Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learn something new every day

Apparently, Islam is gaining followers among the indigenous Maya in Chiapas - the southernmost state in Mexico. These passages are particularly interesting:
Rather, they belong to the Sunni, Murabitun sect that was founded by the Scotsman Ian Dallas and is seen as an offshoot of a Moroccan religious order. The Murabitun followers represent a sort of primal Islam: Earning interest profits through money lending is a no-no and they preach a literal interpretation of the Koran.

"The see themselves as restorers of Islam," says the anthropologist Gaspar Morquecho, author of a study of the Muslims of Chiapas. "Their defiance of capitalism is similar in many respects to the critique of globalization espoused by many left-wingers."


While the Mayan Muslims in Chiapas have been receiving extra attention of late, the Tzotzil conversion has been underway for some time. In the mid 1990s, a group of Spanish Muslims embarked to Latin America to spread the word; their leader was Aureliano Perez, who is now worshipped by the Maya-Muslims as Emir Nafia. He offered the Zapatista rebels fighting under Subcomandante Marcos, whom Perez supported, an ideological-religious alliance. Marcos was hesitant to enter the odd pact, but the Muslim missionaries were unperturbed: They discovered that the Tzotzil Indians made up the majority of the Zapatista rebels and were quite open to the teachings of the prophet Mohammed.


"In Islam, the Indians rediscover their original values," claims Esteban Lopez, the Spanish secretary general of the Muslim community. "The Christians destroyed their culture." He presents the use and abuse of alcohol as proof. Alcoholism is wide-spread under Tzotzil Indians and the strict ban on spirits in Islam helps many to break the vicious circle of addiction and poverty.
There does appear to be some common ground between the revolutionary work of the Zapatistas and the Muslim converts in the region with regard to capitalism (neither group seems to have much kind to say about it) and lifestyle (the Zapatistas' leadership has worked diligently to reduce the rampant alcoholism and self-destruction over the last couple decades).

A modest proposal

I've been writing a bit about The Great American Swindle for a while, and I suspect that most folks who read what I have to say get the distinct - and entirely accurate - impression that I am quite angered. Surely I'm not alone in terms of anger, as plenty of relatively level-headed economist wonks (all of whom would be considered quite mainstream) are appalled by the plans that have been unleashed to allow Wall Street conglomerates to roll the dice a few more times at the proverbial casino craps table. Clusterstock summarizes the views of such folks as Krugman, Calculated Risk, and Yves Smith - each of whom is quite critical of the latest Geithner boondoggle. James K. Galbraith is also quite sour; so much so that we could simply boil his essay down to a single simple sentence - "we're fucked." There is currently some speculation - still strictly at the rumor level right now - that Geithner is on the way out, after a very short tenure within the Obama regime. And of course as one might expect during an economic collapse, members of the investor class begin sniping at one another.

Why mention all of this? As I said before I am angry, but I am now realizing that my anger, while justified, has been misdirected. I am now understanding that the geniuses on Wall Street and their puppets in the White House have intentionally been aiming for boondoggle of historic proportions. The problem is that they have not gone far enough. The hope initially was to hoodwink a sufficient proportion of the public into believing that the economic fantasy land of the 1990s and first few years of this decade could be revived. The trouble is that a critical mass refuses to believe a word that these crooks say. So now we have money committed, and more expected to be committed to a comatose economy. They might as well burn the money, I thought. Then it hit me - that's it! Burn the money. What Wall Street and its flunkies in the White House and Capitol Hill have failed to realize since last fall is that what they are doing in the end amounts to burning the money, but is far less efficient than literally torching all those greenbacks. So, why not simply take all of those countless billions of dollars, print them out, pile them up on the White House lawn (or The Mall, or right in Wall Street itself), and have a bonfire. Obama can give one of his moving speeches about hope and unity, and Geithner could do the honors of setting alight all that money as the television cameras roll. Perhaps in a show of bipartisanship, both Geithner and Paulson could share the honors. Hell, if the nation is pretty much bankrupt any way, might as well have one hell of a party.

Say hello to

Sacramento Homeless (h/t Arcturus).

Genocide as fashion statement

Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009 - no comment required.

Friday, March 20, 2009

As the economy worsens

Perhaps it's time to dust off something an old friend wrote about 5 and a half years ago: Advice for the New Poor.

Say hello to

Digital Artz.

Get the skinny on the scam

Matt Taibbi has an article in Rolling Stone called The Big Takeover. The article is useful in terms of explaining the origins of the economic collapse during the boom years of the 1990s to the present in which the conglomerates responsible for the mess consolidate ever more power - all on our dime.

The United States of Ponzi

That's the title from Nouriel Roubini's latest column:
Americans lived in a "Made-off" and Ponzi bubble economy for a decade or even longer. Madoff is the mirror of the American economy and of its over-leveraged agents: a house of cards of leverage over leverage by households, financial firms and corporations that has now collapsed in a heap.


A country that has--for over 25 years--spent more than income and thus run an endless string of current account deficit--and has thus become the largest net foreign debtor in the world (with net foreign liabilities that are likely to be over $3 trillion by the end of this year)--is also a Ponzi country that may eventually default on its foreign debt if it does not, over time, tighten its belt and start running smaller current account deficits and actual trade surpluses.

Whenever you persistently consume more than your income year after year (a household with negative savings, a government with budget deficit, a firm or financial institution with persistent losses, a country with a current account deficit) you are playing a Ponzi game. In the jargon of formal economics, you are not satisfying your long-run inter-temporal budget constraint as you borrow to finance the interest rate on your previous debt, and are thus following an unsustainable debt dynamics that eventually leads to outright insolvency.

The whole thing is worth reading (h/t to The Newshoggers' Ron Beasley), who furthre comments:
I think the root of this problem goes back nearly 30 years with Ronald Reagan's successful attempt to destroy the US middle class. The spending power of the middle class was what drove the US economy. To make up for diminishing disposable income the Greenspan Fed flooded the economy with easy credit. This policy was carried our on steroids by Greenspan before the 2004 election in order to make appear that the "recovery " continued to give George W. Bush an election boost. This credit frenzy was enough to bring the Ponzi economy down.
It bears repeating - the whole fucking economy was one big ponzi scheme, and has been since the Raygun regime ushered in the era of neoliberalism that has led (and continues to lead) to what blogger Richard Estes refers to as the sub-proletarianization of America. Remember:
The U.S. economy, under the Reagan doctrine that carried on, even through the Clinton years, is primarily composed of abandoning production in favor of Wall Street "paper" gambling (for real dollars), a frenzy of consumption (although most of the goods consumed are now manufactured overseas -- in let's say China, for instance), and the reliance on gargantuan personal and national debt.
There's no big secret here; no need for conspiracy theories. We need only remind ourselves that economic theorists, pundits, and politicians who advocate and put into practice the sort of bubble economy that we have lived under in recent decades - one in which predatory capitalists operate under almost absolute impunity - was pretty much out in the open. Journalists such as Naomi Klein were able to put the pieces together some time ago. The propaganda used to sell neoliberalism to the masses was there for all to see, from the esoteric pronouncements of "the end of history" to the more mundane claims that "wealth" could expand indefinitely. Alas, the after the end of the end of history, the chickens came back home to roost. Those at or near the bottom of the scheme (e.g., the folks who got suckered into subprime mortgages or placed their faith in 401ks) were the first to realize this and the first to feel the pain. At this point, those at or near the top of the pyramid are still living in some form of denial - or maybe not. Hell, there may be precious little for them to care about as long as there's enough loot to arm sufficient numbers of mercenaries and build and maintain a sufficient number of prisons to protect them from any angry formerly middle class mob that may form along the way. At this point, the transfer of wealth is pretty well complete.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Other voices on the anniversary of the ground invasion

Yifat Susskind:
Here in the U.S., we've rarely heard the story of the Iraq War told from the perspective of women. So what are Iraqi women saying on the sixth anniversary of the US invasion? The same thing they've been saying since 2003: end the occupation. Polls consistently show that a majority of Iraqis want US troops out.


This week marks six years since the U.S. invaded Iraq. In that time, women have not only faced with mounting violence -- they have also organized a movement to confront US occupation and violence against women.

Looking for a way to speak out against the repression she witnessed, Fatin joined the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). In partnership with MADRE, an international women's human rights organization based in New York, OWFI has worked to promote women's human rights, creating a network of women's shelters to protect women fleeing violence.

The women of Iraq are creating the foundation on which a peaceful and just future will be built. It's time we started listening to them.
That article comes courtesy of Chris Floyd, who also has this to say:
...the United States very deliberately empowered some of the most violent, retrograde elements in Iraqi society (many of them militias formed, trained and armed by Iran), and then helped them carry out one of the most savage "ethnic cleansing" campaigns since World War II. The Americans did this because they hoped that the extremists would trade the power and perks that Washington had given them for a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq sweetheart deals on oil, and crony contracts out the wazoo. And despite all the talk of "drawdowns" and deadlines, all three of these aims are still very much in play. In fact, the last one -- the continuation war pork the for war profiteers back home -- is a dead certainty, with billions of arms deals for the new Iraqi military already in the pipeline, joining the hundreds of billions already funneled, by hook, crook and no-bid contract, into the bipartisan elite's favorite corporate troughs.
Robin Long (h/t Another Point of View):

In 2004 when Jeremy Hinzmen applied for refugee status in Canada the Conservative government stepped in at his Refugee Hearing and said that evidence challenging the legality of the war in Iraq can't be used in this case. The U.N. Handbook for Refugees and the Nuremburg Principals say:

A soldier of an army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. They also have the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention.

By refusing to allow him, and by precedent all other claimants, the right to use the argument that the war was illegal, the decision closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.

The invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal act of aggression. The U.S. was not under attack or the imminent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq. The action was also not approved by the U.N. Security Council. By taking this stance, the Conservative government is condoning the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq. Is this what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have also realized it to be a mistake. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding onto the idea and still deporting war resisters? Why are they separating families and being complicit in the incarceration of morally strong young men and women? What message is this sending?

A reporter from the Miami Herald writes on the condition of Iraq's drinking water six years after the 2003 ground invasion (h/t Drudge Retort):
The stench of human waste is enough to tell Falah abu Hasan that his drinking water is bad. His infant daughter Fatma's continuous illnesses and his own constant nausea confirm it. "We are the poor. No one cares if we get sick and die,'' he said. ``But someone should do something about the water. It is dirty. It brings disease." Everybody complains about the water in Baghdad, and few are willing to risk drinking it from the tap. Six years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, 36 percent of Baghdad's drinking water is unsafe, according to the Iraqi Environment Ministry -- in a good month. In a bad month, it's 90 percent. Cholera broke out last summer, and officials fear another outbreak this year.
That of course is but one of numerous infrastructure catastrophes faced by the Iraqi people thanks to not only the ground invasion and occupation, but also years of economic blockades and air strikes spearheaded by the US.

Turns out that our corporate media are largely ignoring the anniversary (with kudos to USA Today as the primary exception):
Today marks six years since former President Bush launched the invasion of Iraq — a preventive war of choice based on “intelligence fixed around the policy.” Since that time, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, over 4,000 U.S. servicemen and women and hundreds more from coalition countries have died (tens of thousands more physically and mentally wounded), nearly 100,000 (or more) Iraqi civilians have parished and nearly 5 million have been displaced. Yet the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, and many other major American newspapers are ignoring the anniversary today. Only USA Today printed a story noting the anniversary of the invasion. Today’s Progress Report has more on the good, the bad, and the ugly of developments surrounding the Iraq war over the last year.
H/t The End Of The World.

Some other assorted blog voices that grabbed my attention:

Judi's Mind Over Matter has a time line, Jonathan Powers offers a veteran's eye view (Huffington Post also has something of a roundup of bloggers it hosts regarding the anniversary), Quaker House of Fayetteville NC says "End the War", Marshall Thompson (h/t The SideTrack) is organizing an online protest on Twitter and Facebook, Ten Percent marks the anniversary (h/t Blazing Indiscretions) MashGet marks a day of protests against the war and AIG, Jeremy Gantz marks the anniversary with some reflection and some data, and the Common Ills has an Iraq snapshot. Finally, see Kathy Sanborn's column in Counterpunch on Iraq's broken culture.

Sixth anniversary: Fragments of writing from March 2003 (with commentary)

Image caption: Falluja/Guernica, 2004 by Rob Landeros (found at Gernika)

As we observe the sixth anniversary of the start of the current phase of the Iraq War - largely an escalation of what had already begun under George Bush I and Bill Clinton - I'm taking a trip down memory lane. In March 2003 I did not as of yet have a blog, but did post to message boards and usenet groups of one sort or another. I didn't really go out of my way to archive much of what I might have written at the time, as it was largely in the form of off-the-cuff remarks. That said, here are a few fragments that capture where I was at in late March of that year. I'll try to provide some context for these fragmentary comments wherever possible.

March 18, 2003

Note - In response to a conversation regarding the alleged accuracy of the so-called smart bombs to be used in the opening bombing raids:
Well, one way to interpret the "shock and awe" strategy is that the massive bombings will end up creating massive collateral damage. The "smart bombs" aren't that smart.
Note - I expected that the Iraq War would escalate conflict, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia:
If I were the leader of one of the so-called "axis of evil" nations, I'd be pushing to get armed to the teeth with whatever weaponry possible, including biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons, if for no other reason than because of the realization that the U.S. won't stop with Iraq & that if one's country is on the list of nations to be invaded, at least those invasions would be more costly to the U.S.
March 20, 2003

Note - Regarding a conversation on the continuing world-wide protests as the war started:
Many of us did not ask for this waste of a war. We have a voice too. Bring on the noise. Word.
March 21, 2003

Note - The last part of the following sentence captures my thoughts about the actual motivation for the US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq:
Makes me wonder if Bush et al ever bothered to listen to Iraqi citizens, or if (as I suspect is way more likely) they simply made the decision to impose their vision of manifest destiny in which Iraqis are viewed strictly as sharecroppers on those Oil plantations.
Note - A bit of sarcasm aimed at some of the happy talk that permeated the opening days of the war:
The U$ has made the world safe for SUV owners everywhere. The companies will be pleased.
March 23, 2003

Note - In response to the well-worn canard that the US was "fighting terrorists in Iraq to make Americans safer at home" I wanted to point out our own home-grown right-wing Christian fundamentalist terrorists:
I'd be willing to wager all 5 cents of my life savings that the vast majority of the people being "shocked and awed" are underpaid working stiffs like me, who simply could not afford to leave.

Sometimes I find it a good idea to look close to home. How many terrorists are our major cities harboring? (i.e., people who bomb family planning clinics & target staff of these clinics for assassination; people who burn crosses in front of the homes of African-Americans, who set fire to mosques & churches, and so forth).
March 26, 2003

Note - Another response illustrating my skepticism about the US government's motives for embarking on the war:
I suppose the best way to put this is that I don't buy the premise that the war has anything to do with the human rights situation in Iraq. The Reagan/Bush crowd in the 1980s didn't give a damn back then, and the current Bush crowd doesn't give a damn now. If it suited the purposes of our government, they'd gladly place another brutal dictator in power there and politely ignore the plight of Iraqi civilians (provided of course that the dictator in question cooperates with our government).
I thought that the war was an awful idea from the get-go, having at various points prior expressed skepticism about the initial rationale for the war (i.e., the alleged WMDs that turned out to be non-existent) as well as all the b.s. about democratizing Iraq, ad nauseum. I was convinced that the people who would be hurt the most were going to be low-income Iraqi civilian families, and that 21st century equivalents of Guernica and Dresden were likely to transpire before all was said and done. Indeed, if anything, the events that have transpired in the six years since the war started have been in a number of respects worse than I could have imagined. An Iraqi death toll estimated at around one million only captures part of the story. There's also the distress caused to the friends and relatives of those murdered by the "Coalition" (don't forget the mercenaries) the massive number of injured, human displacement, disease, torture, and social death experienced by those who had the misfortune of merely being in the way of the US war machine to be considered. We'll still need to come to terms with the likelihood that Iraq was yet another "laboratory" for predatory capitalist ventures, and that the chaos caused by the war is even desirable in the eyes of our ruling class.

There is no comfort to be found in being correct; only a really bad feeling at the pit of one's stomach that the various efforts to raise awareness of the lies leading up to the war as well as the likely consequences of going to war simply failed to prevent the massive loss of lives since it all began on March 19, 2003. That day will indeed live in infamy.

It's also clear in this dark year 2009 that the US is not even remotely facing up to what's going on. The "great" experts whose opinions were gathered by New Pravda last year to wax philosophically about the war didn't even begin to touch on the purely criminal nature of the Iraq War. Our elections are so effectively gamed so that the only "choices" left to voters are warmongers: in 2008 it was John "One Hundred Years War" McCain; and Barack "the kinda-sorta-but-not-really war opponent" Obama. For war opponents, like myself, neither of these candidates was particularly inspiring, and perhaps to refer to both as quite loathsome would be apt. Let's just say that I have no reason to be optimistic about any "change" from the White House coming about in the near future, save perhaps a change for the worse. Don't expect any "change" from Congress either.

Unless or until a critical mass of folks get it through their skulls that the mentality that the US owns the planet is not only incorrect but dangerous, the blood of innocents will continue to be spilled. As one might gather from the fragments, I might have been somewhat more optimistic back then. I certainly would have given the ruling class too much credit in even suggesting that any of them would bother to listen to Iraqis and their concerns - inside The Beltway (along with usual cronies on Wall Street), the Iraqis were never more than fauna. Turning to members of the ruling class to get it together and stop the warmongering is not where it's at - almost without exception, they've been drinking that fire water for far too long. The summary of the last six years can be boiled down to a title to an essay by fellow blogger Arthur Silber: over one million murdered, and nothing has been learned. As far as the US elites are concerned, there is nothing to learn - other than how to commit genocide more efficiently. No, the critical mass I'm thinking about is to come from us - just ordinary folks. We're the ones who will have to say "enough is enough" in words and deeds.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The rich are to blame for this crisis, and they ought to pay

So says Richard Seymour, the author of the blog Lenin's Tomb:
Various left campaign groups are springing into existence in the US and UK, to pressure governments for palliation, with sensible measures like socially-affordable housing, job protection, union rights, etc. They are filling a void created by the absence of an upsurge in working class militancy, and the absence of a left-wing party capable of hegemony. In the US, there is a campaign to lobby the Obama administration from the left (I say 'left', but this includes the ACLU and In the UK, the latest is the People's Charter, supported by trade unionists, left-wing Labour MPs and campaigning lawyers. This is a positive development, and I encourage people to sign up. Still, I wish it said something about tumbrils. I wish it said, in a word, that the rich are to blame for this crisis and that, as they have benefited most from the circumstances that led to this state of affairs, they ought to pay. We need to tax those bastards, take their businesses into public ownership, close their little tax loopholes, and criminalise their offshore havens. We ought to be resentful about it, too. And petty: let's make them clean the toilets at Spar while we're taking their shit. Enough with the gentrified conventions of bourgeois politics - I demand vengeance.
My emphasis added - and, I'll also second that! Good luck getting what passes for a "left" in the US (or at least an organized "left") to make such pronouncements much less take any actions based on such pronouncements. The crowd is too busy sucking on the teat of the Pope of Hope to do such a thing. Instead, for now, we have only a ragtag collection of bloggers, community organizers, and fellow travelers to do fill the vacuum as best we can.

On the eve of the Iraq War anniversary,

or at least the anniversary of the most recent phase of the Iraq War, don't forget to check if there are any actions in your community.

Look, we knew that the government was torturing

There have been plenty of reports to that effect going back to the beginning of Baby Doc Bush's "war on terra." All you have to do if you need a reminder is to check out some of Chris Floyd's reporting over the course of this sorry excuse for a decade. It's also no secret, if you're willing to look, that the current Obama regime is not really doing much to hold those in the previous regime accountable, nor aside from a few cosmetic changes (the eventual closing of Gitmo but with an expansion of Bagram; the removal of the designation "enemy combatant" without actually changing the circumstances still faced by those now formerly designated as such) has the new regime shown much interest in any substantive change we can believe in. Nor does it appear that the prominent so-called progressive and liberal bloggers have taken much initiative in holding the new regime's (along with those in Congress) feet to the fire - with perhaps Chris Floyd and Steve Hynd of Newshoggers as the most notable exceptions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Homophobia strikes again

Gay-themed film cost Oklahoma teacher her job:
Gay rights groups are complaining about the firing of a rural Oklahoma high school teacher who lost her job last week after assigning a play about the 1998 death of a gay college student. But the tiny school district says the move came after the teacher held a mock "funeral" for a canceled film production of the play.

The episode began in January, when Debra Taylor showed students at Grandfield High School The Laramie Project, a 2002 film based on the play of the same name, about the murder of Matthew Shepard. The students soon decided to film selected scenes themselves for an in-class project.

Taylor, 50, knew the project was controversial with strong language, but got her principal's permission. A few weeks into it, the principal told her to stop production. After students protested, she held a 20-minute ceremony in a nearby park in which students wrote their thoughts and rolled them into helium balloons, then released them.

The next day, Taylor says, Superintendent Ed Turlington canceled the class. After she complained to a school board member, Turlington put her on paid leave and recommended that she be fired. The school board approved her resignation Friday.

Taylor says she was let go for complaining to the board member, but others say it was a result of the play's subject: homophobia. "They don't want something like this addressed in our community," says senior Matt Ebner, one of Taylor's former students.

I gathered there is a protest Friday in that community by of all entities the Westboro Baptist Church (the goons behind the infamous God Hates Fags website), along with a counterprotest. Those goons profess a kind of "Christianity" that is abhorrent and alien to me. That said, I'm sure that some of the members of the community involved are at least secretly grooving on the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church - Turlington strikes me as someone who would. My hope is that there are some students and parents in the community who will stand up for Ms. Taylor and who - in the face of I'm sure enormous pressure to be good obedient conformist sheep - will tell the bigots to take a hike. One thing I've learned in the last year with my own much different set of school-related issues is that more often than not, dissenting parents and students are hardly alone, and that one honest voice can have quite an impact - sometimes it's louder than the voices of ignorance and bigotry.

Updated: My bad. I managed to misread the original dispatch at JMBZine as regarding an action that already occurred.

I'm always amazed at what I can find on the Internet

There is actually a website called The Fucking Weather (h/t BLCKDGRD). According to the site, the weather in my town is "fucking ... alright." I won't argue with that - it's downright comfy (given the dryness, almost like early fall weather). Hopfully the weather is fucking alright in your community too.

After you're done there, you might be in the mood for the End of the Internet (h/t Mickey Z). To paraphrase the legendary Sun Ra, it's after the End of the Internet - don't you know that yet?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rachel Corrie: Six Years Later

She would have turned 30 this April. Some passages from Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie:
Summer 1998

Came back from the cays today and wound up in a hotel room in Dangriga watching cable television and waiting for my stomachache to go away. Happened to flip on C-SPAN.

I gather the U.S. has dropped cruise missiles on Afghanistan and Sudan. I gather Clinton has admitted to having sex with "that intern." People are calling in from all over the U.S. to comment. And half of the people don;t even seem to know that missiles were dropped - they're fixated on Clinton's tawdry sex life. One man actually quotes Wag the Dog to explain what's going on - like that's where we're gonna get the real information. A young boy voice calls up and is obviously reading a little prepared speech about Kenneth Starr being evil for embarrassing the president and keeping him from protecting the U.S. from the fascists. Everybody is conjecturing about the timing of the attack and calling for the president to resign.

And nobody says a word about how sad it is that people in this world have missiles dropped on them.

(p. 85)
November 6, 2001

Tools for Reading the News

Themes noticed in media coverage of the war:

* Focus on "Beards and Burkas" - emblematic, stereotypical, and "Western" concepts of increased freedom with the fall of Kandahar, etc.

* Polarizationn around dissent and obfuscation:
dissenters presented as "do nothing"
only alternatives are "do nothing" or the current situation

* Concern about duration of war/ground war portrayed as "hand-wringing" (Thomas Friedman, NYT "Give War a Chance" Op-Ed), neurotic, soft. Ex-military dudes as "Experts." NYT article picturing Phil Donahue states TV features no anti-war people, because they can't find anyone "credible" who opposes the war.

* Academia portrayed as oppressive place where normal folks who are pro-war can't voice opinions. Academia as weak link (The Olympian cartoons). Academics as so lost in theory that they espouse totalitarianism (Wall Street Journal - also equation of Marxism with totalitarianism).

*Free trade as solution to terrorism

*Donald Rumsfeld as charming, rugged Roosevelt character

*Human interest stories on immigrants who love the U.S.

*NYT - continuing stories on Islam in the U.S., Ramadan (what is the intent?)

*Bounds of acceptable debate: Military Tribunals or No Military Tribunals? Invade Iraq now or later? Who should we prop up as leader of Afghanistan? Torture or no torture?

(pp. 170-171)
November 20, 2001

Approaching the aftermath of September 11th from a civil liberties and ethnic equality perspective might ease some of the polarizing issues around the war - the narrow "attack Afghanistan and Iraq" vs. "do nothing" dialogue. Our local media really promote a pretty narrow view of what war is.

I think historical background also gives a lot of perspective. The similarity of rhetoric between 1798 and now is striking - as is the rhetoric used against the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World). Drawing attention to the fact that "you're either for us or against us" and the suggestion that deserters should be deported were used to undercut Jeffersonian democracy. This might make it necessary, at least for people writing to The Olympian, to be a little more creative about the structure of their debate.

I don't think it's the greatest thing to rely on rich-white-male history as your source of historical argument. It just promotes the idea that it's the real history. But looking at this in conjunction with Japanese internment and what happened in Centralia and Everett might make it more clear why we should know by now that anytime your executive engages in a "cold war" or a "half war" or a war on anybody that is kind of hazy and not based on a preponderance of publicized evidence - and then simultaneously starts rounding up immigrants and passing legislation which makes peaceful membership in a group illegal - particularly in times when a ruling elite is showing signs of being threatened by broad-based grassroots organization - anytime all these things happen at once, we should all be very fucking suspicious.

Another thing about the civil liberties and ethnic/racial profiling thing - as far as local organizing goes, this has the potential for a lot more coalition-building and could make criticism of the war seem less radical and add more detail than just "peace."

Going to the City Council might not work - but it is a chance to get your cause seen on TV without going through the filters of The Olympian editing staff. I'm kind of interested in the response that might happen if people were shown on public television saying "Fuck John Ashcroft, Fuck the Patriot Act, Fuck Military Tribunals, and here is the historical evidence of why ... here's how it's affected us in teh past, here - locally.

(pp. 172-173)
January 19, 2003

...The scariest thing for non-Jewish Americans in talking about Palestinian self-determination is the fear of being or sounding anti-Semitic. Reading Chomsky's book and talking to my non-Zionist Jewish friends has helped me think about this. Mostly, I just think we all have the right to be critical of government policies ... any government policies ... particularly government policies which we are funding. It is important to recognize that the people of Israel are suffering and that Jewish people have a long history of oppression, which I think we, as U.S. citicens and non-Jews, still have some responsibility for - at least for undestanding the role fo anti-Semitism, U.S. foreign policy, and the slaughter of Jewish people in Europe (which the U.S. did not intervene to stop immediately and some of which we might have prevented had we allowed Jewish refugees to come here in greater numbers).

I think white people sometimes suffer in the United States from a system that still privileges us over people of color; men suffer from the system that privileges them over women; and Jewish Israelis suffer (much more than white people and men in the U.S.) from a system in Israel that privileges them over Palestinian-Israelis and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Nevertheless, the system remains a racist one...

(p. 226)
Learn more at Rachel's Words and The anniversary of her death is a stark reminder of just how dark the days were just as the war on the Iraqis was about to begin, and how dark they've been since. While right-wingers in the US and Israel would no doubt find her death to be a source for endless amusement (and for "respectable" liberals and moderates something not even worthy of so much as a shrug), for those of us who still give a damn about human rights there was (and still is) a sense of mourning and anger.

For a better understanding of the context in which Rachel was murdered, see Sonja Karkar's article from two years ago in CounterPunch, What Rachel Saw: Rachel Corrie and Palestine, as well as last year's article by Tom Wright and Therese Saliba, Five Years Later: Rachel Corrie's Case for Justice.

See also, my post from last year.

Update: Amy Goodman has an interview with Rachel Corrie's parents (her parents also have an editorial up at Electronic Intifada). Among the bloggers, check Daniel McKay's post, Silenced Majority Portal, reykr (who also reminds us that this also the anniversary of the Mai Lai massacre), Palestinian Pundit, Brian's Blog, Imagine, Jerusalem Syndrome, dancewater, Church Stuff - More or less, Truth Rocker, One Humanity, nin's journey, Philadelphia Freedom Blog, Gila Svirsky for OpEdNews, Progressive Alaska, .Common Sense, Thoughts by Dee, karmalised, anotherworldispossible, and numerous more.

Update II: filasteen, inforondel, David Bromwich (h/t northshorewoman), Educating the Ignorant, Disappeared News, Ann Haften, The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, Peace Writers, We Will Return, bnoyes, Commentaries on War and Peace, Homeless on the High Desert, The Gaza War, One Fire, politickybitch, siratyst, etc.

A chronicle of the Jon Stewart-Jim Cramer throwdown in video

First, the prelude - John Stewart's opening salvo on March 4:

Fast-forward a few days to March 9, when The Daily Show aired the segment titled "In Cramer We Trust":

A day later, the escalation continues:

Finally, Cramer appears on Stewart's home turf. As I understand it, the whole thing was too long for the show, and was edited down - but thanks to the miracles of those festive internet tubes, we can see the whole thing in three parts:

H/t Iceland banking crisis video and more 2008 and 2009. The interview itself is quite civil, and relatively sober (with some comic relief on occasion), and even some moments of actual reporting - by Stewart. Certainly one ends up with a more complex picture of CNBC commentator Cramer; at the same time, Stewart points out time and again that the target of his satire was not merely a person but rather the network and (within the confines of what I suspect Stewart's ideology would allow) a mindset.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reaganites crap a brick

The FMLN can now add the presidency of El Salvador to its list of accomplishments. We'll see what that ends up meaning in the upcoming months (I'm sure US corporate media will try to spin the result for the foreseeable future), but for the moment, one can't help but be impressed by the latest leftist leader elected in Latin America.

Favorite US media quote comes from CNN, in which someone makes the distinction between "good leftists" and "bad leftists." The "good ones" no doubt are the ones who put a somewhat more humane face on neoliberalism, whereas the "bad" leftists tend to be cats like Hugo Chavez (the US elites' favorite demon now that Fidel Castro is elderly and less visible).

It is more than a little jarring, I must admit

The story of the recent mass-shooting in Samson, Alabama seemed to have an added element that was left mostly overlooked: US troops occupying that town in the aftermath of the shootings. Just part of the creeping fascism that characterizes our national insecurity state that seems to continue during the post-Bush II era.

Interesting footnote in rock's history

Death was Punk Before Punk Was Punk:
The group’s music has been almost completely unheard since the band stopped performing more than three decades ago. But after all the years of silence, Death’s moment has finally arrived. It comes, however, nearly a decade too late for its founder and leader, David Hackney, who died of lung cancer in 2000. “David was convinced more than any of us that we were doing something totally revolutionary,” said Bobby Sr., 52.

Forgotten except by the most fervent punk rock record collectors — the band’s self-released 1976 single recently traded hands for the equivalent of $800 — Death would likely have remained lost in obscurity if not for the discovery last year of a 1974 demo tape in Bobby Sr.’s attic. Released last month by Drag City Records as “... For the Whole World to See,” Death’s newly unearthed recordings reveal a remarkable missing link between the high-energy hard rock of Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC5 from the late 1960s and early ’70s and the high-velocity assault of punk from its breakthrough years of 1976 and ’77. Death’s songs “Politicians in My Eyes,” “Keep On Knocking” and “Freakin Out” are scorching blasts of feral ur-punk, making the brothers unwitting artistic kin to their punk-pioneer contemporaries the Ramones, in New York; Rocket From the Tombs, in Cleveland; and the Saints, in Brisbane, Australia. They also preceded Bad Brains, the most celebrated African-American punk band, by almost five years.
H/t Richard of American Leftist, who notes that contra the article, there was perhaps more in common between punk and disco than met the eye (the article leads one to the conclusion that the rise of disco was the death knell for the protopunk band Death). Hell, once the post-punk era began in earnest around the end of the 1970s and continued into the early 1980s, some interesting musical mutations of punk intensity and disco's propulsive beats emerged. Certainly, we'd want to consider some of the music that got characterized as "no wave," as well as industrial music (check out some Cabaret Voltaire's music from around 1982 or 1983, or perhaps some of 23 Skidoo's work from around that period; and if we want to go into the late 1980s, Skinny Puppy and Ministry both included elements of both genres and then some), as well as Pop Group and Gang of Four (bands that produced some genius work around 1979-1980). There was certainly a sonic blend of music of multiple cultures in many of these bands work at the time, and was one of the things that attracted me to it (along with the angst, nihilism, and occasional revolutionary rhetoric).

Your tax dollars at work

A.I.G. Planning Huge Bonuses After $170 Billion Bailout. The transfer of wealth from those of us without to the rich on Wall Street (what I've been calling The Great American Swindle) continues.