Tuesday, September 19, 2006

War Looming?

Someone asked me if I was OK because I haven't been keeping up the blog lately. Sorry folks, school started August 30th, and I've been pretty fried by the end of the day, most days and the AM fresh hours are dedicated to proofreading and footnote chasing. The other spare minutes, when I could be blogging, I admit, have been spent frittering.
But amidst all this relatively minor business, I keep hearing somewhere in the background, on the radio perhaps, or the CNN notices that pop up in my email (no wait, that was about Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston) that we are on the threshold of war.
For thoughtful reflections on the possibility I recommend the Daniel Ellsburg's recent "reporter's notebook" in the October issue of Harper's (sorry, they don't have it up on their site). However, you can find a reference to it at Editor and Publisher along with examples of the distortion of informaiton (ie, lying) going on in the Bush admin. Here's Ellsberg's call to action:

Indeed, Ellsberg had called for insiders, such as Clarke, to come forward before the Iraq invasion, in a January 2003 interview with E&P.

Assuming Hersh’s so-far anonymous sources mean what they say -- that this is, as one puts it, 'a juggernaut that has to be stopped' -- I believe it is time for one or more of them to go beyond fragmentary leaks unaccompanied by documents. That means doing what no other active official or consultant has ever done in a timely way: what neither Richard Clarke nor I nor anyone else thought of doing until we were no longer officials, no longer had access to current documents, after bombs had fallen and thousands had died, years into a war. It means going outside executive channels, as officials with contemporary access, to expose the president’s lies and oppose his war policy publicly before the war, with unequivocal evidence from inside.

Simply resigning in silence does not meet moral or political responsibilities of officials rightly 'appalled' by the thrust of secret policy. I hope that one or more such persons will make the sober decision -- accepting sacrifice of clearance and career, and risk of prison -- to disclose comprehensive files that convey, irrefutably, official, secret estimates of costs and prospects and dangers of the military plans being considered.

What needs disclosure is the full internal controversy, the secret critiques as well as the arguments and claims of advocates of war and nuclear 'options' -- the Pentagon Papers of the Middle East. ...

The personal risks of doing this are very great. Yet they are not as great as the risks of bodies and lives we are asking daily of over 130,000 young Americans -- with many yet to join them -- in an unjust war. Our country has urgent need for comparable courage, moral and civil courage, from its public servants. They owe us the truth before the next war begins.

For people who generally know something about "what the hell is really going on"....I am turning today to Consortium News.

It seems to me that the US is in no position to expand the so-called war on terror. However, an anon commenter alerted me to this alarming rumor at Matthew Yglesias' blog. It seems crazy, but I find myself wondering "will they stop at nothing?" After all, the Bush admin has not been known for its wise caution, foresight or morality so far.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ack! The Primaries

Perhaps I should have been blogging about the primaries BEFORE they happened, but last week, I couldn't get to my desk because a huge pile of David Yassky literature was blocking the way. Thank goodness that craven ass didn't win. Unfortunately, Jonathan Tasini got only a small proportion of the New York vote. As Tasini points out in his own dailykos diary, he was polling in numbers similar to Lamont's in Connecticut at the beginning of the primary campaign. However, Tasini's campaign got nowhere near the support or publicity that Lamont's did. Why? The only answer I can think of is fear. Progressive Democrats hate Hilary Clinton, but they don't think Tasini can win. Therefore, they didn't vote for him. So, I'm glad to see that people in other states are a little bolder than the lily-livered dems of New York.

For example, Minnesota democrats just voted for Keith Ellison. Good for them.
I don't generally follow political races outside New York (and I barely follow the New York races) but I notice that my old buddy, Keith Ellison won in Minnesota. That's good news.
I met Ellison in the mid-1990s when he was defending my friend Kieran, who'd been charged with felony assault after defending himself against a Nazi skinhead at an anti-Nazi demonstration. It was my understanding at the time that Ellison was a member of the Nation of Islam, and we had a few interesting conversations about Jewish and Black identity. He was sympathetic (as I've found many Black nationalists are) to anyone with a strong Jewish ethnic identity, and asked me if I was perplexed by the Jewish student who was testifying against Kieran. (I was - the kid seemed to feel that self-defense was just mean.)
Knowing him over the years, watching him defend young white guys who'd gotten into conflicts with neo-Nazis, I never found Ellison to be an anti-semite. In fact, because he took on at least two big felony assault cases during which he had to cross-examine pea-brained neo-Nazi boneheads, he probably knows more about anti-Semitism than most people want to. Despite this, and despite his voting record in the Minnesota stage legislature, I imagined that his involvement or association with the NOI would lead to accusations of anti-Semitism. Of course it did, but the accusations didn't stick. Plenty of other people have had the same kind of experience with Ellison that I've had, which is why they voted for him, and it's also probably why the American Jewish World, Minneapolis' mainstream Jewish newspaper, endorsed him in the primary.
The only thing I'm disappointed to see is that Ellison's taken a pretty conservative position on Israel, and even says in his campaign literature that
Iran is the leading sponsor of international terrorism as well as the major financial supporter of many radical groups that threaten moderate regimes throughout the Middle East.

The reality is, however, that taking any other position on this issue is likely to result in losing the election, especially if you are a Muslim.
Middle-East politics is not the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Keith Ellison. I knew him as a lawyer who specialized in indigent criminal defense, and as an activist around the issues concerning the urban black poor. I heard him give a great talk at a 1998 prison conference I helped organize in which he pointed out that the Minneapolis police's gang task force listed a number of Black gangs, and argued for a policy of aggressively surveilling suspected/potential gang members (ie, black teenagers), but only one white group: the "baldies," an anti-racist skinhead group that had by that time not existed for at least ten years. If they included the Aryan brotherhood or other white biker gangs, he suggested, they might be able to do something about the methamphetamine traffic in the area. Of course, that was long before "meth" became a national scare.
Ellison is an engaging, open-minded fellow who defies easy stereotypes of the Black nationalist bogeyman. He had me as a guest on his radio show once with David Roediger, whose work on whiteness interested him. He also showed himself to be an all-around nice person, not a lofty activist superstar. One snowy morning I was standing at the bus-stop waiting for my ride to the U and a car drove up, it was Keith, offering me a lift to school. Of course I said yes, and on the way, for some reason, he started talking to me about how much he liked Molly Ivins. Is that what you expect the "follower of Farrakhan" to be talking about or thinking about on his morning drive? Well, he may surprise you yet.
Big ups to Minnesota for being out in front and choosing one of the few true progressives to run for congress as a Democrat.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Crimes Against History Volume II

Given this administration's propensity for varnishing, hiding and erasing "reality," if I wrote about recent history often, I could do two or three "crimes against history" entries here every day. Nonetheless, the news about ABC's recent "docu-drama" "The Path to 9/11," posted by an anonymous commenter the other day is worth its own special space in the annals of distortion.
America Blog has the basic overview of a tv show that distorts the history of 9/11 so intensely that the democratic leadership of the Senate has written a letter of outrage. In the alternate universe of conservative bloggery, David Horowitz's crowd proclaims it an "outstanding" and "epic" piece of work.
Sheldon Rampton at Firedoglake has an excellent and well-researched articlee on the propaganda piece, which gets to the bottom of some of the conservative talking points in the show's current promotion, such as the claim that some on the right are calling it Bush-bashing leftism. Not so, he indicates,

When challenged to explain why the right-wing blogosphere is abuzz with praise for the film, director David Cunningham responded that "we are also being accused of being a left wing movie that bashes Bush" — a claim for which there is absolutely no evidence. I searched Technorati for mentions of the film and found 260 references, mostly from conservative websites, every single one of which had nothing but praise for the film. And although I found numerous examples of conservative pundits and bloggers who reported seeing pre-broadcast screenings, no leftist pundits or bloggers had been given a chance to see it (unless you count Salon.com’s roundup of several 9/11-themed movies).

I'll be asking my students if they watched it. My guess is that they won't have, but despite one commenter at FDL saying that "nobody's going to watch this turkey" my guess is that many will and will come away believing a lot of the inaccuracies. Most Americans don't keep up with the history of events that happened last year, much less back in the 1990s. Everyone thinks there is a "secret truth" behind 9/11. You can't go to a public event in NYC without encountering 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Believe me, people are able to incorporate both the scenes of Clinton mismanagement and Bush intentionality with no cognitive dissonance.
On a certain level...should there be? Is it the job of anti-war and anti-Bush activists to protect Clinton's treatment of Bin Laden in contrast to Bush's? After all, both Bush and Clinton are responsible for maintaining policies that antagonized people in the Middle-East, such as the US bases in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. But recognizing a long term policy continuity doesn't mean that, as the ABC show purports to show, 9/11 is just "Clinton's fault." I'm annoyed by the inconsistancy in the average right winger's view of foreign policy. There seems to be no underlying principle in any of it. Moreover, there's just no debate about the competence issue.
I do remember when Bin Laden first hit the US news, and the main thing that people were saying on the street in my mostly Somalian neighborhood at the time was, "Bin Laden is the CIA's man." Of course most of those folks got crushed during the post-9/11 crackdown because of their immigrant status and their habit of sending money home to relatives....so who knows where that kind of historical memory is now.
I'd say that being suspicious is no guarantee of protection against ABC's fakery. Without a clear way of measuring various pieces of evidence, people do and will believe almost anythiing they see on television news shows or read on the internet. People are both suspicious of everything and willing to believe anything. It makes it hard to come up with a way to talk about anything real at all. All our news has a fantastical quality to it these days. What Larry Beinhart calls "Fog Facts" are around by the hundreds, but instead of paying attention to them, people are concerned instead with glimpsing whatever mystery "truth" some pr flak is handing out on the corner.
and now, time for bed.

Monday, September 04, 2006

West Indian Day Parade 2006

I was cooped up inside working for most of the weekend, but managed to make it out for the West Indian Day parade one more time. Next year, I'm going to have to figure out how to get to the pre-parade j'ouvert. It's hard to imagine an all steel pan band instead of the soundtrucks .
This time, I found a good spot, and I got some pretty good pictures. What I love about the parade, and carnval traditions in general, is the mixture of young and old. While there is obviously a focus on young ladies in beaded bikinis, there are young kids, and old gramps and grannies getting down too.
Thanks to my friend from Trinidad, who came with me to the parade last year, I even knew which stand to hit this time, and I brought a delicious smelling roti home with me for later.
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Friday, September 01, 2006

Bad News for NY Radio Listeners

Ever since Air America cancelled "Morning Sedition," a radio show that had become an essential part of my waking routine, I've listened to the station less and less and have started switching between Air America, NPR and WBAI in the morning, but mostly between WBAI and NPR. Last week the station also cancelled the popular evening show "The Majority Report," which has brought us Sam Seder one of the funnier and smarter liberal/progressive commentators out there on mainstream radio. I cancelled my subscription to Air America Premium - not a moment too soon - as there was hardly even anything left to podcast, and I resent paying a network to listen to shows that have been cancelled in my area. This week, it was announced that the management had fired Mike Malloy.
This morning I woke up and remembered, "hey it's September 1st, that means the station has made it's move to 1600 am in NY wonder whether I can get it." So, I tuned to the new station and discovered that though I could get the weaker-signaled station in my apartment, I don't know if I want to. Instead of Mark Riley or Rachel Maddow, I heard some pieces of "Sammy and Army in the Morning," the regular AM show on 1600 am. Who are they? I don't know about Sammy, but "Army" is the not-so-recently disgraced Armstrong Williams.
I checked the stream on the web, and they are still streaming the "Mark Riley" show (though Bill Crowley is sitting in) and Rachel Maddow is on the stream too, but in NY, it does not sound so good. Meanwhile, WLIB, the major Black-owned station in NY, has become an all-gospel radio station and its few regular talk shows, including Al Sharpton's "sharptalk" have all been cancelled, according to this article in the Amssterdam News. Supposedly, Sam Seder is going to replace Jerry Springer in the 9-12 slot starting September 18th, but who knows whether the new NYC station will feature the new show.
There is still WBAI to listen to, especially on Fridays when Mario Murillo still hosts the morning show, but I find many BAI shows unlistenably earnest and I am not at all interested in all the "alternative health" shows that seem to dominate the programming way too often.
I heard Bernard White speaking cheerfully of Air America's failure when I heard him talking a couple of weeks ago on "Wake Up Call" and was disappointed. I understand that the two stations are to an extent competing for listeners in NY - I certainly stopped listening to the WBAI morning show while Maron and Riley were on - but it seems like there should be enough listeners to support one seriously left community radio station like WBAI and one humorous-progressive station like Air America. WBAI is at times ideologically narrow, so Air America could appeal to a wider audience, and had something that has been seriously lacking at WBAI: a sense of humor. It also has commercials, and depends on advertising, which is, White points out, why it couldn't survive as a genuinely progressive station. I agree with his explanation of the station's move to 1600 and its continuing decline having to do with the need to maintain advertisers, but both stations have been victims of the constant anti-left carping of the corporate media. Air America's programmers could just as easily criticize WBAI for its failure to raise enough money and maintain a broad listener base.
Now that Air America is quickly disappearing as a serious competitor for progressive listeners in NY, I am wishing that WBAI would take the internal criticisms of the station as an experience for real listeners a bit more seriously. I was active in the campaign to save the station back in 2002, and was overjoyed when Wake-Up Call came back, and WBAI has initiated some new shows, particularly Michael Ratner's, that are very good, but over the last few years, I've gotten impatient with the station, especially in the morning. The constant pledge drives are a sign of trouble, and I can't stand the endless playing of archived speeches of various left-celebrities when I want to hear current news, not old-time rhetoric.
That's all for now.