Saturday, April 29, 2006

Brownshirt Barbie Incites Local Fascism

From David Neiwert:
Remember how Ann Coulter once extolled "the benefits of local fascism"?

Well now, thanks to Loyola-Chicago student Laura Patrizi's blog report, we know just what she means:

The protesting from the balcony only increased with time with shouts of "ANN IS A RACIST" to even an immature, yet mildly amusing, call for "Show us your tits."

Ann addressed her supporters in the crowd with this statement. "You're men. You're heterosexuals. Take 'em out." She chided them further when they did not rise. Before you knew it there was about 25 students marching to the balcony to supposedly "take out" the protestors above. I saw a priest holding students back and deans and security warning the students to go back to their seats. Chaos erupted. Ann left after taking one question.

Pretty soon she'll be adding an English version of the "Horst Wessel Song" to her speech schtick.

Interesting Ideas

Whatever differences Martin and I might have personally or otherwise, I'd say he has a pretty decent start with this platform for progressive reform candidates:

Defund the Pentagon if they do not provide a date certain for American troops to be removed from Iraq. No permanent bases will be put in Iraq, and all military cooperation will be contingent on the consent of the Iraqi government.

Defund the National Security Agency if they do not cease and desist from doing warrantless wiretapping and testify on the extent and nature of their activities before the ENTIRE intelligence committees of both the House and the Senate.

Defund the Central Intelligence Agency unless they cease using extraordinary rendition to torture suspected terrorists.

Push for rigorous ethics reforms, including prohibitions on gifts and gratuities, a ban on moving from government positions to lobbying positions (say, for three years).

Push for strong election reforms, including paper trails for auditible elections, and public funding, and free television time.

Create a Congressional auditor for military procurement contracts. This position would be administratively similar to the CIA's Inspector General. The Defense Secretary would not hire them and could not fire them.

Pledge to treat violations of American treaties as high crimes and misdemeanors.

He's certainly right that there is nothing especially partisan about the above agenda, if for no other reason than neither of the "Big Two" parties in the US have seriously pushed any of the above issues. Personally I'd want to go considerably further, and simply defund the CIA as it is a relic of the Cold War era and given its continued spearheading of torture techniques, etc. The NSA should go the way of the CIA in the process - create a new agency with new personnel and with sufficient public oversight if need be - as the NSA in its current guise is permanently poisoned. However votes are counted, there definitely needs to be a paper trail. I guess I tend to be kickin' it old school when it comes to elections: nothing beats a paper ballot.

I suspect that defunding much of the pork received by so-called "defense" contractors and sub-contractors, as well as ending the knee-jerk military interventionism that pervades our current government would go a long way to getting a grip on our country's deficit problem.

Whether any of this could be tackled by the Democrat party in its current guise remains to be seen. I would advise against betting the ranch on it.

ACLU Petition: Torture is Un-American

TO: Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Secretary of State

Dear Madam Secretary:

Torture. Government kidnapping. Indefinite detention.

These are not ideas we associate with the United States of America. They do not represent who we are as Americans. By promoting and condoning these practices in our military and intelligence forces, your administration has broken faith with the American values of freedom and fairness.

This week marks two years since the world first saw the terrible images from Abu Ghraib prison. As human rights experts from around the world gather in Geneva to condemn torture, the U.S. must stand by its own time-honored principles.

Widespread evidence, including over 100,000 government documents released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, shows a systemic pattern of torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.

These acts go against our most cherished American ideals. When our leaders promote torture and fail to hold themselves accountable for illegal abuses, they no longer speak for me or for the America in which I believe.

We demand our country back.

To restore humanity, to defend the rule of law and to end one of the saddest chapters in American history, our government must:

* reverse the policies that permit torture and abuse, and honor the universal obligations that prohibit torture
* hold accountable all individuals, regardless of rank or high office, who have authorized, condoned or committed torture or abuse
* end the practice of secret C.I.A. kidnappings and the transport of individuals to secret detention facilities or to countries where torture is common
* grant full access at detention facilities to the Red Cross, human rights experts and legal representatives
* appoint an outside special counsel to investigate and prosecute as necessary all government officials who developed or implemented the policies behind the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, Guantánamo, Iraq and in secret facilities
* conduct a full review and assessment of torture and abuse in jails and other detention facilities at home and abroad

As an American, I will not stand for torture. The universal prohibition against torture must be upheld, and enforced, today.
Sign the petition here.

Props to XicanoPwr.

Himno nacional - La Bandera de Estrellas

Amanece: ¿no veis, a la luz de la aurora,
Lo que tanto aclamamos la noche al caer?
Sus estrellas, sus barras flotaban ayer
En el fiero combate en señal de victoria,
Fulgor de cohetes, de bombas estruendo,
Por la noche decían: "!Se va defendiendo!"

!Oh, decid! ¿Despliega aún su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada?

En la costa lejana que apenas blanquea,
Donde yace nublada la hueste feroz
Sobre aquel precipicio que elévase atroz
¡Oh, decidme! ¿Qué es eso que en la brisa ondea?
Se oculta y flamea, en el alba luciendo,
Reflejada en la mar, donde va resplandeciendo

!Aún allí desplegó su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada!

¡Oh así sea siempre, en lealtad defendamos
Nuestra tierra natal contra el torpe invasor!
A Dios quien nos dio paz, libertad y honor,
Nos mantuvo nación, con fervor bendigamos.
Nuestra causa es el bien, y por eso triunfamos.
Siempre fue nuestro lema "¡En Dios confiamos!"

!Y desplegará su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada!

(Versión en español de Francis Haffkine Snow. Copyright 1919)
Via Migra Matters.

New Orleans Eight Months After Katrina

A physician who was in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Katrina once remarked that 8-29 could well be the day the US began to fall apart. Sadly, he appears to have a point. Eight months later, hundreds of thousands of NOLA residents remain displaced, disenfranchised (especially to the extent that they are predominantly black and non-Republican), and those remaining lack adequate housing, medical care, and public schools. The "relief" effort is notable more for its corruption than for its assistance (Quigley refers to it as "Reverse Robin Hood" and I would certainly reference the old Monty Python "Dennis Moore" sketch).

All that said, Quigley points to some signs of hope and pockets of resistence:
St. Augustine’s Church, one of the oldest black catholic churches in the nation, was abruptly closed by the Archdiocese of New Orleans in the months after Katrina. St. Augustine was dedicated in 1842 by the free black citizens of New Orleans and welcomed both free and slave as worshippers. It served both as a multiracial church and a center of community activities. After continual petitions, vigils and protests by community, neighborhood and church members, including direct action where some young people locked themselves inside the rectory, the Catholic hierarchy reversed itself. The joyous reopening of St. Augustine is a great cultural, spiritual, community and neighborhood victory.

Lower Ninth Ward residents have had no public schools open since Katrina. They wanted their neighborhood school, Martin Luther King, Jr., repaired and fixed up after it took in ten feet of water. Authorities refused to fix it up. So the residents, joined by members of Common Ground and the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund, decided to do it themselves.

They started gutting the moldy parts and repairing and re-painting the school. They continued until the State Superintendent of Education called the police and stopped the work saying the neighbors were doing more harm than good. After days of public outcry of support of the volunteers, the State backed off. Volunteers went back to work, creating a place for education in the neighborhood as well as a symbol of resistance.

Mildred Battle is 70 and gets around in a wheelchair. She is one of more than 1000 families who been displaced from their apartment in the St. Bernard Housing Development in New Orleans since Katrina. Despite coming back three times, she was never allowed to go back to retrieve her belongings. Her apartment has heavy metal sheets locked into place over the windows and a new heavy metal door for which she is not allowed a key. The ramp to her building that allowed her to roll up to her apartment is blocked by a block-long chain link fence to keep all residents out.

This month, Ms. Battle’s wheelchair was the first one through the gate in the chain link fence as dozens of residents past the lone security guard and broke back into their own homes. Friends of Ms. Battle helped her retrieve a picture of her dead son and a broken glass Martin Luther King award she received in the 1990s. She clutched them to her breast and cried saying, “This has been my home for decades. I want to come home.” She and the other residents, along with veteran public housing organizers and activists from C3, a local anti-war organization, vow there will be more direct actions to enforce the rights of public housing residents to return home.

Before this action, veteran organizer Endesha Jukali yelled through a bullhorn to the crowd outside the St. Bernard Housing Development. “Those who attack public housing refuse to understand that we are talking about poor women and children, the poorest of the poor. Why attack them? Some people say do not come back to New Orleans if you don’t intend to work. We say something else. Don’t come back to New Orleans if you don’t intend to fight! The only way that we are going to be able to come back, is to fight for justice every step of the way!” He then dropped the bullhorn and started pushing Ms. Battle in her wheelchair across the street and through the gate so she could break into her own home.
Lest we forget, hurricane season is only a few weeks away.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Jazz Appreciation Month: Just in Case You Weren't Looking

It's that time of year, and of course by now regular readers are all too well aware of my fondness for the diverse collection of musics that fall under the heading of jazz. This is the fifth year that the Smithsonian has done a Jazz Appreciation Month, and although I would caution against viewing jazz as merely some historical artifact rather than a vibrant (albeit marginalized) artform, the Smithsonian definitely deserves props for their efforts.

Speaking of jazz as fresh and vibrant, the local university kicked off its Festival of the Arts with a jazz jam. The featured soloist was a cat named Julius Tolentino - an alto sax player who studied under the late Jackie McLean, and who has recently released his debut solo album, Just the Beginning. Tolentino is basically a straigth-ahead, in the pocket jazzer, who does occasionally veer into free jazz territory. In spots he reminds me of Ornette Coleman, and of course I hear McLean & Trane in there as well, but he's truly his own man.

My first impressions of the cd are very favorable. Got a feeling that it'll be getting some heavy playing for a while.

He may well be the first jazzer that my son connects to. The cat was at my son's school doing a workshop & My son was pretty interested in what he was doing. Whether it translates into his practicing a bit more diligently on his own musical instrument (trumpet) remains to be see. But at least one good sign is that he's willing to join me at the radio station for the first time in what seems like ages (as long as I bring along that Tolentino cd, of course).

In chatting with the bass player (an Amarillo-area cat), I learned a bit about Ornette Coleman's stint in Amarillo. Coleman lived and played there for a bit before moving out to the Los Angeles area (where he would hook up with Don Cherry & Charlie Haden) & not too surprisingly to those who know a bit about Coleman's work, his style was definitely something that irritated the locals. Apparently there are stories that if a gig was coming up, folks would be told not to tell Coleman. His early efforts at free jazz were way ahead of their time then (and may be even now).

The local university has been fortunate to have had at least a couple featured jazzers this year so far - a couple months back pianist Noah Baerman made an appearance. He's best known for Patch Kit & I have another of his recordings (What It Is) - both of which are worthy of checking out.

If you've never checked out a jazz gig before, definitely do so. There are plenty of young artists who are extremely talented and who deserve wider recognition.