Thursday, June 29, 2006

Kentucky Fairness Alliance July 4th Events: Volunteers Needed

Kentucky Fairness Alliance Bluegrass Chapter is seeking volunteers for these upcoming events:

A full day of ethnic food and music at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza (North Limestone and Main).

Volunteer to staff a 2-hour shift at our informational table, between 1:00 and 11:00 p.m. Sign up Here

Bluegrass chapter will also have an informational table at the street fair on the Fourth.

Sign up to staff a 2-hour shift between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
To Sign Up

Celebrate the Fourth with Fairness in Lexington's annual parade! Stop by the booth on Midland Ave., right in front of the Herald Leader building, to find our spot in line. The parade starts and ends on Midland, and proceeds down Main and back up Vine.

Sign up to march in the parade!

Want to lend your creativity to building our float? Contact Jennifer:

Please contact Cindy Downey, Bluegrass Chapter co-chair, for more information: We look forward to seeing you!

Christopher Kelly: Fear Factors

Fear factors: Don't expect to escape nightmares with a smile on you face
by Christopher Kelly
The Star-Telegram

The most gruesomely vivid, elegantly made horror movie in recent memory opened with little fanfare on Dec. 25, 2005 in approximately 1,500 theaters nationwide. Titled Wolf Creek, it's a low-budget shocker from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre old school, about three carefree twentysomethings whose hiking trip goes terribly awry after they are kidnapped by a maniacal serial killer in the Aussie outback. As is often the case with horror pictures, it was greeted by many critics like a Christmas present wrapped in soiled tissue paper. (Sample review, from Roger Ebert: "There is a role for violence in film, but what the hell is the purpose of this sadistic celebration of pain and cruelty?") The fact that the movie announced the arrival of an immensely gifted new director named Greg McLean -- whose patience, control and ability to play the audience like a very cheap fiddle would have done Alfred Hitchcock proud -- seemed lost on most adult moviegoers.

An isolated case of a terrific B movie falling under the radar? Not exactly. Because the very same thing happened a few weeks later with Eli Roth's Hostel -- a viciously entertaining exploitation thriller, about American college students who find themselves trapped in an Eastern European slaughterhouse where rich businessmen pay to torture hapless victims. The movie creepily captured the experience of being a clueless American in a foreign country that pays you very little heed. (It also showed us what it might look like to have your eyeball slowly pulled out of its socket with pliers.) Once again, the reviewers turned up their noses. ("[Hostel] willfully takes us someplace cruel -- and deeply unfunny," wrote The Denver Post.)

And again and again . . . with Final Destination 3, the technically dazzling third installment in the teenagers-who-can't-outrun-Death franchise, and with Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes, the unrelentingly menacing and bloody remake of the Wes Craven cult classic. Needless to say, neither of these films (both of which are currently still in theaters) will be in the running for next year's Best Picture Oscar.

Except there's another story here: namely, that these movies aren't slipping under the radar and disappearing straight to video. Instead, the largely teenage and college-age audiences who flood the multiplexes on Friday nights have turned them all into modest hits. In the case of Hostel, which opened to $19.6 million and went on to gross $47.3 million, it might just end up being the most profitable movie of 2006. (That film arrives on DVD April 18, a week after Wolf Creek.)

"In the box-office slump of the last year, these movies are the only movies that audiences are responding to," says Hostel director Roth. "Both Saw II and Hostel were made for $4 million, and they're beating movies that cost $200 million dollars."

Are the critics simply out of touch? Well, yes. Because if you can't recognize the often-astonishing level of craft on display in these films, then you're watching them with your eyes closed.

But the teenagers are getting it -- and embracing perhaps the only movies around that dare to speak to larger social concerns and anxieties, especially about the often-faceless, unfathomably evil villains we must contend with in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Hostel, Final Destination 3, Wolf Creek and The Hills Have Eyes are hardly uplifting, redemptive horror stories, where the hero wages battle with a bad guy and emerges a better, stronger man. Nor do these movies offer any of the self-reflexive irony-soaked fun of films like Scream from the 1990s or the spook-house pleasures of the Asian-influenced horror movies like The Ring from earlier in this decade.

What has emerged, instead, is a modern strain of horror that takes us straight back to the politically conscious, deeply despairing 1970s classics like The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and the original Hills Have Eyes. The often hopeless message of these movies is, "Your life may seem perfect right now, but the other shoe is about to drop, at which point there will be no one around to save you." And it's a message that seems scarily appropriate for a generation of teens and twentysomethings who were mostly raised in privilege but whose lives have had a pall cast over them -- first by the omnipresent threat of terrorist attacks and now by an ongoing war in Iraq.

To Read the Entire Essay

Also check out the debate, at The House Next Door, on this essay:

Blood and guts: Christopher Kelly sees art in mainstream splatter

An Inconvenient Truth

Is in town at the Kentucky Theatre:

To Watch the Preview

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Struggle to Care

OK, I said I would write (publicly) on a regular basis, but I'm finding it difficult to care these days...

(a nod to Wood's Lot for introducing to this artist)

United Nations: 2006 List of 10 Stories the World Should Hear More About

(Courtesy of Spontaneous Arising)

United Nations

Concerned that some issues continue not to receive sustained media attention or slip off the radar screen, the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) has unveiled a new list of "Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About."

"The media and the UN share an interest in getting information about what is happening in our world to the public," says Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. "But journalists are often inundated with stories, all competing for their -- and the public's -- attention. Our aim is to make it easier for them to see that important issues do not fade from the headlines."

The initiative, first launched in 2004, is not meant to be representative of the Organization's agenda. As in previous years, the 2006 list covers a spectrum of issues and geographical regions, some of which draw on troubling humanitarian emergencies and conflict situations (such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal) while others focus on such vital areas as human rights (asylum law and child prisoners) and development (Liberia and water as a shared resource).

While the stories are enumerated from one to ten, their ranking is not a reflection of their relative significance. In this year's list, some stories focus on conflicts that may have been in the media spotlight - but highlight a perspective that does not usually get much play. Although DPI takes responsibility for the final list, it was arrived at following extensive consultation with UN departments, field offices and programmes.

To Read the Stories

Environmental Ethics

Environmental Ethics, is "human responsibility to nature and the remote future." The key concept in this definition is responsibility, which entails: (a) knowledge of the consequences of an act or policy, (b) capacity to carry out that act or policy, (c) freedom to do otherwise, and (d) a value significance of those consequences -- as these consequences affect the welfare or worth of morally significant beings (persons, animals, natural objects, etc.). Environmental ethics is a new field of moral philosophy, primarily because of the recent emergence of knowledge (in science) and capacity (in technology) regarding humanity's impacts upon nature and the future.

• To become acquainted with concepts and methods of philosophical ethics that apply to issues regarding mankind's dealings with the natural world.
• To critically assess alternative approaches to, and defenses of, a code of responsibility to nature (i.e., an "environmental ethic").
• To gain a clear understanding of the obstacles in moral philosophy, public policy-making and public attitudes to a coherent and sound system of environmental ethics.
• To offer the student a repertory of resources and skills with which to formulate his/her own environmental ethic and to articulate and defend these ideas with clarity, consistency and coherence.

Laura Sullivan: Al-Qaida's Playbook

For those with a strong interest and lots of time, a 268 page translation of the The Management of Savagery which critiques the West and discusses goals/tactics of Al Qaida.

Claudio Sanchez: States Inflate School Graduation Rates

(Approximately 30% of students fail to get a high school diploma--states now are finding ways to hide this failure through imaginative data keeping. I would also add that many of the graduating seniors are poorly prepared to enter/succeed in college and life.)

States Inflate School Graduation Rates, Report Says
by Claudio Sanchez

There are serious gaps between the high school graduation rates that states report and the actual number of students who receive a diploma, according to a new report.

The study, from the journal Education Week, estimates that in the school year that just ended, 1.2 million students failed to graduate.

The report explains that states have a variety of methods for calculating graduation rates, which can cause them to overestimate graduation rates.

To Listen to the Report


Diplomas Count: An Essential to Graduation Policy and Rates

What is Your Local Water Quality?

Of course to me this seems flawed in that Kentucky American Water is doing the report and their parent company, RWE AG of Essen, Germany, has a long record of abuses along these lines... so is there still something to worry about, are we getting all of the information?

2005 Central Kentucky Report

To find information about the quality and owners of your local water system:

EPA: Local Drinking Water Quality Reports

EPA: Public Drinking Water Systems Programs

EPA: Drinking Water and Health

Also read an introductory essay on the problems associated with growing bottled water consumption:

Jay Weinstein: Water Crisis Ships In

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith: Lieutenant Watada's War Against the War

Lieutenant Watada's War Against the War
Jeremy Brecher & Brendan Smith
The Nation

In a remarkable protest from inside the ranks of the military, First Lieut. Ehren Watada has become the Army's first commissioned officer to publicly refuse orders to fight in Iraq on grounds that the war is illegal. The 28-year-old announced his decision not to obey orders to deploy to Iraq in a video press conference June 7, saying, "My participation would make me party to war crimes."

An artillery officer stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, Watada wore a business suit rather than his military uniform when making his statement. "It is my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law," he said. "Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order."

A native of Hawaii who enlisted in the Army after graduating from college in 2003, Watada differs from other military personnel who have sought conscientious-objector status to avoid deployment to Iraq.

Watada told Truthout's Sarah Olson that at first he gave the Bush Administration the benefit of the doubt as it built the case for war. But when he discovered he was being sent to Iraq, he began reading everything he could, such as James Bamford's Pretext for War. He concluded that the war was based on false pretenses, ranging from the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to the claim that Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 to the idea that the United States is in Iraq to promote democracy.

His investigation led him to question the very legality of the war. In an interview with Democracy Now!, he explained that as he read articles by experts on international and constitutional law, reports from governmental and nongovernmental agencies, revelations from independent journalists, writings by the Iraqi people and the words of soldiers coming home, "I came to the conclusion that the war and what we're doing over there is illegal."

First, he concluded that the war violates the Constitution and War Powers Act, which, he said, "limits the President in his role as commander in chief from using the armed forces in any way he sees fit." Watada also concluded that "my moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders."

Second, he claims the war is illegal under international law. He discovered that "the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg principles all bar wars of aggression." The Constitution makes such treaties part of American law as well.

These are not wild legal claims. Watada's conclusions are supported by mountains of evidence and experts, including the judgment of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who in 2004 declared that the US invasion was "not in conformity with the UN Charter, and from our point of view...was illegal."

Watada said he came to recognize that the military conduct of the occupation is also illegal: "If you look at the Army Field Manual, 27-10, which governs the laws of land warfare, it states certain responsibilities for the occupying power. As the occupying power, we have failed to follow a lot of those regulations." He told ABC News that the "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people" is "a contradiction to the Army's own law of land warfare."

To Read the entire hyperlinked report and watch the video

Monday, June 26, 2006

T.C. Boyle's Drop City; Mindset; Raven Run; Johannes Fabian's Time and the Other; George Marcus' "Modernist Sensibility"

(1000 words a day--Day II. In reading notes I am generally addressing myself--so when I exhort, condemn, or chide, it is not directed toward anyone who may be reading it, but at myself.)

I recently finished another book by T.C. Boyle. The novel is called Drop City and it is a continuation of some of the same themes (community, nature, relationships, violence, freedom, survival, activism) from an earlier novel, A Friend of the Earth. While A Friend of the Earth is set mostly in the future to examine the direction we may be moving toward as a society, Drop City takes place in 1970 and looks at the turmoil and optimism of two different communities—the polyamorous, communal lifestyle of a back-to-the-earth group of dropouts and the hardened lifestyles of solitary, traditional people who survive in the Alaskan frontier by carving out their own space—as a method of understanding the legacy of 60s rebellion and the continuing problems of today. While both groups have widely differing politics/perspectives, they both share a disdain for the consumer society of mainstream America and they both have a vision of an unmediated life lived directly off the land. For me, this book, like Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation, is a powerful exploration of two different groups seeking authentic meaning in their lives. Of course, both the hedonistic and traditional groups include members who take the ideas to the extreme and while friendships are formed and enemies are made, I found myself pondering my own thoughts on community, authenticity, and relationships. I highly recommend this book—Boyle is one of my favorite contemporary novelists.

So my second summer session just ended and I’m looking forward to the six weeks I will have off before fall semester to heal my body. I have another nagging pain, a much more longstanding affliction, this is a dis-ease I have long felt. I’ve been discontented for awhile and I finally have decided that it must be addressed head on. My mental/spiritual state has been in turmoil and I have mapped out some behavioral patterns that I must work on if I am to find some peace. So, since I have health insurance for the first time since I was a teen, I have signed up for counseling—conveniently located down the street from my new place. I don’t know if it will be effective, but I’m willing to give it a try…

I went hiking at Raven Run Sanctuary yesterday with a friend. We are both dealing with a lot these days and the 4 ½ mile hike along the cliffs of the Kentucky River was very therapeutic. It was a great day, the temperature was mild, there was not many people visiting, and the animals were active. We observed a beautiful snake, probably about 4-5 feet long making its way along a branch. A turkey trotted up the hill and we laughed watching his bobbing head as he skirted away from us in a new direction. We also came upon a doe and her two fawns—very small and curious—as they picked their way amongst the berries of the hillside. We crept along following them for about 20 minutes, trying our best to signal that we meant no harm. The natural fauna of the sanctuary is amazing and I took some pictures that, as soon as I get my hook-up for my digital camera unpacked, I will put up online. Also, there is this amazing viewpoint called The Overlook and this alone is worth the trip. Raven Run is only about 25 minutes from my house, so I am going to start regularly visiting as a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of my small urban area.

Thoughts on Johannes Fabian’s Time and the Other and George E. Marcus’ “The Modernist Sensibility in Recent Ethnographic Writing and the Cinematic Metaphor of Montage.” :

Is Ernst Bloch correct when he states “At any rate, the primacy of space over time is an infallible sign of reactionary language” (38).

Fabian uses Gellner as an example of how “The denial of coevalness becomes intensified as time-distancing turns from an explicit concern into an implicit theoretical assumption” (39). It is quite clear that even though Gellner claims that anthropology is “timeless” that he still views “’primitive’ tribes” as throwbacks to another time. How is this still carried out today? In academia? In advertisement? In popular culture? In politics? Through NGOs? Through racist rhetoric (think of media depictions of inner-urban or Appalachian mountain cultures)?

Fabian makes a critical distinction between the supposedly progressive move towards treating other societies “in their own terms” instead of “on their own terms” (39). Is he nitpicking, or, based upon this simple distinction, can we begin to understand the invisible power of defining sociocultural orders or systems, especially when one groups has the power to define another’s “own terms” (40).

Fabian explains how Talcott Parson’s in “The Social System” comes to the conclusion that “time” is an essential condition for “goal attainment” and, thus, those that waste or misuse time are deviant. Ideally, then, “Time is a means to keep out conflict and interference” in a “complex industrial society” (40). Parson’s views societies that are not centered around management of time as primitive. For a minute, slip on your Marxist lenses (or any other critical theory) and critique Parson’s position—a hint, how does his position on time support capitalist management/control of time? If you’re feeling really energetic perhaps you could show how this would relate to Foucault’s, in Discipline and Punish (1977), critique of a “carceral” system that requires “docile bodies”. Could you provide an alternative vision of contemporary society that is not centered around “management of time”? Here are some counter-arguments from Karl Marx’s son-in-law Paul Lafargue's The Right To Be Lazy (1912), Situationists, such as, Raol Vaneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life (1972), or neo-anarchists, such as, Bob Black (“The Abolition of Work”—1985) or Hakim Bey or CrimethInc: The Ex-Workers Collective.

Fabian mentions “Victor Turner’s analyses of ritual process” in works, such as, Forest of Symbols (1967), if you have read Turner, think about his concept of the “liminal” state in rituals. Is this work participating in the “denial of coevalness”?

Maurice Bloch provides us with a critique of Structuralist-Functionalist arguments for “temporal relativity”, on the top of page 43, Bloch’s argument would also deny Althusserian Marxist belief in an all-encompassing societal system that structures our awareness from birth.

Ernst Bloch writes that “historical relativism” creates cultural monads “without windows, with no link among each other, yet full of mirrors facing inside” (44-45). Fabian continues the metaphor by musing on whether “such mirrors, if placed at propitious angles, also have the miraculous power to make real objects disappear” (45). Are anthropologists (or anyone who theorizes/observes/relates cultural practices/myths) cultural magicians who through ‘smoke and mirrors’ create their own ethnographic stories?

Fabian discusses how the American anthropologists were heavily influenced by WWII and Cold War debates over “national character” and “values” (46). He then goes on to say that these concerns usually take at least a generation to “percolate to the level of popular consciousness.” For those who have managed to stay involved in the recent, acrimonious political campaigns, on the national, regional and local levels—can you explain any current manifestations of “wartime cultural relativism”?

Fabian discusses (47) the “alliance between theoretical relativism and [the] fight for a cause perceived as just and necessary” and how this leads to our perception of the cultural “Other” as “fenced off … [in] culture gardens.” Since the fall of the USSR whom have Americans viewed as “fenced off … culture gardens” that are the antagonistic, alien Other who threatens the American ‘way of life’?

George Marcus provides a brief schematic for laying “out a set of requirements for shifting the space-time framework of ethnography” that would entail “both changing certain parameters in the way that ethnographic subjects are analytically constructed as subjects as well as altering the nature of the theoretical intervention of the ethnographer in the text that he or she creates” (43).

Marcus states that one of the problems is anthropology’s borrowing of techniques from realist fiction to construct its ethnographic narratives (the false “realism” of realistic narratives for instance). Marcus believes that anthropology should learn, from experimental modernist literature and film, the technique of “montage”.

Here is a mapping of possibilities exposed from the “experimentation with creating the effect of real time or simultaneity through montage, cross-cutting, and the like” (50):

1. Let us begin with the proposition that in the late twentieth century world, cultural events/processes anywhere cannot be comprehended as primarily localized phenomena, or are only superficially so. In the full mapping of a cultural identity, its production and variant representations, one must come to terms with multiple agencies in varying locales the connections among which are sometimes apparent, sometimes not, and a matter for ethnographic discovery and argument. In short, culture is increasingly deterritorialized, and is the product of parallel diverse and simultaneous worlds operating consciously and blindly with regard to each other. What “relationship” is in this configuration becomes a matter of focal interest for ethnography, which presents itself initially as a problem of form, or representation. [uses example from David Lodge’s “Small World”] ...

A life goes on in place A and place B, for example. In the more difficult case, there is very little contact between the two in everyday life, yet they are intimately or powerfully related to one another in that they have mutual unintended consequences for each other. How does one explore this kind of complex relationship without dramatic resolutions, how to give a cultural account of this structure, how to represent it ethnographically?

2. The ethnographic grasp of many cultural phenomena and processes can no longer be contained by the conventions that fix place as the most distinctive dimension of culture. Merely historicizing local culture—connecting the village community to a particular historical narration—or describing the depth and richness of tradition fails to capture the side of culture that travels, its production in multiple, parallel, and simultaneous worlds of variant connection.

3. This problem of description and theoretical construction is nothing new in anthropology. In the 1960s anthropologists came to terms with the forms of social/cultural organization of modernity (so called nongroups) through formalist techniques of modeling and the imagery of network and systems analysis from cybernetics. Models of course had their advantages, in dealing abstractly and linearly with relationships, but for the kinds of contemporary questions being asked about distinctly cultural processes within social organizations or as social organizations, they are descriptively impoverished. Models of networks, for example, are linear spatially and temporally: A moves to B, A causes B. There is no sense of the simultaneity of process and action which provides a profoundly different and more ambiguous sort of analytic experience of organization that allows one to understand content as well as form or rather from as content and vice versa.

I see the attempt to achieve the effect of simultaneity as a revision of the spatial-temporal plane on which ethnography has worked. Experiments with it posit three kinds of organizational situations:

a. Simultaneous operations, spatially dispersed within a conventional single institutional frame as a representation of process within it ... .

b. The operation of institutionally diverse agencies to constitute an entity and organization which they all fragmentally share ... .

c. Independent worlds, operating blindly in relationships of unintended consequences in terms of one another. These are most exciting, in terms of the discovery of non-obvious relationships, and controversial objects for this kind of experiment in anthropology. The kind of relationships posited in the 1960s project of cultural ecology in anthropology would offer examples. So would the ethnographic study of markets, especially highly speculative commodity markets (see, for example, Stephen Fay’s account, 1981, of the attempt of the Hunt brothers to corner the world silver market in Beyond Greed).

The capacity, indeed the necessity, to deal ethnographically with the operation of complex systems in a world where cultural process is deterritorialized requires a replacement of the old social structural imageries, through models of network and system, with something equivalent to modernist literary techniques for the representation of simultaneity in social process and action.

4. In my own research projects, I have time and again come upon the multilocale determination of the identity of subjects upon whom I at first focussed as occupying a situated place. This necessitated for me a reconceptualization toward, in each case, a broader and more complex understanding of what the dimensions of the phenomena were that I was addressing. Often this shift has occurred in the middle or at the end of the work that had operated through the conventional ways of representing my subjects whose lives seemed to be encompassed in knowable communities (to use Raymond Williams’ term for the space-time framework of the pre-industrial revolution English novel). My realization of the partiality of this kind of knowledge stimulated me to look for an ethnography of different horizons.

My original work in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga during the 1970s was located in a number of different Tongan villages. This was a time of massive migration internally and overseas. Virtually nothing that happened in a village from kava ceremonies to church collections could be understood only in the terms of the life of the village. What was happening in the village was always being experienced vicariously elsewhere—for example, in San Francisco, Sydney, Auckland, Honolulu—and vice versa. I tried to follow and map migration networks as an understanding of this internationalized dimension of Tongan culture, in which the home islands were becoming just one site, among others, in which contemporary Tongan identity was being constructed. From a cultural perspective, network/systems modeling takes one only so far; rather, one needs a sense of parallel existences through juxtapositions of everyday life in different locales. Models, perhaps too literally and linearly, imaging the connecting lines between such locales without fully describing life in the latter. Cultural description demands an account of ongoing, simultaneous activity in locales for which connections are posited (that is, the linkages are secondary to a description of life in the locales linked). This line of thinking in my Tongan work stopped here in the early 1980s without a clear sense at the time that the problem was one of technique of representation rather than being purely theoretical and methodological (now I understand problems of representation as the distinctive medium of theoretical and methodological discourse in contemporary anthropology) (50-52)

There is more but I am getting very tired—Marcus points out Michael Taussig’s “Colonialism, Shamanism, and the Wild Man” (1978) as an early example of anthropology’s usage of the modernistic “montage” technique. I, myself, would recommend most of Taussig’s work as superb reading and research—the later works also border on the transgressive, in a disciplinary, genre, and thematic sense.

Lastly, Marcus insists that when engaging in critical (my term) ethnography that we must remember that when constructing subject/cultural identity we must engage in “problematizing the construction of the spatial, of the temporal, and of perspective of voice in realist ethnography.” Furthermore, “three requirements” also “concern” the “analytic presence of the ethnographer in his or her text: the dialogic appropriation of analytic concepts, bifocality, and the critical juxtaposition of possibilities” (43).

Marcus, George E. “The Modernist Sensibility in Recent Ethnographic Writing and the Cinematic Metaphor of Montage.” Visualizing Theory. ed. Lucien Taylor. NY: Routledge, 1994: 37-53.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

CFP: "Threatening Bodies: Nationalism, Sexuality, and Race" (August 1, 2006)

Call for Papers: Special theme issue of 'Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture'

'Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture' is an open access, electronic,
peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing cultural studies work from emerging and established scholars worldwide.

We now invite submissions for our special-theme issue tentatively titled, "Threatening Bodies: Nationalism, Sexuality, and Race"

Different types of bodies threaten the status quo, through their physical forms, bodily practices, or embodied identities. Such bodies, when read as text, are seen as dangerous to the institution of heterosexuality, gender stability, racialized identities, the nation, and the reproduction of future citizenry.

Often, for safety purposes, these bodies must move through spaces undetected. This collection seeks to examine how various bodies both threaten the nation and are simultaneously threatened by the nation. We invite papers that theorize the body through varied frameworks: as readable texts, as lived bodies, as systems, as cultural constructions, etc. Ultimately, we want to investigate how bodies threaten, trespass, spy, pass, "terrorize" and/or subvert the nation and dominant ideas of citizenship.

Possible topics may include:

transsexed and transgendered bodies

passing while pregnant bodies

sex working bodies

bodies that have aborted fetuses

racialized bodies

closeted bodies

spy/stealth operative bodies

mental health survivors' bodies

imperceptibly physically impaired bodies

self-cutting bodies

undocumented and illegal bodies

modified and manipulated bodies

**We are also accepting book reviews and review essays on fiction and
non-fiction texts that suit the theme of the special issue.**

Completed papers must be submitted by August 1, 2006 to Inquiries can be made to the same address.

Final journal to go online in January 2007.

Submission guidelines can bb found here

Jennifer Musial and Emily van der Meulen
School of Women's Studies, York University
4700 Keele St, Toronto ON, Canada, M3J 1P3

A 1000 Words a Day

(I feel some trepidation about doing this--anyone else game?)

So if one had to write one thousand words a day for a period of time what kinds of thoughts would be released? Writing—free thought—no revision (ok, maybe later if someone should read what you have said you might revise in the sense of responding to the comments and revisiting your position—of course we are always revising and rewriting—it is the nature of thought and writing?)

Would the petty annoyances of daily life dominate the exercise? Would the subconscious, or that deep down funky, stinky shit, in the basementt of one’s soul come to the top—like a seven year sea change—when the whole water bound area turns upside down and the muck comes to the top?

Pain… that is all I have been thinking about lately. My body has hurt. A rib broken has a way of signifying so much more though… physicality is one thing… but the body will heal. What will happen once that is done—will I recover? Will I remember being helpless?

Fuck… what I’m trying to say is that this is a pain that I can deal with… the others that plague me:

Wanting to know the meaning of my pitiful life—but never finding much of use.

Seeking deep, meaningful, connections with other people—but finding so few that I can do this with in a way that seems fulfilling (and seeming like a misanthropic because so may others don’t have this problem, or perhaps my standards are to high, or perhaps I am just an asshole)

Being scared about the direction my country is going—knowing full well the history of empires and their eventual destination—feeling anguish about who we hurt in the process of domination.

Domination—can we live without it? Can we “be”… can we “become”… without control and domination. I like to think so, but so may people view me a being naïve because of this perspective.

Being—can I just “be”? The life of a being is a process of “becoming”—I can never be happy just being, I must think about what I am becoming (no matter where I am what I am)… a continual process—when it stops I am dead.

How do I understand others? Really—how do I understand others!?

Asking questions—the important part of understanding and then, even more importantly, listening… that’s right… clearing a spot and allowing what you are trying to understand to speak to you.

Does this just involve humans—NO! Problem, disregard for non-human consciousness—the world constantly speaks to us in many ways—we need to listen instead of always trying to dominate and control our environment.

Can I love someone and be happy when they choose someone else. I say yes, the person I love thinks I am delusional and masochistic. Perhaps we are both correct—but I still wish her the best and hope she finds what she is looking for…

How come sometimes I lay in bed thinking about the mistakes of my youth? Are these not the steps that led to where I am now? What would I have been if I had made different choices (of course the question then lays with the decision of whether I approve of the person I am now?)

A 1000 words is a lot…

I am often a lot more friendly with animals than I am with humans—why is that?

My ceiling fan makes a very soothing sound and can often lull me into a very sound sleep.


Walking downstairs—will be right back. A cigarette and a Heineken—lets see if that helps? (hey my word checker capitalizes Heineken—lets me know where the programmers minds were at.)

OK, academic mindset…

I've been designing courses centered around identity/place/community, etymology/keywords, global/local/interrelatedness and community service/activism/learning. The Greek idea of Oikos (eco), along with inquiry and orientation are key grounding concepts... also recognition of student experience and reconnection to place through an awareness of interrelatedness on multiple levels (including research into origins of words/beliefs/places/objects/etc...)

I’m teaching writing-courses centered around the concepts of Place, Identity, and Community. I hope that through discussion and writing about our sense of self, place, and community, we can develop a new awareness of the possibilities of writing/thinking as a form of civic engagement and hopefully, in the process, provide a helping hand to at-risk students.

This is doubly distressing for me because, at the same time, I am developing a coursesw designed to facilitate student engagement with the larger social issues. How can I expect my students to make meaning out of the swirl of data when I am devoting large parts of my life to informing myself about current events without clear results? I lack certainty! I am often confused! I know my reflective doubt is supposed to be a good sign in that I am avoiding the dogmatic certainty that often leads to abuses, but can radical doubt be the foundation for critical engagement?

Perhaps in this time of secrecy and lies it is time to think about a reconstructive ethics?

Still stumped, I have to return to the basics. What is it I see as a problem in our society? What plagues my own thoughts? What would I like my students to learn? What ideas can frame the beginning questions that might allow the imagining of new possibilities? This nausea that pervades my being initiates a radical need to return to the etymological roots (rad-) of the words that might jumpstart my stalled intellect.

A framing concern for me — personally and professionally — is ecology as the study of the interconnectedness of beings in environmental systems of all types. The root “eco-” originates from the Greek word oikos, which referred to an understanding of home, household, or more fully, our habitus. Ecology, then, is the study or understanding (take that apart — the foundations of the ground below us that support our current position) of the world which we inhabit and the attempt to derive new meanings from the interconnectedness and interrelationships of life. The need for ecological awareness seem obvious to me, but the word has unfortunately been paired in an oppositional relationship to another dominating term — “economics.” While ecology derives its conjunctive meaning from logos (knowledge), economics draws its conjunctive power from nomos (law). We have then in contemporary society a dualistic division of the concerns of these two important and powerful words. The study, knowledge, and understanding of our environments vs. the control, regulation, and management of those environments.

Might a reconstructive ethics start here in a rapprochement of these two essential concepts for understanding the increasingly interrelated and interconnected global system? Would the breaking down of these artificial barriers between these two major concerns of life allow for a fuller understanding of how we might restore a sense of justice, rights, and responsibilites? No longer would it simply be an issue of ecology against economics, or the market before our environment, or a separation of the human from nature.

Why can I ramble on about these kind of things in such a logical order, yet when it comes to emotions and feelings I am often stumped?

A 1000 words a day--DAY 1

Friday, June 23, 2006

Quotes Concerning Democracy

(Some of my favorites from a large collection of quotes in the beginning of Lummis' book)

C. Douglas Lummis. Radical Democracy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

The devil was the first democrat. –Lord Byron (Quoted, 2)

There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust. –Demosthenes (Quoted, 2)

It cannot be reconciled with any philosophy of democracy that 50,000,000 white folk of the British Empire should be able to make the destiny of 450,000,000 yellow, brown, and black people a matter of solely their own internal decision. –W.E.B. Du Bois (quoted, 2)

Democracy has failed because so many fear it. They believe that wealth and happiness are so limited that a world full of intelligent, healthy and free people is impossible, if not undesirable. So, the world stews in blood, hunger, and shame. The fear is false, yet naught can face it but Faith. –W.E.B. Dubois (quoted, 2)

Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people. –Harry Emerson Fosdick (quoted, 3)

Democracy is like love in this: it cannot be brought to life by others in command. –Sidney Hook (quoted, 3)

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.—Abraham Lincoln (quoted, 4)

Go thou, and first establish democracy in thy household.—Lycurgus (quoted, 4)

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary—Reinhold Niebuhr (quoted, 4)

A democratic orientation does not grow from and cannot exist within the present bureaucratic and “meritorian” ethic. It is an alternative to the present ethic, not an expansion or outgrowth of it—John Schaar (quoted 7)

Democracy is based in the existence of a strong hierarchy. The oligarchy of gross success seekers must have an eager troop of underlings who never cease to work in the interest of the leaders and who derive little material profit from their activity. It is necessary to keep this type of petty nobility in a state of excitement by lavishing them with tokens of friendship and by arousing them with feelings of honor while speaking to them in idealistic phrases. National glory, the domination of natural forces by science, the march of humanity toward enlightenment—this is the nonsense which is heard in the speeches of democratic orators.—Georges Sorel (quoted 7-8)

People who want to understand democracy should spend less time in the library with Aristotle and more time on the buses and subway.—Simeon Strunsky (quoted 8)

It would sometimes be easier to believe in democracy, or to stand for it, if the [19th-cemtury] change had not happened and it were still an unfavorable or factional term—Raymond Williams (quoted 8)

Michael Bakunin: On Patriotism

Found at Recollection Used Books

"The very existence of the State demands that there be some privileged class vitally
interested in maintaining that existence. & it is precisely the group interests
of that class that are called patriotism."

— Michael Bakunin, Letters on Patriotism, 1869.

Toggle Switch: Markers

(A powerful testament to the significance of the AIDs quilt upon the 25th anniversary of the naming of AIDs as a disease.)

Toggle Switch

It took more than $3 million, but in October 1996, the whole quilt — then totaling 40,000 panels — was laid over the National Mall in Washington. More than a million people showed up. There were 20,000 boxes of tissues on hand. Afterwards, the money flowed.

I read two newspapers regularly: The Wall Street Journal and the Sunday Los Angeles Times. Last Sunday, the Times cover story was this: AIDS at 25 – The Quilt Fades to Obscurity.

I felt as if I had seen the name of a long lost friend when I saw this article. I think I even uttered an, “Ooh.” If I didn’t out load, I did in my mind.

Seeing the NAMES Quilt at 25 says to me I’ve been an out-lesbian for a very long time, more than half of my life! Not that that has any significance, other than to mark time for myself and make me reflect on my participation in activism that was driven by a deadly disease.

I was a 21 year-old woman who came out when young men were dying for no apparent reason, before the virus and disease that was killing them had names and acronyms.

My coming out was joyously spent in gay bars on Sunday nights at the edge of the ocean, where the party seemed to tumble toward infinity carried on a disco beat that boomed louder than the breaking waves. The heady smell of dance floor sweat, amyl nitrate and Polo cologne created an aural memory for me that I will never forget.

When I wasn’t partying with the gay boys, I was dropping dollar bills into Melissa Etheridge’s tip cup over at the Que Sera. She drove a yellow AMC Pacer then and had some groupie chick unload her acoustic guitar and amplifier into the legendary lesbian bar on Cherry and Seventh Street in Long Beach, California. She perfected “Meet Me In the Back” and “Bring Me Some Water” in front of the Norm-like dykes on their bar stools and baby dykes like me perched within feet of the woman who exuded passion for the songs she sang. Ah, good times, good times.
I first saw the NAMES quilt displayed at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. (Yes, what an apt venue for such a display!) I don’t remember the year now, it may have been 1990. The air was thick in the Queen’s Salon with grief and mourning. I added my own after seeing the partner of one of the shop owners in town there, completely ravaged with AIDS. I remember he gave me a friendly smile and we chatted a bit before I moved on along the panels and sobbed into my hands.

Before AIDS drug cocktails, there was activism. I walked in many AIDS-walk fundraisers. I raised money for the NAMES Quilt because it was such a tangible and personal way for people who had lost a loved-one to mourn. My NAMES T-shirt with the purple letters faded from the wear.

The AIDS hysteria that reached a shrieking pitch during the late eighties spawned a political movement has not been matched since. It is because of AIDS and the SILENCE=DEATH urgency that so many people came out of the closet at work, to their families, to themselves. Why not? They had nothing to lose except their lives.

To Read the Rest of the Post

Daniel Schulman: Mind Games; Sam Gardiner: Truth From These Podia

(Courtesy of Thoughts on the Eve of the Apocalypse)

Mind Games
By Daniel Schulman
Columbia Journalism Review

When the United States launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, Sam Gardiner, a sixty-four-year-old retired Air Force colonel, was a regular on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, where it was his job to place the day’s events in context. As the campaign wore on, and he monitored the press coverage and parsed the public statements of military and administration officials, he at first became uneasy, then deeply concerned.

A longtime Defense Department consultant who has taught strategy at three of the military’s top war colleges, Gardiner had participated throughout the 1990s in a series of war games that simulated attacks on Iraq. He was familiar with Iraq’s military and was therefore surprised to hear officials, such as the Army Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, the deputy director of operations of Central Command’s headquarters in Qatar, tell the press of ongoing operations to eliminate “terrorist death squads.” The allegation struck Gardiner as odd. Matter-of-fact and precise in their speech, military officers would not typically refer to irregulars as “death squads.” More important, as far as Gardiner knew, in 2003, when the invasion began, Iraq had no “terrorist death squads.”

Gardiner believes that this formulation, which first entered the official vernacular a week after the invasion began, was a skillful execution of a classic propaganda technique known as the “excluded middle.” The excluded middle is premised on the idea that people, provided with incomplete but suggestive information, will draw false assumptions — in this case that Saddam Hussein had ties to terrorism and therefore to Al Qaeda (a connection that administration officials actively pushed during the run-up to the war).

As Gardiner further analyzed the coverage in the early days of the invasion, he saw what he believed was a pattern of misinformation being fed to the press. There was the report, carried by The Associated Press, CNN, and The New York Times, among many other news outlets, that Iraq was seeking uniforms worn by U.S. and British troops (“identical down to the last detail”) so that atrocities carried out on Iraqis by Saddam’s Fedayeen could be blamed on the coalition. There was the claim that prisoners of war had been executed by their Iraqi captors, and there was the announced surrender of Iraq’s entire Fifty-first Division. Government officials eventually eased off the POW assertion, and the story of the uniforms was never corroborated and soon disappeared. As for the Fifty-first Division, on March 21 a cascade of news stories, citing anonymous British and American military officials, reported its mass surrender. “Hordes of Iraqi soldiers, underfed and overwhelmed, surrendered Friday in the face of a state-of-the-art allied assault,” the AP reported. “An entire division gave itself up to the advancing allied forces, U.S. military officials said.” Unnamed “officials in Washington” told The Washington Post that the division had been taken “out of the fight for Basra.” Days later, however, coalition troops were still clashing with units of the Fifty-first there. And two days after it was reported that General Khaled Saleh al-Hashimi and the 8,000 men under his command had surrendered, the general was interviewed in Basra by Al Jazeera. “I am with my men . . . . We continue to defend the people and riches” of this city, he told the network. Was this the fog of war or was something else at play?

Gardiner believes that the story of the Fifty-first’s mass capitulation may have been part of a psychological operation, its goal to “broadcast to the other units in Iraq that troops were giving up en masse and very quickly, so there was no reason to resist,” he said. “That’s a valid psychological operation. But it was directly entered into a press briefing.” Gardiner eventually concluded that the flow of misinformation to the press was no accident. It was a well-coordinated campaign, intended not only to confound Iraqi combatants but to shape perceptions of the war back home.

Throughout the summer of 2003, Gardiner documented incidents that he saw as information-warfare campaigns directed both at targeted foreign populations and the American public. By the fall, he had collected his analysis into a lengthy treatise, called “Truth from These Podia,” which concluded that “the war was handled like a political campaign,” in which the emphasis was not on the truth but on the message.

As his paper circulated among government and military officials that fall, Gardiner says he received a call at home one night from a spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He told Gardiner that his conclusions were on target. “But I want you to know,” the spokesman added, “that it was civilians who did this.”

The weaponization of information is not original to the war in Iraq, nor is it unique to any military engagement during what has come to be known as the information age. Journalists have always encountered wartime spin, they have been the targets of propaganda and selective leaks, and, on occasion, have been used for purposes of deception (which has resulted, in certain cases, in saving the lives of American soldiers). In The Art of War, which remains an influential text among military strategists though it was written during the sixth century B.C., the Chinese general Sun Tzu writes: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe that we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

In Iraq then, and indeed in the broader war on terror, it is not the use of information as a weapon that is new, but rather the scale of the strategy and the nature of the targets. Increasingly, the information environment has become the battlefield in a war that knows no boundaries, its offensives directed not just at the insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, or at regimes that take an adversarial posture to U.S. policy, but at the world at large. Technological advances, meanwhile, have made access to information instantaneous and ubiquitous, erasing longstanding barriers, legal and otherwise, that in the past have protected the American public and press from collateral damage in propaganda campaigns.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Truth from These Podia: Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence, Perception Management, Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic Psychological Operations in Gulf II
By Sam Gardiner, Colonel, USAF (Retired)
Information Clearing House

My intent was not to do this myself. The work had to be a combination of the kind of research I was doing and investigative journalism. I could do the outside part. Someone had to talk to those inside. After my return from an information warfare conference in London in July, I began looking for interest in one of the major newspapers. I found that interest in Mark Fineman at the LA Times.

Mark had covered the war and previously had been bureau chief for the paper in Philippines, India, Cyprus and Mexico City. Although he had covered some of the stories I examined in my research, he saw very early the point I was making about the implication of their being seen as a whole, the strategic picture. We continued to exchange e-mails, talk by phone and met four times after our initial session. He shared information he was uncovering. I shared my developing research.

Mark Fineman died of an apparent heart attack while on assignment in Baghdad on September 23, 2003.

It was not bad intelligence.

It was much more. It was an orchestrated effort. It began before the war, was a major effort during the war and continues as post-conflict distortions.

The title of this study was difficult for me. When I began I thought it was going to be an analysis of Pentagon spin. I was going to call it, “Truth from this Podium.” That was to be a play on promises we were given before the war. The more I did, the more it became clear that it was not just the Pentagon. It was the White House, and it was Number 10 Downing Street. It was more than spin.

I though about calling it “Apparatus of Lies,” connecting to a title the White House gave a paper on Iraq’s decade of fabrication, mostly about weapons of destruction. Although lies were part of the effort, that title would have been off the mark because the story is more about aversion to truth rather than the open lie.

I also missed on the subject. I thought it was going to be about spinning the stories of the conflict. I was wrong. The real essence of what I found was a much broader problem. It is a problem about the future as much as the past. This problem became the story of the study.

This is one way of summarizing the study:

The United States (and UK) conducted a strategic influence campaign that:

…distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict.

…caused misdirection of portions of the military operation.

…was irresponsible in parts.

…might have been illegal in some ways.

…cost big bucks.

…will be even more serious in the future.

I know what I am suggesting is serious. I did not come to these conclusions lightly. Because my plea is for truth in war, I have tried to be very careful not to fall into a trap of describing exaggerations with exaggeration. I hope I’ve done that. I expect some will believe I have been guilty of the same sins. As long as we can have some discussion about truth in war, I accept the criticism.

You will see in my analysis and comments that I do not accept the notion that the first casualty of war is truth. I think we have to have a higher standard.

In the most basic sense, Washington and London did not trust the peoples of their democracies to come to right decisions. Truth became a casualty. When truth is a casualty, democracy receives collateral damage.

My plea is for truth. I believe we have to find ways to restore truth as currency of government in matters as serious as war. My story would be important if it were the last chapter of the book. It’s not. There is more to come. As the United States struggles with a post-conflict Iraq, distortions continue. Probably of more concern, major players in the game are working on ways to do it “better” in future conflicts.

In other words, it appears as if the issues of this war will become even more important for future wars. We have reason to be concerned.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Nicola Baird: On Street Safari

(Walking is the best way to learn places, to understand one's environment, and to see the world anew. Whenever possible abandon your gas-guzzler and directly experience/engage your environment.)

On street safari
by Nicola Baird
Open Democracy (2001)

A mother who takes her small children around their north London streets to walk, shop, play, smell, imagine and interact describes their endlessly various explorations. In an environment dominated by cars and speed, does this represent a different way not just of moving, but of being?


I walk the streets because walking guarantees surprising pleasures. For me this may be the bloom of the first rose of summer – or indeed the last – and for my eldest daughter it will be an array of urban treasures from bottle tops to heart-shaped leaves. Meanwhile the baby looks on, eyes wide open, riding her chariot into the wind. How different her world views would be if she was marooned in a baby car seat, a metre or two’s mirror vision from her mum.

Link to the Entire Essay

Lori Aratani: Film Restrictions in Montgomery Schools Earn Poor Reviews

Film Restrictions in Montgomery Schools Earn Poor Reviews
By Lori Aratani
Washington Post

Last fall, educators in Montgomery County announced a new regulation that effectively bans high school teachers from showing R-rated movies such as "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Schindler's List" in classes. In middle schools, teachers no longer can show movies rated PG-13 to help illustrate pieces of literature or historical events.

But after complaints from teachers, students and parents, Maryland's largest school system formed a 33-member working group in January to revisit the decision to use Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings as a guide for what is appropriate to show students.

Betsy Brown, director of the department of curriculum and instruction, said the group is examining ways the policy might be altered to address some of the concerns raised. Among the ideas being discussed: allowing teachers to show the movies as long as parents have signed consent forms, or allowing clips of R-rated movies to be shown -- similar to a policy in Fairfax County public schools. An R rating by MPAA requires those younger than 17 to have a parent or guardian accompany them to the movie.

Some might question why teenagers should be able to see films in school that they wouldn't be able to see on their own in a theater, but educators say such movies -- viewed in a classroom with proper supervision -- can be important teaching tools.

For example, at Quince Orchard High School, teachers might use films to complement certain novels, such as "Lord of the Flies," said Barbara Blum, head of the school's English Department.

"Sometimes it's just interesting for students to see the different interpretations," she said, adding that clips of films can spark discussions about less concrete concepts such as tone and character in novels.

Hilary Gates, an English teacher at Walter Johnson High School, added that students "will come in and say, 'I can't tell you how much more vivid this book is to me. It comes to life so much more when I read it having seen the film.'

"We understand people are concerned and that there are teachers who might be showing inappropriate material," she said, "but our professional judgment is being overruled by the county."

The National Council of Teachers of English, which endorses the use of film in English classrooms, said individual movies should be evaluated on their educational value.

"MPAA ratings are not ratings of education value," said Millie Davis, spokeswoman for the council, which tracks the issue. "They don't claim they are, and so for a school district to use them as if they are, is using them in a way that they're not intended to be used."

The ban took many teachers by surprise. It was approved by senior staff members at the school system's central office in the fall, but because the change was a regulation and not a policy, it did not require action by the Board of Education.

Brown said the change was not prompted by any parent complaints. Rather, officials were looking to offer teachers more uniform guidelines for how they use movies in the classroom.

To Read the Entire Article

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher Orders Blocks of Critical Blogs on all State Computers

(Courtesy of Abby Normal)

Visit Bluegrass Report for the lowdown on our indicted republican Governor's latest act of political censorship.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Noam Chomsky: Language, Politics and Composition

(Courtesy of Comp Mafia ... although I disagree with the simplification that all academics have arrived by toeing the line... I was a high school drop out, criminal, convict and later went to college and argued/fought with those I felt were full of shit/dangerous to others... of course I'm not an administrator, but I am a professor... but there is also so much truth in Chomsky's words, especially in the disdain I have felt from elitist professors who disrespect the knowledge/experiences of working class people... and it is not just Chomsky's rather awkward justification of his working class background as intellectual because they read/listened to high culture classics, but what about the knowledge of someone who is a skilled worker, people who have participated in the life of their community and people who have raised families. I'm the first academic in my working class family--no one said to me, you will go to college... it was you should learn a skill)

Language, Politics, and Composition
Noam Chomsky interviewed by Gary A. Olson and Lester Faigley
Journal of Advanced Composition, Vol. 11, No. 1

Q. You have suggested that 'intellectuals are the most indoctrinated part of the population ... the ones most susceptible to propaganda.' You have explained that the educated classes are “ideological managers,” complicit in 'controlling all the organized flow of information.' How and why is this so? What can be done to change this situation?

A. Well, there’s something almost tautological about that; that is, the people we call intellectuals are those who have passed through various gates and filters and have made it into positions in which they can serve as cultural managers. There are plenty of other people just as smart, smarter, more independent, more thoughtful, who didn’t pass through those gates and we just don’t call them intellectuals. In fact, this is a process that starts in elementary school. Let’s be concrete about it. You and I went to good graduate schools and teach in fancy universities, and the reason we did this is because we’re obedient. That is, you and I, and typically people like us, got to the positions we’re in because from childhood we were willing to follow orders. If the teacher in third grade told us to do some stupid thing, we didn’t say, “Look, that’s ridiculous. I’m not going to do it.” We did it because we wanted to get on to fourth grade. We came from the kind of background where we’d say, “Look, do it, forget about it, so the teacher’s a fool, do it, you’ll get ahead, don’t worry about it.” That goes on all through school, and it goes on through your professional career. You’re told in graduate school, “Look, don’t work on that; it’s a wrong idea. Why not work on this? You’ll get ahead.” However it’s put, and there are subtle ways of putting it, you allow yourself to be shaped by the system of authority that exists out there and is trying to shape you. Well, some people do this. They’re submissive and obedient, and they accept it and make it through; they end up being people in the high places—economic managers, cultural managers, political managers. There are other people who were in your class and in my class who didn’t do it. When the teacher told them in the third grade to do x, they said, “That’s stupid, and I’m not going to do it.” Those are people who are more independent minded, for example, and there’s a name for them: they’re called “behavior problems.” You’ve got to deal with them somehow, so you send them to a shrink, or you put them in a special program, or maybe you just kick them out and they end up selling drugs or something. In fact, the whole educational system involves a good deal of filtering of this sort, and it’s a kind of filtering towards submissiveness and obedience.

This goes on through professional careers, as well. You’re a journalist, let’s say, and you want to write a story that’s going to expose people in high places, and somebody else is going to write a story that serves the needs of people in high places; you know which one is going to end up being the bureau chief. That’s the way it works. So in a way there’s something almost tautological about your question. Sure, the people who make it into positions in which they’re respected and recognized as intellectuals are the people who are not subversive of structures of power. They’re the people who in one way or another serve those structures, or at least are neutral with respect to them. The ones who would be more subversive aren’t called intellectuals; they’re called wackos, or crazies, or “wild men in the wings,” as McGeorge Bundy put it when he said, “There arc people who understand that we have to be in Indochina and just differ on the tactics, and then there are the wild men in the wings who think there’s something wrong with carrying out aggression against another country.” (He said that in Foreign Affairs—a mainstream journal.) But that’s the idea. There are wild men in the wings who don’t accept authority, and they remain wild men in the wings and not intellectuals, not respected intellectuals. Of course, this isn’t one-hundred percent. These are tendencies, actually very strong tendencies, and they’re reinforced by other strong tendencies.

Another strong tendency has to do with the role of intellectuals. Why are you and I called intellectuals but some guy working in an automobile plant isn’t an intellectual? I don’t think it’s necessarily because we read more or go to better concerts or anything like that. Maybe he does; in fact, I’ve known such cases. I grew up in such an environment. I grew up in an environment where my aunts and uncles were New York Jewish working class, and this was still the 1930s when there was a rich working-class culture. Lots of them had barely gone to school. I had one uncle who never got past fourth grade and an aunt who never graduated from school. But that was the richest intellectual environment I’ve ever seen. And I mean high culture, not comic book culture: Freud, Steckel, the Budapest String Quartet, and debates about anything you can imagine. But those people were never called intellectuals. They were called “unemployed workers” or something like that. Now why are they not intellectuals whereas a lot of people in the universities who are basically doing clerical work (from an intellectual point of view, a lot of scholarship is just very low-level clerical work) are respected intellectuals? First of all, it’s a matter of subordination and power, and secondly it’s a matter of which role you choose for yourself. The ones we call intellectuals, especially the public intellectuals—you know, the ones who make a splash or who are called upon to be the experts—are people who have chosen for themselves the role of manager. In earlier societies they would have been priests; in our societies they form a kind of secular priesthood.

To Read the Entire Interview

Chris Floyd: The Alchemists

(Courtesy of loveecstasycrime)

The Alchemists: Turning Blood Into Gold
Written by Chris Floyd (and reposted on his website)
Shorter, originally version was published in The Moscow Times

This week an interesting story appeared in the Washington Post – buried on page 16, of course, lest anyone think it was of the slightest importance. It revealed that documentary proof has now emerged confirming the fact that in the spring of 2003, the Bush Regime – flush with its illusory "victory" in Iraq – spurned a wide-ranging peace feeler from Iran which offered "full cooperation" on every issue that the Bushists claim to be concerned about in regard to Tehran: "nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups."

The offer was made through the Swiss Embassy, which has served as the conduit for communication between Washington and Tehran since America's Peacock patsy, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown in 1979. The 2003 proposal included "full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, 'decisive action,' against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending 'material support' for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [which called for all Muslim states to recognize Israel]," the Post reports. The unprecedented initiative was approved by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then-President Mohammad Khatami – the moderate whose attempts at dialogue were mocked and undercut at every turn by the Bush Regime, helping to discredit the entire reformist movement in Iran and leading to Khatami's replacement by the militant hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In other words, everything that George W. Bush says he wants from the Iranians now, he could have had for the asking – three years ago. What then can we conclude from the rejection of this extraordinary initiative? The answer is obvious: that the Bush Faction is not really interested in curbing nuclear proliferation or defusing the powder keg of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the regional and global terror that it spawns.

What are they interested in? This answer too is obvious, to anyone who's been paying the slightest attention to the Faction's words and actions over the years: they are interested in loot and dominion. What they want from Iran is nothing less than its return to quasi-colonial control by the crony conquistadors of the West. And they're willing to play a (reasonably) long game to get it.

To Read the Entire Hyperlinked Article

Hakim Bey: Poetic Terrorism

Poetic Terrorism

WEIRD DANCING IN ALL-NIGHT computer-banking lobbies. Unauthorized pyrotechnic displays. Land-art, earth-works as bizarre alien artifacts strewn in State Parks. Burglarize houses but instead of stealing, leave Poetic-Terrorist objects. Kidnap someone & make them happy. Pick someone at random & convince them they're the heir to an enormous, useless & amazing fortune--say 5000 square miles of Antarctica, or an aging circus elephant, or an orphanage in Bombay, or a collection of alchemical mss. Later they will come to realize that for a few moments they believed in something extraordinary, & will perhaps be driven as a result to seek out some more intense mode of existence.

Bolt up brass commemorative plaques in places (public or private) where you have experienced a revelation or had a particularly fulfilling sexual experience, etc.

Go naked for a sign.

Organize a strike in your school or workplace on the grounds that it does not satisfy your need for indolence & spiritual beauty.

Grafitti-art loaned some grace to ugly subways & rigid public monuments--PT-art can also be created for public places: poems scrawled in courthouse lavatories, small fetishes abandoned in parks & restaurants, xerox-art under windshield-wipers of parked cars, Big Character Slogans pasted on playground walls, anonymous letters mailed to random or chosen recipients (mail fraud), pirate radio transmissions, wet cement...

The audience reaction or aesthetic-shock produced by PT ought to be at least as strong as the emotion of terror-- powerful disgust, sexual arousal, superstitious awe, sudden intuitive breakthrough, dada-esque angst--no matter whether the PT is aimed at one person or many, no matter whether it is "signed" or anonymous, if it does not change someone's life (aside from the artist) it fails.

PT is an act in a Theater of Cruelty which has no stage, no rows of seats, no tickets & no walls. In order to work at all, PT must categorically be divorced from all conventional structures for art consumption (galleries, publications, media). Even the guerilla Situationist tactics of street theater are perhaps too well known & expected now.

An exquisite seduction carried out not only in the cause of mutual satisfaction but also as a conscious act in a deliberately beautiful life--may be the ultimate PT. The PTerrorist behaves like a confidence-trickster whose aim is not money but CHANGE.

Don't do PT for other artists, do it for people who will not realize (at least for a few moments) that what you have done is art. Avoid recognizable art-categories, avoid politics, don't stick around to argue, don't be sentimental; be ruthless, take risks, vandalize only what must be defaced, do something children will remember all their lives--but don't be spontaneous unless the PT Muse has possessed you.

Dress up. Leave a false name. Be legendary. The best PT is against the law, but don't get caught. Art as crime; crime as art.


Barbara Ehrenreich: Bosses and Bossism; Working America's "Bad Boss Contest"

(A nod to Okir for mentioning Ehrenreich's blog)

Bosses and Bossism
Barbara Ehrenreich


The problem isn’t particular bosses, but what I call Bossism-- the hierarchical system which governs all known bureaucracies, both public and private. Giving one person huge power over others is like a giving a three-year-old a hose: not everyone will get soaked but the chances of coming out dry are slender.

But, you may be wondering, how would anything get done without bosses and Bossism? Well, a surprising amount gets done that way all the time, as I saw in my Nickel and Dimed jobs. If the restaurant gets swamped or the nursing home residents start tossing their food around, don’t count on a manager to tell you what to do – if, indeed, there is a manager within hailing distance. In crisis situations, I again and again saw low-paid workers organize themselves, more or less spontaneously, everyone pitching in and helping each other, with no one playing the role of “boss.” As for any real boss on the scene, the best he or she could do in a crisis was to pitch in – or get out of the way.

What I was witnessing was workplace democracy in action, or, more fancily put, what French sociologists call “autogestion,” or workers’ self-determination. It may sound exotic, but it’s not just an attribute of the rare anarchist collective. In fact, it’s a notion revered in contemporary corporate culture as the team.

The rhetoric of teams, employing some sort of equality among the players, is everywhere today. You’re not an employee of Whole Foods, you’re a “team member.” You don’t work for Wal-Mart, you’re an “associate,” theoretically as capable of making a creative contribution as the Regional Manager. According to Wal-Mart folklore, for example, it was a lowly associate who came up with the brilliant idea of “people greeters.” (But whenever I, in my brief stint as a Wal-Mart associate, made a useful suggestion –like why stack so many of the women’s plus-size clothes at floor-level, where they were accessible only to the young and agile? – I was always told that such decisions were made by the big bosses in Bentonville.)

When corporations uphold the idea of “teams,” they’re grasping for the kind of ingenuity and creativity people naturally bring to a challenging situation – if they’re allowed to, i.e., if they’re treated like participants instead of like servants or subordinates. So why isn’t the team rhetoric taken more seriously, at all levels of bureaucratic endeavor?

To Read the Entire Post

Also check out Working America's:

Bad Boss Contest

Jim Lehrer and Ben Bradlee: Free Speech

Free Speech
Jim Lehrer with Ben Bradlee

A discussion about the state of journalism from the Watergate era till now...


Nat Hentoff: Congress and Judges Gagged

Congress and Judges Gagged: Arlen Specter and a CIA torture victim know: Only the Oval Office decides what the law is
by Nat Hentoff
Village Voice

So, once again, as USA Today noted in a May 18 editorial, "Congress may as well be deaf and blind." Arlen Specter has been the only congressional chairman who keeps trying to investigate these felonies committed by the president and NSA. Now he has been blocked by the administration's escape from accountability through "state secrets." (In most of these dismissals, the lawyers for the plaintiffs are not even told what "the secrets" are.)

But what of the independent judiciary in our constitutional separation of powers? On May 12, Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Virginia killed a suit by Khaled el-Masri—Khaled el-Masri v. George Tenet, et. al—whose kidnapping and "rendition" by the CIA to be tortured has been repeatedly reported—in detail—in this country and around the world, including the Voice.

A broken man because of his ordeal, el-Masri seeks a mere $75,000 in compensation from our government for five months of torture, beginning in December 2003. Moreover, this German citizen was kidnapped by mistake. The agent in charge of the Al Qaeda division of the Counterterrorist Center screwed up because el-Masri has the same name as a person suspected of links to terrorism.

"The government is moving to dismiss this case at the outset on the basis of a fiction that discussion in this courtroom of the very same facts being discussed throughout the world will harm [this] nation." If the ruling is upheld on appeal—and it very likely will be, given the two justices Bush has placed on the Supreme Court—the total disappearance of Khaled el-Masri v. Tenet will, as the ACLU's Ben Wizner says, "give a broad immunity to the government to shield even the most egregious activities."

Judge Ellis's 17-page ruling is dramatically unusual in showing his discomfort at being shackled by the precedent of previous judges allowing the government to whisper to them, "state secrets" and usurp their roles as judges of the facts and the law.

As if to expiate his surrendering of his independence to the administration, Ellis gives a lot of space to el-Masri's claims. He calls them allegations, but they strike me as weighing on his conscience.

For example, says Judge Ellis, a "blindfolded" El-Masri—after first having been snatched to Macedonia—"was led to a building where he was beaten, stripped of his clothing, and sodomized with a foreign object [and] dragged naked to a corner of the room [where] he claims he saw seven or eight men dressed in black and wearing black ski masks.

"[El-Masri] contends that these men were members of a CIA 'black renditions' team, operating pursuant to unlawful CIA policies at the direction of defendant [then CIA director George] Tenet."

The judge continues: "After being dressed in a diaper . . . shackled and dragged to an airplane . . . his captors injected him with a sedative," and he wound up in the notorious CIA interrogation facility, the "Salt Pit," an abandoned brick factory in Afghanistan. For the next four months, "in a small, cold cell," he was repeatedly (and forcibly) interrogated. His hunger strike was broken—like those of the prisoners in Guantánamo—by force-feeding. (This brutal practice, as I have written in previous columns, locks the prisoner in a metal chair where, while being "fed" through a tube, he urinates and defecates on himself.)

At last, the CIA, knowing it had the wrong man, flew el-Masri, blindfolded, to Albania where he was dumped on the side of an abandoned road. Albanian authorities got him back to Germany where he found his wife and four children had gone to Lebanon because his wife thought he had abandoned them.

Says Judge Ellis: "El-Masri asserts he remains deeply traumatized." He hasn't been able to work. One of his children is frightened if his father goes out alone.

At the end of his decision, Judge Ellis, somewhat traumatized himself, writes: "Putting aside all the legal issues, if el-Masri's allegations are true or essentially true, then all fair-minded people, including those who believe . . . that this lawsuit cannot proceed [because it involves "state secrets"] must also agree that El-Masri has suffered injuries as a result of our country's mistake and deserves a remedy." (Emphasis added.)

The judge continued: "Yet . . . the only sources of that remedy must be the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch, not the Judicial Branch."

But the executive branch, brandishing "state secrets," has forced this judge to dismiss the case! And the legislative branch has repeatedly refused to conduct an investigation into these "renditions" that kidnap suspects to be tortured—as has been verified in meticulously documented reports by Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, Amnesty International, and NYU's Center on Law and Security.

So there is no remedy for Khaled el-Masri in this country which holds its "values" and rule of law as a model to the world.

To Read the Entire Article

Mikhail M. Bakhtin: Life By Its Very Nature is Dialogic

Monologism at its extreme denies the existence outside itself of another consciousness with equal rights and equal responsibilities, another I with equal rights (thou). With a monologic approach…another person remains wholly and merely an object of consciousness, and not another consciousness. No response is expected from it that could change everything in the world of my consciousness. Monologue is finalized and deaf to the other's response, does not expect it and does not acknowledge in it any decisive force. Monologue manages without the other, and therefore to some degree materializes all reality. Monologue pretends to be the ultimate word. It closes down the represented world and represented persons. (Bakhtin: 292-93)

The dialogic nature of consciousness. The dialogic nature of human life itself. The single adequate form for verbally expressing authentic human life is the open- ended dialogue. Life by its very nature is dialogic. To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds. He invests his entire self in discourse, and this discourse enters into the dialogic fabric of human life, into the world symposium. (Bakhtin: 293)

Bakhtin, Mikhail M. Problems of Dostoyesky’s Poetics. ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota P, 1984.

Steve Benen: High Infidelity

(Courtesy of The All Spin Zone)

High Infidelity: What if three admitted adulterers run for president and no one cares?
By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


McCain was still married and living with his wife in 1979 while, according to The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, "aggressively courting a 25-year-old woman who was as beautiful as she was rich." McCain divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, then launched his political career with his new wife's family money. In 2000, McCain managed to deflect media questioning about his first marriage with a deft admission of responsibility for its failure. It's possible that the age of the offense and McCain's charmed relationship with the press will pull him through again, but Giuliani and Gingrich may face a more difficult challenge. Both conducted well-documented affairs in the last decade--while still in public office.

Giuliani informed his second wife, Donna Hanover, of his intention to seek a separation in a 2000 press conference. The announcement was precipitated by a tabloid frenzy after Giuliani marched with his then-mistress, Judith Nathan, in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade, an acknowledgement of infidelity so audacious that Daily News columnist Jim Dwyer compared it with "groping in the window at Macy's." In the acrid divorce proceedings that followed, Hanover accused Giuliani of serial adultery, alleging that Nathan was just the latest in a string of mistresses, following an affair the mayor had had with his former communications director.

But the most notorious of them all is undoubtedly Gingrich, who ran for Congress in 1978 on the slogan, "Let Our Family Represent Your Family." (He was reportedly cheating on his first wife at the time). In 1995, an alleged mistress from that period, Anne Manning, told Vanity Fair's Gail Sheehy: "We had oral sex. He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I never slept with her.'" Gingrich obtained his first divorce in 1981, after forcing his wife, who had helped put him through graduate school, to haggle over the terms while in the hospital, as she recovered from uterine cancer surgery. In 1999, he was disgraced again, having been caught in an affair with a 33-year-old congressional aide while spearheading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton.

Despite the scandalous details, whether the press will air them is still an open question. When it comes to personal morality, liberal commentators have long argued that the press has one standard for Democrats and another for Republicans (and another one entirely for the Clintons). It's possible that the mainstream media will fail to apply the same scrutiny to the known transgressions of Gingrich, Giuliani and McCain as the Times did to rumors about Hillary Clinton's husband. But for that to happen, the press will have to resist four powerful political dynamics that will almost certainly be pushing to get the story out.

To Read Entire Article

United States of Amnesia, Pt. 4

Teachers try to make room for social studies: History class left behind Standard tests impair civics
The Connecticut Post

A 12-year veteran of the classroom, Barbara Reed is adept at teaching language arts and social studies at the same time. "You probably couldn't come into my classroom and say, 'She's doing social studies now,'" she said.

But the course, funded through a three-year, $982,395 federal grant, has helped her make the most of the shrinking time she has to devote to social studies.

In many elementary classrooms, history seems threatened with extinction. High-stakes tests in reading, math — and soon, science — make those subjects the ones teachers work on first and most often. The testing is required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. History gets relegated to the afternoon, and sometimes gets pushed off until the next day.

"It is easy to ignore. It's not tested," Reed said. "But easy is not what is right." Janet Corville, a teacher of sixth grade at Nichols School in Stratford, said the Egyptian pyramids sometimes take a back seat to reading, writing and math until after the Connecticut Mastery Tests are over in March.

Rest of the Article

Monday, June 19, 2006

Reconstruction Spring 2006 Issue and CFP for Future Issues

(Please consider submitting an essay or proposing a review for our future issues--you can leave me a message here if you are interested in doing a review, or contact the email below if you are interested in submitting an essay. Also feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below)

Reconstruction is proud to announce the publication of its Spring 2006 issue, which can be found at Reconstruction

Featured in the issue:

* Michael Vastola, "Pedagogy, Ideology, and Space in the Classical Anarchist Conception of Freedom"

* Julie Elaine Goodspeed-Chadwick, "Derrida's Deconstruction of Logocentrism: Implications for Trauma Studies"

* Rob Cover, "Producing Norms: Same-Sex Marriage, Refiguring Kinship and the Cultural Groundswell of Queer Coupledom"

* William S. Haney II, "The Phenomenology of Nonidentity and Theatrical Presence in M. Butterfly"

* Conrad William, "'If your God has really spoken to you...then all the world must hear it': The Discourses of Revelation and Satire in Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses"

* Joseph T. Thomas, Jr., "'a joint rolled in toilet paper': Funkadelic's Funky Soul"

* Matthew Wolf-Meyer, "'Not only a consequence of power, but also one of its strategies': An Interview with Lorna Rhodes"

Reconstruction is now accepting submissions for its next open issue scheduled for publication in Fall 2007. Upcoming themed issues--including Blogging, Threatening Bodies, Ecocriticism, Film, and Class & Public Intellectuals--will have separate CFPs posted by our guest editors. Further information on these upcoming themed issues can be found at upcoming issues

Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture (ISSN: 1547-4348) is an innovative cultural studies journal dedicated to fostering an intellectual community composed of scholars and their audience, granting them all the ability to share thoughts and opinions on the most important and influential work in contemporary interdisciplinary studies. Reconstruction publishes one open issue and three themed issues quarterly--more or less in the third week of January, April, July, October.

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