Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sounds like something I might say

Via Crooks and Liars, who also provide some text:
Maher: Now people talk a lot about a third political party in America. We don't need a third party. We need a first party. You go to the polls and your choices are the guy who voted for the first Wall Street bailout, or the guy who voted for the next ten. This week we're hearing that a public option for health care is unlikely because it doesn't have the support of enough Democrats. Even Ted Kennedy's plan, Ted Kennedy, yeah, leaves thirty seven million uninsured.

This is because we don't have a left and a right party in this country any more. We have a center right party, and a crazy party. And over the last thirty odd years, Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital.
I've been jaded about American politics precisely because there really isn't any political leadership that represents a vast swath of the American populace. Instead, we get a party that uses "progressive" buzzwords but is otherwise essentially a corporatist party and another that at times competes with the British National Party in terms of its overt racism, xenophobia, and religious fundamentalism while attempting to maintain its favor with corporate oligarchs. Aside from that, there's simply this large void. In a sense I find that I empathize with Iranian voters, many of whom are taking it to the streets in recent days, because of a shared sense that our respective systems are dysfunctional at best.

For coverage on Iran

Al Giordano, neo-resistance, Nico Pitney, and Andrew Sullivan seem to be doing a pretty decent job in compiling what information can be compiled. Also, check out the #IranElection channel on Twitter, where Sullivan has found a wealth of information.

A few words of mine:

I'm impressed with how new technologies are employed in organizing and reporting various social struggles. During the 1989 "pro-democracy" (or more appropriately "anti-neoliberalism") struggle in China, a major means of communication was the fax machine, through which information made its way past the great wall of censorship for which the nominally Chinese government was (and still is) notorious. Fast-forward twenty years, and we're seeing a new generation utilizing their cell phones, Blackberries, etc., to communicate text information on Twitter, and visual information on YouTube, which then might get picked up by any of a number of bloggers varying in terms of their visibility. Again, we see a semi-successful effort to thwart the efforts of official censorship to communicate with the outside world, as well as to organize internally. These new means of communication are far from perfect, and can be manipulated by anyone with ulterior motives, including, of course, members of a government targeted by protests. In other words, don't abandon your critical reading and thinking skills.

Much has been made about fraud in the recent national election in Iran. Discounting the usual blabbering by neocons, I am inclined to believe that something about the election results is not quite right. That said, I am actually relieved that Obama has done something relatively sane: he's resisted calls for the US government to stick its nose in Iranians' business. Why is this relatively sane? Well, from the vantage point of those who are protesting in the streets of Tehran and elsewhere, any hint of US interference will be used by the government to further repress dissent. I'm also convinced that much of the calls for US intervention reek of Orientalism.

I'm equally leery of the various color-coded "revolutions" that have characterized Eastern Europe and Central Asia over the last few years that have been used to install neoliberal-friendly despots. What I have read of Mousavi doesn't exactly inspire me to believe that he's quite the saint that our corporate media and many of our political leaders would have us believe. Fortunately, neoliberalism is just beginning its descent, and along with it a space is opening to leftist opposition in a way that wasn't possible before (true, by the way in Iran, as it is around the world).

Some of the reports coming out of Iran are unsettling, including those of protesters suffering severe burns from caustic substances dropped from helicopters (white phosphorus? napalm? acid?), as well as the casualties (deaths and injuries) as a result of government attempts to quash nonviolent protesters.

What to do? Perhaps the best that can be offered is this:
Instead those in charge (and there is some debate whether this is Khamenei or an element of the Revolutionary Guard) have shown their authoritarian nature, just as ours and many other governments do, faced with mass disproval of their activities they ignore dialogue then repress. What right do I have to expect Iran to operate better than my own country? None. But I can show solidarity with Iranians and reject outside powers interference for their own agendas. Authoritarianism of the left, right, religious, secular, whatever is never supportable.

Interesting article on Detroit

The article goes by the title Letter from the Motor City (h/t Leanan at The Oil Drum). I look at Detroit as something of a harbinger. Clearly there is the decay associated with the previous era:
The ruins of Detroit are no less spectacular, no less heartbreaking, than those of fallen ancient capitals. A beaux-arts railway station, its 18 stories vacant for the last two decades, crumbles under the tread of scavengers and vandals, its tracks pulled up, its windows punched out. A once-grand movie palace, on the site where Henry Ford built his first automobile, lives on as a derelict parking structure. Marvels of industrial architecture bleach in the sun, disappearing under urban prairies, green and garbage-strewn meadows that line the city's major avenues.

The city's disappearing act is matched by its vanishing institutions. For Chrysler and General Motors, these are the days and nights of Chapter 11 - the American bankruptcy code which allows reorganization and repudiation of contracts - while Ford attempts a desperate restructuring of its own. The ingenious legions of bankruptcy lawyers may labor in New York courtrooms (where the process is supposed to be faster, and relatively less painful), but Motor City is the site of the pileup. As bankruptcy loomed over Detroit, I went to take the city's pulse.

Unemployment in the metro region pushes towards 14 percent, the highest in the country, and rising. Municipal bonds are at junk status. The city fathers - those not ousted in successive scandals over marital infidelity, perjury, the death of an exotic dancer, and improper text messaging - grapple with a $300 million budget shortfall. Infrastructure buckles and frays. The population declines: a city of nearly two million souls in 1950 musters fewer than a million in 2009.

And yet:

...over the long Memorial Day weekend in May, more than 75,000 electronic music fans streamed into Hart Plaza on the renovated waterfront, dancing ecstatically in the shadows cast by empty skyscrapers.

Young Detroiters prefer to boast that their city gave the world techno music, rather than harp on the invention of the modern assembly line or on the Nation of Islam (which came into being in 1930, in the city's Linwood Avenue neighborhood). Every year, one of the world's largest electronic music festivals pays homage to the small group of African-American producers and DJs who fused local traditions of funk and Motown with avant-garde European electronica in the early 1980s. Soon the sound had spread to cutting-edge clubs, underground raves, and plucky record labels around the world.

One of the pioneer DJs, Derrick May, described it as a "complete mistake... like George Clinton and Kraftwerk caught in an elevator, with only a sequencer to keep them company." Yet this unlikely fusion - ethereal and driving, futurist and vintage, high concept and for the masses - fits Detroit well. Recent standard bearers of the Detroit aesthetic include Carl Craig, who is equally at home remixing Ravel and Mussorgsky or juicing up a dance floor, and Jay Dilla, a hip hop producer who achieved transcendence by discovering obscure soul records and sampling them flawlessly.


The city's bright spots are small-scale, experimental efforts. Immigration - particularly from Africa and the middle east (the city of Dearborn is by now the acknowledged center of Arab America) - is one hope of the revivalists. Bringing back manufacturing - electric car startups, green job schemes, and high-speed rail plants have all been mentioned - is another. To boost local businesses, a new, homegrown currency, the Detroit Cheers, was recently launched.

Mostly in their 20s and 30s, Detroit's several hundred urban farmers, linked by the Detroit Agriculture Network, have their own answer to the shrinking city. Many sell their produce at Eastern Market, one of America's largest and oldest public markets, currently being restored to greatness shed by shed. Some farmers are growing vegetables along Woodward Avenue, the city's main drag, which runs from the riverfront to the suburbs. Others establish community gardens the size of postage stamps wherever they can.

On the depressed east side, Tyree Guyton and other artists have transformed a section of derelict Heidelberg Street into an vast outdoor art project. Dozens of discarded stuffed animals hang from the sides of a boarded-up house. Regiments of defunct vacuum cleaners, waving gloves from their handles, mark out an overgrown garden. Shopping carts defy gravity on an exposed treetop.

Any "green shoots" are going to be apparently small scale and, well, green. If viewed through the lense of someone hoping to restore Detroit to that of its former industrial-era glory, there doesn't seem much reason for hope - only more decay. The ruins from the previous era will be around as reminders, no doubt. What will be interesting to watch is how the relatively youthful denizens refashion the community on a smaller scale, in a more environment-friendly manner, and in the process offer a blueprint for the rest of us who look for ways to transition from the old "dream" of sprawling suburbs and exurbs to something more realistic within the limits of our remaining economic and natural resources.

No Place to Hide: Torture, Psychologists, and the APA

H/t After Downing Street.

More dub

The title track to Off the Beaten Track by African Head Charge - a mid-1980s release. Jah Wobble appears on bass. On-U Sound was an incredible label.

Groove to some dub

"The Voodoo Curse" from Scientist's 1981 dub masterpiece Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nativists in AZ legislature make their stand

The latest trick is to punish public schools for offering ethnic studies courses. Basically, the legislature and Governor are telling a huge subset of their population that their narratives don't count - only the standard narrative about the "shining beacon on the hill" that we're all force fed from the moment we enter the school system. Although there is much to get out of the article, this bit sums it up quite nicely with regard to the apparent outrage that the white supremacist legislators and their supporters seem to be spewing at every available opportunity:
As University of Arizona first-year student Pricila Rodriguez, a Raza Studies alum from Tucson High, also reminds us, “People that insist that taxpayer money should not be used for ethnic studies forget that we are taxpayers, too.”
Actually, that would be a wise thing to not forget.

Worth ten thousand words

One of many reasons I don't buy into the "privatize or perish" mythology, nor do many other Americans when it comes to health care - including those reading magazines that profess the orthodoxy of "privatize or perish." Looking at the consequences of our own system, it is clear that we spend a hell of a lot more than any other nation on health care with less to show for it. In fact, our whole quality of life compared to much of the planet (including nations that are considered part of the 'developing', third world, or global south) is pretty damned poor. The system is very badly broken. Relying on the same old tired "solutions" isn't going to cut it.

Eliminationism is what happened to America

It's etched into our history from the get-go. Michael Savage merely presents it nakedly for all to see:

Caller (with pronounced accent): What happened to us Dr. Savage? (speaking of the country)

Savage: What happened to us? How many ways can I tell you who did this to us? It started 30 or 40 years ago with the radical left. It started with so many different pressure groups screaming for their own ends in order to suppress the white Christian heterosexual married male. The white, Christian, heterosexual, married male is the epitome of everything right with America, and yet it is the white, Christian, heterosexual, married male who has been made the beast of America. I can delimit for you further, but I would rather not do so at this time. I think you can pretty much fill in the blanks yourself… I don’t know. Whatever. I got a migraine from it already.

Really, Savage merely comes across as a crude equivalent of the "refined" pseudoscientists who've been pushing eugenics on us for over a century, and is not expressing anything different from what the Puritans were expressing with regard to their place in the universe relative to the indigenous peoples whom they would vigorously exterminate, nor what European imperialists have expressed in one form or another for centuries in the pursuit of conquering Africa, the Americas, Oceania, and Asia. When need be, there's always a convenient scapegoat, and the oppressors can always portray themselves as "victims" who are "misunderstood" by all those Godless heathens.

So, where's the change?

Freedom Rider gets it:
It is Summer 2009, and John McCain is President

Oh my! What would that be like? I'll quote my own response to Salon's stupid article.

Dime's worth of difference

If McCain were president his justice department would defend the Defense of Marriage Act, he would argue that he didn't have to reveal who visited the white house, he would go to court to prevent torture photos from being released and he would expand war into Afghanistan and Pakistan and he would be willing to take away our right to file malpractice suits and he would propose indefinite detention without trial and um, um, oh, never mind.
Don't forget expanded powers for ICE, bailouts for banksters (e.g., IMF) while the rest of us starve, austerity for us commoners, expansion of the Bagram gulag, and I'm sure so much more. Isn't change just wonderful?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

911 call after Minuteman group robs family

Absolutely heartbreaking.

Also, here's some more video footage:

All courtesy David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars.

While we're at it, my man Nezua connects the violence against Latinos/Latinas such as those committed by Forde and her henchmen with a larger context of structural violence that needs to be brought out into the light.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pop quiz

In order to take seriously the mainstream media/political talk about Iran (elections, nuclear ambitions, etc.), you have to first pretend which of the following:

A) The US didn’t overthrow Mossadegh in 1953
B) Israel doesn’t possess nuclear weapons
C) Iran doesn’t possess the world’s third largest oil reserves
D) The US actually wants to promote democracy at home and abroad
E) You forgot that the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons is America
F) All of the above

Go to Mickey Z's place for the answer.

Minuteklan's kindred spirits in Northern Ireland

A friend of mine has a dispatch up called The BNP/Loyalist Crossover Forces Romanians From Their Homes. Reminds me of some of our own eliminationists and their anti-immigrant rhetoric and behavior.

Listening assignment

Dadazu - Sin of Omission. The combo is from St. Petersburg, Russia. The music is a continuous 79 minute jam from a live gig in late 2007. It's a dark, moody, improvised drone piece, for lack of a better description. If you really dig it, you can even download the album free of charge. While you're at it, check out the Clinical Archives Myspace page (or check their space on Internet Archive) which is billed as a "netlabel for eclectic and illogical music".

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Feeling bearish?

You'd certainly have good reason. Really. (h/t The Newshoggers). At some point the "support the troops" crowd (in its various right-wing, centrist, and "progressive" guises) will be compelled to face the reality that the multiple wars and 700+ military bases across the planet cannot be maintained indefinitely, and that the end is probably coming sooner rather than later. On that note, here's something of a re-run from a couple years ago:
Those of us who are on the bottom rung of the so-called "middle class" and points lower on the economic food chain have been feeling the pain for a while now. Consumer culture as we know it now is functioning by smoke and mirrors, folks. In the long run that won't be a bad thing, as what we as a society have done is to live way beyond nature's means. The birds are gonna come home to roost, if they haven't started already. Those who are relatively well off, including those who hold elected offices, seem perfectly content to remain in a delusional state. That delusion may or may not get shaken if the threatened war against Iran transpires, and the oil tap gets cut off; or if our government's creditors (China & Japan) decide they've had enough, and expect ol' Uncle Sam to settle those outstanding debts (given ol' Uncle Sam's gambling and spending addictions, the scene will get ugly fast).

Something I read a couple months ago seems quite pertinent, to the extent that I accept the premise that the US in its present form is doomed to crumble like all past empires: Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US. Now let's be optimistic for just a second and pretend that what passes for our government for once tries to be useful. The author Dmitry Orlov has some advice:
There are some things that I would like the government to take care of in preparation for collapse. I am particularly concerned about all the radioactive and toxic installations, stockpiles, and dumps. Future generations are unlikely to able to control them, especially if global warming puts them underwater. There is enough of this muck sitting around to kill off most of us. I am also worried about soldiers getting stranded overseas – abandoning one's soldiers is among the most shameful things a country can do. Overseas military bases should be dismantled, and the troops repatriated. I'd like to see the huge prison population whittled away in a controlled manner, ahead of time, instead of in a chaotic general amnesty. Lastly, I think that this farce with debts that will never be repaid, has gone on long enough. Wiping the slate clean will give society time to readjust. So, you see, I am not asking for any miracles. Although, if any of these things do get done, I would consider it a miracle.
In short, face up to the impending collapse and plan ahead. Will our Congress critters in DC be up to the task? Ho ho. I'm not betting my life savings on it (and I don't bet that nickel lightly, folks). The folks occupying the White House are so clueless as to preclude them from any useful activity. Whatever regime replaces Bu$hCo in the aftermath of the 2008 "elections" will not be much better (I'm sure that some of my partisan Dem friends would beg to differ, and that I'll continue to find their protestations and candidate cheerleading to be a source of amusement). More Orlov:
It's important to understand that the Soviet Union achieved collapse-preparedness inadvertently, and not because of the success of some crash program. Economic collapse has a way of turning economic negatives into positives. The last thing we want is a perfectly functioning, growing, prosperous economy that suddenly collapses one day, and leaves everybody in the lurch. It is not necessary for us to embrace the tenets of command economy and central planning to match the Soviet lackluster performance in this area. We have our own methods, that are working almost as well. I call them "boondoggles." They are solutions to problems that cause more problems than they solve.

Just look around you, and you will see boondoggles sprouting up everywhere, in every field of endeavor: we have military boondoggles like Iraq, financial boondoggles like the doomed retirement system, medical boondoggles like private health insurance, legal boondoggles like the intellectual property system. The combined weight of all these boondoggles is slowly but surely pushing us all down. If it pushes us down far enough, then economic collapse, when it arrives, will be like falling out of a ground floor window. We just have to help this process along, or at least not interfere with it. So if somebody comes to you and says "I want to make a boondoggle that runs on hydrogen" – by all means encourage him! It's not as good as a boondoggle that burns money directly, but it's a step in the right direction.
There may be some wisdom to that - today's incompetence may well be our friend when we look back at this bleak decade. Further:
Certain types of mainstream economic behavior are not prudent on a personal level, and are also counterproductive to bridging the Collapse Gap. Any behavior that might result in continued economic growth and prosperity is counterproductive: the higher you jump, the harder you land. It is traumatic to go from having a big retirement fund to having no retirement fund because of a market crash. It is also traumatic to go from a high income to little or no income. If, on top of that, you have kept yourself incredibly busy, and suddenly have nothing to do, then you will really be in rough shape.

Economic collapse is about the worst possible time for someone to suffer a nervous breakdown, yet this is what often happens. The people who are most at risk psychologically are successful middle-aged men. When their career is suddenly over, their savings are gone, and their property worthless, much of their sense of self-worth is gone as well. They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers. Since they tend to be the most experienced and capable people, this is a staggering loss to society.

If the economy, and your place within it, is really important to you, you will be really hurt when it goes away. You can cultivate an attitude of studied indifference, but it has to be more than just a conceit. You have to develop the lifestyle and the habits and the physical stamina to back it up. It takes a lot of creativity and effort to put together a fulfilling existence on the margins of society. After the collapse, these margins may turn out to be some of the best places to live.
Increasingly, over the last few years, our family has been doing just that: finding a niche in the margins. The old habits have been hard to break, to be sure. But aside from the habit of buying an inordinate amount of reading material, it's all necessities (food, rent, clothes, etc.) and maintaining ties with friends and loved ones.
It's a little early yet for postmortems, but something tells me that cats like Orlov will be called visionaries a decade hence. In the meantime, my best advice is to keep your head, steer clear of the usual fearmongers and hatemongers who tend to capitalize on economic collapses (remember that the scapegoat du jour is not actually to blame for the monster that the ruling classes created), and remember that the end of empire (or hyperpower, or whatever the hell you wish to call it) will not be the end of the world. Rather, at worst (and it's hardly much of a loss for most of us), we're witnessing the end of a particularly predatory form of capitalism. What replaces it remains to be seen of course.

Stupid Facebook Tricks Redux

It's the gift that keeps on giving. Any regrets? Nah, other than having been caught.

Where this is all heading (unfortunately)

We've been bearing witness to an escalation in right-wing violence in recent months. I've had my share to say about it. Where does it all end? If I were to polish my crystal ball and see into the future (if only it were that easy), I'd make the following educated guess:

Eventually one of these wingnuts or perhaps a group will manage to do something really stupid, such as attempt or succeed to blow up a government building, or perhaps some some building in a major business district (on the rationale that everything in the business world transpires based on some "international Jewish conspiracy"), and the federal government will then react like it did after the 1995 federal building bombing in OKC (or for that matter the WTC and Pentagon bombings in 2001), by passing draconian legislation and signing executive orders that are ostensibly to "prevent" further terrorism, but which in fact are really a means to a more desired end - having more power at hand to repress dissident individuals and groups. In other words, life will suck more for pacifist Quaker groups and immigrant rights groups while white supremacists will somehow go back underground but otherwise emerge unscathed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sa Dingding- Tibetan Prayer ( Lama chenno)

Kai Chang has a brief summary of her work, under the title, The Neo-Classical Mysticism of Sa Dingding:
She grew up living the migratory nomadic life of the Mongolian plateau, with mixed Han-Mongolian ancestry, deeply influenced by the rhythms of nature and the iconography of Central Asian Buddhism. She learned Sanskrit and Tibetan in order to further her understanding of Buddhism, and developed her own singing "language" which she says relies only on the vibrations of syllables rather than syntactical meanings. She has been criticized in the West for "marketing" her culture and for not advocating on behalf of the "Free Tibet" anti-communist movement (which is roughly equivalent to a US singer being criticized in China for not supporting the secession of Texas). She designs her own costumes, which bring a bold fashion flair to traditional design elements. Her music combines a distinctly Central Asian folk singing style and an almost incantatory mystical quality with an exciting modern textural soundscape.
The video and the music are trippy, to say the least.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stating the obvious

Yeah, I suppose it's nice that an establishment media figure such as Nicholas Kristof is pronouncing the 4-decade old war on drugs an abysmal failure, but let's face it - too many of us had been saying it was a failure for what seems like forever. I generally regard prohibitions as doomed to failure in terms of their avowed rationales. If the main purpose was to speed up the transformation of the US into a police state, then I'd say it was a howling success. As a nation, we're number one on the planet in the proportion of residents imprisoned. Not even notorious police states such as China can hold a candle to what our government has been able to do when it comes to imprisonment. You could call us a gulag nation, and be quite accurate. If you're goal is to give drug cartels a means of money laundering on the taxpayers' dime, score another one! If the goal is to destroy communities and social movements, score yet another one for the Feds. Just don't allow yourself to ever be deluded into thinking that the war on drugs was done for anything other than for raw power and profit for a select few at the expense of the rest of us.

Stewie edits a music video


Well, I'm relieved

Lakers won! I've probably mentioned this before, but I tend to be a bit unusual in my sports spectating habits in that I tend to follow coaches rather than teams. Phil Jackson has been a favorite coach to follow since his days as the Bulls' head coach. It's probably his coaching philosophy, which seems to have a Zen influence that I began digging on back in the day.

I'd hoped he'd beat Red Auerbach's record of 9 championships last year, but Red's old team wasn't about to let that happen. Patience is a virtue, and it was nice to see a Lakers team that actually played tight most games this season, and especially when it counted during the playoffs. Had to wait a year, but #10 was sweet. We won't see any coach come anywhere near what either Auerbach or Jackson accomplished for a long time. Those two coaches were once-in-a-lifetime. Rumor has it that Jackson is thinking retirement. Hate to see him leave, but if he does retire, at least it was on a high note.

Sidebar: it was a relief to actually have commentators during the championship series who minimized their use of that awful phrase "from downtown" whenever players hit a three-pointer. I think it actually took the 3rd quarter of Game 2 before "from downtown" reared its ugly head - and there had been no lack of 3 point field goals by that point.