Saturday, June 2, 2007
More over at American Street, and Crooks and Liars.
That said, if I were to put on music from circa 1966 or 1967, I'd much prefer to drop a few tunes from some great jazz artists the time. John Coltrane's albums such as Om and from the period are psychedelic is a somewhat different way. The posthumously released Kulu Se Mama. Interstellar Space (a sax & drum duet with Rashied Ali) is also one I love to groove to. Pharoah Sanders released is debut on Impulse! records around 1966, Tauhid, which is an under-rated classic that foreshadows the sort of free-jazz meets world music experiments that would characterize his work in the early 1970s. Don Cherry was finishing off his run on Blue Note Records with Where is Brooklyn. Gato Barbieri had this intense blow-out session released on ESP-Disk (before he became a pioneer of that awful smooth jazz nonsense). How about Marion Brown's Three for Shepp? No psychedelia, perhaps, but plenty of straight-forward free jazz jamming that one can actually hum to. There's always that classic Sun Ra album Nothing Is. Miles Davis' quintet was releasing an amazing string of albums around the same time as the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album, such as Nefertiti, which hinted at the fusion recordings his band would record by decade's end and into the 1970s. I could go on. Thing is, the music by these and other similar artists sounds quite fresh today - one doesn't hear a lot of the gimmickry that made a lot of 1960s psychedelic rock sound out of tune with the times in a matter of months.
Like Madman, I'd just as soon do without that particular Beatles album, which was way too campy for its own good. Instead, I'll hold out for the recordings that actually had something to say back in the day, and continue speak to us now.
I recall my high school days (back in the early 1980s) when even the more open-minded of my white friends would have voiced disapproval at seeing a white girl and a black guy holding hands as they walked across the quad or down the hallways. Of course even by early 1980s standards I ended up living in locales where open racism was still acceptable, so in retrospect I suppose I shouldn't be all that surprised. These days I get the impression that except among a few skinheads or MinuteKlan wannabes, you're just not going to find much objection.
Of course, decades of efforts to integrate schools and workplaces (kudos affirmative action!), along with the increased visibility of interracial couples in various forms of mass media have helped.
This self-contained compound will include the embassy itself, residences for the ambassador and staff, PX, commissary, cinema, retail and shopping, restaurants, schools, fire station and supporting facilities such as power generation, water purification system, telecommunications, and waste water treatment facilities. In total, the 104 acre compound will include over twenty buildings including one classified secure structure and housing for over 380 families.I'm sure that even the most spartan of accommodations at the compound will still appear luxurious to those folks who have called Baghdad their home and who have had to suffer with sub-standard to non-existent power generation, water purification, and so on.
At $592 million to construct and approximately $ 1.2 billion per year to operate, this monstrosity should make it abundantly clear to anyone (excepting of course the brainwashed and brain-dead American Exceptionalists among us) that the US is in Iraq for the long haul.
Now I realize that a spokesperson for BDY has expressed concern over the security for those who shall work and live in the embassy now that pix of it have been released, but I'll have to say that I'm with Arthur Silber:
Mr. Gallegos, if you want your employees to be "safe" and "secure," why don't you bring them home? And close down at least four-fifths of those roughly 1,000 bases the United States maintains in more than 130 countries around the world? I understand that this is a dangerously radical thought, but it isn't actually our role to RUN THE MIDDLE EAST OR THE ENTIRE WORLD.Such a thought would never be entertained by "respectable" American political figures or pundits - partially because there's too much money and power to be had as long as the sun never sets on the US, but also (along the lines of Noam Chomsky) that these very same "respectable" pillars of the US political community are true believers in the American Exceptionalist myth. Yes, there is a certain amount of cynical corruption in the system, but we must also keep in mind that those running the Asylum in DC to a large extent probably believe their hype. If you're of similar persuasion, then you're probably convince that someone like Edwards or Obama is "anti-war." As IOZ notes, those two Dems (and much of the rest of the party for that matter) would fail an anti-war litmus test. To pass the test, an anti-war candidate would need to indicate in words and deeds a serious commitment to closing down a substantial number of these 700-1000 military bases currently in place. If for no other reason, as Dmitry Orlov has mentioned, there is the concern of what happens to those stationed overseas in those bases once the US economy sufficiently crumbles (such collapse is inevitable for empires if history is any guide, and as the world transitions to a post-oil economy the US collapse may be closer at hand than any of us can imagine).
Want to minimize the risk of war? It's really as simple as ceasing to try to run the world and learning to live within our means on our resources. Don't create enemies where none exist. Of course, something that sensible will never even register among the political class nor the punditocracy, who instead will be jabbering about an endless "war on terra" against something called "Islamofascists" (i.e., the replacement for what a previous generation called "the International Communist Conspiracy).
Friday, June 1, 2007
The question that I can never leave far behind is this: "is less bad good enough?" When lives and quality of life are at stake, the answer is no. As of late I have given the words of the late Malcom X a fresh read, and I have a couple observations. One is that in many respects, when we're talking about civil rights and human rights in America things really haven't changed much since Malcom's day. The images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina of the dire poverty that has consigned so many of our fellow Americans to a lifetime of marginal existence (what the Marxists would call the lumpenproletariat) and neglect by the very government that is supposed to serve them, will haunt me for as long as I can still draw a breath. Those images should haunt all of us. The specter of racism and classism continues to plague our political and social landscape, just as it has all of my life. The second observation: politicians from one party or another haved talked a good game when it comes to promoting progressive ideas and policies - but with few exceptions they don't walk the talk. That was a problem that Malcom confronted with the issues that were salient to him, and is a problem that we on the left continue to confront. The Dems have assumed for so long that they have the leftists, the women, the ethnic minorities in their back pockets because presumably we have "nowhere else to go." The result is, as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, a not-so-benign neglect of our issues and values from the powers that be. And as long as we keep registering Democrat and periodically show up to vote when expected, nothing changes, except maybe for the worse. We have a party where its members say the right things more often than not, but then by and large approve laws like The Patriot Act, the bankruptcy bill that will end up burying working families who've encountered exhorbitant medical expenses; they've been silent when the White House nominated an architect of the current pro-torture policy to the office of AG; when it comes to the illegal war being fought against the Iraqis, many of the Dems want to send more troops and kill of even more people; they've been largely silent on the issue of voting irregularities both in Ohio and Florida; and we know that privacy rights are also no longer sacred in Dem circles.Words to live by still - now more than ever.
What to do? In Malcom's last year on this planet he offered up some simple advice that I think we can all use: be organized, and don't affiliate with either the Dems or the GOP. That's the general idea behind American Solidarity: organize physically, financially, intellectually. Many of us come from varying backgrounds and have varying pet causes, but let's face it - those of us who are living paycheck to paycheck, those of us who value liberty, who value equality, who value justice, who value privacy have a hell of a lot in common. Technological advances in the last decade or so make it easier for us to coordinate and to exchange ideas and information than ever before. It's way past time to start using those tools to our advantage. Blogs are one of our tools, playing the same role that zines played in the 1980s and pamphlets such as Paine's played during the Revolution some 230 years ago. Blogging is only part of that picture. Cernig fills in some of the details elsewhere. Clearly, unions, thinktanks, civil liberties organizations are going to be salient as well.
Being unaffiliated with the major political parties is also crucial for an American Solidarity movement. The GOP can be written off as a lost cause. The Dems, I'm also skeptical of, but will note this much: if they think we're registered as Dems, they can assume that we'll continue to accept the status quo. Malcom was onto something back in 1964 and 1965 when he advocated refusing to back any candidate until it was clear that they were willing to walk their talk. If they turn out to be kosher, then by all means support them, but only to the extent that they are representing us. If they stop representing us, we should be willing to walk away from them. If they know that their constituents mean business, they'll be more careful to represent us in whatever legislative body they hold office. There's strength in numbers, especially when those numbers are independent.
Underlying all of this is the assumption that you're registered and that you vote. If you are making less than 35k a year, and/or if you're an ethnic minority, and/or you're a relatively young voter (say 18-25 years of age) you are under-represented when it comes to actual voters come election day. You need to register (ideally independent) and you need to educate yourself on the candidates and issues, and you need to vote - and not only those major elections, but also on the local elections. The percentage of eligible voters who actually do vote is pathetic when compared to other relatively democratic industrialized nations. Understandably, a lot of that is due to the pathetic array of choices we get offered by the major parties; we as citizens too bear some responsibility with regard to voter turnout and need to take that responsibility personally. Becoming an informed voter is going to require some effort, but hardly an insurmountable effort. Newspapers across the globe are available over the internet (I'm a big fan of The Guardian and The Independent - both from the UK, but there are certainly others worth visiting). There are a number of well-informed bloggers that you should make an effort to check out on a regular basis. Keep up with the local newspapers and bloggers. If you don't have a computer at home, go to your nearest library to access these resources. If you have access to these resources, take some responsibility for educating your friends and neighbors.
The anti-war movement itself is a rather mixed bag. On the one hand there is a simmering undercurrent of dissension among the rank and file Americans, and that undercurrent is increasing in its intensity. There is also an increased disillusionment with the response (or lack thereof) of this year's Congress to the increasingly angry demands of voters who want the damned war ended. One would think that under the circumstances there would be a sustained series of anti-war actions, but alas that has not quite been the case. As ANSWER views it, a fair part of the problem is structural: the anti-war movement is severely splintered.
In any event, ANSWER is attempting to find some solutions to develop a more unified front. At a time when the current wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, maybe soon Iran) are desperately in need of being addressed and opposed, it would do us all well to set aside whatever differences might exist among the various anti-war factions and work together toward a common goal. Let's face it folks, time is running out.
My grudge against Brent Musburger has been smoking on a personal back burner for many years - since the early 1980s, in fact, when Brent was covering the NBA finals for CBS-TV, and it involves the word "downtown."One of the good things I can say about the Western Conference finals game five was that not once did I hear any announcer or commentator use that cursed term. Three-pointers were merely called for what they were. I found that tremendously refreshing, although my wife did not seem to share my enthusiasm nor appreciate the disdain for the sort of postmodern usage of the term "Downtown" in the professional basketball vernacular. The point remains, that "downtown" is where the action is both in reality and metaphorically. If Duncan lands a layup in the paint - that's downtown. Ginóbili's three-pointers, which on a good night can be impressive for their deadly accuracy, are by contrast coming in from the 'burbs. Anyone who lives in or can remember the 'burbs will tell you that there isn't much action worth speaking of in the 'burbs.
That is when Musburger changed the language of sports-writing forever when he came up with the ignorant notion that any basketball player firing off a long three-point shot is shooting from "downtown." (Celtics announcer Johnny Most might have coined the "downtown" trademark in the 1960s, but it was Musburger who beat it to death.)
I still hear in my dreams the wild stupid gibberish coming out of that yo-yo's mouth every time Nate McMillan or Dennis Johnson drilled one of those long flat three-pointers.
"All the way from downtown," Brent would scream, "another one from Downtown!"
It drove me mad then, & it still does every time one of those fools blurts it out. It was quickly picked up and adopted by a whole generation of half-bright TV commentators every night of the bloody season. It has become part of the Lexicon now, & will not be easy to correct...In gyms and Coliseums all over America (even Greece or Korea), wherever basketball as we know it is played, there will be some howling Jackass braying "From downtown! Another three-pointer! Is this a great country, or what?"
"Going downtown" has more than one meaning - from going to work at 66 Wall Street in New York to anal rape in Alcatraz - but it always means going to a busy place, for good or ill. The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang says it's "where the action is" - a noisy, crowded place with many intersections & tall buildings & freaky-looking strangers.
Indeed we all know that place. We see it every night on ESPN & on the hardwood at Boston Garden...It's the violent little places just under the glass on a big-time Basketball court where tall brutes slam each other around like crazed fish. They call it "Rebounding."
Downtown is where you score - not somewhere out in the wilderness, where people are far apart & not much happens. You don't fire a long jump shot from Downtown, you fire it into Downtown. The Real definition of "Taking it downtown" is to suddenly drive to the basket & into a cluster of 7-footers who seem to have you sealed out - like Allen Iverson launching himself at Robinson & Duncan & dunking it over them.
The Curse of Musburger (January 1, 2001 - reprinted in Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness).
To drive the point home, I tried referring to each successful layup, each offensive rebound leading to a quick 2-pointer in the paint, each slam dunk as from "downtown." My wife just gave up and tuned out any conversation after the first quarter of Game 3 (which was really the only interesting game of the Spurs-Jazz series, and would have been much easier to savor had there been announcers not cursed by Musburger).
On to a tangent: one of the local steakhouses/bars has Finally begun serving Guinness Extra Stout. When I first heard of this development about a couple weeks ago, I thought we've got to see this for ourselves. The rumors have been proven true. After seven years of lamenting the lack of an Irish pub, this is truly a small but crucial step in the right direction. Slainte!
Thursday, May 31, 2007
On a side note, kudos to the Spurs on winning the Western Conference championship. They'll be a force to be reckoned with late next week - well-rested and looking for blood. Personally I'm hoping for a repeat Spurs-Pistons match-up. The Jazz were simply over-matched this year. The team showed some moments of brilliance throughout the Conference championship series but they were pretty obviously spent by the end of game 4. They mostly went through the motions on game 5.
If there is a positive aspect to this despair, it is this very realization: the system is the problem. It has not so much "failed" us as we have failed to understand what Sheehan and Bacevich are concluding: it isn't designed to work for us but for but for them.That dovetails nicely with what I was saying a few days ago. I'll merely reiterate that the Democrats are a dead-end street for anyone who is seriously anti-war. Sheehan has been building up to that epiphany since she first became a prominent anti-war spokesperson.
It serves those who vote in bipartisan fashion to further vilify and isolate Syria and Iran---the fools who do not know the first thing about Islamic history and the divisions between Shiites and Sunnis, secularists and Islamists. It serves those lining up to embrace the fear-mongering Islamophobic neocon agenda for more confrontation with the Muslim world. It serves those who fear AIPAC more than the consequences of a strike on Iran. It serves the Democrats who want to keep an attack on Iran on the table, but assure President Bush that his impeachment is off the table because it's just too radical a prospect for them to consider.
This is indeed the way the system works.
Leupp is also correct in noting that about the only way for the current system to even concede anything to us rabble would be if the elites perceived that the system (their very own life blood) were under severe duress. Such occurrences happen very rarely, and one may contend that arguably the US is not yet at that point in which a critical mass are sufficiently outraged to force even a pittance of substantive changes that would favor ordinary folks rather than the ruling elites.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, prominent neoconservative Norman Podhoretz writes that he 'hopes' and 'prays' that President Bush will bomb Iran.My emphasis added. Like a lot of neo-cons and similar-minded right-wing authoritarians, Podhoretz exhibits a sort of siege mentality. Like any "good" war apologist, Podhoretz takes the perspective that one of the most belligerent perpetrators of war crimes (i.e., the Bush II regime) in a nation with a checkered history when it comes to initiating aggression against other nations is merely a victim. The real victims of course are the ones who just so happen to be in the way when a bunch of those cluster bombs and bombs laced with depleted uranium are dropped.
"Although many persist in denying it, I continue to believe that what Sept 11, 2001, did was to plunge us headlong into nothing less than another world war," writes the editor-at-large of Commentary, who also sits on the Council on Foreign Relations. "I call this new war World War IV, because I also believe that what is generally known as the Cold War was actually World War III, and that this one bears a closer resemblance to that great conflict than it does to World War II."
Podhoretz thinks that Bush "intends, within the next 21 months, to order air strikes against the Iranian nuclear facilities from the three U.S. aircraft carriers already sitting nearby....If this is what Mr. Bush intends to do, it goes, or should go, without saying that his overriding purpose is to ensure the security of this country in accordance with the vow he took upon becoming president, and in line with his pledge not to stand by while one of the world's most dangerous regimes threatens us with one of the world's most dangerous weapons."
"It now remains to be seen whether this president, battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory, and weakened politically by the enemies of his policy in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular, will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel," Podhorez writes in conclusion. "As an American and as a Jew, I pray with all my heart that he will."
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
But those of you visiting our new embassy via BDY's Web site have no such worries. So get that container of Baskin-Robbins from the freezer and take another moment to consider this new wonder of our world with its own self-contained electricity-generation, water-purification, and sewage systems in a city lacking most of the above. When you look at the plans for it, you have to wonder: Can it, in any meaningful sense, be considered an embassy? And if so, an embassy to whom?
What we know is that such an embassy is remarkably outsized for Iraq. Even as a headquarters for a vast, secret set of operations in that chaotic land, it doesn't quite add up. After all, our military headquarters in Iraq is already at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad. We can certainly assume – though no one in our mainstream media world would think to say such a thing – that this new embassy will house a rousing set of CIA (and probably Pentagon) intelligence operations for the country and region, and will be a massive hive for American spooks of all sorts. But whatever its specific functions, it might best be described as the imperial Mother Ship dropping into Baghdad.
As an outpost, this vast compound reeks of one thing: imperial impunity. It was never meant to be an embassy from a democracy that had liberated an oppressed land. From the first thought, the first sketch, it was to be the sort of imperial control center suitable for the planet's sole "hyperpower," dropped into the middle of the oil heartlands of the globe. It was to be Washington's dream and Kansas City's idea of a palace fit for an embattled American proconsul – or a khan.
When completed, it will indeed be the perfect folly, as well as the perfect embassy, for a country that finds it absolutely normal to build vast base-worlds across the planet; that considers it just a regular day's work to send its aircraft carrier "strike forces" and various battleships through the Straits of Hormuz in daylight as a visible warning to a "neighboring" regional power; whose Central Intelligence Agency operatives feel free to organize and launch Baluchi tribal warriors from Pakistan into the Baluchi areas of Iran to commit acts of terror and mayhem; whose commander-in-chief president can sign a "nonlethal presidential finding" that commits our nation to a "soft power" version of the economic destabilization of Iran, involving, according to ABC News, "a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation, and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions"; whose vice president can appear on the deck of the USS John C. Stennis to address a "rally for the troops," while that aircraft carrier is on station in the Persian Gulf readying itself to pass through those Straits, and can insist to the world: "With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we're sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike. We'll keep the sea lanes open. We'll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats. We'll disrupt attacks on our own forces…. And we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region"; whose military men can refer to Iraqi insurgents as "anti-Iraqi forces"; members of whose congressional opposition can offer plans for the dismemberment of Iraq into three or more parts; and all of whose movers and shakers, participating in the Washington Consensus, can agree that one "benchmark" the Iraqi government, also locked inside the Green Zone, must fulfill is signing off on an oil law designed in Washington and meant to turn the energy clock in the Middle East back several decades; but why go on?
To recognize such imperial impunity and its symbols for what they are, all you really need to do is try to reverse any of these examples. In most cases, that's essentially inconceivable. Imagine any country building the equivalent Mother Ship "embassy" on the equivalent of two-thirds of the Washington Mall; or sailing its warships into the Gulf of Mexico and putting its second-in-command aboard the flagship of the fleet to insist on keeping the sea lanes "open"; or sending Caribbean terrorists into Florida to blow up local buses and police stations; or signing a "finding" to economically destabilize the American government; or planning the future shape of our country from a foreign capital. But you get the idea. Most of these actions, if aimed against the United States, would be treated as tantamount to acts of war and dealt with accordingly in this country, with unbelievable hue and cry.
When it's a matter of other countries halfway across the planet, however, Americans largely consider such things, even if revealed in the news, at worst tactical errors or miscalculations. The imperial mindset goes deep. It also thinks unbearably well of itself and so, naturally, wants to memorialize itself, to give itself the surroundings that only the great, the super, the hyper deserves.
Nerdified link. Engelhardt also quotes the great Percy Bysshe Shelley poem Ozymandias, which seems a fitting and cautionary poem for our times. Empires come and go, and this empire too shall one day crumble - leaving behind some decaying relics for others to ponder. Of course for those caught up into the Zeitgeist of a particular imperial period, such thoughts simply cannot be entertained (except as irrational or treasonous). Nor in the frenzy of monument-building is it possible for an empire's inhabitants to truly grasp the perspectives of those whom they attempt to dominate, including the outrage directed at monument-builders who spare no luxury while the blood of natives is spilled and children starve.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
So it goes.
I can understand her sense of jadedness and burn-out though. Being a voice in the wilderness for any length of time can be taxing. Add to that the efforts by certain factions of our ruling elites to use Ms. Sheehan's pain (and her efforts based on that pain) as a means of retaking Congressional majorities without actually doing anything substantive to address the issues Sheehan attempted to raise; and the hostility of some of those elites (and their toadies) aimed at her when she refused to play their petty little games.
If she can emerge from the experience less idealistic and more militant, all the better. Personally, I found her words and deeds to be an inspiration. Hopefully her voice will not remain silent for long.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Our Disgusting, Sickening, Impenetrable National Narcissism by Arthur Silber
kos: you broke it, you own it by catnip
While we're at it, let's enjoy an appropriate Phil Ochs classic ("Love Me, I'm a Liberal"):
Hat tip to Left I for the music.
My bottom line is this: Daily Kos, like other gated community blogs, has become mired in groupthink to an extent that there is precious little room for any substantive discussion beyond a very narrow range of "progressive" discourse. Rather than "change the world" it became abundantly clear that Kos, MyDD, et al., were more interested in becoming the establishment than offering a clear challenge to an establishment that has been decaying for far too long.
The season finale of "24" included the implanting of a microchip in a teenager to track his whereabouts. I remember one other episode where the same thing was done.I'll spare the usual Thoreau and Lao Tzu quotes that would spring immediately to mind and merely ask if there is any way to cut state congressional sessions a bit shorter before these clowns do any more damage. Putting microchip implants into people (regardless of how unsavory their pasts may seem) strikes me as something more appropriate for a thousand year Reich than a supposed Constitutional republic. By the way, Oklahoma's Senate is supposedly (according to Democrat apologists) should be semi-safe from such moronic laws given that the chamber's Democrats are not yet a minority, and if the state Senate fails then the Democrat Governor should be a failsafe. Given Governor Henry's past predilection for showing his machismo on so-called "law and order" issues, I wouldn't bet the ranch on him thinking so much as a split second before signing away his constituents' civil liberties. God help us all.
Looks like some legislators in Oklahoma had the same idea:
Legislation that would authorize microchip implants in people convicted of violent crimes was sent back to a committee yesterday. This after state House members questioned whether the proposal would violate constitutional civil liberties.
The measure, approved by the Senate, authorizes microchip implants for persons convicted of one or more of 19 violent offenses who have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. (my emphasis)
The tiny electronic implants are commonly used to keep track of pets and livestock, but several House members questioned whether their forced use in people would be unconstitutionally invasive.