Sunday, July 31, 2005

There's No Such Thing as a Good State Religion

I was planning on blogging about the MC5/Sun Ra Arkestra show in Central Park this afternoon, but realized that many people were reading this blog after being sent here on searches for information about Ayah Pin and the Sky Kingdom. As I was writing this, I also found a news item that the entire Sky-Kingdom site had been demolished. I haven't been able to find any more details than this, but will post an update when I do.
From what I've seen on the web, the search for Ayah Pin is still ongoing. The hunt - and all the episodes leading up to it, including a previous demolition attempt at the Sky Kingdom, have led to an interesting debate about the nature of state religion in Malaysia, which I found in a series of editorials from Malaysia Kini.
Umran Kadir has argued there that the Koran says explicitly "let there be no compulsion in religion," and that this therefore means that the Malaysian govt. is out of line for chasing down Pin. An opponent of the Sky kingdom sect who is also critical of the government, in a follow-up letter, says that the punishing of "apostasy" is different from not allowing freedom of religion, because it is about the protection of the faith. According to govt. spokespeople, the leader is such a threat that he must be "stopped now."
Supporters of the transformation of the US from a secular state to one governed by "The ten commandments" or some other more modern set of religious laws would do well to reflect on what is going on in Malaysia right now. People on the very far right were mobilized into action many years ago by the US govt's seige against the armed Branch Davidians. While there is not in every case a direct connection between the US "rapture" right and the militia groups, the Christian identity movement does bring some of them together.
Were the US government to start passing laws based on explicitly religious values, it is likely that Koresh's group would be declared apostates as Pin's have been. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out a long time ago, religious people especially should support the disestablishment of the church, because it allows much greater freedom and autonomy for religious groups. I think we can see an example of this in the sad situation now going on in Malaysia, where angry mobs get the nod from the govt. for their attack on so-called threats to the faith of Islam.
Someone here posted something which I imagined was meant to be a critique of an earlier comment of mine that that Muslim governments are not "especially repressive," and I stand by this claim. If you know your history, you can see that the Catholic Church, which tortured and burned dissenters at the stake when it held state power in Europe, and the Puritan church, which banned theaters and other forms of entertainment when it had state power, and the New England puritans who burned witches in Massachusetts, were all repressive. You might learn something that the people who learned from those bitter experiences in Europe's devastating Catholic vs. Protestant wars of the 16th century finally figured out. The truth is that state religion leads to repression not only of the non-religious, but especially of the religious - because religious dissenters who attract religious followers are a threat to the authority of the state religion. In the case of Ayah Pin, those who support the government law actually argue that it's because he's a deviant type of Muslim that he's most dangerous.
Indeed, the fact that Ayah Pin is an ethnic Malay and ex-Muslim makes him part of a constituency that the government very much wants under its control. Thus, the Malaysian government, while officially supporting freedom of religion, takes this particular "apostate Muslim" very seriously and is doing everything it can to get rid of him, his followers and his influence. As a religious government which touts its modernity and moderation, contemporary Malaysia should provide a cautionary tale to those Americans who think we need more religion in our public life.
As political scientist, Farish Noor argues, in two articles, one in January and a second in February, describing a "homegrown" taliban in Malaysia,
such ‘morality’ and ‘decency’ campaigns have little to do with standards of morality and decency, but rather everything to do with state power and control. And in any case, if these ‘moral guardians’ are so obsessed with morality and public decency, they should focus their attention on other genuine moral problems in our society, from the levels of corruption to the ‘surat layang’ culture of Malaysian politics, from detention without trial to the alleged killing of prisoners under custody. He goes on to argue, in this really excellent article, that it seems to be that the most religious members of the society are the ones under the strictest religious policing.
So far as I can tell, the US government has done and said nothing about this latest attack on religious freedom by our South East Asian allies. surprise. surprise.
If and when I learn more about what's going on in Malaysia, I will post something more here. Also, recall, lest you are inclined to see all this as simply funny because of the teapot business, Human Rights Watch has an issued an alert regarding this religious movement and its fate.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Open Thread: Anxiety Index

What with subway searches, police shootings, and a heavier and heavier chemical load, there's been a lot to be worried about this week.
Please ante up with the most anxiety provoking stories you've heard. I'm going with the bit about the chemicals contained in nail polish and oher cosmetics being found in significant quantities in human blood and urine. It just doesn't make me feel too good about polishing my toenails.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Open Thread: Heard on the Street

OK, folks, whip off the headphones and start listening. I heard some shit today that was really hard to turn away from, and you know, I only heard it because I was futzing with my radio. This woman and this guy were standing on the sidewalk next to a bike rack. She said,
"you're not my friend..Those are women who just want to fuck!"
and the guy sort of looked at the ground and said, "but---"
well it went on from there. I'm sure you can imagine. I wasn't really sure of what had happened, but the situation was readable. A man and woman in their twenties in hipster gear. A woman dressing down a man who had done something to wreck their friendship. She was so mad, but not so mad, or so "over" whatever their relationship was that she was walking the other direction. She was giving him a dressing down, telling him what was what, giving him a lecture to let him know just how badly he had fucked up. He was looking for excuses, explanations, and not really getting a word in.
I really, really wanted to be a spectator (and I tell you, I wasn't the only one. Like cars going by a traffic accident, people were rubbernecking all over the sidewalk).... But - I put on my headphones. Some things, we're not meant to hear...even when they happen in public.
tell me what you heard on the street today.

With Roberts Nomination the "Single Issue Voter" Discussion is Back

I did a little poll on my DailyKos diary last night and had interesting results. You may have noticed that once O'Connor resigned, I've been a bit obsessed with the Supreme Court, and I've been particularly upset about the Democrats who suggest that the best strategy for the party as a whole is to stop making abortion such a focus in Dem. Party politics.
This argument, made most recently by the assinine Eric Alterman, who first came to my attention about 7 years ago when he mocked Robin DG Kelley and the Black Radical Congress in The Nation, and Hilary "I wouldn't embrace a political principle if it kissed my face" Clinton, really is one that gives up the exactly wrong ground, but it continues to persuade SOME people. While almost 80% of the people I polled on "Dailykos" said they supported choice absolutely and that they believed that was the correct position for the Democrats, about 10% said that the Democratic party should prioritize other issues in order to make a "big tent" in the party.
As usual, the people who were in the ideological minority were the ones who posted comments, and their arguments were that the Dems. are losing because their "extreme left" stance on abortion is alienating to people. Given the polls I've seen, I think there are probably more "single issue voters" voting FOR democrats on choice than there are single-issue-voters who'd be won over to the Democrats if they abandoned it, or downplayed it. I really think that there is nothing that the Dems. could do, short of becoming fundamentalist christians that would win the organized pro-life vote.
An interesting aspect of this debate is the way that it follows the increasingly popular economistic arguments of Tom Frank, who's been arguing, since his days at "The Baffler" that the way to appeal to (white, middle-American) working class and lower-middle class voters is the answer for the Democratic party. To do this, he splits "cultural" and economic issues, as if abortion rights and economic issues were mutually exclusive.
The issue obscured by Frank's analysis is race. The assumption is that (white) working-class, also known as "Reagan democrats" that we are not winning is voting for the Republicans because of religion and abortion, instead of voting for the Republicans because of their belief that the Democrats want to give their tax money to Black people, which is after all, how Nixon and then Reagan campaigned. When Clinton stood up for the race-baiting politics of "welfare reform" in 1996, he probably did more damage to the Democratic party than either one of those presidents. Fetishizing working class whites as if they're the entirety of the working class is not only morally problematic, but I think it has been a losing strategy for the Dems since the 1960s. No matter, white midde class talking heads are so obsessed with winning back the white working class that they keep wheeling out this Edsall argument again and again.
Dave Roediger, who's just got a new book out, "Working Toward Whiteness" will tell it like it is on this issue on Bob McChesney's radio show this week, and has a great essay about dem party strategy on this issue in the book "The House that Race Built"
Meanwhile, the only possible hope that I've seen for the democrats was articulated by Bill Fletcher and Danny Glover in the form of a "neo-rainbow" at the last left forum debate in NY in April, but at the moment I'm not feeling very hopeful.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

It's an old Katha Politt column, but a good one

As we get ready for the Roberts confirmation hearings, I keep hearing people talk about dumping Roe v. Wade from the Democratic party's list of "principles." I hear it on the radio, I read it on DailyKos, and I even heard it on a date! (sorry, no link)
Isn't it interesting that everyone who says this is male? Maybe that's because they can't imagine the panicked feeling of an unwanted pregnancy.
Katha Pollit wrote a column on this issue recently in The Nation, in which she breaks down the state-by-state consequences of Roe's overturning.The only thing that makes me glad about hearing democrats make this silly argument about how it's going to be politically good for the democrats if Roe is lost ( I guess the unwanted children, garbage-can infanticides, and deaths from illegal abortions will be collateral damage) is that it gives me ammunition in my regular arguments with Dem. party family members and friends who STILL can't forgive me for voting for Nader in 2000.
One of the big issues involved in the birth control politics debate (which is the secret behind the far right's attack on abortion) is the question of birth control pills, particularly RU 486 and "Plan B." I believe that all three prescription meds would be in serious danger were Roe V. Wade to be overturned. For those who are questioning what the choice polls mean, here's an interesting discussion on the morning after pill from a far-right republican site, "Free republic," where indeed most people seem to respond in favor of keeping Plan B and argue that birth control pills are not the same thing as abortion. I guess these folks don't really know their own party, since Bush's appointees include wing-nut, David Hager.
I have no respect for people who claim to be pro-choice and yet vote for Republicans; I think they're just selfish bastards. Do they have something in common with men who argue that the Dems. should drop abortion rights for political expedience?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Books Through Bars at the Frying Pan

Earlier today, I went to a real live event, where an important issue that just doesn't make into the latest tv/blog headline spin cycle was being discussed. It was a lovely day at the Frying Pan, perfect weath for Books through Bars' reading, panel discussion, and book sale. I made it there late and saw only one & 1/2 panels: first were former prisoners who had recently written and published books, and second, a panel discussion about the role of the media in the current explosion of prisons which featured Eddie Ellis of the WBAI radio show "On the Count," Deborah Mathis, now a professor of journalism at Northwestern University, Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, novelist Walter Mosely, and Herb Boyd of the Amsterdam News and other places. It really was a lovely event - even some of the "non-question questions" by audience members were occasionally on the mark. We all sat swaying to-and-fro on our chairs and thought about the incarceration crisis in this country.
This event combined the concerns of literature and "information" with the experiences of prisoners from start to finish. Perhaps the most interesting story I heard came from Eric Waters, who talked about what it was like to go to prison at 16 and discover that so many people there of his age were illiterate. As a result of this discovery, he became active in literacy education, and learned that 70% of the current prison population is classified as functionally illiterate. Given that prison is a place where people have so much time and where so much good, and reflective writing has been produced, and where such important reading has been done, this was a shocking statistic. I was sorry that I missed hearing Kemba Smith, who has a book out called "Upstate" that looks good, but for some reason is not appearing on the various web searches that I've done. However, I'm sure that it will be available in bookstores and if not there, on one of those street tables that feature "Black interest" literature. This panel of former-prisoners also talked about how serious it is that educational programs in prison are being eliminated all over the country.
I recall when this happened at the place where a prisoner I corresponded with was; it was a real tragedy, as voters voted in a Governor who had campaigned on taking away everything from prisoners based on the notion that "taxpayer money" shouldn't be going to these folks when people on the outside don't get a "free education." This particular prison also had dogs, stun guns, and other devices familiar to us all as the weapons of choice at Abu Ghraib.
I guess that's where the discussion of the media came in. Unfortunately, while some excellent points were made here and there, that discussion didn't stay focused at all. The best person on it was Walter Mosely, who related a story about a panel he was on with Mark Green in 2004. During the discussion, Green said to Mosely that Blacks needed to come out and vote for the Democrats. Mosely said, "what are you going to do about all the Black people in prison?" and there, in front of 600 people, Mosely said, Green told him that they "couldn't do anything." This has been one of the major reasons that I didn't vote at all, for anyone in 1996, and voted for Nader in 2000. There is no one in the political scene who addresses the crisis of incarceration with any depth. One good (and unfortunately unusual thing) about John Kerry was that he was reputed to be against the Death Penalty. I was glad to hear Mosely bring this up, and to talk about the importance of activism that will force whoever - the media, the govt. etc. to address the demands of people.
Herb Boyd talked about the sort of things that weren't covered, and one of these was the "prisoner success stories," such as those of the panelists that had just come before. Amy Goodman talked about the roots of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo's prison abuses being in the US prison system, and also said that on Monday's DN she and Juan Gonzales will be talking about the John Roberts' decision in a case that "gave the Bush administration a critical victory about military tribunals," just two weeks ago.
Deborah Mathis, whom I'd never heard of, was interesting and made several different points. She talked about the way that the media treated Black crimes of violence and white ones differently, and perhaps most provocatively for this setting talked about how important "diveresity initiatives" were in staffing newsrooms, etc, even if they sound "trite," in order to get people in newsrooms who will not view "the devil" inside Black people. The only problem with this analysis is the role that people like Armstrong Williams have played, and the growing prominence of Black conservatives in the media. I think generally that Mathis is right, but you can't assume that a Black person is going to have a left-leaning position on the causes of crime.
It was all provocative and reminded me of important work that's always going on. There are tons of groups in NY active on these issues & some of them are easy to volunteer for, like Books through Bars. Even some little engagement with the rules of prisons (which are amazingly arcane and obstructive when it comes to trying to send people books) is an educational experience for those of us on the outside.
Towards the end, it degenerated into a tired discussion about why the youth of today were not more involved in activism. Mosely said the civil rights generation had failed to pass the baton; some denied it was true, but that the panel just didn't know the youth. Things always run aground here at the "why are we not more active and how do we become more so? "
I don't know if it's connected, but I have to say that BtB failed to do something to bring this particular group together or provide some concrete activist opportunities at the end of the panel. Everyone went off on their separate ways, and the conversations on the way back to the streets of the city involved dinner plans and meetings with friends, not the event that had just gone on or plans for the future, and that was an opportunity to organize sadly missed.
I think I've found what might be the single best article on the Plame/Rove business. It was on Counterpunch. In it, Ray McGovern of VIPS, makes the case for paying attention to the exact spin about "correcting" the intelligence - being all about protecting Dick Cheney. And I don't feel even the least bit sorry for Judith Miller, even if, as I think it was William Safire who said on "Meet The Press" tonight, "she's in prison. and it's not a happy prison."

Ken Tomlinson on Brian Lamb's Show

I just got done watching Ken Tomlinson on Brian Lamb's show on CSPAN. Tomlinson said that Bill Moyers was less balanced than William Buckley Jr. in his coverage of the issues because he Moyers didn't have "real political debate" on his show and Buckley did.
Interestingly, Tomlinson refused to debate Moyers on the show, so Lamb had what he called a "passive debate," in which he played clips from Moyers' speech at the Media conference and asked Tomlinson if those statements about him were true. To the uninformed, this meant that Tomlinson had an opportunity to at least try to refute all of Moyers' arguments. I hope Lamb gives Moyers a similar opportunity.

Sky Kingdom Update

Ayah Pin is still successfully evading Malaysia's police, but his followers are in danger and Human Rights Watchhas issued a human rights alert in connection with the persecution of the Sky Kingdom by the Malaysian Government. Earlier this week,
Fifty-eight members of the religious group, including 30 women and five children, were the northeastern state of Terengganu by the State Religious Department, with help from the local police. They will be charged..under the Shariah Criminal Offences Act for practicing a "deviant religion," and if found guilty could be fined and jailed up to two years.
My guess is that the Malaysian Govt. is targetting the Sky Kingdom sect in order to curry favor with Muslim fundamentalists. One letter writer to the online newspaper, Malaysiakini, says the govt. is "two faced," courting favor with the West by saying it's moderate, while simultaneously giving a pass to local extremist leaders.
Someone who commented on my previous "Sky Kingdom" posts, which I've cross-posted as a diary on the "Dailykos" argued that the real reason for the US's friendly relationship with the Malaysian Govt. had to do with Burma and oil. Malaysia and Burma are neighbors, and Malaysia is home to many refugees from Burma - but Malaysia has a history of being more friendly with the Burmese miltiary regime during its isolation by most other nations. While the Sky Kingdom has been in the news, Malaysia also arrested 68 Burmese protestors in Kuala Lampur last week.
This commenter, "PBnJ" argues that the US's goal is to "choke off Burma," isolate them in the region, and then come in and get their oil, the way they did with Iraq. I don't think the US military is any position to do this, but, there's a point to looking at the regional politics this way. Certainly anyone who reads Noam Chomsky knows that the US has maintained friendly relations with Indonesia because of their oil, despite their egregious human rights record. However, we have been isolating Burma for years. Bush and Clinton policies regarding Burma have been pretty similar (just as they were pretty similar when it came to Iraq). As Burma is slated to become the leader of ASEAN in 2006, the US has been urging countries like Malaysia to go against this move, and Condoleeza Rice is not attending this year's ASEAN meeting. Looking at the regional politics with a focus on oil also leads us back to the ongoing effort by US firm Chevron's attempts to keep Unocal's assets, which include projects in Burma, (and reading their PR about how they have decided to go against US policy is pretty fascinating)Thailand and Indonesia. These are the ones that the Chinese govt. says it is most interested in getting, and probably the ones that the US would like to keep under its control. It will be interesting to keep an eye on both situations.
Meanwhile, the US is clearly interested in Malaysia for its own sake, as according to a state dept. report from January of this year, US private investment there is calculated at $20 billion, of which 60% is oil/gas related, the rest of which is related to high-tech manufacturing and the hopes for a Malaysian "silicon valley." I'm sure that protecting these investments will continue to be far more important than promoting religious freedom in Malaysia. With the Sky Kingdom making international news, it makes sense to add US policy in this country to the list of examples of the Bush regime's hypocrisy on the issue of "religious freedom," so near and dear to the hearts of his base.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Open Thread: Backpack Anxiety

When I leave the house in the morning, I usually look something like this. The new backpack searches are going to seriously force me either to change my bad urban pack-rat habits or I'm going to have to start factoring time into my commute for being searched constantly. oy. what about you?...tell your stories of being searched or watching searches.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Area Woman Says, "Holy Shit! TV News is Really Stupid" ....Or 15 Minutes in Scarborough Country

OK, so Area woman is me. I feel like I really should be starting my entry with an Onion news-headline. I've been thinking about The Onion a lot lately when I encounter the corporate news, whether in headlines on newstands that I pass on the street, or like just now, on the TV's "Scarborough Country." (ewww..) The other day, I saw a headline involving Jude Law and some affair he had. I wanted the response to be a headline dedicated to my views, "Area Woman: I don't care about Jude Law's Sex Life."
But, man, you really can see how people wind up voting for George Bush if you watch only five minutes of "Scarborough Country." What inanity. First, there was fear-mongering coverage of the London bombings, in which the ill-informed and bogusly credentialied Steven Emerson, suggested both that the attacks in London are "chickens coming home to roost" - no, not for their support of the US in Iraq, but for their "turning away" when "terrorists" attack Israel -(?) and that these "new terrorists" at first seek to seize power in the Middle-East (??), and that they will now try to "seize power" in the Western nations, and oh yes, they're everywhere, among us. Then he started talking about how they weren't like previous types of terrorists, you know, and made a comparison with the movie "The Manchurian Candidate." If I didn't know anything about anything, I'd hear this and be terrified. Do you think I'm joking? Who IS this guy? (ok, you have some idea if you follow right wing ideologues or if you read the link to FAIR) but here's more and more and more.
As if that lynch-frenzy weren't enough to get some innocent folks harassed, beaten or killed, the Scarborough people goaded people into a frenzy some more...this time w/lame art criticism. They were in a twist tonight about an a guy named Steven Pearcy, who has painted an Anti-Bush painting that is hanging in a government office in San Diego. Apparently, the curator of the show found him through the furor over the effigy of a dead soldier hanging on the front of his house wearing the placard, "Bush Lied, I Died." The host (not Joe Scarborough, some woman) said "rightly so" when describing how the neighbors had vandalized the Pearcys' home. Beyond being annoyed at their lynch-mob gathering, I'm annoyed at these people for their complete failure to look at the art. Hanging the image of a soldier on your front door with the sign "Bush Lied, I Died" is not an example of approving of the soldier's death. A painting showing the US going down the toilet with a message saying "T'anks to Mr. Bush" is not anti-American, it's making a comment about the man who had done a lot to flush what some people think America means down the toilet. But they don't get that. Instead, the host imagined what the reaction would be had the image been of a Gay rainbow flag.
And of course, watching these people get so outraged is just weird. Their reactions seem genuine. But, aren't they outraged about the fact that the war was based on lies? Aren't they outraged that the president's top adviser is a criminal? No, they're outraged because of some guy in California who made an art piece that local tax dollars supported. I suppose they're outraged that someone's pointing out that the Emporer has no clothes. They all have so much at stake in propping him nd this war up. In a shocked tone, one reporter also noted that there was art there that said that the "Israelis were oppressing the Palestinians" - as if this were the first time she'd ever heard such a thing.
During the time I've been writing, John McCain has been sitting on "Hardball" claiming that the British a"have never retracted that claim" that Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger.
Oh really?
I just can't stand it....And now, they've got on one side the Washington Post reporter and on the other editorial page of The Washington Times. Tomorrow night I hope he has "The New York Times" on one side and the "Revolutionary Worker" on the other. It's only fair. enough.
IF I don't stop this, I'll keep going all night. I hear they've got breaking news coming about the Plame/Rove memo business. The fact that I know that the TV news is a big pack of lies doesn't stop me from being shocked at the extremity of the propaganda. If I did this all day instead of reading FAIR, I suppose I'd get jaded. What do you think, is it possible to stay outraged, or do you just get bored by the lies and distortions after a while.

Error Dept....Editing After Publication; Any More Rove Eavesdropping?

The best thing about blog posts is that you can publish them and then edit them. Thanks commenter on the peak/peek error in yesterday's entry.
There are a few other times I've done that since I started doing this blog regularly, but I'm not telling where, when or why. THIS sort of thing is really fixable on the internet. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is not.
Oh....maybe I'll do a real entry today, but until then, still waiting to hear from you reports on Karl Rove conversations. I haven't heard much myself, although I did hear a guy collecting money for the homeless use the word "Bush" in a conversation with a donor. Who knows what they were saying though.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More News on Malaysia and Ayah Pin...some Background

I'm in a real tizzy about the Malaysian "teapot cult" Today, there's more news, as their founder Ayah Pin has disappeared. and the police are looking for him so that they can charge him with more crimes. In reading a bit more about Malaysian politics, I got a little peek into how Bush's hegemony works the world over, and a little more outraged about the level of hypocrisy among the contemporary right wing.
As I wrote yesterday, Malaysia, a Muslim country, has recently become an ally of the US, although the former prime minster has made some pretty harsh critiques of Bush and the Iraq war.
I found this article from 2002 by John Gershman that describes Malaysia as the US's "new best friend." He surmises that the US wants to remain friendly with Malaysia for two major reasons: Malaysia is repressive of Islamic fundamentalists, and therefore Bush sees them as an ally among "moderate Muslim nations "and second, Malaysia is the number one arms buyer in Southeast Asia. Currently, while Malaysia disagrees with US policy on Israel and Iraq publicly, the prime minister expressed his wish to be involved in the "reconstruction" when he appeared at the Whitehouse a year ago.
We spend a lot of time criticizing the Bush-Saud connection, and it's true, the Bush-Malaysia connection is not as strong. Nonetheless, I find the connection between the admin and the Malaysian govt. at the moment to be a particularly strident example of the administration's hypocrisy. While the attack on the "Sky Kingdom" group, led by Ayah Pin, was made by a mob, this Malaysian newspaper (which itself has been raided under the internal security act) suggests that the govt. not only "tacitly approved" the attack, but instigated it by arresting Sky Kingdom members and referring to the peace-loving inter-faith group as a threat to Malaysia's internal stability.
Malaysia, while moderate, has a state religion, and Pin's sect has been proclaimed "deviant" and its members arrested. As the Independent's Jan McGirk explains:

The Malaysian constitution enshrines tolerance of religious minorities. Yet some 22 Malay sects are considered deviant forms of Islam, and authorities keep close track of their 22,800 members. They have launched "morality raids" on nightclubs and on homes and businesses. Officials have been throwing the book at Sky Kingdom after the sect found its way into newspaper headlines.
  (Well, that part there sounds like what the Christians would like to do here, so maybe it's not so hypocritical)...but look at this next bit:

Last year, some Muslim followers of Pin tried to sue for freedom of religion and took their case to the Federal Court, generating a lot of media coverage on the way. But the nation's top judges managed to avoid making a ruling on the issue.

You would think that those Bushies, who are so gung-ho about the importance of freedom of religion, would have some comment about these actions. However, what we see instead is realpolitik and denial, as the Heritage Foundation in 2003 responded to proposed legislation to cut off funding to Malaysia with the argument that there is religious tolerance there and that the country is our ally in the war on terror.
Worse yet, right-wing Republicans and their stooges have written attacks on jailed Malaysian dissidents that are happily reprinted in the Malaysian press, as this paper "Malaysia today" comments about attacks made in the Washington Times, and then in the US congress on Anwar Ibrahim. It's interesting (and creepy) to see how far the arm reaches, as the Malaysians wondered about Amy Ridenour...
...Ridenour was the head of an unknown right wing, mama-papa think tank in Washington, who had no knowledge of Malaysian politics, Anwar, or Islam. The mystery was why such a person would suddenly show such interest in Anwar and Malaysia.
FAC News reported that many in Malaysia believed that 'Malaysian interests' were trying to buy influence in Washington to smear Anwar. It seemed logical to believe that Ridenour was part of that plan. But all we had then were rumours and suspicions.
(you can find the FAC news article here.)
Finally, if you want to see yet another view on the complicated relationship between Malaysians, Bush and the Malaysian government, check out this article by John Hilley, author of "Malaysia: Malathirism, Hegemony and the New Opposition"
  Am I just late in catching up to all this, or have you all been watching the shennanigans involving Malaysia all along?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Whenever Someone Comes up With something nice, look what happens.

My stepfather sent me a link to a news-story about an attack on Malaysia's "teapot cult." For more information about this interfaith community, whose massive teapot structure was inspired by one of the members' dreams, go here and here.
Without knowing any more about him than you do, oh readers, I'd say, what's preposterous about this guy claiming to be God? One of his arguments is that he is omniscient, or at least, he says he "knows more than George Bush."
He seems as good to me as a lot of people claiming to be God are...At least he says all religions are welcome, all religions are the same, and speaks up for clean water, peace and love. Sounds like a reasonable set of priorities to me....all of those resources are pretty scarce.
I went to see what the idiots on the far-right had to say about what's going on in Malaysia. I figured they'd be leaping at the opportunity to point out a Muslim government oppressing a peace-loving religious sect.
However, they are such superficial readers that the people over at "little green footballs" just mocked the Sky Kingdom group, compared them to Bin Laden (?) and wondered why "normal Muslims" weren't embarrassed by them. I guess they missed the point. Now, I'm cerainly not writing about this because I think Muslim governments are especially repressive, but because I was curious when I read about the conflict. Apparently, the US isn't that interested in repressive theocracies either (surprise surprise!) because guess who's our buddy in the "war on terror." Now let's see, what's more important to Bush and his American supporters, religious freedom -- or money? I know who I think should be embarrassed by this latest news from Malaysia, and it's not the Ayeh Pin.

oh, brain hurts from bad collision

This evening (Sunday from midnight to around 1am) I was seeking websites that championed various militia and Posse Comitatus types as heroes (it's research for my book.) In the process, I came across the website of the self-important Keith Preston, who claims to have found the type of anarchism superior to all others. He has reached it by being not one thing or another, not a leftist nor a rightist, but rather a combiner of all that is fine from all that there is. Generally, I find such claims to be connected to an attitude of great superiority, and I find arrogance and superiority to be generally maddening qualities. I know nothing about this person, but was instantly annoyed by his attacks on the left, and surprised by his ability to find compatible ideas in the work of Noam Chomsky, Pat Buchanan, Charles Murray and Robert Nozick. He calls himself an anarcho-socialist, yet believes in the free-market and loves the work of Max Stirner. I can understand, given his simultaneous praise for a utopian community of small producers and his apparent enjoyment of racist apologists, why some left-anarchists might have called him a fascist. Indeed, I made it to his website from some weird racist site claiming to have developed "national anarchism."
....So, there are some worthwhile books out there that examine anarchist/fascist connections. One focuses on the problematic theoretical foundations of that individualist anarchist, Max Stirner (St. Max, as Marx called him) whose ideas were so compatible with fascism in the 1920s. The most famous, and probably the best book on the subject is by Zeev Sternhell.
Another intriguing discussion of anarchist/fascist connections appears in a pamphlet by "Luther Blisset," (...I'm assuming that this "Blisset" is some anarchist group that has adopted the identity of British football player, Luther Blisset. There is a fairly hilarious BBC article about the phenom. here.)
But how could one be both anarchist and fascist? Hannah Arendt makes at least part of the explanation in The origins of Totalitarianism...under fascism the leader is completely free from all laws. This wish for complete lack of personal accountability seems to me to be central to individualist anarchist ideology, and quite compatible with both sides of authority in fascism. Leaders are above the law, and the followers have surrendered to the leader - and thus are also not accountable. I find it all odious.
Enough. I looked at the time and realized.... only a few hours from now, I'll be back in the insanely cold library, where it is January until mid-October, at which point it becomes July. Who can understand it?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Anatomy of My Procrastination Practice.....Excitement Builds over Rove-Leak Fall Out, Google Counting Continued

aiee, I stopped working and look where I wound up, right here in procrastination central. It all started when I took a break from Daniel Levitas' riveting The Terrorist Next Door . I was on task initially; I went to the jungle-like basement to hunt down my almost mildewed xeroxed copies of "L'Adunata Dei Rafrattari." I realized that my Italian reading skills had deteriorated considerably, I made the terrible move - I turned on the computer in search of a cheap, used Italian grammar book. And then it happened. I couldn't resist. I just HAD to check today's media on Karl Rove. The Washington Post had a run-down on the story that made some good points and some exasperating ones. The NYT had an annoying "guessing game" story which asserted that Rove "hadn't done anything wrong," and reasserted the notion that Rove was the "recipient" rather than the disburser of information."
By the end of the day, I recommend checking out what Bill Crowley, who's standing in for Laura Flanders this weekend, has to say about today's aggravating talk shows. Meanwhile, Kid Oakland's diary of the Dailykos, demands action, and I agree. Reading the 180+ comments he received, which included triumphant calls for action quoted from The Lord of the Rings' gathering the Men of Rohan (no joke), I got a little giddy too.
But since, despite its 500,000 or so daily readers, the Dkos is not the thermometer of the nation, it is time to step back to reality, if only for a moment..or at least part reality.
google counting:
Rove+Watergate = 151,000 hits (to be compared to 653,000 hits for Clinton+Watergate)
Rove+Plame+ Actual Name=83,000 hits
Rove + Plame = 1,010,000 hits
Rove + Wilson + Liar= 54,600 hits
Rove + Bush+ criminals= 165,000
Downing Street Memo=824,000 hits

The numbers are higher than they were a few days ago, when I last did this, but I know they don't really prove much, do they? After all, the Downing Street Memo, which meant a whole hell of a lot, has a huge number of google hits, but very little impact on the people in power. sigh.
And now, I'm wrenching myself away from this procrastination machine and going back to the history of the Posse Comitatus. By the way, You'd be surprised at how much their taxation=Communism stuff sounds like the Republican talking points of today. (by the way if you follow the link that asks, "are we living under the Communist Manifesto?"... you'll find a widely-linked list of ten planks that are NOT from the Communist Manifesto. How can anyone be so stupid.
OK, like I said 15 minutes ago. Time to stop procrastinating.
And did you procrastinate today? comments please.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Open Thread: Politics as Heard on the Street

Have you heard people talking about Bush, Rove, and the leak...or any other political thing on the street, or on the subway? Have you wound up in conversation with total strangers about any of these issues? If so....share your stories of street talk here.

Friday, July 15, 2005

CNN and Bullshit; Don't Concede Ground on Rove

Just go to this link to a CNN clip, watch and listen. That came to the Dailykos website today via Atrios. of Eschaton. Atrios has also has cute cat pictures. For another humorous take on the latest news, check out what "The Axis of Evel Knievel" has to say about Rehnquist, Novack and the gang.

I'm turning to humor in desperation, because unlike some folks, I'm feeling pessimistic about this. Lately, because I keep hoping for an intentional change in the coverage of the Rove leak, I keep going to David Brock's Media Matters site. They've been documenting the frustrating way in which the news media continues to act as a mouthpiece for the RNC, down to the repetition of the misinterpretation of Joseph Wilson's interview on Thursday with Wolf Blitzer.
Fair, rather than posting the kind of breaking and crazy-making descriptions of corporate news-stories has reminded us of the root of thiswhole thing, the lies about WMD that took this country to war.
This story about the false yellow-cake uranium should remind us that even the "spin-on-the-spin" is still about WMD. Wilson exposed the lie, and in typical Bush fashion, the White House made a personal attack on Wilson and questioned the credibility of his report; that's when "Wilson's wife" became part of the war. As Rove tries to excuse his behavior, he is back to the same spin he used before. He says he was "correcting" and "warning" reporters not to use Wilson's "questionable" story..and the mainstream media is swallowing this, as if there was something questionable about Wilson's article, rather than something questionable about the Uranium yellow cake story that the Bush administration used to scare the American people, even though they KNEW that it was false.
I've read tons of lefty bloggers who may be worried that Rove is going to slip away from justice and thus are going into great depth about the possible ramifications of the leak People are asking, what is the investigation really about? The most interesting issue, and one that I think will come out in the investigation has to do with "who leaked to Rove?" (erm, no, it wasn't Novak).
I linked to Bob Perry's story about this the other day, and will again, just to remind you if you didn't get there. He makes a point which is all the more pointed at the very confusing, head-spinning moment:
The larger point is that senior White House officials, possibly including Bush, revealed the identity of a covert CIA officer as part of what appears to be a conspiracy to discredit Wilson in retaliation for telling the truth in his op-ed column. The key incriminating fact in this mystery is that Rove had no reason to know who Plame was, except as part of a public relations attack against her husband. It was a classic case of dirtying up – or punishing – the messenger for delivering unwanted news. It also fits with the long-running neoconservative strategy of using “perception management” techniques to “controversialize” critics and keep the American people in a constant state of confusion.
Whether or not you think he's the worst villain in the story, it's important not to concede ground on Rove, or to let him "controversialize" his own actions. He's no victim, he's no fall-guy, he's no unwitting, gosh-darn-it kid who didn't KNOW that Wilson's wife was undercover. Let's get out of his spin-cycle and come up for air: His use of politically damaging information is part of a pattern of behavior that goes all the way back to his college days with the rat-fuckers of CREEP. Interesting arguments about who else is involved are fine, but until that particular investigation hits the news, our job is to keep unspinning Mr. Rove until he wobbles like a little weeble.

Unocal Update: Anxiety Index?

As usual, business news is often the place to find out the real driving force behind US foreign policy. The whole discussion now going on about Unocal, and the role that this company has played in directing US foreign policy in the Balkans and Afghanistan reminds me of the role that United Fruit played in US Central American policy.
As the oil company seeks more money, Republicans are arguing that if China buys Unocal (which owns large shares of pipelines in Afghanistan and the Balkans, around which US foreign policy has been shaped) it will threaten US "national security." This article from Tom "Chinese Chess" clearly identifies the conflict of interest in the Bush administration:
To cut to the chase, the Chinese offer has forced Bush to decide whether he is a free-trader or an America-firster. He cannot be both. If Bush decides that the CNOOC's $18.5 billion bid for Unocal is a threat to national security, he will implicitly say that Chinese money is not as good as European and Japanese money and confirm that the biggest concern facing America right now is energy—where we get it and how we use it. In doing so, he will only add fuel to the analytical fire about why we went to war in Iraq.
If he says yes and affirms the principles of free trade, then Bush undermines his de facto national security strategy, which has been about securing America's oil and gas supplies economically and militarily. He will undermine his energy policy, which has been about increasing domestic prodcution for domestic consumption. And, most powerfully, he will be selling out the soldiers whose lives have been lost in Iraq, saying that our strategic interests, after all, really weren't as important as an $18.5 billion oil deal.

Now that China has made a threat to use "A-bombs" (the NYT's language) if the US intervenes in Taiwan, it seems less likely to me that the US government will block the sale. However, as Michael Klare points out, that could make real problems for the US economy. hmmm....what a bind the Bushies are in. Too bad they didn't do any work to find alternative energy sources.
Over twenty years ago today, Jimmy Carter made speech declaring an "energy war" in which the American people would play a significant role in reducing dependence on foreign oil. While Carter's strategy was not as green as some might think, at least he was addressing the problem.
So, I'm anxious about oil and war today. What's the scariest news item you saw?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I house sat for a few days and came back to a nearly overgrown garden and flowerbox. Posted by Picasa

I liked this little purple bush.  Posted by Picasa

The "sundial mix" has spread everywhere. Here it is coming up by the gardenia bush. Posted by Picasa

Finally, the mystery plant confirms that it is some breed of bluebonnet, but it's more like a purple bonnet.  Posted by Picasa

flourishing gazania, million bells and sundial mix Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Obsessed with the Injustice of it all

I'm home from a very long day of reading about Italian American syndicalists, and just eagerly checked my email for the breaking news of Karl Rove's firing. didn't see it either?
It's frustrating isn't it?
I'm hungry for justice. Tex, a commenter on the Media Matters site, (which is doing a great job tracking the fuck-headed media that keeps actually reporting that Republican talking point that Rove didn't "name" Valerie Plame (but simply identified her as Wilson's wife who works for "the agency") as if that somehow makes him not guilty of leaking her identity)
is as exasperated as I am, and as you are, by this whole Republispin machine. Tex suggested going for a google record on discussions of ridiculous parsing.

In response to the Media Matters story that the
re: NY Times repeated bogus GOP talking point that Bush promised to fire leaker only if Plame were identified by name
Tex wrote....
All Progressives:
Just to REMIND yourselves of the tremendous ridicule and excoriation the Rightwing feels is appropriate whenever a government official attempts to "parse" their words or engage in "legalese" instead of being straightforward, let me suggest a few GOOGLE searches. We can certainly bone up on the amount, the severity, and the TONE on the approved Rightwing response to the parsing of whether Valarie Plame's ACTUAL NAME was used, by inserting certain KEY WORDS: "CLINTON +
1. "IS" is (23,300,000 hits)
2. sexual relations (566,000 hits)
3. ALONE with (3,960,000 hits)
Let's go for a record. Let's strive for over 24 MILLION hits on key words "Bush Rove Actually Named"
by tex

I think this is a great idea, but we have a very long way to go. So far, according to google, the count is 644 hits when you search rove "actual name," and not all are Plame/Wilson related.

You get 254 for Karl Rove Actually Named

with "Rove identified wilson wife" you get 47,200 hits.

Woo Hoo with "Rove Named Plame" (which sounds kinda cool, for a criminal act) you get 111,000 hits.

That being said, that's far less than 24,000,000. Meanwhile, I'm worried about the fact that Limbaugh and others are already declaring victory on this matter. (no, I'm not linking to that fattie).
They spun the Downing street memo. Will they really spin this one too? Everyone knows Rove is a creep, a little weasel who got journalists to conspire with him in punishing govt. whistleblowers.
The question I like, which Robert Perry - who I didn't realize was behind that "October Surprise" documentary that chilled my blood in the 80s- asked on Consortium News two days ago was... just who told Rove and what was his "need to know?"
he says....
again, the national news media seems to have missed the forest for the trees. By concentrating on whether Rove specifically spoke Plame’s name to Cooper, the media is missing the significance of the fact that a political operative like Rove would have a hand in this operation at all. The larger point is that senior White House officials, possibly including Bush, revealed the identity of a covert CIA officer as part of what appears to be a conspiracy to discredit Wilson in retaliation for telling the truth in his op-ed column. The key incriminating fact in this mystery is that Rove had no reason to know who Plame was, except as part of a public relations attack against her husband. It was a classic case of dirtying up – or punishing – the messenger for delivering unwanted news.

On Karl Rove and the "Talking Point"

It's fascinating, sort of, reading the news today about the latest on Karl Rove. The question that all journalists are now discussing is whether or not the White House will succeed in its effort to "spin away" Karl Rove's admitted culpability in the leaking of Valerie Plame's name to the press after Joseph Wilson first wrote about the falsity of Bush's claims that Iraq sought yellowcake uranium from Niger. The Globe and Mail quoted Ex-Repub Marshall Wittman saying:
"Short of a criminal indictment, Rove is not going anywhere....For Bush to get rid of Rove would be like Charlie McCarthy firing Edgar Bergen."
Meanwhile, while the Whitehouse talks about knowing/not knowing, some are actually digging. As people reading The Washington Note and Washington Monthly are suggesting, this is beginning to look more and more like a complicated conspiracy, and that Plame's name and CIA status were being leaked as a "talking point" by the Bush white-house.
But the question that remains central still is - will THIS crime finally be the one that "gets" the Whitehouse? Alternet's Evan Derkacz had a nice story on the meaning of Rove's actions which have a sort of "here's your talking point" focus.

What's so fascinating to me about watching the discussion of what the effect of this evidence will be is the way that so many reporters are presenting their role in all this as "observers" of something over which they themselves have little control, sort of like when they're watching "the horse race" of the presidential election. They seem to have adopted the position that Rove won't really be guilty until the administration says so, and already the mainstream Television and print media sources are printing Republican spin, not to cover Republican spin, but to provide it as a viable analysis of what happened. Contrast their coverage of the Sandy Berger document-in-the-sock scandal. As "Media Matters" notes, the media is, as usual, putting Republican mouthpieces on TV as if they're politically neutral experts.
Journalists should get out of their false naivete and admit it, the answer to the question of whether or not the Republican spin will succeed has a lot to do with them. I wonder if they'll do to this smoking gun what they did with the Downing Street Memo, first claim it's not true, then claim they knew it and reported on it when it first happened. oy, I guess that's the media's spin to explain its own complete failure to act as a public information service instead of as a wing of the current administration.

Monday, July 11, 2005

What are those righties talking about when they say "far left"?

Left-baiting the democrats...I don't understand it at all. That's what Ken Mehlman just did in his response to Howard Dean's response to the outing of Rove as the outer of Plame. He said:
"It's disappointing that once again, so many Democrat leaders are taking their political cues from the far left. ... The bottom line is the Democrats are engaged in blatant partisan political attacks."
Does anyone out there actually believe this stuff? Just who is the far-left that Mehlman is talking about here anyway? Does he mean Howard Dean? Surely that business-friendly gov. is not "far left," or MOVEon? - again, not far-left by any stretch of the imagination.
When I think "far left" on a spectrum of politics, I'm thinking of revolutionary communists, Anarchists, and (some) Black nationalists. On the slightly less far left would be parliamentarian socialists, on the middle-left would be social democrats, who believe in the preservation of the welfare state and other new deal reforms and would seek to do something about the insane power of corporations (let's put Kucinich, Ehrenreich, and Nader in that group)Groups on the left would generally oppose throwing US military might around at the behest of corporate interests. Once you start advocating US intervention and talking about the wonders of welfare-reform and private enterprse, you're in the middle, no matter what you say about taxes.
Democrats like Howard Dean, who want to support some aspects of the welfare state, but only so long as its friendly to business, and who oppose particularly inexpert imperialist wars, but not imperialism in general, and Republicans like John McCain who'd like to see some environmental preservation - are centrists, the "goldilocks school of mixing regulation and private entreprise. Some of you may disagree with this spectrum. But we're not supposed to be talking about MY definitions anyway...
I was curious about what this "far left" label means to the Republicans and the falange of right-wing evangelical activists, so I did a little googling on 'far left" and Americans. One group that got noticed by the right-wing site "Little Green Footballs" was "Axis of Logic," which was criticized by the righties as committing treason because of an article that argued in support of the Iraqi resistance against the US forces. Axis would qualify as "far left" in my book too. It regularly links to articles from the International Action Center and various Marxist-Leninist papers, and seems unconcerned with pleasing the center with mild-mannered discourse. Interestingly, its primary honcho, Les Blaugh, is a graduate of Bob Jones theological seminary. I don't think Howard Dean has been taking cues from the IAC lately, in fact, unlike the republican party, which has courted the extreme wing of the right, the Democratic party has done everything possible to distance itself from the far left.
Then there's this article how far left can the left really go?" which compares the Democratic party's top-ten reasons to oppose Bush to the CPUSA's top ten reasons to oppose Bush. It's too bad for that blogger, whose ignorance, if you read his entire post, is staggering, that he doesn't know that the CPUSA has supported the Democratic party in elections often since 1936. Guess what, the fact that the mostly social-democratic CPUSA supports the Democratic party doesn't turn the Dems into Communists.
The CATO institute defines democrats such as Hilary Clinton as "far left," and cries "bias" at the media coverage of the two conventions for referring to Republicans as "far right" while not using the "far left" label to describe democrats. The world-wide christian web also refers to the Democrats, and Kerry in particular as as far left mainly it seems, because they were critical of Bush.
What I learned from these blogs,(not all of which I linked to) was not so surprising in many cases. First of all, these groups have no idea what communism and liberalism are. They have no notion of difference and disagreements among people arrayed from center to left. According to the right-wing blogs I read ..."far left" is
1. support for gay rights, whether that means marriage or domestic partner benefits (or appointing gay people to office, as one christian webslinger accused Bush of doing, and thus too "far left" to earn her vote)
2. support for legal abortion
3. progressive taxation (a slippery slope to socialism)
4. criticism of the current leadership of the Republican party, ie "hating Bush"
5. criticism of US foreign policy (=hating America)
6. environmental regulation
7. affirmative action /or any civil rights activism
8. holding the US government accountable to the law
9. support for things like unemployment insurance, medicare, public libraries, and health care
10. secular values, the separation of church and state

You got it, "you're with us, or you're against us." Anyone who doesn't agree with absolute free-markets while supporting prayer in school (Christian, natch) is a friggin' commie revolutionary who's partying with Ward Churchill and secretly trying to bring down the US. Any party that functions as an opposition group to the majority party represents the "far left" and is un-American.
So, none of this is really new news...we all knew that Joe McCarthy was being rehabilitated by the neocons, we've seen Bill O'Reilly and his bizarre fantasy world. The thing that I find so interesting about this list is that from the perspective of these millenialist and practically Christian-Identity believing right-wingers, America really is dominated by the far left.

According to gallup, in 2004 52% of Americans support abortion on demand and say it's a completely private issue (this is down from 77% in 1982)
According to a poll about taxes and public spending, 80% of Americans believe its worth paying taxes to receive the public benefits of education, etc.
Now, it's true that polls are often wrong or misleading, but when it comes to creating a poll, I trust the methods of Gallup over those of the Christian coalition any day. The myth of liberal media bias which these folks believe is even more preposterous when you realize how much ground the anti-abortion activists and anti-taxers have gained since the 1980s.
However, despite the prevailing centrist attitudes, the elected officials are close to the far right, which, for the record means:

seeking to impose a religiously based moral system on others by changing the laws dramatically, abolishing social welfare policies in place since the 1930s, pulling out of long-standing international agreements on the basis of "America answers to no one but herself" and generally advocating a punitive law-and-order approach to law enforcement, limiting individual rights (especially privacy) in the name of safety/order.
But how long will the White House stand by Karl Rove?

Just As in New York, London Peace Activists Commemorate Victims and Protest the War

Over the past few days, I've been emailing with a friend of mine who lives in London. She wasn't on the trains when the bombing occurred, but did pass by the bombed bus. Like most peace activists did in NY, my friend has mixed her shock and horror at the bombing with anger at the policies that motivated it. She told me that last night she went to a meeting of Military Families Against War and the "Stop the War Coalition" where Tariq Ali spoke, memorably referring to Blair's "coital embrace" with Bush, from which it seemed impossible to disengage him. I had the mental image of those unfortunate dogs caught locked in the act. The metaphor is even more apt for the populations of England and the US, who are quite involuntarily attached to these leaders and thus held responsible for their terrible foreign policies. After the Sept. 11th bombings I felt caught between two juggernauts, neither of which I could do much to influence, it was a terrible helpless and enraged feeling - the first time I had ever felt so very viscerally just how bad for ME US foreign policy really is.
Robert Fisk, as usual, can be counted on also for cogent commentary. His piece in Counterpunch,
Fisk argues that
"To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear" encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralized attack on London as a result of a "war on terror" that Blair has locked us into."
He doesn't spell out his reason for making this argument, but it's clear. If the terrorists are acting against us because they "hate our freedom," for example, it must be because they're from a breed very different from us, they are people,in fact, essentially and irrationally different from us, and their raison d'etre is to destroy us and or/to take what we have.
When we're done thinking about how to respond effectively to this crisis, perhaps we'll begin to feel the effects of this more deeply.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

MOMA's Brazil Film Fest Coincides with G8 Conference

This week I've been thinking a lot about Brazil, where agri-business concentrations os wealth drive peasants into cities without services or jobs. Why? MOMA's annual film series got me to "Almost Brothers" (Quase Dois Irmaos) a film about two men from different social classes in prison in the 1970s. This afternoon, I may go to another one, perhaps "Estamura" directed by Marcus Prado, one of the producers of the phenomnal "Bus 174," which I finally saw on video this weekend.
After "Almost Brothers," I was walking with my film-going companions - all of whom had seen "Bus 174" the year before, and one, a corporate lawyer, asked his high-school friend, the human-rights lawyer, "why is Brazil like that?" We got to talking about the extremes of wealth and poverty in Brazil, and talked about how long it had been this way.
I realized during the conversation, that I wasn't able to get too specific, and I found this sort of peculiar, since my family has always maintained close friendships with several Brazilians, many of whom are quite interested in politics. Despite this, I was primarily interested in samba and carneval when I was around those folks most, so I never really learned much about Brazilian history and economics, except the vague understanding that there was a military dictatorship in the 1970s, and that the cities were actually very dangerous places. Last year, in fact, I wound up asking for book recommendations from a longtime family friend who's in Latin American studies. Before going to that set of books, I found today a succinct and thorough discussion of all the Latin American social movements in the context of the ongoing G8 conference in "Brazzil Magazine." If you read to the bottom of the page, you will see among the comments some I especially liked. At the end of the article, one of those crazed right-wingers argued that the problems in Brazil and Latin-America in general could be traced to "left wing governments" (the article clearly suggests that the problems can be traced to the power of the United States and the IMF). In response, several people replied with varying degrees of sophistication.
Written by Guest on 2005-06-18 17:17:28I hate stupid right-wing fuckers, who dont know shit! These left-wing governments are not radical at all, in fact they are modeled around the 3rd way (Blair and Clinton) which is suppose to be alternative to free-markets and socialism but it is still very difficult to accomplish.....many things hold back regimes who want education for all, to end illiteracy, want to develop programs to combat poverty and at the same time grow the economy!

Right wing bastards and racist putas
Written by Guest on 2005-06-19 13:45:02Fuck you right wing land-owning, genocide causing (against indigenous and black people), oligarchic, pro-republican party (in USA), and slave promoting white bastards!!!!

swim back to europe you racist putas!
Fadados a repetir a historia?
Written by Guest on 2005-06-20 10:10:26Como disse Brecht "Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral."
Seria melhor entender como funciona a economia antes de querer salvar um pais mediante uma revolucao.

If I were to add my own comment here, I'd point out how "theoretical," how "abstract" oh, maybe the word's "ideological" the right-wing commenter was. No matter what the context, it's as if know-nothing Bush supporters look for any site on the web where they can start spouting the "tax and spend" soundbite. Of course in Brazil, social programs are pretty limted, because so much of their spending is dedicated to debt payments, and so much of the aid they receive from foreign banks is contingent on privatization and austerity. If the US treasury bonds start looking less attractive, and if the Grover Norquists get their way when it comes to US social programs, I wonder how long it would be before South Central Los Angeles became as impenetrable as some of the favelas in Rio.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Stadium News and Real Estate Developers

It's been a really long time since I wrote anything about the stadium business, and I've been wanting to. It's mostly because my grasp of the Ratner Brooklyn deal is less clear than what I knew about the West Side plan. I knew from a friend that Andrew Zimbalist bizarrely gave the stamp of approval to the plan.
A recent story on NY1's webpage mentions a new bid for the Brooklyn railyards. Don't you think it's interesting that in discussing local reaction to the Ratner plan that the story doesn't even mention the organized groups who oppose Ratner, especially since "Develop Don't Destroy" seems to have hunted down the competitive bidder, Extell, in the first place.
Someone commenting on Neil De Maus's page hinted at dark secrets about Extell...but they aren't so secret. Extell appears to be one of the developers behind the 60-story Orion Condo in Times Square, and seems to have a parternship with the infamous Carlyle Group. Inez Dickens, who's running for city council, and is herself the owner of a real-estate firm, has sponsored a petition opposing Extell's high-rise plans in Harlem/Upper West Side, her district.
With their ambitious purchase of Trump land and now their bid for the Brooklyn Railyards, Extell clearly is not generally friendly to the worlds of small-scale housing. However, their alternative bid comes much closer to what the neighborhood activists are looking for than Ratner's. For those of you who live near Park Slope, or who travel there, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn announces a film showing at neighborhood bar, Barbes on Saturday July 9th:
Saturday, July 9, 6pm. Screening: MADE IN BROOKLYN, a documentary. BARBES, 376 9th Street (corner of 6th avenue). GLASS EYE presents: MADE IN BROOKLYN.

A documentary about the importance of manufacturing and the urban consequences of investing in a service-sector based economy. The film exposes the use of re-zoning to squeeze out community-based production and mixed-use neighborhoods in favor of back-office and luxury high-rise developments, as advocated by the City’s planning department.

This sounds worth doing, and Barbes is a nice place to catch a flick.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Too much blogging; Friends of Durruti Group

My brother convinced me that I would get more traffic on my blog if I started keeping a diary on "The Daily Kos." He's right, but the problem w/ writing on Kos is that I actually have to approach the whole thing differently than I do here. After all, you're my friends, family and occasional indymedia either know me well enough, or are familiar enough w/the far-left-end of the political spectrum to know what I'm talking about when I casually talk about "abolishing the white race" or "sticking it to the man" or whatever. It's a lot of homework to shift audiences, man!
I know it's good practice.
So, after an exhausting post explaining the whole theory of "race traitor," in my dkos diary, which will no doubt need a fire-extinguisher by 9am tomorrow, I'm a bit tapped out.
On other matters, I have this reflection. I spent a good portion of my afternoon reading Friends of Durruti, and I have come to the conclusion that it played a significant role in the collapse of Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation. How so? The principle argument of the book (reviewed by Chris Day in 1997) is that the Friends of Durruti were the most advanced section of the Spanish anarchist movement because they realized that anarchism was itself inadequate for proletarian revolution. The argument is pretty convincing, but it rejects anarchism directly, saying "the Spanish revolution was the tomb of anarchism." It's funny, the book makes a clear case for the collaboration of the CNT with the bourgeois state, but it didn't warm my heart to the FOD. Jose Peirats, whose writings about the Spanish revolution are highly recommended by Noam Chomsky, said that whenever he went to the FOD meetings they were very authoritarian and seemed always to be talking about shooting people.
Meanwhile, in the presentcoverage of the G8 conference is utterly predictable, unless of course, you follow the indymedia pages in Scotland.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Lifestyle Politics, Anarchism, and Living Well

I've been talking with friends and family about anarchism a lot lately, and some of it has made me think about the old debate we used to have in Love and Rage about "lifestyle" politics, aka "Counterculture." (Officially, we were against what some called "lifestyle anarchism" but many of us, like the guy in the linked article above, had come to anarchism through punk-rock, and we also advocated the creation of an oppositional, anti-white, queer friendly counter-culture, which we seemed to hope to create through having multi-racial hip-hop dance parties and appearing at protests against Christian fundamentalists in drag).
Today, as I'm on my way to the library to switch between books on the US CP, the Friends of Durruti, and the purported relationship between Italian anarchism and fascism, I've come across two distinctly cultural-political mixes that make me feel once again, the importance of the acting out of one's political ideals in either the culture of every day life or in the production of music, film, or some other arty thing.
The first one was a story about Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse fame, and her "edible schoolyard " in Washington, DC. Waters is decidedly bourgeois, but her gardens are a great idea, and it's certainly worthwhile to teach kids about vegetables and healthy eating in a society with such a serious junk food problem. I had no idea, as I knew of Waters primarily through her rep. as a chef, that she had been involved in the Free Speech Movement. While you might be raising your eyebrows and doubting the importance of food and politics, just think about the cost of not eating locally grown produce, and the problems of industrial agriculture. This is a serious problem directly related to global inequality, capitalism, etc.
The other anarchist reminder I just came across today was Gogol Bordello, one of my favorite bands to see live. They represent the opposite side of counter-cultural politics, the drunken, unhealthy, decadent debauched type. But, despite the drunknenness, those guys have done some really interesting projects, including a Romany hip-hop album. The problem is that it's perfectly possible to enjoy Gogol shows, listen to their records, etc. and get primarily a message of non-stop drunken partying and pro-globalization cosmopolitanism, both of which work very well in the context of capitalism. I am not in agreement with economistic pessimist Thomas Frank on this issue, but I think he does have a point, when he argues that in our current global economy, The key myth, endlessly repeated, is that of the Rebel Consumer, whose lifestyle choices are too extreme to be accepted by stuffy old losers, and who demonstrates his noncomformity and antinomianism by his purchasing habits....Between Rebel Consumers and Rebel Executives, we are all antinomians now; antinomians with day-planners, Nietzscheans taken beyond good and evil by Visa.
Is it possible to create an anti-capitalist counterculture that can't be coopted by consumer culture? Neither punk rock nor hip survived. The only example I've ever seen is those kids who travel on box cars and either grow their own, or scavenge in garbage dumpsters outside the supermarkets (easier in cold climates than hot ones) for their food.

Monday, July 04, 2005

When Sweethearts Collide

If you thought the fight between Cablevision and the NY Jets over the MTA railyards in Chelsea was something, just look at the bidding war between Chevron and the Cnooc for Unocal. At a moment when patriotism is declared all important, reading this article indicates just the "strategic" nature of natinonalist claims by corporations, as Chevron denounces its frequent partner in business, the Chinese Govt. for giving too many breaks to Chinese oil company, Cnooc.
These multnationals, a people without a country, huh? No, they're seeking for a world without a people.
Meanwhile...George Bush, our idiot-in-chief, stands firmly against the Kyoto treaty, insisting that it will destoy the US economy. no...perhaps what will hurt the US economy is dependence on oil as a fuel. Do something about fuel consumption and emissions, oh government, before the world gets any hotter. Will the Prez's lame ideas do anything to stop the cozy Bush-Blair alliance?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

If the Dems Don't Fight for Roe V. Wade

Will there be even a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats?
Obviously, abortion is worth more than a dime, it was THE reason people gave for voting for Gore in 2000 - The future of the Supreme Court was THE difference.

(nb: If you don't understand why this issue is not trivial, perhaps you should go here and check this out.)

While I was looking for a copy of the shocking, and yet important photo of "Leona's sister, Gerri" that became so much part of the pro-choice movement, I came across this organization, medical students for choice which illustrates one of the lesser-known problems for those seeking to end a pregancy. To the extent that "choice" is already evaporating, whether because of lack of doctors trained to do abortions, or because of increasingly restrictive state laws, it's also true that the support for the Roe decision is not enough to guarantee women's reproductive rights...but damn it, at least it's something.

People's reactions to the O'Connor resignation all over the left, are an indication of how important Roe v. Wade remains to a very large number of people. However, With the O'Connor resignation, a story that was being written about a lot from January to April of this year, has just come back up. The Guardian today references the January article by Benjamin Wittes in Atlantic Monthly, which argues that Roe v. Wade is bad law, and suggests that for many "liberals," Roe v. Wade, perhaps the classic case that argues for how essential privacy is to the very definition of the liberal state, is now considered a liability. A few months later, Amy Goodman hosted a debate between Kim Gandy and Phil Singer on the issue. What Singer says doesn't put me at ease, nor does the fact that the person who will be "heading the charge" in opposition is anti-choicer Harry Reid . Although some have warmed to him, O'Connor's resignation does bring the issue back into the spotlight.
While it may be tempting for people to get involved in strategizing for the democrats in congress, such sideline activity is not our main call at the moment. I've been reading several "beltway" type blogs, and there seems to be a general agreement among them that Bush will pick someone who is anti-choice, and that the best that can be hoped for is someone who is not completely insane. My fear is that the fight won't be engaged in congress directly because the Democrats are so afraid of the right that they won't talk about abortion and privacy, that democrats are so afraid of losing the filibuster entirely, that they will concede ground. There is already, of course, a lot of threatening talk from the right about the inappropriateness of the "litmus" know, the the test that asks the judges if they are willing to uphold the FUCKING law.
What it looks like the progressive democrats' strategy will be (with a few exceptions) to identify and attack the extremist elements of the Republican party and demand that Bush not cater to them in his choice of nominees. MOVEON's creating an ad that will raise the "extremist issue through the Schaivo case. If they do this, if they accept that they cannot get a judge willing to uphold Roe v. Wade, they are just going to go for the wacko defense.

While this all makes a certain degree of short-term sense for the people in congress, it doesn't make sense to me. If you don't fight for the rights you want, nobody else will do it for you. If the "opposition" party is not commited to upholding legal abortion, it is clear that support for abortion on demand without apology has to be made VERY clear by America's citizens. On Counterpunch, Nicole Colson recently argued that the strategy is to take it to the streets, and I agree. I went to a huge abortion rights march in DC last Spring - it was one of the biggest DC marches in US history. We complain that Bush doesn't pay attention, but the bigger problem is that the Democrats, who profit at the voting booth from pro-choice voters, didn't appear to pay attention. While NOW and NARAL built support for the Dems, the Dems response was erm...Harry Reid and Hilary Clinton calling abortion a "tragedy." OY Gevult.
Off the tuchas.. we need a big march that tells those people in congress - you are accountable and we demand that you put up a fight, not just against the worst evil, but for legal abortion, in those halls of congress.

here it is, July, and the garden is happily growing. Posted by Picasa

The hollyhock is coming along. Posted by Picasa

The sundial mix has spread all around the impatiens, the phlox, and even the gardenia bush. Posted by Picasa

This back corner of the garden is looking fine Posted by Picasa

Those 2 foot cosmos...I grew them from seed and they're finally full grown and blooming. Just lovely Posted by Picasa

The bulbs...I thought I had turned them over in my enthusiasm this Spring...but they have begun to shoot up. In a month, they'll be huge. Posted by Picasa

the miniature rose bush is thriving Posted by Picasa

once the bulbs sprouted, I could fill in the gaps in the garden Posted by Picasa

Legislature to straphangers: Drop Dead?

While we were all distracted with that Jets stadium, the State legislature just went and vetoed the MTA capital plan. A lot of the money in the plan is for repairing stations, which probably is necessary, but I wish they would at least get enough money to stop the track fires. Although it's not the last step, this veto doesn't bode well. As the Straphangers campaign urges, the capital plan is important because
New York State under Governor George Pataki has forced the MTA to rely more and more heavily on borrowing backed by its operating budget. As a result, the MTA has been forced to borrow or refinance $22 billion-plus in bonds and now faces a huge and growing bill. Its yearly interest payments on the bondsãcalled "debt service"ãwill double between 2003 and 2007, going from $800 million to $1.6 billion, placing huge pressure to raise fares and cut service. At the same time, Mayor Bloomberg has cut $90 million from the MTA's current five-year rebuilding plan.
At this moment when we're not in a fiscal crisis, let's all remember that moment when we were.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Free Trade Fictions

agggh... And while people might want to get all abstract with this business, let's just rememebr that CAFTA isn't so free, as Mark Engler, of Counterpunch points out:
Some of the main beneficiaries in the U.S. are likely to be large pharmaceutical companies. CAFTA's intellectual property provisions would stop poorer countries in the region from producing inexpensive, generic drugs. Dr. Karim Laouabdia of the Nobel-prize-winning organization Doctors Without Borders--which has been providing generic antiretrovirals to Guatemalan AIDS patients--argues that new patent protections "could make newer medicines unaffordable." For his group, this "means treating fewer people and, in effect, sentencing the rest to death."
I find nothing more annoying than being in arguments with the ultimate in liberals, supporters of free-trade. Many of them are very nice people, they just don't understand that "free trade" really is all about free for the people who have already spent a lot of time building up their economies with very unfree trade. Immanuel Wallerstein is always helpful in these debates. He recalls this scenario when the British and the Dutch were in constant trade conflict:
The strong countries are in favor of free trade only up to a point. For example, in the seventeenth century, the Dutch (then called the United Provinces), who were then the most efficient producers (and traders) in Europe, preached the virtues of free trade to a weaker England and France. But that didn't mean that the Dutch didn't protect certain markets. In 1663, Sir George Downing, a British statesman, bitterly noted about Dutch policy: "It is mare liberum [open seas] in the British seas but mare clausum [closed seas] on the coast of Africa and the East Indies." The British had to fight three maritime wars with the Dutch to even the playing field in world trade for them.
As he also points out, that the same holds true today. While the US may be all for free trade in Central America, it certainly isn't all for free trade when it comes to setting up new businesses in Iraq.
If there were a hypocrisy meter in this country, it would have broken a long time ago. I just can't stand it.