Sunday, December 26, 2010

Your tax dollars at work

Here's what $30 billion per year buys you. Personally I had no use for South Africa's apartheid back in the day, nor do I have any use for Israel's version of apartheid that has been ongoing for quite some time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

More eyesores

The Las Vegas metropolitan area is full of them - especially in the aftermath of the commercial and residential building bust of 2008. I visit that city about once a year. One thing that struck me during my first visit was just how much construction was going on just along The Strip during the middle of the last decade. It seemed each year, an old casino had been demolished, and a new one was rising to take its place. A few years ago, I began walking around The Strip with my camera to document some of those changes, as I saw some of that city's history vanishing before my eyes. That project got put on hold a couple years ago - in part due to the economic collapse that hit the city especially hard and in part due to illnesses or injury that severely hampered my ability to get around the last two years. This coming spring I'm hoping to get back to this little project, though I think the focus will now be on the half-complete projects or those that seem to have been abandoned altogether.


A lot has changed during my travels there. On the surface, there is a great deal that seems unchanged. One can still find plenty of people obsessively playing the slots at any of a number of casinos, the big extravaganzas still go on every night (personally I'm partial to Penn & Teller's show, or The Blue Man Group's killer performances), the tram still runs on time and is still one of the few semi-bright ideas I've seen emerge from LV's city planners, and there are still tons of people walking around (oh, and there are still plenty of rubes trying to hand you cards with addresses and phone numbers designed to meet all your porn and prostitution needs). Still, one thing that struck me during my last trip was how there seemed to be fewer lights on at night than in years past. From a green perspective, that's actually a positive. However, it also tells me that even though there is still plenty of hustle and bustle, commercial life has slowed down considerably. I also have this habit of striking up conversations with the local cabbies. Most of them are really cool, and do their best to make us tourists feel welcome. But many of them are noticeably angrier now - not at the tourists, but at the politicians. Too many of them listen to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck for magic answers to their declining cab fares, and it gets a bit tedious to listen to the usual talking points to and from my destinations. However, these are individuals who are paying attention to what goes on in DC, and they're as understandably frustrated as many of the rest of us. DC politicians will probably continue to fail to listen to the genuine pain these folks experience to all of our detriment.

Life will go on in LV as it shall everywhere else. How much different that life will be in the next few years is hard to gauge, other than to note that the Vegas I still visit a decade hence will in some way barely resemble the one I first encountered during the go-go first years of this sorry century.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mixed bag from Congress

On the somewhat positive side, DADT (which I always thought was a stupid policy) is finally about to be swept into the dustbin of history. I have a hard time getting all that excited about much of anything that adds more potential recruits to our war machine. However, I simply find policies (corporate or governmental) that sanction discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation to be morally repugnant. The truth is that we've had gays, lesbians, and bis serving in the military for a long time, and they do just fine.

On the very negative side, the DREAM Act appears to be dead for now. If we had anything even remotely approaching sane political discourse in this country, it would have passed ages ago. I feel very disappointed. I can barely fathom the disappointment of a number of my friends who have worked tirelessly as activists to lobby Congress to do the right thing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

30 Years Ago

John Lennon was murdered. Some of my earliest interests in rock music involved the Beatles, or at least their later work. I think I had just picked up the 7" single "Just Like Starting Over/Kiss, Kiss, Kiss" not long before he was shot. That incident made playing that record bittersweet to say the least. While I tend to view the Beatles and a lot of their post-breakup work as over-hyped, there is still a place in my heart for many of the tunes John wrote and performed.

Note: I very badly typoed the headline last night. It's fixed.

Friday, December 3, 2010

On Wikileaks

At the moment, I'm a bit swamped. However, I do keep up with some news, including of course the controversy surrounding WikiLeaks. A few links that have some pertinent commentary follow.

First, Fourth World Eye:
Cablegate, the Wikileaks exposure of State Department conspiracies for lying and spying, does not spell the end of secret government in America, but it is a beginning. By hosting a site for whistleblowers to leak official documentation of high crimes, Julian Assange and friends have put the president and his cabinet on the defensive, and the authoritarian mindset on display. Understanding how this mindset has corroded American society and turned citizens into servile sycophants might in time undermine this institutional injustice.
Next, I want to mention Arthur Silber, who has written extensively on Wikileaks since this past summer. Start with A Cause for Genuine Thanksgiving, and then read Bring the Bastards to Their Knees, On WikiLeaks: You Force Me To Repeat Myself, I Hate Authority -- Well, Except for My Authority!, and finally P.S.: They'll Lie About Everything. There you'll get a decent idea of what WikiLeaks means and why our overlords absolutely hate it.

Julian Assange recently answered a number of questions by Guardian UK readers.

In an earlier interview, Assange mentioned that WikiLeaks has its sites set on a major US bank. No wonder we have US Congresscritters calling for his head. After all, our elected public servants surely know where their bread is buttered. If leaked banksters' files cause bank stocks to plummet along with those campaign donations, well there will be absolute chaos within the halls of Congress. OMG!

In the meantime, while our government schemes to somehow shut down WikiLeaks and make Assange disappear in some mysterious black bag, our economy continues to misfire, Congress refuses to budge on extending unemployment benefits for those in need, and more Americans will be going hungry tonight.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On the Republic of Silence

Sometimes, I'll read through the blogs of old friends who have, for one reason or another, gone silent. Dove's excellent blog, In Flight existed but a short time, and her voice on the Internet became silent about three years ago. She was a weaver of profound words during that all-too-brief period, and although I hold out only faint hope that perhaps one day she will reappear in blogtopia, I trust that she is still writing and that some audience somewhere benefits from what she has to say.

With that introduction aside, today I was reading her essay, On the Republic of Silence, in which she summarizes an essay written by Jean-Paul Sartre as World War Two was drawing to a close. I'll share with you her closing words:
Well we are all Occupied now. And beneath this assault there is little enough cause for hope. No knights in shining armour riding to the rescue, no gun-slinging heroes of the wild west, no grand-standing high-minded politicians to lead us to the Promised Land. No justice. Just us.

Outnumbered.

Overwhelmed.

Occupied.

And like as not, whatever we choose will not suffice.

So welcome to your freedom.

It cannot be removed from you: no torture can excise it, no luxury can exorcise it, no justification can excuse it.

It is wholly and irrevocably yours.

What will you do with it?
For those interested, an English translation of Sartre's original essay may be found here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Food for thought

Although this is an old post on Corpus Callosum, I thought it worth highlighting:
As we sift through history, we see that there have been many who would have changed the course of events for the better. Sometimes, the geometry of the Universe permits this; sometimes, it impedes it.

History has a lesson for us.  As the Roman empire was crumbling, and the Dark Ages began, there was a great struggle among theologians.  They cast aside Plato, and with him, his beloved tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, and dodecahedron. Worst of all, even the supremely elegant icosahedron was tossed back into the sea.

They thought the cross would solve everything.  Alas, they could only think in two dimensions.

One of them dared to dissent.  He carried the peculiar name Pelagius.  He promoted the idea that humans are basically good, and that it is through their free choice of actions that they keep themselves good.

In contrast, the predominant view at the time was that of St. Augustine, who believed that humans were fundamentally tainted by the original sin, and any good they had, came from the grace of god. 

The geometry of the Universe was not kind to Pelagius, although ultimately he managed to avoid the worst of fates.  From Wikipedia:
When Alaric sacked Rome in 410, Pelagius fled to Carthage, where he came into further conflict with Augustine. His follower Coelestius was condemned by a church council there. Pelagius then fled to Jerusalem, but Augustine's followers were soon on his trail; Orosius went to Jerusalem to warn St Jerome against him. Pelagius succeeded in clearing himself at a diocesan synod in Jerusalem and a provincial one in Diospolis (Lydda ), though Augustine said that his being cleared at those councils must have been the result of Pelagius lying about his teachings.

Augustine's version of Pelagius's teachings about sin and atonement were condemned as heresy at the local Council of Carthage in 417.
Those are the people who told us to put away childish things.  Those are the people who cast aside the icosahedron as a mere trinket.  But it so doing, they brought us the Dark Ages.

The online Catholic Encyclopedia contains the following commentary about Pelagius:
Meanwhile the Pelagian ideas had infected a wide area, especially around Carthage, so that Augustine and other bishops were compelled to take a resolute stand against them in sermons and private conversations.
Imagine that, being infected with the notion that humans are fundamentally good.  Is it some kind of virus?
I saw in this passage a reminder that the concept of ideas going "viral" has been with us as a species for a long time - easily predating the current era of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook (within the context of which we usually discuss news, ideas, gossip, videos, and such going viral) and undoubtedly going well back to a time when we relied upon the oral tradition as our medium for communication. Clearly, the power structure of the Church of Pelagius' era considered his ideas viral in a negative sense, due to their subverting the prevailing dogma. And yet one could make a case that Pelagius' ideas were viral in a more positive sense, as a potential cure to the oncoming darkness, to the extent that those open to his ideas might see the path to salvation in a much more positive view of themselves and their fellow humans. Under better circumstances, Pelagius' ideas might have had more success.

I remember a scene from the film I Am Legend in which the protagonist Robert Neville discusses Bob Marley with Anna:
He had this idea. It was kind of a virologist idea. He believed that you could cure racism and hate… literally cure it, by injecting music and love into people’s lives. When he was scheduled to perform at a peace rally, a gunman came to his house and shot him down. Two days later he walked out on that stage and sang. When they asked him why – He said, “The people, who were trying to make this world worse… are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness.”

We seem poised at the brink of a new Dark Age. What ideas, what actions, might go sufficiently viral in order to instead make this world better rather than worse? Who will light up the darkness?

Musical Interlude



"Prophet John" performed by the Don Ayler Sextet w/Albert Ayler. Several of the band members were heavy hitters in the free/avant-garde jazz scene at the time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quotable

"The mullahs of the Islamic world and the mullahs of the Hindu world and the mullahs of the Christian world are all on the same side. And we are against them all."

- Arundhati Roy, who turns 49 today (h/t).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Zombies more popular than Palin

Actually, AMC's The Walking Dead is a legitimately well-written and well-acted series, and its ratings are holding steady. I'll take that over another brain-dead "reality" show any day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where are we going, and what's with the handbasket?

If you're like me and are bugged the appearance that our corporate, political, and media elites (aka, our new professional class) just happen to be dumb as a box of rocks, I've got some news for you: it's not appearance. Read Plagiarism and the mechanics of privilege for some clues as to why.

h/t Avedon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some Guidelines for Happy Enemy Blogging

A long-deceased friend wrote a fairly lengthy post several years ago that I think still holds value for those of us who have the audacity to persist in blogging from a left-wing perspective. Although I am going to offer a lengthy excerpt here, I'd strongly suggest reading the whole thing. His post offers some sage advice, well worth keeping in mind. As we get ready to enter yet another year in our "Great Recession" and many on the hard right continue to look for scapegoats, we would do well to speak freely but exercise caution. I wish I could say the Internet was a safe place, but the truth is it is not. I speak from experience. So without further ado, DuctapeFatwa's Guidelines for Happy Enemy Blogging:
And because the internet is a public place, no matter where you go, there will be people who are troubled, people who are participating under auspices other than their own, and people who are so very nice you are eager to get to know them offline and share your personal contact information.

And there is no guarantee that the categories above will not have some overlap, and a "robust" likelihood that they will, because once again, the Internet is a public place, so the precautions one would take in a public place are also prudent on the Internet.

It is not realistic to assume, hope, expect, or demand, that any internet site you visit will be free of people who disagree with you, people who are not fond of reading, people who are troubled, people whose values differ from yours, people who are not as smart as you, people who are smarter than you, or people for whom you are the Enemy.

So here are some guidelines for Happy Enemy Blogging:
  1. Understand that to some, your point of view is simply inconceivable. It is not that they disagree with it in the conventional sense, they simply cannot conceive of such notions.
  2. Do not expect that everyone who replies to you will have read what you wrote. Some folks just like reading better than others, reading comes easier to some folks than others, and if you are The Enemy, reading what you wrote might be against their values, or they may be simply responding to your existence as opposed to your words. You are, after all, the Enemy.
  3. Be compassionate. Don't continue to respond to people who are clearly troubled, or who do not have the capacity or the desire to understand what you said. There will always be someone you can talk to, even among those who do not agree with you, especially if you -
  4. Leave the door open. Even though you are the Enemy, the possibility exists that there may be people reading your words who are going through their process. Not because of anything you, or anybody else said, just because the time has come for them to do that, and so they are doing it. If someone responds to you in a civil, thoughtful way, talk to them. No need to try to persuade them of anything. That's what their own conscience is for.
  5. Be accessible. Try to put your thoughts into words and references that your audience can relate to. You may be more familiar with a different cultural context, but your readers may not be. Ditto on the vocabulary. Unless the intent of your message is to demonstrate that your vocabulary is extensive and you know lots of obscure words, try to express your thoughts as simply and straightforwardly as possible. Even the most complex, even abstract concepts can be put into simple, everyday words that almost all of your readers will be able to understand.
  6. Be brief (this is the rule I break most) Brevity is also a gift, and you may not be able to crystallize your thoughts into as few words as someone else. Do the best you can. Yours are not the only words your readers want to read, and they may have limited time.
  7. Be selective. Don't feel that you have to read each and every message from each and every poster on several dozen forums. If you are able to do so, and it will not be against your values, read everything that you do respond to.
  8. Be tolerant. Your interpretation of what someone said may be different from someone else's. For instance, someone may say "the sky is blue," and someone else may interpret that to mean "the sky is red." The conflict between the two of may not have so much to do with facts as with interpretation. Especially if the person who disagrees with you does not believe that sky color is a subject that should be discussed, or that should be discussed by people from or people outside, a particular group, or if the person who made the sky remark is the Enemy. You will have a better chance at a discussion of sky color with that person in a different setting.
  9. Be prudent. Most of the folks you will meet on internet forums are, like you, simply expressing their opinion because of a personal desire to express it. Others may be "ghost blogging" under other auspices. Neither assume this is the case, or rule out that it could possibly be the case. The internet is a public place. Keep offline contact info offline. Do not post photographs of yourself, your children, or of your home, or your street. Remember that the people whose presence you are aware of are not the only ones who will be able to see what you post. Would you go to the shopping mall or community festival with your address or phone number printed on your t-shirt?
  10. Enjoy yourself. Think of the young lady who accepted a date with a suitor she did not especially like, to attend a function in which she had no interest, all because of a family friendship. She moped about for a while, then suddenly had an Epiphany. When her somewhat sheepish and apologetic mother came to help her get ready, she was surprised to find the girl in a sprightly, smiling mood, and rather apologetically and sheepishly inquired into the reason for this. "Well," said the young lady, "I don't like X, and this function is about the last one I would want to attend. I can't expect to enjoy either his company or the boring lecture. But I figured something out. I can enjoy MYSELF."
Now go out there and have some fun doing some Enemy blogging. I know I will.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Musical Interlude: Arcade Fire



Saw this song being performed on SNL tonight. This band's appearance was easily the highlight of another mediocre SNL episode. My initial impression is that there's something at once retro and yet at the same time so contemporary in their performances: very much a band for this time and space. I don't listen to a lot of rock any more, but these cats are the real deal.

If you want to hear the studio version of "Sprawl II", go here.
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock
These days my life, I feel it has no purpose
But late at night the feelings swim to the surface

'Cause on the surface the city lights shine
They're calling at me, come and find your kind
Sometimes I wonder if the World's so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there's no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights

We rode our bikes to the nearest park
Sat under the swings and kissed in the dark
We shield our eyes from the police lights
We run away, but we don't know why

On the black river, the city lights shine
They're screaming at us, we don't need your kind
Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there's no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights

They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock
Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small
Can we ever get away from the sprawl?
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there's no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wikileaks

While the site is still being redone, apparently you can still get at much of the old content here. Their recent Iraq War document archive can be found here. There's also Twitter, for those who like to mess with that.

Looking for a few good exorcists

Apparently the Catholic Church has something of a shortage of exorcists. Of course, avoiding the "perception that exorcism is magic or superstition" is easier said than done. We haven't quite yet entered a new Dark Ages. Of course there are plenty of others in the exorcism biz, including those identified with Third Wave (or Dominionist) Christianity.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Yes it does feel a bit like the 1930s. I love the last lines:
If you want a happy ending, you probably shouldn’t follow our system too closely in the next few years. Instead, go see a Disney movie, unless perhaps Tim Burton is making it. Bloomberg, Brown, or Hillary Clinton, though, are all known quantities. But the experience of the Great Depression was that as things failed to improve the swamp creatures got their chance. And when the economic situation shook out, the geopolitics became more sinister. It would be a rash person indeed who counted on a happy ending to this mess.
Get ready for the post-Obama era, kiddos.

Poetry Time

Reading History

hostile dew in an uprising of plum blossoms
guards the darkness etched by the noon sword
a revolution begins the following morning
the bitterness of the widows cuts through the tundra like a pack of wolves

on account of the prophecies the ancestors are moving backward
into that river of the furious debates of faith and desire
that never end, only a hermit swirl
learns another silence of meditation

go up to see the sunset of kingship
when civilization and flute songs float off in an empty valley
the seasons stand up in the ruins
fruits climb over the walls to chase tomorrow

Poem by Bei Dao, translated by Eliot Weinberger. Via wood's lot.

In an advanced civilization, conducting exorcisms in the workplace is not acceptable

There are however parts of the US that seem to be rapidly devolving. This story is from Texas:
In Shatkin v. University of Texas at Arlington, three employees who had personal conflicts with a co-worker agreed to pray together after work. They met outside the co-worker’s office when it was empty.

One member of the prayer vigil rubbed olive oil on the co-employee’s office door and chanted loudly, “I command you demons to leave (the co-worker’s name), you vicious evil dogs get the hell out of there in the name of Jesus, get the hell out of (the co-worker name).”

One of the three employees reported the incident to their supervisor. Following an investigation, the other two employees were terminated because they “displayed conduct unbecoming a UT Arlington staff member, harassment of a fellow co-worker and blatant disregard for the property of UT Arlington.” The terminated employees then requested religious accommodation. Their request was denied. The two ex-employees sued UTA alleging religious discrimination. UTA asked the court to dismiss the claim, arguing the employees did not request religious accommodation prior to engaging in the conduct, and also arguing it had no duty to accommodate harassing conduct aimed at a co-worker. The court declined to dismiss that case, finding that there were issues of fact that needed to be resolved by a jury.

That's just creepy. If I were the targeted coworker, my skin would be crawling at the thought of what happened. I'm guessing that the sort of invasiveness of an exorcism wouldn't have been accommodated by the university even had the terminated employees requested such accommodation in advance. Clearly a boundary was crossed, regardless of what might have led up to the incident.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Steve Reich - Double Sextet Excerpt



The album Double Sextet/2x5 was released earlier this fall. Anyone who has followed Reich's work for any length of time will have a very good idea of what to expect. Reich's work over the last several decades has slowly evolved, revealing some new nuance each time. I haven't had a chance to pick up the album just yet, but at some point when time and money permit that's on my short list of recordings to score. My first exposure to his work was from the original recording of Music for 18 Musicians on ECM, which was released while I was in my early teens. Suffice it to say, it was one of a number of influences that would open my ears to a multitude of artists working just outside the beaten path.

That vision thing

Dmitry Orlov said this near the end of 2009 regarding the festiveness awaiting us in the 2010s:
Some towns will abandon the idea of having a fire department and decide that it is more cost-effective to just let house fires run their course, to save on demolitions.
We haven't quite reached that point yet, but we saw how close some of our communities have come to doing so - as we learned this past fall:
If our fire departments are run on a subscription-based policy rather than for the good of the whole community, does it really protect anyone? Hasn’t this horrible situation played out enough already with the police forces around our country;  servicing and protecting the rich while ignoring or killing the poor? If only those that can pay a subscription can receive protection from fires, our communities suffer.

The story of the Cranick family’s home and pets being consumed by a house fire while the local fire department simply watched and refused to help, citing a due subscription fee of $75, is heartbreaking. It shows the innate cruelty residing within capitalist “free markets” and shows the lack of empathy it encourages in our sisters and brothers. If we are trained not to care for one another to such an extent that someone’s home is allowed to burn in the name of a $75 fee, how can anyone be comforted by the thought that the system is working? Indeed many of our politicians and media stars are coming out in favor of such a system, and the Obion County Budget Committee has decided to expand the subscription service to more towns.

This shall require minimal comment

Barack Obama is a nightmare for the American left.
Ummmm...Obama was never part of the American Left (whatever that term might reasonably mean). Glad to see some folks finally getting a clue, but let's face it, the only reason the dude might even be remotely be a "nightmare" for what passes for some subsets of our nation's left flank is due to the delusions of those who wanted to "believe" that an Obama presidency would bring "change" we could "believe in." I suspect there were plenty of thoughtful folks among the left who saw the guy for what he really was: a moderate-conservative snake oil salesman who would say whatever he could to occupy the White House. Once in, it was the same old flim-flam. The nightmare, in other words, was self-inflicted. Deal with it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's on?

Perhaps. I do agree that our sources of inspiration for dealing with the austerity being foisted upon us must come from elsewhere: the student-led resistance in the UK comes most immediately to mind. Bear in mind, like it or not, we are in the midst of class warfare.

Poetry time

A Version of Pasternak's "Hamlet"

The hour is at hand: it calls the actor.
The crowd grows still as I step through the arch.
There's the cue: an echo from the future.
I must come forth and give the fated speech.

A thousand eyes, in darkness, throng about me;
Like Roman swords, they'll pierce me till I bleed.
O if it be Thy will, Abba, Father,
Then take the proffered cup away from me.

For I adore your rigorous conception,
And am content to play my given role.
But these new lines will scorch the throat that speaks them;
This once, I pray, remove me from the bill.

No: I see the acts have all been plotted;
The journey's end already has been willed.
I'm alone, while the world drowns in falsehood.
Cross this stage, and you cross a killing field.

Translated by Chris Floyd

Courtesy of Empire Burlesque.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another blast from the past

Here's some computer history for ya!

Blast from the past



Scientists have been aware of global warming since the 1950s. Not that this will matter to denialists, but maybe for those trying to make some sense of how our climate is changing, the video will provide a bit more food for thought. H/t

For your reading pleasure

Lies are all you know by Arthur Silber.

Derrick Jensen's opening remarks for the "Earth at Risk" conference at the Permaculture Media Blog.

Peak Oil is History by Dmitry Orlov.

An Existential Approach to Bringing About Change by Dave Pollard (at his consistently excellent blog, How to Save the World).

The sub-proletarianization of America continues

For more and more Americans, keeping the house or apartment heated this winter is but a distant dream.What little safety net that does exist for those truly in need is inadequate and strained to near the breaking point. I hate to seem gloom and doom, but the last lines in the article sound a stark warning:
The U.S. economic system is slowly dying.  There are many that are cheering this downfall, but the cold, hard truth is that tens of millions of us are going to experience horrible economic pain as the economy unravels.

It is not going to be a fun time.  So count your blessings while you still have them.

Old news now, but bears repeating

Bush II authorized torture. The dude brags about it. Although I'd like to think that those of us who were frustrated and angered by soon-to-be-former Speaker Pelosi's decision to take impeachment of Bush II "off the table" were vindicated long ago, this revelation merely offers further vindication. I wish I could hold out some hope that one day Bush II and his cronies might be held accountable for their criminal acts. I know better than to do that.

Spiegel Online to US Tea Partiers

There is only one Hitler. Stop trying to pull new faux Hitlers out of your asses.

Boundaries

Blogging is a funny enterprise. One might follow a particular blogger for a while and feel a certain familiarity. After all we write, and put our content out in public for whomever would wish to read. You might in time get a feel for a blogger's writing style, and suss out his or her pet interests and issues. But beyond that, how much about your bloggers do you have the right to know?

I suppose the short answer to that question is that you get to know whatever the blogger wishes to share with you, and no more. Some readers never quite get the message though.

As I see it, the matter boils down to boundaries. As an autonomous adult, there are certain things that I may wish to disclose in some contexts that I'd prefer not to disclose in others. What am I going on about? My understanding from mental health professionals is that you can tell a lot about the mental state of individuals by their ability to set their own boundaries and to respect the boundaries set by others. Healthy individuals who have a stable sense of self can consistently gauge the level of self-disclosure appropriate in a given context. Granted there may not be absolute hard and fast rules about such matters, but there's a general expectation that a fair amount of self-disclosure may be healthy when communicating with a lover or close friend, but not so healthy on the job or with total strangers. Similarly, it may be healthy to be interested in the intimate details and minutia of a lover's or close friend's life, but not so much in that of coworkers or total strangers. As I understand from the mental health profession (I am merely a layperson), individuals who cannot or will not establish or respect personal boundaries do so because they have no mature, coherent sense of self. In other words, there is probably some sort of personality disorder or other form of mental disturbance involved.

In a way, my decision to start blogging had a lot to do with boundaries. I didn't wish to go on extended political rants in the workplace as such behavior would be entirely irrelevant to my vocation. Nor did I wish to bug friends and family, if for no other reason than all of them have heard what I have to say often enough as it is. I viewed blogging as a means to satisfy a particular need - to vent on mostly political matters - and keep my personal boundaries intact. Now blogging is a public behavior, and most of the people who read this blog are total strangers. I assume that if you are reading this, it is because you were interested in reading a blog on politics, from a leftist perspective (whatever that might mean anymore) and not because you wanted to know my favorite color, my sign, my address or my workplace.

Initially, I blogged semi-anonymously, although I have become much more anonymous in the last year and a half. Being semi-anonymous worked for a while. I neither advertised nor hid my real-life identity, and muddled along for several years without a problem. As long as other readers respected my boundaries, there was no problem. That started to change a couple years ago. I recall being rather jarred when a total stranger just called me out of the blue. The individual had to do a bit of work to accomplish that feat, but we'll just say that the ensuing encounter was a bit awkward. That individual was unfortunately acquainted with someone who seemed to believe that a dislike for the ideological bent of my particular blog was sufficient license to begin publishing details of my non-blogging personal and professional life on hers. This apparent obsession with my private life was something I found quite disturbing, and it became apparent that the obsession would not end for a long time. Needless to say, for the sake of those closest to me, I figured the safest route was to reestablish some boundaries, and nip an invasion of my privacy in the bud. That meant relocating the blog, for starters. Since blogging was merely a hobby to begin with, rather than a vocation, readership numbers (and of course revenue) were of minimal concern. The old blog was essentially put into mothballs - left accessible only to its authors. I also found it necessary to remove any of my websites that this individual might have been accessing. A fair amount of time was spent removing traces of the old blog and websites from the Google archives. I found it prudent to invest in an IP blocker both for this blog and any web presence I chose to maintain. Although there was little I could do about my work information being made public to any Tea Party nutcase who might want to know, a planned career change would ultimately make that info irrelevant.

It is safe to say that there is a face beneath the mask; a real human being typing these words. There's the rub. What matters are ultimately the words, the ideas - not who said them. Perhaps in an age in which the norms concerning privacy have changed so drastically that boundaries between private and public life have all but dissipated, I am a bit of an anomaly - a throwback to some rapidly vanishing age. Someone was once taken aback when during a conversation regarding some trivial celebrity scandal, I remarked that I could care less about that particular celebrity's personal life (or for that matter the personal life of any celebrity or public figure). All that mattered to me was that person's body of work. His/her personal quirks and foibles were none of my business. I think I uttered words to that effect. So it goes.

I read many bloggers, but it does not occur to me that I should somehow know the intimate details of their lives. I have a remarkable lack of curiosity about such matters. What I am curious about is what these authors mean by their next blog posts - nothing more, nothing less. Is that such a bad thing? I'd offer that it's a good thing, and shows a healthy respect for the boundaries of those whose writing I continue to find enormously fascinating.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Those pesky facts keep getting in the way of perfectly good fear mongering

Check out Europol Report: All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 99.6% that Aren’t (h/t naked capitalism). Oops! Just remember, as the author of the article reminds us, "perception is not reality." Just because some wingnuts and some enablers among the punditocracy say it is so does not make it so.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Our elections in the US are bought and paid for by...

energy corporate interests from places like India and Bahrain. Something worth considering when thinking about how to interpret US Chamber of Commerce endorsements. File under power, corruption and lies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tea Party Nationalism

No doubt, Tea Party Nationalism will be on my reading list as time permits over the next several days. Needless to say, as others have noted, the report from what I've checked so far will not sit well with those who identify themselves as TP. Moderate author and contributor to the Daily Beast, John Avlon wrote a little while back called Wingnuts that aptly characterized the Tea Party as a "white minority" political movement. As Avlon has duly noted, its adherents see the writing on the wall regarding our nation's demographics, and they've freaked out.

I've also seen the TP characterized as white Christianist tribalism, which is the description that I've tended to use as I've read more about and had encounters with TPers. The basic gist: this bunch has a very narrow view of what makes an acceptable American and an acceptable America. It's a view that has no room for large swaths of the rest of us (due to ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, ideological or other considerations). Personally I have no use for tribalism in any guise.

In the meantime, to take an old line from a Beatles tune, "Revolution":
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait

Monday, October 18, 2010

Speaking of authoritarianism

As someone who has run for very local public offices before, I am of the opinion that anyone who wishes to be an elected public servant has an obligation to not only face their oponent(s) but the media as well. As a matter of principle, I simply refuse to vote for any candidate who shirks that obligation. I've more or less held my tongue in recent months as a number of predominantly TP-endorsed candidates for statewide and national offices have done their level best to avoid debates and to avoid questions from journalists (I'm broadly defining that term to include bloggers as well as to those employed by more traditional media outlets). My silence should not be read as complicity, so much as lack of time in the midst of some major changes to my life and career.

Needless to say, I've been underwhelmed by what the TP/GOP has offered as its strategy for gaining power. As a voter, I find it insulting that these candidates would refuse to answer basic questions about their positions (past and present), and whatever questions about them that might potentially be relevant to the voters in their respective states and districts. Yes, opponents might dig up some dirt, and yes, journalists tend to ask a lot of questions - some of which seem pesky and others which seem intrusive. But then again, that comes with the territory. If you are unwilling to handle the heat, you have no business in the spotlight, so to speak. Let's face it: not only can I not trust these individuals to handle themselves in public, but I also find their deciding for the voters what we "need to know" to be highly condescending.

So it goes. Lately, we've seen these same politicians take a more sinister path. Evasion is no longer sufficient. Now, apparently it's acceptable to sic hired thugs on those who dare to ask those inconvenient questions these politicians would prefer not address. Not cool. It does not bode well for what a Joe Miller would do if he were to actually occupy a seat in the Senate.

When extremes meet

I suppose it was only a matter of time before a TP candidate would extol the virtues of some facet of a Stalinist Soviet Bloc nation. Alaska's would-be TP Senator Joe Miller crossed that Rubicon over the weekend. The Stasi sure knew how to secure a border, although I'm not sure East Germany's approach is something to emulate. I'm guessing it's the whole "shoot to kill" vibe that Miller and his ilk dig on. Life is cheap unless it's white and Christianist life. So it goes. I find this comment as one that aptly sums up the whole sorry spectacle:
It's a long way from the Statue of Liberty as the symbol of the United States to an East German style barbed wire fence with mined no-man's land, guard towers, machine guns, and German shepherds.  I know what that looked like.  When I was a student in Göttingen, Germany, the border was just a few miles east of where I lived and we rode out there now and then.  It wasn't pretty.  But it certainly cut down the flow of people escaping to the West. 
Something tells me that with enough TPers running the country, it won't be long before immigration into the US is no longer an issue, but rather the flow of those escaping their wretched and thuggish authoritarianism.

Antidote: "Heroes" by David Bowie. Enjoy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Astroturf

Knowledge is power:


The film singles out free-market 'grassroots' groups FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity (AFP), whose million-plus memberships helped create the Tea Party movement and led the uprising against the Democrats reform agenda.

While AFP have been getting a lot of press lately for their ties to billionaire oil man David Koch, (Astro) Turf Wars take this to a whole new level. Of particular note are the revelations that in a previous incarnation both AFP and FreedomWorks were paid by tobacco companies to kill the Clinton healthcare reforms in 1994, mobilizing their grassroots army to fight a 'government takeover' and 'socialized medicine'.

With help from propaganda experts Professor Mark Crispin Miller and James Hoggan Oldham's film lays bare the blatant use of pro-business propaganda driving the Tea Party movement. Oldham's undercover work documents how Tea Party goers are being recruited into this libertarian fight for 'freedom' seemingly without any understanding of who is bankrolling the campaign.

Another notable appearance is by Huffington contributor Wendell Potter, a former head of PR for the health insurance providers Cigna and Humana who blows the whistle on the health insurance industry's use of astroturfing to fool and manipulate citizens.

The 90 minute film, which is available online at astrotufwars.com, comes at opportune moment for President Obama and the Democratic Party who are being drowned in a flood of corporate money to special interest groups like AFP, who according to the Associated Press have already spent $5.5m on attack ads against Democrat candidates -- that's a lot of moolah for a supposedly "grassroots" group.
There are actual independents in this country who would love a legitimate alternative to the Dems and to the GOP. [1]  The so-called "Tea Party" isn't it. Instead, it's just another billionaire-funded effort to soak what's left of the middle class by pandering to base white tribalist prejudices. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll hold out for a real alternative.

[1] I've talked about this at some length over the course of several years. Here's the short version: I wouldn't touch the GOP with a ten foot pole (I am allergic to any party or movement that embraces religious extremism and that is hostile to large swaths of our citizenry due to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.), but I've never been wild about the significant corporatist leanings of the Dems. I have ideas of what would make an acceptable organized independent movement, which I've mentioned at prior points. Maybe when time permits I'll recycle some of those ideas.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quotable - it needs to be said:

Yes that’s the Tea Party – a collection of old and angry white tribalists who want to cut government spending except for the trough they feed at.
I wouldn't normally expect such strong wording from a blog called The Moderate Voice. Then again, these are strange times in which reality and rhetoric rarely match:
Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn’t a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — “Government’s not the solution! Government’s the problem!” — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

“The scooters are because of Medicare,” he whispers helpfully. “They have these commercials down here: ‘You won’t even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!’ Practically everyone in Kentucky has one.”

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.
The demographic makeup of TP is something that is worth making note of. There has been speculation since the so-called movement's inception. My suspicion was that these were largely the same folks who were freaking out during the final months of the 2008 Presidential election season. The first actual survey data started coming out late last winter, suggesting that the folks identifying with TP were overwhelmingly white, older, and relatively well-off (at least upper middle class). Contrary to TP protestations of independence, it turns out to be overwhelmingly Republican as well, and its financial sources are right-wing billionaires. Angry white tribalists who will support any candidate who panders to their most base inclinations seems like a fairly apt description indeed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Epic stupidity

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a story about a woman in Vancouver, WA who was allegedly attacked in a very horrific manner: someone had reportedly splashed acid on her face. Something didn't seem to add up. I don't know - maybe I get a bit suspicious whenever the alleged perpetrator is a random anonymous black guy or gal (Seriously? Folks need to stop watching "Cops"). Well, story seemed to go away with no follow-up. Then the story re-emerged. Turned out, there was a problem with the original story: it was all a hoax. Apparently it was a botched suicide attempt.

Friday, September 24, 2010

So what does this "Pledge to America" really mean?

But as far as I can see, there’s only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That’s less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — “except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.” In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”
No more Congress? I could live with that (or just eliminate the Senate - that body gets almost nothing done and is practically useless). Here's the link to the quote. Krugman makes an interesting point elsewhere in the same column about how atheoretical discussion of fiscal policy has become. One could agree or disagree with the ideas proposed by various leaders (e.g., FDR, Johnson, Reagan), but one at least knew they were basing their ideas on some coherent theoretical framework. It seems we've devolved to simply proposing whatever will bring a party to power without being terribly concerned about whether or not the numbers add up. The end result will be for even more dysfunction in DC at the worst possible time. With the next economic, environmental, or energy crisis just around the corner, it is clear that the next Congress will not be firing on all cylinders (or I should say will be firing on fewer cylinders than was the case during this past Congressional session).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Good luck with that

Robert Parry sez:
Whatever happens on Election Day, the longer-term challenge will be to rebuild an old-fashioned commitment to fact and reason within both American journalism and the broader political system.
Although I wholeheartedly agree with him on this sentiment, let's just say that we really have our work cut out of us in order to make that a reality.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Keep it classy, Dan Riehl

It appears that Lisa Murkowski, who lost her bid for renomination in the Alaska's Republican primary election a few weeks ago, will run as a write-in. I'm not surprised, of course. There had been rumors floating that she'd mount a write-in campaign since she conceded the primary election to Joe Miller. Personally I have no use for Murkowski - she's far too beholden to corporatist interests for my tastes. Tea Party types targeted her for a different reason: she actually had the nerve to work with Democrats on very rare occasion to get legislation passed in the Senate (something considered politically incorrect among TPers). Whether or not Murkowski's write-in campaign will succeed is debatable - some think she has a chance.

All that said, and whatever opinions of Murkowski I might have notwithstanding, it is dismaying to see a blogger who enjoys some national prominence refer to her as a "bitch" (and later a "biatch") for deciding to remain in the game. It's an action that seemed eerily reminiscent of Joe Miller's campaign alluding to her being a prostitute a few weeks ago. The need to use degrading sexist language against a political opponent is not only tasteless but says quite a bit about those who stoop to that level. To the extent that such discourse is encouraged (or not actively discouraged), it says a bit about the state of our society as well. Riehl is a real class act, eh?

Narf!

O'DONNELL: They are -- they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they're already into this experiment. 
 On the Bill O'Reilly Show (11/15/2007), h/t

Yes, would-be-Senator O'Donnell's worldview holds that Pinky and the Brain are real. Narf!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Got bigotry?

Media Matters has a timeline of hate speech and violence (although MM does miss an event or two, such as the stabbing of a cab driver in NYC) by our right-wingers since the story first broke about the Park51 Islamic Center.

What 9-11 means? It's a matter of perspective

This year marks the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and Pentagon. In the aftermath of that attack, several narratives emerged. There was of course the official narrative favored by our corporate and governing elites: one that emphasized nationalism and militarism, along with Manichean "clash of civilizations" imagery. Such imagery has been brought to the fore this year with the right-wing freak out occurring over a proposed Islamic cultural center that is to be constructed near the site of the WTC towers. Another narrative held that the proverbial chickens had come home to roost: that the attacks were blowback for decades of oppression and exploitation at the hands of the US corporate and political establishment. This second narrative was perhaps expressed most infamously by Ward Churchill, but can be found in the writings and speeches of others of varying levels of prominence. Still others view this day as a stark reminder of the destructive power of religious and political fanaticism - a point well worth bearing in mind. Finally, for the more conspiracy-minded, there was the "false flag" narrative that likened the attacks to the Reichstag Fire that cemented Hitler's hold on power in early 1930s Germany.

What we shouldn't lose sight of is that in all the memorials this year is that what 9-11 means or "should mean" has a great deal of variability among individuals across the globe. There is no doubt in my mind that terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon were a terrible tragedy that would be exploited by our own ruling elites in the US. However, let's not forget that September 11 marks the anniversary for numerous other events: some tragic, some inspirational.

1. Let's remember that 37 years ago, the democratically elected government of Chile and its President Allende were overthrown in a US-backed coup that resulted in Allende's death. Countless thousands of people were executed or "disappeared" during Pinochet's reign of terror that subsequently followed this tragic day in history. Let's remember the victims of the coup and its aftermath.

2. Forty-one years ago today, in 1959, the US Congress authorized food stamps for Americans living in poverty. For those congressional leaders who voted to aid those in need, let's remember them.

3. On this day in 1851, in Christiana, Pennsylvania there was a stand-off between several ex-slave families (led by William Parker) and a posse of several armed white men led by a slave owner (Edward Gorsuch). By the time the stand-off ended, Parker and the remaining ex-slaves prevailed, and Gorsuch paid for his attempt to re-enslave these families with his life. That day was a stark reminder of the struggle that lay ahead for those endeavoring to break the bonds of slavery in the U.S. Let's remember Parker and those brave families who were willing to stand up for their human rights and dignity by any means necessary. The same day that was rife with tragedy at the beginning of our current century marked the sesquicentennial of what was truly a day of triumph for Parker and his crew.

4. On this day in 1945 retiring Secretary of War Henry Stimson sent a letter to then-President Harry Truman urging that the Truman administration follow a cooperative path with the USSR as the Soviet government worked to develop nuclear energy and weapons capability. Said Stimson:
“I believe that the change in attitude toward the individual in Russia will come slowly and gradually and I am satisfied that we should not delay our approach to Russia in the matter of the atomic bomb until that process has been completed.... Furthermore, I believe that this long process of change in Russia is more likely to be expedited by the closer relationship in the matter of the atomic bomb which I suggest and the trust and confidence that I believe would be inspired by the method of approach which I have outlined.”

Stimson reasoned the Russians would at once pursue obtaining such a bomb for themselves. It was not a secret, as Americans were for years led to believe, but an industrial technology being explored before the War, and which the Soviets would obtain in, say, four to twenty, years.

In a reference to the US "having this weapon rather ostentatiously on our hip," Stimson noted, "their suspicions and their distrust of our purposes and motives will increase. It will inspire them to greater efforts in an all out effort to solve the problem."

"The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way you can make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust."
Tragically, his advice was ignored by the Truman administration, and what followed was a protracted "Cold War" that served only to inflate our elites' Military-Industrial Complex and sense of paranoia at the expense of much more humanitarian endeavors. Let's remember Stimson's words, as our current White House (p)resident threatens to pursue a belligerent reaction to Iran's efforts to become a nuclear power in its own right.

5. On this day 104 years ago Mohandas Gandhi began his famous Satyagraha in opposition to British imperial rule. Although requiring decades, Gandhi's efforts at nonviolent resistance begun on 9-11-1906 would prove successful. Let's remember Gandhi and those he's inspired to follow a different, nonviolent path in the struggle for freedom and dignity.

6. On this day seven years ago, the world lost one of the truly great slapstick comedians, John Ritter, who died of a heart attack. Ritter is likely best known for his role as Jack Tripper in the late 1970s and early 1980s sitcom Three's Company (based on the British sitcom Man About the House). Let's remember Ritter and others like him who've shared the gift of humor in these troubled times.

7. Two years ago on this day, indigenous campesinos were massacred by right-wing forces in what turned out to be a failed attempt to overthrow Bolivia's democratically elected President, Evo Morales. As several people observed as the events unfolded, the coup attempt was eerily reminiscent of the one in Chile that led to the installation of Pinochet. Let's remember those in Bolivia who died that day, and those whose hard work prevented the coup from succeeding.

Clearly, This day marks the anniversary of numerous events - some tragic, some uplifting. But bear in mind that ultimately today is merely another day on the calendar. We need not be straight-jacketed by the events of the past, nor need we forget them. There are many lessons to be learned from the events mentioned above with regards to human freedom and dignity. Let's spend some time today pondering those lessons.

Let's end by going back to September 11, 2001 for a moment. For me, it will be remembered as a day when we saw the schizophrenic character of American society in sharp relief. The acts of courage and helpfulness by countless individuals, and their willingness to reach out to others was truly inspiring. On the other hand, the American tendency to engage in belligerent jingoism and to immediately blame and attack people, nations, and cultures for the bombings reared its ugly head that day and in the aftermath, which to me was truly sickening. Sadly, the latter won out in the aftermath leading to an America that has since been on the warpath, with little regard for the consequences - either at home or abroad. Although our hope of the tide turning may be faint, that hope is the one candle we do possess in these dark times. To take a line from the late Bob Marley: "light up the darkness."

Peace

Something to make wingnuts' heads explode

There was a mosque on the 17th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Contrary to the Aryan mythology propounded by our nation's right-wing extremists (i.e., the victims of the WTC bombings were white Christians), the make-up of those who worked in the WTC was quite diverse and included a substantial number of Muslims of numerous races and ethnicities. To give you an idea about the article:
Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.

Opponents of the Park51 project say the presence of a Muslim center dishonors the victims of the Islamic extremists who flew two jets into the towers. Yet not only were Muslims peacefully worshiping in the twin towers long before the attacks, but even after the 1993 bombing of one tower by a Muslim radical, Ramzi Yousef, their religious observance generated no opposition.
On September 11, 2001 as I watched the coverage of the unfolding disaster as I prepared to go to work, I had a sinking feeling that ultimately it provide cover for those spoiling for a Holy War. It didn't take long before our former President would start using terms like "evil-doers" and "axis of evil" and speaking of "the war on terra" in a manner that felt akin to a religious crusade, draconian laws such as the Patriot Act were foisted upon us, and in some circles hate speech, physical assaults, and property destruction of those deemed "unacceptable" became more commonplace (and increasingly part of our mainstream discourse).

 Not only did those who died that day not deserve what happened to them, but they do not deserve to be dishonored by hatemongers who try to justify their actions on their behalf.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Christian counterparts to Osama bin Laden

Consider this part of an on-going series on our own homegrown terrorists and terrorist wannabes. I've said before that the profile of our own terrorists is predominantly white, male, and "Christian". I use the last term in quotes because the types of movements that produce their own bin Laden counterparts are typically of the Christian Identity and Dominionist variety, which I consider an abomination. I've noticed that numerous commentators use the term Christianist to characterize these folks in much the same manner that Muslim extremists have been labeled as Islamists. To the extent that there is something positive to the narrative, it is simply that our own home-grown extremists are small in number relative to the population at large (a statement that I could make about practically any group of extremists anywhere else). Unfortunately, in a climate marked by a combination of economic turmoil due to what I see as decades of mismanagement, and a rise in the shrillness of ethnic and religious hate speech by right-wing demagogues (fueled in large part by shoddy journalism practices) that has effectively given extreme views mainstream cover, such terrorists (and those who would be) are increasingly emboldened.

Enter our latest contestant: Justin Carl Moose. We're fortunate he was caught in a sting operation before he could really do any damage. Just what is this guy about? Take a look for yourself:
Moose is charged with providing information related to the manufacture of an explosive, destruction device or weapon of mass destruction to the informant, who he believed was plotting to bomb an abortion clinic.

In an undercover operation, federal officials state they had the informant provide Moose with a name and address of a clinic he was supposedly targeting.

Officials are not saying what city the clinic is in, other than it was in North Carolina.

A message left seeking comment from a federal public defender assigned to Moose’s case was not returned Thursday. A call to a phone number listed at the man’s residence went unanswered.

According to federal court documents, FBI agents based in Greensboro began investigating Moose in early August after being notified by the Planned Parenthood Association about a man advocating violence against women’s health care clinics on his personal Facebook page.

Agents verified Moose’s ownership of the web page and noted it contained numerous anti-abortion postings, videos and images that support others convicted of murder or attempted murder at abortion clinics, along with links about building explosives.

On the Facebook page cited in the complaint, which was still online Thursday, Moose describes himself as:

“Whatever you may think about me, you’re probably right. Extremist, Radical, Fundamentalist...? Terrorist...? Well... I prefer the term “freedom Fighter.”

“End abortion by any means necessary and at any cost”. “Save a life, Shoot an abortionist.”

The FBI analyzed the links regarding explosives and found they provided credible information for building functioning devices.

In one post, Moose allegedly taunted federal authorities by acknowledging he was likely being monitored, writing:
“To all the feds watching me: You can’t stop what is in motion. Even if you bring me in, my men will continue their mission. Furthermore, I will not go peacefully. Do you really want another Waco?”

In the complaint, agents state they obtained search warrant for Moose’s online accounts and that he was actively communicating with other known anti-abortion extremists.

In the messages, Moose allegedly made comments such as:
“As far as I’m concerned nothing is off limits to stop abortion. Anything and everything goes. I have learned alot from the muslim terrorists and have no problem using their tactics.”

On Sept. 3, the complaint states the FBI utilized a confidential informant who had a recorded phone call with Moose, who explained “his best friend’s wife was planning to do something he strongly opposed.”

Before the informant could say the woman was planning an abortion, Moose allegedly said “say no more” and when the informant said he wanted to stop the procedure, Moose allegedly replied “I understand, and I can help.”

The next day the complaint states the informant, who was wearing an undercover recording device, met with Moose at a Concord restaurant.

There, the informant stated he planned to “destroy the building where his best friend’s wife is having an abortion” and Moose allegedly went into fine detail about building three explosive devices and instructed the informant on how to deploy the devices to create the most damage at the clinic.

The complaint states at one point, Moose stated he is a member of the extreme anti-abortion group “Army of God,” stating: “If they put me away right now, if I never make it home, it doesn’t matter because I have told you everything you need to know.”

The FBI said the two men had another recorded phone call on Sept. 5 and Moose provided more information about building the explosive devices.
Similar local coverage can be found here. Think Progress has its own coverage, placing Moose's behavior in a somewhat broader context.

Things not to say

Whenever I read a sentence that begins along the lines of "I'm not a racist, but..." I can pretty well figure how that sentence will end. Case in point, thanks to the miracle of Openbook (using the search term "mosk" - yes people actually spell mosque that way):

In a semi-literate rant against the proposed Park51 project (an Islamic center in Manhattan), Bianca Morris spews,
i aint racists
She should have stopped there before she started digging a hole from which she could never leave. But NO! She had to go on...
but them smelly bastards killed thousands of white ppl on that spot now they wana get on there knees n prey on that spot
Where to begin. Where to begin. Do we start with the factual inaccuracies or the outright racism? I'll leave that one up to you, the reader.




At least the next guy was up-front about his racism:



He might as well have used the n-word. He all but says it right there on Facebook for the world to see.

So it goes. In the meantime, I'm left to ponder the following question: where are we going, and what's with the hand basket?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How did "9/11 victim" become sloppy shorthand for "white Christian"?

This quote comes from Alyssa Torres, whose husband was killed on September 11, 2001 during the WTC bombings. She has some very understandably pointed criticisms of the mass media, which seems to be fueling hysteria rather than actually inform.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Quoting HST

From September 12, 2001:
The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now -- with somebody -- and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides.
My emphasis added, in large part as a means of framing the sort of extremism we've seen in recent weeks and months as anti-Muslim extremism has come to a boil, and as some of these same goons are going out and bombing not only mosques but Planned Parenthood offices as well. No doubt some arcane reference to Biblical scripture will justify such acts of terrorism in the eyes of its perps.

Nasty earthquake in New Zealand

The epicenter of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake was just outside the city of Christchurch - a city perhaps known to some alternative rock buffs as the center for some great pop records on the old Flying Nun label. So far it appears no lives were lost - a good thing - but there has been tons of structural damage. And since it is still late winter there, it will be a cold night for the survivors while electricity remains out through much of the area. As someone who remembers the Whittier-Narrows and Northridge quakes from my stint in Southern California many moons ago, I can empathize a bit with the residents in Christchurch. May everyone stay safe there.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

While you're at it

Read White America's Inconvenience Tantrum, Part V: We Start the Pogrom at Ground Zero (h/t Crooks and Liars). The essay also links to a site called Openbook. Go to Openbook and type "mosk" and you will find a treasure trove of the very speech that I have been talking about. Mr. Destructo goes so far as to document a bunch of it for our own entertainment/edification.

"History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot." -- Mark Twain

Ben Kiernan on some parallels in the Nazi, Khmer Rouge, and Hutu led genocides:
Common features of genocidal thinking can be identified even in cases that lacked the destructive power of the Holocaust. Indeed their perpetrators’ ideological preoccupations can often be discerned from early stages of their careers, before they come to power or amass the military or organizational apparatus required to carry out genocide. Description of these features common to many cases may help in the prediction and prevention of future genocides.

I will juxtapose Nazi ideology with that of two other genocide perpetrators: the Khmer Rouge rulers of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, and Rwanda’s Hutu Power regime of 1994. Leaders of all three regimes held visions of the future partly inspired by ancient pasts – mythical and pristine – in which they imagined members of their original, pure, agrarian race, farming once larger territories that contained no Jews, no Vietnamese, and no Tutsis. The perpetrators of genocide against those victim groups shared preoccupations not only with ethnic purity but also with antiquity, agriculture, and expansionism. Genocidal thinking is usually racialist, reactionary, rural, and irredentist.
By all means please read the rest of the paper. It's a nice capsule summary of a topic which could occupy a lifetime's research. One reason for sharing this paper with you is that I would offer that we see some similar red flags as we watch the evolution of our own right-wing political/religious faction in the US. And before someone gets their draws in a bunch: no, I am not saying that the Tea Party is the next Nazi Party or that Glenn Beck is Pol Pot. But what I am saying is that if you look at the rhetoric of our current right-wing organizations and figureheads, you can see some parallels between their eliminationist rhetoric and that of previous political organizations that did indeed become genocidal. At bare minimum, we are at a point in our own history where it is hardly a leap to imagine pogroms against the scapegoated ethnic minorities of the day (e.g., those of African or South/Central Asian descent who practice Islam, and those who are Hispanic). As I'm fond of saying, our words have consequences.


As an aside, I've noticed in some commentary I've run into on Facebook that a some of the most virulent anti-Muslim individuals are also Holocaust deniers (i.e., consider the mass slaughter of Jews, Slavs, Roma, GLB, and disabled during the Nazi regime to be a hoax). I don't know if this is a common pattern. Still, the extent that I am even seeing it surface is a bit startling.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Take the skinheads bowling

Charles of LGF:

Pamela “Shrieking Harpy” Geller thinks Newsweek is out to get her, of course, and she doubles down on her support for the far right thugs of the English Defense League — and announces that she’s bringing them to the US to participate in her anti-Muslim protest on September 11.
Thought you might like to see this piece Mark Hosenball did on the EDL. Clearly the left is attempting to split the counter jihad movement. They want me to distance myself from brave souls fighting Islamic supremacism. N-O-T   G-O-I-N-G   T-O  H-A-P-P-E-N.
If I lived in England, I would surely be active in the EDL Jewish division. Members of the EDL will be attending our rally to stop the Ground Zero Islamic supremacist mosque on September 11th (be there).
People I know in Britain have told me that over there, there’s absolutely no doubt that the EDL is a violent, hardcore group of extremists and racists, with neo-Nazi and BNP roots. Geller is relying on Americans’ lack of knowledge about British politics to try to portray the EDL as peace-loving patriots, when the truth is exactly the opposite.

Here’s a documentary produced by the Guardian showing the actual people who belong to the EDL, doing what they actually do. The video, shot last May, includes undercover footage of the EDL goons planning to “hit” Bradford — which they just did.
The documentary in question:





Like it or not, we're judged at least in part by the company we keep. You roll with known hate groups, and let's just say that raises some red flags. I mentioned pogroms the other day for a reason: it is precisely hatemongers like Geller and these organizations such as the EDL who foster an environment in which pogroms become a distinct risk. Watching the videos should make all too clear to anyone with the capacity to critically think that these EDL goons are spoiling for just such an opportunity. If you've followed me for a while, you'll know that although I have some very strong beliefs, strongest of those is a general disrespect for extremism and extremists of all stripes. You're also aware that I'll gladly put aside my ideological differences to stand with those who oppose extremist hate. Simply stated, history is littered with the consequences of allowing extremism to go relatively unopposed. Hence, the time has come for those of us with clear heads and clear consciences to say, enough is enough - as loudly and as forcefully as necessary.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Close to the eruption of pogroms against Muslims?

I hope not, but then again, there is little doubt that there has been a major ramp-up in not only violent rhetoric but also violent behavior targeting people who either are Muslim or who are mistaken for Muslim. The term pogrom is worth visiting here, due to the fact that our current climate of violence, fear, and loathing is either condoned by or in some cases actually encouraged by leading authority figures among our political right-wing. The climate is now sufficiently volatile that such concerns of potential pogroms is regrettably warranted. It would be akin to throwing a lit cigarette on spilled gasoline.

What is a pogrom? Let's take a brief definition from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
Pogrom is a Russian word meaning “to wreak havoc, to demolish violently.” Historically, the term refers to violent attacks by local non-Jewish populations on Jews in the Russian Empire and in other countries. The first such incident to be labeled a pogrom is believed to be anti-Jewish rioting in Odessa in 1821. As a descriptive term, “pogrom” came into common usage with extensive anti-Jewish riots that swept Ukraine and southern Russia in 1881-1884, following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. In Germany and eastern Europe during the era of the Holocaust, as in Tsarist Russia, economic, social, and political resentment of Jews reinforced traditional religious antisemitism. This served as a pretext for pogroms.

The perpetrators of pogroms organized locally, sometimes with government and police encouragement.
Basically, pogroms were a real problem for a scapegoated ethnic minority in much of Europe through most of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century (although the phenomenon predates the origination of the term all the way back to ancient times). I seriously doubt that they sort of emerged in a vacuum, but rather after ages of hateful rhetoric amidst plenty of economic and political turmoil. Fast-forward to the early years of our own sorry century, and we see a pattern emerging here in the US. that seems eerily familiar. History doesn't repeat exactly, but there are consistent patterns worth examining and exposing in order to prevent future atrocities.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bears repeating

The Tea Party "movement" is little more than astroturf for billionaires such as the Koch brothers, and its members are merely pawns. This is something I've brought up from time to time utilizing various sources. It bears repeating though, as a counterweight to what passes for coverage in our corporate-controlled mass media.

One consequence of Mosque Madness

The effects of the diatribes against the Park51 project are being felt far away from Manhattan, including a recent arsonist attack on an Islamic center in the process of being built in Tennessee.

New Orleans Five Years Later

There's an interesting piece in Salon worth reading. It's sometimes hard to believe that it's already been five years since Hurricane Katrina exposed years of neglect for the levee system and wetlands that was supposed to protect the New Orleans metro area, and exposed the federal government's ability at the time to respond to real human emergencies as a sham. The disaster indeed briefly exposed us to the type of society into which our nation had devolved (hint: not much has changed in that sense in the last half-decade). The coverage of the human suffering over those waning days of August and early days of September 2005 was horrifying. The aftermath was no more comforting, as we were treated to stories of mass human displacement (to this day, many former New Orleans residents have the means to return home from the diaspora), substandard temporary housing for those still there, and the efforts of neoliberal scam artists to try to redesign the city in Milton Friedman's image (e.g., kill public schools and replace them with for-profit charter schools, etc.). There were also the occasional inspiring stories of locals taking matters in their own hands once it became obvious that our "leaders" were entirely worthless. At one point I did a bit of writing on the underlying racism found in the response to the survivors the disaster, and for a while another blogger kept a a sort of running time-line of the events unfolding during the immediate aftermath. Those remain worth reading. In the meantime, remember that five years on, there remains much to be done.