Monday, October 31, 2005

Paul Harris: The Paradox That Divides Black America

(This is the whole article--it raises a lot of unanswered questions about race and economics in America)

The paradox that divides black America
by Paul Harris
The Observer

It was once a street so rich and central to black America that Atlanta's Auburn Avenue was known simply as 'Sweet Auburn'.

It was the site of America's first black-owned daily paper and first black radio station. It was here Martin Luther King was born. It was here King preached freedom from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In the 1960s, as the civil rights struggle raged, Sweet Auburn was wealthy and middle-class. Its businesses prospered, its nightclubs boomed. Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin played at the Top Hat Club and partied at the Palamat Motor Lodge opposite. As American blacks freed themselves from oppression, Sweet Auburn stood ready to reap the benefits.

It never happened. Sweet Auburn is not very sweet today. The Palamat is overgrown with weeds. Auburn's sidewalks line abandoned lots and shuttered buildings. Homeless men (all black) cluster on street corners. Freed from segregation, Auburn became an impoverished ghetto.

Perhaps nothing else so encapsulates the endless paradoxes of being black in America. Never have blacks had so much legal freedom, yet there are record numbers in jail. Traditional black neighbourhoods have collapsed into drug-ridden crime strongholds, even as the black middle class is the biggest in history.

It is now 40 years since the Voting Rights Act that secured the black vote. It is 10 years since hundreds of thousands of blacks came to Washington in the Million Man March to demand a way out of poverty. It is a single month since Hurricane Katrina exposed the racial faultlines that fracture the big cities.

Almost four decades after King was killed, there are still two Americas. One is largely white and wealthy, one largely black and poor. They live cheek by jowl in the same country yet in separate worlds. The shocking thing about the TV pictures from New Orleans was not black poverty, it was the reaction of whites. 'Most whites were shocked about the amount of poverty in New Orleans, but black media have talked about poverty for the past 20 years,' said David Canton, professor of history at Connecticut College.

Bare statistics tell the story. Black life expectancy is six years shorter than that of whites. Black unemployment is twice as high. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to die from disease, accident or murder at every stage of their lives. About 24 per cent of black families live below the poverty line, compared with 8 per cent of the white population.

Yet nothing about race in America is that simple. In the Savoy Bar of Atlanta's Georgian Terrace Hotel, young blacks sip Martinis and flirt, dressed up to the nines. Outside, crowds spill out of the Fox Theatre dressed for an evening out.
They are all black.

'It is great to be black in Atlanta,' said Monique Williams, a pretty 26-year-old legal clerk at the bar. 'This is our city.'

Certainly Atlanta, unofficial capital of the New South, can sum up the best of black America. It has a majority black population, a black mayor and an economy that is home to some of the biggest businesses in the world, including Coca-Cola and CNN. It has wealthy black suburbs, black universities and offers every opportunity for aspiring young blacks. It is a long way from the city of Gone With the Wind, where the only blacks were maids and slaves.

Mayor Shirley Franklin seems to sum up this hopeful city, often hailed as a beacon for black Americans. As Atlanta's first black woman mayor, she has won a national profile after a term aimed at rejuvenating a rundown downtown. She is hard-working, putting in 12-hour days and seven-day weeks, and has ended a series of corruption scandals that plagued previous administrations. She is likely to win re-election next month, backed by black voters and white business.

But Atlanta's politics are defined by race. A new law, backed by Franklin, made begging illegal in the downtown area last month. The move triggered a race row, with some politicians saying the law targeted young black men. When it finally passed, emotions ran so high that police arrested seven people, including a clergyman and a former city councillor.

At every level of US politics race is never far away. King, were he alive, would have rejoiced at the fact that successive Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and
Condoleezza Rice, have been black. He would also have been impressed that one of the hottest Democratic tips for the White House, and a possible running mate of Hillary Clinton in 2008, is Barack Obama, who is black.

But those stories have twists. Powell and Rice sprang from solid middle-class backgrounds. They have risen by playing down race. They have also emerged in the
Republican Party, not the traditional home of black support. Moreover, Obama's
blackness does not come from America. It is a legacy of a Kenyan father. He was born in Hawaii and his mother is a white woman from Kansas. In the world of race in America in 2005 nothing is ever as simple as black or white.

Yet the racial line often seems starkly clear. Nowhere more so than in New Haven, Connecticut: home both to Yale University and one of America's poorest black communities. The border is well known and obvious. It is where Elm Street, lined with Oxbridge-style student cloisters, suddenly changes to Dixwell Avenue, main thoroughfare of the black ghetto.

On one side is the world of the elite, where Ivy League students bustle from lecture halls to cafes. On the other side is north-west New Haven, where Dixwell's shops struggle to make ends meet, houses are in decay and drugs and crime are rife. One world is mostly white, the other almost all black.

As he sits on New Haven's famous green, surrounded by the trappings of Yale's wealth, there is no doubt on which side of the divide Nelson Brown falls. Black, poor and homeless, he pushes a shopping cart full of metal cans he picks up to
recycle. The cart is draped with a faded and dirty US flag. 'It's all I can do to survive,' he said of his latest haul of soft drink cast-offs.

New Haven is the reality of America's urban black poor. 'People like the Katrina
victims are living in every American city. We just ignore it,' said Robert Brown, a political scientist at Atlanta's Emory University. It is this world Katrina exposed to a white America that barely knew it existed outside of gangsta rap videos on MTV. This is the world abandoned by America in the post-civil rights era. It is a black underclass that failed to leave the inner city as whites fled to the suburbs, gutting cities of cash and jobs.

But there are other issues at work too. The divide of black and white masks another chasm just as deep: the gulf between poor and rich blacks. In fact, this divide is even more unbalanced than the racial one. The wealth of black America is far more concentrated in its top few per cent than white America.

Poor urban blacks have been abandoned by wealthy black Americans who move into the suburbs and mainstream America as fast as they can. The underclass they leave behind is a grim place and getting worse. In 1940 the illegitimacy rate among blacks was 19 per cent; today it is 70 per cent. Only 30 to 40 per cent of black men graduate from high school. That fact has prompted a bout of soul searching by middle-class blacks. Some have condemned what they see as self-perpetuating joblessness, poor education and a culture that worships crime. Others have appealed for more help, an increase in the affirmative action which has done apparently little to end black poverty.

The argument was crystallised in a spat between the black comedian Bill Cosby and the black author Mike Dyson. Cosby began it with a public excoriation of bad (and single) parenting, slang English, unplanned pregnancies, dropping out of education, and high crime. He even slammed black names 'like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap'. Cosby then went on tour holding town hall-style 'call-outs' in black communities.

It was an argument Dyson had little time for. He dubbed Cosby's roadtrip the 'Blame the Poor Tour' and wrote a book called Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind? Dyson said poor blacks could not be blamed for a society geared up to see them fail and which had stacked the odds against them before they were born. Many leading blacks have joined the fight against Cosby. 'He unerringly and wrongly blames the poor. He seems to think that if they would only change their minds, all their problems would go away,' said Ronald Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.

There is one thing both sides agree on: the black experience of America has been unique. Other immigrant groups have followed a familiar pattern of four stages. They arrived poor, suffered prejudice, assimilated, then prospered. So it went for the Irish, Italians, Asians and many others. In fact, Asians are now more successful than white Americans. They are more educated and get better jobs.

But much of black America is stuck at stage two, as it has been for generations. Unless one believes in racist theories, the answer must lie within black America's own historical experience. They were the only ethnic group brought to America involuntarily. For 250 years they were kept as slaves. Until the late 1960s blacks in the South were denied the vote, forced to eat in separate restaurants and segregated from society. Lynchings were still happening in the 1960s as the Beatles played in Liverpool and Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup in London. The exhibits of the Martin Luther King museum on Auburn Avenue are most shocking for showing how recently an apartheid system was the norm in swaths of America. That history lies heavy on black America's back. It is not a burden to be unshouldered in a generation or two.

Certainly that racist past is still alive for Robert Howard, a black civil rights worker in rural Georgia. He remembers vividly the days when white people in and around his home in Walton County could beat - or even kill - black people with little fear from the law. It was a time of segregation and deference, of living in fear when the word 'nigger' came from the lips of white people and not rap artists.

A tall, thin, graceful man, Howard exudes a calm when talking about race relations now versus then. 'Things are better. Of course they are. But you'd be amazed by how much is still to change,' he said.

Howard has worked tirelessly for a memorial to a Walton County lynching from 1946 when four local blacks were butchered by their white neighbours. It has earned him both praise and insult. 'There's some black people here right now who are still scared,' he declared.

But things have changed. Walton, like so many southern counties, used to be cotton country. No longer. The cotton fields have surrendered to strip malls or to forestry. It used to be strictly segregated. No more. That everyday racism is long gone too. Blacks have political power here, as they do now even in the deepest parts of the Deep South. Where segregation still exists, it is largely voluntary and economic, and not a matter of law.

But therein lies the problem. Even as the old racism lies dead, its legacy endures in the American economy. As the black middle class grows and black politicians rise to the pinnacle of power, wealthy America - both black and white - has still not come to grips with the problems of its millions of poor black citizens. 'We are grappling with that. Protest will not win these issues. All the old racist laws have been stricken from the books. Now it's economics,' said Brown.

It is a problem that cannot be ignored for ever.

Martin Luther King's most famous words summed up the optimism of the 1960s' civil rights struggle with: 'I have a dream.'

Now the poet Langston Hughes best describes black America at the start of the 21st century. 'What happens to a dream deferred?' he wrote. 'Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore - And then run?'

Two worlds

In 2005 black unemployment in the US was 10.8 per cent, compared to 4.7 per cent for whites.

More than 70 per cent of whites own their homes. Fewer than 50 per cent of blacks do.

Blacks are twice as likely as whites to die from disease, accident or murder.

Black life expectancy is six years less than white life expectancy.

Blacks are three times as likely as whites to be jailed and their sentences are often six months longer.

Net worth of a black household is 10 times less than a white one.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

Sunday, October 30, 2005

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor: Why Bill Bennett is Stupid, But Not Racist

Why Bill Bennett is Stupid, But Not Racist
By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Berkeley Daily Planet, AlterNet

Many of Mr. Bennett's supporters have made the argument that while Bennett never argued for eliminating African-Americans, his assertion that less blacks would mean less crime was essentially correct. "Some identifiable groups, considered as a group, commit crime at a rate that is higher than the national rate," former federal prosecutor and present columnist Andrew McCarthy wrote in the National Review online. "Blacks are such a group. That is simply a fact. ... The rate being high, it is an unavoidable mathematical reality that if the number of blacks, or of any group whose rate outstripped the national rate, were reduced or eliminated from the national computation, the national rate would go down."

But the truth of that conclusion is dependent on Mr. McCarthy's original premise that "some groups commit crime" at a higher rate, and that "blacks are such a group." That is not a necessarily provable fact. What we do know is that some groups are caught and prosecuted for crime at a higher rate, and that African-Americans are certainly such a group.

But to believe that the actual commission of crime in America would go down with the elimination of African-Americans is to believe, for example, that the drug cartels, seeing the elimination of their black b-boy dealers on America's inner city street corners, would turn in their six-guns to the bartender and start hoeing spuds, as the cattleman Rufus Ryker once facetiously suggested to the gunfighter Shane. More likely, they would simply find other methods of dealership.

But Mr. Bennett's statement was wrong in another sense; wrong in the sense that it should not have been said, because it allows the subject of black genocide as a way to solve America's problems to be raised as a topic of discussion. That Mr. Bennett does not believe in such a practice, or that he said immediately afterwards that such a program of black genocide would be "impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible" is not nearly enough. Some things have no business being said by people considered to be "responsible."

For African-Americans, this is not an issue of being offended; this is an issue of physical survival. In my lifetime, men representing significant and responsible sections of some American communities felt it acceptable to plant bombs in African-American houses of worship, and worse. In another context, African-Americans used to sing a song called "Gone Are The Days." Gone, yes, but not long enough to feel comfortable about that they might not quickly come back.

Thursday's New York Times, for example, reports the social aftermath of a fire set last December by young Ku Klux Klan members that destroyed 10 houses and heavily damaged 16 others, most of which were owned by black families in a largely white Charles County, Maryland, D.C. suburban community.

To these like these young Klansmen, the term "racist" properly applies. But for people like Mr. Bennett? As I said, we need to come up with another term.

To Read the Entire Essay

Jacques Derrida: On Justice

No justice . . . seems possible or thinkable without the principle of some responsibility, beyond all living present, within that which disjoins the living present, before the ghosts of those who are not yet born or who are already dead, be they victims of wars, political or other kinds of violence, nationalist, racist, colonialist, sexist, or other kinds of exterminations, victims of the oppressions of capitalist imperialism or any of the forms of totalitarianism.

Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx (1994).

More from Spectres of Marx:

What is Ideology?

Robert L. Schrag: Living Life in TiVo Time

Living Life in TiVo Time
by Robert L. Schrag
Flow: Online Journal of Television and Media Studies

Then I realized it may have nothing to do with manners, it is all about TiVo, technology, and the fracturing of interpersonal time and space. Think about it. TiVo is not about the digital recording of video. That is only part of it. TiVo commercials tell us that TiVo is all about being able to “pause live TV.” We can be watching something unfolding “in real life,” - a hurricane striking the coast of Mississippi and Louisiana, or the Hurricanes playing hockey - and then a parallel “real life” intrudes. Your spouse needs help, a child cries, the dog scratches at the door, the phone rings, whatever. No problem, you hit a button and the “live event” on the TV screen freezes. You then tend to the more immediate reality. Afterwards you return to the screen, hit a button, and resume the frozen reality.

It is an increasingly common scenario with very uncommon implications. The notion of the “here and now,” that usually seems so solid, just got a bit strange. The question of “Which ‘real life’ do you mean?” is no longer the sole property of philosophers or absurdist playwrights, it has wiggled its way into our living rooms and our classrooms, into the coffee shop and the faculty meeting.

Here is what I think is happening. Reality now flows around us in a variety of different streams. There is the physical reality of my location and the events unfolding in that location, but there are also the parallel realities outside that location that are now in accessible electronically, digitally. My computer, my cell phone, my pda, my Blackberry, my iPod, my Bluetooth prosthesis, all let me select a preferred experience from among those intertwining realities. And TiVo goes one step further, letting me choose which time to designate as “live.”

The power to select from a rack of potential realities makes the designation of “here and now” an idiosyncratic option. I choose my reality on the fly, and utilize the communication protocols appropriate to that choice. The results are not always polite. When varying individual realities share the same physical space there is inevitable friction.

To Read the Entire Essay

Stuzzicamente il blog di Luistar

For more photos check out the intriguing photoblog Stuzzicamente il blog di Luistar

Friday, October 28, 2005

Immanuel Wallerstein: The Mudslide

Commentary No. 171, Oct. 15, 2005
"The Mudslide"

The Bush regime is in the middle of a political mudslide, both nationally and internationally. Two almost simultaneous geological mudslides that occurred this month - one in Guatemala and one in Kashmir - have reminded us of how terrible they are. Once they've started, almost nothing can be done to stop them. We can only pick the dead and the survivors out of the devastation afterwards.

For Bush, the warning signals have been there for a while. The occupation of Iraq has been going steadily worse - more lives lost each month, and a political impasse over the constitution however the vote turns out. Popular support in the United States has been sliding downward. The rising cost of gasoline has been noticed by all households, and the rising level of governmental expenditure has been noticed especially by Republican fiscal conservatives. When the hurricanes struck, the incompetence of the Bush regime was there for all to see. Had everything else been going smoothly, political damage might have been marginal. But everything else has not been going smoothly.

Then came the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Personally, I have no doubt that she is what Bush says she is, someone who shares his own political outlook, and therefore a logical choice for him. But he has stirred up a hornet's nest among his so-called base - the Christian right in the United States. Let us look at why there has been such a negative reaction to her among Bush supporters and why Bush might have nominated her.

The Christian right has always been wary of Bush, never really sure he is one of them. But they have swallowed all their doubts (lately about the Iraq fiasco, the high level of government spending, and the response to the hurricanes) because they wanted one thing out of him above all - the appointment of a Supreme Court justice who would reverse the historic decision on abortion, Roe v. Wade. They had bad memories of both Reagan and Bush father, who appointed justices (Kennedy and Souter) who were not ready to reverse Roe v. Wade. They wanted a guaranteed choice this time. And there exist no doubt a number of prominent jurists available who would have satisfied this demand.

Bush did not choose any of these jurists. Instead he chose his long-time associate and present-day official counsel to fill the post. Why? There are probably several reasons. Bush knew that appointing any of the list that the Christian right wanted would have led to a filibuster in the Senate. And he was not sure, given his decline in the polls, that he would have won the battle. A defeat in the Senate must have seemed more than he could risk. We'll never know if his calculation about this was right.

The second reason may have been that Bush is worrying about a number of cases to come before the Supreme Court in the next three years that are not about abortion but about his own decisions as the president. And he probably wanted to have a sure vote on those issues, which Miers seemed to offer him (more surely perhaps than any of the anti-abortion jurists the Christian right wanted him to nominate). In addition, the other part of his base - the business community - actually likes Miers, who has had long links with them and is seen by them as reliable on the issues that concern them.

The last reason must surely have been that he thought he'd get away with it vis-à-vis the Christian right, since he thought they would "trust" him. But they don't trust him. They might have trusted him even a year ago, but no longer. It's the mudslide. And of course, the fact that they are now launching a major campaign against Miers, hoping to force him to withdraw the nominee, just accelerates the mudslide. The 2006 elections are coming up. And the signs are clear. In the states where the Republicans hoped to oust Democratic senators, their "strongest" candidates are declining to run, clearly afraid they would lose. This nervousness now pervades the Republican members of Congress, and makes it ever more difficult for Bush to get anything he wants. The fact that Sen. McCain could get a 90-9 vote in the U.S. Senate on an anti-torture proposal that is implicitly very critical of the Bush administration, and was actively opposed by Bush, is a measure of how weak Bush's position has become within his own party.

Political mudslides are situations in which, no matter what you do, you lose. Had Bush nominated one of the jurists the Christian right wanted, he would have lost. But avoiding that peril, and nominating Harriet Miers, he lost as well. How much devastation this mudslide will cause in U.S. politics we shall soon see. But of course, it will have consequences as well on the U.S. position in the world political arena. The Iraqi constitutional referendum is another lose-lose situation into which Bush has fallen, and it is too late to pull back. More on that, after we have the exact returns.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write:

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

Discussing Film and Building an Archive of Resources

If you ever want to discuss film, need a place to post reviews/writings, or looking for a handy archive of resources (suggestions/comments/writings/links appreciated)... my civilized, academic alter-ego has set up a place at:

Bluegrass Film Society

Words Without Borders: Jaguar Tongues

Words Without Borders
Edited by Sylvia Schorris and Earl Schorris

From dreamscape to reportage, from transcendence to outrage, these works from the indigenous languages of the Americas represent WWB's first foray into literary archeology, placing ancient works like “The Opening of the Mexican Cantares” alongside those of contemporary writers working in the old traditions, such as Auldárico Hernández's “Dreamhouse.” While some of the new read as if written centuries ago, Juan Gregorio Regino's Mazateco chant in many parts among them, "Nothing Remains Empty," others are surprisingly modern, like Humberto Ak'abal's surrealist poem "The Moon and The Feather" or Marcos Matías Alonso's devastating description of life in Mexico City "Dreams and Memories of a Common Man."

Our heroic guest editors, Earl Shorris and Sylvia Sasson Shorris, begin their extensive table of contents with essays on language, followed by poems, stories, fables, and two descriptive articles on aspects of ancient culture still in existence, one Náhuatl and the other Maya.

In the tradition of passing on the legends, folklore and wisdom of our elders from one generation to the next, the stories, poems and essays in our October issue have been shared from one language to the next. Many of the pieces written in the indigenous languages represented here, among them Comanche, Purépecha, Yucatecan Maya, Náhuatl and Classical Náhuatl, Zapoteco, Mazateco, Mixteco, Mazahua, Ñahñu, K'iche', and Tztotzil, were originally translated into Spanish and then rendered in English by Earl and Sylvia Sasson Shorris.

October Issue of Words Without Borders

Missing Persons Alert: Harry Where Are You?


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thinking About Radical Democracy, Pt. 3

(Radical in reflective reworking involving going back to the origins of the concept and pushing our supposed democracy to live up to its founding concepts. For my students working on social/collective memory projects--the links are all updated. Suggestions for this list are appreciated and needed--please help me to keep up-to-date and to catch up on newly uncovered/ignored histories.)

U.S. Section of Women's International League for Peace

Orion: Environmental Discourse and Dissent

Green Social Thought

Radical Democracy: A Contested Terrain

Rules for Radicals

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy

Fast Food Nation and McDonaldization

History of Radicalism in the U.S.

Abolitionist Movement

Civil Rights Movement

Marxist Internet Archive

Eugene Debs, Labor Organizer

Feminist Movement

Marcus Garvey, Black Nationalist Leader

Labor Movement

Abbie Hoffman



Utopian Communities

The Student as Nigger

John Taylor Gatto: Challenging the Myths of Modern Schooling

Raoul Vaneigem: The Revolution of Everyday Life

Resources for Studying Propaganda

The Memory Hole: Freeing of Information in Action

On the Poverty of Student Life

Language of the War on Terror

Independent Media in a Time of War

Indy Media

Nancy Snow: Rebranding of America

Poet/Performer Saul Williams

Politics of University Teaching in Post 9/11 America

Socialist Equality Party Presidential Candidate Bill Van Auken: "An American Tragedy"

Douglas Rushkoff's Open Source Democracy

Chris Hedges: The Meaning of War

Stonewall Riot and Its Aftermath

Wikipedia: Stonewall Riots

Stonewall Riots, 1969

Nickle and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America

Barbara Ehrenreich

Crucial Texts of Radical Democracy

Thomas Frank: Architecture of a New Consensus

Culture-Trafficking for the 21st Century

Terry Tempest Williams: Open Spaces of Democracy

Terry Tempest Williams: Ground Truthing

BBC Documentary: The Power of Nightmares

Paul Kivel: Are You Mentoring For Social Justice

Skidmark Bob, Musical Activist

Stokely Carmichael: Architect of Black Power

George Soros: The Bubble of American Supremacy

Race and Collective Memory Bibliography

Without Sanctuary: America's Dark History of Racialized Violence (caution)

Ron Strickland's Marxist Cultural Theory

Tony Kushner: Radical Pragmatist

Race: The Power of an Illusion

Ubu Web: Freedom as Creativity

Martin Luther King's Radical Message

Michael Moore: White Frights

Remembering Johnny Cash

U.S. Prison Boom

How the Other Half Banks

Hakim Bey: Poetic Terrorism

Situationist International: Resisting the Society of the Spectacle

Bureau of Publis Secrets

Howard Zinn: Our War on Terrorism

The Nation: Our Debt to Bill Moyers

Arundhati Roy: Instant Mix, Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free)

Project Censored Annual Reports of Year's Top Censored News Stories

Guy Debord: Society of the Spectacle

Slavoj Zizek: The Passion

Raymond Federman: The Real Begins Where the Spectacle Ends

Emma Goldman: Minorities vs. Majorities

Emma Goldman Archives

Anarchist Archives

Mary Wolstoncraft: Vindication of the Rights of Women

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: The Solitude of Self

National Women's History Project

Gloria Steinem

Angela Davis: Radical Activist/Black Feminist

Combahee River Collective Statement: Genesis of Black Feminism

Feminist Writing Space

bell hooks: writing and resistance

The Beautiful Enigma of Radical Democracy

Women's International League for Peace

Peace Women

Extreme Democracy

American Indian Movement

Alcatraz Is Not an Island: Reclaiming Native Land

Alice Paul

Iron Jawed Angels (Katjia von Garnier) Warner, 2004: 125 minutes.

Alice Paul

We discussed the Seneca Falls 1848 Convention as a landmark event in the women's movement.

Seneca Falls Declaration

I mentioned Ida B. Wells the African American activist in the movie who refuses to get in the back of the parade--for more on this important democratic civil rights activist:

Ida B. Wells

Wikipedia: Ida B. Wells

Think about Ida B. Wells argument in the film and then read this important statement from Black Feminists:

Excerpts from the Combahee River Collective Statement

Other women activists of the time that are not featured in the movie, but are very important to know (they are often ignored because they fought for the rights of workers--something a capitalist society rarely honors). These women were as courageous and passionate as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns (have you heard of them?):

Mother Jones: the Angel of the Mines

Wikipedia: Mother Jones

Emma Goldman

Wikipedia: Emma Goldman

Helen Keller is also mentioned many times during the movie. How many of you knew that Helen Keller was an civil rights activist who was pursued by the FBI?

Helen Keller and the FBI

Helen Keller

I mentioned stereotypes about "feminism" and just wanted to post other opinions on the issue:

North Carolina College Student: Stereotypes About Feminism Are Unfounded and Damaging (also click on the only comment at the end of the essay)

The Guerilla Girls a performative activist group has long been fighting stereotypes of women and for equal representation in the arts (if you have taken an art history class you will understand the disparity between the representation of male and female artists):

University of North Texas website on feminism:

What is Feminism?

Public displays, marches and protests are an effective non-violent method for bringing attention to political issues (that are being ignored by mainstream society):

NOW: History of Marches and Mass Actions

Wikipedia: Social Movements

Wikipedia: Protests

Also check out the imagistic critiques of the conceptual artist Barbara Krueger--who questions how stereotypes and behaviors are reproduced through visual media:

Barbara Krueger

And courtesy of Melissa Purdue, an English Studies and Women Studies instructor at the University of Kentucky, an outline of the three waves of feminism (I added the links):

First Wave Feminism-

This term refers to the first concerted movement working for the reform of women's social and legal inequalities in the nineteenth century. Although individual feminist such as Mary Wollstonecraft had already argued against the injustices suffered by women, it was not until the 1850's that something like an organized feminist movement evolved in Britain. Its headquarters was at Langham Place in London, where a group of middle-class women, led by Barbara Bodichon (1827-91) and Bessie Rayner Parkes (1829-1925), met to discuss topical issues and publish the English Woman's Journal (1858-64).

The key concerns of First Wave Feminists were education, employment, the marriage laws, and the plight of intelligent middle-class single women. They were not primarily concerned with the problems of working-class women, nor did they necessarily see themselves as feminists in the modern sense (the term was not coined until 1895). First Wave Feminists largely responded to specific injustices they had themselves experienced.

Their major achievements were the opening of higher education for women; reform of the girls' secondary-school system, including participation in formal national examinations: the widening of access to the professions, especially medicine; married women's property rights, recognized in the Married Women's Property Act of 1870; and some improvement in divorced and separated women's child custody rights.

Second Wave Feminism-

The term 'Second Wave' was coined by Marsha Lear, and refers to the increase in feminist activity which occurred in America, Britain, and Europe from the late sixties onwards. In America, second wave feminism rose out of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements in which women, disillusioned with their second-class status even in the activist environment of student politics, began to band together to contend against discrimination. The second wave was concerned with reproductive rights and the fight against sexual and domestic violence.

The tactics employed by Second Wave Feminists varied from highly-published activism, such as the protest against the Miss America beauty contest in 1968, to the establishment of small consciousness-raising groups. However, it was obvious early on that the movement was not a unified one, with differences emerging between black feminism, lesbian feminism, liberal feminism, and social feminism.

Second Wave Feminism in Britain was similarly multiple in focus, although it was based more strongly in working-class socialism, as demonstrated by the strike of women workers at the Ford car plant for equal pay in 1968. The slogan 'the personal is political' sums up the way in which Second Wave Feminism did not just strive to extend the range of social opportunities open to women, but also, through intervention within the spheres of reproduction, sexuality and cultural representation, to change their domestic and private lives. Second Wave Feminism did not just make an impact upon western societies, but has also continued to inspire the struggle for women's rights across the world.

Third Wave Feminism -

Loosely defined movement starting around late 1990’s with texts like Manifesta, Listen Up, To Be Real, and Body Outlaws. Third Wave Feminism, the movement of feminism beyond the sexual revolution of the 1960's, is focused on young women and men perpetuating and improving upon those rights gained in the past. It is hard to define because the Third Wave is characterized by individualism and a lack of desire to conform to a definition. Third Wavers have never lived in a world without the women's movement.

The front page of the Third Wave Foundation web site explains that the organization strives to combat inequalities that [women] face as a result of [their] age, gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status or level of education. By empowering young women, Third Wave is building a lasting foundation for social activism around the country.

Wikipedia: Feminism

Wikipedia: Suffrage Movement

Wikipedia: Alice Paul

Wikipedia: Lucy Burns

Bush Crony Jobs

(Courtesy of Mason)

Bush Crony Jobs: No Experience Necessary

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bush Administration in Complete Frustration Over Their Mistakes in the War on Terror Decides the Best Route Would Be To Target The Onion

(Courtesy of Abby Normal)

Read The Onion ... they never fail to please.

From CNN

"I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama (bin Laden) ... rather than comedians. I don't think we pose much of a threat," Dikkers said.

White House to Onion: Stop using seal Symbol 'being used inappropriately,' says spokesman

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Thinking About the Debate Over Genetically Engineered Food

Union of Concerned Scientists: Genetic Engineering

Global Issues: Genetically Engineered Food

The New Information Ecosystem

Vandana Shiva

Corporate Greenwasher #1: Altria

Ruth Ozeki: Creating Novel Life Forms

Naomi Klein: Tyranny of the Brands

Scientists Mingling Human and Animal Genes

Michael Pollan: Food Chains, Dead Zones and Licensed Journalism

Michael Pollan: A Plant's Eye View of the World

Democratic Underground: All Roads Lead to the Project For a New American Century

This is one of those very useful connections of the dots...

(Courtesy of Spontaneous Arising)

All Roads Lead to PNAC
by Luna C
Democratic Underground

With indictments due this week, those not familiar with PNAC might want to know how/why we came to this historic moment in time.

George W. Bush constantly reminds the nation about the threat of terrorism that began with 911 but he leaves out a few important details that you should know.........

To Read the Post

Inspector Lohmann is On the Case Again

(Courtesy of Red Harvest who reminded me to check in with the good inspector)

Inspector Lohmann, another longtime favorite is back blogging again after a hiatus. The Inspector, no doubt influenced by battles with Dr. Mabuse, has a mind that pushes us to break with (ir)reality as we know it. Come dance on the razor edge with Inspector Lohmann.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Anna Froula: "America, Fuck Yeah!"

“America, Fuck Yeah!”: Patriotic Puppetry in Team America, World Police

A paper presented by Anna Froula for the 2005 English Department Colloquium

Friday, October 28 2:00-3:00 p.m.
University of Kentucky
Room 245 Patterson Office Tower

Come early for refreshments!

Released mere weeks before the 2004 election, Team America, World Police received mixed reviews from critics attempting to polarize the politics of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Inspired by Jerry Bruckheimer’s formulaic action films, these patriotic puppets fight for a government-sanctioned, corporation-sponsored paramilitary group, and their logo consists of an American eagle’s head gripping the earth in its beak.’s Charles Taylor exasperatedly charged the film for being “so determined not to have a point of view that it cancels itself out in the manner of those CNN ‘debates’ where two talking heads from opposing sides gainsay each other for five minutes.” Yet as it satirizes both the warmongering of Bush administration neoconservatives and the futile peacenik stance of liberals, the movie stands as resistance against a sharply divided American response to the “war on terrorism.”

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Amphibology

Merriam-Webster Online

amphibology \am-fuh-BAH-luh-jee\ noun

: a sentence or phrase that can be interpreted in more than one way

Example sentence:
Not wanting to voice what I really felt, I resorted to amphibology and said, "I can't say too many good things about her."

Did you know?
A venerable old word in English, "amphibology" is from Greek "amphibolos" (via Late Latin and Latin). "Amphibolos," from "amphi-" ("both") and "ballein" ("to throw"), literally means "encompassing" or "hitting at both ends"; figuratively it means "ambiguous." Amphibology is an equivocator's friend. An editor who has been sent an unsolicited manuscript to critique, for example, might reply, "I shall lose no time in reading your book." Or a dinner guest who feels the onset of heartburn might say something like, "Ah, that was a meal I shall not soon forget!" But amphibology's ambiguity can be unintended and undesirable as well, as in "When Mom talked to Judy, she said she might call her back the next day." (Who said who might call whom back?)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Slavoj Zizek: The Subject Supposed to Loot and Rape

(Courtesy of Lenin's Tomb)

The Subject Supposed to Loot and Rape: Reality and fantasy in New Orleans
By Slavoj Zizek
In These Times


The events in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the city provide a new addition to this series of “subjects supposed to…”—the subject supposed to loot and rape. We all remember the reports on the disintegration of public order, the explosion of black violence, rape and looting. However, later inquiries demonstrated that, in the large majority of cases, these alleged orgies of violence did not occur: Non-verified rumors were simply reported as facts by the media. For example, on September 3, the Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department told the New York Times about conditions at the Convention Center: “The tourists are walking around there, and as soon as these individuals see them, they ‘re being preyed upon. They are beating, they are raping them in the streets.” In an interview just weeks later, he conceded that some of his most shocking statements turned out to be untrue: “We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault.”

The reality of poor blacks, abandoned and left without means to survive, was thus transformed into the specter of blacks exploding violently, of tourists robbed and killed on streets that had slid into anarchy, of the Superdome ruled by gangs that were raping women and children. These reports were not merely words, they were words that had precise material effects: They generated fears that caused some police officers to quit and led the authorities to change troop deployments, delay medical evacuations and ground helicopters. Acadian Ambulance Company, for example, locked down its cars after word came that armed robbers had looted all of the water from a firehouse in Covington—a report that proved totally untrue.

Of course, the sense of menace had been ignited by genuine disorder and violence: Looting, ranging from base thievery to foraging for the necessities of life, did occur after the storm passed over New Orleans. However, the (limited) reality of crimes in no way exonerates “reports” on the total breakdown of law and order—not because these reports were “exaggerated,” but for a much more radical reason. Jacques Lacan claimed that, even if the patient’s wife is really sleeping around with other men, the patient ‘s jealousy is still to be treated as a pathological condition. In a homologous way, even if rich Jews in early 1930s Germany “really” had exploited German workers, seduced their daughters and dominated the popular press, the Nazis ’ anti-Semitism would still have been an emphatically “untrue,” pathological ideological condition. Why? Because the causes of all social antagonisms were projected onto the “Jew”—an object of perverted love-hatred, a spectral figure of mixed fascination and disgust.

And exactly the same goes for the looting in New Orleans: Even if all the reports on violence and rapes had proven to be factually true, the stories circulating about them would still be “pathological” and racist, since what motivated these stories were not facts, but racist prejudices, the satisfaction felt by those who would be able to say: “You see, Blacks really are like that, violent barbarians under the thin layer of civilization!” In other words, we would be dealing with what could be called lying in the guise of truth: Even if what I am saying is factually true, the motives that make me say it are false.

Of course, we never openly admit these motives. But from time to time, they nonetheless pop up in our public space in a censored form, in the guise of denegation: Once evoked as an option, they are then immediately discarded. Recall the recent comments by William Bennett, the compulsive gambler and author of The Book of Virtues, on his call-in program “Morning in America”: “But I do know that it ‘s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” The White House spokesman immediately reacted: “The president believes the comments were not appropriate.” Two days later, Bennett qualified his statement: “I was putting a hypothetical proposition … and then said about it, it was morally reprehensible to recommend abortion of an entire group of people. But this is what happens when you argue that ends can justify the means.” This is exactly what Freud meant when he wrote that the Unconscious knows no negation: The official (Christian, democratic … ) discourse is accompanied and sustained by a whole nest of obscene, brutal racist and sexist fantasies, which can only be admitted in a censored form.

To Read the Entire Essay

Annalee Newitz: Strike Blog

Strike Blog
by Annalee Newitz

I've been reading the first blog ever written from a strikers' picket line. The picket line is outside several San Francisco hospitals, and the strikers are 800 health care workers from the Service Employees International Union's local United Healthcare Workers West. They're demanding that their employers provide them with better training and a way to resolve disputes through third parties. Members of the SEIU-UHW are mostly lower-paid hospital workers like nurse's assistants, janitors, and, as union rep Thea Lavin puts it, "the people who keep you and your room clean while you're in the hospital." Their grievances are all too familiar, but their method of organizing is not.

"Strikers are using text messaging to communicate on the picket lines," Lavin says, "and picket line leaders are coming home at night and describing what it was like that day." Workers on the lines are struggling to figure out what's going on in the hospitals during their absences, and they're constantly fighting the fear that they'll run out of money and be forced to take other work before the battle has been won. They're also struggling quite literally with Healthcare Contingency Staffing Services' scab guards, a gang of modern-day Pinkertons who have been terrorizing strikers (and, in one case, actually beating them, according to an Oct. 13 police report).

For anyone who has ever been on strike -- or just driven by and honked the horn in solidarity -- the blog at is a reminder of the often tiring and confusing experience. It features regular entries from strikers like Emily Stone, who was happy that one of her regular patients came to chat with her on the picket line during a visit to the hospital for kidney dialysis. Tom, another strike blogger, talks about how he's worried about the welfare of patients he'd normally be attending.

To Read the Entire Article

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Equivocal

Merriam-Webster Online

equivocal \ih-KWIV-uh-kul\ adjective

1 *a : subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse b : uncertain as an indication or sign
2 a : of uncertain nature or classification b : of uncertain disposition toward a person or thing : undecided c : of doubtful advantage, genuineness, or moral rectitude

Example sentence:

When asked about his plans to end tenure and rescind health care for new hires, the president gave only equivocal answers, providing little information about his plans.

Did you know?
"Equivocal," "vague," and "ambiguous" all mean "not clearly understandable" and are used to describe confusing speech or writing. "Equivocal" — which can be traced back to the Latin prefix "aequi-" ("equi-") and the Latin word "vox" ("voice") — applies to language left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading ("moral precepts with equivocal phrasing"). "Vague" implies a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration ("I had only a vague idea of how to get there"). "Ambiguous," like "equivocal," applies to language capable of more than one interpretation but usually does not have the negative connotations of deception or evasion ("the poet's wording is intentionally ambiguous").

Grey Lodge Occult Review #17

Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti
By Maya Deren

Disinformation TV
The old disinfo streaming video/audio collection

Titicut Follies
By Frederick Wiseman

An American Pastoral
By Jim Morrison

The Cut-Ups
By Antony Balch with William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin

The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi)
By Hermann Hesse (zipped - rtf)

Codex Seraphinianus , Hallucinatory Encyclopedia
By Peter Schwenger

The Code Book on CD-ROM
By Simon Singh

A Most Unusual Cast of Characters
By Allen H. Greenfield (zipped - doc)

Brave New World
By Aldous Huxley (pdf)

Brave New World Revisited
By Aldous Huxley (zipped - rtf)

The Three Impostors
By Arthur Machen (zipped - html/pdf)

No Exit
By Jean-Paul Sartre (zipped - html)

Un Chant D'Amour
By Jean Genet

Link to Read/View the Issue

Michael Taussig: Magic of the State

As we struggle through the third year of the Iraq War/Occupation, as the current administration continues their vague 'War on Terror', as powerful people continue to use the attacks of 9/11 for their own ends, and as we continue to witness dead bodies whose voices no one will ever hear... we need to think about what is going on and continue to question "why"!

Check out:BLOOD SACRIFICE AND THE NATION: REVISITING CIVIL RELIGION by Carolyn Marvin and David Engle for the basics of civil religion... even better find their book on the same subject Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag

Then read Michael Taussig's essay below on the "magic of the state":

"Magic of the State?"
by Michael Taussig

George Bush comes to NYC today. Will he wear a mask?

I see people clapping the police, the firemen, and the construction workers along the West Side Highway down at Christopher Street and outside St. Vincent's Hospital. They have American flags and crudely lettered cardboard signs saying "We Love You," and "The Bravest." There is a feeling of carnival in the air and the cars honk back. Foucault is famous for his idea of bio-power, that the modern state is dedicated not to punishment or violence but to life, that it practices a sort of manipulative altruism. Don't think of the hangman. Think of the fireman. An older wisdom than Foucault's has long maintained that war is the health of the state. A professor of history on NPR says he is encouraged that this will put an end to criticism of the police in NYC. Dawn of a new era.

Down below 14th Street the smell can be acrid and your eyes may itch but the grocers have their flowers for sale and people sit in bars and restaurants and seem relaxed and happy while people stick "missing" foto-portraits to the walls and the WTC smolders. Anti-monument indeed. "Pancaked," they say. Today's NYT has a letter urging a memorial monument--the empty space where stood the WTC. The President urges us to pray. He is absorbing the enormous power of the dead whose spirits are otherwise uncontainable. He says this is the first war of the 21st century. Fighting terrorism will be the focus of his administration. "We will lead the world to victory," he says. The world!

The flag is everywhere but nobody seems to have much of a handle on how to ritualize the event. Grieving is massively complicated by the hate and sinking fear that reactionary political agendas are in the ascendant. It is staggering to hear sane people talking of killing innocent people in massive amounts in the Middle East as revenge--"to stop terrorism."

A strange sense of "imagined community" is being forged before our eyes and inside our psyches. What do you do if you don't feel part of it or are repulsed by it? Susan Stanberg talks on NPR of "the weapon of patriotism," in "disrepute the past decades," now bursting forth, and you can hear the choking in her voice. She loves "these simple things' such as a flag and a song. The things "we" learnt in grade school. What really is this "community," you must be asking yourself as a budding anthropologist. Durkheim's social fact, his collective representation, "society" as God. Birth of a nation. Birth of a discipline.

On 100th St and Riverside there is in the early evening a wailing coming from inside of the earth. Or so it seems. It is a young woman chanting while playing a small organ, rocking back and forth as she chants. It is marvelous. I should have started class the same way on Wednesday. What was I thinking? In front of her by a monument are a few picked flowers and carefully written signs. One consists of two stanzas of Dante's Inferno: Canto 23 from The Inferno, and Canto 23 from Paradise. Another lists America's war dead; I remember Gettysburg, Korea, and Vietnam on the rather short list.

Over at Columbia a large brown strip of paper has been laid down in front of Low Library for people to write on. It is full of statements about God and America. There seems not the slightest awareness of how perilous the world has become at this moment, of how a floundering and incompetent President could plunge us into a crazy war that could never be "won" and would curtail civil liberty in the US as well as propel the US further along the policies of hate, division into rich and poor, racism, and destruction of the environment.

However, down at Washington they are not scribbling sentimental banalities on strips of brown paper. They are converting those scribbles into another emotional currency. "The American people made a judgment--we are at war," Secretary Colin Powell said Thursday, and this was the theme picked up later that day by President Bush. What sort of war would that be? We already have one War, the War Against Drugs, which eroded civil liberties in a devastating fashion as well as boosting the street price of cocaine and heroin. The Defense Department is confident it will get more than ample funds. Their budget allocation is safe and will receive substantial additional funding; around midnight I hear that up to 50,000 reservists are being called up, something LBJ hesitated to do for Vietnam. A Vietnam Vet calls in to NPR talk radio and says he feels a whole lot more certain about this war than Vietnam. What sort of war would that be? How does a state fight terrorism--fight a handful of people in some sense sustained by world-wide resentment towards the US? "An eye for an eye," says an NPR "senior correspondent" who advocates nuclear attack. While Bush and aides talk of ending states that harbor terrorists.

But what is war? A war means armed conflict between states or, as we have come to know full well during the 20th century, guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare, and more recently as in Latin America, "low-intensity warfare." Deleuze and Guattari make an equation between terrorism and nomadism, terrorism and the war machine. Fair enough. They say the war machine is external to the state apparatus. Fair enough. Then they complicate this by saying the war machine, in its "externality," is part of the state, like a foreign body or a heterogenous component, reminding me of the poet Gary Snyder many years ago equating the CIA with "primitive" hunters and gatherers. Terrorist attacks do not simply strengthen the stately power of the state, meaning authoritarianism. Terrorist attacks also augment the nomadic war machine character of the state, and that is the nature of the new type of "war" to which we can look forward.

Nietzsche saw this as a core feature of the state where he says "Prisons make men hard and cold. The mere sight of judicial procedures prevents the criminal from feeling bad about his act because he sees the same kind of action practiced in the service of justice and given approval, practiced with good conscience: like spying, duping, bribing, setting traps, the whole wily skills of the policeman and prosecutor, as well as the most thorough robbery, violence, slander, imprisonment, torture and murder, carried out without even having emotion as an excuse."(1)

What is crucial--and difficult to express--in Nietzsche and Deleuze is what I call "the Nervous System" or play on order and disorder; in a word, using your nomadic war machine to create some sanity, invent an ability to grieve that makes sense, and be politically sensitive at the same time--in the face of a state apparatus whose own war machine has been so vastly strengthened by terrorism. Anthropology is implicitly as much a creative enterprise as it is a clinical study of, for example, "the magic of the state." The urge to create an "anti-monument" is testimony to that.

George Bush comes to NYC today. Will he wear a mask?

Michael Taussig is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University.


(1) Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson, translated by Carol Diethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1994, p.59

Article Link


Deleuze and Guattari on the Web

D & G On Fascism

Antonin Artaud: The Theater and Its Double

Artaud, Antonin. The Theater and Its Double trans. Mary Catherine Richards. NY: Grove Press, 1958

Robert Winston: Why Do We Believe in God?

(Courtesy of Rob Sica)

Why Do We Believe in God?
by Robert Winston
Guardian Unlimited


Many years ago, a team of researchers at the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota decided to put this association to the test. They studied certain fringe religious groups, such as fundamentalist Baptists, Pentecostalists and the snake-handlers of West Virginia, to see if they showed the particular type of psychopathology associated with mental illness. Members of mainstream Protestant churches from a similar social and financial background provided a good control group for comparison. Some of the wilder fundamentalists prayed with what can only be described as great and transcendental ecstasy, but there was no obvious sign of any particular psychopathology among most of the people studied. After further analysis, however, there appeared a tendency to what can only be described as mental instability in one particular group. The study was blinded, so that most of the research team involved with questionnaires did not have access to the final data. When they were asked which group they thought would show the most disturbed psychopathology, the whole team identified the snake-handlers. But when the data were revealed, the reverse was true: there was more mental illness among the conventional Protestant churchgoers - the "extrinsically" religious - than among the fervently committed.

A Harvard psychologist named Gordon Allport did some key research in the 1950s on various kinds of human prejudice and came up with a definition of religiosity that is still in use today. He suggested that there were two types of religious commitment - extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic religiosity he defined as religious self-centredness. Such a person goes to church or synagogue as a means to an end - for what they can get out of it. They might go to church to be seen, because it is the social norm in their society, conferring respectability or social advancement. Going to church (or synagogue) becomes a social convention.

Allport thought that intrinsic religiosity was different. He identified a group of people who were intrinsically religious, seeing their religion as an end in itself. They tended to be more deeply committed; religion became the organising principle of their lives, a central and personal experience. In support of his research, Allport found that prejudice was more common in those individuals who scored highly for extrinsic religion.

The evidence generally is that intrinsic religiosity seems to be associated with lower levels of anxiety and stress, freedom from guilt, better adjustment in society and less depression. On the other hand, extrinsic religious feelings - where religion is used as a way to belong to and prosper within a group - seem to be associated with increased tendencies to guilt, worry and anxiety.

To Read the Entire Essay

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Wole Soyinka: Climate of Fear

Soyinka, Wole. "Climate of Fear." Reith Lectures (BBC and The Open University: 2004)

The lecturer, Nigerian writer and activist Wole Soyinka, draws on his time as a political prisoner and compares the behaviours and motivations of the "quasi-states" who use terror to further their aims, and asks if lack of regard for others has led the world to its present, paranoid state.

Includes audio and text versions of five speeches:

Lecture 1: The Changing Mask of Fear
Lecture 2: Power and Freedom
Lecture 3: Rhetoric that Binds and Blinds
Lecture 4: A Quest for Dignity
Lecture 5: I am Right; You are Dead

Also check out Commentaries/Background on Wole Soyinka

Jerry Isaacs: US Auto Union Goes to Court Against Its Own Members

US auto union goes to court against its own members
By Jerry Isaacs


Nothing could demonstrate more clearly the relationship between the UAW and the auto companies, on the one hand, and the workers it nominally represents, on the other. After more than a quarter century of betrayed strikes and labor-management collaboration in downsizing and cost-cutting, the role of the union has been transformed—from defending, within the framework of the profit system, the elementary economic interests of auto workers, to suppressing the democratic rights of its members in order to impose the dictates of corporate America.

This process has gone hand in hand with the extirpation of any genuine rank-and-file democracy or control over the organization, its thoroughgoing bureaucratization, and a relentless ideological assault on the traditions of militant class struggle that attended the birth of the union in the great sit-down strikes of the 1930s.

Central to this degeneration has been the refusal of the UAW and the American labor movement as a whole to break with the capitalist two-party system and take the road of independent political struggle.

The UAW is not today an organization of the working class, but of a privileged and parasitic middle-class stratum whose social interests are opposed to those of the workers it claims to represent. The union engages in “collective bargaining” not to defend the jobs, wages and benefits of union members, but rather the perks, positions and privileges of the bureaucracy.

Thus the UAW made certain that the bureaucracy would profit from the very agreement that slashed its members’ wages and health benefits. The deal with GM provides for a new slush fund controlled by the UAW—the so-called Voluntary Employee Benefit Association—to which GM will initially contribute $3 billion, and which will then be funded by deferring raises and cost-of-living increases due to current GM workers.

The unions’ embrace in recent decades of outright corporatism is itself the outcome of the devil’s bargain between the American labor movement and the ruling class that was cemented in the postwar period through the purge of left-wing and socialist elements from the unions. The spectacle of the UAW’s open attack on its own membership over the last week is further proof of the irreconcilable contradiction between the defense of the interests of the working class and organizations based on nationalism and the defense of the profit system.

Link to the Entire Article

Alex Lefebvre: The Diplomacy of Imperialism

"The Diplomacy of Imperialism: Iraq and US foreign policy"
by Alex Lefebvre

Part one: Monarchical Iraq and the growth of social antagonisms

Part two: The Iraqi nationalist movements, the permanent revolution, and the Cold War

Part three: The Iraqi Baath Party, from its origins to political power

Part four: Iraq in the 1970s and the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War

Part five: Donald Rumsfeld and the Washington-Saddam Hussein connection

Part six: Reagan administration deepens ties with Hussein

Part seven: US financial assistance for Hussein in the 1980s

Part eight: The end of the Iran-Iraq war

Part nine: American policy after the Iran-Iraq war

Still Point: The Ancient Tones

This post by CAB at Still Point struck a chord with me--thanks!


"The people that play this kind of music know about the ancient tones." –Bill Monroe

“Ancient tones” is a phrase that gets stuck in my head every so often and I start thinking about the ancient tones in my own life. I think that they’re different for everyone but they originate from a similar feeling or source. The ancient tones arise from those voices, those echoes that tie us in some way to our past, to a past that we don’t actually know from original memory; a past that is in our bones, our genes, an ancestral memory of people that you have never met and of places to which you’ve never been but you know and feel to be as real as the ground you walk on right now. I can hear the ancient tones in the lined-out hymnody of Primitive Baptist singing, and can hear my great-grandfather’s voice ringing down through the years. I hear Johnny Cash singing “Just as I Am” and feel the flood of all those Advent Christian Sunday services that I attended, that my parents attended, and my grandparents, and on and on; in fact, my earliest memory is of sitting in church at the end of a service and hearing the invitation hymn, a song like “Just As I Am” or “Softly and Tenderly.” I can hear the ancient tones in a song like Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground.” With no lyrics, Johnson hums and moans with his slide guitar, painting a vocal portrait of a surreal moment in timeless time. I can hear the ancient tones in the Pace Jubilee Singers, an African-American a capella group from the 1920s who sing the blood-curdling words of “Oh Death.” I can hear the ancient tones ring through the walls of time, making, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “all time…eternally present.” The ancient tones beckon you to come home, if not in body, then in mind and spirit.

Post Link

Center for Media and Democracy: Support Our Props

Support our Props
by Sheldon Rampton
Center for Media and Democracy

Excerpt of a comment by Iraq War veteran Paul Rieckhoff:

This thing was not just staged, it was superstaged. In a disgusting display, the President again used our troops as political props in an event so scripted that it basically turned into a conversation with himself. I wish the White House had put this much effort into post-war planning when my platoon hit Baghdad. ....

When I was an Infantry Platoon leader in Iraq, I was interviewed by CBS 60 Minutes. As the tape was rolling, my commanding officer stood behind the camera carefully listening to my every word with his arms crossed. I knew it wouldn’t be fun for me if I strayed from the prescribed talking points. That incident was one of the motivating factors that led me to create Operation Truth--an organization that truly represents the candid voice of our troops and Veterans. The voices we heard today were neither candid nor representative. ... It was a shameful and misguided use of our military. The Commander in Chief has no right to use America’s sons and daughters as a defibrillator for his ailing Presidency.

Link to the Entire Hyperlinked Article

Friday, October 21, 2005

Howard Zinn: On Teaching for Change

As a teacher, I'm not interested in just reproducing class after class of graduates who will get out, become successful, and take their obedient places in the slots that society has prepared for them. What we must do--whether we teach or write or make films--is educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world. (15)

Zinn, Howard. "Stories Hollywood Never Tells." The Sun #343 (July 2004): 12-15.

Paradigm Publishers

Paradigm Publishers is one of my new favorite presses because they have a good range of critical books appropriate for the courses I teach and higher level books for my own studies. I'm using Donald Lazere's Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy: The Critical Citizen's Guide to Argumentative Rhetoric in my rhetoric/composition courses this spring.

Free Press Action: Roger Ailes Attempt to Remake Local TV Stations

(Courtesy of Dale Fitzgibbons)

Roger Ailes, the architect behind the right-wing tilt of cable news, is now remaking 35 local television stations -- broadcasting to nearly 40 percent of America's homes -- in Fox News Channel's image.

Help stop News Corporation from turning our local news into another Fox News Channel. Add your name to Free Press' petition HERE

Delay Booked in Houston

Delay Booked on Charges

Women in Political Blogging

Jude of Iddybud is attempting to bring more attention to female bloggers. Help her out with some suggestions for the growing list:

Women in Political Blogging

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Berea College Department of Women's Studies Events for 2005/2006

Berea College Department of Women's Studies events for 2005-2006 (Open to the Public--Free)

October 21
11:55 a.m.­ 12:55 p.m. Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Fair Trade and the Struggle for Life in the Americas
Daysi Granada, Nicaraguan women’s movement leader, and advisor to Christians for the Poor, talks about ways that privatization of Nicaragua’s utilities have impacted her community, and the ongoing struggle of Nicaraguan civil society. Co-sponsored with Campus Christian Center.

November 2
11:55 a.m.­ 12:55 p.m. Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Under the Veil
Dr. Carole Garrison, Jewish American Professor and Chair of Criminal Justice and Police Studies, and Dr. Jaleh Rezaie, Muslim Iranian Professor and Chair of Computer Science at Eastern Kentucky University, describe the interfaith friendship that started and then grew from their journey to Jaleh’s homeland.Co-sponsored with Campus Christian Center.

November 9
3:00 p.m. Women in the Global Economy
Phelps Stokes
Room 204
Chiapas and the Sixth Declaration
Gabriela Martinez Lopez, researcher at the Center of Political Analysis in Chiapas, Mexico, will speak on the recent declaration of the Zapatista movement, and the work of indigenous women’s communities to claim their fundamental freedoms.

11:55 a.m.­ 12:55 p.m. Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Africa, Islam, and Female Circumcision
Dr. Abdur-Razaq B. Adesina, Islamic scholar and Fulbright lecturer from the University of Portharcourt in Nigeria, discusses the role of Nigerian women in African Muslim cultures. Co-sponsored with International Center.

November 21 (This is likely to be changed to December 5th)
5:00 p.m.
Monday Night Feminism
Conversations with bell hooks
Women' Studies Parlor
Second floor Phelps Stokes: light supper provided
Childcare upon request; Contact Barbara Lakes x3217
Special guest, Bandra Bartky, author of Feminity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression

November 30
11:55 a.m.­ 12:55 p.m. Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Opposing Currents: Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America
Sonia Davila, Bolivian-Mexican scholar and author of Opposing Currents, outlines the international debate on water rights and recounts the gender struggle against water privatization in Bolivia. Co-sponsored with International Center and SENS.

3:00 p.m. Women in the Global Economy
Phelps Stokes, Room 204
Water Wars in Bolivia
Sonia Davila, author of Opposing Currents, speaks about the role of women in the civil struggle to regain water rights in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

February 22
11:55 ­ 12:55 Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Power and Resistance in the Interstices
Muriel Shockley, doctoral candidate and faculty member at Goddard College, introduces her work with Cherie Sandoval on transnational collective efforts to resist the effects of neo-liberal globalization, violence against women, and war.

March 8
11:55 ­ 12:55 Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Feminist Philosophers in North America: An Audio-Visual Sampler
Dr. Joan Callahan, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky, presents highlights of her national research project on influential feminist philosophers in the United States.

March 22
11:55 ­ 12:55 Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Radical Multiculturalism and Women of Color Feminisms
Dr. Maria Lugones, feminist philosopher and founder of Escuela Popular Nortena, shares her recent work on women of color feminisms and radical multiculturalism.

March 22
3:00 p.m. Women in the Global Economy
Phelps Stokes, Room 204
Modern Colonial/Gender Systems
Dr. Maria Lugones, author of Pilgrimages/Pereginajes:
Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions, discusses current schemes for understanding neo-colonialism and gender systems.

April 12
11:55 ­ 12:55 Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Date Rape Prevention as Social Justice Training: Transforming Male
Privilege and Creating Non-Rape Prone Campus Cultures
Dr. Pam Remer, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Kentucky, presents a model of campus rape prevention that challenges male privilege, rape myths, and rape-supported attitudes on the college campus.

April 21
11:55 ­ 12:55 Peanut Butter and Gender
Phelps Stokes, Room 205, Lunch is Served
Gender Lessons in School-Based Sex Education
Using her ethnographic data from middle school sex education classes, Dr. Jessica Fields, Assistant Professor of Sociology at San Francisco State University, applies a feminist lens to the oppressive lessons about femininity and masculinity at work in sex education programs for boys and girls.

Websites of the Day: October 20th

Melody Berger's F-Word Ezine has both non-fiction and fiction, with a global scope, and perspectives that are refreshingly unique.

Jodi Dean is a professor of political theory and an author of many books (I've read her edited collection Cultural Studies and Political Theory, but based on her writings on her weblog I want to very much tackle some of her other books.) Her weblog I Cite is a fascinating combination of writings on her intellectual pursuits, cultural interests and political observations.

Mary McDonald's Weltatem usually has one or two daily posts. Lately she has been writing about her travels around the world and posting on various global and national issues that interest her. What strikes me as important about her posts is that she always draws connections beyond the immediate context of the subject she is considering (connections that are original and make sense). I have found myself lately visiting her site on a daily basis.

I cannot get enough of Global Voices so it is now the homepage on my college office computer and I'm thinking about developing a writing project for my composition students based upon papers/research derived from explorations of the global voices postings. A hearty thanks to the host and contributors of this site!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Green Smile

Green Smile left an interesting comment on a post at this site and being the curious creature I am I visited Green Smile's profile. This profile was great, causing me to laugh and think at the same time, so I checked out the linked blogs--I recommend you do the same. Politics, philosophy, activism and wit...

The Executioner's Thong

Mean Stream Media

A Bomb a Nation

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ernest Becker: Meaning and Alienation

"A large part of the evil that man unleashes on himself and his world stems not from a wickedness in his heart, but from the way he was conditioned to see the world and to seek satisfaction in it. He blindly follows out his unconscious urges in the frantic activity of daily life, and gets his satisfaction and his self-esteem. He fits himself into the bureaucratic-industrial machines of our day and gives his uncritical allegiance to the nation states that run these machines. He is part of an objectified structure, an ant doing his small part reflexively in a huge anthill of delegated power and authority. He follows orders, keeps his nose clean, and gets whatever satisfactions his character structure has equipped him to seek." (185)
Becker, Ernest. The Birth and Death of Meaning (NY: MacMillan, 2nd ed., 1971)

"The tragedy is simply this: that new meanings can only come from the creative depths of the life force within each individual; but the individual is the last one who believes in his right to develop unique meanings. He takes everything he needs uncritically from the society at large. As a result, man's meanings, instead of being free and open, are in fact 'instinctivized'--hardened into the mold of a standard social pattern." (198)
Becker, Ernest. Beyond Alienation (NY: George Braziller, 1967)

Ernest Becker: The Fragile Fiction

Ernest Becker: The Science of Humans

Upcoming United Peace and Justice Events: Bluegrass Community and Technical College

(Anyone needs direction just leave a message in the comments)

October 18, 5-6:15 pm, in the Oswald Building Auditorium, JERROD FELICE, on fair trade

October 19, 3:30-4:30 pm, in the Academic Technical Lobby, DAYSI GRANADOS on resistance/struggles for life and livelihood in Nicaragua (she is coming here thanks to Witness for Peace)

October 20, 5-6:15 pm, in the Oswald Building Auditorium, BOB SLOAN, on mountaintop removal

Recommended Websites: October 16th

Magical realism is one of my favorite fictional styles/genres and this website is one of the best archival resources I have found:


I'm always researching media literacy issues because it is a vital skill for citizens in our society (that is ignored throughout the bureaucratic educational system--many individual teachers still teach it). Here is a website that has a great educational focus, is rooted in activism, yet still retains a sense of humor:

A great combination--also some great resources:

ACME: Action Coalition for Media Education

The folks over at the Bluegrass Film Society are putting together a big archive and regular post on film-related materials (including films available online). Check it out and feel free to share resources:

Bluegrass Film Society


Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents

Reporters san Frontiers/Reporters Without Borders

First Amendment Future

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Tontine

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

tontine \TAHN-teen\ noun

: a joint financial arrangement whereby the participants usually contribute equally to a prize that is awarded entirely to the participant who survives all the others

Example sentence:
When all the participants in the tontine but one were murdered, you can guess who the primary suspect was.

Did you know?
Tontines were named after their creator, a Neapolitan banker named Lorenzo Tonti. In 1653, Tonti convinced investors to buy shares in a fund he had created. Each year, the investors earned dividends, and when one of them died, his or her share of the profits was redistributed among the survivors. When the last investor died, the capital reverted to the state. Louis XIV of France used tontines to save his ailing treasury and to fund municipal projects, and private tontines (where the last surviving investor — and subsequently his or her heirs — got the cash instead of the state) became popular throughout Europe and the U.S. Eventually, though, tontines were banned; there was just too much temptation for unscrupulous investors to bump off their fellow subscribers.