Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why We Vote (Kentucky Documentary)

(Courtesy of Jessica Hays, who wants you to vote next tuesday)

A voter empowerment documentary featuring the voices of many Kentuckians, this community media project answers the question of why we vote.

Watch it on YouTube

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Peace Alliance: Campaign to Establish a U.S. Department of Peace

"Participate in an historic citizen lobbying effort to create a U.S. Department of Peace. There is currently a bill before both Houses of Congress (House Resolution 3760 and Senate 1756). This landmark measure will augment our current problem-solving modalities, providing practical, nonviolent solutions to the problems of domestic and international conflict.

Domestically, the Department of Peace will develop policies and allocate resources to effectively reduce the levels of domestic and gang violence, child abuse, and various other forms of societal discord. Internationally, the Department will advise the President and Congress on the most sophisticated ideas and techniques regarding peace-creation among nations."

The Peace Alliance

Doug Cummings on La Commune (Paris 1871)

(I got this as a birthday present to myself over a month ago. It was just released and showed up in the mail and I look forward to when I can put aside the time to watch it. If you are interested in checking it out let me know--there is also a documentary on the director Peter Watkins.)

La Commune (Paris 1871)
by Doug Cummings
Film Journey

British filmmaker Peter Watkins' nearly six-hour film, La Commune (Paris, 1871), made in the year 2000, is without a doubt one of the best and most important films of the decade, and it was just released this week on DVD by First Run Features. Count yourselves lucky--the film, which commemorates the short-lived working class attempt to turn France into a socialist republic following its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, has rarely been screened in France or elsewhere, although I've had the French DVD on hand ever since I first saw the film at a special screening in Los Angeles last year. (Arte TV in France, who financed the film, has apparently chosen to bury it, giving it as little exposure as possible.) Filled with wall-to-wall political debate, pleas for social equality and critiques of power, the film is a furious, provocative, and rousing experimental documentary that reenacts the Commune's historical moment.

After the Revolution of 1789, France went through a series of empires, monarchies, and republics. By 1871, Napolean III had been defeated by the Franco-Prussian War, prompting a six-month Prussian siege of Paris. The workers and poor of the city were suffering extremes of poverty and starvation; many were feeding on rats. A provisional government, led by Adolphe Thiers, signed a treaty that would include the ceremonial German occupation of Paris. But the French National Guard--a large network of citizens' militias who had served during the war--had no intention of opening their city to the Germans, and seized and hid cannons under the auspices of their newly-formed Central Committee. The Germans came and went without incident, but Thiers soon realized that a rival authority had risen in Paris, and ordered his army to repossess the cannons. Citizens (mostly women) in Montmarte, however, would not relinquish their weaponry; when troops were subsequently ordered to fire on them, the soldiers rebelled and a popular insurrection ensued.

Thiers immediately evacuated to Versailles (where the monarchist National Assembly resided), taking his administration, his police, most of his troops, and a lot of bourgeoisie and business owners with him; the National Guard's Central Committee promptly elected a Commune to govern Paris and implemented socialist reforms that would improve the livelihood of the poor and working classes.

Watkins begins with the Prussian siege and follows the Commune through its short existence to its brutal suppression a few months later. But his film starts with a documentary preamble filmed on the last day of the production's chronological, 13-day shoot; actors introduce themselves and the characters they play, and the camera roves around the film's labyrinthine set, a collection of rooms and alleys poised between realism and artifice. Although there are many props and period textures, the studio's concrete floor and ceiling lights are plainly visible, and continue to be throughout the film.

Thus begins the film's formal strategy to provoke active viewing; Watkins--a longtime critic of standard, "monoform" media conventions--juxtaposes period drama with filmmaking artifice in a way that tells the story, critiques the story, and challenges the way it's being told all at the same time. Dramatic reenactments are punctuated with reams of text that question and clarify the drama, offer commentary, and draw parallels to current events. Interviews with many of the film's 200-plus actors (the majority of whom are nonprofessionals recruited from Paris and surrounding suburbs, including undocumented workers from North Africa) occur throughout the shooting, which allow the participants to offer their thoughts regarding the characters and events in medias res. Finally, Watkins offers a bracing critique of mass media by imagining how Commune life would have been represented by competing modern news sources, the National TV Versailles and the independent Commune TV. The result is a multilayered and thoroughly absorbing work that is as informative and thought-provoking as it is feverishly dramatic, suspenseful, and surprisingly brisk despite its length.

La Commune is shot with striking, black-and-white digital video, often in ten-minute takes. The wide-angled footage would seem slower if the action wasn't occurring simultaneously in the foreground, midground, and background--usually in the form of public masses in "streets" or long, crowded rooms--and if the handheld camera didn't move through the crowds as often as it does, pushing from one conversation to the next. Dramatic momentum is comprised of a multitude of small conflicts, all coexisting and colliding with one another through protests, arguments, and ongoing discussions.

In all of this, the actors maintain startling conviction, even as they oscillate in and out of character--as fine a distinction that makes in a Watkins film; many of the actors developed their own dialogue through a combination of research and personal conviction. "This film showed me the huge gap between reflection and action," one woman playing a dissident remarks. "In a barricade situation, for example, deeply involved in a direct, strong, chemical, physical struggle, as soon as the camera comes up and we have to speak, it's a very difficult relationship; for reflection to connect with action. Real change will come from this type of work."

The faces are real and the emotions are palatable as the film highlights bakers, midwives, teachers, servants, mechanics, soldiers, and many other Communards who envision and attempt to forge a society founded on personal dignity, political participation, and livable wages for all members.

The Commune implements a variety of reforms and precedents: it insists on a separation of Church and State, and a free secular education for all, particularly women, who at that time were trained in religious schools only to be housewives or homemakers. ("Jesus was an anarchist, the carpenter always on strike! You have made him the God of the bourgeoisie," one women shouts at a priest.) A system of pensions for war widows is created, late-night hours for bakers is abolished, pawnshops are forced to return tools and household items less than 20 francs in value, and stores abandoned by their owners are given over to the workers (with the owners, should they return, receiving requisite compensation).

To Read the Rest of the Review

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Noel Murray, Nathan Rabin, Scott Tobias: What Monster Could Have Done This?

What Monsters Could Have Done This: Horror Films for Left-Wingers/Horror Films for Right Wingers
By Noel Murray, Nathan Rabin, Scott Tobias
The A.V. Club

Maybe it isn't an accident that Halloween and national U.S. elections fall in such close proximity. Fear is a powerful driving force for both. It certainly isn't an accident that politics tend to leak into horror films, which often mine the political zeitgeist to learn what kind of scares are selling at any given moment. In fact, horror films are usually a better gauge of what's making the country anxious than opinion polls are. As with politicians, there are horror films for virtually every political stripe, as we explore in this guide to how to combine two types of fear this Electioneen (or is that Hallowelection?) season.

To See the Guide

Friday, October 27, 2006


(What do you think of Barack Obama?)

Obama's New Rules: In the past 10 days, he has turned American politics upside down.
By Jacob Weisberg

Political assumptions can remain constant for long periods and then change very quickly. And so they have in the approximately 10 days since the publication of Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. In the brief time he's been on book tour, Obama has overthrown much of the reigning conventional wisdom about what's likely to happen in the 2008 campaign, how shrewd politicians ought to behave, and what the informal rules of the American system really are. Consider the following statements thought true by the political class in early October but called into question by month's end.

1. Hillary Clinton is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
There was a basis for thinking this until Oct. 18, the day Obama appeared on Oprah. Hillary has raised a formidable amount of money, lined up extensive backing, and has the Democrats' best political thinker for a spouse. Obama's bigger advantage is that the party is actually excited about him and thinks he could win. Based on an unscientific reading of Democratic enthusiasm, Obama, not Hillary, will be the de facto Democratic front-runner the day he declares himself a candidate. If Obama chooses not to run, he could still sap Hillary's strength, the way Colin Powell did Bob Dole's in 1996, by reminding primary voters that their most promising candidate isn't in the race.

2. John McCain can beat anyone the Democrats put up.
"Our sense right now is that McCain would beat any Democrat including Hillary Clinton, and Clinton would beat any Republican except for McCain." Thus spake political guru Mark Halperin of ABC News and John Harris of the Washington Post in their book, The Way to Win. Obama upsets that equation because of his crossover appeal to independents and moderate Republicans. Like John McCain, the candidate he would be most likely to face in 2008 if he won the Democratic nomination, Obama attracts support more through his style, personality, and biography than by his specific positions. Last week, New York Times columnist David Brooks, a long-standing McCain fan, nearly announced his defection to Obama in an admiring column. As for McCain himself, he would evidently prefer to run against Clinton than Obama.

3. Democrats have a problem with religion.
In 2000 and 2004, evangelical Christians and regular churchgoers voted overwhelmingly for George W. Bush. Neither Al Gore nor John Kerry was comfortable talking about his faith or employing a religious idiom, leading many to conclude that Democrats were doomed to function as the secular party in a still-religious nation. Obama is the rare Democrat who talks easily about faith and values, and who does so without upsetting those offended by the mixture of religion and politics. In a thoughtful speech last summer that also forms the basis of a chapter of his book, Obama explained his own religious motivation and defended the use of spiritual language in a political context. He argues that his party should explicitly try to win over the spiritual followers of more moderate evangelical leaders such as Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes. Obama hasn't closed the Democrats' religious gap, but he has initiated a productive conversation about how to narrow it.

To Raed the Rest of the Article

Why We Blog

(This post will be at the top of the blog until October 27th, new posts will appear directly below it)

I would like to extend an invitation to bloggers to join in on a collective blogging section of our upcoming winter issue of Reconstruction. The issue is the “Theories/Practices of Blogging.” In addition to the special section of posts on blogging there will be about a dozen essays on blogging.

The deadline is October 27th.

Our intent in this section of the issue will be to collect a wide range of bloggers and link up to their statements in regards to why they blog (something many of us are asked) and any statement they have on the theories/practices of blogging.

If you already have a post on this you can feel free to use it, or, if you are interested, you can submit a new one.

We will link to each statement from the issue at our site, with the intent of creating a hyperlinked list of statements on blogging that can serve as an introduction to blogging (or an expansion of knowledge for those already blogging).

If you are interested please contact me at mdbento @ gmail.com

A Mind That is Stretched...

He who will not reason, is a bigot; he who cannot, is a fool; and he who dares not, is a slave.

----Lord Byron

A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension.

----Oliver Wendell Holmes

The vital habits of democracy: the ability to follow an argument, grasp the point of view of another, expand the boundaries of understanding, debate the alternative purposes that might be pursued.

----John Dewey

Joshua Holland: Why Republicans Are Running from Bush At Election Time

Why Republicans Are Running from Bush At Election Time
By Joshua Holland

Bush's White House is going down in flames, and the Republican machine is doing everything it can to keep "conservatism" from burning along with it.

So-called "principled" conservatives -- the faux libertarian voices of the Big Business elite that's always been the real base of the Republican Party -- are in full flight from the flaming wreck the Bush administration has become.

Former Bush I and Reagan official Bruce Bartlett lambasted the administration earlier this year with his book "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," which was soon followed by longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie's "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause." There are a dozen of them churning out columns and op-eds condemning Bush's profligate spending and pillorying his "compassionate," "Big Government" conservatism. Even former congressman Joe Scarborough -- MSNBC's cut-rate version of Bill O'Reilly -- got into the act, devoting a segment of his show to the fundamental question, "Is Bush an idiot?" and writing that he'd prefer "an assortment of Bourbon Street hookers running the Southern Baptist Convention to having this lot of Republicans controlling America's checkbook for the next two years."

And Christopher Buckley -- son of William F. and probably the funniest right-winger alive -- recently called Bush's governing philosophy "incontinent conservatism," and asked:

Who knew, in 2000, that "compassionate conservatism" meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief?

These "rebels" are enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the national media; writers love the intra-party feud -- usually the stuff of Democratic politics -- and the rogue conservatives get to brandish their "principles" and portray themselves as tip-toeing above the gutter of petty partisan politics in which the rest of us wallow.

But make no mistake: Underlying their dissent lies a massive deceit. Read between the lines, and you'll find that what really motivates them is a desperate attempt to save modern "conservatism" itself from going down with this administration. All of the libertarian rhetoric about limited government has always been a grand fraud; truly limited government is an anachronism. Perhaps it was appropriate in a time when small stakeholders toiled away in an agricultural economy, but it's simply impossible to govern a complex, modern, populous society like ours without a lot of staff.

Everybody knows it. The real question isn't about the size of government but whose interests it advances. Just consider that 42 of the 53 senators in the party of "limited government" voted for the bloated prescription drug bill that's now projected to cost $720 billion over the next ten years. It's a crappy, liberal-looking entitlement that was always just a giveaway to insurance companies and Big Pharma.

Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, says on his website that he's proud to have promoted "responsible federal spending" during his tenure, but after voting to increase the country's debt ceiling to $9 trillion, he said sheepishly: "It's hard to understand what a trillion is. I don't know what it is."

Political scientists have known for a long time that while people respond positively to the idea of limited government in the abstract, when it comes to specifics people love big government and most, if not all of what it does. They want a government that will educate their children and put out forest fires and pay for their million-dollar cancer treatments and make sure that big chemical companies aren't poisoning their water and keep them from having to eat cat food after they've busted their asses working for 50 years. They expect cheap student loans and meat inspections and smooth highways, and even the lowest of "low information" voters know they're not going to get that stuff from the private sector.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Bertolt Brecht: Surely You See That?

And I always thought: the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like
Everyone's heart must be torn to shreds.
That you'll go down if you don't stand up for yourself
Surely you see that.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Benefits of No TV: Pt. 1

(Besides the obvious benefits of being disconnected from the whole celebrity worship, cop culture and rampant paranoia...)

I did not know that there was a World Series going on until I saw this controversy being reported at Yahoo. I didn't know that the football season had started until a student was ranting about the Bengals in one of my classes last week. Once, these seasons marked my calendar for me (celebrity pantheon rules our world marked by seasons centered around sporting events, award shows, and political campaigns) now they are of no concern... (of course I have other interests, but it is really nice to excise the boob tube)

E-Bay Protest: Selling Stuffed Bats for Halloween

Sign the Bat Petition!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"The Stars are Projectors": A Modest Appreciation of Modest Mouse

I haven't exactly figured what it is about Modest Mouse that has kept them playing on my stereo lately. First off they have these meaningless/meaningful lyrics. Example the first song on the CD Moon and Antartica is "3rd Planet":

Everything that keeps me together is falling apart/Ive got
This thing that I consider my only art of fucking people over.
My boss just quit the job says hes goin out to find blind
Spots and hell do it.
The 3rd planet is sure that theyre being watched by an
Eye in the sky that cant be stopped.
When you get to the promise land your gonna shake that
Eyes hand.
Your heart felt good it was drippin pitch and made of wood.
And your hands and knees felt cold and wet on the grass to me.
Outside naked, shiverin looking blue, from the cold
Sunlight thats reflected off the moon.
Baby cum angels fly around you reminding you we used
To be three and not just two.
And thats how the world began.
And thats how the world will end.
A 3rd had just been made and we were swimming in the
Water, didnt know then was it a son was it a daughter.
When it occurred to me that the animals are swimming
Around in the water in the oceans in our bodies and
Another had been found another ocean on the planet
Given that our blood is just like the atlantic.
And how.
The universe is shaped exactly like the earth if you go
Straight long enough youll end up where you were.
Your heart felt good it was drippin pitch and made of wood.
And your hands and knees felt cold and wet on the grass to me.
Outside naked, shiverin looking blue, from the cold
Sunlight thats reflected off the moon.
Baby cum angels fly around you reminding you we used
To be three and not just two.
And thats how the world began.
And thats how the world will end.

The lyrics are meaningless in that they don't really make any real sense if you read them out loud as plain text, but when sung by Isaac Brock with the music (Brock, Eric Judy and Jeremiah Green) that hits my soul in the empty places, it shoots sparks through my brain causing me to reflect on the fractured landscapes (cultural, political and geographical) of my (our?) world. It speaks to my spiritual melancholy, provoking me to wonder at the awe of life and the pain of experience--back and forth, inside and outside. Did I mention the music? Achingly, aurally alluring, it allows me to reach some inner spaces and sends me aloft seeking some sense (sanity?). It speaks of despair, it speaks of hope, it speaks of rage, and it speaks of absurdity-this is the soundtrack of the wandering souls of our lost nation. Not those that have hopelessly lost their way and lost their reason, rather, those that are wandering around asking questions and teasing out traces of meanings.

Once again listening to this CD. A vision of apocalypse, indeed, but not the reactionary, conservative apocalypticism that fearfully pulls inward, building defenses against the other(s); instead, this is the outward recognition of personal and social devastation as happening, and in that moment of pain, the opportunity arises as a moment of becoming/transformation.

I came as ice, I came as a whore
I came as advice that came too short
I came as gold, I came as crap
I came clean and I came as a Rat

There is an ugliness and arrogance to some of the lyrics that can jar the careful listener that delves below the angular melodies, but its not a pointless, self-serving monologue, it seems directed, once again, outward in the hope of sparking a response and dialogue (even when Brock sings "I don't give a damn about you or this town"). This could be the plastic bag floating down the street in American Beauty telling us that there is more than meets the eye and that we should "look closer"... it could be the surreal, flickering light that speaks to you as you walk home alone from a nightclub, telling you that the comfort of the warm night is not a loss... it could be the haunting sounds you hear as you traipse through the woods while you wonder "how the world began"... it could be the ecstasy of being purely in the moment with your tribe, groovin and grinding... it could be the stranger that you want to approach and talk to in the desire to create a meaningful connection... it could be a lonely voice in the universe speaking questions to whatever may be out there.

"Does anybody know a way that a body could get away?"

Glossary of Terms for the United States of Amnesia: Communication (English Studies)

Communication: (by Rob Pope)

Communication as a word derives via French from the Latin communicare meaning ‘to share’, ‘to make common’, as well as ‘to impart’ (information) and ‘to convey’ (goods). The distinctions among these meanings are worth emphasing because they point to fundamental differences in the theory and practice of a whole range of activities we now call communications. Basically, there are four interrelated ways in which we can conceive of the process of COMMUNICATION: one-way; two- or many-way; exchange and change; through medium and context.

1) In a one-way process, information is ‘imparted’ or goods ‘conveyed’ from one person (or source) to another: addresser to addressee; A - B. In terms of language this corresponds to monologue, and is generally referred to as uni-directional, linear or transference model of communication. This model is properly used in communications engineering where the aim is to transmit a signal from transmitter to receiver in the purest form possible and with the minimum interference or ‘noise’. Monologic, one-way modes are also common in social situations where there are marked differences in power and authority (e.g., in traditional sermons and lectures, where the preacher or teacher is institutionally empowered to speak for long stretches without interruption or audible response).

2) In a two- or many-way process, information is shared, goods are made collectively, and they are in some sense held in common. In terms of language this corresponds to dialogue, and is in general referred to as a multidirectional, recursive (‘feedback’) or interactive model of communication. In this case the emphasis is on communication as a complexly interactive process, not simply proactive or reactive. For instance, addresser A talks to addresser B, who then responds but is interrupted by addresser C. Meanwhile, participant D goes out without saying anything but having heard everything (though she wasn’t meant to). She is thus, technically, neither addresser nor addressee, but is still a very important participant. Such many-way modes of communication are the norm in conversation, and in this case the activities of interruption or joining in are not merely ‘noise’ or ‘interference’ to be eliminated. They may turn out to be a crucial part of the interaction.

3) Communication as a process of change as well as exchange. This applies whether the communication system involved is as obvious as a plane full of people or a ship full of cargo (i.e. transport system) or as inconspicuous as a trace on a computer screen or a movement of air between speaker’s mouth and a hearer’s ear. In any event—in every event—neither the vehicles which carry the ‘message’ (the MEDIA), nor the materials themselves nor the participants involved are left unchanged by the process. Nothing arrives exactly as dispatched; it may or may not reach its projected destination, and both senders and receivers are never quite—or at all—the same again. Notice, too, that this notion of communication as ex/change has a symbolic or semiotic dimension. Values are transformed, never simply transferred, once they are communicated. In this respect all communication is a form of translation and revaluation in the fullest senses.

4) Communication also varies markedly according to MEDIUM, context and participants. It is convenient to distinguish various kinds of communication in these respects, some of which overlap:

• face-to-face, where all participants are ‘present’ in that they are in the same time and place, share an immediate context and can address one another directly (e.g., most conversation);

• mediated, where one or more of the participants is ‘absent’ and in a different time or place; the contexts are therefore various and some of the commun-ication must be indirect (e.g., all writing, print and telecommunications, including television and the Internet);

• ‘live’, where participants communicate at the same time but in different places (e.g., a telephone conversation, an instantaneous broadcast). The inverted commas confirm the mediated aspect of the contact;

• Recorded, where some trace of the message is stored and may be subsequently retrieved. Writing, print, film, audio and audio-visual tape, as well as computer memory and disks are all ‘recording’ technologies in these respects;

• Non-verbal, not using words, but other signs and sign-systems. (Notice that the treatment of ‘verbal’ as norm and ‘non-verbal’ as marked betrays a word-based, logocentric, bias.)

A couple of further cautions and qualifications may be added. First, all communication is in some sense interpersonal, so it can be confusing to talk specifically about interpersonal communication when what is meant is face-to-face interaction. A more precise and useful distinction is that between interpersonal communication (self with others e.g., ‘I’ with ‘you’. ‘she’ with ‘he’) and intrapersonal communication (self with self e.g., ‘I’ with ‘me’). Second, we must beware of treating face-to-face communication as unproblematic and even the norm. Certainly, face-to-face communication may be more immediate than mediated or recorded communication, but it is not necessarily simpler or less problematic. For one thing there are many more codes to cope with in face-to-face communication than in writing or print: ‘body language’ and context as well as verbal language. For another thing the participants may be physically present in the same time and space; but they may have widely varying premises, aims, values and frames of reference. People are still in some respects absent from one another even when they are ostensibly ‘present’. Indeed, PSYCHOLOGICALLY, no one is wholly ‘present’ to (i.e. conscious of) her or him self—let alone to others. What’s more, all experiences are mediated by our consciousness and by our perceptual—including biological and technological—apparatuses. Hence the need to understand mediation as both apparatus and process.

(Pope, Rob. English Studies Book: An Introduction to Language, Literature, and Culture. 2nd ed. Routledge, 2002: 66-68)

Glossary of Terms for the United States of Amnesia

Glossary of Terms for the United States of Amnesia: Whalanol

The first creative suggestion comes from Camels Back and Forth:

Whalanol : " brazenly false information, i.e., bullshit, given undue credibility by a media (esp. Internet) presence."

To visit the Gossary of Terms for the United States of Amnesia

Thomas Pynchon: Against the Day (Release Date: Nov 21)

(This should be a big literary event)

Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Gottingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.

With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.

The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics, and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses, and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx.

As an era of certainty comes crashing down around their ears and an unpredictable future commences, these folks are mostly just trying to pursue their lives. Sometimes they manage to catch up; sometimes it's their lives that pursue them.

Meanwhile, the author is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur. If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction.

Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck.

--Thomas Pynchon

From Promoting Pynchon and Amazon

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Recommended Reading: The Sparrow (1996)

I usually browse the science fiction sections of my local bookstores wondering if anything will jump out of the piles of juvenilia, serials and techno-worship. I've always been more an inner-space than an outer space SF reader. That doesn't mean that I dislike aliens, starships and inter-galactic romps, instead, what it means is that the story must contain some exploration of what it means to be human (or better yet, what it means to be sentient). Hard SF techno-geeks (once again I like Hard SF as long as it has the meatier philosophical explorations) like to dismiss this fiction as "soft" SF.

I read to escape, but I also read to learn and to experience beyond my means.

So I have often passed by Mary Doria Russell's novel "The Sparrow" wondering if it could live up to its promise as a "startling, engrossing, and moral work of fiction" (New York Times blurb). Having finally picked it up and slowly got involved with it (I'm usually reading about 4 or 5 things at a time because my work involves reading/researching) and finally getting hooked (I'll be honest, I discard well over half of the books I start, out of frustration with the author's incompetence or laziness) and then becoming obssessed with the solving of the core mystery of what happened to Emilio Sandoz, a South American Jesuit Priest, and his crew who were sent across space to engage a newly discovered sentient species.

This book starts off slowly, introducing its dual, layered narratives, one centered around Emilio after the disastrous mission, the other 40 years earlier as Emilio recounts the journey. The buildup though is worthy of the patient reader and Russell provides a rich array of characters and events in this future society. The mystery is at first vague (other than the recognized outcome) but it draws strength as the narrative progresses and nearly overwhelms the reader in the last 50 pages.

I don't want to give any of the story away, so let me finish with a few themes: Religion, but more so, struggles of faith/non-faith, especially in an age of science; predators and prey amongst sentient societies; contamination and violence in colonial enterprises; institutional power and individual promise; the intertwining of business/military/culture; redemption and renewal; death and destruction; the nature of evil; and our own prejudices. There is one last powerful issue/theme explored in the book, but it is a part of the mystery and cannot be mentioned or else it would give away the story for any potential readers.

Supposedly Brad Pitt's Plan B productions has optioned the film and he wants to play Emilio--it would make a fascinating film, if done with integrity and intelligence.

Samuel Nunn: Information Feeds to the War on Terror

Tell Us What's Going to Happen: Information Feeds to the War on Terror
Samuel Nunn

We want to know things before they occur. Anticipate, react, prevent. This idea is embedded not only in counter-terrorism policy, but in the cultural narratives produced by television and cinema. Television programs such as 24 or CSI, and movies such as The Conversation, The End of Violence, Minority Report, and The Siege are self reflexive mirrors of the U.S. war on terror. Through tricky technology systems like the Multi-State Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX) and Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) and Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) and TIPOFF and AFIS and VICAP, America seeks policies and programs -- read this as machines and software -- that will anticipate terrorist attacks in order to stop them before they can occur.[1] The desired outcome is complete deterrence. If this outcome was achieved, it would be the most mighty feat of prognostication and prevention ever conceived.

The reason? Doing so would require the real time synthesis and analysis of volumes of data equal to something like the number of stars in the universe. Criminal justice technology systems produce voluminous information flows. Billions of bytes of data are constantly on the move among police agencies describing individuals, their criminal histories, assets, debt, locations at particular times, purchase patterns, biometric identifiers (fingerprints, photographs, DNA samples) and other aspects of the people or the activities they are thought to have performed. At any given moment, thousands of inquiries are sent through dozens of regional, national, and international systems seeking answers to questions about people's identity, where they are, what they have done, or what more other agencies and agents know about these individuals. In 2005 the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) averaged 4.5 million inquiries per day.

Within this storm of data, terrorism is the boogeyman of the 21st century. And there is only one way to assuage our fears of sudden, brutal terrorist attacks: convince us that we will always uncover the conspiracies before the explosion, always know who the perpetrators are before they act, always stay one step ahead of them, always arrest them before the carnage. It is a process identified by Richard Grusin as premediation: a shift of focus to controlling the future and stopping attacks before they occur or, more simply, profiling the future.[2] It is the premediation of the future, an advance word about what is going to happen. This model helps us accept 9/11 as an interruption or aberration. Looking back, we had the pieces if only someone had put them together: the plot was within our grasp. Heroic FBI agents wrote memos, villainous or incompetent supervisors ignored them or, worse, destroyed them.[3] Mohammed Atta is on the surveillance tapes; why didn't someone see him? Ziad Jarrah, pilot of UA flight 93 (destined for a Pennsylvania farm field, and now the subject of an A&E made-for-cable movie, Flight 93 and Hollywood's United 93), gets a speeding ticket in Maryland on September 9th; why didn't someone stop him? Someone always knows. The truth is out there.

The U.S. war on terror places stock in this belief: if we know who the terrorists are, we can capture and contain them, prevent them from putting their schemes in play. If we know a sleeper cell is operating in a city's neighborhood, the authorities can place the cell under surveillance with visual monitoring, communications interception, dialed number logs, video taping, credit card purchases, and other transaction footprints used to build a virtual sphere of information control. Alternatively, we can figure out what terrorists 'look like' through profiling, find them, surveil them, uncover their plans, and incarcerate them. We will process information to prevent terrorism.

Building on a theoretical foundation of panopticism and social control, Kevin Haggerty and Richard Ericson coined an appropriate concept for the variety of technological systems used by state and non-state entities to monitor citizens: the surveillant assemblage.[4] The assemblage is composed of many discrete technological forms used to observe and infer patterns of behavior in the interests of control, investigation, and crime prevention. This includes closed circuit TV, governmental and corporate data bases, data mining and synthesis software, electronic surveillance systems, data-based profiling techniques, scenario analysis, the integration of criminal justice data bases, biometric identifiers, and so on. Information feeds to the war on terror can be conceived as representative components of a surveillant assemblage -- a combination of surveillance tools used for various forms of social control, in particular those devoted to uncovering terrorist and criminal conspiracies and preventing violent crime. It is the set of surveillance components pulled together to provide information used to detect or stop crimes of violence.

Surveillant assemblages have been depicted in various ways by films and TV, and it's possible that a few movies and television shows can be read as information feeds to the war on terror. Sometimes we use technologies to prognosticate and prevent violence, the theme of The Conversation, Minority Report, and The End of Violence. The preventive scheme of Minority Report is the most direct: you're under arrest for the crime you almost committed. But at other times, in the event violent actors strike before we can stop them, there are policies, plans, and contingencies -- ways to make us safe again, tactical technologies. That's the hard-edged, reactive theme of The Siege. And for those situations where a crime is committed, at least one TV program presents an argument that our technologies will uncover truths that no one but the perpetrator could know. That's the theme of CSI.

These films show how humans generate and process surveillance information into fuel against crime and terror (as they perceive it), and offer cultural representations of the surveillant assemblage. The examples examined in these films and TV suggest a complex relationship between the social and political realities of wars on crime or terror or drugs and their representation in film and media. The relationship is based less on whether one or the other is a better reflection of 'reality' than the idea that both filmed renditions and police policies are drawn from dominant cultural beliefs about criminal and terrorist behaviors. Shortly after 9/11, a brigadier general chaired several meetings of selected Hollywood writers, producers, and directors to develop terrorism scenarios that had not been considered before, as potential fuel for the development of preventive strategies.[5] Hollywood imagination would supply the fuel for actual anti-terrorism tactics. The meetings were held in Los Angeles at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, whose operating revenues come in large part from military contracts. James Castonguay called meetings like this the "cultural production of the war on terror."[6] Numerous Hollywood productions and planned television shows were altered or postponed after 9/11 because of government concerns they would spark creative criminal imitation and intensify public fears of future attacks. Causality is always a bit mixed up in the blend of make-believe and reality.

The surveillant assemblages depicted in film and TV create another source of fear in society -- the fear of all-encompassing 24/7 observation by unspecified others, usually the 'state', and the subliminal belief that there must be some reason for all this surveillance, some kind of danger out there against which we must be protected. This fear feeds social acceptance of the very technological systems we ostensibly fear -- as well as the perceived likelihood of criminal attacks against which they are arrayed. Because films and TV offer popular culture's perceptions of crime and terror, their visual and narrative messages -- and their strength -- are especially complex feeds to the war on terror.[7]

Stopping crimes in action and hiding in plain sight: The End of Violence

Machines that can monitor peoples' activities in space are part of modern law enforcement technology.[8] Surveillance systems are important, and we should quickly recognize that any reasonably sophisticated monitoring system -- whether wiretaps, video surveillance, or computer eavesdropping -- potentially generate so much information they challenge interpretation. Nevertheless, one key to uncovering the plot of conspiracies is interpreting the information that has been collected in ways that anticipate the commission of a crime and allow law enforcement agents to stop the plot before execution. Vast, disconnected data bases exist from which investigators can draw criminal intent. Information from wiretaps, snitch reports, BOLOs ('be on the look out'), watch lists, criminal incident descriptions, and many other sources are the data that will feed prevention efforts. But how can all this information be interpreted in a way that defines the actions to be taken? Who sits and watches, then decides to do something?[9]

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Friday, October 20, 2006

Jeff Milchen and Stacy Mitchell: Wal-Mart's Bait-and-Switch on Generic Drugs

Wal-Mart's Bait-and-Switch on Generic Drugs
by Jeff Milchen and Stacy Mitchell
Hometown Advantage

Even with its massive marketing and PR budget, Wal-Mart could not buy advertising as powerful as these headlines. Over the last few weeks, hundreds of newspapers have run stories on the chain's new generic drug pricing initiative under sweeping titles like this one from the Chicago Tribune: "Wal-Mart to sell generic drugs for $4 a month."

Consumers appear to have gotten the message. Only 13 percent currently get their prescriptions at a mass merchandiser. But, according to a new Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll, 50 percent of consumers now say they are likely to turn to Wal-Mart and Target, which has announced a similar program, for medications.

But the media coverage has been grossly misleading. Few journalists have closely examined Wal-Mart's initiative, which is far more limited than most news accounts have led people to believe. Here are the facts:

Although the program has been touted in newspapers nationwide, for now the special pricing is available only at Wal-Mart stores in Tampa, Florida. The chain has said it will expand some of the pricing to some stores in other regions later this year.
There are thousands of generic drugs, but Wal-Mart has said it will offer the $4 per month pricing on only about 300 of them.

This list actually includes fewer than 150 different drugs. That's because Wal-Mart counted different dosages of the same drug separately, including four versions of ibuprofen and a dozen of the antibiotic amoxicillin.
Quite a few of these drugs, like the ibuprofen, are already widely available for $4 or less.

Many older medications are on the list, while newer replacement medications that work better or have fewer side effects are not included. For example, Wal-Mart includes only one of the generic statins used to treat high cholesterol. It's the oldest one and the one with the worst side effects.

Wal-Mart's program is a classic bait-and-switch, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association. People will go to Wal-Mart expecting to save money on their prescriptions, only to end up paying full price in most cases and probably also leaving the store with other merchandise that carries an even higher profit margin.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Project Witness: See It, Film It, Change It

(Courtesy of Steve Stone, Global Voices, and Metafilter)

Mission Statement:
"WITNESS uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools of justice. Over the past decade, WITNESS has partnered with groups in more than 60 countries, bringing often unseen images, untold stories and seldom heard voices to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and the general public -- catalyzing grassroots activism, political engagement, and lasting change."

Watch and comment on human rights video from around the world curated by WITNESS. This pilot project contains only a subset of the functionality of the forthcoming Human Rights Video Hub.

Other WITNESS films available online:

Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror'

Rights on the Line
Vigilantes at the Border

The Day After Dialla

Between Two Fires
Torture and Displacement in Northern Uganda

Season of Fear
Internally Displaced People in Burma Call for International Action

Witness to Truth
A Video Report and Recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone

Last, but not least (and there is so much more at the website):

Video in Action: WITNESS Case Studies
WITNESS and its partners have collaborated on numerous advocacy campaigns, many of which have produced notable victories. These achievements, often the end result of years of unrelenting advocacy, demonstrate the ways in which significant progress can be made by exposing injustices to the right audiences. The following case studies outline the diversity of issues and regions where WITNESS partner videos have made a difference.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bookworm: Michael Silverblatt Interviews T.C. Boyle

Bookworm with Michael SilverblatT

Talk Talk (Viking)When T. C. Boyle sits down to write a thriller, none of the usual rules apply. He starts with a young deaf woman, a computer animator and an identity thief and creates a novel about communication. We explore some of the buried connections that take him beyond the thriller form into an exploration of the things that keep human identity intact.

Listen to the Show

Glossary of Terms for The United States of Amnesia

A work in progress--for me, my students, and anyone else that is interested in refining/extending our communicative tools. The need for this is obvious, we are forgetting who we are, how we learn, our history, our related nature, the construction of truths, the myth of objectivity and the effects of our words/images/actions. I feel past imperfect, so I'm searching for handholds to help me rise out of the depths of ignorance. Some may see this as a pontless exercise, or ridiculous in its scope (can we truly wake this slumbering democracy through words/ideas?), but comrades of the impossible/unimaginable may understand why we should ask why, or seek what is what. Feel free to leave suggestions... I'll add terms as I come across them, or as they are submitted, and make this a link on the right side of the blog:

Communication (Rob Pope)

Presentism: "unthinkingly reading current practices back into the past" (McConachie, Bruce. "Historicizing the Relations of Theatrical Production." Critical Theory and Performance 1992: 169)

Whalanol: "brazenly false information, i.e., bullshit, given undue credibility by a media (esp. Internet) presence." Source Camels Back and Forth

Guy Debord: Society of the Spectacle (PDF File)

(Courtesy of Dr. Digger Zep)

Download a copy here

Find more at Lib.com

"libcom.org is a resource for all people who wish to improve their lives, their communities and their working conditions. We want to discuss with one another, learn from experiences of the past and develop strategies to increase the power that we, as ordinary people, have over our own lives."

Carnival of the Feminists No. 24

F-Words is hosting the latest:

Carnival of the Feminists No. 24

Archive of Past Carnival of the Feminists

What is a Blog Carnival

Jonathan M. Hansen: Cosmopolitan Patriots and Cosmic Patriotism

An excerpt from The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890-1920
by Jonathan M. Hansen
University of Chicago Press

Cosmopolitan Patriots and Cosmic Patriotism

On September 9, 1918, the Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs appeared in Cleveland Federal Court to answer charges that he had violated the Espionage Act in a speech at Canton, Ohio, the previous June. According to the district attorney, Debs had impugned the U.S. government, derided the federal courts, praised the Russian Bolsheviks, and mocked the idea of a war fought to make the world safe for democracy. Worse, from the district attorney's perspective, was Debs's "sneering attitude towards patriotism and his attempt to make patriotism as we commonly understand it, ridiculous and absurd by his biting sarcasm." Noting that Debs had discharged these remarks "in the open air" and in the presence of "women and young men," and taking into account his "forceful and earnest delivery," the district attorney concluded that Debs was a threat to "the morale of the people."

After three days of testimony the government rested its case, whereupon Debs's counsel, Seymour Stedman, prepared to call his first witness. At Debs's insistence, Stedman informed the court that the defendant would plead his own cause. There was no point refuting the prosecution's report, Debs declared; it was entirely accurate. At issue, rather, was whether his Socialist critique was really un-American, as the prosecutor charged, or the very embodiment of patriotism, as he himself had been arguing for twenty-five years. Resolved that it was not Eugene Debs but American institutions on trial in Cleveland federal court, Debs believed that no one was more qualified to rise to their defense than he.

Debs began his plea to the jury by accepting full responsibility for his acts and utterances, assuring his peers that he harbored no guilt in his conscience. He then responded to the government's charges one by one: he had impugned the U.S. government for thwarting the advance of industrial democracy; he had derided the federal courts for persecuting the defenders of beleaguered workers; he had praised the Russian Bolsheviks for overthrowing the tyranny of the czar; and he had mocked the idea of a war fought to make the world safe for democracy because the people themselves had never yet declared a war. Renouncing the district attorney's patriotism, Debs invoked another model. Patriotism, he argued, meant more than shedding blood and upholding law. As manifested in American history, patriotism meant defending sacred principles and resisting tyranny and oppression, often in defiance of the law. The court of King George III had branded America's Founding Fathers criminals and traitors, Debs reminded the jury. "Isn't it strange," he remarked, "that we Socialists stand almost alone today in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States."

This book poses the problem of U.S. civic identity at the turn of the twentieth century: how does a country founded on liberal principles and composed of diverse cultures secure the solidarity required to safeguard individuality and promote social justice? The problem of American civic identity has received considerable attention of late from scholars and cultural critics concerned about the current state of liberalism and democratic participation. Rampant individualism, economic disparity, and the impression of a government for sale on the open market induce political cynicism and a consequent retreat from public life that transforms citizens into spectators. Local political passivity coincides with the rise of religious fundamentalism and ethnic nationalism around the world, lending this problem urgency. As the United States confronts vexing social and political challenges at home and abroad, more and more Americans may be heard to wonder, in the words of historian David A. Hollinger, "How Wide the Circle of the 'We'?"

Mine is the story of a group of American intellectuals who believed that the solution to the problem of American civic identity lay in rethinking the meaning of liberalism. Between 1890 and 1920, William James, John Dewey, Jane Addams, Eugene V. Debs, W. E. B. Du Bois, Randolph Bourne, Louis Brandeis, and Horace Kallen, among others, repudiated liberalism's association with acquisitive individualism and laissez-faire economics, delineating a model of liberal citizenship whose virtues and commitments amount to what I have labeled "cosmopolitan patriotism." While celebrating individual autonomy and cultural diversity, the cosmopolitan patriots exhorted Americans to embrace a social-democratic ethic that reflected the interconnected and mutually dependent nature of life in the modern world. From their perspectives, Americans could best secure the blessings of liberty and property by ensuring their universal distribution.

Read the Rest of the Excerpt and an Interview with the Author

Alexander Zaitchik: Selling Racism

Selling Racism: Pat Buchanan's latest book is a white nationalist screed. But that hasn't stopped it from climbing the best-seller charts.
by Alexander Zaitchik
Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report

Since the start of his latest book tour, Patrick Buchanan has appeared on just about every major television and cable network in the country, often more than once. He's been on NBC's "Today" show, the three most watched news programs on FOX, CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight," HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," and countless radio programs. During one four-day period in late August, the author was welcomed on no less than five NBC-affiliated programs. Together, these appearances have made Buchanan's new book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, a runaway bestseller.

The three-time presidential candidate is no stranger to the major media, being personally acquainted with many of those who interviewed him. A veteran columnist with the Creators Syndicate and an analyst for MSNBC, Buchanan was a founding member of three prime-time network or cable channel talk shows and has written for many of the nation's major newspapers and magazines. That might explain the kid-gloves treatment he got from virtually all his interviewers, most of whom did not seem to have read or understood the book they were helping to publicize.

In fact, the book reflects racial views that have now veered to the extreme. White America is changing color, Buchanan argues -- "one of the greatest tragedies in human history." The Mexican government is involved in a plot to take over the Southwestern United States, and parts of this country already look like the "Third World." The segregated South wasn't all bad "culturally" -- blacks and whites were united, after all. America, despite what its founders wrote, was a nation formed not on the basis of creed but rather a homogenous ethnic culture. To put it plainly, State of Emergency is a white nationalist tract. The thesis is that America must retain a white majority to survive as a nation. It is rooted in a blood-and-soil nationalism more blood than soil. The echoes of Nazi ideology are clear and chilling. As Buchanan helpfully explained to John King, who was interviewing him in one of his several CNN appearances: "We gotta get into race and ethnic questions."

State of Emergency unapologetically reflects Buchanan's insistence on the centrality of race to the United States and its culture. "This idea of America as a creedal nation bound together not by 'blood or birth or soil' but by 'ideals' that must be taught and learned ... is demonstrably false," Buchanan writes in the book.

Simply put, America is not a nation of ideas. It is a nation of people -- white people. Buchanan is especially overt in making this case when he endorses the view of his late mentor and editor Sam Francis, that American and European civilizations could never have been created without the "genetic endowments" of whites. He goes on to describe discussions of race as "the Great Taboo"; to ignore the role of race, he adds, is "like not telling one's doctor of a recurring pain that could kill you."

None of this seems to bother Buchanan's cheerleaders.

"Congratulations on the response to your book," said Lou Dobbs, the CNN anchorman who has made a profession of attacking illegal immigration in story after story after story, as he introduced his old CNN colleague. Dobbs then offered up his own view that President Bush was carrying on an "outright war" against middle-class Americans by allowing illegal immigration. Wrapping up the interview, Dobbs concluded: "The book is State of Emergency. It's No. 3 on the best-selling list. ... I'm going to repeat it one more time. The book is State of Emergency. Pat Buchanan, always good to talk to you. ... [Y]ou've got a lot of readers, so keep it rolling."

Dobbs isn't the only one helping Buchanan keep his book rolling.

To read the rest of this article


Patrick Buchanan: In His Own Words

Brentin Mock: 'Gay Curer' Psychologist Claims Africans 'Better Off' As Slaves

'Gay Curer' Psychologist Claims Africans 'Better Off' As Slaves
By Brentin Mock, Intelligence Report

In the latest episode of the so-called "ex-gay" movement's straying toward racial bigotry, the movement's leaders and its Christian right allies have failed to condemn an essay arguing Civil Rights Movement was "irrational."

A prominent member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is under fire for publishing an essay in which he argues that Africans were fortunate to have been sold into slavery, and the civil rights movement was "irrational."

"There is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America," writes Gerald Schoenewolf, a member of NARTH's Science Advisory Committee. "Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle… Life there was savage … and those brought to America, and other countries, were in many ways better off."

NARTH is a coalition of psychologists who believe it's possible to "cure" homosexuality, a position rejected by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association. The controversy over Schoenewolf's apology for slavery has battered the so-called "ex-gay" movement with accusations of racial bigotry for the first time. The movement's leaders and their close allies at Christian Right powerhouses like Focus on the Family have failed to condemn Schoenwolf's inflammatory arguments.

Titled "Gay Rights and Political Correctness: A Brief History," Schoenewolf's angry polemic was published on NARTH's website. In addition to his outrageous historical claims about the conditions of life in Africa, he writes that human rights proponents are intellectually stunted. (Schoenewolf draws upon Swiss child psychologist Jean Piaget, who theorized four stages of intellectual development, with the most advanced stage consisting of abstract and complex thinking. "[F]ollowers in the Human Rights Movement," have not reached this stage, according to Schoenewolf.)

Schoenewolf, a psychotherapist who lives in New York City, is director of The Living Center, an online therapy center for people in the arts. He has authored 14 books, among them The Art of Hating, in which he writes, "Many people talk about hate, but few know how to hate well."

When interviewed last week for this article, Schoenewolf stood by his comments on the intellectual inferiority of civil rights movement supporters. "The civil rights movement has from the beginning and today seen itself as good and others are evil, like slaveowners are evil," he said.

During the interview, Schoenewolf lambasted civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights. "All such movements are destructive," he said. He also claimed the American Psychological Association, of which he is a member, "has been taken over by extremist gays."

Schoenewolf's essay first appeared on NARTH's website in the fall of 2005, but apparently went unnoticed by critics until mid-September, around the time the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a black gay and lesbian advocacy organization, delivered to NARTH a formal letter of protest. "In the name of propriety, respect, common decency and professional integrity, the National Black Justice Coalition strongly urges NARTH to issue a public apology on the front page of its website for publishing such an outrageous and offensive article," wrote H. Alexander Robinson. "We also hope that you reevaluate your relationship with Dr. Schoenewolf, whose peculiar views have no place in civilized discourse."

Then, in late September, the gay rights group Truth Wins Out called on Focus on the Family to cancel a speaking appearance by NARTH executive director Joseph Nicolosi scheduled for a Focus on the Family conference held September 23 in Palm Springs, Calif.

Nicolosi appeared as planned. But the Schoenewolf essay was erased from NARTH's website the same day as the Focus on the Family conference. Then, on October 6, NARTH posted this statement to its website: "NARTH regrets the comments made by Dr. Schoenwolf about slavery which have been misconstrued by some of our readers. It should go without saying that we do not wish to minimize the suffering of those who have been mistreated because of race, sex, religious beliefs or sexual orientation." The statement makes no mention of the civil rights movement.

To read the rest of the report

Chris Hedges: Bush’s Nuclear Apocalypse

Bush's Nuclear Apocalypse
Chris Hedges

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News, is, as I write, making its way to the Straits of Hormuz off Iran. The ships will be in place to strike Iran by the end of the month. It may be a bluff. It may be a feint. It may be a simple show of American power. But I doubt it.

War with Iran—a war that would unleash an apocalyptic scenario in the Middle East—is probable by the end of the Bush administration. It could begin in as little as three weeks. This administration, claiming to be anointed by a Christian God to reshape the world, and especially the Middle East, defined three states at the start of its reign as “the Axis of Evil.” They were Iraq, now occupied; North Korea, which, because it has nuclear weapons, is untouchable; and Iran. Those who do not take this apocalyptic rhetoric seriously have ignored the twisted pathology of men like Elliott Abrams, who helped orchestrate the disastrous and illegal contra war in Nicaragua, and who now handles the Middle East for the National Security Council. He knew nothing about Central America. He knows nothing about the Middle East. He sees the world through the childish, binary lens of good and evil, us and them, the forces of darkness and the forces of light. And it is this strange, twilight mentality that now grips most of the civilian planners who are barreling us towards a crisis of epic proportions.

These men advocate a doctrine of permanent war, a doctrine which, as William R. Polk points out, is a slight corruption of Leon Trotsky’s doctrine of permanent revolution. These two revolutionary doctrines serve the same function, to intimidate and destroy all those classified as foreign opponents, to create permanent instability and fear and to silence domestic critics who challenge leaders in a time of national crisis. It works. The citizens of the United States, slowly being stripped of their civil liberties, are being herded sheep-like, once again, over a cliff.

But this war will be different. It will be catastrophic. It will usher in the apocalyptic nightmares spun out in the dark, fantastic visions of the Christian right. And there are those around the president who see this vision as preordained by God; indeed, the president himself may hold such a vision.

The hypocrisy of this vaunted moral crusade is not lost on those in the Middle East. Iran actually signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has violated a codicil of that treaty written by European foreign ministers, but this codicil was never ratified by the Iranian parliament. I do not dispute Iran’s intentions to acquire nuclear weapons nor do I minimize the danger should it acquire them in the estimated five to 10 years. But contrast Iran with Pakistan, India and Israel. These three countries refused to sign the treaty and developed nuclear weapons programs in secret. Israel now has an estimated 400 to 600 nuclear weapons. The word “Dimona,” the name of the city where the nuclear facilities are located in Israel, is shorthand in the Muslim world for the deadly Israeli threat to Muslims’ existence. What lessons did the Iranians learn from our Israeli, Pakistani and Indian allies?

Given that we are actively engaged in an effort to destabilize the Iranian regime by recruiting tribal groups and ethnic minorities inside Iran to rebel, given that we use apocalyptic rhetoric to describe what must be done to the Iranian regime, given that other countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are making noises about developing a nuclear capacity, and given that, with the touch of a button Israel could obliterate Iran, what do we expect from the Iranians? On top of this, the Iranian regime grasps that the doctrine of permanent war entails making “preemptive” and unprovoked strikes.

Those in Washington who advocate this war, knowing as little about the limitations and chaos of war as they do about the Middle East, believe they can hit about 1,000 sites inside Iran to wipe out nuclear production and cripple the 850,000-man Iranian army. The disaster in southern Lebanon, where the Israeli air campaign not only failed to break Hezbollah but united most Lebanese behind the militant group, is dismissed. These ideologues, after all, do not live in a reality-based universe. The massive Israeli bombing of Lebanon failed to pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 70 million people? As retired General Wesley K. Clark and others have pointed out, once you begin an air campaign it is only a matter of time before you have to put troops on the ground or accept defeat, as the Israelis had to do in Lebanon. And if we begin dropping bunker busters, cruise missiles and iron fragmentation bombs on Iran this is the choice that must be faced—either sending American forces into Iran to fight a protracted and futile guerrilla war or walking away in humiliation.

To Read the Rest of this essay

Stan Goff: American Fascism Is On the Rise

American Fascism Is on the Rise
By Stan Goff, Truthdig

The precursors of fascism -- militarization of culture, vigilantism, masculine fear of female power, xenophobia and economic destabilization -- are ascendant in America today.

When I was 18, before student tracking in the public schools had been formalized, an informal tracking system was nevertheless in place: the university track, the craft track, the poultry worker track, and the prison track. I was somewhere between the last two. Both my parents were working in a defense contractor factory, and I was left adrift in the factory-worker 'burbs to be trained by television and alcohol. Raised on a curriculum of McCarthyism, I did the most logical thing I could think of to avoid both the factory and eventual incarceration with the ne'er-do-wells with whom I was keeping company. I joined the Army, and volunteered to fight communists in Vietnam.

I tried to get out of the Army once, and it lasted for four years, whereupon I ended up doing piecework in a sweatshop outside Wilmar, Ark. Back on that public school track, I suppose, but given that the U.S. was no longer invading anyone's country, and that I was responsible for an infant now, I went back into the Army. One thing led to another, and as it turned out I was good at something called special operations, and I ended up making a career of it. By the time I signed out on terminal leave in December 1995, I had worked in eight places designated "armed conflict areas," where people who were brown and poor seemed to be the principle targets of these "special" operations. At some point toward the end, I had decided that plenty of people could look back and say they wished they'd lived differently; and I was just one of them; and that I might salvage something worthwhile from the whole experience by telling the people who had paid me -- people who pay taxes -- what their money was really being spent to do.

Among other activities, I started writing books.

The bad apple

There was nothing more inflammatory in my first book, about the 1994 invasion and occupation of Haiti, than my assertion that Special Operations was a hotbed of racism and reaction. "Hideous Dream - A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti" was my personal account of that operation, and I was explicit not only about the significant number of white supremacists in Special Operations but how the attitudes of these extremists connected with the less explicit white male supremacy of white patriarchal American society and defined, in some respects, the attitude taken by U.S. occupation forces in Haiti toward the Haitian population.

The resistance to this allegation was particularly fierce, and not merely from those inside the Special Operations "community," whose outrage was more public-relations stagecraft than anything else. There was outrage from people who hadn't a moment of actual experience in the military at all. This is an affront to something sacred in the public imaginary of a thoroughly militarized United States: that we are an international beacon of civilized virtue, and that our military is the masculine epitome of that virtue standing between our suburban security and the dark chaos of the Outside. Questioning the mystique of the armed forces is tantamount to lunacy at best and treason at worst.

This is the reason bad-apple-ism has been the predominant meme of the media and the Pentagon when they are compelled to discuss the stories of torture, rape and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan. "A few bad apples" committed torture. "A few bad apples" raped prisoners, fellow female soldiers, and civilians in their homes. The massacre was not descriptive of the Marine Corps, but the work of "a few bad apples." Anyone who wants to be the skunk at this prevarication party need only ask, "How do these bad apples all seem to aggregate into the same units?"

To Read the Rest of the Article


A Few Bad Men

Extremism and the Military: A Timeline

Planning a Skinhead Infantry

Friday, October 13, 2006

Keith Olberman: "The Bush Whitehouse is Playing Millions of American Christians for Suckers"

Evangelical: Rove's office called evangelicals 'The Nuts' [VIDEO]
Posted by Evan Derkacz

According to Steve Benen, a damning new book by David Kuo -- former high-ranking official in Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives -- reveals that Bush's plan for social betterment through the religious community "was a charade," and "a political ploy."

Kuo appears to be one pissed off evangelical. And no wonder:

"National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy,'" Kuo wrote. He added that Karl Rove called some of the nation's most prominent evangelical leaders "the nuts."

Keith Olbermann got his hands on a copy of the book... to watch his report.

Oso: On Freedom and Familiarity

On Freedom and Familiarity
by Oso
El Oso, El Moreno, El Abogado

A couple days ago I wrote that “these days” we have too many choices and that, perhaps, those choices impede our happiness because each decision carries the heavy uncertainty of all the other options we ruled out. From the thoughtful and meaningful emails I received afterwards, it appears that the idea resonates with a lot of people.

Of course, I’m far from the first person to talk about the oppressiveness of choice. It seems like every modern anthropologist and sociologist works the theme into their contemporary talking points. Not long ago, UTNE Reader had a fantastic issue dedicated solely to the study of choice. It was also one of the “thinking democrats’” main arguments against Bush’s social security reform. (Giving Americans choice in how they invest their social security would cause them anxiety that they were making the wrong choices, went the argument.)

Going back even further, Sartre - in the middle of the 20th century - said that humans are too free. They, as in you and me, as in right now, can do absolutely anything the physical properties of the world allow for. And that limitless freedom is so terrifying that we invent boundaries and rituals, rules and commitments to convince ourselves that we are not really so free. “I must live here, I must finish school, I must keep this job, I can’t sleep with more than 10 people, I need to get married,” we tell ourselves because, frankly, life is a lot easier and a lot more comforting when we are told what we must do.

Even further back, Nietzsche’s idea of the Eternal Return essentially implied that we are free of responsibility for our actions - the choices we choose - because there is no way to know, in the grand scheme of things, which choice was “the best.”

But now, like never before, our lives are inundated with more choices than Nietzsche or Sartre could have ever foreseen. Just imagine if you were born 100 years ago in a rural Guatemalan town of 2,000 people. Imagine the choices you would have had to make throughout your life and compare that to your life today. What we study, our interests, our 13.2 careers, who we date, where we live, what we eat, the music we listen to. the way we dress, who we marry, who we divorce, who we remarry, what car to buy, how many kids we choose to have, our computer operating system, the languages we speak, our friends, our enemies. Choices we don’t even think about because if we did, our heads would explode.

To Read the Rest of the Post

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What Is Your Favorite Cult Horror Film?

(I'm thinking of a good horror film to show my film students for Halloween. So I figured I would initiate a question of what is your favorite cult classic horror film--not the typical films listed in top tens, but the one you break out for friends because you know they haven't seen it.)

The Addiction (Directed by Abel Ferrara: 1995)

Shot in black-and-white by the director of King of New York. The very talented Lili Taylor plays the main character, Annabella Sciorra is deliciously evil and Christopher Walken in a role made for his off-kilter screen persona. The inner city environment of New York University provides a gloom to the story. It is a unique story that examines the addiction/evil of vampirism as mirrored in the horrors/ideologies/philosophies of the 20th Century. Has the best ever dissertation defense and academic party--all grad students (and former grad students) should definitely watch it for this scene alone. Sadly only available on video--deserves an American release on DVD.

For those in Lexington, it is available at Hancock Videos on Euclid.

Jennifer LeClaire: Five Myths About Community Colleges

(I was high school dropout who went to a community college and went on to a PhD)

Five Myths About Community Colleges
Jennifer LeClaire


Myth: Community colleges are inexpensive, so the education is not high quality.

Fact: Community colleges may be less expensive than four-year universities, but that doesn't mean you sacrifice a quality education. Classes in honors programs at community colleges are smaller than university classes. The curriculum is often more in-depth and there is more open exchange between teachers and students.

"We are a brand name society. Community colleges tend to be the generic brand, but it's just as good a foundation as starting at a four-year university at half the price," says AACC spokeswoman Norma Kent. "Community college graduates have gone on to Ivy League schools."

Myth: Community college credits do not transfer to four-year universities.

Fact: The quality of community colleges is getting better all the time. There are more articulation agreements with four-year colleges for them to award credit for comparable courses taken at community colleges.

"You need to know what institution you want to attend, pay attention to their requirements, and choose your classes accordingly," Kent asserts. "The key is careful planning."

Myth: Community colleges have low academic standards.

Fact: While community colleges offer "open admission" that breeds diversity, all courses are not open admission. In fact, students usually have to take placement tests in order to qualify for college-level work. Technical and special programs have high standards and students compete to enroll.

"The idea that students go to community colleges because they can't hack it at a four-year university is ridiculous," Somma says. "We have stringent policies, but we also offer students the extra support they need to succeed."

To Read the Entire Article

Rigorous Intuition: Fight the Real Enemy

Fight the Real Enemy
Rigorous Intuition

Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I'll recruit my army from the orphanages - Bob Dylan

In the United States, in the forshortened weeks before its next post-modern election, every action appears to have an equal and opposite distraction. Telling one from the other, that's the hardest thing.

This time, the Democrats may do just well enough to revive faith that the system works and that its workings are of consequence. (Like Jonathan Richman sings in "Walter Johnson": "Boys, this game's no fun if you don't get a hit once in a while.") Simone Weil wrote that "imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life," and if we can't imagine a better world than this then we can be certain one will be imagineered for us. A bipartisan soft tyranny that rules by mass delusion will concede the odd happy ending, that is actually neither.

The quote is from Weil's essay "Some Thoughts on the Love of God." They're wartime words, written during the worst of it, and imagination and storytelling remain our best means to interpret our attenuated circumstance that already passes understanding.

To read the rest of the post

Freeway Blogger

Freeway Blooger

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Word of Blog

A new site where you can find the candidates in your area and get a button for your blog that will show who you support.

All of the Kentucky candidates are either Republican or Democrat so I didn't get any buttons, but some of you might not be so picky (you can also add candidates for your area--independents in Kentucky?)

Word of Blog Elections 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Recusant

recusant \REK-yuh-zunt\ adjective

: refusing to submit to authority

Example sentence:
Several recusant senators refused to vote along party lines.

Did you know?
In 1534, Henry VIII of England declared himself the head of the Church of England, separating it from the Roman Catholic Church, and the resultant furor led to increased attention focused on people's religious observances. A "recusant" was someone who (from about 1570-1791) refused to attend services of the Church of England, and therefore violated the laws of mandatory church attendance. The word derives from the Latin verb "recusare," meaning "reject" or "oppose." The adjective "recusant" has been in use since the early 17th century. Originally, it meant "refusing to attend the services of the Church of England," but by the century's end, both the adjective and the noun were also being used generally to suggest resistance to authority of any form.

Festschrift for the Happy Tutor (and Wealth Bondage)

(Thanks to White Courtesy Telephone for organizing this tribute)

"Interesting that raping the worker, consumer, and planet are not presented as examples of immorality in corporate life. No, what is immoral is sexual misconduct. A good capitalist keeps it in his pants. His wallet, I mean."

The Happy Tutor on "Ordered Liberty in Corporate Life"

I first came across Wealth Bondage in 2004 as I began my forced transition/transformation from decadent, depraved doctoral student to pedantic professor of pataphysics in the capitalist-knowledge factories. I was immediately provoked by the wickedly funny postings (think of laughter in its subversive manifestation) that provided intelligent insights and critical analysis. Those who made a comment, whether from the left or the right, risked abuse of the most depraved nature (probably why I returned often). Wealth Bondage quickly became one of my favorite sites because they (the crazy collection of characters that inhabited this world) forced readers to assess and reassess their interpretations of their creative posts and the juxtapositions of sources/stances/voices that bring-to-light contemporary absurdities. In their wild satire and relational-thinking they recognized the power of linking as a form of creative and critical meta-commentary.

They helped me adjust happily to my new position as an insignificant cog in the industrial-military knowledge factories. It did not matter if I was unfulfilled, besides that is why we have the pharmaceutical industry, what mattered was that I was training new elites to have happy dysfunctional lives so that a precious few, no doubt those who are most deserving, could truly experience life to its fullest (TV, fast food and pornography for the rest).

I will miss the Happy Tutor and Wealth Bondage--capitalism never had such an honest voice!

For more tributes to the Happy Tutor and Wealth Bondage:

Festschrift for the Happy Tutor

Monday, October 09, 2006

Amy Goodman and David Goodman: Excerpt from Static

Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back
An excerpt from the book Static by Amy Goodman and David Goodman (Published by Hyperion)
Identity Theory

The War on Truth

President George W. Bush has long preferred illusion to reality. "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda," Bush explained of his approach at a public forum in 2005. For Bush, there are no real problems, only political problems. The only crises are when poll numbers fall.

Bush administration officials are obsessed with controlling the flow of information. Their strategy for maintaining their grip on power is simple: Perpetuate fear. We must remain in a state of total war. The implications for democracy are chilling. President Bush has asserted a right to unlimited wartime powers. Thus the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Geneva Conventions, and the very notion of a balance of power have been shredded. The official rhetoric is that we are now in a Long War, led by the president, über alles.

The media, so cowed for so long, has failed to present a coherent picture of this frontal assault on our democracy. Alarming stories emerge, piecemeal, of warrantless wiretaps, of U.S. sanctioned torture, of offshore prisons where thousands are being held at the whim of a president who invokes sweeping life-and-death powers and dispatches propagandists to cover his trail.

Information is a crucial weapon in Bush's war. In a February 2006 speech Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that "information warfare" will be vital to fighting terrorism. He lashed out at the media for "an explosion of critical press stories" that exposed secret U.S. anti-terror programs, including propaganda efforts in Iraq. He declared: "We are fighting a battle where the survival of our free way of life is at stake and the center of gravity of that struggle is not simply on the battlefield overseas; it's a test of wills, and it will be won or lost with our publics, and with the publics of other nations. We'll need to do all we can to attract supporters to our efforts and to correct the lies that are being told, which so damage our country, and which are repeated and repeated and repeated."

He responded to the images of and charges about American torture of detainees in Guantánamo Bay and Iraq by dismissing them as fabrications. "The terrorists are trained . . . to lie. They're trained to allege that they've been tortured. They're trained to put out misinformation, and they're very good at it," he declared.

In a speech a month later, Rumsfeld made clear that he believes the real problem in Iraq is simply the coverage: "Much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation . . . Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side . . . The steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists."

The "truth" that Rumsfeld prefers can be found in the articles that the Bush administration is planting in the "free" Iraqi media, written by American psychological warfare operatives.

IRAQI ARMY DEFEATS TERRORISM blared an October 2005 story in Iraqi newspapers that said, "The brave warriors of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are hard at work stopping al-Qaeda's attacks before they occur." Another planted article crowed, "The ISF has quickly developed into a viable fighting force capable of defending the people of Iraq against the cowards who launch their attacks on innocent people." The latter story was published in the Iraqi press around the time that the United States conceded that no Iraqi battalions were capable of fighting on their own.

The audience for this cartoonish propaganda is not just Iraqis: The Bush administration has turned psychological warfare, which by U.S. law can only be targeted at foreign audiences, on Americans. Rumsfeld dismissed the legal prohibitions against using foreign propaganda at home, declaring in February 2006: "The argument was, of course, that it was taking taxpayers' dollars . . . and propagandizing the American people. Of course, when you speak today, there's no one audience . . . Whatever it is we communicate inevitably is going to be heard by multiple audiences."

Rumsfeld is leaving nothing to chance. A Pentagon briefing for Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top US. commander in Iraq, identifies the "home audience" as one of the major targets of American propaganda. The Washington Post reported in April 2006 that U.S. psychological operations soldiers produced a video about atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein that was "seen on Fox News." The Bush administration also attempted to hype the role of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who was killed in Iraq in June 2006. Bush officials used Zarqawi to falsely connect Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks, and to bolster their dubious claim that the Iraqi insurgency was led by al Qaeda-backed foreign fighters. "Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response," stated one US. military briefing. As part of this effort, U.S. psy-ops soldiers in 2004 leaked a supposed letter from Zarqawi to the New York Times that boasted of foreigners' role in suicide attacks in Iraq. Other reporters questioned the authenticity of the document that wound up in a widely cited front-page Times story. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military's chief spokesman in Iraq in 2004, boasted later, "The Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to date."

The "information war" Rumsfeld describes is deadly serious. ABC News reported in May 2006 that the government was tracking the phone numbers dialed from major news organizations in an attempt to root out whistle-blowers. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales added that it "is a possibility" that journalists will be prosecuted for publishing classified information. The message is clear: The media can either participate in Bush's war, or become a target of it. As Bush administration officials have warned, journalists who do not follow the party line are promoting terrorism.

To Read the Rest of the Excerpt

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Jason Miller: America's Collective Delusion

(Courtesy of P!)

America's Collective Delusion Must Endure: "Domestic Genocide of an Economic Nature"
by Jason Miller
OpEd News

"The beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart."

--Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein

Accomplishing a logic-defying feat, the wealthiest nation in the world has "attained" the highest rate of homelessness amongst developed countries. 3.5 million human beings experience homelessness each year in the United States. Almost a million are homeless every night (1).

In the most heavily militarized nation in the history of the human race, 30% of its homeless men are military veterans (2). What happened to "support the troops"? Obviously once military personnel return home, the slogan changes to "good riddance to bad rubbish".

Ready for some "shock and awe" on the home front? According to the National Mental Health Association, "on any given night, 1.2 million children are homeless" in the United States.

And what is one to make of a self-proclaimed Christian nation (overflowing with material resources) that allows such travesties of economic justice to persist?

How can a Christian nation ignore the compassionate teachings of Jesus?

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'"

Yes, it is morally and ethically abhorrent that there are indigent, starving, and homeless human beings in a society of people awash in a sea of wealth.

Yet it gets even uglier...

According to Sixty Minutes, the latest extreme means for teens to alleviate adolescent ennui involves savagely beating the most vulnerable human beings in the United States.

This so-called "bum hunting" has resulted in the murder of at least one homeless person per month for the past 60 consecutive months. Accurate statistics are elusive at best (since few people notice when a homeless person "disappears"). However, the National Coalition for the Homeless determined that 500 of its lost souls have been victims of "bum hunting" since 1999. 180 of them met violent deaths as a result of this appalling blood sport in which the hunters stalk human prey (3).

What could inspire children to commit such depraved, barbarous acts?

Sixty Minutes suggested that a wildly popular DVD series called Bum Fights was the principal catalyst for "bum hunting". Apparently, the producers of Bum Fights paid homeless individuals a pittance (and bribed them with alcohol) to brawl and attempt ridiculous stunts similar to those shown in the Jackass series. Bum Fight movies also involve a character dubbed the "Bum Hunter". In producing Bum Fights, the "Bum Hunter" attacked randomly selected sleeping homeless people, forcibly restrained them, and sealed their mouths with duct tape.

23 year old Ryan McPherson was the producer of Bum Fights. He and two partners sold the rights to their creation for $1.5 million (4). Sixty Minutes interviewed two of their victims, including a homeless man named Rufus, who confirmed that McPherson paid them less than $10 and a "couple of beers" to fight and do degrading stunts.

When Sixty Minutes interviewed McPherson, he had this to say:

"We're merely exposing something that I don't think a lot of people know exists. I think it's interesting. I can't imagine what would make somebody do the things that Rufus was doing to himself...."

Not surprisingly, McPherson claimed to see no connection between his DVD productions, the millions of teens watching them, and the proliferation of "bum hunting". It is interesting to note that one of the teens who participated in the slaying of a homeless person told Sixty Minutes that he had watched Bum Fights "hundreds of times" before the murder.

While the reprehensible McPherson and his grotesque digitally captured exploitations of miserable souls almost certainly contributed heavily to the popularity of "bum hunting", McPherson, his perversities, and "bum hunting" are merely symptoms of an insidious disease afflicting the collective psyche of the United States at a profound level.

Beware the shadow...

It is true that since time immemorial, the wealthy and powerful of human society have exploited and preyed upon the poor and vulnerable. The tendency to abuse power is an inherent aspect of the shadow side of each human being.

A spiritually healthy human being acknowledges their shadow side and integrates it into their being, hence minimizing the shadow's destructive tendencies.

To Read the Rest of the Article