Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Just some links to cool articles. School and Procrastination Go Together, Dontcha Know.

Here's a juxtaposition. There's this article in National Geographic about the 96% similarity between humans and chimpanzees.

And here's some more examples of Americans' general agnosticism when it comes to science. This should provide more proof than ever that the ready availability of information doesn't automatically lead people to believe the best argument.

Here's an interesting article from "urban cartography" about the class and race biases in the evacuation "plan" for New Orleans. Here's a set of image+captions that notice racial bias in description of flood victims from Alternet's Evan Derkacz.

Oh yeah, and here's an article you've just gotta read. Didn't like the first few reasons for the Iraq war? Here's another one. yeah, that's the ticket.

Un-American Accusations

I woke up to hurricane news this morning, as I'm sure most people did, and it is terrifying and sad to hear about whole towns gone. How will they pull off evacuating 20,000 people from the superdome? According to the The (London) Times, the answer is once again, as it is with everything: prayer. really:
In the Superdome stadium, where an estimated 20,000 people have taken shelter, some for days, in dark, unsanitary conditions, the floodwaters have rolled in and are starting to rise. Governor Blanco promised the stadium would be evacuated and asked people to pray.
I know that 2/3 of Americans responded in a poll that they believed creationism should be taught in schools. (I don't believe it for a minute), but would the governor telling you to pray give you confidence?

In a stunning political move, Bush has finally stopped vacationing.
Silver Lining: I read that 123 Walmart stores were destroyed.
Really, you know it's not funny. This is distressing news and I'm afraid there will be more like it to come.
When I talked to my students about research sources using the hurricane as an example, the one thing that nobody said they'd do if they were studying this hurricane one hundred years from now was look at the scientific research and meteorlogical records. They probably didn't think about that stuff because the mainstream media doesn't discuss the most relevant scientific research. In fact, the right wing media argues that even talking about global warming and Katrina is, you guessed, it, mean and un-American. (When I was looking at the right-wing "worldnet" I noticed that the previous article's headline compared looting in New Orleans to post-US invasion Baghdad. Plus ca change....the point of comparison for American urban rioters used to be Vietnam.)
Notice this weird contrast. I just looked up "global warming" on google news nd came to a story that google headlined "global warming not to blame." I clicked on the story and found this article from the Independent: "King: Global Warming May Be to Blame. The article describes how British and US scientists all agree that the increased power of hurricanes is related to the increasing surface temperature of the ocean. The single person quoted as arguing against global warming' s relevance was meteorologist, William Gray of Colorado.

The other most interesting news item of the day is about that Scottish police officer who came forward to say that the US and Great Britain teamed up to fake the evidence in the Lockerbie Pan Am 103 case.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

thank you to and google images. Posted by Picasa

Bush and Caligula

I would not be surprised if, given our Emporer's wacky interpretation of world events and his summer reading, and the potential influence of the new HBO series, "Rome," he decided to emulate Caligula, and wage war on the ocean in revenge for hurricane Katrina. I can imagine the strategy exactly. Rather than hitting the Gulf stream directly, he could suggest that the troops gather on the shoreline in another region, perhaps the Atlantic coast of France, in order to launch a surprise attack and of course, draw the terrorists there in order to keep them from us here. Line up and start picking up seashells, men!
I'm thinking about ancient Rome because I was cleaning out my office in preparation for the new year, and found a packet of instructional materials sent to me by HBO, which is marketing its series as a supplement to ancient Western civ. classes at the college level. Some of the sample activities suggested in the packet include having students research Roman "unemployment" and the "grain dole" in Rome, and to compare it to issues surrounding American welfare. This sounds reasonable, right? But, not to a historian, because unless you're Andre Gunder Frank, you don't think Ancient Rome was an example of a capitalist economy, so it's hard to see how "unemployment" as a concept even makes sense.
I'm sure the students will all want to research Roman sex. There's a lot of it in the first episode. I can see it now, "And now students, please go home and do your assignment of watching soft-core porn interspersed with battle scenes and assasination plots." I do have a question though, to which I couldn't find the answer. Did the Romans really have sex in front of their slaves?
The fact is that all Ancient history profs. will now be forced to watch the series in order to respond to such questions in class, but I am amazed at HBO's pretense to academic seriousness with a show that Newsweek describes as "I, Claudius on Viagra."
I did teach ancient history once, and I recognized some actual historical events in the first episode, but like a lot of historical dramas, its focus on historical accuracy seemed to be on costume and set design rather than on say, language. It's not that I expected them to speak Latin, or put all the verbs at the end of the sentence, but is is because of "I, Claudius" that all the characters in Rome speak with British accents? Who knows, but judging from what I've seen so far, I think it comes from Suetonius who's a lot of fun, but my 8th grade Latin teacher told me to take him with a "serious grain of salt."
It does seem apropos for "Rome" to be the new media sensation; maybe a really historically accurate Rome makes great 21st century TV because of all the sex, violence, animal sacrifice, etc. That says something about our contemporary empire...we'll watch "bread and circuses," but with a critical, perhaps an "ironic" eye. In all the presentist questions on HBO's packet, why is that no one asks, "What was the effect of the empire's spread on the political character of the Roman republic?" Now that's something that concerned even the Romans.

Monday, August 29, 2005

NWA Strike, links about IAM vs. AMFA

Can you trust the NYT as a source of information about a strike? I wonder, especially when the article appears in the Business section. The headline and opener for the article emphasizes "dissenters" among striking mechanics at Northwest, who have criticized the union for going out on strike without allowing membership to vote on the contract first. This is one of the most misleading openers I think I've ever seen in a news story. First of all, union leadership usually does not put a contract up for a vote until AFTER management and the union bargaining team have agreed to a compromise at the bargaining table. Before they'll agree to anything in that context, and certainly before they do something so risky as call a strike, union leaders tend to do everything they can to find out what the membership thinks and is willing to do. Indeed, as the NYT story indicates in the 11th paragraph, On Sunday, Mr. Delle-Femine said he stood by his decision not to bring the offer to a vote. "We put out feelers on that," he said, adding that only a small minority of union members thought the offer was worth voting on. "We would have been hung if we brought it out to ratify." When the strike vote was taken, 93% of the membership was in favor, but that information also comes towards the end of the article.
So this idea of AMFA's dissenters is a non-story.
For better information, I recommend this article by Peter Rachleff, whom I trust when it comes to all labor news. WBAI's "Building Bridges" has a downloadable show on the Northwest Strike featuring Mark Taylor. An old comrade of mine from Minneapolis, Brad Sigal, did a nice job covering the AMFA demonstration in Bloomington, MN. (there's pictures too)
In a lot of the current news coverage on the NWA strike, you'll see references to AMFA's rivalry with the IAM. The only thing that sounds bad to me about AMFA is its identity as a "craft union" and suggestions by its detractors that it is an elitest union that split mechanics off from baggage handlers etc. It has been criticized also for building itself entirely through raiding the AFL-CIO IAM. However, I'm not so sure that I believe what probably amounts to IAM propaganda on this one, and I'm certainly dubious of any Teamsters' defenses. Pretty much everyone I trust on the issue of union democracy suggests that AMFA's success in winning members away from the IAM is not about its "craft union" identity, but about its rejection of concessionary contracts, and its democracy-friendly small size.
In contrast, the IAM leaders have not been exemplars of solidarity, confrontation or democratic practice. For example, they have a record of forcing concessions on their members again and again. and even attacking their own locals. This comment from Richard Lesnick, who shifted to AMFA provides a view different from the ones you'll see in the mainstream media. Among other things, he says: Our experience with the AMFA campaign (including the one where we
campaign FOR the IAM) was that the best workers were with AMFA, and
the most hidebound, demoralized and concession-minded workers were
with the IAM.
You can read a longer article by Miah and Lesnick at Greenleft.
Even if you are determined to believe that "boring from within" the IAM is the best strategy, this piece from "Working Life" points out that the loss of this strike could have a catastrophic effect on the labor movement as a whole. Both the "Working Life" article and Mimi Rosenberg of "Building Bridges" bring up the frightening analogy of PATCO...while the Minnesotans seem to be bringing up the analogy of the heroic (but failed) P-9.
Meanwhile, machinists at Boeing, who belong to IAM, are also considering a strike, an indication that the rivalry from AMFA may be pushing the AFL-CIO's IAM into a more challenging posture.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Procrastination Fatigue

sorry no blog entries for days. I've been pointing and clicking a lot lately though, getting my courses all ready for the first day of classes at CUNY tomorrow. Do you notice how much extra work the internet has made for teachers? It's great in lots of ways: information at your fingertips, digitized libraries and journal articles, archival sources galore. However, if you're like me and make those blackboard courses, the amount of time setting up the website for the course adds about a week to your pre-semester prep-time. And of course, there's also the fact that you need a "plan B" because things invariably go wrong.
ok, whine, whine, whine.
There's a lot worse stuff going on in the world, but I'm mostly unaware of it, as I sit listening to Chuck Prophet's "The Hurting Business" over and over again.
Since I'm working on American history syllabi at the moment, this song might be the most relevant; though for the record, I do think apologies do some good, even if some things are past forgiving.

Everybody wants an apology
Me from you, and you from me
The accursed from the blessed
The Great Northeast from the Old Southwest
Everybody wants an apology

Everybody wants an apology
CBS from the MTV
But it always takes too long
And it always comes out all wrong
I don't even want your apology

Someday soon the Vatican is gonna call
One day even the warden's going over the wall
The shoulder from the road
The Cancer from the Scorpio
Someday soon the Vatican is gonna call

How can I swallow every little thing she says
She don't even know Elvis from El Vez
If the King was here today
You know he'd make that sucker pay
She don't even know Elvis from El Vez

Everybody wants an apology
Me from you, me from you and you from me
Tell me what good would it do
If I got down on my knees just for you
Everybody wants an apology

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Vacation Keeps Going and Going

My "vacation" is ending now, and I can bet you I read more books than the president did. I have to get back to work in a minute, but here's a couple of things.
I watched "Real Time" w/Bill Maher last night in hopes of seeing Cindy Sheehan, I did get to see Paul Hackett, but then had to suffer through Kellyanne Conway, who's got to be either the most devious, or the most misinformed person in the media world, Phyllis Schlafly, Asa Hutchison, and Chris Rock, whose occasional jibes about gas prices seemed to indicate that he found the entire conversation a huge waste of his time. I hope he gets some good material about enduring the "discussion" on this show for a future appearance.
I was incensed by that idiot, Conway, almost as much as I am by her buddies Coulter and Malkin. She actually said that women in Iraq were liberated from Burkas. Then, when Maher pointed out that before the occupation, women in Iraq had never worn burkas, Hutchison accused him of supporting Saddam. "Funny," I thought, "it's for that very reason, or at least sort of, that the US supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war; the enemies of my enemies are my "friends." Yes, Mr. Hussein, take all the chemical weapons you want.
If there's one thing that people should know, besides the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the lack of ties between Iraq and Bin Laden, is the fact that the place wasn't (until now) an Islamic fundamentalist state.
Another wacko comment from Conway came as a defense of Bush's long vacations. Americans are unique in this way, she suggested: don't know how to relax, she said, Americans don't know how to take vacations. silly, silly Americans. If the president isn't prioritizing his job, why should you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tanuki on the Bus

I don't know how many of you saw the movie "Pom Poko" which tells the story of a colony of raccoons or "tanuki" (who according to Japanese tradition are magical and have the capacity to transform themselves into humans, teapots,and other animals) who sometimes go into the city on visits, but this story of a raccoon found on a bus to NYC from New Jersey in today's Daily News gave me reason to wonder. Was this creature, described on a website linked above as the "modern-day god of gluttony, boozing and restauranteurs" just on a pleasure trip to visit NY's great restaurants and party spots? If so, his wild weekend was sadly cut short when he was killed at the animal control center on 110th street. There is evidence to suggest a rabies epidemic among New Jersey raccoons.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lefter, Warmer's First Birthday; Police Still Brutal a Year Later

Blog-readers, I realized this afternoon, as I sat through an endless workshop on pedagogy, that it has been exactly a year since I began this thing. There was a hiatus in there between September and Thanksgiving, and then between Thanksgiving and February, when heart-break led me to blog-o-mania, but I'll call this my official blogger anniversary. I started as a way to update some of my friends and family in NY about protests during the RNC last summer, then it became an outlet for compulsive newsreading - with a mission to become a super-famous blogosphere personality. That didn't happen, but Mom, George, and other friends and family, there are a couple of people reading this who I've never seen in the flesh! That's kind of cool...and I've even gotten a spot on the Indymedia websiite. As a result of some things I wrote here, I even wound up in an email discussion about the anti-war movement with Rahul Mahajan, whose excellent blog, empire notes I haven't visited in a while. As for me? Life in my own personal non-bloggie universe is looking better and sunnier than it has in a while... although I have been recently troubled by moths. I may also now be troubled by an old allergy , because my eyes are already itching.
In my efforts to find a picture of something moth-eaten, to explain what my problems will be in a few months, due to marvelous blogosphere magic, I found this entertaining, accented blog.

And now, enough of that self-congratulation, what's in the news? As I said, I was in a meeting all day today, and a similar one all day yesterday, and the day before that it was all about homework and a pounding headache. So, three days out of the news cycle, I was surprised when I listened to the "Free Speech Radio News"and heard about how this past weekend, cops maced, tased, and sicked dogs on anti-war protesters in Pittsburgh. Guerilla News Network has some video and commentary from the organizing group. Since this video shows a woman being tased by the police while she is lying on the ground surrounded by cops, I am quite amazed that the people were able to get video of this quality. If you want more police brutality news from around the US, I recommend this website.

This recent use of tasers isn't completely exceptional, as I just found a report on Pittsburgh cops and tasers from a year ago, and this article from May '05. Even more chilling, was this episode in Florida last October, when the police were using tasers on "unruly school children." Just over a week ago, Minneapolis cops, Timothy Savior and David Mathes, were exonerated for a fatal taser attack, after the coroner determined the heart-attack following the taser use as "natural causes." Just this June, there was another taser-related death.
"Save Our Civil Liberties" notes that: HHuman rights groups say the growing popularity of Tasers is cause for alarm. Tasers are used by more than 7,000 police agencies, and blamed by Amnesty International in the deaths of more than 100 people in the U.S. and Canada since 1999. In a report released in March, Amnesty International said there were 13 Taser-related deaths in the U.S. [here's a description of one] and Canada in the first three months of this year, compared with six during the same period last year.
"There is not enough medical research that shows Tasers are safe," said Amnesty International spokesman Ed Jackson. "There needs to be more alternatives to lethal force. That Tasers are safe is fictitious."

Alternatives to lethal force...hmmm. How about not using force at all...especially when you're arresting people who are already lying on the ground??
As Peter Gorman, of the Fort Worth Weekly shows, tasers aren't used as an alternative to lethal force, but as the "bully's tool of compliance" :
Tasers occupy a strange place in the police rulebook. Law enforcement officers learn what is called a “use of force continuum” to determine what means or weapons they may use in different situations. The “continuum” begins with simple police presence, then moves up to issuing commands, then the use of open hands, and after that, pepper or other chemical sprays, closed hands (including elbows and knees and other takedown moves), the use of a hard baton, and finally, the use of lethal force.

You might think Tasers would fit somewhere near the “lethal force” end of that list, right before a gun. Instead, however, many police agencies place Tasers immediately after the “issuing commands” force level — which suggests to officers that using a Taser is less serious even than a push or pepper spray. Which also means that if an officer asks you to produce your driver’s license and you ask “Why?” rather than immediately complying with the order, there’s a chance, in some jurisdictions, that you could, within their rules, be hit with a Taser for refusing the command. That’s in part how Tasers have begun to be used, not as serious, life-threatening weapons, but as a bully’s tool of compliance, something to get people in line — with sometimes egregious consequences.
That is clearly the way the taser is being used in the video you can see from Pittsburgh.

Last, but not least, there's the Iraqi Constitution; it's the thing everyone is dying for, right?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

google translation magic; Sheehan Roundup

There's a version of part of my blog in German.
Alexander Cockburn has a good piece about Sheehan in the weekend edition of "Counterpunch," in which he discusses at length, "What a truly disgusting sack of shit [Christopher] Hitchens is" and the importance of taking up not just Sheehan's emotional truth, but her demand, "bring them home now."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Internet Hilarity

Sometimes, after reading something or seeing something, I become curious about what other people thought about it, and I, like many ivory-tower-ensconced (not!) academics, am on a perennial search for the view of the "common reader" although I recognize the non-existence of such a banal construct.
I finished reading Patrick McGrath's novel Asylum (now a major motion picture) last night and wondered what "the people" had thought of this very dark book. I also wonder whether Hollywood will change the ending, which I won't spoil for you here. When I went to the amazon page to read the (generally very favorable) reader reviews, I saw a link to this list of "depressing stuff" The list's editor says, "If you like depressing entertainment then you can't go wrong with everything listed hear. I got books, movies and cds here, all of which are very depressing. I'm getting depressed just thinking about this depressing stuff. I'm sure there'll be lots more depressing stuff to be released in the future but they'd have to be pretty depressing to compare with the below depressing books, movies and cds that listed."
And then I discovered another, similar list (containing many of the same titles) with the heading: "So you'd like depressed, but profound." I didn't find this list entirely convincing or in line with my own experience; some of the movies and books listed were sort of redemptive. McGrath's Asylum, and many others, are not. It's not easy to think of a movie without a redemptive ending. As Lawrence Langer pointed out, it's difficult to find a narrative about the Holocaust that doesn't attempt to slap some happy ending on. "Shindler's List" and "Life is Beautiful" are the most egregious (and of course, popular) examples.
Neither of them contain my ultimate in depressed music or movies. It's interesting, if you google this concept, you'll find lots of fora where people are discussing their choices of the "most depressing" movies ever, where "Requiem for a Dream" seems to be the clear popular winner.But a lot of their choices are to me more sad than depressing. Sad can be cathartic. Depressing isn't; it just leaves you flat and hopeless, which is why I'm having a hard time coming up with even ONE "depressing" movie, though I know I've seen a few.

If I had to list them...the most "Depressing" books, movies and films, I'd choose would be:
Ann Petry, The Street
Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight.
oh yeah, and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

Films: I saw it on someone's list, and I'd have to say: "Kids" and also, "Bully" both of which depressed me terribly, not in any kind of interesting way. I was depressed by the vision of the film-maker, Larry Clark, who, I think, hates the teens he documents. Because there's no real insight into the characters' motivations, just a combination of sadism, voyeurism, and moral judgement, his films are not particularly intellectually or emotionally interesting. He, his films, their popularity, they're a symptom of something very wrong, an example of a deeply conservative message masquerading as avant-garde and creative work. In contrast, a good depressing film: "The Onion Field" which may not be redemptive or cathartic, offers some kind of insight into its subjects.

Leonard Cohen: "Suzanne" or "That's no Way to Say Goodbye"? or maybe that whole "best of" album, that I once listened to over and over again until I had sunk into a terrible malaise.
And your votes?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Crowd Control as Heroic Battle

I have a friend in the National Lawyers' Guild of Chicago who sent me a link to the NLG's page where they have now published the Chicago Police Department's training manual for crowd control. Just read the blurb from the NLG:
Crowd Control -- Special Response Team Training -- The Chicago Police Department's training materials on crowd control. Editorial note: Sound boring? Au contraire. Who would have thought that Chicago's finest are taught to imagine themselves as Spartans oiling themselves for the fight to the death before the climactic battle at Thermopylae? Or as part of the massive Macedonian phalanx confronting Darius' Immortals at Issus? Liberal education is not dead, certainly not at the CPD. Also, if you've attended a demo lately, see which participant category you fall into on page 11: "'Single-issue' terrorist," "Emotionally Repressed," "Criminal Opportunist" or "Swept-in Bystanders & the Curious."
I really recommend going to the link. The police also reference the Chicago 1886 Haymarket bomb incident. They note that 8 anarchists were "brought to trial." They don't mention that four were executed, one committed suicide in prison, and all were posthumously pardoned by the Governor. They don't mention that the cause of the bombing was the police attack on a peaceful crowd, while speakers were still speaking, or that the meeting where the bombing happened was a response to the police shooting, the day before, of four striking workers.
My sense, based on reading these instructions, complete with notes to be attentive to first ammendment considerations, is that, while this may be the manual for the official training, that it can't be the "real" training guide. Perhaps there's a nudge-nudge wink-wink element in the training sessions that we can't see in this pdf. My primary experience with DAN (other than having my bags searched repeatedly in airports before I changed my state drivers' licence) was in Philadelphia 2000, where the police were widely praised for not using violence. One of the most important police tactics used there was arresting protesters before the demonstration even happened, confiscating and destroying puppets made for the demonstration, and charging everyone in the house with "blocking traffic."
And yes, folks, that happened before September 11th and the department of future crime.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rock Concerts I Saw Or Wished I Had

Update: It's the end of an era. I've changed the title on this post to deter the flood of Spanish web searchers who are dying to find the lyrics to a popular song that I've never heard, or heard of. I won't put the title of this very popular song in my post out of fear that the flood will continue.
And now...back to the archived post.

I am seriously lucky, as lucky as if I were drinking that crazy potion that Harry Potter had. A few weeks ago, I was browsing for lyrics from "The Hold Steady," everyone's favorite "bar band" when I discovered they were playing a show. I saw them w/my room-mate and they rocked, they really rocked. Every song was a blistering anthem. However, both of us were shocked and disturbed at the amount of liquor they consumed on stage. The whisky bottles, the beers, the champagne for the encore. They were dizzy with their own newfound success, but it was like talking to a really smart drunk, who at first was charming and funny, but became repetitive and obsessive as the night went on. But yes, perhaps they will "save rock and roll." I just hope they go into recovery. Can you imagine what Craig Finn would come up with after being in AA? It would surely be about ten times more profound.
So, my luck continues...Just now, I was happily listening to The Decembrists when I decided to look for the lyrics to "16 Military Wives" and again, just in time - I discovered that the cute little indie-pop stars are playing at Summerstage tomorrow night. oh joy!
I know this isn't much of a diary, but guys, I am in the middle of a deadline crunch for my book. Do enjoy that show if you get a chance.
(five minutes later)
oh, blogreaders!.... Apparently, I'm not lucky enough. I just checked the Summerstage website and it turns out the Decemberists, who are opening for much more famous "Death Cab For Cutie" are sold out. sigh.

If I had to choose one indie-rock band to see this Summer, it would be The Hold Steady. And did you know that those Robin-Hitchcock-wannabes (see how fast the grapes go sour?) aren't even English? Damn! I mean, I can see them anytime; I mean really, the Decemberists are from Portland, Oregon. "infanta," my ass.
No, I'm happy that those guys have made it. I really am.
I've already made plans for tomorrow night anyway, to go to the movies. And, I've gotta read some books.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I ran into this small demonstration in Union Square on my way to the gym yesterday.  Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 15, 2005

Winter Soldier Testimony Still Powerful

I just returned home after seeing the movie "Winter Soldier" at Lincoln Center. Based on the 1971 Detroit "Winter Soldier Investigation," the film delivers truths about US war-crimes in Vietnam that most Americans still do not want to see. As VVAW put it when they heard of Bob Kerrey's leading of a massacre in Thanh Phong,
Knowledge of atrocities is not news to many Vietnam veterans. When returning GIs began telling people what was happening, many Americans didnt want to believe it. In January 1971 the Winter Soldier Investigation was organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War and held in Detroit. Over 100 combat vets testified there about atrocities they had been involved in or witnessed as a direct result of the US military policy of free fire zones, search and destroy missions and body count as the measure of success.
I found it interesting to hear, in the film after the film, that of all the places it was shown in the 1970s, that "Winter Soldier" was most popular in Germany, a place where the memory of crimes in the name of patriotism is now far from repressed.
I was struck during the movie both of how central the conflict over the memory of the Vietnam war still is to our current counter-revolutionary political scene (remember the "Swift Boat Veterans" who attacked Kerry for his role in the WSI?), and how little things have changed. It is a sad day when history is relevant because we really are repeating the worst sins of the past.
In the effort to manage or dismiss the power of the testimony of the Vietnam vets who described atrocities they either witnessed or participated in, the Swift Boat liars and others have been claiming since the '70s that the people who went to the hearing weren't vets, /or that they were being manipulated by the North Vietnamese government (all through the connections of John Kerry and Jane Fonda, apparently), or secretly funded by the Soviets. The detractors of the investigation have written books based mostly on unsubstantiated claims, overblown attention to small details (such as the fact that one individual on the tribunal lied about his rank), and outright fabrications, many of which are cleared up in the wikipedia article linked above, and by >this piece by John Prados. These attempts don't manage to refute the reality of the hearings: that 100+ soldiers came together to tell stories of events that they participated in or that they observed.
When those abstract figures "military Families" and "our troops," the symbols generally used so powefully by the govt's propaganda campaign of saccharine celebration of the war, are interrupted by actual veterans and families who come forward in the flesh to speak the uncomfortable realities of war: death, pain and humiliation, the government's defenders will merely argue that the real people are not "real," and that their stories are inauthentic. The forces of power will continue to insist on the reality of their own stage-managed media-military experience and beg the nation to participate in that image of war, that identity of soldier-hood or national familyhood, vicariously. The arrival on the scene of actual soldiers and soldiers' families: Cindy Sheehan, Alex Ryabov, and all the the winter soldiers breaks that ersatz mythical national family apart. They throw into question the very image that people imagine when they say, "I support the troops." Every one of these eruptions of the reality of war into the fantasized national military family does its job, and that is why their testimony provokes such intense denunciation from hawks. Once their experiences of war are recognized, the war's myth of glory is extinguished forever.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Notice that there are no spots on those rose leaves. Victory! The rest of the garden is healthy too, and I think I have celosia volunteering. Posted by Picasa

staying alive despite the heat Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Cindy Sheehan links, Sky Kingdom stuff

When I check my site tracker, I see a lot of readers from Malaysia looking for news on Ayah Pin. So here's my thought for today....why on earth would people from Malaysia read my blog? Hell, I teach US history and therefore understand something about foreign policy and politics in general, but what I know about Malaysia is entirely gained from the internet, and my understanding of the situation is probably wrong or off in some key respects.
The web is a weird and wonderful thing, whose techno-magic was celebrated? last night in the new Jim Jarmusch movie, "Broken Flowers," one of whose characters uses it for answers to some of life's greatest mysteries. One of the things I've been trying to figure out on the web in relation to Malaysia is how a government can be both secular and have a state religion at the same time. Every source I read on the internet said that Malaysia had a state religion and that the ruling party defines itself as moderately Muslim, which is one of the reasons why the Bush admin wants to maintain a good relationship with them (for Muslim world PR). Nonetheless, a few people responded to my dkos diaries on the Ayah Pin situation by saying that Malaysia is not a Muslim state, but a secular one, with much more religious states within it. It is not Malaysia, but Terregganu, these commenters said, that is religious. But isn't Terregganu in Malaysia? How is it possible that Malaysia is a "secular" government, if one of the states ruled by the Malaysian federal constitution enforces religious law? Is this just the commenter's confusion with the term "secular"?

Closer to Home: For regular updates on Cindy Sheehan and for photos (most recently of the right wing counter protest), go to The Lone-Star Iconoclast. This dkos diary has a good run-down of the recent Washington Post article on Sheehan.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Open Thread: Heard on the Street

Yesterday I was walking near the midtown public library and noticed a woman who was saying to her friend, "All I wanted was some sunflower seeds, and I wound up with my face on a milk carton."
I sure wish I knew the rest of that story.
your turn

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Like A Tree.... Standing by the Water....

I woke up this morning to the sound of Cindy Sheehan's voice, as she was being interviwed on Morning Sedition. As usual, she was great. I'm one of many people enthused about her current effort to challenge Bush on the war. It's wonderful to see her getting covered by the news media, and it's funny to find an entire New York Times article speculating about why exactly Sheehan's camp-out in Crawford, Tx is getting so much attention, (as opposed to speculating about the fascination with runaway brides).
Part of that media attention has involved right wing efforts to deflect one of the most successful, powerful anti-war efforts made so far. That's a distracting discussion of when exactly Sheehan became involved in anti-war activism, and what her original opinion of the Prez. was after her first meeting with him in June 2004. Currently, those on the right are using quotes from this story, which of course doesn't tell us everything about what Sheehan said after the meeting, to argue that Cindy Sheehan, who currently describes her meeting with Bush as one in which he lacked compassion, to say that she is a liar. In the right-wing coverage of Sheehan, the important quote that is not included is this one: "We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled," Cindy said. "The president has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached."
You can see a whole history of Sheehan's activism and find links to others if you go to "Casey's Peace Page." I remember her from her speech during the "Freedom and Faith bus tour," and at the Downing Street Memo hearing sponsored by John Conyers.
Here's a blog that's been focusing on her Crawford protest. AmericaBlog is also keeping up with Sheehan, as are many others. Exhibiting either masochism or morbid curiosity, I went looking for the right-wing take on Sheehan and finally found a blog, whose headline was "Cindy are those Crocodile Tears?" and once again was wowed by the projective quality of right wing rhetoric. In their attacks on Sheehan, these right-wing war-supporters, like Will Malven of the tin ear argue that Gold Star Families for Peace are exploiting the deaths of their children for political gain, because they're "Bush haters," something which in the neocon universe is a cause in itself, rather than a result of the odious policies of the Prez. However, as far as I know, the people in gsfp are not running for office....unlike someone we may all recognize, someone who has made his political career by repeating the words "September 11th" over and over again. Oh, but I guess in that "my country right-or-wrong" mentality, taking off the truth-blinders might cause some kind of psychological meltdown.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Open Thread: Anxiety Index

what more is there to say?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Another Two Years of Waiting Before we Know

I just finished reading the most recent Harry Potter book, and immediately after, to continue the experience, I went looking on the web aftewards to as many fan sites as I could handle. Let's face it, all the currently blogging Harry Potter fans are now in a state of very deep denial. To an extent, I do mean that HP fans are in denial about what actually happened, but there's another kind of denial that really is such denial that we're not even talking about. You know what I mean; it's in the headline. Everyone who's blogging and speculating, and searching for clues from Rowling in her various interviews about what the end of book six meant and what will happen next is in denial about one unalterable truth. We can speculate as much as we want, but book seven won't be coming out for another two years. I think this sad truth is all the more painful because more so than in any other of the Potter books, this one left a lot of very big questions hanging. I agree with the other speculating readers out there that there was something very mysterious and complicated going on in the entire last 60 pages or so of the book.
This kind of suspense will drive me mad for a few days, but two years from now, I swear, I will have forgotten all about horcruxes, the early life of Tom Riddle and everything else,(though I will probably be wondering a lot about that RAB and that mysterious green potion. geez!) and I will have to read the whole thing AGAIN just to be prepared for the finale. I'm just hoping that by then my memory will have gotten so crammed full of other things that I really won't remember it all.
But, if you're potty for Potter, as Peeves the poltergeist might say, and you just are crushed that you're done with the book, may I recommend a visit to the afore-linked "Leaky Cauldron" fansite, which has every possible theory about the meaning of Potter that you could ever imagine, along with several lengthy interviews with the delightful Rowling, who loves to read her fans' creative theories about her books. For those who have already read the book, I suggest also, for laughs, for sociological research, or for whatever: Kevin Drum's page at the Washington Monthly, and some other takes on Potter: from Democratic Underground, from some weird discussion board, and from someone's lesson plan for 7-8 graders
ok, enough for now

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

From Teapots to Outer Space and into Revolution w/the MC5

On Saturday afternoon, I went to see the both the Sun Ra Arkestra and the survivors of the MC5 play Central Park's summerstage. As the show's curator, an enthusiastic and sequined DJ Spooky put it, "it's all jazz and rock and, it's fucking mix culture, man!" He was not a wordsmith, but he was happy. The Sun Ra Arkestra, despite the loss of interstellar traveller, Sun Ra, gleamed in their wild outfits and kept everyone in a good mood and looking for space ships. I went to get some water because the sun was mighty hot, and who did I see in the next line over, but Thurston Moore, tapping his toe, holding a beer, and chatting with some young punk.
As for the MC5...Are you surprised to hear that the show rocked? A lot of naysayers have been out there, disparaging the reunion of the vets as a big "sell out" for a mess of Levi jeans money. Not knowing any of this, but having enjoyed my MC5 records plenty, I was happy to get a chance to hear live this legendary band. The big heavy old-school rock and roll was energizing. I was grinning. I was banging my head like my girlfriend and I used to do when we went to shows at the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill. There were a couple of couples near me who looked like they just hopped out of their SDS reunion photo to kick out the jams. There was a guy in orange and purple and with gray hair who flung every limb in every direction.
Not content to simply enjoy the show, which featured vocalists Mark Arm of Mudhoney, Handsome Dick Manitoba, of the Bronx, and Lisa Kekaula of the Bellrays, I had to do a little research and read about all the things past, including the sweet story of the romance of Fred "sonic" Smith, and Patti Smith, and now going on with the reconstituted revolutionary rockers. Supposedly, a video is coming out, and a documentary has been made, and its home-page has links to a lot of articles about the come-back tour. Here's a nice discussion of the MC5 from a true fan.
The same site will tell you about a controversy between the current band and the surving family of Rob Tyner, the unforgettable lead vocalist who died in 1991.Apparently, Patti and Fred's son, Jackson is also upset with the reunion tour, and with the fact that his father and Rob Tyner are not mentioned on the band's web-page. Interestingly, if you click "DVD" on that page, you'll see a "celebration" of the MC5, but not the film "A True Testimonial" which did come out to rave reviews, but which Wayne Kramer tried to block at some point. oh sigh.
Regardless of all the bitterness involved in the story of a band whose manager, at least, had great ambitions for them (John Sinclair of the "White Panthers" wanted them to be "bigger than Mao") they still had some revolutionary spirit when I saw them, and they finished off their show with the Sun Ra Arkestra. I liked the way they involved guest vocalists, and the music was hard not to love. And politics? Well, they talked about the war while they were on stage, which is a lot more than I can say for some other bands that I've seen since 2001.