Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records

Or, in this day and age CDs and iTunes. From the article:
Instant Karma is an Amnesty International project featuring 23 John Lennon classics on 2 CDs for $21.98.
The organisation says the project is keyed to stopping, "the horrific human rights abuses taking place in Darfur, Sudan" and the proceeds from both discs will be used to that end.


But it's hard not to be cynical about this kind of project, the undoubted good intentions of Amnesty and the artists involved notwithstanding.

Exactly how much of the money raised really will reach Darfur once production, manufacturing, packaging, shipping, distribution, and all the other costs have been met?? And of that, how much of it really will be used to stop the crimes?

Meanwhile, Apple is already using Darfur Instant Karma songs to boost iTunes.

My emphasis added. Of course the recording boasts plenty of the usual pop royalty, including of course U2 (Bono's quite the darling of World Bank if I recall correctly). Reminds me of all the hubbub surrounding the Live Aid recording back a couple decades ago. A band I used to listen to, Chumbawamba put out an LP (remember those?) in 1986 titled "Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records" (click the link to check the lyrics) that was critical of the project and its deflection from what was actually causing the mass starvation in Ethiopia. These days, it's starvation and genocide in Darfur, which was barely worth noting in Western media until just three years ago. One wonders what on earth could possibly be motivating this sudden attention and demands for "humanitarian" intervention (an oxymoron if ever there were one). Maybe I'll just close with an old Chumbawamba lyric:

The first world's got greedy, we're consuming it all
The third world's got hunger, and military control
This unequal balance is a master plan
One gets rich from the other's land
They've got it all worked out, and we give our consent
They've got it all worked out, and we give our consent
They've got it all worked out for Central America
And they've got it all worked out for Africa
And in our naivete we believe myths and over consume
And give them our consent
Dying in the shadow of the USA
Let them eat bullshit, make the land pay
Make a fast deal with the local elite
Then substitute cash crops where once grew wheat
Build a cycle of dependence on a starvation diet
With food as a weapon, workers stay quiet
And multinational names have blood on their brands
From taking an interest in misused lands
Del Monte, Tate and Lyle, Ralston, Purina
Coca-Cola, RTZ, and Unilever
All packaging lifestyles for the glamorous West
Expand the company, exploit the rest
We are not isolated by distance
But by greed and our racist history
Just a wall's width away
Still impossible to reach across
This space in front of me
It's we who write this history
We who guard the money-tree
We support the companies
We stole the colonies
And when the system starts to crack
We'll have to be ready to give it all back
And when the system starts to crack
We'll have to be ready to give it all back
See the space which lies between the rich and the poor
How the space increases as we keep on taking more
Keeping that space between as all
Is how the west can keep control
With a mission and a checkbook promising aid
Posing for the camera the United Nations man came
Ha talked of control and the terrible drought
And the way that the west would bail them out
Then he stopped smiling and talked conditions
Of mutual aid, and American wishes
Sending in aid with sewn-on strings
If they won't buy arms then it's pulled back in
Feeding the world American style
Colonel Sanders has an empire behind his smile
Back up the investments with a military regime
Then cleverly says it's to keep the world free
But the multinational myths are beginning to fall
The poor don't want aid, they want control
And if we really want to see the third world eat
We've got to see through the wrapping on the high street
Past the barriers of culture that dictate our lives
We're busy consuming as the other half dies
And the answer's not a question of charity
Not whilst profit's still the top priority
So let the glossy shop-fronts know what to expect
And you bosses of Companies...
And the cycle of hungry children
Will keep on going 'round
Will keep on going 'round
Until we burn the multinationals to the ground

A picture is worth ten thousand words

File under, "we could see this one a mile away."

White heterosexual privilege and victim blame

Some interesting grafs from Arthur Silber's blog:
But the surrounding context ought to be painfully obvious: Moore is discussing a society and a culture which are founded on, organized around and which embody white, straight male privilege across the board, and in virtually every aspect and particular. That critical, broader context must inform how one interprets Moore's narrower statements. Instead, Larry takes a great deal of time and attention to make a very delimited philosophic point which is (as he himself argues) painfully obvious to anyone with half a brain, while the much more complex and infinitely more significant cultural realities entirely elude him.


Larry's argument -- and please note the point that appears to be most critical to him: "I categorically refuse to feel the slightest bit of guilt and shame about who I am," and this as a criticism of people who have been made and are still made to feel guilty and ashamed about who they are from their very earliest memories, up to this very second -- falls on a spectrum which has provided me two other related examples. I wrote "We Are Not Freaks" in response to a post from Tom Schaller that I had previously discussed here and here. I received quite a lot of correspondence about those three posts. One of my correspondents vociferously defended Schaller -- and he insisted that it was people "like me" who made it so impossible for "good liberals" to fight the good fight. If only we didn't raise such a stink when our "friends" tried to help us! If only we didn't make a federal case out of everything! If only we would lighten up, and give "good liberals" like Schaller a break! So, you see, that entire controversy, along with much else, was actually my fault.

To which I replied, in essence, if not in these exact words: When you and the society you inhabit stop fucking with my life, I'll consider your wonderfully kind suggestions, buddy, and not one goddamned second before.
When I read the recent post on Silber's blog in question, it struck me that was pretty much the point: it isn't that being white makes one inherently racist. Rather, it is the case that whiteness (as a set of assumptions, beliefs, practices, etc.) is so embedded into the culture itself that it is practically impossible not to be affected by it. Our perceptions of those "like us" and those "Others" are profoundly affected by that cultural context. As a white, heterosexual male, It is "I" who assume a position of privilege - to a large degree educational opportunities, careers, the trappings of middle-class success, and so on are assumed as a given. "My" values, my appearance, "my" likes and dislikes are the norm and everything else is an aberration. "I" am the standard by which all else is judged. That is the phenomenological field with which we are dealing when discussing issues such as race or sexual orientation. From that phenomenological field, a number of assumptions follow, including the assumption among our more progressive and liberal bretheren that it is "I" who sets the parameters for "liberating" oppressed "Others." If those "Others" assert themselves beyond the parameters that "I" have deemed acceptable, "I" will respond with indignation at "their" ingratitude.

Protestations about being made to "feel guilt and shame" about one's heritage as well as the alleged difficulty that uppity "fags" and "negros" create for one's efforts as a good progressive to liberate them merely betray a sense of cognitive dissonance at having the assumptions of one's background held up to them as a mirror. When faced with such dissonance one may react in at least a couple ways. One, they could begin the long and painful journey of examining assumptions that had previously been hidden from consciousness (expect that one to take years if not decades - I know that journey intimately). Two, they can choose to psychologically distance themselves by denigrating these ungrateful "Others" (e.g., engage in behaviors analogous to victim blame).

Left out of the picture of course is the reactions of the "Others" to the same cultural assumptions that whites (including liberals and progressives) are likely to take for granted. It's not for lack of trying to get the word out, of course. Trying to get the point across regrettably gets perceived of as an attack on the white liberal sense of self.

Friday, June 15, 2007

New Orleans Two Years On

Apparently, the glacial pace at which the US government is forking over the needed cash to rebuild the city damaged by Hurricane Katrina has led city leaders to seek foreign aid.

The more things change,

the more they stay the same - including imperial propaganda concerning those conquered or colonized. Case in point:

A 2003's "Soldier's Guide to the Republic of Iraq," issued by the Army on the eve of the U.S. invasion, tells troops that Arabs see "little virtue in a frank exchange" and are "by American standards... reluctant to accept responsibility."

Those are just a few of the surprising passages found while leafing through the booklet, prepared by the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Here are some excerpts from the “cultural considerations” chapter:

- There is little virtue in a frank exchange. Getting down to business may always occur at a later meeting or a more informal setting such as dinner.

- Arabs, by American standards, are reluctant to accept responsibility… if responsibility is accepted and something goes wrong, the Arab is dishonored.

- Arabs operate by personal relations more than by time constraints.

- Arabs, by American standards, are reluctant to accept responsibility.

- Arabs do not believe in upward mobility or social status; they gain status by being born in the right family.

- Arabs do not shake hands firmly. If an Arab does not touch you, it usually means that he does not like you.

- It is said that the Arab likes to feel your breath in their face. As you back away, the Arab will continue to shuffle forward. This is known as the “diplomatic shuffle.”

- An Arab sees friendships with anyone outside the family as meaning, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

To a large degree, these statements are strikingly similar to the ones made by the British regarding the indigenous people they colonized in India, Egypt, etc.; and that the French made regarding the colonized peoples of Algeria and Tunisia - all one must do is to peruse a few volumes by such scholars and activists as Edward Said (e.g., Orientalism, and Culture and Imperialism), Albert Memmi (e.g., The Colonizer and the Colonized), and Frantz Fanon (e.g., The Wretched of the Earth) to see that the psychology of the colonizers really hasn't changed too terribly much over the past century.

Hat tip to Madman in the Marketplace over at Marisacat's blog.

Say Hello To

The Compact, and simplify your life. Found via Adbusters.

There's something empowering about decentralizing the media

It ain't just the blogosphere, but also the airwaves. The use of low-power FM stations as a means of disseminating information and providing cultural enrichment offers a level of community and empowerment that would seem unattainable otherwise. I couldn't help but think of the use of low-power radio transmitters as a means of communication between striking laborers, guerrillas, and their potential supporters as described in the introduction to Frantz Fanon's A Dying Colonialism. The more loci for getting the word out, the better when it comes to resisting the despots of the day - be it corporate oligarchs in the US, empire-supported strongmen, or empires themselves.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Being Anti-War: Just Follow a Few Steps

That's what Bruce Gagnon sez. I'm sure much of what Bruce says today has been said in one form or another before, but it all bears multiple repetitions. Much of what he suggests dovetails nicely with Buddha's Eight-Fold Path - namely right view, right speech, right intention, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Of course in our case we're not working on achieving nirvana, but are merely trying to change how we go about bringing about a much needed meaningful social change - preventing wars at a point when it is abundantly clear that wars are merely a form of murder-suicide on a global scale. In particular we need to keep mindful of what living off the largess of empire means in terms of our ability to lead ethical lives, to what extent our society is addicted to war, as well as how various cultural narrative or myths (such as the myth of the rugged individualist and the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches myth) affect our ability to perceive correctly. Realizing that we've got a problem and having the intentions to address the problem are the critical first steps. Next comes action: changing consumption habits and re-prioritize spending choices, ditching the mindless careerism that affects too many of the US middle class, turning off the TV and picking up some good books, interaction with others rather than going it alone, etc. The cool thing is, all of what Gagnon offers up is well within the realm of the possible - one does not need to lead a life of privilege or be some genius technocrat in order to try his suggestions out. I like his last words of advice in particular:
Step #10 Learn to trust again and have fun. Some of the nicest people in the world are doing political work. Meet them and become friends with them and your life will change for the better.
Revolutions, whether violent or nonviolent, don't occur because of a handful of folks doing it all, but rather because of many individuals who find fellowship and trust in one another, and who can see a lightness that betrays the bleakness of the present circumstances.

No Shit, Sherlock!

No Drop in Iraq Violence Seen Since Troop Buildup. Could have seen that one coming a mile away.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Developmentally disabled man possibly iced by ICE

I'll let Manny share the details:
Hopefully alive, somewhere in the vicinity of Tijuana, Baja California. He is the latest victim of Operation Wetback v2.007
The family of a mentally disabled man claims that the federal and local governments mistakenly had an American citizen deported and said U.S. officials should help find him in Mexico.

Relatives of Pedro Guzman, 29, are suing the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in Los Angeles federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit this week over what the civil rights group contends was the wrongful deportation of a developmentally disabled man.

Of course, ICE is spinning their actions faster than the wheels of my nana's shopping cart at CostCo.
"ICE only processes persons for removal when all available credible evidence suggests the person is an alien," ICE officials said. "That process was followed here and ICE has no reason to believe that it improperly removed Pedro Guzman."

This is a chilling story, on top of all the rest of the ICE-covered atrocities committed everyday (how's that for a pun?) It's hitting hard personally, because if one were to alter the age of Pedro by a few years and change half of his name, it would be me. While his disability probably factored heavily in this particular situation, Latin@s are being deported physically and verbally everyday.
The US government has been doing more than its share of deportation raids over the last several months, including the Swift deportation raids that I made note of this past December. These goons will harass anyone who "looks" Hispanic, as was the case the Swift raid in Cactus, TX:
The storey [sic] regarding the raid in Cactus, TX is not completely forth-coming regarding the events that took place in the small texas town this morning. The story does not mention the fact that immigration agents were going door to door in Cactus demanding birth certificates, drivers licenses, social security cards and other identification documentation from people outside the Swift meat packing plant who were peacefully going about their daily routine in their own homes. Texas citizens were also be stopped on the roads in Cactus, and were requested to produce the documents mentioned previously. Immigration services also requested identification documents for all members in the households, children and adults, they shook down. I think that the actions not covered in any news story I have read are quite extreme, and racially motivated. If any person there were hispanic or hispanic looking, then immigration agents and other officers working in the area zeroed in on them!

I mean really, since when do people carry their birth certificates around with them. And since when could a federal agent knock on your door and request these items from you. Last time I checked, people didn't have to provide anything identifying themselves to authorities without either a warrant or probable cause. I don't see any probable cause when going door to door, and no warrants were provided to any of the people I spoke to that were in Cactus this morning.

I feel that the entire events of a something like this should be covered in the news, and not just the main focus of the what it is that authorities are trying to do. I don't know how many people were detained from their homes, and I don't know if it is within the powers that be to go into residents homes, and interrogate them in this manner, but I don't agree with it. Mabye [sic] if the immigration services and the authorities would get their rear-ends down to the borders and start patrolling them properly, then we would not have to waste our tax payer dollars on raids like this.

The state and federal agencies act like this is something that has just come up. I lived in Dumas most of my life, and I'm now in my 30's, and I know that there have been illegal immigrants in this area in large numbers for as long as I can remember. I know that the focus of these operations was to prevent identity theft, but identify theft was just another means for this government to carry out the new witch hunt for illegal immigrants. I know that the area their will take an economical hit if large numbers of illegal immigrants are deported, and it just seems like a bad way to do things. Think of the people that will be seperated [sic] from their families as well. Just doesn't seem like the right thing to do!
Of course such harassment serves a number of purposes, including silencing political rallies. The government's main trump card is fear - especially when it concerns people organized demanding their rights.

Obviously our prayers go out to Pedro Guzman and his family.

Ben Harper Video: "Oppression"

Too good not to recycle (noticed Ben Harper doing the National Anthem before the start of the Cavs-Spurs game, & couldn't resist):

Tune by Ben Harper, video by Nezua.

The lyrics:
you pray on us when we sleep
you chase after the tired the poor the weak
you know you mean only harm
you reach out with your long arm

but oppression
i won't let you near me
you shall learn to fear me

you seek population control
to divide and to conquer is your goal
i swear that hatred is your home
you just won't leave bad enough alone

but oppression
i won't let you near me
you shall learn to fear me

i don't see how you sleep
for your bleeding conscience i weep
you may have the dollar on your side
but oppression
from the gospel truth you cannot hide
i won't let you near me
you shall learn to fear me
i won't let you near me
you shall fear me
Consider it inspiration.

Parsimony Part Three

"The military...exists for one purpose and that’s to apply state violence."

-- Colin Powell
What a rare moment of candor from that one.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Parsimony Part Dieux

IOZ sez:
Paris Hilton is America. Stupid, heedless, rich but not as rich as she beleieves, unhealthier than she likes to admit, casually destructive, immune to remorse, desirous of consequences for those who cross her but unable to contemplate that she should have to face any herself, acquisative, profligate, manipulative, needy, juvenile, boorish, proud, self-righteous, self-pitying, self-absorbed, and self-destructive. Her brief respite from the first real punishment of her life is the pause at the peak of the wave before the ship's keel falls sickeningly toward the trough. She's not a movie, she's a mirror.


Maybe the Democrat party has been taken over by morons (or perhaps they were morons to begin with). Case in point:

I just got off a phone call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee asking for money. My current policy -- even before I was laid off last week -- is only to give money to targeted candidates. I don't have to agree with everything the candidate says or does, but they have to at least be willing to deal with the war in a rational and consistent manner and not knuckle under to either the administration or the Democratic leadership.

When I explained my stance and rationale to the woman on the phone, she brought up the Iraq war supplemental and told me that "we" couldn't leave our troops over there without supplies, which was why some sort of funding bill had to be passed. I responded that she shouldn't be using Republican talking points and from there the conversation got a little bit heated, with her telling me that the troops in Iraq would "starve" without the money from the supplemental. Really. That's what she told me. The troops would "starve".

I said that any any President who would leave the troops to starve rather than bring them home sounded like someone who ought to be impeached, and she said that there weren't enough votes to impeach him. I thought that there probably would be if there were actually 150,000 troops starving in Iraq, but said instead that the House -- with a 30-vote Democratic margin -- could conceivably pass impeachment articles at any time. She responded that the Senate would bottle up the conviction. Again, I thought of the 150,000 starving troops and the various Republicans (or Democrats or Independent Democrats) who would have to get on board to let that happen, but right about then the conversation ended.

I do feel sorry for the woman. I don't know where she was from, but it sounded like the Midwest. And I can't help but think that even for a Democratic fundraiser it might not be a particularly great time to be hitting donors up for money, but I might have been suspicious that Democratic fundraisers have picked up the RNC callers laid off last week if I hadn't already heard the same damn arguments from long-time Democrats.

These folks have been so blinded by Exceptionalist propaganda that they likely believe their own hype. To the extent that is the case, we should expect that efforts to influence them will be an exercise in futility (don't know about you, but I don't need that kind of exercise). As I've probably mentioned more than a few times over the past nearly four years, the GOP has always been written off as hopeless - even the anti-war standard bearer, Ron Paul, has way too much baggage for me to even seriously consider. The Dems have a couple of semi-okay folks in Congress and even one or two running for Prez who seem tolerable, but as a general rule they've proven to be every bit as militarist as their GOP bretheren. No need to imagine cleverness and nuance in their words and deeds, as there is none to be had.

Donating money to this bunch is money wasted. Won't do it.

Mo Music Fo Yo Monday

Miles Davis from the 1973 Montreux Festival. The early to mid 1970s studio and live recordings are among my personal favorites. If more fusion had been this intense, I might have liked fusion a bit more. Needless to say, during the 1970s you could consistently count on Miles and crew to rock the house. Enjoy.

Music For Your Monday

Here's a video of Pharoah Sanders and crew performing in 2005. The tune is "Thembi" which is one of those tunes that still has that vibe 36 years after it was first recorded.

Well, he does have a point

Tom Coburn is one of the most batshit crazy senators to ever hail from Oklahoma, and his proposed amendment to the impending vote of no confidence targeting Abu Gonzales is little more than a publicity stunt. However, he does have something of a point:
No Confidence.--It is the sense of the Senate that Congress neither has the will nor the desire to cut frivolous, excessive, or wasteful spending and therefore the American people should have no confidence in the ability of Congress or its members to balance the budget or protect the long term financial solvency of Social Security, Medicare, or the Nation itself.
Of course the frivolous, excessive, and wasteful spending that concerns me most are these stupid wars that the White House keeps initiating and Congress critters from both parties keep funding with borrowed money. I've gathered that Coburn has absolutely no problems with funding present and future imperial ventures, of course, and as a result he's one of the Congress critters in whom I have absolutely no confidence when it comes to protecting the long-term financial solvency of the US. Nor do I have any confidence in Coburn (or much of the rest of Congress) to protect whatever's still left of the Constitution.

File under GOP Senator engaging in the ego defense mechanism known as projection.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mitt Romney and The Big Lie

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

- Joseph Goebbels
If Saddam “had opened up his country to I.A.E.A. inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction,” the war might have been averted, the former Massachusetts governor [Mitt Romney] said.

Speaking of Paris Hilton,

although there is little doubt that Ms. Hilton will continue to be coddled - even while in the joint - most women in US jails and prisons are treated quite poorly. Check this out courtesy of Amnesty International:
The Issue: Medical Neglect of Women in US Prisons

Women are denied essential medical resources and treatments, especially during times of pregnancy and/or chronic and degenerative diseases.

  • Failure to refer seriously ill inmates for treatment and delays in treatment
    Women inmates suffering from treatable diseases such as asthma, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, cancer, late-term miscarriages, and seizures have little or no access to medical attention, sometimes resulting in death or permanent injury. Instances of failure to deliver life-saving drugs for inmates with HIV/AIDS has also been noted.
  • Lack of qualified personnel and resources and use of non-medical staff
    There is too few staff to meet physical and mental health needs. This often results in long delays in obtaining medical attention; disrupted and poor quality treatment causing physical deterioration of prisoners with chronic and degenerative diseases, like cancer; overmedication of prisoners with psychotropic drugs; and lack of mental health treatment. The use of non-medical staff to screen requests for treatment is also common.
  • Charges for medical attention
    In violation of international standards, many prisons/jails charge inmates for medical attention, on the grounds that charging for health care services deters prisoners from seeking medical attention for minor matters or because they want to avoid work. In some supermaximum prisons, where prisoners cannot work at all, the US Justice Department has expressed concern that charging prisoners impedes their access to health care.
  • Inadequate Reproductive Health Care
    In 1994, the National Institute of Corrections stated that provision of gynecological services for women in prison is inadequate. Only half of the state prison systems surveyed offer female-specific services such as mammograms and Pap smears, and often entail a long wait to be seen.
  • Shackling During Pregnancy
    Shackling of all prisoners, including pregnant prisoners, is policy in federal prisons and the US Marshall Service and exists in almost all state prisons. Only two states have legislation regulating the use of restraints (belly chain, leg irons and handcuffs) Shackling during labor may cause complications during delivery such as hemorrhage or decreased fetal heart rate. If a caesarian section is needed, a delay of even 5 minutes may result in permanent brain damage to the baby.
  • Lack of treatment for substance abuse
    The gap between services available and treatment needs continues to grow. The number of prisoners with histories of drug abuse is growing, but the proportion of prisoners receiving treatment declined from 40% in 1991 to 18% in 1997.
  • Lack of Adequate or Appropriate Mental Health Services
    48-88% of women inmates experienced sexual or physical abuse before coming to prison (as many as 90% in New York and Ohio prisons), and suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. Very few prison systems provide counseling. Women attempting to access mental health services are routinely given medication without opportunity to undergo psychotherapeutic treatment.
Props to Professor Black Woman. In sociological terms this systematic denial of health services to women in prisons would be considered structural violence.