Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt goes off the grid

Mubarek's dictatorship is off the grid in a manner of speaking. In order to maintain what appears for now to be an increasingly tenuous hold on power, the regime has ordered its major ISPs to kill all international Internet connections.

As an aside, The Guardian has had some decent coverage of events in Egypt and elsewhere around the region.

Update (1/30): Boing Boing has a good compendium of online resources for news on the developments in Egypt.

Shawna Forde's biggest fan

Has some neo-Nazi ties in addition to being incredibly dense.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Follow-up to "Border vigilantes arrested for murder"

About a year and a half ago I posted a couple items about a Minuteklan leader, Shawna Forde, with Tea Party ties who murdered a 9-year-old girl in the process of robbing a family in what initially seemed like a drug-related crime, but which turned out to be a politically motivated crime. Well, Forde's trial is apparently underway. Here's a bit of a reminder of what motivated Forde, and a reminder of who gets hurt by politically motivated violence:
Why did Forde, said to be the "mastermind," and the other alleged killer, Jason Bush, carry out this heinous crime? Prosecutors allege that Forde cooked up a scheme to rob and murder drug dealers, all to raise money for the fledgling, anti-immigrant border patrolling group called Minutemen American Defense, or MAD.

I wrote about Forde and her warped "politics" in my recent book, The Backlash. I noted that in April 2009 -- as first reported by Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, an authority on nativist, right-wing groups in Arizona -- Forde was amped up after attending her first Tea Party on the steps of the state capitol in Phoenix.
"This is the time for all Americans to join organizations and REVOLT!!!," she wrote in a blog post that was retrieved from the Google cache by Lemons. "Refuse to be part of a system only designed to enslave you and your children. Times will be worse before they get worse. *Say no to illegal immigration* Lock and Load, Shawna Forde."
It was this same month that Forde and her ragtag Minutemen band allegedly approached drug dealers in southern Arizona with a scheme to kill and rob their rivals for cash. One of Forde's goals, allegedly, was to buy a 40-acre property near the border that she intended for her group to use as a base for raids -- which she called "Delta One Operations" -- on undocumented Mexicans crossing the border.

Forde and her co-conspirator Bush -- who reportedly has ties to the white supremacist Aryan Nation -- broke into the home of 29-year-old Raul Flores, Brisenia's dad, on May 30, 2009, or just six weeks after Forde's online call for a political revolt. As related this week at Forde's ongoing murder trial:
According to testimony, Bush shot Flores, then Gonzalez. Gonzalez was hit in the shoulder and leg and slumped to the floor. She testified that she played dead as she heard Bush pump more bullets into her husband as Brisenia woke up.

"Why did you shoot my dad?" the girl asked, sobbing, according to Gonzalez's testimony. "Why did you shoot my mom?"

Gonzalez said she heard Bush slowly reload his gun and that he then ignored Brisenia's pleas and fired.

In the wake of the Tucson shootings earlier this month, there was a lot of talk about hateful rhetoric and violent imagery in American politics, and there was a lot of pushback when it emerged that the gunman in that case, Loughner, didn't follow mainstream politics, just some extreme crackpot theories on the Internet. But what happened to Brisenia Flores is different. She lost her life because a couple of unhinged crackpots absorbed all that "lock and load" blather in our atmosphere and actually did something about it. We should not be shocked. But we do need to figure out how to make sure that never again will the life of innocent girl end because of this political madness.

And just as we will never forget Christina Green, America needs to always remember Brisenia Flores.
Let us not forget Brisenia Flores.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Yves Smith sez:
You can see why I avoid paying much attention to what Obama says. I’d never get anything done if I did. 
See, she was doing some fact checking as well. The statement of His O-ness that she does hone in on was one that I had the misfortune of hearing practically the moment I got home last night, and suffice it to say, it was a statement that just made me wince. I'd say read in full what she has to say - she's no lefty (at least not by the standards of those who've developed the capacity to use spoons and forks for dining) but she is quite outspoken on the economic problems facing the US.

I might have been unimpressed with His O-ness' SOTU...

but, man, the two folks who gave the GOP/TP "rebuttals" were absolutely awful. Rep. Ryan, who appeared as if he'd just been offered the role of Darin on "Bewitched" and Rep. Bachmann, who appeared to be auditioning for a role in a sequel to "Men in Black" manage to deliver similar talking points with similar factual errors (see problem's with Ryan's speech here, and Bachmann's here). Lacking is any substantive criticism to the current approach to foreign policy, which has been essentially a continuation of the abominations of the Bush II era. I'm not particularly surprised.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Food for thought

I'm going to quote the following at length because I think there is something broader about the contemporary American Zeitgeist that the author discusses:
What I am asking for, in the short term, is perhaps just a little more regard for a beleaguered and largely defenseless class of people. I often can't decide what is worse in the endless round of videos and animations and essays describing these tough realities, the openly mocking and hateful, or the crocodile tears of those who merely resent the impertinence of those who want to live the life of the mind. There are plenty who talk about this situation out of deep principle and real concern, of course, but many do not. Academics are my people, and whatever mockery you'd like to come up with, I love them.

Ultimately, though, I doubt that arguments, or qualifications of arguments, like this one will penetrate. This is in part because of the persistent and rampant anti-intellectualism that pervades American life. There is something about the implied judgment of educating yourself that really brings it out of people in our country. (I have friends who are graduate students in other countries, and they always ask me, "why do Americans hate higher education?" They particularly can't understand it because American higher education is the envy of the world.)

But that's not the only thing going on here. Going to law school, long the definition of practicality and the sober pursuit of capitalistic success, has become in a few short years a numerically bad bet, and the boo birds have descended with a frenzy on law students. The absolute glee with which others mock their condition is, frankly, shocking and ugly. Yet it's a perfectly common way of acting these days. I loved this little post from Conor Friedersdorf. Conor recognizes the stale mean-spiritedness that seems to be the order of the day when talking about anyone else's professional or academic choices. What I would ask those who mock anyone for facing an uncertain job market, in this economy-- who are you? And what are you doing that's so great? I don't think that there's [ever] been a time for a person of character to mock wannabe lawyers, scholars, artists, actors, musicians, or any other. But if there ever was, it wouldn't be now, when the idea of full employment seems to be collapsing around us.

Here's what I think: I think everyone is scared. I'm not yet quite 30 years old. I look around at my peers and I see a generation that is rapidly losing any faith in the American social contract. I know many, many people who have been looking for work literally for years, and found nothing. Not nothing as in "nothing that offers the package of salary and benefits they want" but nothing full-time, period. This is an entirely common situation. And I'm sorry to say that, rather than coming together, people are allowing their fear and anxiety to be delivered outward, preempting examination of their own difficult situations by mocking those who are attempting to gain employment in fields where it is very difficult to do so.

If I could do one thing to change the American people, it would be to revive the spirit of solidarity. Solidarity is, I think, essential to the democratic process, but ours has been systematically degraded by the commercial ethic of hyper-individuation. Everyone is a rugged individualist, which is another way of saying that everyone is alone. Solidarity is humane, generative, and liberal, but it doesn't have much place in modern American. There's no money in it.
My emphasis added. The lack of solidarity has bothered me for many more years than I care to count. Suffice it to say, even though I am considerably older than Freddie, I can think back to my late 20s and lament the lack of solidarity that was already apparent. The days when concepts such as solidarity and collective action had any currency had long passed by the time that I was defending my Master's thesis. As a Gen-X-er who began serious pursuit of an academic career when Dittoheads were all the rage, I had already concluded that our nation's history of anti-intellectualism was taking a turn for the worse. We are a coarser, cruder people now than ever before. Don't believe me? Spend some time absorbing our cultural artifacts: talk radio, cable "news", and reality shows. Ours is a culture that offers incentives for displaying willful ignorance, with a healthy dose of behaviors that can be best described as narcissistic to downright psychopathic. Tearing down one another is a national pastime. It's not the sort of environment likely to nurture aspiring scholars and professionals. Arguably, it's not the sort of environment to nurture much of anything.

I certainly harbor no illusions about those who choose more scholarly pursuits. We're all human. Obtaining a Ph.D. or any other advanced degree does not make one a "better" person per se. Degrees will not paper over whatever character flaws or baggage one might have. That said, I was brought up to respect the effort and intellect required to successfully pursue an advanced academic or professional degree. It's not a life for those seeking simply to be rich and famous. It is, however, a life that offers plenty of its own rewards. Given our own cultural Zeitgeist, I'm often amazed at how many of us get to make a living in the academy. That we still have a higher education system that is the envy of the world is a minor miracle. I sincerely doubt that will last much longer as more of our "leaders" in politics and the mass media - many of whom are themselves openly hostile toward academicians - seem to be of the opinion that in desperately hard economic times, higher education (and really education in general) is expendable.

But back to the topic at hand. Cultures don't change overnight, but they do change. If I were to suggest a much needed change for our culture, it would simply come down to ditching the hyper-individualism. The "everyone for themselves" mentality is not one conducive to the long term survival of our society, especially a society adjusting to diminishing expectations and living standards. I'd also suggest ditching the anti-intellectualism. I would be the last to suggest blind reverence for our nation's scholars, but I do think that the self-discipline and critical thinking skills exhibited by academicians are ones that would be far better to model than what is currently modeled. Bottom line: we're going to hang together thinking clearly or hang separately in a fog. So, what's it going to be?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jaw-droppingly funny

The Distant Ocean goes into the mindset of our contemporary "progressive" movement, revealing once more why we in the US are truly, hopelessly fucked. Chris Floyd offers up the more serious take on the matter. My take can be summed up thusly: we're reaping the consequences of several decades of a severely imbalanced political discourse.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Isolated incidents" my ass

David Neiwert, who's area of expertise as a journalist is in right-wing terrorist groups, has a useful interactive map of terrorist incidents aimed at "liberals" and "government" targets since 2008.

Your hard right nationalists....

Doing what they do best:
On the afternoon of January 6, Frances Fox Piven, a distinguished professor, legendary activist, writer and longtime contributor to this magazine, received an e-mail from an unknown correspondent. There was no text, just a subject line that read: DIE YOU CUNT. It was not the first piece of hateful e-mail Piven had gotten, nor would it be the last. One writer told her to "go back to Canada you dumb bitch"; another ended with this wish: "may cancer find you soon."

Piven was unnerved but not surprised. These are not pretty e-mails, but they appear positively decorous compared with what has been written about her by commentators on Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, where she's been the target of a relentless campaign to demonize her—and worse. There, under cover of anonymous handles, scores of people have called for Piven's murder, even volunteering to do the job with their own hands. "Somebody tell Frances I have 5000 roundas [sic] ready and I'll give My life to take Our freedom back," wrote superwrench4. "ONE SHOT...ONE KILL!" proclaimed Jst1425. "The only redistribution I am interested in is that of a precious metal.... LEAD," declared Patriot1952. Posts like these are interwoven with ripples of misogyny, outbursts of bizarre anti-Semitism and crude insults about Piven's looks (she's actually a noted beauty) and age (she's 78).
One thing I will say as a reminder: ideas are bulletproof.