Monday, December 31, 2007

To the Best of Our Knowledge: Early Christians

Early Christians
To the Best of Our Knowledge (Public Radio International)
Host: Jim Fleming

Shortly after World War Two, peasants digging in the Egyptian desert found a sealed jar filled with pages of ancient manuscript - the Nag Hammadi library, or Gnostic Gospels. Their contents would change the history of one of the world's most established religions – and challenge believers around the world to rethink some of the most basic tenets of their faith. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, a look at the controversial Gnostic Gospels and the story of a buried Christianity.


Kyle Bowser is the producer of "The Bible Experience" - a 19-CD audio recording of the New Testament featuring a celebrity all-black cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett and Blair Underwood. Bowser tells Anne Strainchamps how they recruited their superstar cast and who they hope their audience will be. And we hear excerpts. Also, Garry Wills is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and a practicing Catholic. His new book is "What Paul Meant." He tells Jim Fleming that the apostle Paul didn't say most of the things people blame him for. Wills describes quite a different Paul than the one we're used to.


Tucker Malarkey has written a novel called "Resurrection" about the discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in Egypt in 1945. Malarkey tells Anne Strainchamps why she finds these ancient texts so captivating, and speculates about why they have never been included in the official cannon of Christian belief. Also, Bart Ehrman chairs the religious studies department at the University of North Carolina. He talks with Steve Paulson about the complex set of beliefs that existed in the early days of Christianity and says it was several hundred years before a single version of the truth was negotiated. Ehrman's books include "Lost Christianities" and "Misquoting Jesus."


Singer/songwriter Tori Amos tells Steve Paulson that her new album, "The Beekeeper," is all about reclaiming representatives of the sacred feminine tradition who weren't afraid of their own sexuality. Amos uses Mary Magdalene as one example. Amos is the author of a recent memoir called "Piece by Piece." The piece is illustrated with music from "The Beekeeper."

To Listen to the Episode

Open Source: Philip Gura’s American Transcendentalism

Philip Gura’s American Transcendentalism
Open Source
Host: Christopher Lydon

We’re wallowing in the transcendent mystery of things with Philip Gura, the author of American Transcendentalism: A History. Gura is an eminent professor of literature and culture at the University of North Carolina, but he’s also “one of us,” avid in the non-dogmatic, non-exclusive pursuit of the ecstatic, the invisible, the divine.

To Listen to the Podcast

Sunday, December 30, 2007

“Today’s Decision Would Make George Orwell Proud”—FCC Commissioner Michael Copps on the FCC’s Vote to Rewrite the Nation’s Media Ownership Rules

(From wednesday...)

“Today’s Decision Would Make George Orwell Proud”—FCC Commissioner Michael Copps on the FCC’s Vote to Rewrite the Nation’s Media Ownership Rules
Hosted by: Amy Goodman
Democracy Now

The Federal Communications Commission voted three-to-two on party lines last week to approve a measure that would increase media consolidation. The new rule pushed through by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin lifts a thirty-year old ban on companies seeking to own both a newspaper and television or radio station in the same city. Michael Copps was one of two FCC Commissioners to vote against the rule.

AMY GOODMAN: The Federal Communications Commission last week voted three-to-two on party lines to approve a measure that would increase media consolidation. The new rule pushed through by FCC Chair Kevin Martin lifts a thirty-year-old ban on companies seeking to own both a newspaper and television or radio station in the same city.

But the reaction against the vote has been swift. Close to 200,000 people have signed an open letter urging Congress to overturn the December 18th vote. Less than twenty-four hours after the vote, Democratic Congressmember Jay Inslee and Republican Congressmember Dave Reichert introduced the Media Ownership Act of 2007, that would overturn the new rules by the FCC.

It was Bush-appointed FCC Chair Kevin Martin, now just forty-one years old, who rammed through the rule changes. He’s served President Bush well. As deputy general counsel for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, he was active during the Florida recount. Before that, he worked for Kenneth Starr at the Office of Independent Counsel during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Rumor has it he may run for governor of his native North Carolina. His wife, Cathie Martin, was a spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney in the midst of the scandal around the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. She now works on Bush’s communications staff.

Today, we’ll play the speech of one of the two dissident FCC commissioners, Michael Copps. Copps has been fighting media consolidation since he was appointed to the FCC in 2001. He is a former history professor. He called the vote a Christmas gift to corporations.

Excerpt from the Speech:

MICHAEL COPPS: I had an opportunity to read a little bit of George Orwell the other day, and it was good preparation for getting ready to deal with this particular item. I think it would do him proud.

We claim to be giving the news industry a shot in the arm, but the real effect is going to be to reduce total newsgathering. We shed big crocodile tears for the financial plight of newspapers, yet the truth is that newspaper profits are about double the S&P 500 average. We pat ourselves on the back for holding six field hearings across the United States, yet today’s decision cites not a single word from the thousands of Americans who waited in long lines for an open mike to testify before us. We say we have closed loopholes, yet we are introducing new ones. We say we’re guided by public comment, yet the majority’s decision is overwhelmingly opposed by the public, as demonstrated in our record and in public opinion surveys. We claim the mantle of scientific research, even as the experts say we’ve asked the wrong questions, used the wrong data, and reached the wrong conclusions.

I am not the only one disturbed by this illogical scenario. Congress and the American people have done everything but march down here to storm to Southwest D.C. and physically shake some sense into us. Everywhere we go, the questions are the same: Why are we rushing to encourage more media merger frenzy, when we haven’t addressed the demonstrated harms caused by previous media merger frenzy? Women and minorities own low single-digit percentages of America’s broadcast outlets, and big consolidated media continues to slam the door in their faces. It’s going to take some major policy changes and a coordinated strategy to fix that. Don’t look for that from this Commission.

Instead, we are told to be content with baby steps to help women and minorities, but the fine print shows that the real beneficiaries will be small businesses owned by white men. So even as it becomes abundantly clear that the real cause of the disenfranchisement of women and minorities is media consolidation, we give the green light to a new round of—yes, you guessed it—media consolidation.

Local news, local music and local groups so often get shunted aside when big media comes to town. Commissioner Adelstein and I have heard the plaintive voices of thousands of citizens all across this land of ours in dozens of town meetings and public forums, from newscasters fired by chain owners with corporate headquarters thousands of miles away to local musicians and artists denied airtime because of big media’s homogenization of our music and our culture, from minorities reeling from the way big media ignores their issues and caricatures them as people to women saying the only way to redress their grievances is to give them a shot to compete for use of the people’s airwaves, from public interest advocates fighting valiantly for a return of localism and diversity to small independent broadcasters who fight an uphill battle to preserve their independence.

It will require tough rules of the road to redress our localism and diversity gaps, too. Do you see any such rules like that being passed today? To the idea that license holders should give the American people high quality programming in return for free use of the public airwaves, the majority answers that we need more study of problems that have been documented and studied to death for a decade and more. Today’s outcome is the same old same old: one more time, we’re running the fast-break for our big media friends and the four corner stall for the public interest.

It’s time for the American people to understand the game that is being played here. Big media doesn’t want to tell the full story, of course, but I have heard first-hand from editorial page editors who have told me they can cover any story, save one—media consolidation—and that they have been instructed to stay away from that one. That’s a story for another day, perhaps.

Listen/Watch/Read the Rest of the Speech

For the Bible Tells Me So (Daniel Karslake: USA, 2007)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Annie Leonard: The Story of Stuff

(Courtesy of G-POD)

Happy Holidays!!!

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard

Legendary Beat Generation Bookseller and Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Poetry as Insurgent Art

(Thanks Lawrence for the many years of great poetry, for my favorite bookstore, and for continuing to challenge and inspire us to think independently/creatively. I have gone through many copies of "Coney Island of the Mind" and I can't wait to read your new book of poems "Poetry as Insurgent Art.")

Legendary Beat Generation Bookseller and Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books on the 50th Anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Poetry As Insurgent Art
Hosted by: Amy Goodman
Democracy Now

To Read "Howl" and Experience Another Reality

Fifty years ago this year Viking Press published Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road. Today we will talk with City Lights Books’ publisher and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In 1953, Ferlinghetti co-founded City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country. Two years later he launched the City Lights publishing house. Both institutions are still running half of a century later.

To Listen/Watch/Read the Interview

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Orleans Police Taser, Pepper Spray Residents Seeking to Block Public Housing Demolition

New Orleans Police Taser, Pepper Spray Residents Seeking to Block Public Housing Demolition
Democracy Now

The New Orleans City Council has unanimously voted to move ahead with the demolition of 4,500 units of public housing. Under the plan, the city’s four largest public housing developments will be razed and replaced with mixed-income housing. Hundreds of people were turned away from the City Council meeting. Police shot protesters with pepper spray and tasers. We go to New Orleans to speak with two local community activists and a former SWAT commander

To Watch/Listen/Read

Friday, December 21, 2007

Notre Dame 2008 Annual Peace Conference: Call for Papers (Deadline Feb 22, 2008)

(Courtesy of Claire Glasscock)

Notre Dame 2008 Annual Peace Conference: Call for Papers

Dear Friends,

The University of Notre Dame’s annual Student Peace Conference will take place on April 4-5, 2008. The conference is officially sponsored by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and is planned and directed entirely by undergraduate peace studies students of the University.

Entitled “Bringing Peace Down to Earth”, the conference will highlight the role of individuals and grassroots efforts in the peace-building process. The conference will explore how we can take part in preventing and addressing various forms of conflict and violence.

The Peace Conference Committee welcomes undergraduate and graduate peace visionaries of all majors to submit papers, panel proposals, performances, audio-visual presentation, interactive sessions or workshops broadly exploring the conference theme.

The presentations may be completed research, research in-progress or case studies, especially those reflecting innovative practice. Generally the presentations will consist of a panel of three or four presenters with similar topics. Each presenter will speak for ten minutes and after all of the presentations are completed the floor will be opened for questions and discussion.

Presentations on additional aspects of peace-building are also encouraged.
Sub-themes could focus on, but are not limited to:

Social Responsibility
Healthcare and Global Justice
Environmental Violence
Development and Environmental Sustainability
Micro-Finance and Economic Empowerment
Economics and Structural Violence
Globalization and Peace
Role of the Media in War-Making and Peacekeeping
Role of the Mediator
Role of IOs and NGOs
Peace in Contemporary Literature
Religion and Peace-building
International, Cross-Cultural, or Inter-Religious Dialogue
Cultural Perspectives of Peace
Ethnic Conflict, Resolution, and Reconciliation
Women, Children, and Peace
Methods of Non-Violence

Submissions and/or questions may be made via email to Submissions will be acknowledged within 5 days of receipt. Notifications of acceptance of proposals will be sent as soon as the reviewing process is completed, not later than February 29, 2008.

The deadline for proposals is Friday, February 22, 2008.

In peace,
Mariah Quinn and Ryane Burke
2008 ND Peace Conference Co-Chairs

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka: Porn Music for the Masses, Vol. 1

(Great Music! Courtesy Comfort Stand Recordings and Internet Archive)

Even if you have never seen a porn movie in your lifetime, almost everyone in the world knows what the 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka' represents... Each person, upon hearing it, mentally interprets the 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka' in their own way, fueling a range of emotions from lust to disgust. This CD represents 17 individual artists' interpretations of the 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka'; each providing their own unique cultural and geographic spin on the vibe that is "Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka'. From celebrations of the beauty of intimacy to a cautionary tale of excess, this collection of sound sculptures of the 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka' mystique from around the world will guide you into the heart of all that is 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka'.

So turn the lights down low, light a few candles, put this CD on the stereo and let the magic of the 'Wakka Chikka Wakka Chikka' take you wherever you want to go.

To Listen/Download the Album

Democracy Now: December 20th

Democracy Now
Hosts: Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez

CIA to Hand Over Videotape Docs After Congress Threatens Subpoenas
The CIA has announced it will begin handing over documents to Congress about the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of two prisoners held in secret jails. The announcement came after the House Intelligence Committee threatened to subpoena agency officials if they wouldn’t appear before the committee voluntarily. We speak with House Judiciary Chair John Conyers and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

To Impeach or Not to Impeach? A Discussion With House Judiciary Chair John Conyers and CIA Veteran Ray McGovern
Three Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee Robert Wexler of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin have called on committee chair John Conyers, to begin impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney. We host a discussion on impeachment with Conyers and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

The Battle to Save New Orleans Public Housing
In New Orleans, protests have been taking place for weeks to block the demolition of 4,500 units of public housing. Jacquie Soohen and Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films file a report from the streets of New Orleans.

Mike Huckabee Equates Environmentalism With Pornography
David Corn of Mother Jones discusses Huckabee’s past writings and why the former Baptist minister’s sermons are being kept secret. In 1998, Huckabee wrote: “Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexual activism have fragmented and polarized our communities.”

"He Should Have Known" - Mother of Woman Murdered by Rapist Says Huckabee Should Not Have Ordered His Release From Jail
We speak with Lois Davidson, her daughter Carol Sue Shields was murdered by Wayne Dumond in 2000 after he was released by Mike Huckabee. As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee aggressively pushed for the early release of Dumond, a convicted rapist, in 1999. Huckabee made the decision despite being warned by numerous women that Dumond had sexually assaulted them or their family members, and would likely strike again.

Listen/Watch Today's Show

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: The Fall of Nineveh

Struggling with the chore of winter cleaning (academic break ritual) I came across this fascinating episode and the time flew as I listened to this history--highly recommended!

Dan Carlin: History, Politics and Culture

Will our modern society ever decline and fall? Dan uses that idea as a backdrop for a look at the first great empire in history, the biblical-era Assyrians. Were they ancient Nazis, or the guardians of civilization?

Show Notes

1. “History of Assyria” by A.T. Olmstead

2. “Our Oriental Heritage” by Will Durant

3. “Everyday life in Babylonia and Assyria” by Henry W. F Saggs

4. “The Origins of War” by Arther Ferrill

5. "Ancient Iraq” by Georges Roux

6. "The Cutting Edge: Military History of Antiquity and Early Feudal Times” by Paul F. Gavaghan

7. "Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War” by Kaveh Farrokh

8. "The Persian Expedition” by Xenophon

9. "Ancient Assyrians” by Mark Healy

Listen to "The Fall of Ninevah"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mad Magazine's 20 Dumbest Things in America

Yeah!!! Kentucky made #14 for...

can you guess?

and here is Media Czech's critique of our pride and joy:

Bluegrass comrades were you able to guess what it was?

James DiGiovanna and Carey Burtt: Kant Political Attack Ad

(Courtesy of I Cite)

Gary Lachman: Henri Bergson on the Mind-Body Problem

In Matter and Memory (1896), Bergson took on the mind-body problem, arguing against the idea of "psychophysiological parallelism," which maintained that every psychological fact is determined by the physical fact that accompanies it. For instance, he argued that aphasia was not loss of memory per se caused by a physical lesion in the brain, but rather that the organic damage simply prevented the memory, an immaterial "fact," from being expressed, much as a broken television set prevents a program from being seen but does not affect the program itself. Hence Bergson came to the conclusion that consciousness uses the brain and is not, as contemporary philosophers of the mind like John Searle assert, produced by it. It was insights such as this that drew Bergson into an interest in the paranormal and the "night side of nature."

Lachman, Gary. A Secret History of the Consciousness. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books, 2003: 21-22.

Audio Anarchy: Days of War, Nights of Love; Crimethinc Books

Audio Anarchy

"Less of a novel and more of an exploded manifesto, Days of War, Nights of Love might be just what we need. It is the type of book you'd thumb through in the store and actually want to buy (or steal)... Topics range from anarchy to hierarchy, work to sex, alienation to liberation and technology, but every page burns with a passion for a freer life... When you make it to the end, the personal testimonials about not working and the closing art pieces become an aria of voices urging you to close the book and live. Glorious, even for the most cynical reader. What more can we ask from a book?" - Clamor Magazine #6, Dec.00/Jan.01

Days of War, Nights of Love

This recording reminded me of a book I got from the anarchist collective Crimethinc:

to order yours

Also check out two other new books (highly recommended--when you order these inexpensive copies they load you up with posters, stickers and pamphlets):

Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook

and their latest book:

Expect Resistance: A Crimethink Field Manual

Bill Moyer's Journal: Keith Olbermann; FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's Attack on Media Democracy; Rick Karr on Today's FCC Vote

Keith Olbermann

Massing of the Media: FCC Update

Rick Karr: What Happens After the FCC Vote

H. Res. 847: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith

Gee, I guess there was nothing more important on the agenda than recognizing the importance of Christmas. Now that is settled I guess Congress might as well adjourn because there is really nothing important left...

Check out Jill of All Trades response

Stop Big Media: Is Junk Media Making You Sick

(Courtesy of comrade Literaghost. It always cracks me up when I see something like this because I do not have TV hooked up in my house, but after a couple of minutes I remember that most everyone else does and this is what is filling their minds--explains a lot...)

Stop Big Media

Stop Big Media: The Wall

Stop Big Media: The Wall

Broadcasting & Cable: Martin Vote Faces Wall of Opposition … Literally

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rachel Silvey: Situated Knowledge

Excerpted from: Silvey, Rachel. "Gender and Mobility: Critical Ethnographies of Migration in Indonesia." Cultural Geography in Practice ed. Alison Blunt, et al. Edward Arnold, 2003: 94-95.

Attempts to situate knowledge--and to produce situated knowledges--challeneg the truth claims of detached, disembodied observation in favour of located, partial and embodied understanding. Inspired by the work of Donna Haraway, ideas about situated knowledge have their roots in feminist critiques of science, but now also critically inform research across the humanities and social sciences. ... Such ideas resist a masterful gaze from a distant vantage point, blind to its own specificity and location in its claims for objective, all-seeing authority. In Haraway's words, the 'god-trick' of such a gaze depends on its dislocation and distance not only from what is being observed, but also from where such observation is located. While recognizing that all knowledge is partial and located, attempts to situate knowledge make this partiality and location their explicit and critical focus, situating knowledge in particular contexts and articulating the positionality both of researchers and the subjects of research. ... Situated knowledges seek to disrupt the 'god-trick' of authority and impartiality that is empowered, in part, by denying its own situatedness. It does so by locating, and often embodying, the production of knowledge in terms of proximity rather than distance and reflexivity rather than detachment.

Key Readings:

Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Free Association Books, 1996.

Rose, Gillian. "Situating Knowledges: Positionality, Reflexivities and Other Tactics." Progress in Human Geography (1997) V21: 305-320


"Collins (1990) points out that feminist standpoint theory assumes a commonality among women that does not in fact exists, and she argues for a standpoint that takes into account other fomrs of difference, such as race, class, and ethnicity. Spivak (1990) complicates the standpoint picture further. She reminds researchers that even if qwe are able to uncover the voices and the standpoints of subjugated people, ultimately it is we who represent the researched. Thus, our ability to represent the subjects of our research is limited by our distinct subjective locations, and our interpretations of narrative interviews should take such limitations into account(95)."

Cited Sources:

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.

Spivak, Gayatri C. The Post-Colonial Critic. NY: Routledge, 1990.

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Craven

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

craven \KRAY-vun\ adjective
: lacking the least bit of courage : contemptibly fainthearted

Example sentence:
Lavinia thought it was craven of Alex to cave into pressure and retract his allegations instead of defending his position.

"Craven" and its synonyms "dastardly" and "pusillanimous" are all basically fancy words for "cowardly." Don't be afraid to use them — here's a little information to help you recognize the subtle distinctions in their connotations. "Craven" suggests extreme defeatism and complete lack of resistance. One might speak of "craven yes-men." "Dastardly" often implies behavior that is both cowardly and treacherous or skulking or outrageous, as in this example: "a dastardly attack on unarmed civilians." "Pusillanimous" suggests a contemptible lack of courage (e.g., "After the attack, one editorialist characterized the witnesses as 'the pusillanimous bystanders'").

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jill McCorkle: Cuss Time

(Courtesy of Teresa Webb)

Cuss Time: By limiting freedom of expression, we take away thoughts and ideas before they have the opportunity to hatch
By Jill McCorkle
The American Scholar


Potential is a powerful word. I remember feeling so sad when my children turned a year old and I knew, from reading about human development, that they had forever lost the potential they were born with to emulate the languages of other cultures, clicks and hums and throat sounds foreign to me. For that short period of time, a mere 12 months, they could have been dropped anywhere in the world and fully adapted accordingly. But beyond this linguistic loss, we are at risk of losing something far greater each and every time we’re confronted with censorship and denial. Perfectly good words are taken from our vocabulary, limiting the expression of a thought or an opinion. I recently read about high schoolers who are not allowed to use the word vagina. And what should they say instead? When you read about something like this (just one recent example of many), you really have to stop and wonder. Is this restriction because someone in charge thinks vaginas are bad? I once had a story editor ask me not to use the word placenta. I wanted to say: “Now tell me again how you got here?” Oh, right, an angel of God placed you into the bill of the stork.

Word by single word, our history will be rewritten if we don’t guard and protect it, truth lost to some individual’s idea about what is right or wrong. These speech monitors—the Word Gestapo (speaking of words some would have us deny and forget)—attempt to define and dictate what is acceptable and what is not.

Lenny Bruce, while pushing the First Amendment as far as it can go, famously said, "Take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say fuck the government." And maybe that’s really what all the rules are about—power and control—someone else’s over you. Though I felt the impulse to tell my son cuss time was a secret of sorts, "our own little game," I stifled the urge, knowing what a dangerous and manipulative thing the use of a "secret" can be. Besides, any suggestion of denial of the act would have worked against everything I was trying to give him. Of course, it wasn’t any time at all before several little boys started asking to ride the bus home with him. "Can I do cuss time?" they pleaded. I sadly had to tell them the truth: they were not of legal age and so cuss time was something only their own parents could give them.

I have often thought what a better, more confident person I would have been if only I had grown up with cuss time instead of soap licking.

My first public reading from my work was when I was 25 years old. At the end, as I stood at the podium speaking to people, I noticed an elderly woman slowly making her way down the aisle. I waited for her to reach me only to have her shake a finger in my face and say, "And you look like such a nice girl!" Unfortunately, I was still conditioned to want her to believe that I was a nice girl, conditioned to care more about what other people thought of me than what I thought of myself. It was only after the fact that I felt angry, that I wanted to go back and ask if she was even paying attention to what I was reading about—a situation of hurt humans expressing their feelings. I wanted to say, you have every right to your opinions and thoughts but that doesn’t make you right. I wanted to say fuck you, and even knowing it would have been completely out of character for me to do so, I like knowing that I could have.

By limiting or denying freedom of speech and expression, we take away a lot of potential. We take away thoughts and ideas before they even have the opportunity to hatch. We build a world around negatives—you can’t say, think, or do this or that. We teach that if you are safely camouflaged in what is acceptable and walk that narrow road—benign or neutral words, membership in institutions where we are told what to think and believe—then you can get away with a lot of things. You can deny who you are and all that came before you and still be thought of as a good person. And what can be positive in that? In fact, what is more positive than a child with an individual mind full of thoughts and sounds and the need to express them who has the freedom to discover under safe and accommodating conditions the best way to communicate something? In other words, you old son of a bitch, I say Let freedom ring!

To Read the Whole Essay

Dave Lindorff: Imagine a Campaign that Called for Slashing Military Spending by 75%

(Courtesy of Danny Mayer)

Imagine a Campaign that Called for Slashing Military Spending by 75%
By Dave Lindorff
The Smirking Chimp

While the Democratic and Republican candidates for president blather on about non-issues like who will be meaner to immigrants, who will use the most water on torture victims, who wanted to be president at the youngest age, who’s the best Christian and other such nonsense, and while Congress and the president dance their meaningless dance of pretend conflict, let’s for a moment ponder something more momentous.

What if the US just packed up and left Iraq and Afghanistan, and brought the troops all home, shut down the 750-odd overseas bases we operate around the globe, and slashed our military budget by 75 percent?

That would be an instant savings of roughly $365 billion per year.

Now, the first thing we need to do is address the criticism that such an action would be abandoning the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, whose countries we have been systematically destroying for the last four to six years.

Okay. I agree we have an obligation here. So let’s allocate say $50 billion in annual aid to those two countries, to be funneled through international aid organizations, from the U.N. to CARE and the Red Cross/Red Crescent.

That still leaves $315 billion in funds to play with.

We also have to address those who will ask fearfully if we aren’t opening ourselves to attack from our many enemies abroad.

But hold on a minute. If we cut the US military budget down to a paltry $115 billion a year, that would still leave us with by far the largest military budget in the entire world. The next biggest spender on its military is China, at $62.5 billion, followed by Russia, at $62 billion. That is to say, our military budget, if slashed by three quarters, would still be about equal to Russia’s and China’s military budgets combined. And that only tells part of the story. Most of China’s army is a repressive police force, required to keep order in what is a widely despised dictatorship, and would never be available for foreign adventures. (That’s why China, with a million or more soldiers, hasn’t ever invaded Taiwan, with a population of just 23 million. The army China could spare for an invasion would probably be no larger than the one little Taiwan could field to defend itself.) The same can be said for Russia, which is eternally in danger of splitting apart into myriad smaller states, and has to be held together by threat of force. Figuring that neither China nor Russia is likely to attack us anyway, given that one needs us to buy all the junk they make, and the other needs us to buy their oil, maybe we should look at those “axis of evil” states and their ilk, that might think we’re easy pickin’s if we were to slash our military spending.

Well, maybe not. It turns out if you add up all the military budgets of America’s other “major” enemies—those so-called “rogue” states like Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria—and throw in a few extra possible hostiles for good measure like Myanmar, Somalia and, oh, what the heck, Grenada (you never know when that troublesome little island might have another revolution!), it comes to a grand total of $15 billion spent on military stuff. That’s less than one-seventh of what we’d still be spending.

And of course we wouldn’t be alone. Our allies—Britain, Germany, France, Japan, Israel, Holland, Canada, Italy, Australia, South Korea and Spain for example, though there are surely more who would come to our aid in a crisis—collectively spend another $258 billion on their militaries (and yet even today we have our military based in many of those countries. Go figure!). So we would hardly be at anybody’s mercy.

We could even take a few billion of that $115 military budget and shift it productively from our huge and useless strategic nuclear program (you know, the one that just lost six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles for 36 hours, and flew them across the country, unprotected and unnoticed) over to operations like border patrol, satellite monitoring, and the Coast Guard, where it might actually help protect us, instead of just funding futuristic weapons that will never be used for anything but helping generals justify their stars by having units to command.

So here we would be with still, by a factor of two, the largest and most advanced military in the world, but at peace and with $315 billion a year suddenly freed up and at our disposal.

What might we do with all that money?

Well, for starters, if we accept for argument’s sake that the Social Security System is running at a deficit and will eventually be defunded (which, by the way, I do not for a minute believe), actuaries say that injecting about $130 billion a year into the fund (the equivalent of increasing everyone’s SSI payroll tax by 2 percent) would solve the alleged problem indefinitely, allowing all current and future Americans to count on an inflation-adjusted secure retirement forever. So let’s do that. Then there’s education. Currently, the federal government spends about $58 billion a year on education. That gives us classroom sizes in our cities of 30-35 kids (40 here in Philadelphia). That’s not education—that’s child abuse (and teacher abuse). So what say we boost that amount by 50 percent—a much better educational reform than a lot of stupid “No Child Left Behind” testing regimens. Then there’s healthcare, on which the government spends a paltry $52 billion, leaving us with declining life expectancies and infant mortality rates, particularly among our poorest citizens, that are a scandal. Let’s boost that spending by 50 percent, too.

Geez! We still have another $130 billion left!

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sarah Chayes: Living in Afghanistan

(Former NPR reporter and Atlantic Monthly writer Sarah Chayes first covered Afghanistan during the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and stayed on to open up a local cooperative. In this interview she lays out the current political situation in the midst of a violent and chaotic environment. NPR's description, for some reason, is misleading, this is a very good interview and is much broader and more politically orientated.)

NPR Reporter Starts Cooperative

More reports from Sarah Chayes:

DC International Archive

Monday, December 10, 2007

Alan Finder: Decline of the Tenure Track Raises Concerns

(Courtesy of Nate Hinerman)

Decline of the Tenure Track Raises Concerns
by Alan Finder
New York Times

Professors with tenure or who are on a tenure track are now a distinct minority on the country’s campuses, as the ranks of part-time instructors and professors hired on a contract have swelled, according to federal figures analyzed by the American Association of University Professors.

Elaine Zendlovitz, a former retail store manager who began teaching college courses six years ago, is representative of the change. Technically, Ms. Zendlovitz is a part-time Spanish professor, although, in fact, she teaches nearly all the time.

Her days begin at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, with introductory classes. Some days end at 10 p.m. at Oakland Community College, in the suburbs north of Detroit, as she teaches six courses at four institutions.

“I think we part-timers can be everything a full-timer can be,” Ms. Zendlovitz said during a break in a 10-hour teaching day. But she acknowledged: “It’s harder to spend time with students. I don’t have the prep time, and I know how to prepare a fabulous class.”

The shift from a tenured faculty results from financial pressures, administrators’ desire for more flexibility in hiring, firing and changing course offerings, and the growth of community colleges and regional public universities focused on teaching basics and preparing students for jobs.

It has become so extreme, however, that some universities are pulling back, concerned about the effect on educational quality. Rutgers University agreed in a labor settlement in August to add 100 tenure or tenure-track positions. Across the country, faculty unions are organizing part-timers. And the American Federation of Teachers is pushing legislation in 11 states to mandate that 75 percent of classes be taught by tenured or tenure-track teachers.

Three decades ago, adjuncts — both part-timers and full-timers not on a tenure track — represented only 43 percent of professors, according to the professors association, which has studied data reported to the federal Education Department. Currently, the association says, they account for nearly 70 percent of professors at colleges and universities, both public and private.

John W. Curtis, the director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, said that while the number of tenured and tenure-track professors has increased by about 25 percent over the past 30 years, they have been swamped by the growth in adjunct faculty. Over all, the number of people teaching at colleges and universities has doubled since 1975.

University officials agree that the use of nontraditional faculty is soaring. But some contest the professors association’s calculation, saying that definitions of part-time and full-time professors vary, and that it is not possible to determine how many courses, on average, each category of professor actually teaches.

Many state university presidents say tight budgets have made it inevitable that they turn to adjuncts to save money.

“We have to contend with increasing public demands for accountability, increased financial scrutiny and declining state support,” said Charles F. Harrington, provost of the University of North Carolina, Pembroke. “One of the easiest, most convenient ways of dealing with these pressures is using part-time faculty,” he said, though he cautioned that colleges that rely too heavily on such faculty “are playing a really dangerous game.”

Mark B. Rosenberg, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, said that part-timers can provide real-world experience to students and fill gaps in nursing, math, accounting and other disciplines with a shortage of qualified faculty. He also said the shift could come with costs.

To Read the Rest of the article

Also check out the reader comments:

The Plight of the Part-Time Professor

and for adjunct-faculty, this site may be of interest--it is loaded with many resources:

Chicago Coalition of Contigent Academic Labor

Locavore: 2007 New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year

(Courtesy of Claire Glasscock)

Locavore is 2007 word of the year

The New Oxford American Dictionary chose locavore, a person who seeks out locally produced food, as its word of the year. The local foods movement is gaining momentum as people discover that the best-tasting and most sustainable choices are foods that are fresh, seasonal, and grown close to home. Some locavores draw inspiration from the 100-mile diet or from advocates of local eating like Barbara Kingsolver. Others just follow their taste buds to farmers' markets, community supported agriculture programs, and community gardens. Check out Local Harvest to find sustainably grown food near you, and make a New Year's Resolution to be a locavore in 2008!

Sean Penn: Piano Wire Puppeteers

(Courtesy of Claire Glasscock)

Piano Wire Puppeteers: The Constitution, Media & Dennis Kucinich
by Sean Penn
Common Dreams

It’s been an odd week. For me, a particularly odd week. But that’s another story. So, wait a minute. Iran DOESN’T have nuclear weapon capability??? So, who are we gonna bomb? I want to bomb somebody! Didn’t Senator Clinton just vote in essence to give President Bush the power to bomb Iran? If he had done it last week, would that have made her right? I mean, if she knew then what she knows now? Or am I getting that backward? Golly, I’m confused. And what about President Bush? This week, Vladimir Putin, the man Mr. Bush said he “Looked into the eyes of and found to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” So much so, he was “able to get a sense of his soul.” Well that soulful fella has just successfully coalesced the most dangerous power base in Russia since the Cold War amid rumors that include allegations he ordered the assassinations of journalists and imprisonment of noted proponents of freedom (Oops). Meanwhile, our President’s great enemy in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, that “totalitarian,” “authoritarian,” “dictator,” that “mad man run amok,” somehow was unsuccessful in his bid for the constitutional reforms that would have allowed him to be repeatedly re-elected for life…Hmmm? Odd week, you know? Really. What happened to Chavez’s “strong-arming?” His “electoral corruption?” His alleged “gagging of the press?” How in the hell could he have lost? I’m sorry, did I miss something? How is it that this “Commie bastard” with 80% of his citizens having elected him in the first place was unable to prevail? Could it be that we’ve been lied to about him? I mean, Pat Robertson’s not a liar, is he? His god wouldn’t let that happen, would he? And god-forbid, our god would let the right-wing pundits, left-wing corporates, or our own administration send us a bill of goods!? Is it possible, I mean I know it’s silly, but is it just a little bit possible that President Chavez is in fact a defender of his people’s Constitution? That, that’s how his referendum could fail? And that that’s why he accepted it with such grace? A constitution which I have read several times. Quite a beautiful document, not dissimilar to our own. You might give it a read. Oh, I forgot - he’s a “drug runner.” Let me share something with you. Late one night in Caracas, I met with a couple of fellas, mercenaries I think you call them. Goddamit, I keep doing that. I mean “contractors.” They were Brits, their specialty: drug interdiction. These two were no great fans of Chavez. They called him “radical” and expected him to fall to an assassin’s bullet within the year. Like him or not, he had the cash to win their acceptance of his employ. And working alongside the Venezuelan military, these two, based in Caracas, had played the mountainous and jungled border between Columbia and Venezuela. A zone rife with paramilitaries, FARC guerillas, and mer…scratch that, contractors. What I was told that evening in Caracas by these piano wire puppeteers was that they had never worked for a government whose investment in drug interdiction was so genuine. “Yeah,” said one of the Brits, “I gotta give the bastard Chavez that.”But I was talking about the Constitution. Most importantly, our own. And what an odd week it has been. Our culture is engrained with a tradition that blurs the line between what is right, what is just and what is constitutional, with what is a scam. That tradition is the cult of personality. What can TV sell, what kind of crap will we buy. And at what point are we buying and selling our rights, our pride, our flag, our children, and succumbing to meaningless slogans that are ultimately pure titles for un-Americanism. How do we know what’s American and what is not? Because John Wayne tells us so? Because Sean Penn tells us so? Susan Sarandon? Bill O’Reilly? Michael Moore? Senator Bull? Or Senator Shit? Ann “my bowel expenditure” Coulter? No. It’s our Constitution. We don’t use it just to win. We depend on it because it’s the only “us” worth being. And because it’s our children’s inheritance from our shared forefathers and the traditions that really do speak best of our country.

So, here’s the question. We got Iowa coming up, we got New Hampshire right on its ass. Do we sell it for electability? If Hitler were the only candidate, would voting for him be most American? Jump on a plane with me. Okay, we’re over the Middle East now…Let’s land. Take a deep breath.

Imagine the bodies, burned and mutilated, the concussive sounds of gunfire and explosives defining the last horrifying moments of the dying and the dead. Imagine the millions of refugees fleeing through the deserts of Iraq, the babies crying, and the stench of death in the air. Yuck. Let’s get back on the plane and head home.

Now, imagine American servicemen dead or broken, returning from a broken military to a silent casket or a broken veteran’s administration, to broken lives and broken businesses, broken wives, unspoken husbands, and devastated children. And what for? What have we gained? Al-Qaida recruitment is up. Terrorism is up. Quality of life is down in our country and around the world. While the rich continue to get richer and the poor, poorer and more numerous. And on the verge of recession, we are witnessing the dramatic disassembling of the middle class amidst a flood of foreclosures and unpayable debts. To Osama Bin Laden’s infinite delight, we have become a country of principle breakers rather than principle bearers. We are torturers and we too often, imprison only the weak. When our own administration chooses its bewilderingly un-American agenda (For the entitled people? By the entitled people?) over the Constitution in defining American values, principles, and law, Bin Laden laughs at the weakened sheep that we and our representatives have become. High crimes and misdemeanors? How about full-blown treason for the outing our own CIA operatives? How about full-blown treason for those who support this administration through media propaganda? While I’m not a proponent of the Death Penalty, existing law provides that the likes of Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and Rice, if found guilty, could have hoods thrown over their heads, their hands bound, facing a 12-man rifle corps executing death by firing squad. And our cowardly democratically dominated House and Senate can barely find one voice willing to propose so much as an impeachment. That one voice of a true American. That one voice of Congressman Dennis Kucinich. This is not going to be a sound bite. Not if I can help it. I’m torn. I’m torn between the conventional wisdom of what we all keep being told is electibility and the idealism that perhaps alone can live up to the challenges of our generation. Of the democrats running for President, only Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s candidacy is backed by a voting record of moral courage and a history of service to our country that has fully earned our support and our gratitude. And when I say support, I am not speaking to democrats alone, but rather to every American who would take the time on behalf of their children, our planet, and our soldiers to educate themselves on the Kucinich platform. In the recent debate among Democrats in Las Vegas, the candidates, one after the other, placed security ahead of human rights. Benjamin Franklin once said “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Then, there was good ole Patrick Henry. Remember him? “Give me liberty, or give me death.” These were the real tough bastards. The real John Wayne’s. These are the traditions we should be serving. I found the debate infuriating, nearly an argument for fascism with few exceptions, key among them Dennis Kucinich. Of course as a strategic politician, Mrs. Clinton pulled out her set of Ginzu knives and dominated once again on “centrist” political strategy. In fending off attacks upon she, the front runner, she reminded the audience and her fellow candidates, “We are all Democrats.” Wolf Blitzer asked each candidate if they would support the other should they themselves not be the nominee. One after another, the answer, yes. One exception: Dennis Kucinich, who with the minimal time allotted him, once again rose up beyond the sound bite and put principal ahead of party; argued policy rather than politeness. He has been the dominant voice of integrity on issues of trade, labor, education, environment, health, civil liberties, and the one endlessly determined voice of peace. But is he too short? Does his haircut not appeal? Is he not loyal enough to a cowardly democratic platform? Does he not appeal to the cult of personality? And what if the answer is yes? What if Dennis Kucinich, the most deserving and noble of candidates, the most experienced in issues of policy and the least willing to play into the politics of personal power? What if we can’t elect a man simply on the basis of the best ideas, the most courage, and the most selfless service? What does it say about our country when we can’t rally the voices of the common good to support a man, like our troops, who would die for us, who would die for our constitution? Who, as mayor of Cleveland at the age of 31 stood up against contracts on his life. Three separate assassins whose intent was to kill him as he stood up for his constituency there. Nonetheless, he carries on. He continues to serve. I’ve been a supporter of Dennis Kucinich for several years. And I’ve been torn lately. I’ve been torn by the allure of “electability.” I began to invest some support in a very good man (one among Dennis’s opponents) who seems to be finding himself as a constitutional defender, but he’s not one yet. He is however, among those that we allow the media to distinguish as electable. But we’re talking about the Constitution here. We’re talking about our country. I have decided not to participate in proactive support on the basis of media distinctions. I have chosen to pledge my support to the singular, strongest and most proven representative of our constitutional mandate. Dennis Kucinich offers us a very singular opportunity as we share this minute of time on earth. We, the people. It is for us to determine what is electable. And here’s how simple it is: If we, those of us who truly believe in the Constitution of the United States of America, all of us, vote for Dennis Kucinich, he will be elected. Could we call him electable then? If so, America will stand taller than ever.

Let’s remind our friends in the social circles of New York and the highbrow winner-friendly and monied major cities that support Mrs. Clinton, that this is not Bill Clinton. For all the misgivings I have about our former President, he raised up friends and opposition alike, his great gift as a motivator of interest and activism, of self-education and participation was, on its own merits, a unique gift. But don’t underestimate personal agendas, those that initiated NAFTA, betrayed Haitian refugees and gay rights in the military within a minute of his own election. Don’t underestimate that part of him when he gives his wife the face of his talent. Don’t underestimate the damage her poisonous ambition can do to this country. We can’t wait for the benefit of hindsight to service the benefit of Mrs. Clinton’s career. Let’s raise up men and women of vision, of integrity, of belief in our principles. How exciting would that be to do? How good would that be for television? What if we turned this game around? Imagine watching on television, our country raising up a leader because he represents our Constitution. Yes, good things can be good TV. So, let’s give the Constitution another read, shall we? And then decide who its greatest defender would be. I suggest that Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike will find that they know what’s really right in their hearts and minds.

–Sean Penn presented this on December 7th at 1:00pm in The Creative Arts Building, 1900 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco State University.


Best of the Left: Know Your Enemy

Know Your Enemy
Best of the Left
Produced by Billy Baptism

These texts from the recent Republican debate:

Act 1: Hunter - Let’s Build a Wall
Act 2: Hunter Huckabee Romney McCain - Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
Act 3: Hunter - Gun Love
Act 4: Giuliani McCain Hunter - Repairing Our Image
Act 5: Romney McCain - Waterboarding Torture
Act 6: Huckabee Giuliani Romney - Bible Love
Act 7: Huckabee Tancredo - Death Penalty, WWJD?
Act 8: Paul Thompson - Abortion = Crime Part 1
Act 9: Giuliani Romney - Abortion = Crime Part 2

Mixed with these tunes:

There Will Be No Morning Copy - Clann Zú
Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt - DJ Shadow
Fear and Resilience (Danger Mouse Remix) - Pedro
Sacrifice - The Melvins
Kabelski - Spy Lab
Lost the Way - Wax Tailor
Disgustipated - Tool
Crimson - DJ Krush
Mad World - Speakeasy

To Listen to the Episode

Friday, December 07, 2007

Lawrence Lessig: Free Culture

(This is an essential book for anyone interested/researching new media, technological culture, and the struggle between free culture/private property. It is a fascinating work that fully engages our imagination through narratives filled with important historical facts. In the spirit of the book it is available online for anyone to listen to and I recommend listening to it two or three times, and, getting your own copy so that you can refer back to it when needed.)

Free Culture

Lawrence Lessig could be called a cultural environmentalist. One of America’s most original and influential public intellectuals, his focus is the social dimension of creativity: how creative work builds on the past and how society encourages or inhibits that building with laws and technologies. In his two previous books, CODE and THE FUTURE OF IDEAS, Lessig concentrated on the destruction of much of the original promise of the Internet. Now, in FREE CULTURE, he widens his focus to consider the diminishment of the larger public domain of ideas. In this powerful wake-up call he shows how short-sighted interests blind to the long-term damage they’re inflicting are poisoning the ecosystem that fosters innovation.
All creative works—books, movies, records, software, and so on—are a compromise between what can be imagined and what is possible—technologically and legally. For more than two hundred years, laws in America have sought a balance between rewarding creativity and allowing the borrowing from which new creativity springs. The original term of copyright set by the Constitution in 1787 was seventeen years. Now it is closer to two hundred. Thomas Jefferson considered protecting the public against overly long monopolies on creative works an essential government role. What did he know that we’ve forgotten?

Lawrence Lessig shows us that while new technologies always lead to new laws, never before have the big cultural monopolists used the fear created by new technologies, specifically the Internet, to shrink the public domain of ideas, even as the same corporations use the same technologies to control more and more what we can and can’t do with culture. As more and more culture becomes digitized, more and more becomes controllable, even as laws are being toughened at the behest of the big media groups. What’s at stake is our freedom—freedom to create, freedom to build, and ultimately, freedom to imagine.

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Confabulate

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

confabulate \kun-FAB-yuh-layt\ verb

1 : to talk informally : chat

*2 : to hold a discussion : confer

3 : to fill in gaps in memory by fabrication

Example sentence:
Before accepting my offer to purchase their handmade quilt, Polly and Linda took a moment to confabulate.

"Confabulate" is a fabulous word for making fantastic fabrications. Given the similarities in spelling and sound, you might guess that "confabulate" and "fabulous" come from the same root, and they do — the Latin “fabula,” which means "conversation, story." Another “fabula” descendant that continues to tell tales in English is "fable." All three words have long histories in English: “fable” first appeared in writing in the 14th century, and “fabulous” followed in the 15th. “Confabulate” is a relative newcomer, appearing at the beginning of the 1600s.

To the Best of Our Knowledge: Transgender Identity

Transgender Identity
To the Best of Our Knowledge

*"Being a man, like being a woman, is something you have to learn." That's what Aaron Raz Link says. And Link should know. He began life as a girl named Sarah. And he started a new life as a gay man twenty-nine years later. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge we'll meet Aaron Raz Link, and his mother, Hilda Raz, as we explore issues of transgender identity. Also, the gender-bending speculative fiction of Kelley Eskridge. Eskridge talks about her captivating character, Mars, whose gender remains a mystery. And mystery novelist Jason Goodwin introduces us to his detective, Yashim... a Turkish eunuch.


Aaron Raz Link and his mother, Hilda Raz, are the co-authors of a collaborative memoir called "What Becomes You." Aaron was born female and lived the first 29 years of his life as a girl named Sarah. He then went through the hormone and surgical therapies to become male and lives now as a gay man.


Genesis P-Orridge is a conceptual artist who calls himself a cultural engineer. He was born male but is re-inventing himself as a "pandrogyne," or hermaphrodite by choice. Joining him in this endeavor was the woman he married. Doug Gordon talks with Genesis P-Orridge, and we hear music from his latest ensemble, Psychic TV.


Jason Goodwin won the Edgar Award for "The Janissary Tree," his first novel featuring Yashim Togalu, a eunuch who lives in 19th century Istanbul. Yashim is back in "The Snake Stone." Goodwin talks with Anne Strainchamps about Yashim and his similarity to other classic detectives. Also, Kelley Eskridge is a fiction writer, essayist and screenwriter. Her latest collection of short stories is called "Dangerous Space." Three of the stories feature a compelling character named Mars whose gender is never revealed. Eskridge tells Jim Fleming what she was trying to accomplish with Mars and how people have reacted.

To Listen to the Episode

Thursday, December 06, 2007

David Wilcove: Migrating Animals Have "No Way Home"

Author Finds Migrating Animals Have "No Way Home"
Host: Terry Gross
Fresh Air

David Wilcove, one of world's leading experts on endangered species, discusses his new book, No Way Home, which chronicles the decline of the world's animal migrations. Wilcove is professor of ecology, evolutionary biology and public affairs at Princeton University.

Listen to the Episode

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Locofoco

(Where are the locofocos?)

Locofoco \loh-kuh-FOH-koh\ noun
Merriam Webster Dictionary

1 : a member of a radical group of New York Democrats organized in 1835 in opposition to the regular party organization

*2 : a member of the Democratic party of the United States
Example sentence:

“It might be said that Roosevelt was the greatest locofoco since Andrew Jackson.” (Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins)

“Locofoco” burned brightest in 19th-cenutry America, where it designated a new type of self-igniting match or cigar capable of being lit by friction on a hard surface. The word is believed to combine the adjective “locomotive” (which was commonly taken to mean “self-propelled,” though “loco” actually means “place,” not “self,” in Latin) and the Italian word for “fire,” “fuoco.” The political meaning of “Locofoco” is a story in itself. In 1835, a group of radical Democrats brought locofoco matches to one of their meetings after hearing that their adversaries were plotting to disrupt the meeting by putting out the gas lights. The room did indeed go black but was soon relit, thus earning the group its name.

Hannah Rosin: How Hollywood Saved God

(Courtesy of Gerry Adair)

How Hollywood Saved God
by Hannah Rosin
The Atlantic

This month, New Line Cinema will release The Golden Compass, based on the first book in a trilogy of edgy children’s novels written by the British author Philip Pullman. A trailer for the movie evokes The Lord of the Rings, and comparisons have been made to The Chronicles of Narnia. All three are epic adventures that unfold in a rich fantasy world, perfect for the big screen. But beyond that basic description, the comparisons fall apart. In the past, Pullman has expressed mainly contempt for the books on which the other movies were based. He once dismissed the Lord of the Rings trilogy as an “infantile work” primarily concerned with “maps and plans and languages and codes.” Narnia got it even worse: “Morally loathsome,” he called it. “One of the most ugly and poisonous things I’ve ever read.” He described his own series as Narnia’s moral opposite. “That’s the Christian one,” he told me. “And mine is the non-Christian.”

Pullman’s books have sold 15 million copies worldwide, although it’s difficult to imagine adolescent novels any more openly subversive. The series, known collectively as His Dark Materials, centers on Lyra Belacqua, a preteen orphan who’s pursued by a murderous institution known as “the Magisterium.” Or to use the more familiar name, “the Holy Church.” In its quest to eradicate sin, the Church sanctions experiments involving the kidnap and torture of hundreds of children—experiments that separate body from soul and leave the children to stumble around zombie-like, and then die.

The series builds up to a cataclysmic war between Heaven and Earth, on the model of Paradise Lost (the source of the phrase his dark materials). But in Pullman’s version, God is revealed to be a charlatan more pitiable even than Oz. His death scene is memorable only for its lack of drama and dignity: The feeble, demented being, called “the ancient of days,” cowers and cries like a baby, dissolving in air. The final book climaxes, so to speak, in a love scene that could rattle the sensibilities of an American culture that tolerates even Girls Gone Wild, because in this case the girl is still a few years away from college. (More on this later.)

Four years ago, before anyone worried about marketing a movie, Pullman wondered why his books hadn’t attracted as much controversy as the Harry Potter series—another Hollywood favorite. As he told The Sydney Morning Herald, he was “saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God.”

In 2001, Pullman became the first author to win the prestigious Whitbread Award for a children’s book—The Amber Spyglass, the third book in the series. A six-hour London theater production of the books sold out its entire four-month run even before the reviews were published. Many of Pullman’s avid adult fans seek out his books because of his critique of religion. But they, like his adolescent readers, get drawn into his world by his fantastic imagination.

The series begins in a parallel Oxford, England, at “Jordan College,” where the familiar and the fantastic coexist. Lyra is the anti-Disney heroine: an unruly, unteachable orphan cared for by the university’s dons who spits and lies her way out of trouble. She cobbles together a family from other brave, reckless cast-offs like herself: a kitchen boy; a young, runaway murderer; gypsies and witches. For a time she finds a surrogate father in Iorek Byrnison, a deposed bear king decked out in metal armor who speeds her through one of several parallel worlds. (As with most fantasies, any attempt to summarize plot and character edges too close to Dungeons & Dragons. Trust me, in the novels it all hangs together.) Her most intimate relationship is with her “daemon,” a soul that lives outside the body in animal form. In Lyra’s world, a child’s daemon can change form—hers can shift rapidly from moth to ermine to rat, depending on her mood—until its companion hits puberty, at which point it settles as a fitting animal. The daemons of the Holy Church functionaries? They tend to be dogs.

To an industry intoxicated with sophisticated visual effects, Pullman’s creations were irresistible. In 2003, when describing what sold him on the movie, Toby Emmerich, New Line’s president of production, explained, “It was two words: Iorek Byrnison.” Iorek is an “insanely awesome character,” he added. “He can’t tell a lie,” Emmerich told me recently, “and [Lyra] is an expert liar.” And Hollywood had a precedent in the perfect chemistry between Narnia’s little Lucy and the special-effects lion Aslan. (Of course, Aslan is a stand-in for Jesus, while Iorek helps Lyra conquer the forces of God.)

New Line commissioned the first script in 2002. In the five years since—spanning two writers, two directors, and several scripts—the studio has spent enormous energy sorting out exactly how to characterize the villains in the movie.

You can probably guess how things turned out. Given enough time and effort, Hollywood can tweak and polish and recast even the darkest message until it would seem at home in a Fourth of July parade. In the end, the religious meaning of the book was obscured so thoroughly as to be essentially indecipherable. The studio settled on villains that, as Emmerich put it, “feel vaguely kind of like a fascistic, totalitarian dictatorship, Russian/KGB/SS” stew. The movie’s main theme became, in one producer’s summary, “One small child can save the world.” With $180 million at stake, the studio opted to kidnap the book’s body and leave behind its soul.

To Read the Rest of the Article

More resources:

Mark Morford: The Sum of All Fears

Chuck Norris' call for a boycott of the film (in which it is obvious he hasn't seen it)

Studio 360: Dylan, Hamlet, Neuroscience

(Todd Haynes' film I'm Not There is the best film I have seen in theaters this year!)

Dylan, Hamlet, Neuroscience
Host: Kurt Anderson
Studio 360

Some of the greatest shape-shifters of all time. Throughout his career Bob Dylan tried out several different personas, and filmmaker Todd Haynes captures them in his new biopic, I’m Not There. Actor Scott Shepherd takes on Hamlet by channeling a 1960s Richard Burton. And writer Jonah Lehrer tells us how science is just now proving what artists like Whitman and Cezanne observed over a century ago.

To Listen to the Episode

Studio 360: Fakes and Saltbreakers

Fakes and Saltbreakers
Host: Kurt Anderson
Studio 360

Studio 360 pulls back the curtain on the world of fakes. Kurt Andersen and art expert Thomas Hoving look at why we still get fooled by artifice. We’ll hear from an art forger in England who did time for his crimes, and about the actors who impersonated presidents during radio’s early days. And later, singer-songwriter Laura Veirs performs live in the studio with her band, Saltbreakers.

Listen to the Episode

Kathy Lohr: Senator Probes Megachurches' Finances

Senator Probes Megachurches' Finances
by Kathy Lohr

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, expects responses this week from half a dozen of the country's largest churches to questions about their finances.

Grassley has taken on megachurches, where millions of dollars are raised with little oversight. In letters that Grassley sent to the churches last month, he wonders whether the lavish lifestyles of the ministers violate the churches' tax-exempt status.

The churches are huge, with congregations in the tens of thousands. The buildings are like magnificent stadiums, and the pastors are larger than life.

Rev. Creflo Dollar preaches the prosperity gospel, the belief that wealth is a blessing from God. He runs World Changers International Church just south of Atlanta. In a DVD called Does God Want You to be Poor?, Dollar says that Jesus was not poor and his disciples were not poor. He says faith can transform poverty into an abundant life.

"When we are prosperous people, we are responsible for going in, going back and impacting somebody else's life that's down. That's our job: to pick people up," Dollar says on the DVD. "But listen, how you gonna pick somebody up when you're down yourself?"

Rev. Dollar did not respond to requests for an interview. At a recent Bible study at his church, he encouraged members to open a savings account. But it's the extravagant pattern of spending at megachurches that led Grassley to send letters to the six ministries — including Dollar's — with inquiries about their financial records.

The others include Bishop Eddie Long Ministries in Georgia; Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn Ministries in Texas; Joyce Meyer Ministries in Missouri; and Paula White Ministries in Florida.

Grassley's Inquiry

Grassley said there have been complaints about the pastors' extravagant lifestyles and questions about whether the churches' tax-exempt status is being abused. That includes the personal use of Rolls Royce cars, private jets and multimillion-dollar homes. Grassley is also looking into exorbitant salaries, so called "love offerings" or cash payments to ministers; a justification for layovers in Hawaii and the Fiji Islands; and in one case, the purchase of a $23,000 commode with a marble top.

"There's enough questions being raised that we felt it should be further investigated," Grassley told NPR.

To Listen/Read the Rest

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

NOW: Will the 2008 Vote Be Fair?

Will the 2008 Vote Be Fair?

How safe is your right to vote? Former Justice Department official and voting rights lawyer David Becker, who worked under both President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton, alleges a systematic effort to deny the vote to hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Americans. In a revealing interview with NOW's David Brancaccio, Becker openly worries that the 2008 election will not be free and fair. Is our government part of the solution, or part of the problem?

To Listen/Watch the Episode

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

'Masada Songbook': John Zorn Redefines Jewish Music

'Masada Songbook': Zorn Redefines Jewish Music

Originally aired in 2005

Just over a decade ago, renegade composer and saxophonist John Zorn set out to redefine Jewish music with an ambitious set of pieces he called the "Masada Songbook."

There are now over 200 pieces in the catalog, which take their inspiration from klezmer, Middle Eastern and classical music.

In his original group, John Zorn played saxophone alongside a trumpeter, bass player and drummer. But the catalog was designed to be played by any group of instruments, and Zorn's discography has since expanded to include renditions by klezmer bands, jazz combos and vocalists.

Now, for the 10th anniversary of the songbook, John Zorn's Tzadik label has released Masada Rock featuring the Jewish power trio Rashanim and led by guitarist Jon Madof.

Zorn and Madof recently spoke with host Liane Hansen about their work and the continuing evolution of Jewish music.

To Listen to the Interview and the Music

Bluegrass Community and Technical College: Filmmaking Certificate Program Accepting Students for Winter/Spring Session

(A great opportunity for those interested in learning about filmmaking--and don't forget our film studies courses. Message below is from Arthur Rouse)

Filmmaking Certificate Program Accepting Students for Winter/Spring Session

The Filmmaking Certificate Program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington is now accepting applications for Winter/Spring 2008. The program is a ONE-SEMESTER, hands-on overview of all the elements of filmmaking from script to screen. Attendees work with industry professionals from Hollywood, New York and Chicago as they write, produce, direct, shoot, light edit and score their own work. The program meets Monday through Thursday from 1pm until 5pm from January 7th through May 2, 2008. Classes in Theatrical Arts are included on Monday night.

Our graduates are now working in the independent film industry in Kentucky, Florida and California.

Click here to see session poster or visit for more details.

You must enroll in BCTC for the Spring Semester, then register for the program. This process take about 10 days. Contact Arthur Rouse at 859-255-9049 or to get started.

The Kentucky Film Lab is a non-profit organization dedicated to energizing the cinematic arts community in Kentucky with innovative approaches to education, collaboration, production and distribution.

To The Point: The Status of Women in Islamic Countries and the US

The Status of Women in Islamic Countries and the US
Host: Warren Olney
KCRW: To The Point

A Bangladeshi woman was hounded out of her country for comments about the Koran and women's rights. Now she's had death threats from Muslims in India. In Saudi Arabia, a rape victim's sentence of 200 lashes has inspired international outrage. After facing a barrage of questions at last week's Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, promised the courts will review the sentence for the 20-year old woman who was raped—along with a male companion—by seven men. In the United States, women were not given the right to vote until 1920. Current law allows a woman to be elected President, but Hillary Clinton is the first to have a real chance. Misogyny, however, is by no means dead, as demonstrated by many Facebook headlines about her candidacy. Moreover, when a woman supporter asked Senator John McCain, "How do we beat the bitch?," he famously did not rebuke her for using that term. Is misogyny enshrined in Islamic law? What about the United States? We look attitudes toward women in religion and culture.

Farida Deif: Women's Rights Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Laleh Bakhtiar: In-House Scholar, Kazi Publications
Bernard Haykel: Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University
Jonathan Tilove: National Correspondent, Newhouse News Service
Michael Kimmel: Professor of Sociology, State University of New York-Stony Brook

To Listen to the Program

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Paul Goodman: How Would You Live?; Yes! Magazine: Building a Just and Sustainable World

(Cited in the latest issue #44 of Yes! magazine "Liberate Your Space"--for Lexingtonians, you can find it at Wild Oats)

Suppose you had the revolution you are talking and dreaming about. Suppose your side had won, and you had the kind of society that you wanted. How would you live, you personally, in that society? Start living that way now!

Paul Goodman (1911-1972)
Author and Sociologist

"Don't Ask for Change. Be the Change." (from the cover)

Yes! Magazine website is a must read and for educators there are many resources:

Resources for Teachers

and they offer a free trial one-year subscription for educators!

Special Offer for Teachers

Oh, the magazine is entirely ad-free!

Bill Moyers' Journal: Christians United for Israel (CUFI)

Bill Moyers Journal

"If a line has to be drawn, draw it around Christians and Jews. We are united."
-Pastor John Hagee, CUFI Founder

John Hagee, along with other Christian Evangelical leaders, created Christians United for Israel (CUFI) less than two years ago, yet it has already grown into one of the largest and most politically influential Christian grassroots organizations in the country.

"When 50 million evangelical bible-believing Christians unite with five million American Jews standing together on behalf of Israel, it is a match made in heaven."

Dr. Hagee founded and is the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational evangelical church that has more than 18,000 members. He is also the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which he says boasts a television and radio audience of 99 million homes.

At the recent annual CUFI summit in Washington, D.C., prominent politicians were present to pledge support for this growing movement, including Senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, as well as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Lieberman particularly sang Hagee's praise:

"He is a Ish Elokim, a man of God and those words really fit Moses he's become a leader of a mighty multitude, even greater than the multitude that Moses led from Egypt to the promised land."

CUFI considers its defining issue to be the growing challenge of radical Islam, particularly as relates to the security of Israel and the United States. CUFI is incresingly concerned by Iran and its potential nuclear threats. Hagee often alludes to Nazi Germany in order to underline what he believes to be the gravity of the situation:

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are reliving history. It is 1938 all over again," Hagee explains in a 2007 speech. "Iran is Germany. Ahmadinejad is Hitler. And Ahmadinejad, just like Hitler, is talking about killing the Jews."

Theology of Christian Zionism

Increasingly, some American evangelical Christians have emerged to form an alliance with Israel. Citing Biblical prophecy, this group of evangelicals call for all of the West Bank to remain in Israeli hands, and they oppose any two-state solution. Sometimes called Christian Zionists, they believe that a Christian Messiah will return to earth in Jerusalem. They have joined with conservative Israeli politicians to oppose any division of the city.

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL reports on the politically powerful group Christians United for Israel, whose leader, Pastor John Hagee, advocates for a preemptive strike against Iran.

THE JOURNAL gets theological and political perspective on the story in the Middle East from Ronald J. Sider, Professor of Theology and President of Evangelicals for Social Action, and from M.J. Rosenberg, Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum.

To Listen to the Show and Access Background Resources

For a more progressive religious movement, check out:

Interfaith Youth Movement