He did not look Presidential tonight. He seemed a bit lost, confused, and stand-offish.

It'll be interesting to see how people in blogtopia (a term coined by Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) and beyond judge this.

One Year Later: Looting and the Loss of Priceless Artifacts

Priceless artefacts still missing in Iraq

Considering that ancient Mesopotamia was the cradle of Western civilization, the loss these artifacts is quite tragic.

More than 8,000 of the world's most priceless artefacts are still missing following the looting of Iraqi museum treasures last year, it emerged today.

And a lack of commitment from the international community to rescue them means the treasures could be lost forever, the head of the taskforce attempting to save them said.

It has also emerged that other efforts to conserve and restore the artefacts damaged during the Iraqi war were being hampered by the ongoing violence in the country.

As I see it, the artifacts of an ancient civilization are not merely showpieces but a critical part of the history of humanity. They are data points that help us to understand ourselves. They also are most vulnerable to loss and destruction during times of war and chaos.

To put the loss of our collective intellectual data in perspective, here's a few excerpts from Carl Sagan's book, Cosmos:

The glory of the Alexandrian Library is but a dim memory. Its last remnants were destroyed soon after Hypatia's death. It as if the entire civilization had undergone some self-inflicted brain surgery, and most of its memories, discoveries, ideas and passions were extinguished irrevocably. The loss was incalculable. In some cases, we know only the tantalizing titles of works that were destroyed. In most cases, we know neither the titles nor the authors. We do know that of the 123 plays of Sophocles in the Library, only seven survived. One of those seven is Oedipus Rex. Similar numbers apply to the works of Aeschylus and Euripides. It is a little as if the only surviving works of a man named William Shakespear were Coriolanus and A Winter's Tale, but we had heard that he had written certain other plays, unknown to us but apparently prized in his time, works entitled Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet.

Of the physical contents of that glorious Library not a single scroll remains. In modern Alexandria few people have a keen appreciation, much less a detailed knowledge, of the Alexandrian Library or of the great Egyptian civilization that preceded it for thousands of years...There are a million threads from the past intertwined to make the ropes and cables of the modern world.

Our achievements rest on the accomplishments of 40,000 generations of our human predecessors, all but a tiny fraction of whom are nameless and forgotten. Every now and then we stumble on a major civilization, such as the ancient culture of Ebla, which flourished only a few millennia ago and about which we knew nothing. How ignorant we are of our past! Inscriptions, papyruses, books time-bind the human species and permit us to hear those few voices and faint cries of our brothers and sisters, our ancestors. And what a joy to realize how like us they were!

The Library of Alexandria, to which Dr. Sagan referred, was a major center for research and a major data base during the height of the Roman Empire. But it was certainly vulnerable and during periodic wars was damaged along with some of its contents. During the long decay of the Roman Empire, the Library was looted and ultimately destroyed under the approval of Alexandria's bishop who viewed whatever contents remaining as the work of those evil Satanic Pagans.

When I took an undergraduate course on Greek Philosophy, the loss of the writings of the great thinkers came into the foreground. Of the Pre-Socratic philosophers, only fragments survive, and in some cases, such as Thales (arguably the first genuine philosopher), all we have is second-hand information with regard to their thoughts and their lives. We know of Zeno's famous paradox, but very little of his work survives. Of the post-Socratic era, Aristotle is reputed to have written some beautiful Socratic dialogues that would rival those of his mentor, Plato. None of those survived. Much of what did survive from the Greek and Hellenistic periods is thanks to the preservation efforts of Arabic scholars (many of whom flourished in what we now know as Iraq). Averroes and Avicenna, for example, translated and wrote commentaries on the works of Aristotle and extended his philosophical perspective within an Islamic framework. Much of what we consider physics, mathematics, ethics, and of course my little corner of academe, psychology, builds upon the foundation that these men and women laid.

And yet that very architecture is so fragile. Think of the centuries required to rediscover the knowledge that the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians took for granted. Think of what we take for granted today, and the amount of time and effort it has taken to create. And yet it can be so easily and quickly destroyed.

From the "Things that make you go hmmmm...." Department:

Go to google and type back off the bin ladens, and see what emerges. Worth clicking a few of those links in light of what we've learned about the PDB warnings that Junior Caligula received prior to his August, 2001 vacation Presidential Program-Related Activities.

Say hello again to:


Good to have you back!

An Al-Jazeera Roundup of Iraq Developments:

Russians taken hostage in Baghdad. An overview of the hostage-taking and releasing situation as it's developed.

US discloses heavy casualty toll. This month is almost certainly going to end up as the bloodiest for US troops since Junior Caligula's war began. As we're only less than halfway through the month, it may turn out to be the bloodiest overall for the "Coalition." And that doesn't even begin to address the civilians who have been, for lack of a better word, massacred in the process. Welcome to the occupation, indeed.

US to 'capture or kill' Muqtada al-Sadr. Looks like al-Sadr could well become a martyr during what is arguably already an extremely volatile situation.

Falluja under siege. A photo essay that captures some of the essence of the occupation's Falluja massacre.

Faces and Voices: US Elections and Iraq. Not exactly a fair and balanced peek at the mind of the US electorate. Merely a reminder that there are rumblings of dissent here in the States.

Highway to Hell: The Road to Falluja. Features an interview with one of the insurgents and offers his point of view.

Iraq's postwar kidnapping crime wave. Turns out that Iraqi women have been especially vulnerable to kidnappings since the occupation began.

From what I've read, I'd say that Kurt Nimmo has hit it on the head with regard to the situation in Falluja in particular:

Falluga, a city with a population 18 times the size of Jenin Camp (Jenin camp's population was approx. 14,000, Falluga's is 232,000), is now undergoing a parallel trauma, but with a larger, more powerful, better armed enemy, which has carpet bombed, recently and historically when the war-heat has forced land-troops to retreat," Paola Gaspiroli and Ewa Jasiewicz wrote last week. "This is another Jenin. This is another massacre. We have to do what we can in solidarity with the dying and the bereaved and those still struggling, defending, fighting back. Resistance is dignity, is the honor of fighting back. Iraq is on fire. The Iraqi intifada is raging. We cannot be silent. Stop the massacre in Falluga. Remember the massacre in Jenin. Never Again."

If the American people re-elect Bush in November, they will be guilty of supporting a war criminal in the same way the Israeli people are guilty of supporting the war criminal Ariel Sharon.

Something to think about.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Real People

via Wanda at Words on a Page.

I especially dig her final two sentences:

I have a suggestion here. Lets send one of George Bush's daughters, and Dick Cheney's daughter Mary in as replacements for Rachel and Charity.


"Republicans Against Bush"

from Kevin Drum's blog. I'm seeing more and more of this these days. So, will Bu$hCo smear these fine folks as "America Haters" too?

And More from "The Wrong Christians" Department:

Easter Bunny whipped at church show; some families upset. I wonder what that church's leaders have planned for next year's Easter show? A screening of Jesus Chainsaw Massacre The Passion, perhaps? Yeah, let's feed the little kiddies a diet of violence as early as possible.

This was a fun read:

I guess Tom DeLay doesn't do well in front of a skeptical audience. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

I was mostly AWOL from blogging yesterday

Both our wedding anniversary and Easter occurred on the same day.

From the "Fourth Reich Wing" Department

Two letters to the editor in today's Rocky Mountain News Opinion Page


Grateful for pictures

I am sorry the Rocky Mountain News offended David Craig's tender sensibilities with the photos published on April 1 of the savagery committed against Americans in Fallujah ("News is disgusting," Talk Back to the Media, April 3).

War is "disgusting," "outrageous" and "gruesome," and if more of us now have a clearer view of the atrocities over there, maybe we will pressure our elected officials to move quickly to adopt an effective strategy to eliminate and/or capture these evildoers.

Then the only job our troops face will be the reconstruction of Iraq, without the fear of these terrorist [sic] around every corner, and be able to come home alive and not in the coffins our administration sees fit to shield us from seeing.

Cheryl Harvey


So there we have it: I guess the terms "evildoer" and "terrorist" are defined in terms of one's perspective. I'd be willing to wager that the civilians who've survived the loss of homes, livelihood, loved ones, who've been maimed, etc. would likely use those same terms against the US-led occupation forces (both military and paramilitary). That of course is likely lost on Ms. Harvey.

Now on to our second contestant:

Know your enemy

Just wanted to thank the News for showing the pictures of the charred American bodies hanging from the bridge in Fallujah. The American public needs to know what a subhuman culture we are dealing with. Once the public is educated on what we are dealing with maybe there won't be so much out cry when we wipe them out as needs to be done.

Lynn Stanley


Now I don't want to go on a rant, here, but what can I say? Read that last letter again. Here's a slogan for Lynn Stanley's next kegger: "Got genocide?" That last letter reads like something out of Hitler's or Little Green Footballs' playbook. Never mind that both playbooks are practically identical. Thankfully there are still sane conservatives in America - I should know, as I was raised by a couple of them. Sane conservatives might need to lighten up a little bit (only my opinion - sorry, mom & dad, but it's true) but would not endorse the bile spewed by the Lynn Stanleys of the world. See, the problem with the rest of these people who have hijacked the conservative label is not that they are clinically insane (they're in all likelihood as normal or abnormal as the rest of us), but that their ideology and faith in said ideology is insanely fascist. Now that wouldn't be so much of a problem except that some of these people have managed to hijack the White House and have access to the means to send troops to do their bidding. And here's the funny thing that happened on the way to the war zone: in the process of dehumanizing their enemies (that's what terms such as "subhuman" and "evildoers" accomplishes), our own fascist element has effectively engaged in the same behaviors they claim to abhor. What's "shock and awe" but terrorism with larger quantities of fancier weapons? What's a few thousand dead civilians when there's a crusade to be waged? Ol' Junior Caligula sure tipped his hand back in the fall of 2001 when he started talking of crusades. But it doesn't matter because "they" aren't "human." Right? And if our dear leaders do put a face to their real or imagined enemies, it ends up a charicature. We had Osama as the Supreme Evildoer for a while. Then Saddam. Now Sadr. True, these are men with varying degrees of power and influence (well, in Saddam's case, that's been over for a while), but eliminating them does not solve the problem if one's concern is Islamic authoritarianism any more than does rightfully evicting Junior Caligula from the White House end the problem of American fascism (or what I've referred to often as right-wing authoritarianism). In each case the undercurrents of authoritarianism remain in place (with or without the leaders) awaiting the right sociopolitical conditions to resurface. The world ends up a lot more complicated than right-wing authoritarians believe it to be. The thing is, these different tribes of authoritarians manage to find each other, and once they realize that they can't convert the other tribes, they try to kill each other - and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity. We're stuck with the authoritarians, and we might as well accept that extreme authoritarian elements have likely always been part of humanity and likely always will. Our best hope is in neutralize the more destructive tendencies of our authoritarian brothers and sisters and channel their more life-affirming tendencies. Part of that task includes to solving conflicts in as open-minded and data-driven a manner as possible. Maybe take a Gandhian "all sides possess some portion of the truth" approach to dealing with conflicts as they inevitably occur. That's just my opinion, of course. I could be wrong.