Monday, February 28, 2005

Trade Union Activists Murdered In Iraq

I was just reading today's Labor Notes and see that there have been numerous trade union activists targetted and assassinated in Iraq. I'm not clear on why this is happening or who the people are who are involved, but this is a story that deserves wider attention. If anyone reading has more information on the killings, please post a comment.
Also from Labor notes, I found this blog, which has news of people killed at work this week. These kinds of everyday work deaths are rarely reported anywhere, but when the numbers of job-related deaths are calculated they always reveal the callousness of capitalism.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Guest Post from my Colleague, Josh: City Hall Can Be Veeeeeerrrry Slippery! Written 2/25/05

This is the tale of one mildly concerned citizen hoping to lower the incidence of broken hips on a wet snowy night. On Feb. 24 at about 6:30 PM, I crawled out of the subway on the SW corner of Chambers and Centre Streets. It had been snowing for an hour or 2. About 30 or 40 feet north of the subway exit I saw a businessman in his 40s or 50s slip and fall on his back, an elegant bit of stuntery that took approximately 0.03 seconds. I turned toward him asking if he was OK as a woman did the same. He said yes, got up, and walked on. The woman explained to him and me while wiping the sidewalk w/ her foot that it was really slippery right there because of a plaque in the sidewalk. As I walked away, I thought why not call 311 about this. Maybe they'll put up a yellow cone or something. I was walking heading west across Chambers to Greenwich St. and up about 4 blocks. The process was a bit more involved than I had imagined. I was on my cell until about 10 steps from my destination, some 10 to 15 minutes later. I talked to 3 individuals, all of whom were pleasant.

I explained to 2 of the 3 people that "there is a very slippery spot about 40 feet north of the subway on the corner of..... and I just thought you might mark it for other pedestrians." The second person I spoke w/ asked if that was in Brooklyn.

The third person, who took down my info, was courteous but a bit slow on the uptake. After waiting for her for what seemed like several minutes, she explained that "there is so much to put in before I can take your information, sorry!" "No problem," I assured her. Eventually, as I came within a block of my destination, I mentioned that I had to go soon. I decided not to mention to her toward the end that my phone hand was about to freeze and fall off. I sensed that she had all she could handle already.

At about 8:30 that night I went back to the same spot on my way home, and there was no evidence that the authorities cared. Maybe I should have said something to the 311 folks about how routine dangers add up to a terrorized mentality for working people and that budget cuts are destroying our public spaces and communities. That might have occasioned alerting Bloomberg, who would have taken time off from his busy schedule to fix this problem. After all, there must be some money in it.

Signed, Josh, sociologist and occasional thoughtful citizen.

Subway Riding Part Two

This urban planner that I just met was explaining to me that the MTA is a state agency whose head is appointed by the Governor, so there really isn't any difference between The MTA and Pataki. "The MTA is Pataki," he said, and when Hevesi goes after them for mismanagement he's being a clever Democrat who's showing the people of NY that he's "looking out for us" - although of course that may be all about image and not much about substance. Aha! so, I didn't understand this at all when I made my last post, as I thought that the MTA was a city agency that was being starved by the state, sort of like CUNY, which also doesn't get enough money and then makes up the differences through tuition hikes and reduced services (such as cutting the counseling services).
Given that, I'm a bit confused about the way that the Straphangers' campaign is presenting the problems. What's the long story behind their backing of the five year capital plan? Some of the people on the "riders' diaries" on their page seem to see the whole plan as a boon-doggle while others feel that the Governor is on the right track. I don't get it. I hope that some expert in local politics who's reading will weigh in with an informed opinion here. other news:
The weekend edition of Counterpunch is especially good today, and features an interesting, if
typically distressing article by Noam Chomsky. Chomsky mentioned this plan of the scary military-industrial complex types to put nuclear weapons in space the last time I heard him speak in NYC, about a year and 1/2 ago, and yet, as he points out in the article, despite plans to move ahead w/the strategies, there has been virtually no news coverage of it at all.
Also in this issue is an article about the royal coup in Nepal. The only problem with this article is that it assumes a good deal of prior knowledge of the Nepalese/British/and Indian politics, and unfortunately, I'm guessing most Americans don't know a lot. This would include me, although I went on a NJrve date last Summer with someone who explained a little bit to me about the Maoists, and the royalists and the rest. He had some interesting things to say about the role that the Buddhists play in the economy there, as well, but I didn't know enough from other sources to be able to evaluate any of what he said. I wrote to Chandra, and I'll post his response here if I get one. Counterpunch authors usually respond personally to letters, which makes me feel special. In fact, Alexander Cockburn, in this week's column, quoted extensively from several readers. Now, isn't that a nice way to run an online magazine?
Oh right, how could I forget? There's going to be a super-duper important and expensive awards show on TV tonight. I'm sure that will be the headline coverage on Monday's mainstream news shows. And the more people who do cover it, the more that people feel it's news and that they need to actually watch it. It's such a scam, although I've usually watched it, mostly in hope that someone will say something against American foreign policy. This year, because certain people would only go see movies at the Film Forum, I've barely seen any of the movies that are nominated, but I think that this is a good thing, generally.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Being an intellectual is easier than being a human being

Actually, it's been hard to be an intellectual today because the human being part has been so time-consuming, what with looking for a new room-mate and trying to understand what I was doing for the last seven months while I thought I was so blissfully happy in love. I always tell people that once something doesn't work out, that it's not so helpful to go back and rewrite the past as a bunch of meaningless foolery, but it feels that way today for a number of reasons I won't go into.

Today, I barely read the current news, but I have been back in the depths of Farrell Dobbs' Teamster Rebellion, a book that describes a model of well-organized militancy: the Minneapolis Truckers Strike of 1934. The truckers' success in getting the farmers and the unemployed on their side was especially impressive, and the coordination with workers to meet day to day needs of strikers and unemployed reminded me of the efforts made (in a very different situation) during the right wing trucker's strike in Chile. Today such a strike seems almost unimagineable, and not just because of the Taft-Hartley act.

And speaking of Chile, what's going on in Venezuela today, I wonder?
I'm so glad I wondered, Chavez is in the newsfor for declaring publicly that socialism, not capitalism is the only answer to poverty and inequality. Of course, this has got the American corporate media screaming "Castro," etc. "Venezuelan Analysis" has pointed out the distorting nature of such claims here.For A more reliable and nuanced discussion of Chavez's economic programs appears here in an article comparing Chavez to Abraham Lincoln.
And while the U.S. has shrugged off and dismissed Chavez's recent charges that the U.S. is planning to intervene again against the Venezuelan government, the U.S.'s behavior in the past towards Allende, Aristide, and going further back -- to Mossadeq and others, gives us plenty of justification for taking the news of pending American intervention against Chavez (socialist or no) very seriously.

When Reading About Iraq Becomes a Distraction from the Really Bad News

At least the horrors of war, tyranny, etc. seem part of the potentially reversible damage that humans regularly inflict upon each other. Much worse is the new found fact that women's breast milk in the U.S. contains enough rocket fuel residue to expose infants to thyroid damage. Of course, in countries such as Iraq, where the U.S. has been using depleted uranium it's obvious that major environmental problems and the military-industrial complex are not separate issues. After all, rocket fuel is connected to the "defense" of the country, and is apparently showing up in bovine and human milk because chemical waste in water used in irrigation that somehow gets into the food we eat. Isn't it sad? To read more, go here.
But wait, there's more....The global warming news is very, very bad right now. This website has succinct easy to read stuff about what's going on, and also some simple actions that individuals can take to reduce CO2 emissions. I don't know anything about these guys at Black Rhinoceros, but they seem cool to me. What about the terrifying news about water? You can read a lot from that book, Blue Gold on the Third World Traveler website. That, by the way, is a great resource for information. They have William Shawcross's stuff on Cambodia there too, which again, is less terrifying to read about than the long-lasting, catastrophic environmental news that gets worse every day. Oh yeah, and of course, that war in Iraq is all about controlling the fossil fuel whose burning is sending our planet straight toward what those radical right christians call the "end times."
It's enough to make you want to either become a full time environmental activist and or spend your time on such less difficult problems to solve as war, poverty, and the protection of civil liberties, oh, but they're connected, for as Ross Gelbspan put it in his interview with Kelpie Wilson of Truthout, "If one honestly acknowledges the scale and urgency of the problem, it becomes clear that it cannot be effectively addressed without major structural changes to global economic dynamics. And, from what I've seen, the major environmental groups - and especially their funders - are not prepared to address that reality."
I agree, and I think that both the media and a lot of people would just rather that most of us not know anything at all.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Daily Insult of Subway Riding

Last night on my way home, I saw a headline on a newstand, "The Coming Subway Crisis". I was anxious to read it, and thought of it just this morning, as my room-mate and I stood wedged between other riders on the crawling, Manhattan Bound F out of Brooklyn. We compared horror stories from the previous weeks, during which one or the other of us had experienced trains skipping our station with no posters warning of ride changes, or simply horrendous delays. We're not alone in the city, as service cuts and fare hikes go together to create just one more (at least twice) daily insult to the working people of NYC.
Let me share my stories. On Jan 27th, the first day of classes at CUNY, I left the house at 12:20, leaving ample time to get to my 2pm class. However, once I was in the train we moved a few feet and sat in the tunnel, moved a few feet and then sat in the tunnel. This went on until we got to the FIRST express stop....50 minutes later. Realizing that I would miss my class, I left the train, ran out of the station and called my office, asking them to put a note on the door for the students. I got done with the conversation and went back to the station only to find that the same train, complete with all the riders I'd seen on the way was still sitting there, only now the doors were closed and several people were standing on the platform, waiting to get on. I did finally make it to Chambers street at exactly 2pm. What I find especially outrageous about all this was that there were absolutely no indications that there were going to be delays. About a week ago, I was on another F train that sat and sat and sat in the tunnel, then spit us out at Bergen street and went out of service.
"It gets worse every day," a man on the platform said.
And yet, where is the news about the egregious service on the F train? I heard a lot about disrupted A/C service, but there was nothing so bad on those lines during the track fire repairs as there were on the F train during "regular" service. With today's snow, I don't know whether I'll be able to get back from Manhattan tonight, as the trains will no doubt be backed up on that rickety bridge over the Gowanus canal. Yes, D, the Smith and 9th street stop is the highest point in the subway system, according to the people at, and that is why our train is the little engine that couldn't.

Why is the service getting so shitty? Most of the articles I found say that this is beyond MTA corruption, which was the focus of protest in the 2003 fare-hike, but that it is the more general problem of lack of state support. The state and city have reduced the amount of money given to subsidize the subways, leading to crappier service and higher fares. It's the same problem that we face in most public institutions, like public universities and the Post Office (which, in my neighborhood, is falling apart and has an average wait of 45 minutes whether you're picking up a package or mailing something). This article today's Newday, for example, says that the state subsidy to the MTA has gone from 19% to zero since the 1980s.
Soon after the fare-hike proposal was made, Bruce Schaller explained the situation well,And of course, there's also the corruption and fraud in the MTA. Remember this? and don't forget the close ties between the MTA head and ALfonse D'Amato. However, there is something about Alan Hevesi's ideas that I don't trust. He seems like one of those fiscal conservatives, and I guess that's the program, since he's comptroller. Anyone out there have any comments on this?...any far left policy analysists reading?
After reading the Straphangers' campaign web-page I learned that my impression that service is better in wealthier neighborhhoods is supported with evidence. The 6 train, which serves the Upper East Side (and apparently the Mayor) got the highest rating. Once again, the G (cross Brooklyn) got the worst. The F, which gets worse with every passing week, actually rated 12th out of 21. I suggest that if you ride the F train and have complaints that you take action. Here is the straphanger's campaign, where you can read more and get involved.
As regular service has gotten exponentially worse since the snow storm followed by the track fire, I feel daily that I am being ignored and disregarded by the city as Manhattan remains the playground or the super-wealthy while the rest of us are crowded in Brooklyn/Queens/Bronx and forced to ride trains that feel as if any minute they will shudder right off the tracks.

SO much going on in the World

It's not the morning yet, but I sat down at my desk just now and was sadly looking at this cute, chunky little "Democracy Now" coffee cupthat I bought for that librarian. It came in the mail today, so I sat and looked at it and thought, "this cup is so cute and solid, so much more so than the flimsier lightweight cups over at his place. I should give it to him because he actually needs it." This went on for a while and I decided that this sort of thing is boring for you to read and I'm keeping the cup.

I couldn't find much more information about the Friendster/Eharmony deal, except that the CEO, Scott Sassa, was recently brought in in August. He made news in the world of computer types because he fired troutgirl for some pretty innocent blog entries about Friendster's switch from Java to PHP. Silly, huh?

But then, there were other important things going on, more important that the receipt of the shiny Democracy Now mug in the mail, more truly terrifying than corporate media gossip, more depressing than breaking up.

It is very scary, for example, that Israel's defense minister made a public threat against Iran and called for U.S. support. This reminded me of that prescient article that some of you may have read by Seymour Hersh

This should be a worthwhile event to go: Greg Palast and Pratap Chatterjee are speaking on Monday the 28th at Columbia's Teachers' college. I'm teaching that night, but maybe someone else will go and describe the event.

I was looking for more about that story in Ha'aretz and found out that someone has just been arrested and charged with plotting an assassination attempt on President Bush. You can read about it here in the Guardian
(I found the timing of this somewhat bizarre, as I was just in the gym listening to Will Durst on my mp3 player as he talked about how loose Bush's security seemed to be in comparison with Cheney's after 9/11....for, it is really Cheney who is president after all, as this book will explain.
I'm anticipating that when I get up to drink coffee out of my sparkling new mug and head off to my luxiurious open rehearsal at the Philharmonic tomorrow morning that there will be all kinds of fresh panic in the air, and especially since they just convicted Lynn Stewart for what seemed like perfectly reasonable activities for a lawyer in a political case, I can't imagine that it's going to be easy for this guy to get decent, aggressive defense.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Friendster and Eharmony - Friends or not?

Here's something interesting.
I was upset about what I learned about Neil Clark Warren and wrote a letter to Friendster complaining about their "match up" with the edating service. Did they not know that NCW was connected to "Focus on the Family?" I wondered....
Friendster's customer service reps. wrote back:" We are NOT partnered with eHarmony, someone started this rumer. It is a hoax.
thank you"
Unless something has changed since Nov. 30th, Eharmony and Friendster may not be partners, but they did make a big deal together, as Friendster made eharmony the exclusive matchmaker that could advertise on its site.
Eharmony's own press releases announce the agreement, which was also covered in MSNBC's business news section:
eharmony press release
msnbc article

This has been reported on earlier in the Month, and others have contacted Friendster about the deal. Note this article by David Evans on
Later on, I'll try to find out more information about the relationship between the two sites, and update you on my correspondence with Friendster.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Neil Clark Warren, Not Just Christian, Creepy Christian

Thanks to that anonymous commenter who alerted me to the fact that Neil Clark Warren, whose "" is constantly advertised on Air America Radio, is not just sorta Christian, but a pal of right-wing wacko, James Dobson. It does say right on Warren's profile on the eharmony page that he has appeared on "Focus on the Family" but I never noticed this before. Thank goodness I didn't give them any of my money.
It is sort of old news. I did a little googling and discovered a few articles, including this one one which sent me to this one at the Daily Kos,. Finally, I found this oneat monkeyfilter which has a lot of astonished commentary following it, including the interesting fact that (Bush contributors) Sequoia Capital and Crossover Ventures just invested $110 million in the company at the end of last year.
There's nothing wrong with creating a Christian dating service, but there is something troubling about the "stealth" quality of eharmony and the weird, panicky ideas that you can find in their published work.

Here, for example, is :
one of NCW's articles for FOF

One Christian database said that Dr. Warren founded an outfit called the "Associated Psychological Services" in Pasadena, CA. Here's something by one of their on-staff counselers, which describes the plague of pornography and how it can disrupt a happy marriage:
"Secret Sins of the Heart"

And what about Dr. Warren's previous academic deanship? Well that was at an institution called the Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical college whose history you can read about here. Basically, it seems that it began with a radio ministry.
Now what types of fellows will we find there?
According to C. Eugene Walker's 1965 book review of one of the founder of the psychology program, Donald J. Tweedie, Jr., (the one where Warren once was the dean), Tweedie's book contains "admonitions to use Bible reading and prayer with virtually all counselers (whether Christian or not) since herein lies the only hope of help; and, the view that non-Christian psychotherapists really can't help their patients. However, he grants that God may choose to help some of them in spite of the nonChristian therapist. These discussions are sprinkled with references to the Holy Spirit as the "Great Psychologist" and as a "participant observer" in therapy" For more, go here
I suppose it's possible that the college has gotten more relaxed since the 1960s, but I doubt that, given the climate in the country, and in Southern California in particular during the 1970s and 80s.
So, Eharmony promises true love, unbelievable compatibility and then takes your money for their crazy right wing causes. While some say it is old news, why then is Air America happily taking their money and why is it that Friendster just made a big advertizing deal with them? Did either business look very far into this new client?? If people freaked out that Bowlmor lanes had Palestinian investors, it seems that people should freak out that eharmony is a stealthy right wing Christian cash cow.

Hunter S. Thompson, Rest in Crankiness

Good morning, oh my devoted readers.
It's another depressing day in the Heartland. Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide last night. When I was in highschool in Chapel Hill. I spent many an insomniac night reading The Great Shark Hunt which I'd gone to straight after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What I remember best about Thompson was his description of watching the Watergate hearings, funneled through his alter-ego, Raoul Duke,

"The slow-rising central horror of Watergate is not that it might grind down to the reluctant impeachment of a vengeful thug of a president whose entire political career has been a monument to the same kind of cheap shots and treachery he finally got nailed for, but that we might somehow fail to learn something from it. Already - with the worst news yet to come - there is an ominous tide of public opinion that says whatever Nison and his small gang of henchmen and hired gunsels might have done, it was probably no worse than what other politicans have been doing all along, and still are. Anybody who really believes this is a fool -...What almost happened here- and what was only avoided because the men who made Nixon president and who were running the country in his name knew in their hearts that they were all mean, hollow little bastards who couldn't dare turn their backs on each other- was a takeover and perversion of the American political process by a gang of cold-blooded fixers so incompetent that they couldn't even pull off a simple burglary...which tends to explain among other things why 25,000 young Americans died in Vietnam while Nixon and his brain trust were trying to figure out how to admit the whole thing was a mistaske from the start.
Obviously, back then he was at least partially right. People didn't learn from the Watergate scandal, and the scandalousness of his presidency wasn't just the tapes - it was the war in Vietnam. Reading back through this now, it's clear to me that what I loved about Thompson when I was a highschool kid in the empty eighties was partly that intense wordiness and that he made the obsession with politics seem as cool as rock and roll. The drugs were the "excuse" for the excessiveness of the prose, and they became a distraction for the readers. I think the excesses of his lifestyle finally reduced the sharpness of his political commentary in print, and that we had lost him a long time ago. His suicide is very sad and I do want to know what the immediate cause was. I'm sure many will speculate and that the speculations will be facile.

I wish I knew what Thompson would say about the literal prostitution scandal now unfolding? The Gannon/Guckert circus.. There's a good article about it by Gary Leupp in Counterpunch.
Here's another onethat posits a connection between Karl Rove and Gannon.

And finally, here's something that's just silly: Art in the park

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Computer Dating

So, it's true, "eharmony" is based on Christianity. Check out this article by Joel Keller. (you'll have to skip a sort of weird sexist intro about the guy's date, but his other comments are interesting).
From there, procrastinating in full gear, I started reading more issues of "Blacktable" and came up with this story. Since I used to be an anarchist, though sort of reluctant at the time, I totally enjoyed
this representation of anarchist demos.
It's true that anarchists are great at organizing themselves. They(we) are more concerned with process than anyone, and unfortunately, they are really, really concerned, perhaps unbeknownst to Ashley Glacel, about "intra-movement politics"