Thursday, March 31, 2005

Corporate Give Away news....

I hope that this time the NY Post is as wrong about the stadium deal as they were about Election 2000. Meanwhile, while the Jets may get a sweet deal, the service in the subway will continue its steady decline, but perhaps the legislature's approval of the capital plan will help. As the same story will tell you, our fearless Governor is still planning on going after the already too-small education budget with a big pair of scissors. In national corporate give-away news, today is the AFL-CIO's official national day of action to stop the privatization of Social Security. And then there's this cheery news from last week: The Indian parliament has formally caved in to the WTO's TRIPS agreement.

My favorite source on all things WTO related is Walden Bello, whose znet page is a bit out of date, but check here: to read his biography. Perhaps he is behind on his internet life because of the publication of his name on a Communist Party hit-list in the Philippines. In case you are tempted to imagine that there is some reality to the CPP's attacks on Bello, please note that this comes as part of their attack on the Porto Allegre World Social forum as an “imperialist plot to derail people from world revolution." Search as I might, I have been unable to locate any published commentary from E.San Juan on this conflict. Has he written anything about it? My time on the internet today must draw to a close.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Iraqi Trade Unionists, American College Politics, MTA and Sharpton

you've seen it and heard it, but just in case, here's the latest news on the west-side yards from Field of Schemes. In my half-awake state on Sunday morning, I also heard Al Sharpton talking about why he had decided to back the stadium proposal, and here's another similar story about the Jets proposal to hire black workers. I don't know what Sharpton's strategy or reasoning is...because in the long run, those jobs aren't going to be permanent and the stadium is a rip off, as Freddy Ferrer pointed out in a recent speech. Apparently, there's a possibility that the MTA will reject both bids. Cross your fingers - two days till the decision, unless!

I have been wanting to know, but haven't seen very much coverage of Iraqi trade union activity, but here is a succinct summary of union mobilization in Iraq.
In the somewhat far-off future, I'm glad to see that there will be a tour of Iraqi trade unionists from May 6th-22nd, organized by US labor Against the War.

Locally, there is much to complain about. At Columbia, the University President continues to equivocate about academic freedom and pander to the right wing. Here's a nice editorial commentary by Baruch Kimmerling of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
At CUNY, four people at CCNY are still threatened with prosectuion for their participation in a protest against military recruiters...and don't forget, they're holding a rally on Thursday at noon at the NAC center -- if you happen to be around there during the day.

And speaking of the limits of speech....back in the day, well, Barbara Goldsmith's story of the life and times of Victoria Woodhull is pretty fascinating stuff. Woodhull really did scandalize everyone with her arguments against marriage, and when she got in trouble for being too challenging, seen as not quite the proper vehicle for Suffrage politics, she got even. Bizarrely, her proclivity for digging up scandal and pointing out hypocrisy reminded me of Larry Flynt, who, despite every claim he might try to make, is no feminist champion.

Room-mate Searching, File Sharing and More

Back from the bloggie-break. You guys have no idea how much time this can take up. Or, maybe you do. I started to think that I was falling behind in my work because I was staying up reading the news and choosing links.
A lot has happened in the world, and I got feedback that some of my readers enjoy the dating stories and personal life musing more than anything else I write here. Sorry folks, but there's nothing to report except a sad afternoon meeting with a certain librarian involving the exchange of various books and socks. The next day I met a nice couple at a party who enthusiastically told me the story of their previous break up a year ago. They exchanged their stuff and it was sad, they said, awful, hideous, but the very worst was disconnecting their joint phone account, for which they both had to go in person to the corporate office. The whole thing got so ridiculous that they got back together. They were a different type of couple entirely, obviously.
Other relatively trivial news involves my search for a room-mate, which has gone on much longer than I would like. Last night, I met a fellow who must not have read my room-mate ad very carefully. He was an odd character, an unemployed, fiftyish Southerner, a waiter of uncertain sexual preference, very nervous, never took his coat off while looking at the place, mentioned that one of his room-mate requirements was that the room-mate not have many overnight guests "loafing around" the place. That all seemed a bit of an awkward and repressed way to discuss his discomfort with my potential sex life, and then he let it out that he was actually a Republican. As a neo-con waiter, who seems much like a closeted Gay man, he won't have an easy time settling in NYC, but maybe his mental insulation is very strong.

Real "news": I woke up this morning listening to Marc Maron and Mark Reilly discussing file sharing with their listeners. Then there's the ongoing story about ipod subway thefts. Damn, I would hate it if someone ripped off my "creative zen" player because of its little white earphones just to get some of the music I stole on the internet. No, that's a joke, most of the tunes on there were legally acquired, I swear. I am sure that the reason for increased subway crime is not the desirable little pods, but rather the decrease in number of booth attendants, etc. I'm sure it's connected to all the Corporate welfare that sucks up all the money in this burg. On the same, hideous note, NY1's top story today was that suburb loving, city wrecking Governor is now officially planning on running for president. The whole thing makes me feel like crying or tearing my hair, the way people whose primary achievement in office was to destroy the places that they "represented" wind up getting rewarded for it by being "elected" president.

Speaking of music...for the first time in months perhaps, Amy Goodman is actually playing good music ("where's the love" - by the Blackeyed Peas, damn, I'd love to download that.) in between stories on her show "Democracy Now." Her taste is dictated entirely by the topicality of lyrics. And she mentioned, speaking of lyrics, the scandalous news of McDonalds' offer to rappers to advertise for them. I was noticing the number of brand-names in Jay-Z's raps the other day, and I felt much less guilty for downloading that stuff. If you read the story I just linked to, you'll find that this is not the first time. Apparently, Seagrams' gin has paid several rappers. What about Hennessy and Crystal? Have they paid to become the most name-checked brand liquors in rap lyrics?
I couldn't find out, but I did find this amusing little piece comparing rappers and bloggers.
and that's enough rambling for one day.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Results of "Starving the Beast"

Did you see this story about how the people in charge of testing kids in the public schools sent out tests rife with spelling errors and incorrect answers to math problems? Thank you soooo much for "raising standards." For all who haven't read it, I recommend reading the book Standardized Minds.

It's a double disservice. Thanks to the Daily News for covering the maddening transit delays. The Times had a similar story about worsening service. Unfortunately, the NYT seems to blame riders and workers instead of the stingy budget.

and finally, a friend mentioned this article about Pataki's influence on SUNY. The article at one point contrasts the reputation of CUNY in the State Legislature with SUNY, calling the City University a "darling" while SUNY is a "problem child." If that is so, then why are CUNY's faculty being offered a measley 2.5% raise -- out of which contributions to our collapsing welfare fund (which pays dental, eyecare, and prescription drug benefits) are supposed to be made?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Air America and its Listeners

Tonight I spent the time I should have spent reading about Victoria Woodhull, Teddy Roosevelt and others trying to figure out why Air America Radio decided to put Jerry Springer on the air where the show "Unfiltered" has been. I had stopped listening to the show during the election because I just couldn't take the obsessive focus on the Democratic party anymore, but I initially enjoyed it. I hadn't listened to the station at all until I went on a bus trip to DC for the pro-choice march last Spring with Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow and the female staff of the station (unfortunately no Janeann Garofalo). I was so impressed by both Lizz and Rachel. They were hilarious and smart, and actually, on the bus, sounded further to the left than they did on the radio. Lizz went on and on about how much she hated Clinton and the DLC, and Rachel Maddow knew a bunch of people who did prison work in California, it all gave me confidence in the station.
During my quest for info, I didn't find out much, but I did read the Unfiltered blog with its long threads of commentary of Maddow/Chuck D. and Winstead fans, AND I visited a right-wing blog dedicated to listening to Air America all day long and trying to find ways to attack it called Air America Listen. Look, I linked to it, but I don't recommend going there. The guy thinks that the democrats are socialists! He thinks taxes are a form of socialism. He opposes minimum wage laws because he says they would "put someone in jail" if they wanted to trade their labor for $5.00 per hour instead of $5.25. Here's a guy who has no understanding of the coercive force of the market, or even how the laws he opposes actually work. Maybe he would think Adam Smith was a socialist. I think he's a twenty-one year old guy with a bowtie, who keeps a copy of The Fountainhead under the bed next to his porno magazines.
I had a student who said things like this. She drove me crazy - not just because I disagreed with her politics, but because she was just objectively wrong: wrong about what socialism is, wrong about what the Democratic party's positions were, wrong about what the actual Republican policies were, wrong about how markets work, wrong, wrong, wrong. She was living in a universe of her making, as are so many of the far right people now. Because they believe in a vast, Soviet style conspiracy, liberal media, etc. that they think is weilding power over them, it is very hard to get them to see how distorted their perceptions of reality actually are without instantly being labled part of the conspiracy. This is the sort of thing that Hofstadter was talking about when he wrote that book, which I generally don't like because of its anti-communism, The Paranoid Style in American Politics This is what 20+ years of Reganomics, Rush Limbaugh and the rest have done...made total stupidity pass as wise, "refreshing" commentary.

Schiavo, Iraq Vets Vs. War, Free Speech on College Campuses

Today, I really couldn't avoid this Terry Schiavo business, as everywhere I looked on the subway, people were reading AM New York, New York Metro and the Post, all of which had Schiavo headlines. As I noted the picture of the woman arrested for attempting to bring Schiavo a glass of water, it occurred to me that while DeLay and his cronies may have picked this issue as a convenient distraction from the any number of more important events, such as growing opposition to the 2 year old war, many people have glommed on to her as if she represents "the right for the unwanted to live."
One right-wing evangelical blogger, Dory Zinkand, whose blog Wittenberg Gate advertizes its function to "apply the scriptures to every sphere of life," was quoted in an abc news story on the Schiavo-blogging, "Terri's situation is important, not only because of her precious life, The truth is, many people are killed because someone decides their life would not be worth living." This speaks to some great sense of worthlessness among those who identify with Schiavo and make bizarre arguments about her supposed victimization by her husband. It's interesting to me that these concepts of life as valuable are always made in the case where life is an abstract quality that doesn't speak or act, a brain-dead woman, or a foetus. It is literally the concept of life that these people are defending, not the actual living people that we share our world with every day.
Juan Cole's March 22nd post on Schiavo and the "Islamization" of the Republican party is astute. I have to admit that I learned of his analysis not because I was diligently reading his site, but because I was listening to a two-day old podcast of "The Majorty Report" while I was watching people read about Terry Schiavo on the train today.

More importantly, there is real news to report. Yesterday, I heard several great speeches, including one by one of those CCNY students who were arrested for protesting military recruiters on their campus. The latest information is that three students were suspended and banned from the City College campus, accused of "posing a continual danger." A staff member was also arrested in connection with the events and is now the fourth of the group to face criminal charges. They are holding a town hall meeting in the NAC ballroom at City College on Thursday March 31st at 12:30pm, so if you're in the neighborhood, it should be worth going. You can reach them for more information at this email address:

Alex Ryabov, Victor Paredes and Carl Webb also gave great talks last night about military resistance. Ryabov, a 22 year-old Brooklyn college student, who returned from Iraq and helped found Iraq Veterans Against the War continues to impress with his clear presentation of his own story, politically astute without being strident or ideological. One of the things that all three agreed upon was that most people who go into combat don't go because of the mission that they are on, but because they are told they are going to protect their buddies in the military, to watch each others' backs. This kind of loyalty usually trumps people's political and personal opposition to the war, and explains why a lot of people will go even if they know the war is for oil, as Ryabov's commanding officer told his squad before they left for Iraq. They also talked about how much they disagreed with Op-Truth's analysis of the Fort Bragg protest as being "anti-troop." It was interesting to hear Webb and Ryabov, both members of the military, talk about what the best way to reach out to people in the military might be. All together, if you get a chance to hear them, I recommend going.
These people talk about the importance of valuing the lives not only of those guys that they served next to, but those of the people that they recognized as civilians left by the side of the road after they had been firing ammunition rounds.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

subways, stadiums, city council

I don't know how closely y'all read your local news, but there have been so many track fires and service disruptions recently that Flushing's John Liu, transportation chair of the City Council, is calling a meeting. Liu, who has often targetted the MTA for its lack of accountability in previous events, has also participated in at least one Straphangers/NYPIRG action in the city.

I found a great stadium news site today, which is a relief. It's Field of Schemes, a website maintained by Neil deMause and Joann Cagan, authors of the book of the same name. This site has got more information on stadium deals than you can possibly imagine, including a detailed discussion of today's city council meeting relating to the various offers on the MTA yards.

That horrendous shooting in Minnesota has already been linked to the neo-Nazi movement in an article in The Guardian. This shooting, unlike most of these types of shootings, which are discussed in the book Rampage originated on a poverty-stricken Indian reservation, which according to all the press I've seen, was also plagued by violence. The coverage has been different from the sort you see when you look at white suburban kids, as everyone noticed the differences in the desciptions of that type of school violence from violent incidents plaguing predominantly black schools. I think it's significant that the shooter's grandfather was a cop, though, and I am curious to know more about the circumstances of his life.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Too Many Martyrs, Too Many Victims

Today, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting sent out an action alert about the under-reporting of Iraqi civilian casualties by all the major newsmedia. Instead of using Lancet's figure of 100,000+ Iraqi casualties, the networks have reported between 11,000 and 16,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

For my friends who follow the work of Michael Klare and others, it should be refreshing to see this piece that Truthout picked up from the San Francisco Chronicle, about the actual "age of [oil] scarcity" of which this war is one example.

One of my favorite readers asked for more dish on the WWP split, and after some very brief google searching, I found an article on Bella Ciao which is not only an unusually good news site, but also must be named after that great Italian Partisan song, whose lyrics are to follow, first in Italian then in English. However, that article, which had the most information I could find, was still not completely clear, and this relates to the WWP's decision not to explain their split publicly.

And since I'm feeling a bit hopeless about things, on this second anniversary week of the U.S.'s continuing planet-wrecking, youth grinding, global crisis inducing war, maybe it's good to close with this old partisan song, that sees hope in the moment of martyrdom. I'm sure it's very much how those in the world's many occupied "zones" must feel today.

Bella Ciao.........
Una mattina, mi sono alzato
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
Una mattina mi sono alzato
e ho trovato l'invasor

O partigiano portami via
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao
O partigiano portami via
perche mi sento di morir

E se muoio da partigiano
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
e se muoio da partigiano
tu mi devi seppellir

E seppellire lassa in montagna
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
e seppellire lassa in montagna
sotto l'ombra di un bel fior

E le genti che passeranno
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao
e le genti che passeranno
ti diranno che bel fior

È questo il fiore del partigiano
o bella ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao
è questo il fiore del partigiano
morto per la liberta

English translation

This morning I awakened
Oh Goodbye beautiful, beautiful, goodbye Goodbye Goodbye
This morning I awakened
And I found the invader

Oh partisan carry me away
Oh Goodbye beautiful, etc
Oh partisan carry me away
Because I feel death approaching

And if I die as a partisan
Oh Goodbye beautiful, etc.
And if I die as a partisan
Then you must bury me

Bury me up in the mountain
Oh Goodbye beautiful etc.
Bury me up in the mountain
Under the shade of a beautiful flower

And those who shall pass
Oh Goodbye beautiful (etc)
And those who shall pass
Will tell you what a beautiful flower it is

This is the flower of the partisan
Oh Goodbye beautiful (etc)
This is the flower of the partisan
Who died for freedom

Friday, March 18, 2005

Anti-War Movement and the various Tendencies

Common Dreams had an interesting discussion of the marches today in the U.S.

I went looking for more info, because when I saw the address on the first "Troops Out Now" flier I assumed, that because its hq was that office on 14th street, that they were a new group aiming to sanitize the name of the IAC. That wouldn't stop me from going on the march - Hell, if you're in the city, you should go, unless you go on another march in the city. Even the IAC (or just a group that includes them) is still better than war in Iraq. If you thought it was OK to vote for Kerry, you should feel like it's OK to go on a march sponsored by some people whose politics you don't totally support.

But to be more specific...According to "sabate's" post on the Indymedia newswire,
TTruth be told, there was an internal split in WWP around the elections, and the strategic orientation of the antiwar movement, among other issues. A faction led largely by Brian Becker in Washington, DC Richard Becker, Gloria La Rivera on the West Coast - all active in the ANSWER national leadership, left the WWP to form the Party for Socialism and Liberation ( - which continues to work within the ANSWER coalition framework. Remaining Workers World Party loyalists continue to orient around the IAC, based in NYC. It was this split, along with the IAC's desire to actively engage groups like NY Labor Against the War that propelled the emergence of a new Troops Out Now Coalition in NYC.
The Troops Out Now group has sent an open letter out condemning UFPJ for being racist, etc.
UFPJ responded:
People in the NYC UFPJ coordinating committee had three different reasons for reaching this conclusion (not to co-sponsor the march):

(1) Major concerns that in some of the early materials for this protest there was language about supporting the Iraqi resistance, which is not a position that the NYC coalition (or the national UFPJ, for that matter) has taken, and is a position strongly opposed by some groups in our coalition.
(2) Concerns about the involvement of the International Action Center in the action. In an attempt to strengthen the antiwar movement United for Peace and Justice has spent much of the past three years attempting to work with the International Action Center (IAC) and ANSWER, two (at times) overlapping groups. Our experience with these groups has been extremely negative, even though we recognize that they have made contributions to the antiwar movement.
While professing to desire unity, ANSWER and the IAC have repeatedly misrepresented the positions of, attacked, and attempted to isolate and split UFPJ and other antiwar groups, even when we were supposedly in alliances.
In addition, many people in UFPJ have disagreements with the style and approach that the IAC and ANSWER take, an approach that sometimes makes it harder to reach the broadest constituencies possible and therefore limits the potential power of the antiwar movement.
(3) Capacity issues. In January the local UFPJ – NYC coalition committed to build several actions the weekend of March 18-20 (a send off rally for buses to Fayetteville, NC; nonviolent civil disobedience at military recruitment centers; a US Labor Against the War action (since cancelled); and an interfaith gathering in Riverside Church). In December UFPJ’s National Steering Committee decided to allocate staff time to building March 18-20 activities nationally and to support the major regional demonstration being organized in Fayetteville, NC by UFPJ member groups. They gave clear instructions to staff that they could only put a limited amount of time and resources into building any activity in New York. On top of that, through late February staff time was focused on organizing our national assembly in St. Louis. Given all this, many people felt the UFPJ – NYC coalition didn't have the capacity to spend many hours in negotiations over language and other issues with members of the Troops Out Now Coalition.

So readers, I don't know what your position on all this is, but I'm going to a War Resister's March in Brooklyn, and I'd like to see a group that would take an anti-imperialist stance, focus extensively on issues of racism, not get caught up in the electoral distractions, and NOT be a bunch of Maoist/Stalinist wingnuts.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Information Overload, Vai Passar

I got so much interesting information in my various information slots today that I could barely keep up. When I got up this morning, there was a new "Tomgram" in my email; it was Dilip Hiro, one of my faves, reviewing about a week's worth of stories on the current situation in the Middle-East. It's great. Go there and read it.

Then, when I was on my way to teach my class this afternoon, I opened up my campus mail and there was this cool green envelope full of actual newspaper clippings about the MTA! From AM New York (a paper I usually ignore when it is thrust upon me as I enter and leave the subway): Chuck Bennet writes that the increase in bridge/tunnel tolls,70% of which are actually paid by city residents, are being funneled out to the suburban rail systems, so that "a half-million suburban rail riders get about 1/2 of the subsidy while 7 million subway and bus riders get the other half."
The Brooklyn College student newspaper had a nice editorial on Monday criticizing the MTA that noted the "curious quiet" of the straphangers campaign.
Thanks, Alex!

And then there was more. I came home from my office with Robert Fiske's book on Lebanon, Pity the Nation in my bag. It's a beautifully written and completely informative story of the roots of the conflict now ongoing and is worth reading.
Juan Cole's blog was full of the usual excellent info, including the exciting news that the number of Americans opposed to the war is growing, and the more disturbing news of corruption in Iraq.

If you are sweating now about what you can do to oppose this brutal and dreadful war, don't forget that this Saturday is the second anniversary of the American invasiono of Iraq, and it will be a day filled with protest around the world. One of the many things you can do if you are in NY can be found at the war resister's league.

As I've been writing today's entry, I've been listening to sambas, such as "Hino Da Bahia" by Maria Bethania and Gal Costa and "Vai Passar" by the immortal Chico Buarque. In a way, these happy songs connect the bad news and urgency to a breathing humanity, so that you can both appreciate the real pain and loss involved in the death and destruction, and feel hope at the same time. Someone else figured this about Carnaval music, and in the honor of the 2003 "Free Carnaval Area of the Americas" group," who wanted "Vai Passar" sung at the FTAA protests, I've reprinted the lyrics to Chico Buarque's song here (in both the original Portuguese and in an English translation (provided by the "FCAA" group w/minor edits by me.)

Vai passar
Francis Hime - Chico Buarque

Vai passar
Nessa avenida um samba popular
Cada paralelepípedo
Da velha cidade
Essa noite vai
Se arrepiar
Ao lembrar
Que aqui passaram sambas imortais
Que aqui sangraram pelos nossos pés
Que aqui sambaram nossos ancestrais

Num tempo
Página infeliz da nossa história
Passagem desbotada na memória
Das nossas novas gerações
A nossa pátria mãe tão distraída
Sem perceber que era subtraída
Em tenebrosas transações

Seus filhos
Erravam cegos pelo continente
Levavam pedras feito penitentes
Erguendo estranhas catedrais
E um dia, afinal
Tinham direito a um alegria fugaz
Uma ofegante epidemia
Que se chamava carnaval
O carnaval, o carnaval
(Vai passar)
Palmas pra ala dos barões famintos
O bloco dos napoleões retintos
E os pigmeus do bulevar
Meu Deus, vem olhar
Vem ver de perto uma cidade a cantar
A evolução da liberdade
Até o dia clarear
Ai, que vida boa, olerê
Ai, que vida boa, olará
O estandarte do sanatório geral vai passar
Ai, que vida boa, olerê
Ai, que vida boa, olará
O estandarte do sanatório geral
Vai passar

there will pass
in this avanue a samba popular
every stepping stone
of this ancient city
will shudder
to remember
that by here passed by immortal sambas
that here here we bled by our feet
that here samba-ed our ancestors

un unhappy page in our history
a passage erased in the memory
of our new generations slept
our mother land so distracted
without percieving that she was in the underground
of shadowy transactions

her children
wandered blind across the continent
lifted penitent stones
raising strange cathedrals
and one final day
they had a right to an fleeting happiness
a breathless epidemic
that we call
carnival, o carnival

this will pass...
palmos for the famished barons
the block of painted napoleons
and the pygmies of the boulevard

god, come see
come see close up a city singing
the evolution of liberty
until the day clears up

o what a beautiful life, hey
o what a beautiful life, hey
the banner of the madhouse will pass by
o what a beautiful life, hey
o what a beautiful life, hey
the banner of the madhouse
will pass by

Update on CCNY arrests from Znet, Paredes links

What do my gentle readers think of Ferrer's comment to the City Cops' union that the Diallo shooting wasn't a "Crime" and was "over-convicted?"
It seems pretty weak to me. It seems as if Ferrer had counted on any news organizations publishing the content of this speech to the cops, and now I can't imagine it will help his campaign.

..In another NYPD story, Znet just published an article about the arrests at City college, which says that at least one of the students has been suspended from school. This is really an outrage. Unfortunately, with Znet, it's hard to get page links, but you can find this one by looking for the article on recruiting protests. Students are urging people to call a whole set of people. You can find out about action plans on the campus anti-war network website.

And speaking of Znet, I hadn't read Norm Solomon lately, but I almost always appreciate his comments. He has a short piece from 3/11 about Moveon's refusal to take a strong stand against the war. I have been quickly deleting their mailings for a while now.

Finally... The recent Democracy Now story on AWOL soldiers, which began with a Harper's cover story was really excellent and provided a new take on how best to support the troops. People representing AWOL soldiers (including Pablo Paredes) will be speaking next week at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, March 23rd at 7pm - It's definetely worth going if you can. You can find more info about Pablo, along with comments from Howard Zinn, Chalmers Johnson and Ron Kovic at There is also a bizarre comment from Oliver Stone there that sounds like someone trying to be clever and ironic, but doesn't make any sense.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Dollars, Stadiums and Staff-Run Unions: It's a background day

Interesting Take on U.S. Foreign Policy
I was crusing along with my mp3 player yesterday, listening to the podcast of last Sunday night's Laura Flanders' show and heard this guy Jim Willie talking about the U.S. dollar, the Euro and the invasion of Iraq. He is one of those who argues that one of the major reasons for the invasion was Sadaam Huseein's shift to the Euro. Apparently, Iran has also made this move, and this, he says explains the U.S's increasingly threatening posture there. He was on the show talking about a number of things, including the notion that the real topic of Bush and Putin's meetings was the currency used in oil exchange. His "Hat Trick Letter" is part investment advice, part anti-Greenspan diatribe, part dire prediction of complete, Germany-in-the-1920s-styel collapse.

MTA/stadium update: Yesterday's NYT reported that the NFL have picked the non-existent (and as The Gothamist says) possibly doomed West-Side stadium as a site for the 2010 Superbowl.
and back-ground, as PPRM (That's a "pissed-off Puerto Rican Medievalist" in case you were wondering) pointed out in a comment on the last post, Stadiums are a bad sell. Andrew Zimablist's and Roger Noll's 1997 study found
that stadiums did not put money into local urban economies as promised. A more recent study by economists Victor Matheson and Robert Baade says that the Superbowl usually delivers about 1/4 of what the promoters promise.
But will that stop the corporate welfare?

Finally: What ya gonna do with a "staff-run" union ?
There's an interesting debate from last April's Labor Notes on the problem of union professional staff that covers a lot of the reasons for the problems of staff-run unions. I've had my own experiences with this phenomenon, and noted in a talk I gave back in 1998 at the American Studies Association, that the power of "professionally trained" union staffers to over-rule the rank and file members may actually be magnified where you'd least expect it, in academic unions, where new union activists from the middle-class see themselves as "bourgeois" while their staff (often from the same class as themselves) are defined as "working-class" simply because of their status as union activists. At the same time, academics and other white-collar union members tend to respect the authority of professionals and bureaucrats in a way that blue-collar unionists might not. More on this later.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Outfoxed on "Boston Legal" : Again with the "Liberal Media" Canard. Oy!

I just got done watching the "Boston Legal" episode which featured clips from Robert Greenwald's documentary, Outfoxed. The episode, which focused on a school principle who had put a "Fox blocker" on the TVs in his school being sued by a student for censorship, was edited by the network execs, who forced the writers to take out all mentions of the network's name. How ironic.... The "fox blocker" became a "news blocker," for example. The best line in the episode was Spader's. He turned to his colleague and said that the First Ammendment is edangered, noting that some major networks even edit fictional TV shows for content these days. (oh ho!, so daring, David Kelley.) It has gotten a bit of media coverage, particularly because Greenwald's effort to buy an ad for his doc. during the show was rejected. If you've never watched Fox, you might want to check out this website, or this one.
The episode was pretty weak and not just because no one asked why there were televisions in the school at all. What bothered me most was that during the courtroom scene, judges, lawyers, defendants and everyone kept repeating this idea that Fox represents just one of many widely varying views presented on major television. Some networks have a liberal slant, and some are conservative," actors kept saying, while others nodded. I think that it was the Judge who said to the defendant that one network even "lied about the President's military record." Despite the fact that pretty much every TV show, except Democracy Now! (of deepdish, public access, and internet tv fame) just keeps boosting the prez, announcing the cause-of-the-week for the occupation of Iraq, etc. etc. etc.,no one challenged the notion of a widely varying set of representations on television news.
The script was virtually a mirror of all that is wrong with the effort to present a "balanced" and "unbiased" view when one of the sides of the "debate" is simply bullshit, and the OTHER side just isn't even discussed. Therefore...while some say that the sky is green, there are others who say it is a lighter shade of green. Who can say, Marty, who's right? The only people who could possibly think that the U.S. media has "liberal" bias must either be such Fascist innovators or such Medieval reactionaries that they reject even the Enlightenment liberalism that gave us the First Ammendment and dis-establishment of religion as too liberal.
It's funny to think about this attack on classical liberalism, because I just got done with a lecture in which I insisted (perhaps too strongly) on the continuing influence of Enlightenment values on our current lives (no, that doesn't mean that people actually live up to the values, simply that their ideas of what's good and bad are based on the oppositiona of reason vs. unreason, individuals vs. herds, etc. regardless of how they behave). I may not be able to give that lecture for much longer.

Understanding War

Instead of reading news I've been living in the past for several days, reading three different books from three different eras. Some seem truly past, such as The Federalist Papers, which I'm supposed to be teaching next week, and Barbara Goldsmith's book on Victoria Woodhull and 19th century reform movements, Other Powers. While the conflict between debtors and creditors that shaped the constitution remains pressing, and the intersection of sex and evangelical christianity does continue to amuse today, it was the third book on my list that was eerily current.
14-18: Understanding the Great War is part of a growing field of French scholarship about memory, and is part critique of myths of WWI in contemporary European (particularly French) society, and part an attempt to correct war nostalgia by reanimating the gore and pain of the battlefied and the prison camp. This book is pretty fascinating as an approach to war in general, and I think its familiarity comes largely from the fact that WWI so shaped the twentieth century and modern wars. While much of the book illuminates differences between European and American memories of the 20th century, there were aspects of the experiences and mythologies surrounding WWI itself that felt creepily familiar.
For instance, the authors note the intense religiosity of the war and the way that religious mysticism permeated the culture as a whole during the war.
One of the central points in the book is that in contemporary European memorials to soldiers, the young men are described as victims only, and the acts of cruelty, even the breaking of common conventions of warfare up to that time, are rarely discussed. The book questions this notion of the WWI soldiers as victims and argues that many of the young men had volunteered for the war. It also challenges the idea that propaganda came from above and disseminated the myths of war to the population. On the contrary the authors say, the propaganda came from below, in a massive welling-up of patriotism. This part of the book seems on shakier ground, as it does not present much evidence to explain this point, or to discount the concentrated propaganda efforts of all sides during the war.
Also, much of the presentation of soldiers as victims seems reasonable. When I've taught the "Great War" in the past, I've always relied on Rosa Luxemburg's Junius Pamphlet with its evocative introductory passages:
Gone is the euphoria. Gone the patriotic noise in the streets, the chase after the gold-colored automobile, one false telegram after another, the wells poisoned by cholera, the Russian students heaving bombs over every railway bridge in Berlin, the French airplanes over Nuremberg, the spy hunting public running amok in the streets, the swaying crowds in the coffee shops with ear-deafening patriotic songs surging ever higher, whole city neighborhoods transformed into mobs ready to denounce, to mistreat women, to shout hurrah and to induce delirium in themselves by means of wild rumors. Gone, too, is the atmosphere of ritual murder, the Kishinev air where the crossing guard is the only remaining representative of human dignity.
It is coming up on the second anniversary of the U.S.'s sadistic "shock and awe" air attack, and it seems that for about 50% of us, the patriotism has not yet dimmed. So Bush makes Wilsonian claims for his invasion and occupation of Iraq, and some call him Wilsonian, also drawing parallels between WWI and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Let's hope that the emergence of IVAW and similar groups signals a similar disillusionment to follow.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Students Arrested for Counter-Recruitment Activities at CCNY

"There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part,...And you've got to put your bodies on the gears, and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus. And you've got to make it stop."
- Mario Savio, Berkeley, 1964

If you try googling various combinations of "three students arrested" "City College," CCNY and similar things, you'll wind up with a whole history of student activism, but not news of the recent arrests at City.
To learn more about why three students were arrested for protesting military recruiters on campus, and how it is that they came to be charged with assaulting the police, you must go to:Indymedia, which will send you to a story on an indymedia blog dedicated to activism against military recruitment called: Counter Recruiter. The same site also has information about how to support Tom Keenan, who was arrested for handing out anti-recruitment fliers at William Patterson University in New Jersey.
The students are also struggling over the college president's assertion that if protests occur on campus, they must do so in "pens" as a condition of "free assembly." Keep your eyes peeled; Atty. Ron McGuire has (perhaps hyperbolically, perhaps not) compared the coming protest to Berkeley's free speech movement of 1964. Regardless, the number of arrests made of people for simple speech acts should be increasingly difficult for all of us to either ignore or accept.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

more on the MTA and its doings

After the Educators to Stop the War conference, I met Alex Vitale, a really great NYC activist & Brooklyn college prof. who has his own website dedicated to navigating "the complex world of criminal justice activism" in NYC. This is a really cool website, with all kinds of otherwise hard-to-find information. It's easy to navigate and includes a calendar of local activist events. Go there and check out what's going on.

He also posted a cogent comment to the last in my series of fumbling subway politics posts, suggesting that I write more about Pataki's general preference for funding commuter rail projects, also noting that the gov.doesn't have complete control over the MTA, but that the Mayor too has a say on who sits on the board. Specifically, Bloomberg appoints four out of seventeen of the board-members, and according to the Straphangers' campaign, these members have made a difference in the past, for example, creating "cityticket" for w/in the city stops on the Metro-North and LIRR.
The relationship between these "duelling" republicans is confusing, and I don't usually trust NY Magazine, because I think of it as a yuppie-scum rag (really, I think of it in 80s parlance, when I first became aware of its existence when I was a wannabe punk rock college kid). However, it makes this nice point, "Pataki is doing whatever it takes to keep his presidential fantasy alive, and if that means cutting taxes while the subway crumbles, well, no one voting in the Iowa caucuses cares about the subway part. The mayor’s failure, though, is his inability to find an effective substitute for public ranting. He could have used the rebuilding of downtown as a lever against Pataki, but largely ceded ground zero to the governor in favor of taking the lead role in the development of the far West Side."

As stadium politics become more confusing, and more exciting, I paid a brief visit to the anti-Nets stadium activists' site: Nolandgrab which led readers to this article from the NY Observer. It's all up for sale, and these stadium deals with all their complications remind me of old stuff, like those bond issues that went out to the RRs in the 1870s. Oh yeah, I think that this book by Matthew Josephson should provide most of the gory details on that era.

I guess it's important to understand some of the complexity of the local politics when it matters for deciding strategy, but generally I think it's safe to assume that when it comes to big capital in action, the larger similiarities tend to outweigh the differences. As much as we tend to attribute anything to the personalities, hopes, and ambitions of the key elected players, about a hundred years from now, it's likely that the history books will have more to say about the corporate giants than they will about the goings on in City Hall and Albany. The actual politicians will be more and more like the Grover Clevelands and Chester Arthurs: interesting if you really know about them, but somewhat remote and even picayune... significant and comprehensible only when examined for their facilitation of the actions of the true giants of the age: major league sports owners, media conglomerates, oil companies and the rest.

Cold Chillin': Party Schools, Robot Soldiers and More

Yesterday I was walking through the halls of the urban community college where I teach and one of my former students shouted across the lobby, "Hey professor, how ya' doin?...Chillin?....Thanks for that F!" The F has been on the books for a year now, so I'm not sure why he chose today to be upset. Once, last semester he was lurking around outside the office, and I guess he's somewhat notorious, as my office mate began shouting: "What! You haven't flunked out yet?"
I was surprised to see him still hanging around, but there was a DJ in the cafeteria that day, so maybe he came just to hang out. Or maybe he was there on some business involving his transcript and discovered that the F he received in my class had seriously hampered his progress through college. As I was standing on the escalator, I overheard some students talking:
"We have our own DJ! Cool!"
there must have been some non-verbal communication, for then the same student said something like:
"Oh, I'm embarrassed, you must think I'm stupid...I just got excited"
"This place is so high-school," said her friend. It's a complaint I sometimes hear from our students, who don't, contrary to popular belief, always appreciate all the user-friendly character of the school. This particular group of fashionable young women then launched into an intense discussion of our institution's reputation as a "party school."
When I think "party school" my thoughts automatically go to insulated and pampered environment that produces suburban fraternity boys, not the collapsing contraption where I work.
Later that same day, one of my current students, worried about her grade asked, "professor, am I getting a C?" (no, I think the B range right now, and potentially A, but I couldn't discuss it in the middle of class). She turned to a friend and said, "Well the president had a C average, so that makes it all right." I knew she was joking, but said anyway, "The President had a leg-up that you don't have." Another student nodded, "Too true."

Speaking of a leg-up, I think it was my anonymous Mom who wrote that post about the robot soldiers yesterday - thanks for the reminder. Here's article from the BBC about the project. It is chilling.

Also chilling is the story of another American student, born in Houston, that land of party schools, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the young man accused of plotting to assasinate the president. Elaine Cassel described what the issues are in his case in Counterpunch. He was far from the partying atmosphere of Texas fraternities when he was in college, and "Apparently," Cassel writes, "the U.S. had taken advantage of this U.S. citizen's choice to attend school abroad, to make sure he was held in prison there--where torture would be permitted, and counsel would not be provided."
While some GOP hacks might have tried to pass off Abu Ghraib as a series of "fraternity pranks," we know that the s-m practices of our president at Yale and the humiliating tactics used by American, British and Israeli troopsagainst Muslim political prisoners may not be totally disconnected in their psychological roots, but they are not equivalent.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Amputees in Battle, Ressentiment on a Grand Scale

During their workshop at the Educators to Stop the War conference, Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson of Military Families Speak Out mentioned that amputees are going back into Iraq. I was mistaken in my impression that the amputees were actually being called up, but MFSO's point was that things must really coming to serious crisis for the US military if they're even allowing people to go back into battle with "bionic" legs. (What do you think of how the military is spinning this disability to make us imagine that we are producing super-duper soldiers, instead of grinding up our young men in the war machine?)
One thing that is clearly the case is that the military is calling up people for second tours in Iraq even when they are suffering from what's now called PTSD. Last night, I watched an episode of Frontline called "The Soldier's Heart" which discussed this issue in great depth, and included Rob Serra of IVAW.
The story about amputees going back voluntarily into battle is bizarre to me, and is full of sentences such as this one, "For many amputees, returning to combat duty may be an impossible dream. Some have multiple amputations. And those who've lost arms find it very difficult to learn to fire a weapon again."
Given what I heard from Alex Ryabov of IVAW, and what I saw last night on PBS' Frontline documentary, it's hard to imagine that anyone would "dream," in impossible Don Quixote style, of returning to Iraq. However, rather than thanking these men for their devotion and then calling for a therapist, George Bush smilingly told the wounded he-men that he'd do everything he could to help them get back to the field. His reaction to the soldiers reminds me of his remark on his speaking tour to an audience member who said that she had to work "three jobs" to support her family, which was: that's "fantastic" and "Uniquely American."
I don't agree with Friedrich Nietzsche on everything, but I think he was right to argue that there is something actually wicked about the kind of Christian morality that celebrates such life-denying and soul killing behavior as being the best kind of humanity. I don't want to be unempathic to those who are dying to get back into combat, but the celebration of such sacrifice makes me want to scream with Nietzsche, "The foul smell!" the foul smell of ressentiment is everywhere.....and especially in the Bush administration.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Educators to Stop the War

On Saturday, I went to a one day conference of a group called Educators to the Stop the Warthat brought together teachers and students from New York area high schools, colleges, and elementary schools. It was one of the more positive events that I've gone to recently, with 750+ people who stayed for a day's worth of workshops; I hope that it will motivate and coordinate greater anti-war activity in high schools and colleges.
The conference was unusually good both because there were people there with new information and insights and because the overwhelming focus of the conference was to put information into practical action.
Rahul Mahajan, author of Full Spectrum Dominanceand keeper of the blog Empire Notes, was particularly impressive during the morning plenary. His speech differed substantially from the usual type of analysis. In it, he chided the American anti-war movement for its failure to recognize the successful elements of the recent elections in Iraq, which were, he said, the result of activism in Iraq, not the occupation. Because so many criticized the elections as a total sham, Mahajan said that the anti-war movement left the public with the confused impression that we didn't support democracy in Iraq. In order to be on the "right side of history," he said that we should be informed of and ready to speak about the democratic movements in Iraq, most of which oppose the occupation.
Also excellent were two speakers from Iraq Veterans Against The War. One of them appeared in the morning plenary, and emphasized the importance of educators with his comment, "If Vietnam had been more than a footnote in my highschool textbooks, I never would have joined the military." Although IVAW only has 150 members, it will grow as more vets can finally get back from Iraq.
The small workshops were also better than usual. I went to one on the role of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the anti-war movement, during which there was a great deal of audience participation, as well as clear disagreement among the panelists themselves. One of the panelists, Phyllis Bennis, began her remarks by challenging the organizers to work better to have a more representative panel next time, as there were four Jews and only one Palestinian on the panel. She also made the argument that Israel is "no longer the third rail" in progressive politics, but some of the comments from the audience made me question her confidence on that score.
The other workshop that I attended was run by Military Families Speak out,who were very concrete in their efforts to make links between military families, veterans and our schools. They were also very informative. I learned at this workshop, for example, that the army is now calling up amputees to return to Iraq. Here is an ABC news story about the first one to go. I think that this particular workshop, which was held twice during the day, was highly influential, and based on what I saw and heard, I'd say that the most direct result of the conference will be a renewed focus on military recruiters in the highschools and jr. colleges. Generally, I also imagine that many of us will become more focused in our efforts to bring specific information about the war into the classroom.
I don't see any scandal-mongering headlines in the Post today, which is at least one good sign.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Regressive Sales Taxes, Ripping off Retirees...What will they think up next?

"How could they tax the peasants more than the rich people?" My students always ask when I teach them about 17th century France, dumbfounded, "How could people put up with that?"
I wonder if they'll be as surprised with the new U.S. tax policy proposal. I read in the New York Times today about Bush and Greenspan's advocacy of a plan to replace income taxes with a national sales tax. The president's economic report doesn't even make sense to me. For example, it states: the tax "could increase personal savings by as much as 43 percent in the first year and ultimately lead to higher output and higher wages. By removing the tax on the return to savings and investment, a consumption tax would increase savings and investment," the report contended. "With a larger stock of capital, workers would be more productive and output and wages would rise."
I can see how it might increase wages, something that the Bushes haven't supported EVER, but how exactly will a larger stock of capital make workers more productive? Even if increasing worker wealth were the goal of the plan (which it isn't), I don't understand the cause/effect argument here. I know I personally wouldn't start working harder just because I had more money in the bank. The speedup we're living in now has already got most workers (including me) producing more for less reward, and capital likes that just fine.

Of course, the idea of saving/investing workers is just a smoke-screen. The reality is that most workers don't have money to save, and spend most of their income on basic necessities. This is simply a tax cut for the rich, who have more money to save and invest. What will the outcome of such a policy be? What,for example, would its impact be on consumer spending, which in recent years has been financed increasingly by debt? This article from Monthly Review provides the long term context of the latest taxation scheme, suggesting that it might be an effort to adjust the balance between investment and spending, The article written in the context of the waning Clinton "boom" in the Spring of 2000 argues that "The share of consumption expenditures in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the current expansion has risen nearly five percentage points above the average for all previous post-Second World War expansions, while the share of total fixed investment in GDP has fallen 1.4 percentage points below the average for all earlier expansions. Hence, investment remains semi-stagnant when compared with earlier expansions—reflecting the powerful tendency toward stagnation that continues to characterize the capital accumulation process."
Regardless of its logic, the tax plan would basically shift more of the tax burden from the rich and place it on the working class - and that fits with a whole bunch of neocon policies. Paul Krugman's column explained yesterday, it fits in with the "Starve the Beast" method of defunding and then wrecking social programs which has been going on since the 1980s. As Dave Lindorff points out, anyone who goes with Greenspan at this point is a supply-siding neocon.
The three prongs of this policy assault: the Social Security Privatization scheme, the insane sales-tax plan, and finally the bankruptcy law are all pretty obviously just different forms of handing money to the rich. In combination, they will have the "side effect" of creating some kind of debt-peonage for the vast majority of people, and dragging consumer spending further downward, which I can't imagine will be good even from the point of view of the capitalist "business cycle."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Subway Politics Part three, Corrections and Additions

After reading my previous blog entries, my irrascible office-mate weighed in. He walked in the door, shook his head and uttered, "It's not corruption." It took me a minute before I figured out what he was talking about; he went on.. "Think about it, corruption is so much less expensive to fix than a subway system that's falling apart."
And then, my urban planner friend added more, "I can't believe right after we talked that there was this article in the Times, which said that Peter Kalikow is bucking the people who hired him in a way that his predecessor never did.
So, I guess the Straphangers are making a dent - but not enough of one to keep us from the regressive taxation of another fare hike, which was ushered in by a train derailment,just for the purposes of poetic justice or something.
In the continuing selling off of anything resembling public property to various corporate charity cases, the MTA is now actually standing up a bit to the Mayor over the Jets' railyards. Juan Gonzales, whom I trust, wrote a story in the Daily News which explains what's going on now. Public pressure is finally making some kind of impact, so that the city's big corporate welfare plan for the NY Jets is looking less certain. Bloomberg continues to push for the stadium proposal, and most people continue to oppose the use of public money to finance the stadium. Interestingly, Cablevision, which is also a bidder for the railyards is running anti-stadium ads, according to this NYT article.
I find the whole situation of cities paying off businesses just to "give" people jobs so pathetic. I can think of a million bad examples, and one great success story, when Progressive Minnesota (a leftover of the New Party) sponsored a ballot initiative limiting public contributions on any stadium building plan to $10 million - which passed with overwhelming support. I went looking for articles about the campaign and found that the fight is not over. More on that particular municipal struggle tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Harrassment of NY Solidarity by the FBI

In early February, police arrested nineteen-year-old David Seigel, accusing him of vandalizing a military recruiting station in the Bronx. You can read an article from that odious rag, The New York Post, with more information on the Thunderbay Indymedia website.

It seems that the FBI is now using this as an excuse to harrass New York activists involved in the anti-war movement.
My colleague, Charlie Post, was recently visited by the FBI. He writes:
On Friday, February 27, 2005, two FBI agents came to my home in Brooklyn. I was at work and they began to question my partner about Solidarity, the socialist organization I belong to, and its possible connection to a young man who was arrested for allegedly vandalizing a military recruitment center
in the Bronx, NY. The FBI agents indicated that they had obtained our address from the Solidarity website, where I am listed as the NY contact person. They asked my partner numerous questions, including whether or not we knew the young men who had been arrested, how long she (who is not a member) and I have been members of Solidarity and whether Solidarity had a "web forum."

It is not clear whether this is the beginning of a new wave of harrassment and repression against anti-war activists, but it is important to be prepared. Should the FBI come to see you for any reason: know your rights. You are not obligated to speak to them. If they do not have a warrant, you do not have to let them into your home. Remember: Silence is your best defense, and if they do come with a warrant a subpoena, contact a lawyer immediately. Don't get paranoid, but do be careful.

Furthermore, this incident should be widely publicized, as it is one more example of the way that the war has led to repression of dissent at home. I'm sure some of you remember the young woman who was visited by the police and the U.S. Secret Service because of a poster of George Bush in her home.
In this climate, we have heard of these incidents and many others, but attempts to tie activists to federal crimes simply because of organizational affiliations are especially sinister and have potentially serious consequences.

Leave Me Alone, I'm Crampin'

That's what my college boyfriend said that men would say if they had cramps, and yes, today's post is brought to you by my lower abdomninal region. I awoke at six this morning with those rare and unforgettable, knee-buckling, all-absorbing menstrual cramps. I went to the web for answers as to "why now?" and learned from one Dr. Susan Lark, who writes books on women's health that alcohol and sodium can cause cramping. I guess those two glasses of wine accompanied by nachos and french fries and followed by fistfuls of chocolate, the latter of course being PMS related, were all more costly than I realized.
I am now thanking science for ibuprofen.
But...enough about that. I remain ever hopeful, despite all previous experience, that the American people are going to become outraged by the misdeeds of this administration. Another chance for the moment of revelation has arrived: today, I read that eight prisoners are suing Donald Rumsfeld. Here is the story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Here is an article posted on Truthout. A while back, my librarian friend alerted me to an an excellent analysis of torture by Alfred McCoy, who also wrote The Politics of Heroin. You can listen to an interview with him
here. What do you think, will Americans rise en masse over these actions, or will opposing torture be interepreted as a sign of "disloyalty" and "not supporting the troops/president/flag" ? For more on supporting the troops, see this article in The Onion under the title, "I support the Occupation of Iraq, but I don't support our troops." Once again, while writing satire, The Onion has managed to speak truth to power, pointing out in the article, "Yes, occupying Iraq does require troops, but they are there for one reason and one reason only: to carry out the orders of the U.S. Defense Department. As far as their overall importance goes, they are no more worthy of our consideration than a box of nails. Ribbons and banners in ostensible "support" of the troops miss the whole point of the invasion, which is to gain a strategic hold over that volatile and lucrative geopolitical region. Brilliant.