Friday, December 31, 2004

Westboro Baptist Group Thanks God For the Tsunami

They must be friends of Ann Coulter...

Raw Story reports that the Westboro Baptist group that picketed Matthew Shepard's funeral has posted on their website thanking God for the Tsunami and the deaths of over 2,000 Swedes:

Westboro Baptist Tsunami Statement

(courtesy of Ddjango who posted this at the Progressive Blog Alliance HQ)



Greg's Digital Retouching Portfolio

This is an online portfolio of a digital artist’s work digitally retouching photographic images. Shows the before and after images—unique perspective in that by moving the cursor over the images it shows original untouched look. Great for body image, production of knowledge/truth, representation/art, issues/projects.)

Greg’s Digital Retouching Portfolio

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Receives $40,000+ in Gifts: No Conflict?

Now I teach at a university--what would people think if students, not necessarily ones who are "currently" taking my class (but perhaps the fraternity brother of some students who are "currently" taking my courses), gave me $40,000+ in gifts.

Justice Thomas Reports Wealth of Gifts

Sister Helen Prejean: Death in Texas

Death in Texas
Sister Helen Prejean
New York Review of Books

An excerpt:

In the twenty-first century, a state governor represents the last vestige of the "divine right of kings," because he has absolute power over life and death— especially when such power is entrusted to politicians motivated more by expediency than by conscience. Faced with a pending execution, no governor wants to appear callous about human life. So governors appoint pardons boards and meet with legal counselors, who take the political heat for controversial cases. All governors claim to agonize over death penalty decisions. All claim to scrutinize every possible angle of the cases of condemned persons facing execution under their watch.

George W. Bush during his six years as governor of Texas presided over 152 executions, more than any other governor in the recent history of the United States. Bush has said: "I take every death penalty case seriously and review each case carefully.... Each case is major because each case is life or death." In his autobiography, A Charge to Keep (1999), he wrote, "For every death penalty case, [legal counsel] brief[s] me thoroughly, reviews the arguments made by the prosecution and the defense, raises any doubts or problems or questions." Bush called this a "fail-safe" method for ensuring "due process" and certainty of guilt.

He might have succeeded in bequeathing to history this image of himself as a scrupulously fair-minded governor if the journalist Alan Berlow had not used the Public Information Act to gain access to fifty-seven confidential death penalty memos that Bush's legal counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, whom President Bush has recently nominated to be attorney general of the United States, presented to him, usually on the very day of execution.[1] The reports Gonzales presented could not be more cursory. Take, for example, the case of Terry Washington, a mentally retarded man of thirty-three with the communication skills of a seven-year-old. Washington's plea for clemency came before Governor Bush on the morning of May 6, 1997. After a thirty-minute briefing by Gonzales, Bush checked "Deny"— just as he had denied twenty-nine other pleas for clemency in his first twenty-eight months as governor.

But Washington's plea for clemency raised substantial issues, which called for thoughtful, fair-minded consideration, not the least of which was the fact that Washington's mental handicap had never been presented to the jury that condemned him to death. Gonzales's legal summary, however, omitted any mention of Washington's mental limitations as well as the fact that his trial lawyer had failed to enlist the help of a mental health expert to testify on his client's behalf. When Washington's postconviction lawyers took on his defense, they researched deeply into his childhood and came up with horrifying evidence of abuse. Terry Washington, along with his ten siblings, had been beaten regularly with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts. This was mitigation of the strongest kind, but Washington's jury never heard it. Nor is there any evidence that Gonzales told Bush about it.

Bush wrote in his autobiography that it was not his job to "replace the verdict of a jury unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware, or evidence that the trial was somehow unfair"[2] (italics added). But new information about a mentally retarded man's battered, abused childhood that his jury never got to hear—wouldn't that qualify?

When Berlow asked Gonzales directly whether Bush ever read the clemency petitions, he replied that he did so "from time to time." Instead, Bush seems to have relied on Gonzales's summaries, and they clearly indicate that Gonzales continuously sided with the prosecutors. One third of his summary of Terry Washington's case is devoted to a detailed description of the gruesome aspects of the crime, while he fails to mention Washington's mental limitations and his miserably ineffective defense lawyer. In response to Berlow's direct question, Gonzales admitted that his conferences with Bush on these cases typically lasted no more than thirty minutes. Berlow confirmed this for himself when he looked at Bush's appointment calendar for the morning of Washington's execution and saw a half-hour slot marked "Al G—Execution."

...

visited Karla Faye Tucker and the other women on Texas's death row in October 1997, four months before her execution. I had been invited by Pam Perillo, Karla Faye's friend, who was also on death row.[3] Pam told me in a letter how she had watched Karla Faye change. She said that when Karla Faye had first arrived at the Mountain View Unit, "she had the foulest mouth you can possibly imagine" and would "snarl" at anyone who tried to befriend her. "She was far from the Lord," Pamela said, "definitely not saved."

In his autobiography, Bush claimed that the pending execution of Karla Faye Tucker "felt like a huge piece of concrete...crushing me." But in an unguarded moment in 1999 while traveling during the presidential campaign, Bush revealed his true feelings to the journalist Tucker Carlson. Bush mentioned Karla Faye Tucker, who had been executed the previous year, and told Carlson that in the weeks immediately before the execution, Bianca Jagger and other protesters had come to Austin to plead for clemency for her. Carlson asked Bush if he had met with any of the petitioners and was surprised when Bush whipped around, stared at him, and snapped, "No, I didn't meet with any of them." Carlson, who until that moment had admired Bush, said that Bush's curt response made him feel as if he had just asked "the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed." Bush went on to tell him that he had also refused to meet Larry King when he came to Texas to interview Tucker but had watched the interview on television. King, Bush said, asked Tucker difficult questions, such as "What would you say to Governor Bush?"

What did Tucker answer? Carlson asked.

"Please," Bush whimpered, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "please, don't kill me."

Carlson was shocked.[4] He couldn't believe Bush's callousness and reasoned that his cruel mimicry of the woman whose death he had authorized must have been sparked by anger over Karla Faye Tucker's remarks during the King interviews. When King had asked her what she planned to ask Governor Bush, Karla Faye had said she thought that if Bush approved her execution, he would be succumbing to election-year pressure from pro–death penalty voters.

Election-year pressure?

Bush was receiving thousands of messages urging clemency for Tucker, including one from one of his daughters. "Born-again" evangelists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, normally ardent advocates of execution, urged him to commute Tucker's sentence. When Pope John Paul II urged Bush to grant mercy to Tucker, Bush responded disingenuously in a letter to the Pope, saying, "Ms. Tucker's sentence can only be commuted by the Governor if the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends a commutation of sentence." On several occasions, Bush stated publicly that in deciding Karla Faye Tucker's fate, he was seeking "guidance through prayer," adding that "judgments about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority."

But there was no way Bush could avoid the godlike power thrust on him as governor. When Russian president Vladimir Putin declared that life-or-death judgments should be "left to the Almighty," he meant that such supposed judgments, even if they are believed to be divine, cannot properly be discerned and administered by flawed human agents. This recognition led him to oppose government executions. But while Bush claimed to leave the judgment of Karla Faye Tucker to God, in reality he exercised his own political judgment and authorized her death.

...

As governor, Bush certainly did not stand apart in his routine refusal to deny clemency to death row petitioners, but what does set him apart is the sheer number of executions over which he has presided. Callous indifference to human suffering may also set Bush apart. He may be the only government official to mock a condemned person's plea for mercy, then lie about it afterward, claiming humane feelings he never felt. On the contrary, it seems that Bush is comfortable with using violent solutions to solve troublesome social and political realities.


The Entire Essay

Eliza Strickland: Does Commercialization Cause Discrimination at Museums

A review of the Guerilla Girls new book The Guerrilla Girls' Art Museum Activity Book.

Selective Thinking: Does Commercialization Cause Discrimination at Museums?
by Eliza Strickland
The New Republic

On a recent wet and blustery evening in Manhattan, the usual art-world types crowded into a narrow art bookstore. A flamboyantly garbed woman clutched a Chihuahua wearing a tiny gold lamé jacket, and earnest students in heavy black-rimmed glasses hovered over glossy monographs. Despite the scrum, it wasn't hard to spot the guests of honor: They were the two women dressed in black from the neck down, and covered in fur from the neck up. The Guerrilla Girls, everyone's favorite feminist art activists, had donned their trademark gorilla masks once again for the release party celebrating their latest publication, a little piece of whimsy called The Guerrilla Girls' Art Museum Activity Book. The impetus for the book, say the Guerrilla Girls, is that as museums become more corporate discrimination takes on a subtler form.

The Guerrilla Girls gained fame in the late 1980s for raising awareness of the under-representation of women and artists of color in museums. They irritated institutions and prominent art-world figures while protected by the anonymity of their gorilla masks. The posters they plastered on buildings around Manhattan in the dead of night caught the eyes of pedestrians the next morning, generating a mix of humor and righteous indignation. Their most famous poster demanded: "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" and announced troubling statistics from the Metropolitan's modern art galleries, such as the fact that less than 5 percent of the artists were women. The Guerrilla Girls have kept up their crusade for more diversity in museums, but their new book focuses on a different but related problem: the commercialization of the art world.


The Entire Review Essay

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Ann Coulter's Christmas Message for the "People of Islam"

Sinking to a new low, the far, far right pundit Ann Coulter puts this at the head of her weblog:

To The People Of Islam:
Just think: If we'd invaded your countries, killed your leaders and converted you to Christianity YOU'D ALL BE OPENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS RIGHT ABOUT NOW!
Merry Christmas

(courtesy of Goose at Comments From Left Field and Liz at Honsberger is a Liar)

South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Site

To find out information, to volunteer, donate or find people:

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Site

Despotism!: The Documentary

(courtesy of Rigorous Institution and thanks to The River for referring me to RI)

Check out this 1940s Encyclopedia Britannica documentary film on "Despotism" ... the big question is--would this be shown in our schools today? In the Post 9/11 Culture of quietism and patriotic intimidation this documentary gains new relevance for our contemporary society.

Watch Despotism: Click on Stream Buttons to the Left of the Page (or save it)

Being Osama

Being Osama

Produced by Ari A. Cohen and Evan Beloff
Directed by Mahmoud Kaabour and Timothy Schwab
42 min., 2004

BEING OSAMA is a one-hour television documentary which opens a window onto the lives of six Montréalers named Osama. Through an exploration of the interior and emotional lives of these subjects, the film connects the experiences of these individual Arab-Canadians to those of their own larger cultural community and to Canadian society as a whole, seen against the backdrop of continuing conflict and suspicion between the West and the Arab/Islamic world. By turns lyrical, observational, impressionistic, and factual, BEING OSAMA is an intimate exploration of six people highly diverse in their backgrounds, interests, and personalities, united by their first name and by their experience as Arabs living in Canada in the post-9/11 world.

Being Osama was chosen "Best Doc" at the Juried Screenings of the University Film/Video Association conference 2004.

CFP: Theories/Practices of Blogging

This is a call for papers for a special theme issue on “blogging” to be published as a threshold issue in the journal Reconstruction. The editors of this theme issue are looking for papers/projects/manifestos on the subject of “blogging.”

Possible topics:
Theorization of the Blogosphere
Blogging Manifesto
Politics and/of Blogging
Aesthetics of Blogs
Activist Blogging
Auto/Biographical Blogs
New Media/Communication Theories and Blogging
New Journalism Blogging
Civil Rights of Bloggers
Global Culture and Blogging
Local Culture and Blogging
Education and Blogging
Gender and Blogging
Race and Blogging
Collective Blogs
Community of Bloggers
Unrealized Potential of Blogging
Critiques of Blogging
Representations of Space/Place on Blogs
Purpose of a Unique Individual/Collective Blog
Audio and Visual Blogs

We are especially interested in the experiences, theories and perspectives of those who actually blog. Feel free to propose other topics to the editors:
Michael Benton (University of Kentucky) and Nick Lewis (co-founder of the Progressive Bloggers’ Alliance and NetPolitik)
Send all queries, proposals and manuscripts to mdbento@gmail.com

Read below about the journal Reconstruction and threshold special theme issues and their deadlines. The editors expect this issue to fill very quickly due to the importance of this subject.
Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture (ISSN 1547-4348) is an innovative culture studies journal dedicated to fostering an intellectual community composed of scholars and their audience, granting them all the opportunity and ability to share thoughts and opinions on the most important and influential work in contemporary interdisciplinary studies.

Manuscripts may be written from any number of perspectives, and with any end in mind; possible sites for articulations may focus on the urban, the rural, the natural, the social, local and global “culture,” politics, (auto)biography, medicine, the body, science, texts (music, cinema, literature), media (the internet, television), myth and religion.

Submissions are encouraged from a variety of perspectives, including, but not limited to: geography, cultural studies, folklore, architecture, history, sociology, psychology, communications, anthropology, music, political science, semiotics, theology, art history, queer theory, literary criticism, ecocriticism, criminology, urban planning, gender studies, etc. All theoretical and empirical approaches are welcomed.

This special issue is a threshold issue. Thresholds are about the transgressing, pushing or collapsing of boundaries; they are about the point of beginning, the entranceway and stimulation. Thus, threshold issues are dedicated to exploring an experimental theme, novel method(s) or theoretical apparatus(es) that might not normally find an audience. Rather than having firm publication dates – due to the experimental nature of their contents – threshold issues are published once a minimum number of acceptable submissions are received. If this minimum is not met by 18 months from the December 13, 2005, the approved manuscripts will be published in the next available issue of the journal.

Information on the preparation of manuscripts for submission can be found Here.

Reconstruction is published quarterly (January, April, July, and October) and is currently indexed in the MLA International Bibliography.

Evil Environmentalists Threaten World!

Grist report

Popular author Michael Crichton's new novel "State of Fear" features an evil cadre of environmentalists that uses secret technology to cause catastrophic natural disasters in order to convince the public of the dangers of global warming. They are aided by gullible Hollywood types and the liberal media. A particularly nefarious group of greens sends agents driving Priuses to dispatch enemies with bites from blue-ringed octopuses. But it's not a joke. Not even a satire. It's a serious thriller, and in the bizarro world that is climate-change debate in the U.S., it's being taken seriously. Scientists whose work is cited in the book claim it cherry-picks facts and distorts conclusions; reviewers say it is didactic and
plodding. It is, however, No. 2 on Amazon.com's bestseller list. We give up.


Michiko Kakutani's review:

BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Beware! Tree-Huggers Plot Evil to Save World

Joanne Mariner: Outsourcing Detention

Outsourcing Detention
Joanne Mariner
Alternet

Why is an American citizen being held without charges in Saudi Arabia? And why does the U.S. State Department seem to have a vested interest in keeping him there?


Outsourcing Detention

Village Voice: 6th Annual Film Poll

My favorite movie of the year was I ♥ Huckabees and the favorite DVD I rented was Cuckoo.

Here's what the critics polled by the Village Voice picked as their favorites:

Take 6 Film Critics Poll

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Something to Think About as Tax Season Approaches

The Trickle-Down Shakedown

Jim Hightower: Billionaire Welfare

Something to think about as the hype for the NFL playoffs starts. The real problem with professional sports is that it is becoming a new form of Billionaire Welfare.

Another great case analysis of this trend of billionaires welfare is in Mike Davis' "The Next Little Dollar" The Private Governments of San Diego" in Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See (see pages 127-144)

Remembering Susan Sontag

I just found out that the public intellectual and social critic Susan Sontag has died at the age of 71.

Susan Sontag, Social Critic With Verve, Dies at 71

excerpt:

"The theme that runs through Susan's writing is this lifelong struggle to arrive at the proper balance between the moral and the aesthetic," Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic and an old friend of Ms. Sontag's, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "There was something unusually vivid about her writing. That's why even if one disagrees with it - as I did frequently - it was unusually stimulating. She showed you things you hadn't seen before; she had a way of reopening questions."

Through four decades, public response to Ms. Sontag remained irreconcilably divided. She was described, variously, as explosive, anticlimactic, original, derivative, naïve, sophisticated, approachable, aloof, condescending, populist, puritanical, sybaritic, sincere, posturing, ascetic, voluptuary, right-wing, left-wing, profound, superficial, ardent, bloodless, dogmatic, ambivalent, lucid, inscrutable, visceral, reasoned, chilly, effusive, relevant, passé, ambivalent, tenacious, ecstatic, melancholic, humorous, humorless, deadpan, rhapsodic, cantankerous and clever. No one ever called her dull.

Ms. Sontag's best-known books, all published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, include the novels "Death Kit" (1967), "The Volcano Lover" (1992) and "In America" (2000); the essay collections "Against Interpretation" (1966), "Styles of Radical Will" (1969) and "Under the Sign of Saturn" (1980); the critical studies "On Photography" (1977) and "AIDS and Its Metaphors" (1989); and the short-story collection "I, Etcetera" (1978). One of her most famous works, however, was not a book, but an essay, "Notes on Camp," published in 1964 and still widely read.


More on Susan Sontag:

A Rigorous Intellectual Dressed in Glamour

Thinking Woman: Susan Sontag Was An Irresistible Force Among Intellectuals

Books and Writers: Biographical Sketch

On Photography

Regarding the Torture of Others

PBS: Video and Conversation With Sontag

Reviews/Essays Published in the New York Review of Books

The WTC Attacks

1992 Don Swaim Interview with Sontag

BBC Audio Interviews

BOOK TV: In Depth 3 Hour Interview

Interview with Bill Moyers

The Novelist and Moral Reasoning

Literature is Freedom

Of Courage and Resistance

Fascinating Fascism

So Whose Words Were They

Notes on Camp

Sontag Discussing and Reading From Her Books Regarding the Pain of Others and In America

Christopher Hichen: Remembering an Intellectual Heroine

Barbara Fraser and Paul Jeffrey: Latin America Today

Barbara Fraser and Paul Jeffrey, working for the independent news service National Catholic Reporter, have produced a ten part report on Latin America Today.

May 14 Part 1 Introduction: Power or credibility?
June 4 Part 2 Economics: Little relief in sight for poverty, debt and unemployment July 16 Part 3 Development: Lasting change by helping the poor without paternalism
Aug. 13 Part 4 Immigration: Opportunity and challenge for Latin America's poor
Sept. 10 Part 5a Truth: an essential ingredient for reconciliation; Part 5b Reconciliation from the grass roots up
Sept. 24 Part 6a Indigenous people: Fighting for rights after centuries of discrimination; Part 6b Health worker brings education back to his people; Part 6c Vanishing forests threaten indigenous groups
Oct. 8 Part 7 Women In Latin America: The gender gap kills
Oct. 29 Part 8 Children: Poverty cuts children’s chances for a future; interview with the Bishop of the Gangs
Nov. 12 Part 9a Church: Base communities, once hope of church, now in disarray; Part 9b Less threatening lay movements favored by church leaders; Part 9c Priests in region grow more conservative
Nov.26 Part 10a Looking ahead: Church groups seek new models of solidarity; Part 10b
The Bishop of the Gangs: An interview with Rómulo Emiliani; Part 10c 'We can't just remain passive,' says Honduran cardinal

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Tuning in With Saul Williams

Q&A: Tuning in with Saul Williams
Rachel Cernansky, Satya Magazine

Saul Williams is a poet and spoken word artist who is not new to the performing arts scene, but has garnered a wider audience since becoming involved with the Not In Our Name project. He helped write their Statement of Conscience/Pledge of Resistance against the war in Iraq, and wrote songs for the project's soon-to-be-released CD (which are also available for download at NotInOurNameMusic.com). Saul co-wrote and starred in the film Slam after winning the Nuyorican Poet's Café's Grand Slam Championship in 1996. His latest book is a collection of poems entitled "She" (MTV Books, 1999), and he is currently starring in the play Tibi's Law.

Saul Williams recently shared some of his thoughts with Rachel Cernansky on art, artistry, and, inevitably, current events.

How do you describe yourself as an artist?

I describe myself as a student and I consider myself an artist. I think that an artist is a vessel and that it's our duty to cleanse and make ourselves as open as possible so that things can enter us and we can filter them out. People relate to [art] and find themselves in it. I often encounter people who say, "Thank you for putting in words something I've been trying to say or have wanted to hear expressed." People relate to the sounds that they've been yearning to relate to, and the people who are able to articulate them through whatever artistic instrument they use -- that's their duty.

How did you get started?

I started out wanting to be an actor. As an eight year-old kid, I enjoyed not only the attention, but the release it allowed me. As I studied acting more over time, I got into the idea of being able to embody a character. Then, studying philosophy and acting, I started realizing that the greatest thing we can do on this planet is come to know ourselves. You can't portray a character without raising the questions that the character raises for yourself. And so I started seeing acting as somewhat of a martial art, where you have to find your center and move from there. Acting allows you to tune in and tune out simultaneously -- you lose yourself and find yourself.

Through practicing that, I eventually started writing my own stuff, and I started writing poetry. I also wanted to be a rapper when I was young, maybe ten or 11, and I started writing rhymes. So it all unfolded over time and turned into what I'm doing now -- which is reciting poetry, writing poetry, but more so, living poetry.

Living poetry -- how so?

I don't believe that poetry is just life on the page. I think that we have to find a way to connect our words with our actions and our actions with our will. When I say living poetry, I mean we have to be courageous in our endeavors. We have to be willing to go places. And sometimes we have to be willing to follow, and I'm not speaking of other people. There've been times when I've written things that have been beyond my own belief system and it's like, Okay, I've been led to this. It is a sort of mathematics -- you're led to a new answer. And it forces me to reevaluate my entire life.

I'm highly inspired by aesthetics -- beauty. I aim to create beauty, because I think that it is perhaps our greatest teacher. A beautiful song or poem -- which may have its harshness, its cruelty -- allows people to pull from it, and grow from it.

Do you feel that politics is inextricably linked with being an artist?

I think that being alive is linked to politics, there is no separation. That's the greatest illusion of humankind, we think that things are separate from each other, that chemistry is separate from biology, and politics is separate from spirituality or what have you. It's all connected. Even for someone to say "I'm not political" -- that's a political statement.

In the realm of artistry, especially in America, where we're dealing with artists (like myself) that encounter the media (like yourself), the question of responsibility comes into play because it is a question of power. The fact that I open my mouth and people listen puts me in a powerful position. Thus I need to think about what I say, because I know that people are affected by it.

When we deal with the current scheme of politics -- war and people like Bush and the current regime and all of these things -- it's extremely important for artists and people themselves to speak up and connect their beliefs to their actions and to their artistry. Especially when the media is on the side of and owned by the corporations. The government, the regime itself, is controlled by corporations. So we have a greater responsibility in this day and age because the government is not doing its responsibility. It no longer truly represents the people, it represents corporate rule, and the demands of supply and demand.

So we, artists, now become the true representatives of the people. People flock to us in connection to our beliefs -- if they believe what we say, they listen to us. Or sometimes it's not that, sometimes they like the beat, or the energy, or think we're cute, or whatever. But either way, we are in positions of power that are no less authoritative than a president or a secretary of defense or what have you. The people are in control, whether the government recognizes that or not -- it's only a matter of the people recognizing that and taking the control which is rightfully theirs. So it is up to the artist, or whomever has the microphone, to remind the people of that power -- to remind the people of their power.

Indeed. It's just that people often tend to underestimate their power and impact as individuals.

Yeah. I think that is because we've been programmed to do so. Radio, TV, media, it's all brain programming. And unfortunately in America our minds have been programmed perhaps worse than the rest of the world; we think we're free because we're told that we are, that America represents freedom. But we have not fully claimed our freedom, because we have not freed ourselves from the stuff that tells us we're free. The greatest Americans -- the most renowned ones that have represented America in the truest way throughout history, the Henry David Thoreaus, the Walt Whitmans, the Martin Luther Kings and even Abraham Lincolns -- have been people that have roamed the wilderness, tuned into their spirits, tuned into nature, and pulled their messages from that. And that's where they've understood freedom and the responsibility and power that comes with freedom.

Right now it's like we are unable to imagine world peace. Why? Because our imaginations have been stolen from us. We can imagine World War III because we've seen it in every movie, every TV show, etc. We cannot imagine world peace because we've never seen it before. We have to start seeing and imagining for ourselves. As prisons and schools are becoming privatized, it's our responsibility as individuals to privatize our imaginations, and once again start imagining and envisioning things for ourselves. People think being American means "I'm free, free to watch as many shows as I want, to play Playstation, to do all the stuff I want to do as much as I want." But that freedom requires responsibility. And your responsibility is to educate and become in tune with yourself -- your highest self. We're talking about something beyond religion and reporting to any synagogue or church or mosque. We're talking about reporting to yourself and to your connection to the universe. Because we are connected and we do affect people. We have to be aware of this and then act consciously.

What advice do you have for people to do that?

Well there are several practical ways. The first is to throw yourself out of your comfort zone; and that can mean many things. It can mean instead of picking up a newspaper, pick up a blank book, and write. What is the news of today? You write it. Turn off CNN. Turn off the TV. Turn off all these external forms of ingestion. Sit in silence, for an hour. Try to still your mind -- not think about anything, anything. We're afraid of silence; but there's nothing more powerful than silence.

That is not always the answer, but in the face of so much propaganda and so much bullshit, that seems to be the answer for us today. Once people realize their individual power -- to love and to love each other -- then humanity is changed for evermore. The greatest resistance to war is love, and love is not resistance. Love is love. It's crazy, we resist love. We're afraid of it, afraid of getting hurt, of being open, afraid of being vulnerable.

How do you explain what's going on to your seven year-old daughter?

I've taken her to several rallies, and she understands what's going on in Iraq to the extent that most of us in America do, which is that there's a war going on and people are dying. She believes it's all about oil. But she doesn't see it. She's at school right now having fun and she doesn't feel impacted by it, except when she sees me angry, responding to what I've heard.

Kids I think across the board are not for war; kids do not want to live in a violent world, you know? So in many ways they're disappointed in their parents or in the adult world that we would allow things to get to this point.

Can you explain your involvement with Not In Our Name?

I helped to write their Pledge of Resistance, and I've written some music for them. I have been speaking non-stop and working with them in saying, We don't condone the atrocities that are occurring by the American government in our name. Since we are tax-paying citizens, anything the American government does, they are basically doing in our names; and if we are not in agreement, then we have a right to stand up.

We don't want people killed in our names, and unfortunately that is exactly what is happening. Here I am, 100 percent against the war -- I'm not one of those people who is saying, Let's just get Saddam out without any warfare -- I'm not thinking about Saddam, to me Bush is a bigger threat, a bigger terrorist. Whatever Saddam has done, he's done to his people; Bush is aiming to impose terror on the world, on humanity itself. Countless Iraqis are dying at this very moment, as we speak, and I'm sitting at home, chilling. And not only civilians, but soldiers, I don't want the soldiers dead. If you really want to support our troops, don't send them to war, don't ask them to fight.

What are your thoughts on the current state of hip hop?

I think people are definitely growing tired of the bullshit -- whether conscious of it or not. Hip hop is reflective of America. And artists are slowly being forced to realize that they have to speak on what matters, because whatever they speak on becomes matter. Slowly but surely, people are turning their ears to the "alternative" hip hop groups. Even the commercial hip hop groups are starting to have alternative alignments -- Jay Z or Eminem with the Roots backing them up. So I'm optimistic that things are shifting for the better, it'll only be a matter of time before hip hop once again is able to feed the people that listen to it as opposed to poison them, which it's been doing for the past, I don't know, decade.

What work are you most proud of?

I don't know, I don't really associate pride with the work [that I do]. I guess I'm most moved by the book that I just finished, which is called, "Said the Shotgun to the Head." It comes out in the fall through MTV Books. It's a love poem -- about 200 pages -- to all of the things that are decaying and destroying the values and ideals of the West as we know it. I think it's the most beautiful/conceptual/political thing that I've ever written. I've worked on it for four years and I can't wait for people to have the opportunity to read it.

Who are your role models?

People like Mohammed, Jesus -- those are the biggest role models. Then there are people like Paul Robeson and Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman has a beautiful quote: "I would have been able to free a thousand more slaves if I could only have convinced them that they were slaves." Which is crazy, to think there were people that did not even know they were enslaved -- during the times of slavery. They just thought, "That's life, this is how life is."

Then there are people like Alice Walker, Jimi Hendrix, Thom Yorke [of Radiohead] -- all types of people, wonderful people -- my daughter, my son. My mom.

Rachel Cernansky is Assistant Editor of Satya Magazine and is finishing up her undergraduate degree in Politics and Nutrition at New York University.

Interview Link

12 Reasons Why Privatizing Social Security is a Bad Idea

Twelve Reasons Why Privatizing Social Security is a Bad Idea
Greg Anrig Jr., Bernard Wasow, The Century Foundation

As the White House gets ready to push forward with drastic reforms to the Social Security system, The Century Foundation looks at 12 big reasons why privatization is a bad deal.

The Reasons

My Business Writing Course

I've been assigned to teacha business writing course and I'm thinking about it...

Since the 203 course begins and ends with units on ethics I'm thinking of screening a movie each of the 4 units centered around ethical issues in business (to develop a groundswell toward that last section)

We will read Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats novel (the last unit has to be centered around a novel that the whole class will read) which covers businnes ethics, globalization processes, media influence, agricultural/environmental issues, food politics and gender issues.

So possible moveis I was thinking about:

Bamboozled: Representational politics
Office Space: humorous looks at office politics
Corporation: (a new documentary--I'm hunting for it)
Matewan: (labor/class/gender/place)
Fight Club: business ethics and terror politics (alienation, fragmentation and
rage)... especially as it is played out in the homosocial world of "tough guise"
(Jackson Katz) posturing and need for control/dominance--especially how
resistance can begin to reproduce the dominant's "terror" (I define terror as
the need to control at any cost) techniques and spiral into the same destructive
patterns

Just random ideas--any movies cross your mind as possibilities?

I was thinking of starting off the semester telling my students I am a conservative ... when they finally start questioning it I would etymologically
deconstruct the word "radical" (rad=roots; radical looks back to an earlier time
to restore an original political context, in this case an earlier conception of
democracy--this, of course, is a conservative move) and discuss how being
progressive is conservative in the sense that we seek to build a better world
for our families, our people, and our communities (we, of course, include the rights
of everyone), and introudce them to Wendell Berry, and explain how George Bush
fits into the neo-liberal model (complete with critiques from leading
conservatives) and is essentially a destructive liberal...

Just a fantasy--ha!

Michael Hardt: On the Politics of Love

The Collaborator and the Multitude: An Interview with Michael Hardt
Michael Hardt with Caleb Smith and Enrico Minardi
The Minnesota Review

Excerpts:

A major event in political and critical theory, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire (Harvard, 2000) turned orthodox thinking about imperialism around, proposing a decentered global network and redescribing capital, in the poststructuralist terms of Deleuze and Guattari, as a dynamic pattern of breaks and flows. The book is one fruit of the continuing collaboration of Hardt, a literature professor at Duke, and Negri, an Italian radical theorist; previously they co-authored Labor of Dionysus: A Critique of the State Form (Minnesota, 1994) and most recently they have written Multitude (Penguin, 2004), which develops a concept of cooperative resistance to the reimagined global order as an alternative to the idea of national liberation.

Before joining the faculty at Duke, Michael Hardt did his graduate work at the University of Washington. He is also the author of Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy (Minnesota, 1993) and numerous pieces of political journalism and criticism. In addition, he has translated Negri’s The Savage Anomaly (Minnesota, 1991) and coedited Radical Thought in Italy (with Paolo Virno; Minnesota, 1996) and The Jameson Reader (with Kathi Weeks; Blackwell, 2000). Relevant to this interview, see also Michael Hardt's essay "Prison Time" in the Yale Review 91 (1997): 64-79. This interview took place on 5 March 2004 in Hardt’s office at Duke. It was conducted by Caleb Smith, a doctoral student in English at Duke, and Enrico Minardi, a lecturer in Romance Studies.

...

Smith: ... I want to ask you one last question, about love and joy. The "Prison Time" essay ends with a line about love, and you've written about the multitude "directing technologies and production toward its own joy." You seem to be reclaiming these terms for political conversation. I won't ask you to define them, but what's involved in restoring joy and love to a field which ordinarily concerns itself with quantifiable values and material production and cash interests?

Hardt: And how can you get anyone to take you seriously when you use those terms? This is definitely an interest of mine, and I think of Toni's, too. We've said to each other for a while, but without finding a way to do it, that we would like to make love a properly political concept. One has to expand the concept of love beyond the limits of the couple, even the psychoanalytic limits of coupling. One good model is through Christian and Judaic traditions, where love means, in a way, a constitution of the community. Premodern notions of love have this political character. As it has gained in sentimentality, love has lost its political efficacy. That’s one project. It seems to me a summation of various things that interest me to think of politics as a project of love.

I started becoming interested in politics as an undergraduate, but I was repulsed by the political atmosphere, which seemed to me mostly an atmosphere of moralism and abnegation—a search for purity, but a search that meant we should feel guilty for the privileges we have and try to avoid them. Or we should maintain a kind of purity by not watching violent movies, eating certain things and not others. In Central America, a lot of the activists coming from Europe and North America were driven by guilt and acting for the good of others. But I learned from the Central Americans that there was another kind of activism which was not about our guilt but about our joy. It was not about going and doing politics because I need to give up something in order to help others—I'm getting something out of it. One group thought, I'm here to help them. The other group thought, I'm here so that they can teach me how to live better.

Helping others is not even in tension with making my life better. All of that is part of the same thing. To make the world better, I don't need to give up things, I need to gain things. I need to gain a more joyful life. I remember a lot of stifling discussions, "Well, you can never get people in the U.S. to do anything because they're all so comfortable, and you'll never get them to give up things." I remember thinking, Man, those in the U.S. are all so miserable; if you could just show them the joy of what a different life could be. I remember thinking about politics, rather than as an ascetic redistribution, as a collective project for the increase of joy. The younger generation of activists today seems to have learned this. If one traces the transformations of activism in the U.S., ACT UP and Queer Nation were a real hinge, making demonstrations fun, making them funny, great slogans. The relationship between a demonstration and a party becomes quite confused.

Smith: Or even a carnival.

Hardt: Right. The whole talk now about movement as carnival is perfect for this. It may not be the only way of conducting politics, but it's the only politics I want. That might be an adequate definition of love: a politics of joy.

The Entire Interview

More on Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri:

Serena Anderlini D'Onofrio: On Hardt and Negri

After Empire

ACME: Special Issue on Empire; Ephemera: Special Issue on The Theory of the Multitude

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri: Multitude--War and Democracy in the Age of Empire

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Questioning the Frame and the Battle for America

(courtesy of Dave Newton)

A powerful video message to those wish to continue the struggle (and for those who may have lost hope):

The Battle for America

James Carroll: God's Clock

(For Chris Hair, my thoughtful, religious colleague who engaged me in a fascinating discussion on the nature of religous belief.)

God's clock
By James Carroll
Boston Globe (via Boston.com)

ONCE A WEEK or so, I come downstairs in the morning to find that the three weights of the grandfather clock in the living room have fallen to the bottom of the oaken cabinet. To keep the clock going, they must be lifted on their chains. I dutifully open the glass-fronted door and grasp each brass cylinder, pulling down on the chain as I bring the weight up -- first one, then another, then the other. I close the door carefully, waiting for its fitted snap.

Once again, the weights will do their work to keep the pendulum swinging, the chimes sounding every 15 minutes and the gong striking on the hour. In this way, in concert with the force of gravity, I assure that time does not stop in our house.

I must occasionally remind myself that in fact, nothing important depends on this clock's ticking. When, through my neglect, the weights descend to the cabinet floor, the chains become twisted and askew, the pendulum drifts to a halt, and the chimes fall silent. A precious harmony is broken, but the earth stops neither its rotation nor its course around the sun. Time does not stop. Birds chirp in the morning and darkness later descends no matter what happens in the living room.

The clock is a sacrament of the passage of time, a way to note the movement of one day into the next, a method of location in the otherwise uncharted ocean whose two horizons are the past and the future. Mariners are fond of saying, especially when the ship unexpectedly runs aground, that the chart is not the sea; similarly, the clock is not time.

I propose this image for our new and urgent discussions about religion. In America, a religious divide has suddenly emerged as politically decisive, and in the world, religion is a runaway engine of violence. A fanatic fringe of Islam asserts its doctrine by joining suicide to murder in Allah's name. In Gaza and the West Bank, some hypernationalist religious Jews stake claims to land with God as guarantor -- disastrous consequences to Palestinians and Israel both be damned. Similarly, America's war in Iraq has evolved into a two-sided holy war, even if only one side explicitly defines it as such.

Meanwhile, mainstream churches waste themselves in conflicts over sexual identity, the new meanings of marriage, and mysteries of the medical frontier -- arguments in which "God's will" is invoked as if sacred texts elucidated the biology of genetics, postsexual reproduction, open-ended lifespan. The "religious right" fervently seeks to impose its definitions of the social good on the devout and the indifferent alike. "Bright" nonbelievers, in turn, match the absolutism of the zealots of faith with absolute rejection.

Such ferocity of human arguments over God, whether in affirmation or denial, reflects a terrible forgetfulness. Religion is to God what the clock is to time. Religion participates in the mystery of what it represents but does not embody that mystery. Not even Christianity, with its self-understanding as a religion of the incarnate Word, does more than enshrine that Word in symbol and sacrament. Indeed, "Word" is the clue, since all religion, however infinite the object of its worship, remains bound by the finitude of language -- and language always falls short of its purpose. That truth applies to religion and science both. Words are to what they aim to express as the clock is to time. That is why silence, too, is a mode of worship. And it is why, also, the language of science always leaves room for what is not known.

When I come down in the morning and see the weights of the clock near the bottom of the case again, my heart sinks at the evidence of the passage of time. But the clock is not the motor of such transience. Arguing over religion is like arguing over a clock, which is precisely what happens, for example, when Darwinists and creationists clash. Their great fight is less over the deep mystery of being than over which timeframe to use in measuring it.

We humans naturally reach toward transcendence, seeking symbols with which to make it present. Religion and science are ways of doing this. So are poetry and music. So, for that matter, is clockmaking. Yet transcendence, by definition, transcends. We should be modest, therefore, in the claims we make on the absolute. And equally modest in the claims we make on one another in its name.

Article Link

Calaca Press

Check out the spoken word/music releases at the independent (and anti-war) Calaca Press. You can sample some of their works in MP3 form here:

Calaca MP3s

Also check out their recent print anthology La Calaca Review

Review of James Ridgeway's New Book It's All For Sale

Could be a good resource for those of curious about the Silence of Lambswool Cardigan:

Raw Deals
Mathhew Fleischer-Black
Village Voice

An excerpt:

The aluminum pan you cooked your egg in this morning began as a bauxite deposit in a mountain in Jamaica. The cinnamon on your toast was once the bark of a tree in Sri Lanka—not a cinnamon tree, either. The cut flowers on your table? From Colombia.

Start questioning where everyday things come from, James Ridgeway tells us in It's All for Sale, and often you will get a surprisingly simple answer. Behind the scenes of it all, he says, a small group of private companies governs trade of the world's materials. Five companies control the flow of petroleum. Four corporations reign over the grain trade. Three each dominate timber, uranium, and tea. Two lead the way on fresh water and coffee, while one each runs diamonds and cigarettes.

Ridgeway, the veteran Washington correspondent for the Voice, traces the journey made by many of the natural materials we depend on. The book is organized by resource. For each item, he sums up how its market developed, where in the world it comes from, and who controls the business now.


Entire Article

Friday, December 17, 2004

Martin Heidegger: On Teaching to "Let" Learn

"Teaching is even more difficult than learning. We know that; but we rarely think about it. And why is teaching more difficult than learning? Not because the teacher must have a larger store of information, and have it always ready. Teaching is more difficult than learning because what teaching calls for is this: to let learn. The real teacher, in fact, lets nothing else be learned than—learning… The teacher is far ahead of his apprentices in this alone, that he has still far more to learn than they—he has to learn to let them learn. The teacher must be capable of being more teachable than the apprentices."

---Martin Heidegger


Quoted in Salvatori, Mariolina Rizzi and Patricia Donahue. The Elements (and Pleasures) of Difficulty. NY: Pearson Longman, 2005: viii.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Philip K. Dick: On the Manipulation of Reality

(courtesy of American Samizdat rebel scum since 2001!)

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words."

--Philip K. Dick

Nancy Duff Campbell and Joan Entmacher: Not Just Your Mom's Retirement

Not Just Your Mom's Retirement
Nancy Duff Campbell and Joan Entmacher
Tom Paine

Did you know that children, disabled workers and families of prematurely deceased workers all collect Social Security benefits? The program truly serves the role of government safety net as it was intended—lending a hand to Americans in their time of need. The personal investment accounts idea being floated by the White House and its surrogates would effectively shred that safety net. Duff Campbell and Entmacher of the National Women's Law Center show how.

Entire Article

Dalkey Archive Press

Dalkey archive and John O'Brien are legends in the independent book publishing world. Check out the history of this press. The pay is not much to start, but for someone seeking to learn this is a good opportunity. O'Brien reminded me of the modern giants of independent publishing who were fearless in their desire to publish the greatest works available (of course what they viewed as the greatest works--but that is the point), a wonderful antidote of publishing according to the bottom line...

If you want to know more about this job, or the place where it is located, feel free to ask as I did my grad work there and worked in the same offices for the Center for Contemporary Literature.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Job Openings at Dalkey Archive Press

Assistant Editor:

Duties will include: copy-editing all Dalkey Archive books; editing CONTEXT magazine; editing the book review section of the REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY FICTION; and proofreading all publications, among other things. We are looking for an ambitious person who can thrive in a creative, fast-paced environment and enjoys challenging work.

Marketing Assistant:

Duties will include: writing press releases; working with our UK distributor and publicity outlets and stores in London; contacting U.S. bookstores; and working on the Dalkey Archive website, among other things. We are looking for an ambitious person who can thrive in a creative, fast-paced environment and enjoys challenging work.

Job Location: The Center for Book Culture/Dalkey Archive Press is located at Illinois State University.

Salary: Starting salary for either position is $24,000, with room for advancement.

Start Date: Applications must be received by December 20th and the start date for the position is January 2005.

Preferences: Preference will be given to candidates with bookstore experience and an extensive familiarity with Dalkey Archive Press titles.

To Apply: Send complete résumé with full work history (including dates of employment and salary history), a cover letter explaining your interest in publishing and Dalkey Archive Press, and what in your background would be useful to working here, an unofficial transcript if you have graduated from college within the past 5 years, and two nonfiction (preferably critical) writing samples. Candidates will not be considered without having submitted all of these materials.

Send materials via e-mail or by regular mail to:

John O¹Brien, Publisher
Dalkey Archive Press
ISU Campus Box 8905
Normal, IL 61790-8905

obrien@dalkeyarchive.com

The 23rd Sigh

(courtesy Julie Barbour)

The 23rd Sigh

Bush is my shepherd; I dwell in want.
He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.
He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.
He restoreth my fears.
He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war, I will find no
exit, for thou art in office.
Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me.
Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion.
Thou anointest my head with foreign oil.
My health insurance runneth out.
Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy
term.
And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.

Critical Art Ensemble: Performative Critics of Corporate Bio-Technology Practices

(thanks to Danny Meyer who sent me an email about CAE current fund raising to fight the government--reminding me to update this post)

US Government's Attacks on Performance Group Critical Art Ensemble

US Government Paranoia in Action: FBI Abducts Artist, Seizes Art

Park, Paula. “Buffalo Case Highlights MTAs: Material transfer agreements can be misunderstood or considered an annoyance, say officials.” The Scientist (August 9, 2004)

Critical Art Ensemble's Online Performative Critiques:

Critical Art Ensemble. “Cult of the New Eve.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Flesh Machine.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Gen Terra: Transgenic Solutions for a Greener World.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Society For Reproductive Anachronisms.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “The Therapeutic State.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Critical Art Ensemble, Beatriz da Costa and Claire Pentecost. Contestational Biology.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Critical Art Ensemble, Beatriz da Costa and Shyh-shiun. “Free Range Grain.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Books by Critical Art Ensemble Available Online:

Critical Art Ensemble. Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media. (Autonomedia, 2001)

---. Electronic Civil Disobedience & Other Unpopular Ideas. (Autonomedia, 1996)

---. The Electronic Disturbance (Autonomedia, 2000)

---. Flesh Machine: Cyborgs, Designer Babies and New Eugenic Consciousness. (Autonomedia, 1998)

---. Molecular Invasion. (Autonomedia, 2002)

Action Site Set Up to Help Defend Critical Art Ensemble

Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund

Kentucky Bloggers: Help Kids in Kentucky

(courtesy of el Oso who comes from the land where the sun always shines)

I sent an email to check this out--any other Kentucky bloggers interested in volunteering?

Bloggers: Help Kids in Kentucky

Web of Influence and Left 2 Right

Drezner, Daniel and Henry Farrell. Web of Influence Foreign Policy November/December 2004 (Every day, millions of online diarists, or “bloggers,” share their opinions with a global audience. Drawing upon the content of the international media and the World Wide Web, they weave together an elaborate network with agenda-setting power on issues ranging from human rights in China to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. What began as a hobby is evolving into a new medium that is changing the landscape for journalists and policymakers alike.)

Glenn, Joshua. New Blog; Old Tricks The Boston Globe (December 12, 2004): (About the collective academic blog Left2Right which includes Rorty and Appiah amongst its members. Dedicated to reaching across the left-right barrier and developing a conversation of ideas)

Paul Krugman: The Death of Horatio Alger

Anyone see Cheney yesterday insisting that congress, for the economic good of the country, must make the tax cuts for the wealthy (of course he doesn't say "for the wealthy") permanent?

The Death of Horatio Alger
Paul Krugman
Alternet

Our political leaders are doing everything they can to fortify class inequality, while denouncing anyone who complains--or even points out what is happening -- as a practitioner of "class warfare."

The Death of Horatio Alger

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Food Not Bombs: Phoenix Park in Lexington, KY--Tomorrow

Last week Wednesday Parks and Recreation and the Health Department showed up and advised us that we would need to get a permit in order to share free food with people at Phoenix Park. We have decided that we will not pursue a permit since food is a right and not a privilege. Anyone is welcome to come and share our food. Food Not Bombs invites you to come out tomorrow and share a meal with us. The Health Department and Parks and Rec. will more than likely be showing up in order to deter our attempt to share food with each other. Please come out and show your support
tomorrow at 5:30pm at Phoenix Park

I hope to see you tomorrow,

Patrick Garnett

About FNB:
Food Not Bombs is one of the fastest growing revolutionary movements active today and is gaining momentum. There are hundreds of autonomous chapters sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The first group was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980 by anti-nuclear activists. Food Not Bombs is an all volunteer organization dedicated to nonviolence. Food Not Bombs has no formal leaders and strives to include everyone in its decision making process. Each group recovers food that would otherwise be thrown out and makes fresh hot vegetarian meals that are served in city parks to anyone without restriction. The groups also serve free vegetarian meals at protests and other events. The San Francisco Chapter has been arrested over 1,000 times in an effort
to silence its protest against the Mayor's anti- homeless policies. Amnesty
International states it may adopt those Food Not Bombs volunteers that are imprisoned as "Prisoners of Conscience" and will work for their unconditional release.

Food Not Bombs works in coalition with groups like Earth First!, The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Anarchist Black Cross, the IWW, Homes Not Jails, Anti Racist Action, In Defense of Animals, the Free Radio Movement and other organizations on the cutting edge of positive social change and resistance to the new global austerity program. One collective publishes a movement wide newsletter called A Food Not Bombs Menu. Another hosts FNB News where you can learn more about the Food Not Bombs community. Food Not Bombs Publishing in Takoma Park, Maryland publishes books like On Conflict and Consensus which has been an important guide for group democracy. We hope you will join us in taking direct action towards creating a world free from domination, coercion and violence. Food is a right, not a privilege.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Companies Rapidly Cutting Health Benefits

Companies Rapidly Cutting Health Benefits
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
Yahoo

Many companies are dropping their promise of health benefits for future retirees, who now might have to stay on the job longer and rely on government health care in their old age.

Eight percent of employers with at least 1,000 workers said they had eliminated subsidized retiree health benefits for some workers this year, and 11 percent more said they probably would do so next year, according to a study released Tuesday by the benefits consulting firm Hewitt Associates and the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Most of those affected were newly hired, but some companies said the change applied to workers who had been on the payroll longer.

The number of companies that offer health coverage to retirees has been on the decline for 15 years.

But among those that continue to subsidize retiree coverage, the move to treat current and former workers differently reflects a desire to leave health benefits in place for those who have already retired despite several consecutive years of double-digit increases in health care costs.

Since 2000, more than 100 large employers have chosen this path.

Some have cut out subsidies but have told employees they can continue coverage under company health plans after they retire, a much cheaper option than seeking health insurance elsewhere.

"Retiree health care coverage is kind of a slowly vanishing species," Kaiser president Drew Altman said.

The prospect of losing health coverage in retirement is troubling particularly to people who are considering changing jobs or who want to retire between the ages of 55 and 64. Younger retirees can find it difficult to afford health insurance when they can't get it from their employers.

Medicare, the government health program for older and disabled Americans, kicks in at age 65. Its benefits typically have been less generous than those offered by employers, mainly because the workplace plans cover prescription drugs. Medicare's drug insurance program begins in 2006.

The employer plans, however, are asking retirees to pay more of their health costs through higher insurance premiums and larger co-pays for doctor visits and prescription medicines.

People who retire in 2004 face premiums about 25 percent higher than those who retired last year, according to the survey of 333 companies, which was conducted between May and September.

Most large employers said they will maintain prescription drug benefits for retirees after the Medicare drug program begins in 2006, the study said.

The fate of retirees with employer-sponsored drug benefits was a major consideration of the authors of last year's Medicare prescription drug law.

To keep more employers from dropping coverage, the law includes up to $88 billion over 10 years in tax-free subsidies to companies that offer prescription benefits that are at least the equal of Medicare's.

In 1991, 80 percent of firms employing 1,000 or more workers offered health coverage to retirees. By 2003, the number had fallen to 57 percent, Hewitt said. When looking at companies with at least 200 employees, the number is 38 percent, Kaiser said.

Roughly 15 million retirees receive health care coverage from former employers. About 3 million are 55 to 64. The rest are eligible for Medicare, Altman said.

The new survey, conducted before issuance of final Medicare regulations about the drug benefit, found that just 8 percent of employers said they would drop retirees' drug benefits in the program's first year.

Frank McArdle, manager of Hewitt's research office in Washington, said the early response from employers is good news. But he cautioned that decisions about 2007 and beyond would depend on the regulations, the design of Medicare drug plans devised by private insurers and by costs.

Article Link



Many employers are passing more of the expenses to their retired employees, the survey of 333 large companies showed. (AP Graphic)

Michael Moore: It's Time To Stop Being Hit...

(courtesy of the poet Julie Barbour)

I'm confused by the simpering, apologetic attitude of some Democrats and why many think that they will regain power if they move to the right--perhaps the always provocative Moore is on to something here:

It's Time To Stop being Hit...

Paul Tough: The "Acting White" Myth

From the New York Times an explanation of the resurgence and uses of this social myth:

The "Acting White" Myth

Jehangir S. Pocha: The Geopolitics of Oil

From New Perspectives Quarterly an analysis of new economic battle lines being drawn in the global struggle for oil:

The Geopolitics of Oil: It's Now China and India vs. the U.S.

Evan Derkacz: The Sinclair Propaganda Machine

The Sinclair Propaganda Machine
Evan Derkacz
Alternet

Owned by Bush-backers, an emboldened Sinclair Broadcasting is pushing forward with its right-wing agenda. It's time to push back.

The Sinclair Propaganda Machine

More on Sinclair and Propaganda:

Free Press Report: More on the Sinclair Backlash

Red Harvest on the Sinclair Group

Bill Moyers: The Media, Politics and Censorship

Thomas Frank: Architecture of a New Consensus

Sinclair Broadcasting: Connecting the Dots

Sinclair Stations Boycott Nightline Broadcast of the Names/Faces of US Soldiers Killed in Iraq

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Spontaneous Arising: Star Chamber Justice

Can you be fired from your job with no explanation other than you are threat to national security--without a full disclosure of what your threat may consist of and where these sources come from? Check out Michael Hawkin's post at Spontaneous Arising for the story of one couple's unexplained firing:

Star Chamber Justice

The possible abuses of this government/business threat to working people boggles my mind.

Rhythmanalysis, Psychogeography, Rhythm Science, Social Fictions and Smart Mobs

I'm currently reading Henri Lefebvre's Rhythmanalysis, and it sent me off on an online derive, searching for works by the British novelist/psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, revisiting my Situationist readings, and listening-to/reading DJ Spooky... here you can listen to Abstract Blowback 03 and other tracks and read about Rhythm Science

More of my distractions:

Skating on Thin Eyes

Sadie Plant: Psychogeography and the Derive

Urbanity: Lived Space and Difference

Moments of Excess

Social Fiction

Surveillance and Society

Granta profile of Iain Sinclair

City Brain: Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair and London Orbital

Down and Out in London

Landor's Tower

Iain Sinclair: Revolutionary Novelist or Revolutionary Nihilist

Bureau of Public Secrets

Not Bored

Nothingness.org

Situationist International Online

Spunk Library

Situationist Histories

Enter the Derive

The Drifters

Consumer Society and Authenticity

Social Anxiety in the Peach State

The Glowing Maid

The Lilith Gallery

Spectacular Times

A Short Defense of the SI

Fusion Anomaly

DJ Logic

Digital Ghost

Jahsonic Profile: Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky

Online Daily profile of DJ Spooky

Ambience for the Masses

DJ Spooky, Rhythm Science, and the Future of Culture

Howard Rheingold: Smart Mobs

DJs and Copyright Laws

OK I've wasted enough time, back to work...

From Holler to the Hood

(courtesy of Virginia Blum)

A new Appalshop documentary named Holler to the Hood explores human rights violations, abuse and the placing of rural prisons in America. See a video trailer here.

This is powerful work... the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo are not an anomaly in our democracy, the spirit of destructive humiliation and torture is present in our own prisons and it is designed with the purpose of intimidating/destroying resistant cultures.

Check out some of the tracks from the movie and a Mountain Talk audio feature:

Traditional Bluegrass Meets Hip Hop

For more on Appalachian Culture:

Appalachian Studies Association

Rural-Urban Aesthetics

To my colleagues on the left, pull your heads out of your asses and re-cognize your alliances with rural people instead of blaming them for your losses. I live in a rabid red state and I find more alliances with rural people than I do with the urban professionals.

World as Home

Independent press Milkweed Editions has a website, World as Home, devoted to books that increase our ecolological/environmental literacy.

Please support independent publishing.

Matthew Sawh: The Art of Culture War

Over at The Brown Daily Squeal Matthew Sawh has written an essay that attempts to map out The Art of Culture War: Political Strategy Lessons from the 1990s

Saturday, December 11, 2004

More on The Power of Nightmares

Please tell me that by now you have watched this very important BBC Documentary: The Power of Nightmares. If not watch it now!

Then check out this insightful critique (courtesy Matt at pas au-delà) of The Power of Nightmares from Media Lens and Adam Curtis's equally intelligent response--its great to see this kind of dialogical engagement.

Anxiety Culture

Another link that continues the theme of Propaganda Nation has been provided by Bruce at The River (as a part of his ongoing link war with Harry of Scratchings):

Anxiety Culture

Thanks guys--keep em coming!

Susannity: Wake Up Soldiers

Another insightful post from Susanne of Susannity on the sacrifice of soldiers in Iraq and the hypocrisy of Donald Rumsfield:

Wake Up Soldiers

Susanne has 12 years of service in the military to back up her critiques and I recognize my limitations as a lifelong civilian, but as a student of history I wonder hasn't the military always been unconcerned with their soldiers welfare. By this I mean the soldiers are just viewed as pawns to be sacrificied for the higher cause (whatever that may be defined as being) and officers who think about soldiers before orders (in other word show undue loyalty to their men) are reviled by the military system (think about the wars of the 20th century). Check out this earlier post on an essay from Chris Hedges:

Physical courage is common on a battlefield. Moral courage is not. Those who defy the machine usually become its victim. And Lieutenant Fick, who we find in the epilogue has left the Marines to go back to school, wonders if he was a good officer or if his concern for his men colored his judgment. Those who make war betray those who fight it. This is something most enlisted combat veterans soon understand. They have little love for officers, tolerating the good ones and hoping the bad ones are replaced or injured before they get them killed. Those on the bottom rung of the military pay the price for their commanders' vanity, ego, and thirst for recognition. These motives are hardly exclusive to the neocons and the ambitious generals in the Bush administration. They are a staple of war. Homer wrote about all of them in The Iliad as did Norman Mailer in The Naked and the Dead. Stupidity and callousness cause senseless death and wanton destruction. That being a good human being—that possessing not only physical courage but moral courage—is detrimental in a commander says much about the industrial slaughter that is war.


Entire Post on "Chris Hedges: On Current Books About the Iraq War"

Thanks Susanne!

Cultural Studies Working Bibliography Website

(courtesy of Matthew Soar who posted it on the Cult-Stud listserv)

This is a new wiki website that collects working cultural studies bibliographies (in the wiki-spirit feel free to post your own):

Welcome to the Cultural Studies Working Bibliography website (v.1.0)

The Nation: Our Debt to Bill Moyers

Our Debt to Bill Moyers
Nation editorial

A few days after the commercial television networks' laudatory "news" reports on George W. Bush's nomination of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to serve as Secretary of State, PBS's Bill Moyers countered with something rarely seen on broadcast television these days: serious journalism. Moyers devoted a substantial portion of NOW, the public broadcasting program he has hosted for the past three years, to an analysis of Rice's failure to take seriously warnings about terrorist threats before the September 11 attacks as well as her misguided response to those attacks, her role in the campaign for war on Iraq and her scheming to avoid cooperating with the 9/11 Commission. The devastating report brought to mind Edward R. Murrow's See It Now dissection of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Unfortunately, PBS in 2004 can't influence public opinion the way CBS did in 1954. Moyers recognized that fact when he launched NOW in January 2002; the former spokesman for Lyndon Johnson, senior correspondent for CBS, groundbreaking public television producer and winner of ten Peabody Awards and more than thirty Emmy Awards understood that the best he could do in these difficult times was to barter a bit of his prestige for the chance to erect an outpost of quality reporting in the increasingly corporatized broadcast television wilderness. Week after week, NOW has offered consistently bold and revealing examinations of issues ranging from the threat to environmental protections posed by international trade agreements, to the damage done to basic liberties by the Patriot Act, to the abuses of politics by special interests. Moyers, who is 70 and wants to turn his attention to writing, has every reason to be proud as he prepares for his last broadcast on December 17. At a time when TV networks--including PBS--were bowing to commercial and ideological pressures that were antithetical to journalism, Moyers created a program that many viewers recognized as the only reason to turn on the TV in the Bush era.

NOW will carry on with the able crew that Moyers assembled. And whether or not the program thrives without Moyers, the legacy he created will remain. James Madison said, "A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both" and warned that "a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives." In a time of farce and tragedy, Bill Moyers did his best to arm the people with the power knowledge gives and to affirm that there's still a place for TV journalism that nurtures citizenship and democracy.

Link to Editorial

A Series of Reports/Essays/Speeches/Profiles by/about Bill Moyers:

Now, with Bill Moyers

The Dark Side of the Chemical Industry

Bill Moyers Will Not Go Gently Into the Night

9/11 for the Record

On the 9/11 Commission

Bill Moyers: A Journalist and His Times

Outsourcing and Patriotism

The Media, Politics and Censorship

Patriotism and the Flag

Keynote Address to the Conference on Media Reform

This is Your Story - The Progressive Story of America. Pass It On.

Fooling With Words

Genesis: A Living Conversation

Trade Secrets

Bill Moyers Responding to an Attack by O'Reilly

Working for Change columns

Enron's Ken Lay, son a Baptist preacher, really knew how to pass the plate

Our Democracy is in Danger of Being Paralyzed

Republican Conservative Base Questions Bush

Yearning for Democracy

Earth on Edge

The Road to Clean Elections

Free Speech for Sale

Democracy in the Balance

Trading Democracy

The Secret Government

On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying

Interview with Howard Zinn

Review by Christian Century

On Bush Brand Environmentalism

Friday, December 10, 2004

Engaging Representations: Contemporary Art from The Speed Art Museum

ENGAGING REPRESENTATIONS: Contemporary Art from The Speed Art Museum

LEXINGTON, KY – Engaging Representations: Contemporary Art from The Speed Art Museum will be on display December 12, 2004, through March 6, 2005, at the University of Kentucky Art Museum.

Twenty-one works on view from the collection of Louisville's Speed Art Museum offer a profound and provocative exploration of how the world in which we live today is represented in art. The exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, and photographs by nineteen artists from across the globe. Focused on the examination of physical and cultural environments, the exhibition presents subject matter from abstract emanations of land-and cityscapes to incisive social and historical critiques. Engaging Representations also illustrates the influences of art history and the mass media, and the roles these visual agents play in creating meaning and shaping cultural identities.

The frenetic energy of urban life springs forth from Catherine Yass's lightbox image of a blurred, brightly colored cityscape; the rows of windows and walls and the frenzied intersection of humanity with the constructed urban environment is echoed again in UK art professor Arturo Alonzo Sandoval's Cityscape #6. The compelling blend of architecture, sculpture, and furniture that characterizes the work of the Cuban artists known as Los Carpinteros suggests the compartmentalization of city dwellers, while also critiquing the bureaucratic vision of twentieth-century urban planners, as well as the ideals of Modernism.

Allusions to and appropriations from art history animate the works of Cindy Sherman and Vik Muniz. Sherman casts herself as Madame de Pompadour in a “send-up” critique of both women's roles and eighteenth-century portraiture. Muniz's provocative photographic constructions recycle masterpieces by Théodore Géricault and Caspar David Friedrich, while also alluding to Jackson Pollock's paintings.

Engaging Representations also examines the construction of historical identity and the confluence of power, politics, and ritual in creating and preserving cultural legacies. Artists such as Carrie Mae Weems expose, debunk, and transform stereotypes of gender and race in their poetic and provocative works. Both current and archival images are used in her works to demonstrate how photographs, which are so often considered purveyors of truth, create misleading mythologies of history and identity. Weems's works, along with Louis Zoellar Bickett's Family Grave Dirt, demonstrate our need to preserve and memorialize our past and present identity.

“We are grateful to The Speed Art Museum for this opportunity to showcase cutting edge works to our visitors,” said Kathy Walsh-Piper, museum director.

Engaging Representations is organized by The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, in coordination with the University of Kentucky Art Museum and curated by Alice Stites, The Speed Art Museum Adjunct Curator. This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and the Friends of the University of Kentucky Art Museum.

Engaging Representations is free and open to the public. A special Artists and Members Preview will be held December 11 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the museum’s galleries. This event is free to artists, students, and UK Art Museum members. Please call 859-257-5716 for more information regarding this preview event.

ART AT NOON:
Alice Stites on Contemporary Art from The Speed Art Museum

LEXINGTON, KY (December 8, 2004) – The University of Kentucky Art Museum’s monthly Art at Noon series presents Alice Stites on Wednesday, December 15, at noon in the museum’s galleries.

Stites, Adjunct Curator at The Speed Art Museum and UK Art Museum guest curator, will discuss the images and ideas presented in the exhibition Engaging Representations: Contemporary Art from The Speed Art Museum.

This exhibition and Art at Noon are free and open to the public. For more information, call Deborah Borrowdale-Cox at 859-257-6199.

The University of Kentucky Art Museum, located on the corner of Rose St. and Euclid Ave., is open noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday and noon to 8 p.m. on Friday; closed Monday and University holidays. For general museum information, call 859-257-5716 or go to University of Kentucky Art Museum

Michael Benton: Brief Biographical Interjection

"Relationships between things are not fixed material things. And since the meaning of 'things' is dependent on their mutual vitality, things themselves are mutable. Despite every systematizing effort, time, as change (including human agency), is not 'arrested.' It is not criminal, but instead it is the essence of potential. Time is the necessary condition for inessential contingency." (10)

Eric Mark Kramer--"The Spiders of Truth."


"Brief Biographical Interjection"
Michael Benton

I believe that it is important to fully state my background in order to politically and socially situate myself in regards to my writings. My background is that of a Southern Californian, blue-collar, working-class family. While my family faced extreme economic difficulties during the 70s, we never starved or lost our house. During the 80s and 90s my family saw their economic status jump into the middle-class and to a relatively comfortable lifestyle. My religious background has ranged from a complete Baptist faith in my youth to agnosticism in my teens and is now firmly set in an attempt to explore spirituality in its many expressions. I attempt to remain independent in my political affiliations, although many of my family members, like many Southern Californians, are devoted economic conservatives who embrace a fiercely liberal lifestyle. I've had first hand personal experience of many of our country's institutions from private to public to reform schools, honor societies and volunteer programs, probation departments and social workers, jails and mental institutions, community colleges and universities, and as an undergraduate accounting/business major, a humanities graduate student, and writing instructor/editor. I've also long been interested in subcultural societies, exploring and associating with a wide assortment of groups from Christian fundamentalists/faith healers to Wiccans, gangs to surfers, punks to heavy metal headbangers, academics to activists, drug dealers and Alcoholic/Narcotic Anonymous groups, to wealthy thrill-seekers and homeless street-kids. Throughout all of these experiences I have come into contact with thinkers of the profoundest levels, each with their own completely rationalized worldviews. This has led to a deeper comprehension of how we, as humans, construct rules that govern our group actions and how discourse communities operate. Some of the experiences in my life have left me deeply scarred and cynical, yet I embrace a fierce optimism and perhaps, even, an illusionary romantic belief in the essential possibilities of humanity. Many people view me as having a definite leftist slant and I would identify myself politically as a democratic-socialist, yet even though I pursue a policy of live and let live, I often surprise myself with some of my conservative moral stances.

As a result of my experiences my philosophical stance is based on the assumption that most humans have the basic tools necessary to enter into discourse communities. As an educator I believe that it is my responsibility to develop a practical methodology designed to facilitate student-based writing assignments in which they will explore their own social and political stances, begin to explore their environments, and learn to compare/contrast their own positions with those of other individuals, groups, and cultures. I believe that an important route to critical self-awareness of one's own beliefs is to write about them. Once one has gained a conscious understanding of their own self (and this must be the first step) then they can begin to use this base as a launching pad to written (and research) explorations of the outer-world of "other" individuals, groups, and cultures. It is essential that students, instructors, and theorists begin to resist the pigeonholing process of dogmatic thinking and learn to range across all boundaries/borders, raiding disciplines/movements for useful techniques, using what is at hand when needed, and never fearing (loss of 'face', respect, position) to change one's mind when situations and environments prove the present methods inadequate. Perhaps my pedagogical/theoretical parasitism is anathemic to academia. My stance is essentially a call for hybridity and transperspectivity in order to develop a complete understanding of a constantly changing and complex era.

Lastly, I believe that 'reality,' 'truth,' and 'knowledge' are socially constructed and often support oppressive power structures. At the same time I retain a humanist belief in an individual's abilities to seek out particular truths or to live quite happily according to the dictates of universal/absolute truths. I believe, though, that critical consciousness requires one to weigh their own beliefs and challenge them constantly through interaction and dialogue with other theories and belief systems. Implicit in my stance is a combination of a humanistic belief in the power of intellectual efforts and a pessimism concerning the motives of those who have the power to re-present 'truths' and 'reality.'

My life-experiences infiltrate and color my theories. They direct me towards certain lines of thought and direct my academic interests. There is no way for me to completely escape my cultural background, or, its influence on my worldview. Thus, I believe fully that the best course of action is to be completely honest about my experiences and my beliefs. I have set this self-description down in this public manner in order to reflect on the conditions of my understanding.