Monday, April 30, 2007

2nd Annual Peace and Global Citizenship Fair (Lexington, KY May 19th)

BCTC Peace and Justice Coalition

2nd Annual Peace and Global Citizenship Fair
May 19th from noon until 8:00 p.m.
Bluegrass Community and Technical College
470 Cooper Drive

Activities
As of April 24, 2007. Please check back soon for updates.

Music:

12-12:30: Lexington Children’s Drum Choir (troupe of drummers and dancers)

12:40-1:15: UK/BCTC musicians: Rick, Josh and Greg (progressive rock)

1:15-1:30: Denise Brown (flute and poetry)

1:30-2:30: Dialectics (eclectic fusion)

2:40-3:40: Water (Latin jazz and African soul)

3:45-4:45: Reel World String Band (progressive folk)

The evening concert is a benefit for Howe Charities.
Suggested donation: $5.
This Lexington charity describes itself, in part, as follows: “The Howe Charities, Inc. was created to help bring enlightenment to humanity. Supporting women & children leaving abusive relationships, promoting understanding and acceptance of special needs children and adults, bringing music and art into the world to celebrate joy and love, promoting literature and science to help encourage higher levels of thought and understanding are just a few of our goals.” (For more information, go to www.howecharities.org/)

5:30-6:30: Alma Gitana (Caribbean/Latin American/Arabic/Eastern Mediterranean fusion)

6:30-7:30: Mitch Barrett (folk swing)

7:30-8:00: drumming for peace

Food:

• Stella’s Kentucky Deli will be the main food vendor. Stella’s, located in Lexington, “is dedicated to local farmers and to supporting local food economies. Our mission is to produce simple, high quality foods that emphasize the superior flavors and textures of fresh, local ingredients. To achieve this, we make all of our sandwiches, salads, soups, and desserts by hand, in house, using whatever ingredients are seasonally available.” (For more information, go to Stella's Kentucky Deli)

• The Peace and Justice Coalition will be serving small meals for children, light eaters, and as snacks. On the menu are “Peace and Justice Sandwiches” (aka peanut butter and jam sandwiches made with homemade bread, fresh ground peanut butter, and Kentucky jams) and Quorn’s nuggets (Look and taste like chicken nuggets but they’re made out of mushrooms).

• Drinks: Hansen’s diet and Knudsen’s Juice Spritzers (various flavors)

Workshops:

• Noon – 1:00: PAPER CRANE: "I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world." Sadako Sasaki, age 12, workshop led by Patricia Griffin, Franciscan Peace Center

• 1:10 -1:50:.Sustainable Communities Network, workshop led by Jim Embry, Sustainable Communities Network, GreenCorps, NELI, and other community-based initiatives

• 2:00 -3:00: Why and how to practice energy conservation, a look at mountaintop removal and options for reducing electricity consumption, workshop led by Dave Cooper, MTR Road show

• 3:10 -4:10: Urban Gardening, workshop led by John Walker, Kitchen Gardeners International

• 4:15- 5:00 pm: Community organizing and activism, a “how to” session, workshop led by Dave Newton, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Wellness Activities:

• Yoga session at noon. This session, led by Anita Courtney (Certified Kripalu Yoga Instructor), will be held in the AT Building (near KET). Come and practice the art of cultivating inner peace through yoga postures, breathing and visualization. You’ll feel relaxed and energized for the rest of the day and learn some tools for incorporating relaxation into your daily life. Suitable for those who have never tried yoga, as well as experienced practitioners.

• Sign language short course, by Darlena McQueary

• Demonstrations: Tai Chi, Capoeira, Shaolin Do

• Product demonstration: Nikken, Inc. to demonstrate wellness products

• University of Kentucky College of Nursing: massage and energy work

• Kentucky Association of Chiropractors: demonstration of chiropractic, nutrition, and vitality health care

Children’s Activities:

• Montessori Middle School: a skit, poetry readings and quotes, demonstrations of sustainable living, and also a segment on global perspectives.

• Unitarian Universalist kids: decorate gingerbread shaped people with recycled materials and link them together – for peace

• Explorium of Lexington: peace ribbons, wishes for peace around the world

• East Seventh Street Center: face painting, group art project, items for sale

• Once Upon a Dragon Time: puppet shows with storytelling

• Ravenwood Center: “piece for peace” weaving, crafts with recycled materials

• World Vision: learn about Latino culture, make Mexican flowers out of paper

• Rite of Spirit: face painting, henna tattoos

• Heifer International: animal quiz, coloring sheets, and other activities

• BCTC’s Peace and Justice Coalition: painting rocks for a peace signs and (ultimately) a peace garden

Adult Activities:

• Bluegrass Alliance for Woman: Bring your inactive cell phones to benefit this organization’s Workplace Violence Prevention Project. Drop cell phone off at the Howe Charities or the PJC Information booth.

• Unitarian Universalists: the Green Sanctuary program (integrating sustainable living practices)

• Appalachia – Science in the Public Interest: energy conservation and sustainable living

• Shambhala Center and Buddhist Peace Fellowship: meditation

• Kentuckians for the Commonwealth: election activity

• BCTC International Student Association: global awareness

• Curtis Pike Community: living sustainably in place

• Bluegrass Pride: recycling

• Mayapple Creations: earth-friendly jewelry

• Kentucky Fairness Alliance (BG Chapter): equal rights, items for sale

• Howe Charities: highlight community projects,

• Lexington Gay Lesbian Services Organization: quality of life, items for sale

• World Vision: global understanding – generosity and compassion

• Rite of Spirit: dream interpretations, locally handmade good for sale, martial arts demonstrations

• One World Films: the power of film

• Lexington Habitat for Humanity: interactive board for identifying woods and learning about how to creatively use and reuse materials

• Heifer International: exciting display on dung! Quiz about world hunger

• Linda Horvay Notecards: notecards by local artist have carried messages of goodwill around the world, cards will be for sale

• Citizens Create!: interactive peace wheel

• Okela School Charities: Please bring books for Kenyan school! Information about life in Kenya.

• Water Fuel Museum: transportation alternatives

• University of Kentucky: alternative transportation

• Berea College: sustainability

• Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice: living peacefully

Plants, Farms, and Gardens:

• Kitchen Gardeners International: paper towel planting strips for lettuce, radish and carrot seeds

• Shooting Star Nursery: native plants for sale

• Community Farm Alliance: value of local food production, raffle

• Farm products, including Patsi’s Salsi

Other:

• The Children for Peace Art Contest (for K-12 students) and the Creating a Culture of Peace Essay Contest (for adults) entries will be exhibited. Winning entries will be announced.

• Look for the Chinese lantern painted as a globe. There will be a surprise coming from that globe at some point during the day.

• There will be other surprises during the day.


Organizer: Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s Peace and Justice Coalition
Co-sponsors: Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Franciscan Peace Center, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Sustainable Communities Network, BCTC Office of Multicultural Affairs

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Howard Zinn: If History is to be Creative

If History is to be Creative
Excerpted from A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
by Howard Zinn; December 09, 2006

America's future is linked to how we understand our past. For this reason, writing about history, for me, is never a neutral act. By writing, I hope to awaken a great consciousness of racial injustice, sexual bias, class inequality, and national hubris. I also want to bring into the light the unreported resistance of people against the power of the Establishment: the refusal of the indigenous to simply disappear; the rebellion of black people in the anti-slavery movement and in the more recent movement against racial segregation; the strikes carried out by working people all through American history in attempt to improve their lives.

To omit these acts of resistance is to support the official view that power only rests with those who have the guns and possess the wealth. I write in order to illustrate the creative power of people struggling for a better world. People, when organized, have enormous power, more than any government. Our history runs deep with the stories of people who stand up, speak out, dig in, organize, connect, form networks of resistance, and alter the course of history.

I don't want to invent victories for people's movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, and occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.

History can help our struggles, if not conclusively, then at least suggestively. History can disabuse us of the idea that the government's interests and the people's interests are the same. History can tell how often governments have lied to us, how they have ordered whole populations to be massacred, how they deny the existence of the poor, how they have lead us to our current historical moment-the "Long War," the war without end.

True, our government has the power to spend the country's wealth as it wishes. It can send troops anywhere in the world. It can threaten indefinite detention and deportation of twenty million immigrant Americans who do not yet have green cards and have no Constitutional rights. In the name of our "national interest," the government can deploy troops to the U.S.-Mexican border, round up Muslim men from certain countries, secretly listen in on our conversations, open our emails, examine our bank transactions, and try to intimidate us into silence. The government can control information with the collaboration of a timid mass media. Only this accounts for the popularity-waning by 2006 (33% of those polled), but still significant-of George W. Bush. Still, this control is not absolute. The fact that the media are 95% in favor of continuing the occupation of Iraq (with only superficial criticism of how it is done), while over 50% of the public are in favor of withdrawal, suggests a common-sense resistance to official lies. Consider also the volatile nature of public opinion, how it can change with dramatic suddenness. Note how the large majority of public support for George Bush the elder quickly collapsed once the glow of victory from the first Gulf War faded and the reality of economic trouble set in.

Think of how, at the start of the Vietnam War in 1965, two-thirds of Americans supported the war. A few years later, two-thirds of Americans opposed the war. What happened in those three or four years? A gradual osmosis of truth seeped through the cracks of the propaganda system-a realization of having been lied to and deceived. That is what is happening in America as I write this in the summer of 2006. It is easy to be overwhelmed or intimidated by the realization that the warmakers have enormous power. But some historical perspective can be useful, because it tells us that at certain points in history governments find that all their power is futile against the power of an aroused citizenry.

There is a basic weakness in governments, however massive their armies, however vast their wealth, however they control images and information, because their power depends on the obedience of citizens, of soldiers, of civil servants, of journalists and writers and teachers and artists. When the citizens begin to suspect they have been deceived and withdraw their support, government loses its legitimacy and its power.

We have seen this happen in recent decades all around the globe. Awaking one morning to see a million angry people in the streets of the capital city, the leaders of a country begin packing their bags and calling for a helicopter. This is not fantasy; it is recent history. It's the history of the Philippines, of Indonesia, of Greece, Portugal and Spain, of Russia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Rumania. Think of Argentina and South Africa and other places where change looked hopeless and then it happened. Remember Somoza in Nicaragua scurrying to his private plane, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos hurriedly assembling their jewels and clothes, the Shah of Iran desperately searching for a country that would take him in as he fled the crowds in Tehran, Duvalier in Haiti barely managing to put on his pants to escape the wrath of the Haitian people.

We can't expect George Bush to scurry off in a helicopter. But we can hold him accountable for catapulting the nation into two wars, for the death and dismemberment of tens of thousands of human beings in this country, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and for his violations of the U.S. Constitution and international law. Surely these acts meet the constitutional requirement of "high crimes and misdemeanors" for impeachment.

Indeed, people around the country have begun to call for his impeachment. Of course we cannot expect a craven Congress to impeach him. Congress was willing to impeach Nixon for breaking into a building, but will not impeach Bush for breaking into a country. They were willing to impeach Clinton because of his sexual shenanigans, but will not impeach Bush for turning the wealth of the country over to the super-rich.

There has been a worm eating at the innards of the Bush Administration's complacency all along: the knowledge of the American public-buried, but in a very shallow grave, easy to disinter-that this government came to power not by popular will but by a political coup. So we may be seeing the gradual disintegration of the legitimacy of this administration, despite its supreme confidence. There is a long history of imperial powers gloating over victories, becoming over-extended and overconfident, and not realizing that power is not simply a matter of arms and money. Military power has its limits-limits created by human beings, their sense of justice, and capacity to resist. The United States with 10,000 nuclear weapons could not win in Korea or Vietnam, could not stop a revolution in Cuba or Nicaragua. Likewise, the Soviet Union with its nuclear weapons and huge army was forced to retreat from Afghanistan, and could not stop the Solidarity movement in Poland.

A country with military power can destroy but it cannot build. Its citizens become uneasy because their fundamental day-to-day needs are sacrificed for military glory while their young are neglected and sent to war. The uneasiness grows and grows and the citizenry gathers in resistance in larger and larger numbers, which become too many to control; one day the top-heavy empire collapses. Change in public consciousness starts with low-level discontent, at first vague, with no connection being made between the discontent and the policies of the government. And then the dots begin to connect, indignation increases, and people begin to speak out, organize, and act.

Today, all over the county there is growing awareness of the shortage of teachers, nurses, medical care, and affordable housing, as budget cuts take place in every state of the union. A teacher recently wrote a letter to the Boston Globe: "I may be one of 600 Boston teachers who will be laid off as a result of budget shortfalls." The writer then connects it to the billions spent for bombs, for, as he puts it, "sending innocent Iraqi children to hospitals in Baghdad."

When we become overwhelmed at the thought of the enormous power that governments, multinational corporations, armies, and police have to control minds, crush dissent, and destroy rebellion, we should consider a phenomenon that I have always found interesting. Those who possess enormous power are surprisingly nervous about their ability to hold on to their power. They react almost hysterically to what seem to be puny and unthreatening signs of opposition.

We see the American government, armored with its thousand layers of power, work strenuously to put a few pacifists in jail or keep a writer or an artist out of the country. We remember Nixon's hysterical reaction to a solitary man picketing in front of the White House: "Get him!"

Is it possible that the people in authority know something we don't know? Perhaps they know their own ultimate weakness. Perhaps they understand that small movements can become big ones, that an idea that takes hold in the population can become indestructible. People can be induced to support war, to oppress others, but that is not their natural inclination. There are those who talk of "original sin." Kurt Vonnegut challenges that and talks of "original virtue."

There are millions of people in this country opposed to the current war. When you see a statistic "40% of Americans support the war," that means that 60% of Americans do not. I am convinced that the number of people opposed to the war will continue to rise while the number of war supporters will continue to sink. Along the way, artists, musicians, writers, and cultural workers lend a special emotional and spiritual power to the movement for peace and justice. Rebellion often starts as something cultural.

The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth. Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson-that everything thing we do matters-is the meaning of the people's struggle here in United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think. When we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress.

We live in a beautiful country. But men who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.

Damian Marley: Confrontation



"Confrontation"

Mr. President, Distinguished delegates...

[H.I.M. Haile Selassie I dialect]

[Bunny Wailer dialogue]
Since the beginning of modern civilization
Generations have witnessed and inherited the only conflicts of world wars
But behold the marriage supper of the lamb and the bridegroom onto his bride
Then shall the earth's children know the true expression of ONE LOVE
Then mother earth shall honeymoon in peace.
Forever eliminating the aspirations, lust and anguish of wars and rumors of wars...SELAH!

[Verse 1]
See it deh know the innocent going up in vapors
And propoganda spreading inna the sunday papers not even superman coulda save you with him cape cause
Red-a Judgement a blaze, blaze ya
And Babylon a gamble the youth dem life like racehorse
And gi dem a uniform and a shave dem head with razors
And now the clock a strike war, don't be amazed cause
inna dem churches tryin to save...saviours

[Marcus Garvey dialogue 1]
Can we do it? We can do it, we shall do it!

[Verse 2]
Boom!
Tell dem fe uh draw mi out when the world government inna falling out
Only few men survive crawling out
Run left him collegues dem sprawling out
NEARLY DEAD!
Medic haffi haul him out
And give him two tranquilizer fi stall him out
DEH PON BASE!
Can't get no calling out when him hear from the shout last week
Him mistress find a new shoes
Wife can't get no news and lately she starting to doubt
SHE STILL SEARCHING!
And the youth dem bawling out
Working hard not to let it all come out
Well it's not safe to go walk about
A slaughterhouse from Bagdad to Waterhouse
She start to arouse sometime she want a spouse
She start go out, start beat a darker stout
GUNS COME OUT!
Working people funds run out
Keep a show last week and no one come out
BOMBS COME OUT!
Mi gas tank just run out
BOMBO CLATT!
The scotch tape just run out
WEED RUN OUT!
Yuh senses must dumb out, Mi have a pound round a back deh a gwan sun out
NAH COME OUT!
Till the chalice bun out,
NAH COME OUT!
Till the malice bun out, A WAR!

Zimbabwe to Berlin Wall
Blazin' like a burnin' ball, loose ball...dat no work...IN WAR
Sleeping...dat no work..IN WAR
Can't wear jheri curl...IN WAR
No diamond and pearl...IN WAR
Can't drink weh a serve...IN BAR
Gas wi fuck up yuh nerves...IN WAR
Shot wi blood up yuh shirt...IN WAR
Can't go lift up no skirt...IN WAR
Now disease and germs...IN WAR
Can't go release your sperms...IN WAR
Stamina must preserve...IN WAR
Fire constantly burn...IN WAR
RED...IT RED...IT RED...IT RED...IT RED!

[Marcus Garvey dialogue 2]
If you cannot do it, if you are not prepared to do it...then you will die.
You race of cowards, you race of imbosiles, you race of good for nothings
If you cannot do what other men have done
What other nations have done, what other races have done
Then you yourself shall die.

[Repeat Verse 1]

[Verse 3]
SEE IT DEH NOW...Hey!
Now wi fore parents sacrifice enough
Dem blood sweat and tears run like syrup
Any day a revolution might erupt, and the skys over Kingston lighting up
For the new generation rising up, of youths now a days weh dem sighting up
And through reasoning dem biding up,
Searching for the sign and the sign is us,
Searching for the truth all you find is us,
Searching for the troops still behind is us,
The almighty we recruit and we come from the root
We build like roach building boot
Weh just can't done, Rastafari we design tuff
If a the fight for freedom sign me up
Cause you Tell-Lie-Vision can't blind me up
Soldiers and police dem wising up, realizing they're no more right than us
Realizing there's no use fighting us
Realizing their opening their eyes to see the same demoralizing life as us
So we nah tek talk nor smiling up
Cause the word temper tantrum boiling up,and who...
Calling the shots and nah bust none
Controlling the mind of the young, bring down...

Bear famine, no rain nah fall from London to Dadeland mall
All the son of the virgin bawl, institute of the church IN WAR
Preaching and researching WAR
Practice and rehearsing WAR
Teaching and dem learning WAR
Instigating and urging WAR
Always keep alert in WAR
Cause man will jump out a swerving car
Now bees and birds IN WAR
And the freaks and nerds IN WAR
And the straight and curves IN WAR
Forward and reverse IN WAR
RED...IT RED...IT RED...IT RED...IT RED.

[Marcus Garvey dialogue 2]

Studio Version:



Live version (Bonnaro):

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Roots: False Media



"False Media"
The Roots

[Chorus]
America's lost somewhere inside of Littleton
Eleven million children are on Ritalin
That's whay I don't rhyme for the sake of riddlin
False media, we don't need it, do we?
Pilgrims, Slaves, Indian, Mexican
It looks real fucked up for your next of kin
That's why I don't rhyme for the sake of riddlin
False media

[Black Thought]
If I can't work to make it, I'll rob and take it
Either that or me and my children are starving and naked
Rather be a criminal pro than to follow the Matrix
Hey it's me a monster y'all done created
I've been inaugurated
Keep the bright lights out of our faces
You can't shake it, it ain't no way to swallow the hatred
Aim, fire, holla about a dollar, nothin in sacred
We gone pimp, the shit out of nature
Send our troops to get my paper
Tell 'em stay away from them skyscrapers
Ain't long for you get y'all acres
I'ma show 'em who's the global gangster
Sentence me to four more years, thank you
I'ma make you feel a little bit safer
Because it ain't over
See that's how we get your fear to control you
But ain't nobody under more control than the soldier
And how could you expect a kid to keep his composure
When all sorts of thoughts fought for exposure again

[Chorus 3X]
America's lost somewhere inside of Littleton
Eleven million children are on Ritalin
That's whay I don't rhyme for the sake of riddlin
False media, we don't need it, do we?
Pilgrims, Slaves, Indian, Mexican
It looks real fucked up for your next of kin
That's why I don't rhyme for the sake of riddlin
False media, we don't need it, do we [repeat 4X]

Friday, April 20, 2007

Michael Benton: Here There Be Monsters

(I wrote this in response to earlier school shootings in my hometown.)

"Here There Be Monsters: A Response to the Public Outcry Surrounding the San Diego High School Shootings"
by Michael Benton
formerly known as l'bourgeoizine (Spring 2001)

There exists in a certain form of moral condemnation an escapist denial. One says, basically, this abjection would not have been, had there not been monsters. . . . And it is possible, insofar as this language appeals to the masses, that this infantile negation may seem effective; but in the end it changes nothing. It would be as vain to deny the incessant danger of cruelty as it would be to deny the danger of physical pain. One hardly obviates its effects flatly attributing it to parties or to races which one imagines to be human. (Bataille, Georges. "Reflection of the Executioner and the Victim." Yale French Studies. 79: 19.)


For the mainstream what is disturbing about the rash of school shootings is that they are taking place in the peaceful communities designed to defend against the (perceived) extreme violence and despair of the inner urban schools/communities. Reminds me of an old movie from the 70s called "Over the Edge" (1979, directed Jonathan Kaplan) based on a real-life events in which youths from a planned suburban community rage against the superficialities of their planned community.

Both of the San Diego shootings were in the east county. The first one was at Santana high school located in a planned community—featuring banal, safe, and structured lives. These communities are so bland that one journalist echoed James Kunstler in describing the Santee community as the “geography of nowhere”. Because of the insular and controlled nature of these communities the lives of the families—children and adult—are situated around the high school. One’s social standing in the high school cliques is everything in the lives of the students.

Think about the pain and discomfort suffered by those perceived as deviant. If you are deemed weird in these cowboy communities then you are fucked because you become a social pariah, if you're lucky, and if you are unlucky, you become the target of persecution, especially if you decide to struggle against your status. As an urban delinquent during my high school years we were supplied with the opportunities of heterotopic spaces in which we could construct new communities of hope. These contemporary kids are raised by the false dreams of the media and lack true avenues of difference in order to explore alternatives to the mainstream fantasies. In this situation the violent solutions of simplistic and stereotypical entertainments may prove a strong lure for fragmented identities, but this is not the ‘true’ cause of teen shootings. Those who point towards movies, music, and video games as the corrupters of our children are fearfully avoiding their own responsibility in this violent mess. Once again returning to the movie “Over the Edge” we see how ‘planned communities’ are designed to take full advantage of the ‘technologies of control’ and to maximize a panoptic system of coercion. What are the lessons that we teach our children?

With the Atlantic Monthly’s recent revelations of how the Unabomber's mindset could have been created by the serious institutionalized mind-fuck he received from experimenting psychiatrists at Harvard, we are reminded that these desperate teen pariahs only possibility of help/advice/succor probably comes from the skewed philosophies of institutional authorities ... the psychiatrist, the principle, the probation officer, the cop ... who most likely view the teen as a 'loser' who just needs an attitude adjustment. Then there is the evergrowing cornucopia of medications prescribed to help Susie forget what it is that hurts her or makes sure that Johnny will sit still in the wooden torture device. But still the dis-ease grows and the violent teens erupt from the banality of their communities armed with the weapons of their distant parents. Then why are we so shocked when the shootings start--what shocks me is that more of these little bastards aren't shooting. Sadly, their targets, their peers, are just as much victims of the society that the shooters are attempting to shock. Perhaps Walter Dean Burnham's quote on page 226 of Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces (1990) -“The great American substitute for social revolution is murder.”-- should become known as the postscript to the American 20th century.

So what is to be done? Am I the only one who is nervous about how controlling powers use these acts of violence (teen shootings are just one viral strain) to further restrict our rights?

Situating critique is at the heart of what we do and is a necessity of a democratic reality. Our development as critical citizens involves ever widening circles of awareness, so we need to develop a resistance based on awareness of what is directly "given" knowledge and what is withheld. Recognize and struggle against this system of institutional experts. Why can only legitimized experts express opinions on social problems, or, in other words, why are their views the only ones disseminated through the mainstream media. The usage of "we" and "us" by media, critics, etc... is wrong and misleading. In the United States (much less the world) there is no clear "us" or "we". Instead all critiques/reporting need to move to explicit explanations of the forces/power structures (e.g. corporations, special interest groups, political parties, economic realities, etc...) that are initiating actions/ideologies/events.

Also we need to cultivate powerful artistic expressions of the monstrous. As Adam Jones communicates every time he hands me his latest “rip literature”, we need works that are not designed to make bundles of money, we need works that resist the processes of the market. So we must understand that our psyche/identity/individuality is a site that is still under construction. We’ve survived many "violent oscillations" and must now regain a sense of the "circle" of life. We must begin to seek out the patterns of meaning, watching them take shape before our eyes and in our mind. This is where we must go, on a journey of cognitive mapping, but it cannot just be a mapping of your own individual patterns but also a mission of understanding of larger forces at play and how they affect us all. I propose that we adopt the concept of the “whipstitch” as the metaphoric monstrosity of works that resist the logic of the market:

“The monster is that uncertain cultural body in which is condensed an intriguing simultaneity or doubleness: like the ghost of Hamlet, it introjects the disturbing, repressed, but formative traumas or "pre-" into the sensory moment of "post-," binding the one irrevocably to the other. The monster commands, "Remember me": restore my fragmented body, piece me back together, allow the past its eternal return. The monster haunts; it does not simply bring past and present together, but destroys the boundary that demanded their twinned foreclosure. (Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. "Preface: In a Time of Monsters." Monster Theory: Reading Culture, 1996:ix-x)”


It is through a contemporary construction of fictive realms that have descended from Mary Shelley’s shunned creature that we may finally grasp an understanding of what is creating a society of “whipstitches” who scream wordlessly at the pain they cannot articulate. Hopefully, like Rikki Ducornet, we will all become “infected with the venom of language” and open up “spaces which evoke a sensation of strangeness, one that stimulates the eye, the imagining mind, and the body all at once” (“Walking to Eden” The Monstrous and the Marvelous, 1999). We are in the midst of revolutionary times—technology and science are metamorphosing before our eyes—but we also face the dangers of increasing restrictions on our personal privacy and freedom of expression. We must all decide if we are going to retreat from a world of wonders, or, whether we will reach towards Edgar Allan Poe’s “infinity of mental excitement” (“Murders in the Rue Morgue”)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nikki Giovanni: We Are Virginia Tech

We Are Virginia Tech

Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor of English, VPI&SU
Virginia Tech English Department

We are Virginia Tech

We are sad today
We will be sad for quite a while
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning

We are Virginia Tech

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend to cry
And we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again

We are Virginia Tech

We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it

But neither does a child in Africa
Dying of AIDS

Neither do the Invisible Children
Walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army

Neither does the baby elephant watching his community
Be devastated for ivory
Neither does the Mexican child looking
For fresh water

Neither does the Iraqi teenager dodging bombs

Neither does the Appalachian infant killed
By a boulder
Dislodged
Because the land was destabilized

No one deserves a tragedy

We are Virginia Tech
The Hokie Nation embraces
Our own
And reaches out
With open heart and mind
To those who offer their hearts and hands

We are strong
And brave
And innocent
And unafraid

We are better than we think
And not yet quite what we want to be

We are alive to imagination
And open to possibility
We will continue
To invent the future

Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness

We are the Hokies

We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail

We are
Virginia Tech

Nikki Giovanni, delivered at the Convocation, April 17, 2007

Eliza Gilkyson: Man of God

A tip of the hat to a mellow artist speaking truth to power...

To Listen to the Song



Man of God by Eliza Gilkyson

the cowboy came from out of the west
with his snakeskin boots and his bulletproof vest
gang of goons and his big war chest
fortunate son he was doubly blessed
corporate cronies and the chiefs of staff
bowin' to the image of the golden calf
startin up wars in the name of god's son
gonna blow us all the way to kingdom come

man of god, man of god
that ain't the teachings of a man of god
man of god, man of god
that ain't the preachings of a man of god

coalition of the willing and the judgmental
patricians, politicians, and the fundamentalists
you never have to tell them how the money's spent
you never have to tell them where their freedom went
homophobes in the high command
waitin' for the rapture like it's disneyland
hide all the bodies from out of view
channel all the treasure to the chosen few

man of god, man of god
that ain't the teachings of a man of god
man of god, man of god
that ain't the preachings of a man of god

if I could I surely would
stand on the rock where moses stood
look out people now we're gonna get fleeced
by a wolf masquerading as a man of peace

jesus said blessed are the meek
jesus said you gotta turn the other cheek
jesus said help the poor and the weak
if he lived today he'd be a liberal freak
all the money changers would be out on the street
weepin and wailin and gnashin their teeth
me I'm waitin on the reckoning day
when the whole world gonna rise up and say

man of god, man of god
that ain't the teachings of a man of god
man of god, man of god
that ain't the preachings of a man of god

man of god, man of god
that ain't the teachings of a man of god
man of god, man of god
that ain't the preachings of a man of god

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Eastern Kentucky Sunset

On Tax Day: Imagine

(Courtesy of Martha)

Just for a moment... even longer... imagine... the possibilities... if our taxes went toward funding peace, not war...

Imagine

Imagine there's no heaven,
it's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
above us only sky,
Imagine all the people,
living for today.

Imagine there's no countries,
it isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
and no religion too,
Imagine all the people,
living life in peace.

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope someday you'll join us,
and the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
a brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people,
sharing all the world.

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope someday you'll join us,
and the world will live as one.



and a live acoustic version from the Apollo Theater in 1971:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hiking in San Diego, CA

I was feeling very buzzed this day because I had just finished climbing my second mountain peak of the day...

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Temerity

The Word of the Day for April 15 is:

temerity \tuh-MAIR-uh-tee\ noun

: unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger or opposition : rashness, recklessness

Example sentence:
The official was thrown into jail for having the temerity to publicly disagree with the dictator.

Did you know?
When it comes to flagrant boldness, "temerity," "audacity," "hardihood," and "effrontery" have the cheek to get your meaning across. Of those synonyms, "temerity" (from the Latin "temere," meaning "blindly" or "recklessly") suggests boldness arising from contempt of danger, while "audacity" implies a disregard of the restraints commonly imposed by convention or prudence. "Hardihood" implies firmness in daring and defiance, and "effrontery" suggests a shameless disregard of propriety and courtesy. If you're looking for a more informal term for a brash attitude, you might consider "nerve," "cheek," "gall," or "chutzpah."

Nirvana: Heart Shopped Box

Song for monday...



and a live version



and on Saturday Night Live

Country Singer Takes a Stand Against the War

(Courtesy of Harwell)

Eyal Press: America's Unseen Poverty

Suburbia: America's Unseen Poverty
By Eyal Press
The Nation and AlterNet

America's suburbs evoke images of dream homes, plush lawns and neighborhood BBQs, not low-wage jobs and houses under foreclosure. Yet for the first time ever, more poor Americans live in the suburbs than in all our cities combined.

Rockingham County, North Carolina, has never been known for its opulence, but until recently most residents would not have hesitated to describe it as comfortably middle class. For several decades the county, a rectangular block of land in the north central part of the state, owed its prosperity to textile mills and tobacco plants, industries that weren't always friendly to unions but that nevertheless furnished the local workforce with jobs that paid enough to raise a family and buy a nice house somewhere.

Among those to do so was Johnny Price, a 44-year-old African-American who lives in a ranch house with green shutters on a street called Sparrow in a leafy residential subdivision on the outskirts of the town of Eden. Two towering oak trees dominate Price's front lawn. In his driveway sits a navy blue station wagon. By the standards of some newly built suburbs, the setup is modest, but for Price, the youngest of ten children whose father died when he was 6 and whose mother worked as a domestic servant, it's a testament to the rewards of hard work and perseverance, values he's tried to instill in his teenage son and daughter, who have lived with him since he and his wife divorced. Lately this has gotten more challenging. A year ago Price lost the job he'd held for nineteen years in company-wide layoffs at Unified, a textile manufacturer. He's now struggling to make do on $1,168 in monthly unemployment benefits and, like many people in Rockingham County, which has been ravaged by plant closings in recent years, wondering how long he'll be able to continue paying his mortgage.

Stories of downward mobility in America's suburbs have not exactly cluttered the headlines over the past decade. Gated communities of dream homes, mansions ringed by man-made lakes and glass-cube office parks: These are the images typically evoked by the posh, supersized subdivisions built during the 1990s technology boom. Low-wage jobs, houses under foreclosure, families unable to afford food and medical care are not. But venture beyond the city limits of any major metropolitan area today, and you will encounter these things, in forms less concentrated -- and therefore less visible -- than in the more blighted pockets of our cities perhaps, but with growing frequency all the same. In the three counties surrounding Greensboro, North Carolina, the city half an hour south of where Johnny Price lives, the poverty rate has surged in recent years. It now stands at 14.4 percent, only slightly below the level in New Orleans.

Greensboro, it turns out, is not alone. Last December the Brookings Institution published a report showing that from Las Vegas to Boise to Houston, suburban poverty has been growing over the past seven years, in some places slowly, in others by as much as 33 percent. "The enduring social and fiscal challenges for cities that stem from high poverty are increasingly shared by their suburbs," the report concludes. It's a problem some may assume is confined to the ragged fringes of so-called "inner ring" suburbs that directly border cities, places where the housing stock is older and from which many wealthier residents long ago departed. But this isn't the case. "Overall ... first suburbs did not bear the brunt of increasing suburban poverty in the early 2000s," notes the Brookings report, which found that economic distress has spread to "second-tier suburbs and 'exurbs'" as well.

The result is a historic milestone that has gone strangely ignored: For the first time ever, more poor Americans live in the suburbs than in all our cities combined.

One reason this shift may not have sunk into public consciousness is that for as long as suburbs have existed, Americans have tended to envision them as pristine sanctuaries where people go to escape brushing shoulders with the poor. The most familiar historical example -- much lamented by a generation of progressives who came to associate the migration to suburbs with racial backlash and urban decline -- is the mass exodus of middle-class white ethnics from the nation's central cities, which accelerated in the wake of the riots and social unrest of the 1960s. In more recent years, it's often assumed, the forces fueling the growth of suburbs have only made things worse -- the social landscape more segregated, the sprawl more extreme, the gap increasingly vast between people who rarely set foot in cities and those who rarely leave them.

In fact, however, the gentrification of many urban neighborhoods, from Brooklyn to San Francisco to Washington, has forced many working-class residents out. In a reversal of the classic migration story, many of these displaced residents have fled to the suburbs, lured in part by the growing pool of mostly low-wage jobs there -- cleaning homes, mowing lawns, staffing restaurants, strip malls and office plazas. Alan Berube, co-author of the Brookings Institution study, says the "decentralization of low-wage employment" is one of the main factors driving suburban poverty rates up.

Link to the Rest of the Article

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Andre Malraux/Human Nature

"The attempt to force human beings to despise themselves is what I call hell."

---Andre Malraux

Quoted by Frank in:



Dance, Monkey, Dance

An Open Message to Michael Franti and Spearhead

Dear Michael and Spearhead,

I just wanted to say thanks for your inspiration of younger people through your positive music and messages.

I teach a peace studies course and was impressed by how many of my students mentioned your work as a positive example of peace-oriented artistic production. I then sought out your DVD I Know I'm Not Alone and your new CD Yell Fire!

In a couple of weeks we are having a series of progressive films on our campus which will be used to develop a deeper understanding of the world and hopefully inspire our students/faculty/community to become more involved in progressive activism. Your film is one of our choices as we have a lot of student musicians/artists and we believe that your projects remind us of the role of artists/citizens in a time of war.

Peace and Love,

Michael Benton
English Coordinator/Film Studies
Bluegrass Community and Technical College (Lexington, KY)
Bluegrass Film Society

Ron Strickland: Marxist Cultural Theory Webcasts

(Ron Strickland was one of the best professors in my long college career. He was a progressive leader in our academic community, provided courses of the highest level, and had a true interest in helping his students to grasp the complex theories that we were learning. He was also a strong supporter of our own interests in political activism and cultural subversion. Ron's work was not purely theoretical, but was also a vital part of his life and his actions. He was a great model for me of a public intellectual and a committed teacher. I was lucky enough to take his online Marxist Theory course and recently as part of a response to my Existentialism: Five Propositions he sent me these links to his newest webcasts that outline some of the concept/issues that he introduces in the course. These are great intros, that are accessible and informative, I recommend them to scholars and citizens who want to gain a greater understanding of economic, political, philosophical and cultural issues in our society.

Ron always pushed me to move beyond my individualistic tendencies and to develop a broader, systemic understanding of politics and culture. He was fearless as an academic, dedicated to his progressive causes, and was the center of a group of radical international students. When I think of authenticity... Ron comes to mind.)

Ron Strickland Webcasts

Includes:

Economic Features of Feudalism, Modernity and Postmodernity\
Paradigms of Knowledge in Modernity
Social Functions of Art in Modernity
Political Systems of Modernity
The Social Subject of Modernity
Historical Materialism
Base and Superstructure

Philosophical Paradigms: Medieval Europe
Philosophical Paradigms: Modernity
Philosophical Paradigms: Postmodernity

Political Systems: Medieval Europe
Political Systems: Modernity
Political Systems: Postmodernity

The Individual and Society in Medieval Europe
The Individual and Society in Modernity
The Individual and Society in Postmodernity

Aesthetic Paradigms: Feudalism
Aesthetic Paradigms: Modernity
Aesthetic Paradigms: Postmodernity

The Great Gatsby (Part 1)
The Great Gatsby (Part 2)
The Great Gatsby (Part 3)
Prof. Matthew Bruccoli on The Great Gatsby

Idealist and Historicist Conceptions of Literature
---------------------------------------------------

Check out Ron Strickland's other courses

Online Marxist Cultural Theory readings

Heidi Hartmann, et al: Best and Worst State Economies for Women

Institute For Women's Policy Research

PDF Best and Worst State Economies for Women

Keith Olbermann: Bush's War on Logic (Video)

Link to the Report

Loose Change 2nd edition (Dylan Avery: 2006)

(Whether you agree or disagree with the makers of Loose Change and other 9/11 conspiracy theorists--I think it is important that we at least listen to what they have to say. I think we would all agree, no matter our position, that there are a lot of unanswered questions/mysteries.)

To Watch Loose Change 2nd Edition Online

Wikipedia Posting on the History of Loose Change

IMDB posting on Loose Change: 2nd Edition

Loose Change Filmmakers debate Popular Mechanics Editors of "Debunking 9/11 Myths"

David Ray Griffin

David Ray Griffin debates Chip Berlet on the 9/11 Theories

9/11 Truth Movement

9/11: Press for Truth

Screw Loose Change (site dedicated to debunking loose Change)

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Nation: Student Writing Contest (Deadline May 31)

The Nation

We're pleased to announce the second annual Nation Student Writing Contest and hope you can help us spread the word. Sponsored by the BIL Charitable Trust to recognize and reward the best in student writing and thinking, the contest's deadline is May 31, 2007: Student Writing Contest

We're looking for original, thoughtful, provocative student voices to tell us what is the most important issue for young people in the 2008 presidential campaign. Essays should not exceed 800 words and should be original, unpublished work that demonstrates fresh, clear thinking and superior quality of expression and craftsmanship.

We'll select five finalists (including at least one high-schooler) and one winner, who will be awarded a $1,000 cash prize and a Nation subscription. The winning essay will be published in the magazine and featured on our website. The five finalists will be awarded $200 each and subscriptions, and their entries will be published online. The contest is open to students at American high schools and to undergraduates at American colleges and universities. Entries (only one per student) will be accepted through May 31. A winner will be announced by September 4. Please send entries to

studentprize@thenation.com.

For last year's inaugural contest, we received more than 700 submissions from high school and college students in forty-one states. The entries arrived from north, south, east and west, from big public institutions and tiny liberal arts colleges, from rural high schools and penitentiary writing programs, from Indian reservations and large urban centers. Read Sarah Stillman's winning essay, Project Corpus Callosum, as well as the five finalists--by Brie Cubelic, Zaid Jilani, Nikolas Bowie, Lianne Yim and Camila Domonske.

The Nation: Student Resources

On Existentialism: Five Propositions

(I'm thinking about my own personal philosophy these days and these are just some thoughts... responses appreciated!)

On Existentialism

1) As humans we all exist, but it is our essence that makes us unique. What you are (essence) is the result of your choices (your existence) rather than the reverse. Essence is not destiny. You are what you make yourself to be. Our lives are not given to us, but must be developed consciously with care and consideration.

2) Living in the moment is essential, but we also interact and adapt based on our past experiences and future expectations. Yes, we are fundamentally time-bound beings, but we are also, much, much more than that. Unlike measurable (quantative), "clock" time, "lived" time is qualitative: the "not yet," the "already," and the "present" differ among themselves in meaning and value. We need to be aware of all of these. The impetus of living in the "moment" is that we should not let the past hang on us like a weight causing us to drown, or allow the possibility of an uncertain future to intimidate us to the point of inaction. Remember the lessons of the past, recognize the possibilities of the future, in order to fully live in the present.

3) Radical Humanism. Existentialism is a person-centered philosophy. It's focus is on the human individual's pursuit of identity and meaning amidst the social and economic pressures of mass society for superficiality and conformism. It is our responsibility, as free and conscious beings, to create meaning out of life and to develop an authentic essense. It is also, in my opinion, in this regard, our duty to help others develop their response-ability to do the same (for me as a teacher this is the core of an existentialist pedagogy). In this we are cultivating free, ethical and responsible individuals who care about their community. My radical humanism does not discount other beings in this world... it is holistic, in the sense of recognizing that humans are just one set of beings that live and share in the development and continuation of the broader ecosphere.

4) Freedom = Responsibility. Existentialism is a philosophy of freedom. It requires that we step back and reflect/reassess on what we have been doing and what effect our thoughts/actions have on the world. In this sense we are more than just individuals, we are members of larger collectives and our personal ethics always extend beyond ourselves (existentialism is not vulgar egotism). In this we can only be as "responsible" as we are "free." Response-ability, the ability for people to respond to the problems of their society and the impetus for them to care beyond themselves, is only realized by free, authentic and ethical beings. Where there is mindless conformism, shallow consumerism, or brutal oppression, you will see a breakdown in the development of response-ability (both in the ruled and rulers... or, manipulated and manipulators).

5) Ethical considerations are the primary questions. We all understand ethics and freedom differently, this is a given, and we must bring each of our understandings into play and sharpen our ideas through open/free public discourse. In this we, as individuals, as a community, as a society, and as a global ecosystem, should consider ethical questions. Each individual is responsible to develop and consider the authenticity of their own personal lives and their society.

Existentialism is a philosophy of living authentically in the world, but in the realization of our authentic self we also have an ethical responsibility to ensure that others have that same opportunity. My authenticity should not be at the expense of your opportunity to realize yourself (for example, we are not bloated ticks that feed off the misery of others in order to realize some twisted sense of self).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Random Questions/Thoughts Pt. 1

(Any comments appreciated)

In an increasingly globally linked world that still suffers from ever spiraling incidences of mass violence and destruction, depravation and detachment, what is the role of the inspired individual who seeks change?

What is the intrinsic value of the "free" person--where do we seek and gain "authenticity--how do we go about creating a personal and political ethics?

Is the social push toward conformity and acceptance (of things as they are) inescapable?

So we are flesh and blood individuals (biological/animal), but we also have a higher level of consciousness. Is this a curse or a blessing? Why?

How do we cultivate a citizenry that is willing to recognize and take responsibility for their individual/collective actions? Is this the right goal, to take responsibility, and cultivate response-ability in others, or should we just flee into the safety and comfort of the faceless crowd?

Following the advice of Nietzsche, how would you "become what you are?"

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Ex Parte

Merriam-Webster

ex parte \eks-PAR-tee\ adverb or adjective

1 : on or from one side or party only — used of legal proceedings
*2 : from a one-sided or partisan point of view

Example sentence:
I prefer that news program because it sticks to unbiased reporting with no ex parte commentary.

Did you know?
"Latin has not been over-used in a procedural context ('ex parte' being a rare exception)," wrote a correspondent to the London Times in May 1999. Indeed, "ex parte" (which literally meant "on behalf [of]" in Medieval Latin) pops up quite often in legal settings. An ex parte proceeding, for example, is one that occurs at the request of and for the benefit of one party, usually without the knowledge and participation of any other party. Even when "ex parte" steps outside of the courtroom — to be used of an ex parte meeting, interview, chat, conversation, investigation, discussion, or contact, for example — the "one-sided" sense often has some sort of legal or legislative slant, referring to involvement of just one party or side in a case or dispute.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Alanis Morrisette: My Humps

(Courtesy of JZ Long, who requested comments...)

Alanis once again speaks to the pain of the sexpot who desires nothing more than to shake her love-thang and be respected for her mind. Why when she is obviously so much more, do people treat her simply as a piece of meat? Why, in these modern times, can't a woman shake her scantily dressed hump in the face of men and still be respected for her submerged personality and intelligence. So the next time a sexpot shakes her hump, ask her what she thinks about the possibilitiy of world peace, or, how we could possibly disengage American troops from Iraq in a way that won't cause a huge vaccuum, or, ... respect her shaking hump by repressing your lump and seek to engage her other talents... Thank you Alanis for this timely reminder... we feel the pain of sexpots everywhere...

Thivai Abhor

Monday, April 02, 2007

Executive Excess 2006: Defense and Oil Executives Cash in on Conflict

A Fair Economy PDF report:

Executive Excess

Hugh Miles on Al Jazeera

Think Again: Al Jazeera
By Hugh Miles
Foreign Policy

It is vilified as a propaganda machine and Osama bin Laden’s mouthpiece. In truth, though, Al Jazeera is as hated in the palaces of Riyadh as it is in the White House. But, as millions of loyal viewers already know, Al Jazeera promotes a level of free speech and dissent rarely seen in the Arab world. With plans to go global, it might just become your network of choice.


“Al Jazeera Supports Terrorism”

False, though the network makes little attempt to disassociate itself from those who do. This claim is one of the loudest arguments that Western critics have levied against the Arabic-language news channel since its inception 10 years ago, when the Doha, Qatar-based network pledged to present all viewpoints. Just as it describes in its motto, “The opinion and the other opinion,” Al Jazeera has lent airtime even to hated political figures and extremists, including prominent members of al Qaeda. It’s this willingness to present terrorists as legitimate political commentators that has prompted outspoken critics such as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to refer to Al Jazeera’s coverage of the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as “inaccurate and inexcusable.”

After all, when Al Jazeera offers its estimated 50 million viewers exclusive interviews of Osama bin Laden, it’s easy to confuse access with endorsement. And when a journalist who conducts those interviews is jailed for collaboration with al Qaeda, as Tayssir Alouni was in a Spanish court last year, the line between impartial observer and impassioned supporter is certainly blurred. In addition, al Qaeda is not the only terrorist group that reaches out to Al Jazeera. Besides the infamous bin Laden tapes—at least six of which the network has still never aired—Al Jazeera has also received tapes from insurgent groups in Iraq, renegade Afghan warlords, and the London suicide bombers.

But the network has never supported violence against the United States. Not once have its correspondents praised attacks on coalition forces in Iraq. The network has never captured an attack on the coalition “live,” and there’s no evidence Al Jazeera has known about any attack beforehand. Despite claims to the contrary, the network has never aired footage of a beheading. As for Alouni’s case, conclusive evidence has yet to be presented to the public. And there is nothing to suggest that the network’s funding is illegitimate. Allegations of supporting terrorism remain just that—allegations.

“Al Jazeera Is Anti-Semitic”

Wrong. Just as Al Jazeera has proven willing to present al Qaeda’s “perspective,” it has also devoted airtime to and welcomed another regional pariah—Israel. The network was the first Arab channel to allow Israelis to present their case in their own words, in Hebrew, English, or Arabic. This move was a major departure from past practices and truly shocked the Arab public. Until Al Jazeera arrived, most Arabs had never even heard an Israeli’s voice. Al Jazeera regularly airs clips of Israeli officials within news bulletins and conducts live interviews with six to 10 Israelis each month. The network covers Israeli affairs extensively and is widely watched in Israel. In fact, Al Jazeera gives more airtime to Israeli issues than any other channel outside Israel itself.

Although Israel has accused Al Jazeera of bias and anti-Semitism (and some of the network’s guests have certainly fit that bill), the network’s coverage has occasionally been of concrete benefit to the Israelis. When Israel invaded Jenin in the spring of 2002, Al Jazeera’s exclusive television reports from within the besieged city thoroughly dispelled rumors of a “massacre,” leading to a U.N. special investigating committee appointed by the secretary-general being unceremoniously disbanded.

Many Israelis even regard Al Jazeera as an important new force for change in the Arab world. Gideon Ezra, former deputy head of the Israeli General Security Service, once remarked that he wished “all Arab media were like Al-Jazeera.” Not all Arabs would agree. Although many Westerners think Al Jazeera has a pro-Arab bias, many Arabs believe exactly the opposite. It is widely held in the Arab world that Al Jazeera is financed and run by Mossad, MI5, or the CIA, so as to undermine Arab unity. Just as Bahrain banned Al Jazeera from reporting from inside the country because of a perceived Zionist bias in 2002, Al Jazeera’s bureaus in Arab countries have often been closed down, accused of besmirching the Palestinians or disseminating other kinds of imperialistic anti-Arab propaganda.

“Al Jazeera Is Spreading Political Freedom”

Wishful thinking. It’s true that Al Jazeera established the tradition of investigative reporting in the Arab world and rolled back the boundaries of debate within Arab families, breaking all kinds of taboos about what could be discussed on television. Improving upon the sycophantic Arab news channels that existed prior to 1996, Al Jazeera better informs the Arab public about their leadership and provides Arabs with a forum through which they can more easily ask of their rulers, “Why are we in this mess?”

In fact, Al Jazeera’s programs about Western politics have done more to inform Arabs about democracy than any nation or station. After 9/11, Al Jazeera’s Washington bureau started two weekly talk shows to illuminate American democracy for a foreign audience: From Washington, in which the bureau chief interviewed U.S. politicians, including members of the Bush administration; and U.S. Presidential Race, which covered the U.S. elections in great depth, including most of the major primaries.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Free Gary Tyler!

(Sources from a Nation report)

The Case of Gary Tyler, Louisiana

Introduction
Gary Tyler, black, now aged 36, is serving a life prison sentence in Louisiana State Penitentiary. He was convicted in November 1975 for the murder of 13-year-old Timothy Weber, a white schoolboy who was shot during racial fighting in 1974. Tyler, who was 16 at the time of the incident, has consistently denied involvement in the crime. Since his trial, serious doubts have been raised about the evidence on which he was convicted. Nineteen years after his conviction he is again seeking a pardon.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned at evidence which suggests that a serious miscarriage of justice occurred either as a result of or exacerbated by his race and the racially charged atmosphere at the time of the events, the seriously deficient legal representation which Gary Tyler received at his trial before an all-white jury, and new evidence that has come to light over the years which suggests that Gary Tyler did not shoot the victim.

General Background
The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that schools should no longer be racially segregated: in order to integrate schools black students were taken by bus from their living areas to schools in white populated areas. However, the authorities of Destrehan High School strongly resisted this policy and only in the 1960s - and as a result of a Court Order - the school finally started the process of integration. In 1974, the tensions created by the resistance of whites to desegregation resulted in frequent clashes in which the Klu Klux Klan, the white supremacist organization, played a leading role.

On 7 October 1974 students at Destrehan High School, St Charles Parish, Louisiana, were sent home earlier than usual due to racial disturbances during the day. As the buses carrying black students back to their homes were leaving the school they were attacked by a group of 100 to 200 white people throwing stones and bottles at the buses.

Timothy Weber was standing near the buses with his mother who had come to collect him. A shot was heard and he fell wounded; he died a few hours later in hospital. A man standing next to him was slightly scratched in the arm, allegedly by the same bullet.

Gary Tyler was one of the black students on the bus from which the shot was allegedly fired. This was not his regular bus but he had got into it as the situation had become increasingly dangerous. There were some 65 students on the bus, well over its normal capacity.

The police, who had been called by the school principal, ordered the bus to park around the corner. All students were ordered to get off the bus and male students were thoroughly searched immediately; girl students were searched later at the police station. The bus was searched on two different occasions for over three hours by approximately seven policemen and no gun was found. The bus was then taken to the police station along with the students. Gary Tyler was taken in a police car as he had been charged with disturbing the peace (he had complained about the police harassment of a fellow black student).

At the police station the students were questioned and released. One of them, Nathalie Blanks, stated that she had been seating next to Tyler and had seen him fire a gun into the crowd; she indicated to the police the exact place where she had been seating. It was after Blanks' testimony that the police "found" a .45 automatic gun stuffed inside the seat, through a long, clearly visible tear in the seat. The seat had been previously searched, shaken and turned upside down several times and nothing had been found.

Gary Tyler was detained in the police station and reportedly badly beaten. However, he did not make any statement implicating himself in any way.

To Read the Entire Amnesty International Report

New York Times Column on the Case

Nation Report: Gary Tyler's Quest for Justice

Sunday, April 01, 2007