Saturday, November 20, 2004

Creating a Brand, Creating a Narrative









These images come from Oliver Willis' Brand Democrat. When asked by people such as some of my students "What do Democrats stand for?" I invariably end up talking about what I stand for, but to be honest I don't think that the Democrat party itself really makes much of an effort to articulate a stance in a form that would make sense to anyone outside of a few wonks. That's clearly unsatisfactory, and I suspect that the party's failure to do so is one reason I end up identifying myself as a liberal independent rather than as a partisan Democrat (there are other reasons, but that one stands out at the moment).



So what is the story these pictures tell? What kind of message are they framing? Here's what I'm seeing:

  1. Freedom - defined by a liberal freedom ends up meaning privacy (freedom from the prying eyes of the government) and choice (freedom to conduct one's life as one sees fit). Freedom in this sense is a core liberal value.
  2. Tolerance - goes along with freedom as defined above. Acceptance of others regardless of religion, ethnicity, etc. is another core liberal value.
  3. Responsibility - this includes society's responsibility to care for those most in need, a responsibility to avoid passing on financial burdens to the next generation, a responsibility for the well-being of others internationally as well. It boils down to the golden rule: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It's a core value of numerous religious traditions, and a core value held by liberals of all religious persuasions.

Right now on the fly I can hone in on three core values shared by liberals and that could easily - and straightforwardly - be articulated by the Democrat party. The party's job then would be to:

  1. articulate those core values
  2. demonstrate how their proposed policies flow from those core values

The survival of the Democrats as a viable entity likely hangs on whether they can accompish this task. Oliver Willis also has an open thread if you would like to share some of your ideas regarding "Brand Democrat."

The wisdom of deficit hawks

If we'd been taken seriously by our Federal government, you wouldn't have to read items like the following - Debt crisis much worse than admitted! Comptroller General: You owe Uncle Sam $330,000. The truth of the matter is that Bu$hCo and the GOP-led Congress screwed the pooch when it came to budgeting. Those of you who've voted to keep these clowns in office have helped to completely fuck up the national economy for many years to come. Congratulations.

We're accustomed to hearing the first figure in this mix, which is the national debt that Congress voted to raise the limit to $8.18 trillion on (that's 8,000,000,000,000 for those of you who for whom a visual will help bring home the magnitude of the thing!) And we're also accustomed to seeing that each of us owes $25,000 or so of that figure. But the truth is much worse: if you add the unfunded liability that we owe to our seniors and veterans, each worker owes $330,000.



The Comptroller General is the head of the Government Accountability (formerly General Accounting) Office, usually known by its initials, the GAO. It is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical group of bureaucrats and researchers whose job is to provide unbiased advice to Congress. The shocking thing is that, even in this administration, it actually does so. Some people think that's because even Kittykiller Frist and Denny "oh, my God, they killed Denny, you" Hastert realize they need unbiased information. I think it's because Bushco just hasn't gotten around to packing it with neocons yet.



Bill Clinton was well on the way to doing something about the debt crisis. He was going to use the surplus his policies had created to fund the shortfalls, starting with Social Security. Instead, what we've gotten from the Bush administration is tax cuts for the rich and a war that's being funded through deficit spending, pushing the debt through the roof. And now, he wants to privatize Social Security, which will tack another $2 trillion onto the amount.



Think about the $40 trillion amount. Walker tells us it's three and a half times the entire economy. That means every single economic activity in the United States would have to be devoted to simply paying off this debt for three and a half entire years, without using any of the proceeds to feed or clothe anybody. Bush blunders on blindly to his next escapade, an economic Alfred E. Neumann, blind to the coming collapse.


Mark my words: the birds are coming home to roost - sooner rather than later.

Well, at least the Fallujah offensive was a success

Oops. I guess not. My bad:

Violence surged through central and northern Iraq on Saturday as a tenacious insurgency led by Sunni Arabs kept up relentless assaults in a string of major cities, from Ramadi to Falluja to Baghdad.

At dawn, insurgents armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades tried storming a police station in the northwestern Baghdad neighborhood of Amariya, where American and Iraqi soldiers had engaged in a bloody mosque shootout on Friday. The gun battle at the station left three Iraqi policemen dead and two others injured, Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said.



Hours later, a car bomb exploded in downtown Baghdad, at the eastern end of the bridge over the Tigris River leading to the fortified compound housing the American embassy and interim Iraqi government headquarters. The bomb was aimed at a convoy of vehicles from a Western security contractor, and at least one Iraqi was killed and another injured, witnesses said.



Four employees of the public works ministry were gunned down in a drive-by ambush, and three Iraqi National Guardsmen died in explosions in western Baghdad during gun battles with insurgents, Iraqi officials said.



An ambush on an American military convoy in central Baghdad ended with the death of one soldier, the military said. Nine others were wounded in what appeared to be a highly coordinated attack, with insurgents using explosives, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.



Fighting raged in the rubble of Falluja, a city largely decimated by American troops during a week-long offensive. Two Marines were killed and four wounded in a guerilla ambush, military officials said. The offensive smashed a safe haven for the insurgents, but guerillas still roam the devastated streets, sniping at American troops and scaring away military engineers brought in to try to reconstruct the city.



At least 1,216 American troops have died since the start of the war.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Probably not work safe, but funny

Lie Girls

The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

What Seymour Hersh Has to Say:

Hersh was particularly bleak when outlining his thoughts about the future. His most important point is that Bush is incapable of changing course, and at this point we will simply have to wait for events to transpire.



1. Europe has turned against the U.S. and will begin to act soon (after the upcoming election in Germany) to restrain the "craziness" of the Bush administration. He expects they will move to settle the war in Iraq.



2. The economic consequences of the turn against the U.S. will be severe. Europeans will start to avoid buying U.S. made goods. Soon the Chinese and French will begin to buy oil in euros rather than dollars, and there will be a big move away from the dollar as an international currency.



3. Europe (led by Germany and France) will take over brokering a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



4. The neo-cons still hope to invade Syria and Iran. They think it will be easy to knock off Syria. There is nothing to stop their trying (reality certainly won't stop them).


Dust off your old Gang of Four albums. Remember those lyrics to "World Falls Apart"?

Says it all





Update: My bad. I forgot to clue y'all in to where the image came from. Image via Higher Pie Productions. If you haven't paid this cat's blog a visit, do so. You won't be disappointed.

More food for thought

Stealing from the Greens



Good post that takes a serious look at the Green Party's platform, and finds that lo and behold a few of their ideas are actually worth pursuing.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Why spend responsibly?

After all, it's only the taxpayers' money. Don't worry, be happy. It's not like deficits really matter just like Cheney said.

Fun With Multimedia

A couple links that won't disappoint:



On the Day the World Ends



World On Fire



The Mosh Continues

Tonight's Thought Piece

America "Left Behind



You should read the whole article, but I'll just cut to the chase:

As Weber argued in his classic work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, it is not simply the case that Protestant Christianity caused the rise of early modern capitalism, or vice-versa. Rather, the two shared an affinity that was mutually beneficial and reinforcing. The Protestant ethics of hard-work, thrift, restraint in consumption and asceticism fit well with an early capitalist system based on labor and accumulation of profit and allowed the latter to flourish in ways that no other religious worldview could.



So too, I would suggest, there is a fit or affinity between the evangelical vision of the New Millennium and the Neoconservative ideal of a New American Century. Updating Weber somewhat, we might call this affinity "the Evangelical Ethic and the Spirit of Neo-Imperialism." The Neocons and the Christian Right may not be conspiring together secretly behind the scenes; but they do need each other to promote their respective agendas, and they do have enough similar interests to find common ground in the Prodigal Son, George W. As a relatively empty, unformed "floating signifier," Bush serves as the key link in this elective affinity, the point at which the otherwise conflicting interests of the Neocons and the evangelicals come together in a disturbingly powerful way.



In all of this, however, there is a disturbing kind of double irony. As David Harvey has argued, the aggressive foreign and domestic strategies of the Necons carry with them a twofold danger. First, the extremely invasive and intrusive domestic policies put into place after 9/11 -- of which the USA PATRIOT Act is the most obvious example -- risk turning the United States into the same sort of oppressive regime that we so despised in the former Soviet Union. Second, this intense militarism and reckless pattern of deficit spending threatens to bankrupt the United States in much the same way that the Soviet Union was destroyed by its massive military expenditure during the Cold War: "If the Soviet Empire was really brought down by excessive strain on its economy through the arms race, then will the U.S., in its blind pursuit of military dominance, undermine the economic foundations of its own power?" And by the time we finally secure the oil wealth in the Middle East and proclaim our benevolent hegemony, is it possible that most of the world will have already realized the finitude of the earth's oil supplies and moved on to alternative energy sources, anyway?



The danger, in effect, is that America really will be "left behind" in the new global order.

Brave Iraq War Veterans Speak Out

Iraq veteran speaks out against war: Former Marine tells ND crowd his experience reshaped his perspective.

"Iraq was not an imminent threat to the United States," he said. "It was a lie. We were lied to. ... When you're over there, it's about the guy who's next to you. But when you come home and start thinking, it's a raw deal."



Sarra, a Chicagoan whose mother protested the war while he was marching to Baghdad, is quick to point out that it is possible to oppose the war and support the troops.



"I love them, but I hate the war," he said.



And his answer to a question from an audience member about why many soldiers in Iraq voted for Bush, showing support for the administration's Iraq policy was simple: They need something to believe in.



"No one wants to come home and hear people say, 'Well, that was for nothing,'" he said.


For more info, check out the Iraq Veterans Against the War website.

The antiwar.com take on the ugly specter of fascism

The N-Word & the F-Word



Smearing Kevin Sites



Best summarized by the following statement: "...the problem for the pro-war With Us Or Against Us crowd isn't the act that horrifies the world, it's the fact that the pictures came out."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Consequences

The Coming Currency Shock: Declining Superpower Act



The birds are coming home to roost. It's not a matter of if, but of when. Needless to say, years of economic mismanagement - most egregious under the stewardship of Bu$hCo, but dating back for several administrations - will have to be faced sooner or later and we are nowhere near a point where our public servants are willing to do so. As Gil-Scott Heron once noted nearly a quarter of a century ago (from the intro to 'B' Movie):

...America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know that when the producer names the tune the consumer has got to dance. That's the way it is. We used to be producers and were very inflexible at that. Now that we are the consumers we find things difficult to understand.


Outsourcing has only made things worse. Not only do those corporations who outsource shaft the workers, but they also put the nation further in debt. How? Think of the trade deficit. What happens to those goods that once were produced here but now are produced overseas? People here in the states still want those goods, and those goods must now be imported.



The US government still acts like the nation is a producer, and I suppose they can largely get away with it as long as the military might holds up. Besides, I'm sure the specter of some half-crazed urban cowboy Jeezus Freak with access to nukular weapons is a bit unsettling to much of the rest of the planet. Power addicts are the ugliest of all. The withdrawal will be painful, and Bu$hCo (along with the usual gang of neocons & neoliberals) are understandably freaking out, and maxing out every credit card they can find and making every threat they can think of to hold on to that power. Same sort of thing we see with boozers and cokeheads - something I'm sure Bush has some personal experience to draw upon. Once the jig is up, the crash will be hard. Even harder still is the fact that this bunch of power-addicted goons will take down a lot of us with them.

More pictures of Fallujah

here, along with a rant.



The same blogger also has a few words to say about the recent suicide of Iris Chang, in the process discussing some parallels between 1930s Japan and contemporary America.

GOP and Cultism

Republicans Using Christians, Encouraging Cultism, makes a good case that there is a troubling pattern emerging. The hallmarks of a political cult are truly there to be found among today's GOP.

Sensible Suggestions For the Future

Progressives: look to the rockies?



Healing the Heartland



Footnote on the Preceding

Right-wing extremists doing what they do best:

advocating violence against anyone even remotely reality-based. So, when does pseudo-fascism cross over to the real McCoy?

No need for anything overt. Unfortunate things happen in combat zones, and if the reporter fails to hear someone yell "Sniper!!", well, c'est la guerre.

9 posted on 11/16/2004 1:11:50 PM PST by Charles Martel

more along the lines that Mr. Sites life is in danger being around the Marines



I would certainly hope so.

19 posted on 11/16/2004 1:53:38 PM PST by sport



I wish. This guy Sites shouldn't walk away from this unscathed. Red America wants justice.

21 posted on 11/16/2004 1:57:26 PM PST by faithincowboys



I wrote Mr. S.......suggested he best hope he never needs one of our heroes to watch his back.

24 posted on 11/16/2004 2:01:10 PM PST by OldFriend



Or are you proposing some sort of mob justice?



No, I'm predicting it.

36 posted on 11/16/2004 2:22:42 PM PST by TigersEye



He's an effin traitor. He is aiding the enemy. He should be tried and killed.

66 posted on 11/16/2004 4:31:36 PM PST by I got the rope




That's just the sampler, via Daily Kos.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

More Happy News From Iraq

via Dahr Jamail: Dogs Eating Bodies in the Streets of Fallujah



A provocative title, with equally provocative content. Check out the scene from someone who's been willing to cover Iraq from ground zero. There's plenty of material for a war crimes tribunal, along with plenty of material for those of us who were sceptical all along about the Iraq invasion and occupation. I suppose if we wanted to recreate the Soviet experience in Afghanistan we're succeeding wildly. Be forewarned, though, that if the old slogan "history repeats itself" has any merit it's in Marx's sense - first as tragedy and second as farce. Our current administration is probably a tragicomical imitation of the old Breshnev/Andropov/Chernyenko crowd - hardliners blinded by imperial ambition while presiding over a crumbling domestic infrastructure. Bush the Lesser is truly the clown in the sequel, aided by cohort of equally ridiculous characters whose actions would be amusing if not for their destructive consequences.



Enough of my rant. How about some of Jamail's report? Plenty of outrage, of which I will provide a sampler:

Prior to leaving Amman he checked with the car hire kiosks, who told him they had been running cars to and from Iraq nonstop, despite the "closed" borders.



At the Jordanian border there were, according to my friend, at least 100 cars waiting to cross the border into Iraq. An Iraqi "guard" in civilian clothing told them, while laughing, "The border is closed, but I will open it for you, despite what Allawi says."



[...]



Four oil wells in northern Iraq have been destroyed by the resistance, adding to the heinous fuel shortage that has wracked the country for weeks now.



Armed men continue to roam freely about the streets of Mosul and Ramadi in defiance of the U.S. military, Iraqi National Guard (ING) and Iraqi police (IP).



[...]



The horrendous humanitarian disaster of Fallujah drags on, as the U.S. military continues to refuse the entry of an Iraqi Red Crescent (IRC) convoy of relief supplies. The Red Crescent has appealed to the UN to intervene, but no such luck, nor does the military relent.



IPs, who are under U.S. control, have looted Fallujah General Hospital.



The military stopped the Red Crescent at the gates of the city and is not allowing them in. They allowed some bodies to be buried, but others are being eaten by dogs and cats in the streets, as reported by refugees just out of the city, as well as residents still trapped there.



[...]



Nevertheless, they continue to get the word out. They report today that Asma Khamis al-Muhannadi, a doctor who witnessed the U.S. and Iraqi National Guard raid the general hospital, said, "We were tied up and beaten despite being unarmed and having only our medical instruments."



She said the hospital was targeted by bombs and rockets during the initial siege of Fallujah, and troops dragged patients from their beds and pushed them against the wall.



Al-Muhannadi went on to say that all of them were put under intense inspection and, "Two female doctors were forced to totally undress."



She continued on, "I was with a woman in labor," she said. "The umbilical cord had not yet been cut. At that time, a U.S. soldier shouted at one of the [Iraqi] National Guards to arrest me and tie my hands while I was helping the mother to deliver. I will never forget this incident in my life."




I shall assume that those who voted to re-elect Bu$hCo endorse what's going on in not only their names but in all of our names. They should be ashamed, though I sincerely doubt that they would be even if their noses were rubbed in the mess that their president has made (note that I cannot in good conscience endorse Bush as my president too, as I refuse to grant any legitimacy to war criminals - to do otherwise would be to go against my values and to set a poor example for my children).

Fallujah in Pictures

Fallujah in Pictures



Some of the picture links appear to be broken, but the remaining ones tell a powerful story. Call it the side of the Iraqi occupation Bu$hCo would like you to ignore.

A jazzer I've not heard of

'Israeli' jazz star praises Yasir Arafat



While Yasir Arafat's death was met with a gloating silence by many Israelis, jazzman and writer Gilad Atzmon was one of the few who had something good to say about the departed Palestinian leader.



"It is clear that this man, this brave man, this hero, the biggest 20th century freedom fighter, went through a hell of a time," said Atzmon in a telephone interview from his North London home.



[...]



Atzmon has just released his fourth album, is published in 15 languages, banned in Israel and remains an ardent anti-Zionist.



"For me it is clear that Zionism is a racist, nationalist and a fundamentally religious perception, and I don't want to live in a racist set-up," he says.



[...]



But despite his anger over the plight of the Palestinians, Atzmon's music expresses his feelings in the most serene ways.



He is a master at blending styles and the end result is an eclectic mix of east and west, Jewish and Arab and just about everything in between.



On his last album Exile, voted by the BBC as the best jazz album of 2003, he reworks an Israeli anthem written about the conquest of Jerusalem in the 1967 war, and adds the words of renowned Palestinian poet, Mahmud Darwish.



On another track on Exile, Atzmon took a Jewish song that commemorates the Nazi holocaust called Brother our Ghetto is Burning and renames it Jenin, a sad and soulful number dedicated to the residents of the West Bank refugee camp of the same name that was invaded and smashed by the Israeli army in April 2002.



Atzmon says his new album addresses the hijacking of popular music by American-led globalisation and big corporations.



"In my new album I don't attack Israelis any more than I attack the globalised world. I don't see any difference between the Israeli abusive treatment of the Palestinian people and the American abuse of the Arab world," he said.

Depressing but necessary reading

Over a Barrel gives us the lowdown on our current energy situation, and some of our possible future. We Americans have really dropped the ball when it comes to alternative energy research and development. There was some hope for alternative energy research back in the 1970s, but much of the money from the feds dried up after Reagan took office in 1981 - a nearly 24 year window of opportunity lost. Relying upon "free markets" to fill the void has been nothing short of disastrous. Of course the leadership required by our public servants in the executive or legislative branches is next to nonexistent, and given the current makeup of the White House and Congress I don't see much to drive any substantive change in policy short of denial and warfare.

War Dehumanizes

Unarmed And Wounded POW Shot In The Head By U.S. Marine: I don't know what's more disturbing - the footage itself or blowhard Bill O'Reilly summarizing the footage.



Take No Prisoners , the subtitle, "Another proud moment in U.S. Military History. U.S. Marines execute an Iraqi to the cheers of fellow marines" really says it all.





I have just witnessed a murder on my TV screen : the video doesn't appear to be working on this one, but the description itself is unsettling as it is.

Fun With Old Book Marks: Industrial Music For Industrial People

Cabaret Voltaire: An extensive website covering not only the pioneering industrial band itself, but it members' various solo and side projects.



Throbbing Gristle: An extensive website covering another 1970s industrial band. Fascinating music and equally fascinating personalities behind the music.



Industrial Records: A short-lived label that was the original home to TG's recorded output.



Clock DVA: late 1970s & 1980s industrial group.



I've been a fan of industrial music for quite a long while now, it seems. I was a bit young for the first wave of industrial but was definitely of age when the second wave of industrial (usually referred to as industrial dance) was at its peak, and combos such as Skinny Puppy, Psychic TV, Frontline Assembly, and Cabaret Voltaire were recording and performing much of their groundbreaking work. I never really got into the industrial metal vibe (although there are a couple Ministry albums I really dug), and really prefer the first wave of industrial (cats like TG and CV were at their most experimental in the 1970s, producing music that had the abrasiveness of punk filtered through electronics, minimalism, and all sorts of other dangers). The early stuff in particular focused on making music of found objects and sounds, and on the possibilities of nonmusicians as musical performers. The soundscapes are bleak, dark, forbidding assaults on the senses. Even the later more dance-oriented industrial recordings maintain an atmosphere of inescapable and claustrophobic alienation, anomie, with the funk grooves stripped down to their most starkly mechanical as humanly possible. It was definitely music of the times that has managed to transcend the 1970s - the reactionary repressiveness of a Tory-dominated England has much in common with the reactionary repressiveness of the current GOP-dominated US.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

"We Don't Need No Stinkin' Geneva Convention!"

The White House Motto apparently, as explained by Rahul Mahajan of the blog Empire Notes. Alexander Cockburn correctly identifies US actions in Fallujah for what they are: war crimes. "Let them drink sand" indeed.



Dahr Jamail's blog provides a first-hand look at the US created chaos in Iraq.



Allawi is Iraq's Quisling.



Attack on Fallujah can't be justified, writes Helen Thomas. Unfortunately, those who view the Geneva Convention as disposable are unlikely to ponder the immorality of the latest assault.



Not surprisingly, the Civilian cost of battle for Falluja emerges, and it's a steep toll to say the least.