Friday, March 30, 2012

Phillip Smith: NYC, Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World? Activists Rally at Bloomberg's Apartment Over Illegal, Racist Pot Arrests

NYC, Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World? Activists Rally at Bloomberg's Apartment Over Illegal, Racist Pot Arrests
by Phillip Smith

New York City has the dubious -- and well-earned -- reputation as the world's marijuana arrest capital, with more than 50,000 people being arrested for pot possession there last year alone at an estimated cost of $75 million. It also has a mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who has famously said he smoked marijuana and enjoyed it, yet who presides over a police force that has run roughshod over the state's marijuana decriminalization law in order to make those arrests, almost all of which are of members of the city's black and brown minority communities.

On Thursday, activists and concerned citizens organized as the New Yorkers for Health & Safety campaign marched to the mayor's home, an apartment building in Manhattan's Upper East Side, to call him on his hypocrisy, chastise the NYPD for its racially-skewed stop-and-frisk policing, and demand that the city quit wasting tens of millions a dollar a year on low-level marijuana arrests even as it proposes cuts to other vital New York City services.

The campaign, consisting of members of the Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL-NY, the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, andWomen on the Rise Telling Her Story (WORTH), among others, brought out dozens of people for a march to the mayor's residence, followed by a brief rally. Protestors, some wearing Mayor Bloomberg masks, held signs and chanted as they rallied across the street from the apartment building.

"Bloomberg is doing more than wasting $75 million a year on marijuana arrests, he is wasting the future our youth," said Chino Hardin, lead know-your-rights trainer for the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives. "We don't want kids using drugs, so why not put money into real programs that will help them make better choices, not give forever lasting criminal records."

Under New York state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized, punishable by a ticket and fine. But NYPD practice, designed to get around that law and generate arrests, is to stop-and-frisk citizens going about their business, almost always young people of color, order them to empty their pockets (which they are not required by law to do), then arrest them for possession of marijuana in public when a baggie containing weed emerges. That is not an infraction, but a misdemeanor, and the victims are then arrested and jailed, typically for 24 hours or more, before being arraigned and released.

Last year, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered an end to that practice, but that has yet to be reflected in declining marijuana possession arrest numbers. And those numbers are huge: In addition to the more than 50,000 arrested last year, another 350,000 have been arrested since Bloomberg took office in 2002, at an estimated cost to the city of $600 million.

Even though whites use marijuana at higher rates than any other ethnic or racial group, nearly 85% of those arrested for pot possession are black and Latino, and most are under 30. Being arrested for pot means more than a day or so in jail; it also creates a permanent criminal record that can easily be accessed by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards and banks, damaging the life prospects of those saddled with a rap sheet.

"For a mayor who celebrates diversity as a key staple of the city, he sure has a horrible way of demonstrating his appreciation for certain communities in our City," said Kassandra Frederique, policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance. "Black and Latino New Yorkers cannot walk down the street without fear of being stopped, frisked, illegally searched, and then falsely charged and arrested for something that was decriminalized over 30 years ago. This is costing us millions of dollars as taxpayers. It's an insult, and must end now."

To Read the Rest of the Article

Fabrizio Mejía Madrid: The Mystery of the Parakeet, the Rooster, and the Nanny Goat

The Mystery of the Parakeet, the Rooster, and the Nanny Goat
by Fabrizio Mejía Madrid
Words Without Borders

The Tate Drugs Gallery

Inside the Ministry of Defense in Mexico City is a museum that’s not open to the public. It displays all the jewels, weapons, clothing, and reliquaries that have been seized from drug traffickers since 1985. The collection is an example of the symbols the Mexican drug trafficker draws strength from: a gold Colt .38 studded with emeralds that belonged to Amado Carillo, leader of the cartel from the northern state of Chihuahua, and which was a present from the leader of the Jalisco cartel, Joaquín “El Chapo’ Guzmán, who escaped from prison in 2000; an AK-47 rifle with a gold palm tree on the handle, which belonged to Héctor “Blondie” Palma; a double-sided bullet-proof shirt which belonged to Osiel Cárdenas, leader of the Gulf of Mexico cartel. But as well as weapons, the collection houses cowboy hats, boots and belts, and the altars to the virgin of Guadalupe and Jesús Malverde, a saint from Sinaloa, where, in the 1950s—during America’s wars with Korea and Vietnam—the planting of poppy and marijuana plants and large-scale trafficking to the United States began.

The cult of Malverde lays down what for the drug trafficker is his moral justification: law and justice are not the same thing. The myth of Malverde is that he was a nineteenth-century thief who disguised himself in banana leaves so as to go unnoticed—hence mal-verde (evil-green)—and was imprisoned by the police because his comrade squealed on him. He is hanged and the priest doesn’t want to bury him. So the people bury him by the side of the road and put a stone on top of his grave. Now, with a chapel and a cult not recognized by the Catholic Church, people come to ask favors of Malverde, that he might resolve an injustice, and they bring him something, anything, so long as it is stolen. This saint of illegality was adopted by Mexican drug traffickers who tattooed his image—a mustached man—onto their bodies, built altars to him and paid for chapels. They associated the verde (green) of the mal (evil or bad) with a marijuana leaf. The banned cult became so associated with the trafficking of drugs that in the 1990s, the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) interrogated anyone with a tattoo of the saint.

But now, in the museum, all this imagery of the powerful drug trafficker born in untamed lands and armed because he is brave has been abandoned. The images gradually filtered down into Mexican popular culture—cinema, music—but the drug traffickers don’t use these symbols any more, they avoid them. The second generation consists of university students with degrees in business management; they don’t flaunt their money, and they hire chemists to make designer drugs for them.

The Drug Trafficker Sings, and Acts, Too.

Songs and films about drug traffickers are prohibited on radio stations and in cinemas. Like trafficking itself, they survive thanks to a parallel market: the pirate CDs, the straight-to-DVD movies. In the case of films, they’ve been making them since 1976, when Antonio Martínez made Contraband and Treachery and They Killed Camelia the Texan, based on two narcocorridos (traditional folk songs about drug traffickers) written by Los Tigres del Norte, who are the Beatles of the genre, if you like. The narco film always tell the same story: an honest family goes through financial problems—a bad investment, their sweet corn crop blighted—and ends up helping to traffic drugs. These low-budget films made use of actual plantations of marijuana and poppies as locations and also of the drug traffickers’ girlfriends—the feminine ideal must be curvy in a miniskirt—as actresses. Indeed, it’s said that Los Tigres del Norte were hired by Caro Quintero, one of the first drug traffickers to go to jail (for assassinating the delegate of the DEA in Mexico, Enrique Camarena), to sing their corridos next to the marijuana plants “to make them grow tall.”

Narcocorridos are part of a banned culture—drugs—that has to justify itself morally. Through their verses the motive becomes clear: I was very poor and now I have everything and endless amounts of it and, even if they kill me, it was worth living by illegal means. They are songs about those for whom trafficking implied a metamorphosis, not only in terms of material wealth—they never boast about being rich without listing their possessions: houses, cars, weapons, money in cash, women, and alcohol—but rather in terms of power. They were poor nobodies, and now they have power, while it lasts. They use the discourse of the prevailing power: the free market and the legitimacy of making money. Indeed, in some songs such as “La cruz de amapola,” they refer to drug lords as managers and to dealers as distributors. Like the market economy, drug traffickers see themselves as unquestionable:

This is nothing new, gentlemen,
And nor is it going to end;
This is a lifelong business,
The Mafia of global origin.

But they always speak a language that, if you don’t know about drugs, you won’t understand, because it parodies the Mexican ranchero songs written by peasant sweet corn farmers, not poppy planters:

I live off three animals whom I love as my life;
They earn me money and I don’t even buy them food.
They are very fine animals: my parakeet, my rooster, and my nanny goat.

The parakeet (el perico) is cocaine, the rooster (el gallo) is marijuana, and the nanny goat (la chiva) is an AK-47 assault rifle, known as goat’s horns because of the shape of the magazine. Indeed, this song ended up on the radio without the controllers understanding what it was really about.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Democracy Now -- Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran, 68

Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran, 68
Democracy Now

As the Trayvon Martin case draws national attention, we look at another fatal shooting of an African-American male that has received far less scrutiny. Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran, was fatally shot in November by White Plains, NY, police who responded to a false alarm from his medical alert pendant. The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. Audio of the entire incident was recorded by the medical alert device in Chamberlain’s apartment. We’re joined by family attorneys and Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., who struggles through tears to recount his father’s final moments, including the way police officers mocked his father’s past as a marine. "For them to look at my father that way, (with) no regard for his life, every morning I think about it," he says.


Randolph McLaughlin, attorney for the family of Kenneth Chamberlain. He is a longtime civil rights attorney. He teaches at Pace Law School.

Mayo Bartlett, attorney for family of Kenneth Chamberlain. He is the former chief of the Bias Crimes Unit of the Westchester County District Attorney’s office and the former chair of the Westchester County Human Rights Commission.

Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., son of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

To Watch/Listen/Read

More resources:

Michael Powell: ‘Officers, Why Do You Have Your Guns Out?’

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Neal Ungerleider: Iran's "Halal Internet"

Iran's "Halal Internet"
On the Media (WNYC: New York City public media)

The Iranian government is set to launch a "Halal Internet" this spring as an alternative to the greater World Wide Web. Bob speaks to Fast Company reporter Neal Ungerleider about the most ambitious attempt by a government to censor the internet since China's "Great Firewall."

To Listen to the Episode

Daniel Engber: The Reel Sounds of Violence

The Reel Sounds of Violence
On the Media (WNYC: New York City public radio)

Most of us have been lucky enough to never witness someone's innards being spliced out of their body. Or someone's head being smashed into a wall. But in an action or horror film, we often believe that that's what actual violence sounds like. Deep in the Hollywood studios, sound editors have to create these sounds. How do they know what gruesome violence really sounds like? Brooke talks with Slate senior editor Daniel Engber who wrote about the battle between the real and created sound of violence.

To Listen to the episode

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Juan Villoro: Violence and DrugTrafficking in Mexico

Violence and Drug-Trafficking in Mexico
by Juan Villoro
Words Without Borders

In Mexico, people will pay up to $70,000 dollars for a license to hunt and kill a bighorn sheep. Killing a man is much cheaper—about $2,000, according to the rates charged by hitmen in Ciudad Juárez, the most dangerous city in the world.

And yet, on occasions, death comes free. On August 24, 2010, in Tamaulipas, seventy-two migrants were murdered before they could achieve the golden American dream. The workers, who had no passports, came from Brazil, Central America, and various parts of Mexico. They were intercepted by a group of hired killers, who tried to recruit them as drug-traffickers, offering them easy money and food, as well as that most important commodity in these lawless deserts: protection. After their difficult journey, the migrants were quite happy to undertake any of the illegal jobs on offer in the United States, but they were unwilling to get involved in organized crime. For a few minutes, they “negotiated” with the AK-47s of those trying to recruit them, but they would meet the same fate as certain mayors who have dared to reject similar offers from the drug-traffickers. In that no-man’s land where snakes and impunity from the law are the rule, saying “No” is an affront. The migrant workers were duly gunned down.

This incident came to light because of the testimony of a survivor (whose name has been carelessly bandied about by the Mexican and international press, putting both his life and the lives of his family at risk).

Néstor García Canclini, author of Culturas híbridas [Hybrid Cultures], said to me a few days ago: “The worst aspect of the whole affair is that it’s hardly the first time this kind of thing has happened. In the last six months, ten thousand illegal migrants have been kidnapped. After all, they’re the perfect victims: defenseless people with no identity papers looking for illegal work. The kidnappers get paid $400, payable via Western Union.” These are insignificant amounts of money compared with the sums involved in trafficking drugs, guns, and women, but they reveal the scale of social decay and the lack of protection that characterizes much of the area.

Amado Carrillo was known as “The Lord of the Heavens”—not because he was particularly religious, but because of the regularity with which his cocaine-laden light aircraft took off—and in the 1990s, he proposed paying off the country’s foreign debt in exchange for the government allowing him to continue his activities unimpeded. Drug-traffickers with a social agenda are a thing of the past. They are now openly violent and their violence affects everyone.

Death has long been a dominant feature of Mexican culture, from the popular celebrations held in cemeteries on the Day of the Dead to the artist José Guadalupe Posada’s engravings of skeletons and skulls. The Aztec underworld (Mictlán) is the remote anteroom of works by modern-day poets, for example Xavier Villaurrutia’s Nostalgia de la muerte [Nostalgia for Death] and José Gorostiza’s Muerte sin fin [Endless Death].

Today, death is not just the inspiration behind rituals, poetry and philosophy. At the corner of Avenida Patriotismo and Río Mixcoac, one of the busiest crossroads in Mexico City, there is a bridge where people often hang advertisements and protest banners. Last week, I saw a yellow sign advertising a newly fashionable profession: “thanatology,” the study of corpses and the manner of their death having become an urgent need.

To paraphrase the protagonist of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in The Cathedral, we might ask: “Just when did Mexico get so screwed up?” Violence has been on the increase for decades, but the speed of that increase began to escalate about four years ago. In December 2006, after a much-disputed election, Felipe Calderón announced “a war on drug-trafficking.” He had been in power for only two weeks, hardly enough time to plan a battle of that magnitude.

Four years on, the death toll is frightening: between 23,000 and 32,000 dead, many of them civilians. True, there have been significant seizures and arrests (like the recent capture of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias La Barbie), but justice moves far more slowly than crime: each month, the police confiscate 200 guns, but in that same month another 2,000 arrive from the United States.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Amplify: YAN 101

[via Literaghost]

Amplify Your Voice

In the era of abstinence-only programs, and in a culture where shame and fear around sexuality are the norm, too many of us didn't get enough info about sex, sexuality, and relationships. Yet an advocate for sexual health and rights needs a solid grasp of the facts, not only to make their arguments credible, but also because they often serve as a resource for friends who need t...heir questions answered.

That's why Advocates for Youth is pleased to announce the launch of YAN 101 (Youth Activist Network 101), our series of online education modules on adolescent reproductive health and rights.

YAN 101 was conceived to help young people fill in the gaps in their sexuality education and prepare them to become well-informed sexual health activists. Each lesson provides basic information about an important topic, like contraception, healthy relationships, HIV and STIs, abortion, cultural competency, and more. Young people can complete the lessons at their own pace, and at the end, if they complete all of the lessons and a final exam, they're eligible to receive a certificate in Sexual Health and Rights Activism.

YAN 101 is a great tool for young people or anyone who is interested in learning more about reproductive and sexual health. Or, if you already know it all, prove it!

Visit YAN 101 to check out the lessons yourself!


Julia Reticker-Flynn
Youth Activist Network Manager
Advocates for Youth

Scott Sloan: Hands On Originals T-shirt company accused of discrimination

Hands On Originals T-shirt company accused of discrimination
by Scott Sloan
Lexington Herald-Leader

Popular Lexington T-shirt printer Hands On Originals has triggered a wave of criticism after telling organizers of Lexington's annual gay pride festival that it would not produce apparel for the event because Hands On is a Christian company.

On Monday, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington, which organizes the June festival, filed a discrimination complaint with the city's Human Rights Commission.

"Hands On Originals does a lot of business in this town, and people should be aware of the situation, so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to buy from them," said Aaron Baker, president of GLSO's board of directors.

Baker said the organization had gotten quotes from a number of Central Kentucky T-shirt companies, including Hands On Originals, and had selected it as the best local bid. The T-shirts for the fifth annual event were to include a stylized number 5 on the front along with "Lexington Pride Festival" and the event's sponsors on the back.

Baker said Hands On Originals co-owner Blaine Adamson told the GLSO in a follow-up call that the company was declining the order "because we're a Christian organization" but had found another company that would honor its price.

"It came as a shock because many of us are Christians, too, and what's that have to do with anything?" Baker said. He said a Pentecostal church meets weekly at GLSO's Pride Center.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger: Comic Strip

[MB -- cheers, I didn't think it was possible to outdo the Gainsbourg/Bardot version]

The Beatles: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

[lots of music posts = writing time]

Monday, March 26, 2012

Garbage: Sex Is Not the Enemy

Literaghost states: "I feel like this needs to be the new anthem for reproductive justice in this country."

Smashing Pumpkins: Drown

Melissa Anderson: Belle de Siècle -- From jeune fille to mother superior, the many faces of Catherine Deneuve

Belle de Siècle: From jeune fille to mother superior, the many faces of Catherine Deneuve
by Melissa Anderson
Moving Image Source


For all the degradations Deneuve endures in these movies, it's worth remembering that in the first decade of her nearly 50-year career, she became famous by starring in films that were either captivating debasements or wholesome fantasias (and sometimes a mixture of the two). But in an oeuvre that encompasses more than 100 films, Deneuve can hardly be limited to Catherine the pure or Catherine the perverted. At times she's superseded mere celebrity and stood in for an entire nation: From 1985-89, her visage was used for Marianne, the national symbol of France. Shortly after, in 1992, she starred as a grande dame colonialist in Régis Wargnier's 1992 historical melodrama Indochine, the only role for which Deneuve has been nominated for an Academy Award. And yet Deneuve, born in 1943, has refused to calcify. Since Indochine, she has shown a fearlessness in her roles—no matter how small, as witnessed by her highly memorable motorcycle mama in Leos Carax's Pola X (1999) and her imperturbable hospital psychiatrist in Desplechin's Kings and Queen (2004).

Then again, that temerity existed from the start. Repulsion (1965), Deneuve's first English-language film, came out only a year after her breakout role as Geneviève, the melancholic jeune fille in Jacques Demy's lollipop-hued, entirely sung melodrama, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. While certainly somber (some have likened Demy's film to a musical about the Algerian War), Umbrellas is far sunnier than Roman Polanski's horror show, which begins with an extremely tight close-up of Deneuve—several shots of her eyeball, her pupil dominating the entire screen. Despite the camera's proximity, Deneuve, the height of inscrutable blankness, remains remarkably distant—a damaged beauty hiding under a mane of luxuriant blond hair, her delicate, accented English rarely registering above a whisper. Plummeting into psychosis, she becomes glacially catatonic; her character, Carole, spends hours staring motionless at a crack in a sidewalk. Soon she's gazing at a slowly putrefying rabbit carcass; next she's seeing menacing shadows outside her bedroom door. Then viewers see Carole being raped—a violation that may be real or imagined.

In the recently published English translation of The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve Close Up and Personal (Pegasus Books), screenwriter Pascal Bonitzer asks the actress if she was "freaked out" by the role of Carole. "Absolutely not, I thought it was fantastic, I was very pleased," she responds. Her unflappable commitment to roles in which she is debauched must have been helpful when shooting Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour (1967)—which, notably, was released in France less than three months after Demy's radiant, MGM-inspired musical The Young Girls of Rochefort, starring Deneuve and her real-life sister Françoise Dorléac, who died shortly after Rochefort opened. In Belle de Jour, Deneuve is Séverine, a deeply disenchanted Parisian housewife frequently trussed up and mussed up while sporting the smartest Yves Saint Laurent finery. She emits frost: "I feel this coldness from you," laments Pierre (Jean Sorel), her doting doctor husband. In an unconsummated marriage, Séverine finds liberation through byzantine psychosexual fantasies—and the 2 to 5 shift at a brothel. As in Repulsion, there are fleeting flashbacks to childhood trauma. Yet in Buñuel's film, these scenes are almost non sequiturs, presented not as psychological "explanation" but as blips in a baroque sexual surrealism. Bondage, defilement, debasement: Séverine revels in it all.

Deneuve, however, did not. "I felt they showed more of me than they'd said they were going to," she tells Bonitzer. "There were moments when I felt totally used." Yet that didn't stop her from starring three years later in Buñuel's equally bizarre Tristana, in which she plays a motherless innocent lusted after by a well-respected gentlemen (Deneuve's diary entry from October 4, 1969, while filming Tristana: "Have to toss my underwear on to my artificial leg lying on the bed, and it's a real challenge making the lace fall exactly on the shoed foot"). Curiously, eight months after Tristana's release in France, Demy's Donkey Skin—his third musical with Deneuve—came out. Based on a popular 17th-century fable by Charles Perrault, Donkey Skin has psychosexual perversions worthy of Buñuel: As the Queen (a brunette Deneuve) lies on her deathbed, her grieving king (Jean Marais) promises he will remarry only if he finds a princess more beautiful than she. And who could be more fetching than a dark-haired Deneuve? A blonde Catherine, of course, the demure royal daughter who's baffled by Dad's planned nuptials. Soon she's on the lam as a sullied, smelly scullion draped in an ass's pelt.

Just as significant as her work onscreen is Deneuve's unassailable role as sapphic idol. Although same-sex titillation is hinted at in Belle de Jour, Deneuve's status as lesbian icon was indelibly cemented with Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983), in which her vampiress, Miriam Blaylock, seduces a sweat-soaked Susan Sarandon. In André Téchiné's Thieves (1996), Deneuve is a whiskey-swilling philosophy prof shown enjoying some bathtub splashing with her decades-younger girlfriend (soft butch Laurence Côte). François Ozon, in 8 Women (2002), staged a memorable tussle and smooch between Deneuve and Fanny Ardant, the two actresses linked offscreen by their respective films and romances with François Truffaut. A San Francisco–based lesbian magazine was once called Deneuve until a trademark dispute with the actress (who was hawking her own line of perfume with her surname) led to a title change to Curve in 1995.

To Read the Entire Essay

War: Low Rider

Carmen Boullosa: A Report From Hell

A Report from Hell
by Carmen Boullosa
Words Without Borders

The so-called "war on drugs" began five years ago. According to official sources, the victims—children, teens, adults, women, men—number roughly 50,000; other sources claim over 60,000 have died. Neither figure includes the tortured, the maimed, the kidnapped, the disappeared.

This war did not emerge out of nowhere. It developed over the course of two decades, perhaps more, of government and police corruption, terrible social inequality, and the growth of illegal businesses, ever-stronger and better organized, which trafficked in humans (exporting workers to the north), arms (imported guns from the north) and, of course, drugs (those passed through from other countries and those “Made in Mexico”).

On the other hand, the war’s genesis was tied to a very specific event in Mexican politics. When president Calderon declared war on drug dealers he had just been sworn into office. But he had won the election by only a tiny margin and a good part of the Mexican population did not believe the vote count was accurate. Mr. Lopez Obrador, the contender, had lost by a negligible number of ballots; he alleged fraud and declared himself the "legitimate president."

It was in this context that the "other" legitimate president, President Calderon, launched his war. In part he hoped it would win the support of a clear majority of the country, and give him the legitimacy he lacked. He gave law enforcement agencies carte blanche and sent the army into the streets to purge the country of drug traffickers.

The consequences of this decision have been staggering, and not just because of the mountain of corpses. The level of cruelty has been unimaginable. The vicious treatment of victims defies comprehension. Human rights activists are in danger, journalists are in danger, anyone who has the bad luck to get caught in the crossfire is in danger.

The life of the entire society has changed drastically.

I never dreamed that Mexico would be like this when I entered my sixties. My generation was raised on stories of the Mexican Revolution and the Cristero War. Around dinner tables our grandparents—eyewitnesses—had talked of the cost of those eruptions, when the “bola”—the people—had risen and violence had spread like a raging sea. But we believed such violence was a thing of the past.

Mexico was stable. Free textbooks and official rhetoric touted the country’s richness. We needed only strong leadership to become a strong nation, it was said. The State was making the right choices, we were assured. Progress was inevitable (at least for those of my social class). We were confident, we were hope incarnate.

We understood that Mexico had a lot of problems to deal with. Social inequality was a fact of life, but according to the campaign slogan of one president in the seventies: united, we would move “onward and upward.” Illiteracy and the marginalization of indigenous peoples were also issues—but these too could be tackled.

There was also the problematic relationship between the sexes. A young woman in a miniskirt (such as myself) could not walk the streets without being harassed—whistled at, insulted, threatened. We embraced feminism and tolerance for other ways of life.

Some people fought for these social causes. My best friend, Alejandra Bravo Mancera, died in Central America, where she had volunteered to fight—a guerrillera—in Nicaragua and El Salvador, shortly after graduating from medical school. She was tortured and mutilated with blood-curdling “techniques” similar to those used in Mexico today, perhaps trained by the same military “technicians.”

During those decades, in corners of the country beyond reach of the public eye, the PRI (the party in power for the past seventy-five years) carried on a Dirty War, repressing rural and urban resistance. Their campaign was rendered invisible; the PRI controlled the press, screen and radio. It was only when the PRI was voted out of office that we learned that hundreds had been murdered or disappeared.

To Read the Rest

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Linda B. Blackford: Pay for university presidents growing faster than faculty salaries in Kentucky

[MB -- Since 2006, my college president has seen her wages increase 26%, my college system president has seen his increase over a 100% -- during that time the faculty received salary raises only 3 of the 6 years and never higher than 4%. We also had a freeze on hiring of full-time faculty for a few years, while we continued to add administrators.]

Pay for university presidents growing faster than faculty salaries in Kentucky
By Linda B. Blackford
Lexington Herald-Leader


For community colleges, the average presidential raise was 10.5 percent in that three-year span, compared to 4.5 percent for community college professors.

John Curtis, director of research and public policy for AAUP, said the trends reflect a continuing focus on a more corporate style of governance in higher education.

"The usual justification that's given from a governing body is, 'We need to pay these salaries to remain competitive,'" Curtis said. "The problem with that logic is that there doesn't seem to be any connection to accomplishment; it's kind of an upwards spiral. It reflects a shift in priorities that puts more focus on this corporate style of management."

Sometimes, deciphering how much a president gets paid is complicated.

KCTCS President Michael McCall made a base salary of $304,890 in 2010. But he also received a $90,000 housing allowance, $91,647 in deferred compensation and $83,338 in other benefits, including retirement and health care, according to the legislative report. His total package went up 111 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to the report.

University of Louisville President James Ramsey received base pay of $314,037 in 2010. But last December, the U of L board gave him a raise that increased his base to $600,000. In addition, the board created retention bonuses that pay him $500,000 for every two years he stays through 2020. Nearly half of his salary and the bonuses are paid by the University of Louisville Foundation, not the school's general fund.

Ramsey turned down several bonuses between 2008 and 2010, but he said in a press release he had accepted this one because faculty and staff also received a raise.

WKU spokesman Bob Skipper said Ransdell had received a longevity incentive in 2007 that boosted his salary by 25 percent. Also that year, he received a 3 percent raise, and in 2009 he received a $500 bonus, the same raise and bonus received by all faculty and staff.

Last year, the Chronicle on Higher Education said McCall was the highest-paid community college president in the country.

However, KCTCS vice president Tim Burcham said there are only three other state systems of community colleges that are comparable to KCTCS.

"Dr. McCall was brought here under House Bill 1 to start a new institution of higher education," said Burcham, who works directly under McCall. "He has created one of the best community college systems in the country; that has been verified many times. As presidential compensation goes, he's in the mix with everyone else in the state. By far, we're operating the largest institution with the most complex mission. No apologies; he deserves it."

Jake Gibbs, a history professor at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, said he always assumed that college presidents received roughly the same raises as faculty, which in the past few years have been few and far between.

The legislative report shows that BCTCS President Augusta Julian's salary rose 20.6 percent between 2006 and 2010.

"I am surprised and dismayed," Gibbs said. "I thought the suffering would be distributed. I'm surprised people at the top are the ones they make the exceptions for here."

To Read the Entire Article

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lisa Conley: Appalachian Food Preservation

[Extra credit opportunity for students in my 102 and 282 courses]

Appalachian Food Preservation: Lisa Conley
University of Kentucky College of Arts & Sciences Podcasts

Spring is on its way! Gardens will be growing, and fruits and vegetables will be ready to eat - or preserve, pickle, freeze or dry! Lisa Conley is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology, and has been working on a documentary film about home food preservation methods in Appalachia since 2009.

In this podcast, Conley discusses her research for the film, as well as an upcoming event. On April 5th, 2012, Conley will be presenting at the Appalachian Forum on Home Food Preservation in Eastern Kentucky, which will include a panel discussion, an excerpt from Conley’s film, and a question and answer session about food safety. The forum is from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. in Room 206 of the UK Student Center.

The forum is sponsored by the Appalachian Center and the Appalachian Studies program and is free and open to the public.

This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman.

To Listen to the Episode

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Black Angels: Call to Arms

Classic 1911 Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Poster and Prole's Revision of the Poster for Contemporary Western Consumer Society

Classic 1911 IWW poster

Prole's revision of the poster for contemporary Western consumer society

Democracy Now: Walking While Black -- Florida Police Resist Calls to Arrest Shooter of Unarmed Teen, Trayvon Martin

Democracy Now

Walking While Black: Florida Police Resist Calls to Arrest Shooter of Unarmed Teen, Trayvon Martin

The Justice Department and the FBI have announced they will conduct a criminal probe of the killing of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the ensuing police investigation that allowed his killer to walk free. Martin, an African-American student at Michael Krop Senior High School, was visiting his father in a gated community in the town of Sanford, Florida, on February 26 when he walked out to a nearby convenience store to buy candy and iced tea. On his way back, Martin was spotted by the shooter, George Zimmerman, who had been patrolling the neighborhood. Zimmerman has told police he was attacked by Martin from behind. But in the tape of Zimmerman’s own 911 call to the police, Zimmerman tells the dispatcher he is the one following Martin. The Miami Herald reports Zimmerman had taken it upon himself to patrol the neighborhood and had called police 46 times since January 2011 to report suspicious activity or other incidents. We play excerpts of the 911 calls and speak with Jasmine Rand, an attorney who heads the civil rights division at Parks & Crump Law Firm, which is representing Trayvon Martin’s family. "I think we have all of the evidence in the world to arrest him. And I think what the state attorney is trying to do is to try the case and the investigation, and that’s not the state attorney’s job," Rand says.

Florida Legislative Black Caucus Urges Full Federal Probe of Police Handling of Trayvon Martin Death

We speak with Florida Democratic State Representative Mia Jones, who fought the passage of Florida’s so-called "Stand Your Ground" law that authorities say has prevented them from arresting Trayvon Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, who is claiming he acted in self-defense. Jones is chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, who sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and Florida Gov. Rick Scott calling for impartial investigations into the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Martin last month. She says the caucus’s 24 members will work to re-evaluate the gun law.

"A Modern-Day Lynching": Outrage Grows over Killing of Trayvon Martin by Neighborhood Watch Patrol

As details emerge in the shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, whose killer has yet to be arrested, community leaders have helped build wider momentum into their calls for justice in the case. We speak with Shelton Marshall, president of the Black Law Students Association at Florida A&M University College of Law, who helped organize a protest on Monday calling for a federal probe into Trayvon Martin’s death and attended a meeting with local prosecutors. "As an African-American male, I felt as though it was my duty to step up," Marshall says. "I have been afforded the privilege of being in a position where I can advocate for those who are not able to advocate for themselves." We also speak with Rev. Glenn Dames, pastor of St. James AME Church in Titusville and former president of the North Brevard NAACP. "I think what we’re doing now is we’re making sure that we, in essence, bring his voice back from the grave," Dames says. "And so, even from the grave now, we have become Trayvon Martin’s voice across the state, across the nation, even internationally."

Florida’s "Shoot First" Law Critiqued by Gun Control Advocates Following Shooting of Trayvon Martin

We speak with Caroline Brewer of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence about how the killing of Trayvon Martin has brought renewed scrutiny to Florida’s controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, also referred to by critics as the "shoot first" law. Backed by the National Rifle Association, the law expands the right of citizens to claim self-defense in the killing of others. More than 20 states have similar measures in place. Brewer says the law allowed Floridians with criminal backgrounds, including many who plead guilty to assault, burglaries and child molestation, to obtain concealed carry licenses. "You’re talking about people who are dangerous, people who are violent. And yet, just within a very short time after the law was passed, Florida had hundreds and hundreds of these people with these licenses to go out and kill somebody else," Brewer says. "And pretty much it was their word against the other person’s."

To Watch this Episode

The Beatles: All You Need is Love

A beautiful morning ... thinking of Literaghost

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Matt Zoller Seitz: The Substance of Style, Pts. 1-5

The Substance of Style, Pt 1: Wes Anderson and his pantheon of heroes (Schulz, Welles, Truffaut)
by Matt Zoller Seitz
Moving Image Source

This is the first in a five-part series of video essays analyzing the key influences on Wes Anderson’s style. Part 2 covers Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, and Mike Nichols. Part 3 covers Hal Ashby. Part 4 covers J.D. Salinger. Part 5 is an annotated version of the prologue to The Royal Tenenbaums.

With just five features in 13 years, Wes Anderson has established himself as the most influential American filmmaker of the post-Baby Boom generation. Supremely confident in his knowledge of film history and technique, he's a classic example of the sort of filmmaker that the Cahiers du cinéma critics labeled an auteur—an artist who imprints his personality and preoccupations on each work so strongly that, whatever the contributions of his collaborators, he deserves to be considered the primary author of the film. This series examines some of Anderson's many cinematic influences and his attempt to meld them into a striking, uniquely personal sensibility.

After the release of his second film, Rushmore, in 1998, it became obvious that Anderson was, love him or hate him, an idiosyncratic filmmaker worth discussing. In the decade-plus since then, dissecting Anderson's influences, and Anderson's influence on others, has become a bit of a parlor sport among cinephiles. Sight and Sound and Film Comment have been particularly rich resources. More recently, the Onion A.V. Club contributed a couple of playful, astute lists. Anderson himself has gotten into the act by paying tribute to his heroes in interviews and magazine articles.

This series will take the process a step further, juxtaposing Anderson's cultural influences against his films onscreen, the better to show how he integrates a staggeringly diverse array of source material into a recognizable, and widely imitated, whole. It will examine some, but certainly not all, of Anderson's evident inspirations. Along the way, it may incidentally illuminate why Anderson-esque movies—from Garden State to Son of Rambow—can seem, no matter what their virtues or pleasures, a weak substitute for the real thing.

Anderson’s scavenger-hunt aesthetic stands him in good company, alongside Quentin Tarantino, David Gordon Green, James Gray, and the other Anderson, P.T. But what makes Wes Anderson distinctive is the sheer range of art that has fed his imagination—not just recent American and foreign films, but films from 30, 50, even 70 years ago, plus newspaper comics, illustrations, and fiction. The spectrum of influence gives his work a diversity of tone that his imitators typically lack. It is a style of substance.

To Watch the Video Essay and Access all Five Parts

More resources:

"Naked Lunch Radio #4 – Fantastic Mr. Wes Anderson" (The music of his films)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Glenn Greenwald: Discussing the motives of the Afghan shooter -- The contrast is glaring in how we talk about violence by Americans versus violence toward Americans

Discussing the motives of the Afghan shooter: The contrast is glaring in how we talk about violence by Americans versus violence toward Americans
By Glenn Greenwald

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including 9 children: he was drunk, he was experiencing financial stress, he was passed over for a promotion, he had a traumatic brain injury, he had marital problems, he suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty, he “saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre,” etc.

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: they are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists.

Even when Muslims who engage in such acts toward Americans clearly and repeatedly explain that they did it in response to American acts of domination, aggression, violence and civilian-killing in their countries, and even when the violence is confined to soldiers who are part of a foreign army that has invaded and occupied their country, the only cognizable motive is one of primitive, hateful evil. It is an act of Evil Terrorism, and that is all there is to say about it.

Note, too, that in the case of Sgt. Bales (or any other cases of American violence against Muslims), people have little difficulty understanding the distinction between (a) discussing and trying to understand the underlying motives of the act (causation) and (b) defending the act (justification). But that same distinction completely evaporates when it comes to Muslim violence against Americans. Those who attempt to understand or explain the act — they’re responding to American violence in their country; they are traumatized and angry at the continuous deaths of Muslim children and innocent adults; they’ve calculated that striking at Americans is the ony way to deter further American aggression in their part of the world — are immediately accused of mitigating, justifying or even defending Terrorism.

There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type (meaning: as a deviation from formal American policy), there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or Evil. When a Muslim engages in acts of violence against Americans, there is an equally desperate need to believe the opposite: that this is yet another manifestation of inscrutable hatred and Evil, and any discussion of any other causes must be prohibited and ignored.

To Read more Updates On This

Sonic Youth: Bull in the Heather

The Black Angels: The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven

Fugazi: The Kill

[Back from 10 days in Amsterdam]

Monday, March 05, 2012

Redeye: Conn Hallinan - Dangers of cyber attack greatly exaggerated

Conn Hallinan - Dangers of cyber attack greatly exaggerated
Redeye (Canada: Vancouver Cooperative Radio)

Some commentators in the United States would have us believe that the possibility of cyber attack is imminent and that the scale would be catastrophic. Conn Hallinan believes that there is another agenda behind this fear mongering. Hallinan is a columnist with Foreign Policy in Focus.

To Listen to the Interview

Danny Mayer: Bluegrass Courier

[To my students -- extra credit if you get something accepted for the paper]

This week, an announcement of a tornado fundraiser at Cooper Campus, and an interview with new Student Secular Alliance head Dagan Bickford. Enjoy.

To access the latest issue

The Bluegrass Courier holds open meeting hours for students, staff and faculty on Mondays from 12:30-3:00 in Room 240, Maloney Building (Cooper Campus). Drop by with ideas or drafts or interest in helping with the entire production of the paper (writing, copyediting, web design help, photography, etc.).

Danny Mayer
Faculty Advisor, Bluegrass Courier

Noam Chomsky: Education For Whom and For What?

[via Z Communications]

Education For Whom and For What?
By Noam Chomsky
University of Arizona

Sunday, March 04, 2012

scott crow: Black Flags and Windmills - Hope, Anarchy and the Common Ground Collective; Michael Dean Benton: My Understanding of Anarchism

PM Press link for the book

'Black Flags and Windmills' TRAILER from Louisiana Lucy on Vimeo.

also a full presentation by scott crow on the ideas and experiences in the book

This is a response by Michael Benton to Sara P. on the Occupy Education email list. Sara asked him to define in greater detail his understanding of Anarchism. There is a lot of confusion about what anarchism is, mostly because of the disinformation propagated by the corporate media. So it is important that that we each set down our understandings of anarchism and enter into the broader discussions/debates about anarchism:

Sara, remember this all on the fly here and I can explain in more detail later .....

You asked about the confusion in regards to the many uses of the words libertarian/libertarianism.

First, the political concept of "libertarianism" has many meanings/uses in American political discussions. Because of our corporate media's focus/support most Americans are familiar with right-libertarians (also known as economic libertarians)? This is the Tea Party's or Ron/Rand Paul's American version of libertarianism that wants to limit government and privatize everything.

On the other hand, there are the left-libertarians (also known as socialist libertarians). These are the traditional anarchists developing from earlier European versions that branched off from socialism (rejecting its authoritarian impulses) and sought to bring more autonomy into individual/collective lives while realizing the potential of liberated communities.

There are many more types of anarchism, but let me lay out some basics (I would also encourage you to watch scott crow's presentation in the video I provided -- he/Common Grounds is a great example of anarchist direct action. I would suggest going to see the screening of Howard Zinn's The People Speak:

For the record Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky both claim they are left-libertarians.

Short descriptions:

Anarchists do not seek complete absence of government. There is a need for basic communal structures to provide everyone with the necessary staples of life, for instance, a good example would be the provision of water for a large community. What anarchists do want is leadership, not leaders; in other words a society in which we cultivate the ability of all to step up and work for the greater collective good. They also demand, yes demand, transparency of actions/processes (our occupy movement processes are coming out of anarchist collective principles) and that leadership should always be held accountable. Most anarchists are also opposed to privatization of basic necessities (at the least) under the control of corporate oligarchies. These types of monopoly relations rest upon the infantilization of dependent populations, as well as the creation of elite syncophants in the government. We believe democracy doesn't come from the top, that it can only come from the people. We believe that democracy demands the resistance to illegitimate authority, like our current two part, corporate-capitalist oligarchy.

Anarchists do not believe in complete freedom for the individual. In fact we have a lot of problem with the word "freedom" which has its origins in slave societies. Also consider what is means to be free in our consumer society -- freedom is often an illusion. Instead anarchists seek "autonomy", for individuals and communities. For me, I think of autonomy in this way: autonomy = individual liberty + collective responsibility + creative learning + participatory economics. At every step of this formula is the development of individual liberty in tandem with collective responsibility. Anarchists believe that communities are best served by free-thinking, autonomous individuals (and this is the polar opposite of the "radical individualism" of consumer capitalism and economic libertarians) and that autonomous individuals are best cultivated in liberated, participatory collectives/communities. If anything, Anarchists are truly the most concerned with community because they struggle with the individual's role in communities. Responsibility = the ability to respond. The reason why anarchists hold such value on the creative development of autonomous individuals is because self-direction is a necessary step for the cultivation of responsibility. Consumer capitalism seeks fragmented, alienated, anxious individuals/communities because these are people that are the most easily exploited for profits. Furthermore, anxious, detached and fragmented people are incapable of response-ability to anything beyond their basic addictive appetites.

Anarchists are not opposed to profits. There is nothing wrong with co-ops, local markets, exchange of goods with ones neighbors. We just don't want to worship at the altar of profits or genuflect to a mythical corporate free market (lets face it, America has a massive corporate welfare system in place). We value people/places over money. Money is an illusion, a powerful one that has real effects in the world, but an illusion nonetheless.

I view anarchism as a personal philosophy (the personal is political and vice versa). Here is my take on it:

Anarchism is a person-centered philosophy. Its focus is on autonomy 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 existence. 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 anarchist pedagogy). In this anarchism is radically collective in orientation. We are cultivating autonomous, ethical and responsible individuals who care about their community. Anarchism 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 environment.

Freedom = Responsibility. Anarchism 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 (anarchism 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/rulers... or, manipulated/manipulators).

Ethical considerations are the primary questions. We all understand ethics and freedom differently, this is a given, and thus 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 as primary steps to building a better world. An autonomous individual is responsible to develop and consider the authenticity of their own personal lives in relation to their society. 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).


I realize I am a flawed and difficult person. This is always a work in progress and I struggle as an individual.

To realize true liberty, autonomous citizens, participatory economics, and liberated communities .... that is all I have ever dreamed of since I was a little kid.... seriously -- it is all summed up in the usage of the word: "solidarity"

Here is a great discussion of current anarchist thought (esp. cindy milstein) in relation to the Occupy Movement

and once again to circle back again to scott crow -- why does the government/media/corporations fear anarchist so much?

NY Times: For Anarchist, Details of Life as F.B.I. Target

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Nick Turse: Death on Your Doorstep -- What Sebastian Junger and Restrepo Won’t Tell You About War

Death on Your Doorstep: What Sebastian Junger and Restrepo Won’t Tell You About War
By Nick Turse


War on Your Doorstep

Earlier this year, Junger reviewed a new Vietnam War novel, veteran Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn, for the New York Times Book Review. In a glowing front-page appraisal, he wrote, “Combat is not really what ‘Matterhorn’ is about; it is about war. And in Marlantes’s hands, war is a confusing and rich world where some men die heroically, others die because of bureaucratic stupidity, and a few are deliberately killed by platoon-mates bearing a grudge.” Analyzing Junger’s misreading of Matterhorn helps to unlock his misconceptions about war and explains the problems that dog his otherwise cinematically-pleasing, and in some ways useful, film.

Millions of Vietnamese were killed and wounded over the course of what the Vietnamese call the “American War” in Southeast Asia. About two million of those dead were Vietnamese civilians. They were blown to pieces by artillery, blasted by bombs, and massacred in hamlets and villages like My Lai, Son Thang, Thanh Phong, and Le Bac, in huge swaths of the Mekong Delta, and in little unnamed enclaves like one in Quang Nam Province. Matterhorn touches on none of this. Marlantes focuses tightly on a small unit of Americans in a remote location surrounded by armed enemy troops -- an episode that, while pitch perfect in depiction, represents only a sliver of a fraction of the conflict that was the Vietnam War.

It’s not surprising that this view of war appealed to Junger. In Restrepo, it’s his vision of war, too.

Restrepo’s repeated tight shots on the faces of earnest young American soldiers are the perfect metaphor for what’s lacking in the film and what makes it almost useless for telling us anything of note about the real war in Afghanistan. Only during wide shots in Restrepo do we catch fleeting glimpses of that real war.

In the opening scenes, shot from an armored vehicle (before an improvised explosive device halts a U.S. Army convoy), we catch sight of Afghan families in a village. When the camera pans across the Korengal Valley, we see simple homes on the hillsides. When men from Battle Company head to a house they targeted for an air strike and see dead locals and wounded children, when we see grainy footage of a farm family or watch a young lieutenant, a foreigner in a foreign land, intimidating and interrogating an even younger goat herder (whose hands he deems to be too clean to really belong to a goat herder) -- here is the real war. And here are the people Junger and Hetherington should have embedded with if they wanted to learn -- and wanted to teach us -- what American war is really all about.

Few Americans born after the Civil War know much about war. Real war. War that seeks you out. War that arrives on your doorstep -- not once in a blue moon, but once a month or a week or a day. The ever-present fear that just when you’re at the furthest point in your fields, just when you’re most exposed, most alone, most vulnerable, it will come roaring into your world.

Those Americans who have gone to war since the 1870s -- soldiers or civilians -- have been mostly combat tourists, even those who spent many tours under arms or with pen (or computer) in hand reporting from war zones. The troops among them, even the draftees or not-so-volunteers of past wars, always had a choice -- be it fleeing the country or going to prison. They never had to contemplate living out a significant part of their life in a basement bomb shelter or worry about scrambling out of it before a foreign soldier tossed in a grenade. They never had to go through the daily dance with doom, the sense of fear and powerlessness that comes when foreign troops and foreign technology hold the power of life and death over your village, your home, each and every day.

The ordinary people whom U.S. troops have exposed to decades of war and occupation, death and destruction, uncertainty, fear, and suffering -- in places like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- have had no such choice. They had no place else to go and no way to get there, unless as exiles and refugees in their own land or neighboring ones. They have instead been forced to live with the ever-present uncertainty that comes from having culturally strange, oddly attired, heavily armed American teenagers roaming their country, killing their countrymen, invading their homes, arresting their sons, and shouting incomprehensible commands laced with the word “fuck” or derivations thereof.

Since World War I, it’s been civilians who have most often born the disproportionate brunt of modern warfare. It’s been ordinary people who have lived with war day after day. In Restrepo such people -- Afghan elders seeking information on someone the Americans detained, villagers seeking compensation for an injured cow the Americans butchered into fresh steaks, and a man who angrily asks the Americans and their translator to point out the Taliban among civilians killed by a U.S. air strike -- are just supporting characters or extras.

To Read the Entire Essay

Friday, March 02, 2012

Democracy Now: Senate Narrowly Defeats Anti-Contraception Bill as Reproductive Rights Come Under Sustained Attack

Senate Narrowly Defeats Anti-Contraception Bill as Reproductive Rights Come Under Sustained Attack
Democracy Now

The U.S. Senate has narrowly rejected an effort to vastly expand conscience exemptions in President Obama’s new birth control coverage rule that already allows exemptions for religiously affiliated institutions. The Blunt Amendment, sponsored by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, would have let any U.S. employer deny contraceptive health coverage on religious or moral grounds, but it failed in a 51-48 vote largely along partisan lines. "What’s really surprising to me about the Blunt Amendment is that it did not fail 99 to one," says Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. "It’s appalling that politicians really think they can get away with restricting birth control." In other reproductive rights news, a Virginia bill mandating ultrasound exams for women seeking abortions has cleared its final legislative hurdle and is expected to be signed into law. "I can’t think of any other area, in the 20 years that I’ve been practicing medicine, where I’ve been forced by the government, someone who has no medical training or background, to use a particular test or to inform a patient about information," notes Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion provider and board member of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.


Dr. Willie Parker, physician, abortion provider and board member of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women.

To Watch the Episode

Noam Chomsky: The State-Corporate Complex -- A Threat to Freedom and Survival

Noam Chomsky on the State-Corporate Complex: A Threat to Freedom and Survival
Needs No Introduction (University of Toronto: Canada)

Noam Chomsky was called, by the New York Times: "Arguably the most important intellectual alive today" and, for a man so closely aligned with anachism, the fact that he is cited more than any other living scholar is quite incredible. While Chomsky revolutionized the field of linguistics, he is now most well known for his work on corporate power, political economy, hierarchy, capitalism, and the media. A prolific author, he has penned numourous works, including: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media , Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, and Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.

Part of the Hart House debates, Chomsky spoke at the University of Toronto on April 7, 2011 about class warfare, the State-Corporate Complex, the way in which corporate power is married to to state power and, how these factors represent a great threat to our freedom and survival.

To Listen to the Talk

Gunilla Ekberg and Trisha Baptie: Prostitution and Women's Equality: Imagining More for Women, Parts 1 and 2

Prostitution and Women's Equality: Imagining More for Women, Part 1
by Gunilla Ekberg
Needs No Introduction (Vancouver Public Library: Canada)

This episode of Needs No Introduction is the first in a three-part series on prostitution and features a talk by Gunilla Ekberg. In the midst of heated debate around prostitution laws in Canada, this talk, entitled "Prostitution and Women's Equality: Imagining More for Women," was organized in an effort to debunk myths about the legalization of prostitution and explore alternatives. Gunilla Ekberg is a radical feminist, a lawyer and a human-rights consultant. She has spent much of her life fighting against prostitution, and and worked for 6 years as Special Advisor to the Swedish government on human trafficking. Ekberg advocates for what is referred to as the Nordic model (sometimes also known as the Swedish model), a unique approach to prostitution which includes de-criminalizing sex-workers, criminalizing their pimps and buyers, and funding strategies for workers trying to leave the industry.

To Listen to this Episode

Prostitution and Women's Equality: Imagining More for Women, Part 2
By Trisha Baptie
Needs No Introduction (Vancouver Public Library: Canada)

EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization composed of former sex-industry women dedicated to naming prostitution "violence against women" and seeing its abolition through political action, advocacy and awareness-raising that focuses on ending the demand for paid sexual access to women and children's bodies. EVE operates under a sex-positive feminist model, acknowledging that prostitution is born out of sexism, classism, racism, poverty and other forms of systemic oppression. They invite women with personal experience in the sex industry or with sex-trafficking to connect with them.

To Listen to the Episode

More Resources:

This is a part of larger debate at Rabble (Canada) on prostitution and whether it should be legal/illegal and/or what form either of those stances would take. Go to their ongoing archive on the subject of Prostitution

Thursday, March 01, 2012

John Sifton: A Brief History of Drones

A Brief History of Drones
by John Sifton
The Nation

It was ten years ago this month, on February 4, 2002, that the CIA first used an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing. The strike was in Paktia province in Afghanistan, near the city of Khost. The intended target was Osama bin Laden, or at least someone in the CIA had thought so. Donald Rumsfeld later explained, using the passive voice of government: “A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired.” The incident occurred during a brief period when the military, which assisted the CIA’s drone program by providing active service personnel as operators, still acknowledged the program’s existence. Within days of the strike, journalists on the ground were collecting accounts from local Afghans that the dead men were civilians gathering scrap metal. The Pentagon media pool began asking questions, and so the long decade of the drone began.

The CIA had been flying unarmed drones over Afghanistan since 2000. It began to fly armed drones after the September 11 attacks. Some were used during the air war against the Taliban in late 2001. But by February 2002 the CIA hadn’t yet used a drone for a strike outside military support. The February 2002 attack was a pure CIA kill operation, undertaken separately from any ongoing military operation. The drone operators were reported to have come across three people at a former mujahedeen base called Zhawar Kili—later, officials would never claim they were armed—including a “tall man” to whom the other men were “acting with reverence.” (On one previous occasion, a year before the September 11 attacks, CIA observers thought they’d seen bin Laden: a tall man with long robes near Tarnak Farm, bin Laden’s erstwhile home near Kandahar. This sighting by an unarmed drone was what had led to the first arguments among the White House and CIA about arming drones with missiles, a debate that simmered until it was snuffed out by the September 11 attacks.)

After the February 2002 strike, military officials quickly acknowledged that the “tall man” was not bin Laden. But they insisted the targets were “legitimate,” although they struggled to explain why, using vague and even coy language to cover up what appeared to be uncertainty. Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark said, “We’re convinced that it was an appropriate target.” But she added, “We do not know yet exactly who it was.” Gen. Tommy Franks told ABC News that he expected the identities of the three to prove “interesting.”

Pentagon spokesman John Stufflebeem spoke of the government’s being in the “comfort zone” of determining that the targets were “not innocent,” noting there were “no initial indications that these were innocent locals,” a curious phrase reflecting a presumption of guilt. “Indicators were there that there was something untoward that we needed to make go away…. Initial indications would seem to say that these are not peasant people up there farming.” Rumsfeld later chimed in, offering his signature pseudo-philosophical analysis to address the allegations that the dead were civilians. “We’ll just have to find out. There’s not much more anyone could add, except that there’s that one version, and there’s the other version.”

The government’s evasion was helped by the fact that Zhawar Kili, the site of the strike, was an infamous mujahedeen complex built with CIA and Saudi support by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the mujahedeen scion allied with the Taliban, then and now. In the 1980s CIA officers and journalists used to visit the base. It was the site of two major battles against Soviet forces in the mid-’80s. President Bill Clinton ordered a strike on the area with Tomahawk cruise missiles in 1998 after the two Africa embassy bombings, and the US military pummeled it with airstrikes beginning in late 2001. For a time the military thought that bin Laden and his Al Qaeda forces might have fled to Zhawar Kili after the battle of Tora Bora (a puzzling hypothesis because the area had already been hit by withering fire and was more exposed than Tora Bora). In January 2002 the military sent several search and demolition units there to gather leftover material with potential intelligence value and to blow up the caves.

By February 2002 the place had been deserted by militants for months. Several journalists headed to Zhawar Kili after the strike and spoke with local leaders and the families of the dead, who confirmed the identities of the men killed: Daraz Khan, the tall man, about 31, from the village of Lalazha, and two others, Jehangir Khan, about 28, and Mir Ahmed, about 30, from the village of Patalan. The New York Times’s John Burns was among those who spoke with the families, saw the men’s graves and confirmed their extreme poverty. The men had climbed to the mountainous area to forage for leftover metal from the US airstrikes, bits of shrapnel and bomb tail fins—scavengers could fetch about 50 cents per camel load. Although Daraz Khan was admittedly tall by Afghan standards—5 feet 11 inches—he was six inches shorter than bin Laden.

Reading about the strike later, I felt a slight connection with Daraz Khan. I am also 5 feet 11, and at around the same period I spent time foraging for bomb fragments in remote locations in Afghanistan. As a researcher for Human Rights Watch, working on an assessment of the US air war in the winter and spring of 2002, I had visited locations like Zhawar Kili. With colleagues I had climbed into craters, poked at the twisted tail fins of bombs, and interviewed witnesses and families of the dead. And I was the tallest among my colleagues. Perhaps I could have been mistaken for bin Laden too.

To Read the Rest of the Essay