Monday, November 30, 2009

The Battle of Seattle 10 Years Later: David Solnit and Ananda Tan Reflect on 1999 Shutdown of WTO Talks and the Birth of a Movement

The Battle of Seattle 10 Years Later: Organizers Reflect on 1999 Shutdown of WTO Talks and the Birth of a Movement
Democracy Now

Ten years ago, on November 30, 1999, tens of thousands of people from across the country and the world shut down the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle. Police responded by firing teargas and rubber bullets. Hundreds were arrested. On this 10th anniversary, we speak with two organizers of the protests: David Solnit, co-author of “The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle” and Ananda Tan, of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

David Solnit, Direct Action Network organizer in Seattle. Co-author with sister Rebecca Solnit of “The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle.” He is also with the Mobilization for Climate Justice.

Ananda Tan, North America coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and organizing with the Mobilization for Climate Justice coalition. He led a group of 4,000 Canadian workers to the protests in Seattle 10 years ago.

To Read/Listen/Watch

10 Year Anniversary of 1999 WTO (World Trade Organization) Protests in Seattle

Today is the 10 year anniversary of the 1999 WTO Protests in Seattle:

To find more videos on this subject

More Resources:

From Geneva, Greg Palast on the current activities of the WTO

William Burroughs: Ah Pook; Advice for Young [and Old] People

Justin Vicari: Post-Iraq cinema — veteran heroes in The Jacket and Harsh Times

Post-Iraq cinema — veteran heroes in The Jacket and Harsh Times
by Justin Vicari
Jump Cut

With increased numbers of servicemen and women returning to U.S. society from war zones in the Middle East and elsewhere, the problem of the veteran’s re-assimilation to civilian life has become the stuff of timely cinematic drama. There has been a spate of recent Hollywood films about Iraq, including Jarhead (2004), Rendition (2007), In the Valley of Elah (2007) and Stop-Loss (2008). Most of these films take the somewhat equivocal stance of being “pro-soldier/anti-war.” One either believes in the Iraq war or one doesn’t, and it’s only humane to be “pro-soldier” when considering the enormous risk these fighting men and women have placed themselves in under the name of a dubious agenda so ill-defined and often mismanaged by the Bush/Cheney administration. But are these films really helping any kind of cause? Or are they symptomatic of a tendency, already becoming deeply ingrained in our media culture, to fictionalize the real and turn it into a kind of escapism that assuages guilt while changing nothing?

Unlike Vietnam cinema, whose first important exemplars — The Deer Hunter (1978), Coming Home (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979) — were not made until several years after the U.S. pullout from Saigon, Iraq war cinema has kept pace with the war itself. This mania for being current, which characterizes our present time, often leads to muddled, undigested statements that mirror the distracted/distracting way in which the real war has been prosecuted and covered. From day one, the invasion and occupation of Iraq have already been promoted, shamefully, as a kind of mass-escapist entertainment (escapism from fears of 9/11 and doubts about U.S. world dominance) and milked for opportunities for jingoistic political spectacle. In a conflict where reporters have been embedded and more or less de-fanged, and where photographs of potentially demoralizing U.S. casualties were criminalized by fiat in the Bush era, we probably need more documentary, and less fictional, evidence about the Iraq experience.

To a great degree Iraq differs from all other “official” wars that the United States has waged, in that many of the coalition soldiers are well-paid contractors who have signed up, not with the army, but with private military firms. In his landmark study, Corporate Warriors (2003), P. W. Singer asks whether the recent proliferation of these private firms, with their tendency to exploit warfare for profit and stock-option speculation, is eroding our trust in social institutions. He writes,

“Politics are now directly and openly linked with economic interests (in normative terms, a return to a tymocratic or money-based system of governance), which can lead to breakdown of respect for governmental authority, and also delegitimizes its right to rule. Or, as one analyst described [it] in more strident terms, ‘These khaki and Brooks Brothers clad mercenaries endorse the idea that power belongs to those who can afford it.’”

Privately contracted armies are like Pandora’s box: once sprung upon us, they are unlikely to go away. Singer’s only real conclusion to the thorny problem of how to provide international security in a complicated globalized marketplace is that changing times require changing ingenuities. But whatever we might think of wars themselves or the people who inevitably profit by them, one constant remains — that the combat veteran continues to have a difficult and traumatic experience. A figurehead of barely commensurable contradictions, trained both to unquestioningly obey all orders from above and also to kill at will, the veteran can become a painful misfit when he must re-learn how to function beyond the military’s strict disciplinary codes. Sometimes he can never re-learn this.

“An employee of a London-based PMF [private military firm] described the motivations that led him to join the [privatized military] industry: ‘I joined the Army at 18 and left at 42. What else could I do but be a soldier? . . . What choice do I have?’”

If the nineteenth was the century of industrial capitalism and the twentieth the century of advanced, post-industrial capitalism, then the twenty-first century (or at least its first eight years) seem to be an era of “psychotic capitalism,” lacking moral restraint or social conscience. Now single big-grab payoffs are favored over long-term investments, insider trading and illegal deals flourish under cover of respectability, and burnt bridges preempt cultivated business opportunities. The implosion of Wall Street and the investment banking system in the United States (even vaster in implication, perhaps, than the 1929 crash and the ensuing Great Depression) indicate psychotic capitalism writ large, leaving scorched earth rather than arable soil. It is as if the country assumes that whatever crime one can get away with amounts to sound business practice. And again, the effects of gambling with enormous sums of capital, as well as using extreme and potentially criminal methods of reaping and protecting further sums, characterize the privatized military sector, where any multi-millionaire can theoretically buy an army or armed conflict anywhere in the world. As Singer writes,

“In game-theory terms, each interaction with a private actor in the international securities market is sui generis, that is unique, or constituting a class alone. Exchanges take the form of 1-shot games, rather than guaranteed repeated plays.”

No longer beholden to the rational, psychotic capitalism runs amok, loses touch with right and wrong, and mortgages a steady, solid future for the adrenalin-rushing ups and downs of today.

And when the larger society suffers from a kind of mental instability, its individual citizens cannot be far behind, particularly those most burdened by having to do the “dirty work,” so to speak. We know all too well that combat veterans are subject to lingering psychological after-effects, perhaps most notably post-traumatic stress disorder. This diagnosis came to light in the wake of Vietnam but for all intents and purposes is probably no different than the “shell shock” that afflicted veterans of World War I. Because he can be seen as both an Everyman and an iconoclastic individual set apart from others, the war veteran has had a long history of being both hero and anti-hero in Hollywood cinema. The jaded, vengeful posse in John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) are Civil War vets, as is the weary infantryman, Inman (Jude Law), who returns from the front only to sacrifice himself for the good of his community and the woman he loves, Ada (Nicole Kidman), in Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain (2003). Cagney’s vicious gangster in The Roaring Twenties (1939) is a World War I doughboy who comes home to an America where he is reviled and denied honest work, while the amoral, emotionally vacant, cold-blooded men who slouch and swagger through the films noirs of the 1940s and 1950s are often veterans of World War II.

Many films argue that a penchant for killing, learned on the battlefield, cannot be unlearned in civilian life; in fact, killing is often the alienated veteran hero’s only entrée into civilian society, as a hired gun. Rainer Werner Fassbinder deconstructed this trope explicitly in The American Soldier (1970), in which a Vietnam vet is hired by a Munich police department to covertly assassinate its public enemies. He mainly kills women and one effeminate homosexual, so that the entire film reads as a surreal statement on how a hyper-macho (sub)culture, inculcated by war but extended into peacetime, seeks to relentlessly purge from itself all vestiges of the detested feminine element. At that film's end, by way of symbolic retribution, the U.S. soldier’s own mother and gay brother inadvertently bring about his doom.

It was World War II that produced what is perhaps the quintessential veteran saga, William Wyler’s ironically titled The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). The recipient of numerous Academy Awards, this well-known male-melodrama kaleidoscopes the stories of three returning veterans as they deal with alcoholism, depression, disabilities, and their inability to relate to their families. The film's driving theme is that the soldier’s experience of war is one which he cannot share with civilians who have never “been there.” This overwhelming feeling of isolation threatens the veterans’ stability, sanity, and future potential. The movie is painfully authentic: Harold Russell, one of the lead actors in The Best Years of Our Lives, was a real-life veteran who had lost his hands.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Noam Chomsky: Propaganda in a Democracy; The Threat of the Public Beast; Welfare State for the Rich; National Interest vs Special Interests

It’s not the case, as the naïve might think, that indoctrination is inconsistent with democracy. … The point is that in a military State or a feudal State or what we would nowadays call a totalitarian State, it doesn’t much matter what people think because you’ve got a bludgeon over their head and you can control what they do. But when the state loses the bludgeon, when you can’t control people by force and when the voice of the people can be heard, you have this problem. It may make people so curious and so arrogant that they don’t have the humility to submit to a civil rule and therefore you have to control what people think. And the standard way to do this is to resort to what in more honest days used to be called propaganda. Manufacture of consent. Creation of necessary illusions. Various ways of either marginalizing the general public or reducing them to apathy in some fashion.

(Speech at American University quoted in) Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. ed. Mark Achbar. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1994: 43.

In the presidential address to the American Political Science Association in 1934, William Shepard argued that government should be in the hands of "an aristocracy of intellect and power," while the "ignorant, the uninformed and the anti-social elements" must not be permitted to control elections, as he mistakenly believed they had done in the past. One of the founders of modern political science, Harold Lasswell, one of the founders of the field of communications, in fact, wrote in the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences in 1933 or 1934 that modern techniques of propaganda, which had been impressively refined by Wilsonian liberals, provided the way to keep the public in line. Lasswell described Wilson as "the great generalissimo on the propaganda front." Wilson's World War I achievements in propaganda impressed others, including Adolph Hitler. You can read about it in Mein Kampf. But crucially they impressed the American business community. That led to a huge expansion of the public relations industry which was dedicated to controlling the public mind, as advocates used to put it in more honest days, just as writing in the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences in 1934, Laswell described what he was talking about as propaganda. We don't use that term. We're more sophisticated. As a political scientist, Laswell advocated more sophisticated use of this new technique of control of the general public ... [to] enable the intelligent men of the community, the natural rulers, to overcome the threat of the great beast who may undermine order because of, in Laswell's terms, the ignorance and superstition of the masses. We should not submit to "democratic dogmatisms about men being the best judges of their own interests." The best judges are the elites, who must be ensured the means to impose their will for the common good.

---. "Democracy and Education." Mellon Lectures given at Loyola University, 1994.

So the Reaganite statist reactionaries thought that the public, the beast, shouldn't even have the spectator role. That explains their fascination with clandestine terror operations, which were not secret to anybody except the American public, certainly not to their victims. Clandestine terror operations were designed to leave the domestic population ignorant. They also advocated absolutely unprecedented measures of censorship and and agitprop and other measures to ensure that the powerful and interventionist state that they fostered would serve as a welfare state for the rich and not troubled by the rabble. The huge increase in business propaganda in recent years, the recent assault on the universities by right-wing foundations, and other tendencies of the current period are other manifestations of the same concerns. These concerns [of Reaganite statist reactionaries] were awakened by what liberal elites had called the "crisis of democracy," that developed in the 1960s, when previously marginalized and apathetic sectors of the population, like women and young people and old people and working people and so on, sought to enter the public arena, where they have no right to be, as all right-thinking aristocrats understand.

---. "Democracy and Education." Mellon Lectures given at Loyola University, 1994.

The term "national interest" is commonly used as if it's something good for us, and the people of the country are supposed to understand that. So if a political leader says that "I'm doing this in the national interest," you're supposed to feel good because that's for me. However, if you look closely, it turns out that the national interest is not defined as what's in the interests of small, dominant elites who happen to be able to command the resources that enable them to control the state--basically, corporate-based elites. That's what's called the "national interest." And, correspondingly, the term "special interests" is used in a very interesting related way to refer to the population. The population are called the "special interests" the corporation elite are called the "national interests"; so you're supposed to be in favour of the national interests and against the special interests.

---. Language and Politics. edited by C.P. Otero. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1988: 662.

Howard Zinn: Democratic Education

Z-Magazine: From a World Without Borders
Interviewed by David Barsamian


To me, a democratic education means many things: it means what you learn in the classroom and what you learn outside the classroom. It means not only the content of what you learn, but also the atmosphere in which you learn it and the relationship between teacher and student. All of these elements of education can be democratic or undemocratic.

Students as citizens in a democracy have the right to determine their lives and to play a role in society. A democratic education should give students the kind of information that will enable them to have power of their own in society. What that means is to give students the kind of education that suggests to the students that historically there have been many ways in which ordinary people can play a part in making history, in the development of their society. An education that gives the student examples in history of where people have shown their power in reshaping not only their own lives, but also in how society works.

In the relationship between the student and the teacher there is democracy. The student has a right to challenge the teacher, to express ideas of his or her own. That education is an interchange between the experiences of the teacher, which may be far greater than the student in certain ways, and the experiences of the student, since every student has a unique life experience. So the free inquiry in the classroom, a spirit of equality in the classroom, is part of a democratic education.

It was very important to make it clear to my students that I didn't know everything, that I was not born with the knowledge that I'm imparting to them, that knowledge is acquired and in ways in which the student can acquire also.


Skepticism is one of the most important qualities that you can encourage. It arises from having students realize that what has been seen as holy is not holy, what has been revered is not necessarily to be revered. That the acts of the nation which have been romanticized and idealized, those deserve to be scrutinized and looked at critically.

I remember that a friend of mine was teaching his kids in middle school to be skeptical of what they had learned about Columbus as the great hero and liberator, expander of civilization. One of his students said to him, "Well, if I have been so misled about Columbus, I wonder now what else have I been misled about?" So that is education in skepticism.


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

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

Mike Davis: Evil Paradise -- An Artist's Vision of Dubai in the Future

(This essay is from 2005, but I dug it up to put it into play with Ron Sherer's Why Debt at Dubai World Is Shaking World Financial Markets)

Evil Paradise: An Artist's Vision of Dubai in the Future
by Mike Davis
Socialist Review

Mike Davis asks if the road to the future ends at Dubai.

The narration begins: As your jet starts its descent, you are glued to your window. The scene below is astonishing - a 24 square mile archipelago of coral-coloured islands in the shape of an almost finished puzzle of the world. In the shallow green waters between continents, the sunken shapes of the Pyramids of Giza and the Roman Coliseum are clearly visible. In the distance are three other large island groups configured as palms within crescents, and planted with high-rise resorts, amusement parks and a thousand mansions built on stilts over the water. The 'Palms' are connected by causeways to a Miami-like beachfront chock-full of mega-hotels, apartment high-rises and yacht marinas.

As the plane slowly banks toward the desert mainland, you gasp at the even more improbable vision ahead. Out of a chrome forest of skyscrapers (nearly a dozen taller than 1,000 feet) soars a new Tower of Babel. It is an impossible half mile high: the equivalent of the Empire State Building stacked on top of itself.

You are still rubbing your eyes with wonderment and disbelief when the plane lands and you are welcomed into an airport emporium where hundreds of shops seduce you with Gucci bags, Cartier watches and one-kilogram bars of solid gold. The hotel driver is waiting for you in a Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. Friends have recommended the Armani Hotel in the 160-storey tower or the seven-star hotel with an atrium so huge that the Statue of Liberty would fit inside, but instead you have opted to fulfil a childhood fantasy. You always have wanted to be Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Your jellyfish-shaped hotel is, in fact, exactly 66 feet below the sea surface. Each of its 220 luxury suites has clear plexiglas walls that provide spectacular views of passing mermaids as well as the hotel's famed 'underwater fireworks' - a hallucinatory exhibition of 'water bubbles, swirled sand, and carefully deployed lighting'. Any initial anxiety about the safety of your sea-bottom resort is dispelled by the smiling concierge. The structure has a multi-level failsafe security system, he reassures you, that includes protection against terrorist submarines as well as missiles and aircraft.

Although you have an important business meeting at the internet city free-trade zone with clients from Hyderabad and Taipei, you have arrived a day early to treat yourself to one of the famed adventures at the Restless Planet dinosaur theme park. Indeed, after a soothing night's sleep under the sea, you are aboard a monorail headed for a Jurassic jungle. Your expedition encounters some peacefully grazing Apatosaurs, but you are soon attacked by a nasty gang of velociraptors. The animatronic beasts are so flawlessly lifelike - in fact, they have been designed by experts from the British Natural History Museum - that you shriek in fear and delight.

You polish off the afternoon with some thrilling snowboarding on the local black diamond run. Next door is the Mall of Arabia, the world's largest mall - the altar of the city's famed Shopping Festival that attracts 5 million frenetic consumers each January - but you postpone the temptation. Instead you indulge in some expensive Thai fusion cuisine at a restaurant near Elite Towers that was recommended by your hotel driver. The Russian woman at the bar keeps staring at you with almost vampire-like hunger, and you wonder whether the local sin scene is as extravagant as the shopping...

The Sequel to Blade Runner?

Welcome to paradise. But where are you? Is this a new science fiction novel from Margaret Atwood, the sequel to Blade Runner or Donald Trump tripping on acid? No, it is the Persian Gulf city-state of Dubai in 2010. After Shanghai (current population 15 million), Dubai (current population 1.5 million) is the world's biggest building site - an emerging dreamworld of conspicuous consumption and what locals dub 'supreme lifestyles'.

To Read the Rest of the Essay


Contextual Musings pointed me toward these latest architectural monstrosities planned for Dubai:

Dubai's Moving Skyscraper "Dynamic Tower" Planned For 2010

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Darren Aronofsky Initiates a Fictional Derive: 3.0

OK, adopt the altered mindset of your choice, prepare yourself to open your mind to the possibilities, put on Modest Mouse's "3rd Planet"

and then read this:

NASA telescope sees black hole gulping remote star

Watch Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain (don't listen to the mundane critics who do not get this film--it is bold, unique and deep--it is to be experienced ... why are there so few filmmakers that understand that cinema should be an art form that transforms you when you experience the film):

Unwind, revisit, ponder everything while listening to more Modest Mouse (or another favorite)...

Then watch Aronofsky's Pi

Then to keep the pleasant strangeness going read Haruki Murakami's stunningly weird and beautiful Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (my first time reading one of his books, but I will definitely be reading more--the first 30 pages I was having a hard time grasping the dual worlds he portrays in this novel, then, all of a sudden, it became so real... as if I had been there before and this was not all that strange):

"You are fearful now of losing your mind, as I once feared myself. Let me say, however, that to relinquish your self carries no shame," the Colonel breaks off and searches the air for words. "Lay down your mind and peace will come. A Peace deeper than anything you have known" (The Colonel speaking to the Man, who has lost his Shadow, at the End of the World: 318)

"First, about the mind. You tell me there is no fighting or hatred or desire in the Town. That is a beautiful dream, and I do want your happiness. But the absence of fighting or hatred or desire also means the opposites do not exist either. No joy, no communion, no love. Only where there is disillusionment and depression and sorrow does happiness arise; without the despair of loss, there is no hope. (The Shadow speaking to his Man at the End of the World: 334)

Then have a friend sense that you need some powerful meditative words to ground you:

When all the world is dark and fear surrounds me,
when my night-blind soul cries out for help,
I turn to thee.
For thou are my opening to the Light and hope.
Like a child crouching in the dark, bereft of love,
I call to thee for succor and for comfort.
How long must I remain in darkness?
How long must I suffer the darkness of others
that threatens to engulf me?
From far beyond the ultimate source of Light
comes the voice of my desire.
i lift my head but remain silent, accepting
what I cannot change,
enduring that which seeks to overthrow me.
Hope, that most beloved of messengers,
comes winging down the paths of morning.
The darkness lifts, and I see beyond the shadows
to the sun.
I look to thee and I behold my beloved.
I open the window of my battered ark.
And, like a yearning dove,
my heart flies through the opening to freedom
and the Light.

(Amy S. states that "This is the 15th path on the road to ultimate nothingness-which is the Ain Soph of the Kabbalah.")

and then delve into the 5 volumes of Alan Moore's "Promethea" series (which provides a unique fictional perspective on the development of magical thought and belief):

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NBC Refuses To Air PETA's Thanksgiving Ad

[NBC asked PETA to make an ad for thanksgiving. The first one was rejected with the request that they make the ad more informative about "factory farming and turkey slaughter" (remember this is a 30 second ad?) and they submitted this brilliant ad (which NBC rejected--of course)

Courtesy of Sling Blog: NBC Refuses To Air PETA's Thanksgiving Ad]

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan: Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination and Kidnapping

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan: Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination and Kidnapping Program
Democracy Now

In an explosive new article in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reveals the private military firm Blackwater is part of a covert program in Pakistan that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. The article says the program has become so secretive that top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence.


Writing in the the Nation magazine, independent journalist Jeremy Scahill has revealed Blackwater is secretly operating in Pakistan under a covert program that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan.

Blackwater operatives have been working under a covert program run by the Joint Special Operations Command—the military’s top covert operations force. The previously undisclosed JSOC operations would mark the first known confirmation of U.S. military activity inside Pakistan. A military intelligence source said Blackwater operatives are effectively running the drone bombings for both JSOC and the CIA. The CIA drone program is already public knowledge. But the military source says some of the deadliest drone attacks attributed to the CIA were actually carried out by JSOC.

The article also reveals Blackwater operatives have taken part in ground operations with Pakistani forces under a subcontract with a local security firm. The operations have included house raids and border interdictions in northwest Pakistan and other areas. Blackwater has also been given responsibility for planning JSOC operations in Uzbekistan.

The Nation reports the program has become so secretive that top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence.

To Read/Listen/Watch

Monday, November 23, 2009

Anti-Capital Projects: The Necrosocial

(Courtesy of Brian Holmes, on Continental Drift, reporting on the continuing University of California Protests)

Excerpt from the The Necrosocial

In the university we prostrate ourselves before a value of separation, which in reality translates to a value of domination. We spend money and energy trying to convince ourselves we’re brighter than everyone else. Somehow, we think, we possess some trait that means we deserve more than everyone else. We have measured ourselves and we have measured others. It should never feel terrible ordering others around, right? It should never feel terrible to diagnose people as an expert, manage them as a bureaucrat, test them as a professor, extract value from them their capital as a businessman. It should feel good, gratifying, completing. It is our private wet dream for the future; everywhere, in everyone this same dream of domination. After all, we are intelligent, studious, young. We worked hard to be here, we deserve this.

We are convinced, owned, broken. We know their values better than they do: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. This triumvirate of sacred values are ours of course, and in this moment of practiced theater—the fight between the university and its own students—we have used their words on their stages: Save public education!

When those values are violated by the very institutions which are created to protect them, the veneer fades, the tired set collapses: and we call it injustice, we get indignant. We demand justice from them, for them to adhere to their values. What many have learned again and again is that these institutions don’t care for those values, not at all, not for all. And we are only beginning to understand that those values are not even our own.

The values create popular images and ideals (healthcare, democracy, equality, happiness, individuality, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, public education) while they mean in practice the selling of commodified identities, the state’s monopoly on violence, the expansion of markets and capital accumulation, the rule of property, the rule of exclusions based on race, gender, class, and domination and humiliation in general. They sell the practice through the image. We’re taught we’ll live the images once we accept the practice.

Laurie Essig: Lessons from the University of California student protests

Lessons from the UC student protests
by Laurie Essig
Class Warfare

UC Santa Cruz students are still occupying a building after rate hikes were announced across the University of California system last week.

A system wide, 32 percent fee increase approved Wednesday amid the state’s budget crisis sparked protests at several UC campuses, including both Santa Cruz and Berkeley, where groups of students seized control of several administration buildings.

These 32% rate hikes, we are told, are unavoidable. The students have their doubts. So do I.

The ugly truth is that universities have become mini-versions of Neoliberal corporate America. The people at the very top- the presidents and provosts and countless vice presidents- make a quarter million or even a half million dollars a year. A good chunk of all teaching is done by “Adjunct” professors, meaning that getting their PhD has landed them a job where they teach 4 classes a semester (more than full-time faculty) at a couple of thousand dollars a class with no benefits. And the staff- always underpaid- remains so.

To Read the Rest

More Resources:

Infoshop Archive of Reports

Sunday, November 22, 2009

KCRW: RIAA vs Tennebaum

(Joel Tenenbaum eventually lost this case and the jury awarded the RIAA $675,000 as penalties for Tenenbaum downloading 30 songs. Absurd! The RIAA is a typical predatory corporate institution. Burn, Baby, Burn! Joel Fights Back)

RIAA vs Tenenbaum
Politics of Culture (KCRW)

What happens when a Boston student uploads seven songs illegally gets caught by the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA sues him for up to $150,000 per song. Celia Hirschman looks at the latest on this landmark digital law suit.


Charles Nesson: Harvard Law School Professor, Lead Attorney for Joel Tenenbaum

To Listen to the Conversation

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pearls Before Swine: Solving Problems...

Videogum: College Will Turn Your Daughter Into A Pregnant Liberal Who Hates Cookies; College Weekend Workshop: Snakes With PhDs

First watch this marketing video (no, despite your instinct to think this, it is not a parody--they are serious) "The College Casualty":

The College Casualty from Mark Nauroth on Vimeo.

Then visit the College Weekend Workshop it advertises at the end of the video.

I recommend the course content section for a fun time... where they discuss "Snakes With a PhD!!!" where you can learn the "four signs that your professor has a forked tongue"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Linda B. Blackford: Kentucky's Poor spend larger percentage on taxes

Poor spend larger percentage on taxes
By Linda B. Blackford
Lexington Herald-Leader

Low and middle-income Kentuckians pay a larger share of their incomes on state and local taxes than wealthier people do, making the tax system one of many in the country that is inherently unfair, according to a new study.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington, D.C., studied tax codes in every state and concluded that the vast majority depend too much on sales and property taxes, which then puts a greater burden on the lower-income population.

"State and local taxes are profoundly unfair around the nation, and Kentucky is no exception," said Matt Gardner, the author of the study and director of the institute, which bills itself as a non-partisan, non-profit research group.

The study found that, in 2007, people making less than $15,000 a year paid 9.4 percent of their income to sales, property and income taxes, while those making about $36,000 paid 11 percent.

In contrast, the wealthiest 1 percent of Kentuckians, those making more than $346,000 a year, paid 7.1 percent. After federal deductions, the percentage is 6.1.

In 2002, the group did a similar study, which found that the poorest Kentuckians paid 9.8 percent of their income in sales, property and income taxes, while the richest 1 percent paid 7.8 percent.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Social Movements, Street Protests and Engaged Activism: Additional Resources

Building an educational/informational/inspirational online archive of alternative/independent/non-profit sources for the audience for our presentation on Monday--suggestions/comment are appreciated. Of course this list will reflect our perspectives and interests.


Adbusters: The Journal of the Mental Environment

Advocacy 2.0 Guide: Tools for Digital Advocacy

AK Press

American Dissidents (Bill Moyers Journal)

Anti-Capital Projects


Bill Moyers Journal (PBS)

Blog for a Cause!: The Global Voices Guide of Blog Advocacy

Brave New Films

Brian Martin

Class Warfare

Common Dreams

Continental Drift


Creative Commons

Crimethinc.: Ex-Workers Collective


Democracy Now

Documentary is Never Neutral

Doug Henwood (Left Business Observer)

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Defending Freedom in the Digital World

FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

The Fourth World War (USA: Rick Rowley, 2003)

Framing Reality: Language, Rhetoric, Images, Concepts

Framing Science

Free Documentaries

Frontline (PBS: Documentary Archive 1983 - 2009)

Future of Music Coalition: Education, Research, and Advocacy for Musicians

Glenn Greenwald

Global Activism (Worldview)

Global Voices Advocacy

Global Voices Online

History Is a Weapon

Howard Zinn

The Hub: See it. Film it. Change it.

Human Rights Watch

Indy Media

Infoshop: Unthinking Respect for Authority Is the Greatest Enemy of Truth

The Institute for Anarchist Studies: Promoting Critical Scholarship, Exploring Social Domination and Reconstructive Visions of a Free Society

Interactivist Info Exchange

Inter Press Service (IPS)

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC)

Kritik: Theory, Culture, Politics (University of Illinois)

Left Business Observer


Media Education Foundation: Documentary Films/Challenging Media

Media Matters with Bob McChesney

Monthly Review Press

Naomi Klein

New Left Review

Noam Chomsky

No Logo: Brands, Globalization and Resistance (USA: Sut Jhally, 2003: based on Naomi Klein's book)

North of Center (Downtown Lexington's Independent Newspaper: articles posted online)

On the Media (WNYC)

Open Culture

Pittsburgh Indy Media: G20 Reports

The Politics of Culture (KCRW)

PR Watch (Center for Media and Democracy)

Rising Voices: Helping the Global Population Join the Global Conversation

Scarlateen: Sex Ed For the Real World

Seeing Red Radio

Socialist Worker

SourceWatch: Your Guide to the Names Behind the News (Center for Media and Democracy)

This Is What Democracy Looks Like (USA: Jill Friedberg and Rick Rowley, 2000)

TruthDig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (The United Nations)

Witness: Using Video and Online Technologies to Open the Eyes of the World to Human Rights Violations

The Wobblies (Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer, 1979)

Worldview (WBEZ)

Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States.

The Children of Woody Guthrie: Interview with Antonino D'Ambrosio

The Children of Woody Guthrie: Interview with Antonino D'Ambrosio
by Alexander Billet
Socialist Worker

Never underestimate the ability for pop culture to water down its most firebrand figures--especially after they're dead. Luckily, there are people like Antonino D'Ambrosio. His book Let Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer, released in 2003, is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn who the Clash front man really was. D'Ambrosio's new book A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears is a passionate examination of Cash's album protesting the conditions for Native peoples in the early 1960s.

Here, D'Ambrosio takes to Alexander Billet about the new book, his influences, and his thoughts on music and politics.

To Read the Interview

Julien Bell: Grad employees' strike victory at University of Illinois

Grad employees' strike victory at U of I
by Julien Ball
Socialist Worker

WITH THE chant "The workers united will never be defeated," some 500 jubilant members and supporters of Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), AFT/IFT Local 6300, held a rally November 17 in front of Foellinger Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as leaders of the local announced that the administration had agreed to contract language protecting tuition waivers.

Later that evening, a mass membership meeting of more than 450 members of the GEO voted unanimously to accept the contract proposal, and the strike committee met that night and decided to suspend the union's two-day-old strike.

Members of the GEO, which represents teaching assistants (TAs) and graduate assistants (GAs) on campus, had walked out over the university's refusal to agree to language protecting the union's right to bargain the impact of any changes to tuition waivers for out-of-state and international students.

"We knew that in this economic climate, we would have to strike to win anything at all at the bargaining table," Kerry Pimblott, a graduate student in history and member of the union's bargaining team, told the crowd at Foellinger Hall. "It was the pressure coming from all of you that made what we did possible."

Despite the fact that many graduate students depend on tuition waivers to be able to afford to attend the University of Illinois, administrators had refused to guarantee them in a contract, leading members to walk off the job.

TAs teach 23 percent of classes on campus yet receive poverty wages. Meanwhile, disgraced former Chancellor Richard Herman and former university President B. Joseph White--who were forced to resign this fall over a scandal involving the admission of under-qualified but politically connected applicants--still draw a salary of more than $600,000 between them, because of the golden parachutes they received from the university.

The GEO's contract had expired on August 11, and it was only months of rallies and pressure--and finally the strike authorization vote and two-day strike--that forced the university to drop its most regressive proposals.

The university initially proposed an across-the-board wage freeze, refused any contract language protecting employees against unlimited furloughs, and tried to impose a "scope of agreement" clause that would have prevented the GEO from re-opening bargaining in the event of a change in employment conditions.

Last week, after the strike authorization vote, and after hundreds of members packed the bargaining room over the weekend, the university withdrew almost all of these proposed attacks. However, the administration still refused to guarantee tuition waivers, the issue that led to the strike.

In the days leading up to the strike, interim Provost and Chancellor Robert Easter sent a number of misleading and threatening e-mail messages about the GEO. In a November 12 e-mail sent to a list that goes to the entire university community, he announced that "colleges and departments have been planning for the possibility of a strike and will ensure that teaching and learning continue."

Picketers stood strong, however, with more than 1,000 people braving to cold rain to take part in union actions. Meanwhile, an undergraduate solidarity committee formed in the weeks leading up to the strike and drew 35 to 40 people to planning meetings. Members of student groups like La Colectiva, MEcHA, Equality, Campus AntiWar Network, Amnesty International and the International Socialist Organization joined the picket lines. Many professors cancelled classes or moved them off campus, and the entire English department was shut down. Introductory psychology classes with hundreds of students were cancelled, and business generally did not go on as usual.

Meanwhile, the strikers enjoyed support from other union workers--UPS drivers refused to cross picket lines to make deliveries, and members of graduate student unions from the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Chicago drove for hours to support the strike.

As it became clear that the strike was having an impact, Easter began to change his tune.

To Read the Entire Article

How Come These Bible Verses Are Never the Inspiration for a Sermon?

Irreverend Mike's Biblical Indecency

Pearls Before Swine: Do You Think I Could Be Your Soulmate ... ?

Courtesy of Laura W.

The People Speak (New Documentary)

I think this is going to be an amazing documentary! It will premiere on the History Channel, December 13th at 8PM.

Sounds like a good opportunity for The People Speak parties!

Social Movements, Street Protests and Engaged Activism: Setting the Tone for a Presentation

Preparing a lecture/presentation on the continuing importance of social movements, street protests and engaged activism. So collecting good videos/music to set the tone as the audience gathers in the auditorium and as they leave... and, as always, suggestions are appreciated:

(recommend turning down the volume and just looking at the slide show)

Abu-Jamal, Mumia. Empire of Fear.

Adbusters. Brand Spangled Banner.

---. The Product Is You (1999)

The Coup. Riding the Fence.

Def, Mos. Reads Malcom X's "Message to the Grass Roots". (Voices of the People's History of the United States ed. Anthony Arnove and Howard Zinn. (November 9, 2006)

Difranco, Ani and Utah Phillips. Anarchy.

---. The Most Dangerous Woman.

Flobot. Anne Braden. Fight With Tools

---. Mayday. Fight With Tools

---. Rise. Fight With Tools

---. Stand Up. Fight With Tools

---> There Is a War Going On For Your Mind. Fight With Tools

---. We Are Winning. Fight With Tools

Free Range Studios. Consumption. Ch. 5 of The Story of Stuff. (2007)

Lennon, John. Power to the People.

---. Working Class Hero.

Petric, Faith. You Ain't Done Nothing If You Ain't Been Called a Red. (With images of the 2009 G20 Conference and Protests in Pittsburgh, PA)

Phillips, Utah. Direct Action.

Public Enemy. Fight the Power.

Ruffalo, Mark. Reads Eugene Debs' "Canton, Ohio" Speech. (Voices of the People's History of the United States ed. Anthony Arnove and Howard Zinn. (All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA on Feb 1, 2007)

---. Reading from Henry David Thoreau's 1849. (Voices of the People's History of the United States ed. Anthony Arnove and Howard Zinn. (All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA on Feb 1, 2007)

Seeger, Pete. What Did You Learn In School Today.

---. Which Side Are You On.

Vedder, Eddie, et al. Masters of War. (2006)

Walker, Alice. Reading Sojourner Truth (Voices of the People's History of the United States ed. Anthony Arnove and Howard Zinn. (Berkeley, CA: November 11, 2006).

Williams, Saul. List of Demands.

Williams, Saul and DJ Spooky. Not In Our Name. Live Without Dead Time (Adbusters)

Zinn, Howard. The People Speak (Trailer for the Upcoming Documentary)

The Tavis Smiley Show: Paul Mooney

Paul Mooney
The Tavis Smiley Show

Comedian-writer Paul Mooney talks about working with Richard Pryor and using race in his stand-up material.

To Listen to the Conversation

Cheech and Chong: Earache My Eye

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Goth Music: The Early Years

[Thanks to Ravenlovecraft for posting my query on The Dark Realm discussion board. I appreciate all of the comments and will use the thread as an example for the class of how people understand/discuss/form their understanding of subcultures like Goth. I hope the thread continues...]

OK--students in my cultural studies course had a bit of a crisis because half of their presentation group dropped out. They are doing a presentation on the Goth subculture and the two members that dropped out were covering the music. So I offered to help out with an introduction to the roots of the Goth sound (as a non-expert)... here is what I came up with, anyone want to suggest additions?

1970s: The Early Influences

Siouxsie and the Banshees:
Formed in 1976, early British punk contemporary of the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Very influential on the later Goth subculture, especially Siouxsie’s sense of style.

Nicotine Stain

Joy Division:
Formed in 1976 in post-industrial, working-class Manchester. Their music had a deep somber aspect, yet was powerful and driving. Broke up in 1978 when the lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide prior to their first major tour of the USA.

Dead Souls (later covered by Nine Inch Nails and used in the 1994 film The Crow)

trailer for the 2008 British film Control

Formed in 1978, and after only six months together as a band they recorded six songs including:

Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Studio)

Dark Entries (Live)

The Cure:
First formed as the Art School band Obelisk in 1973, it became The Cure with Robert Smith as the lead singer in 1978.

The Lullaby

Sisters of Mercy:
Formed in Leeds in 1980.


Satire (Archive)

(Building this for a cultural studies course--suggestions/comments appreciated)

Black, Lewis. On How America Isn't Number #1 (Lewis Black on Broadway excerpt: Youtube Video posted April 15, 2007)

Brand, Russell. Shame (This is part 1 of the DVD, other 7 parts available)

Bruce, Lenny. All Alone

---. How to Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties

---. Racial Slurs

---. Second to Last Performance

---. Suppression of Words (Performed by Dustin Hoffman)

---. What Should Be/What Is (as performed by Dustin Hoffman)

Buffy vs Edward (Twilight Remixed) (Remix: Jonathan McIntosh, June 19, 2009)

Carlin, George. American Double Standard.

---. Baseball vs. Football.

---. "It's Called the American Dream: Because You Have to Be Asleep to Believe It."

---. Remembering George Carlin

---. Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.

---. War on Homelessness.

---. We Like War.

Cheech and Chong. Earache My Eye. Up In Smoke (1978)

Colbert, Stephen. The Hypocrisy of Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project. The Colbert Report (March, 2009)

Davis, Wendy. "Televisual Control: The Resistance of the Mockumentary." Refractory #15 (June 25, 2009)

Dawson, Mike. "Is Scream a Parody, Pastiche, or Post Modern Thriller?" Left Field Cinema (January 2, 2008)

"Facebook, Twitter Revolutionizing How Parents Stalk Their College-Aged Kids." The Onion (August 2009)

Ferrell, Will. "Something Terrible is Happening!" Move On (September 2009)

Garfunkle and Oates. "Sex With Ducks." (YouTube Video: May 26, 2009)

LaMarre, Heather L., Kristen D. Landreville and Michael A. Beam. "The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report." International Journal of Press Politics 14.1 (April 2009)

Mali, Taylor. "The Impotence of Proofreading." Bowery Poetry Club (Video of Live Performance: November 12, 2005)

Mooney, Paul. Stand Up bit in Bamboozled

---. Interview on the Tavis Smiley Show (PBS: 11/18/09)

Neely Brothers. The Professor Brothers (Collection of videos)

The Onion (Satirical videos/articles: website archive)

PhD Comics

Pryor, Richard. BBC Documentary--Pryor Night, Part 1

---. BBC Documentary--Pryor Night, Part 2

---. BBC Documentary--Pryor Night, Part 3

---. BBC Documentary--Pryor Night, Part 4

---. BBC Documentary--Pryor Night, Part 5

---. BBC Documentary--Pryor Night, Part 6

---. The Evolution of Comedy (about a 1 min in: Kids Lying/SNL Skit w/ Chevy Chase)

Rabin, Nathan. "Happy Happy, Joy Joy: Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy A.V. Club (April 1, 2009)

Sanjek, David. "RIDICULING THE ‘WHITE BREAD ORIGINAL’: The politics of parody and preservation of greatness in Luther Campbell a.k.a. Luke Skyywalker et al. v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc." Cultural Studies 20.2/3 (2006)

Tobias, Scott. "Team America: World Police." A.V. Club (May 28, 2009)

What Would Jesus Buy? (USA: Rob VanAlkemade, 2007)

Lexington Herald-Leader: 'Tough on crime' drains state funds

(Courtesy of Joe Anthony)

"What you'll find is a population increase of more than 650 percent [since 1970; "42 percent from fiscal year 2000 to fiscal year 2009"] and a cost increase of more than 6,300 percent. All during a time span when Kentucky's crime rate increased by about 3 percent."

Lexington Herald-Leader: 'Tough on crime' drains state funds

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jon Stewart Catches Sean Hannity Falsifying Footage To Make GOP Protest Appear Bigger

(Spotted at Huffington Post)

Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Beck's Protest Footage
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
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Todd McGowan: The exceptional darkness of The Dark Knight

The exceptional darkness of The Dark Knight
by Todd McGowan
Jump Cut

Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben sees the great danger inherent in the exception. It leads not just to abuses of civil rights but to large-scale horrors like the Holocaust, which functions as a major point of reference for Agamben’s thought. Exceptionality, for Agamben, launches a legal civil war and thereby plays the key role in the transition from democracy to fascist authoritarianism. The declaration of the state of exception attempts

“to produce a situation in which the emergency becomes the rule, and the very distinction between peace and war (and between foreign and civil war) becomes impossible.”[10]

The problem is that the exceptional time never comes to an end, and the disappearance of the distinction between an emergency and everyday life pushes the society toward a state of civil war that the very exception itself was supposed to quell. Rather than acting as a temporary stopgap for a society on the brink of self-annihilation, the state of exception actually pushes the society further down the path to this annihilation by undermining the distinction between law and criminality and thereby helping to foster a Hobbesian war of all against all, in which every act of sovereign power becomes justified in the name of order.


The logic of the War on Terror waged by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney derives entirely from the idea that they rule in a state of emergency where the normal rule of law will be insufficient for safeguarding the U.S. populace. One must thus carve out an exceptional position outside the law. One of the ramifications of this idea is the legitimization of torture as a normal practice during the interrogation of anyone suspected of having a link with a terrorist organization. But the other ramification touches directly on the actions of Batman in The Dark Knight. The War on Terror, as conceived by Bush and Cheney, is being fought with increased surveillance more than with additional weapons. The nature of the emergency calls for exceptional measures of surveillance, including eavesdropping on telephone calls, spying on emails, and using satellites to track movements, all without court authorization. When Batman uses the device that Fox builds for him, the film's hero elevates himself to an exception in the Bush and Cheney sense of the term. This is one of the points of resonance that led conservative writer Andrew Klavan to link Batman and Bush. But there is nonetheless a fundamental distinction between the two figures and between Batman’s relation to exceptionality and that displayed by Bush.

One might assume that the difference lies in Batman’s readiness to abandon the system of total surveillance after he catches the Joker and the emergency ends. Batman arranges for the system to self-destruct after Lucius Fox has finished using it, and as he walks away from the exploding system, Fox smiles to himself, cheered by Batman’s ethical commitment to abandoning the power Batman had amassed for himself. This image does certainly seem to contrast with the image of the system of surveillance established during the War on Terror, which increases rather than self-destructs as the September 11th attacks move further and further into history. Neither President Bush nor his successor will call an end to the War on Terror or revoke all of the aspects of the Patriot Act. But Klavan can nonetheless see a parallel between Batman’s restoration of full civil rights and Bush’s intention to do so after the emergency ends. The difference between Bush’s version of the state of exception and Batman’s — between the conservative and the leftist — does not ultimately reside in the fact that it is temporary for Batman and permanent for Bush. Both figures view it as temporary, but what separates Batman is the attitude that he takes toward this violation of the law: he accepts that his willingness to embrace this type of exceptionality constitutes him as a criminal. Because he views it as a criminal act, Batman is quick to eliminate it. But this is precisely what Bush would be loath to accept and why he views the War on Terror as a quasi-eternal struggle.

The superhero film has emerged as a popular genre when the problem of the state of exception has moved to the foreground historically. That is not to say, of course, that superhero films owe their popularity to George W. Bush, but that they attract an audience when the relationship between exceptionality and the law has increasingly come into question. As Agamben notes,

“The state of exception tends increasingly to appear as the dominant paradigm of government in contemporary politics. This transformation of a provisional and exceptional measure into a technique of government threatens radically to alter — in fact, has already palpably altered — the structure and meaning of the traditional distinction between constitutional forms.”[11]

The state of exception, for Agamben, is the path by which democracy falls into fascism. The exception becomes confounded with the rule and soon takes its place. From that point forward, a total authority emerges who exercises control over the people with their own security as this authority’s justification. Because the heroic exception is written into the generic requirements, the superhero film exists within this political context.

Most superhero films simply affirm our need for the heroic exception and don’t call the status of this exception into question. This is true for John Favreau’s Iron Man (2008) and Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk (2008), to name just two films released around the same time as The Dark Knight. As a result, even when they have some critical content about the ruling ideology — as with the (albeit limited) critique of the military-industrial complex in Iron Man — their form employing the heroic exception vitiates this content and ends up justifying the conservative direction of contemporary politics. In these films, even if the heroic exception causes certain problems, it is fundamentally necessary for the cause of justice, which would simply be overpowered without it.

To Read the Entire Essay

Monday, November 16, 2009

Social Justice Happening: November 19 - 23 (Lexington, KY)

Thursday, November 19: 7 pm in the Campus Center Gym, Transylvania University: Mountaintop removal icons Larry Gibson, Teri Blanton, Marci Smith, and Dave Cooper will speak after a showing of the great new documentary Coal Country.

Friday, November 20: 11 am until noon in the OB Auditorium: Stephanie Schwabe, UK lecturer in Earth and Environmental Sciences, on “Clear Water Secrets.” This presentation will be a fascinating look at underwater exploration in the Bahamas. For information about the Blue Holes Foundation. Parking enforcement will not be called off. This talk is hosted by BCTC’s Students for Peace and Earth Justice.

Monday, November 23: 6:30 pm until 7:45 pm in the OB Auditorium: Michael Benton and Michael Marchman recently traveled to Pittsburgh to protest the G-20 Summit (an economic forum including the world’s 20 largest economies). They will talk about the purpose of the G-20 talks, what happened in Pittsburgh, and the importance of protest in a democratic society. Parking enforcement will be called off. This talk is hosted by BCTC’s Students for Peace and Earth Justice (SPEJ). This is the last in the SPEJ’s fall series.

James Baldwin: If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?

Baldwin, James. “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language, and the Education of African-American Children. eds. T. Perry and L. Delpit. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998:

If … one managed to change the curriculum in all the schools so that blacks learned more about themselves and their real contribution to this culture, you would be liberating not only blacks, you’d be liberating white people who know nothing about their own history. And the reason is that if you are compelled to lie about one aspect of anybody’s history, you must lie about it all. If you have to lie about my role here, if you have to pretend that I hoed all that cotton just because I loved you, then you have done something to yourself. You are mad. (Baldwin: 8)

What joins all languages, and all men, is the necessity to confront life, in order, not inconceivably, to outwit death: The price for this is the acceptance, and achievement, of one’s temporal identity. So that, for example, though it is not taught in schools … the south of France still clings to its ancient and musical provencal, which resists being described as a ‘dialect.’ And much of the tension in the Basque countries, and in Wales, is due to Basque and Welsh determination not to allow their languages to be destroyed. This determination also feeds the flames in Ireland, for among the many indiginities the Irish have been forced to undergo at English hands is the English contempt for their language … It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identity: It reveals the private identity, and connects with, or divorces one from, the larger public, or community identity. (Baldwin: 68)

FilmSchool: Ryan Fleck -- HALF NELSON

Ryan Fleck -- HALF NELSON
FilmSchool (KUCI: Irvine, CA)

An Interview with screenwriter / director Ryan Fleck and screenwriter / editor Anna Boden of the film Half Nelson — the story of an inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit who forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret.

To Listen to the Interview

Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show On Earth

(Gave Laura a ride to Danville and we listened to this on the way, when we arrived there was 30 minutes left and we sat together spellbound listening to the rest...)

Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show On Earth

Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion created a storm of controversy over the question of God's existence. Now, in The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins presents a stunning counterattack against advocates of "Intelligent Design" that explains the evidence for evolution while keeping an eye trained on the absurdities of the creationist argument.

More than an argument of his own, it's a thrilling tour into our distant past and into the interstices of life on earth. Taking us through the case for evolution step-by-step, Dawkins looks at DNA, selective breeding, anatomical similarities, molecular family trees, geography, time, fossils, vestiges and imperfections, human evolution, and the formula for a strong scientific theory.

Dawkins' trademark wit and ferocity is joined by an infectious passion for the beauty and strangeness of the natural world, proving along the way that the mechanisms of the natural world are more miraculous -- a "greater show" -- than any creation story generated by any religion on earth.

To Listen/Watch

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mikhail Bakhtin: Speech Genres and Other Late Essays


Bakhtin, Mikhail. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Trans. V.W. McGee. Austin: U of Texas P, 1986.

{MB—from Introduction by Vern W. McGee ix-xxiii}
In Bakhtin’s thought the place from which we speak plays an important role in determining what we say (x).

Working as always with a specular subject (a self derived from the other), he makes it clear that speakers always shape an utterance not only according to the object of discourse (what they are talking about) and their immediate addressee (whom they are speaking to), but also according to the particular image in which they model the belief they will be understood {MB—Bakhtin understands this image to be a higher power, an abstract concept, a discipline or body of knowledge, a political institution, humanity in general, etc…}, , a belief that is the a priori of all speech. (xviii)
A common theme running throughout is the need to exceed boundaries, while still recognizing that only through awareness of the very real restraints at work in mental and social life can we do so. (xix)

A note of caution is in order here: Bakhtin’s call to liberation is everywhere informed by a stern awareness of necessity’s central place in the biological limits of our perception, the structure of language, and the laws of society. Our very status as the subjects of our own lives depends on the necessary presence of other subjects. Thus, when Bakhtin says “we are suffocating in the captivity of narrow and homogeneous interpretations,” he is not suggesting there is some freedom beyond interpretation. All understanding is constrained by borders: freedom consists in knowing insofar as possible—for our ability to know is controlled by contextual factors larger then mere individual intention—what those borders are, so that they may be substituted by, translated into different borders. Speech genres provide a good example of this relative degree of freedom: the better we know possible variants of the genres that are appropriate to a given situation, the more choice we have among them. Up to a point we may play with speech genres, but we cannot avoid being generic. There is no pure spontaneity, for breaking frames depends on the existence of frames. (xix)

Bakhtin is arguing here that art is only one (if a fundamentally important) sphere of the larger activity of aesthetics, which encompasses as well most other aspects of life as lived by men and women who manifest their humanity by authoring utterances. Just as in the logosphere that is our home there are genres at work in all our speech, not just in art speech, so is there “everyday ritual,” ritual not confined merely to political or religious life (xx). {MB—end of introductory comments}

There exists a very strong, but one-sided and thus untrustworthy, idea that in order better to understand a foreign culture, one must enter into it, forgetting one’s own, and view the world through the eyes of this foreign culture. This idea, as I said, is one-sided. Of course, a certain entry as a living being into a foreign culture, the possibility of seeing through its eyes, is a necessary part of the process of understanding it; but if this were the only aspect of this understanding, it would merely be duplication and would not entail anything new or enriching. Creative understanding does not renounce itself, its own place in time, its own culture; and it forgets nothing. In order to understand, it is immensely important for the person who understands to be located outside the object of his or her creative understanding—in time, in space, in culture. For one cannot even really see one’s own exterior and comprehend it as a whole, and no mirrors or photographs can help; our real exterior can be seen and understood only by other people, because they are located outside us in space and because they are others. (Bakhtin: 6-7)

In the realm of culture, outsideness is a most powerful factor in understanding. It is only in the eyes of another culture that foreign culture reveals itself fully and profoundly (but not maximally fully), because there will be cultures that see and understand even more). A meaning only reveals its depths once it has encountered and come into contact with another, foreign meaning: they engage in a kind of dialogue, which surmounts the closedness and one-sideness of these particular meanings, these cultures. We raise new questions for a foreign culture, ones that it did not raise itself; we seek answers to our own questions in it; and the foreign culture responds to us by revealing to us its new aspects and new semantic depths. Without one’s own questions one cannot creatively understand anything other or foreign (but, of course, the questions must be serious and sincere). Such a dialogic encounter of two cultures does not result in merging or mixing. Each retains its own unity and open totality, but they are mutually enriched. (Bakhtin: 7)

{MB--Dialogical speakers} do not expect passive understanding that, so to speak, only duplicates his own idea in someone else’s mind. Rather, he expects response, agreement, sympathy, objection, execution, and so forth. (69)
Each rejoinder, regardless of how brief and abrupt, has a specific quality of completion that expresses a particular position of the speaker, to which one may respond or may assume, with respect to it, a responsive position. (72) {MB says—Bakhtin reminding us that all “utterances” are socially situated; see Holloway/Kneale 1999, 77}

Understanding is always dialogic to some degree. (Bakhtin, “The Problem of the Text”: 111)

No natural phenomenon has “meaning,” only signs (including words) have meaning. (Bakhtin, 113) {MB—Thus, if Nature has meaning, it is as a sign/symbol we have constructed/recognized, not as nature itself.)

Can languages and dialects (territorial, social jargons), language (functional) styles (say, familiar daily speech and scientific language and so forth), enter into these relationships, that is, can they speak with one another and so forth? Only if a nonlinguistic approach is taken toward them, that is, if they are transformed into a “world view” (or some language or speech sense of the world), into a “viewpoint,” into “social voices,” and so forth. (Bakhtin, “The Problem of the Text”: 119)

With such transformations the language acquires a unique “author,” a speaking subject, a collective bearer of speech (people, nation, occupation, social group, and so forth). (Bakhtin, “The Problem of the Text”: 119)

Chalmers Johnson: Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

Chalmers Johnson: “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic”
Democracy Now

In his new book, CIA analyst, distinguished scholar, and best-selling author Chalmers Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach may actually lead to the nation’s collapse as a constitutional republic. It’s the last volume in his Blowback trilogy, following the best-selling “Blowback” and “The Sorrows of Empire.” In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military activity has led to un-intended, but direct disaster here in the United States.

To Read/Listen/Watch

Framing Reality: Language, Rhetoric, Images, Concepts

(Ongoing archive--comments/suggestions are appreciated)

Carlin, George. Remembering George Carlin (Retrospective archive of the comedian) Dialogic (2008)

Chomsky, Noam. "Propaganda in a Democracy; The Threat of the Public Beast; Welfare State for the Rich; National Interest vs Special Interests." (Notes posted on Dialogic: November 29, 2009)

---. The Noam Chomsky Website. [Analysis of political propaganda, media framing and contested histories.]

---. "On the Basic Role of (Non-Participatory) Sports." Excerpts from and commentary by Barsky, Robert F. The Chomsky Effect a Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower. (The MIT Press, 2009)

Christina, Greta. "101 Positions That Won't Spice Your Life Up." Blowfish (November 5, 2009)

---. Atheists and Anger. (October 15, 2007)

College Weekend Workshop. The College Casualty. Posted on Dialogic (November 21, 2009)

Dawkins, Richard. The Greatest Show On Earth. FORA TV (October 7, 2009)

Deluze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. Excerpts from Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.. trans. Robert Hurley, et al. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983.

Dick, Philip K. "If You Can Control the Meaning of Words, You Can Control the People Who Use the Words." How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later (1978: posted on Dialogic January 8, 2009)

Gans, Herbert J. "Violence and Poverty: Images and Realities of the 'Underclass'." 21st-C 1.2 (1995)

Goldberg, Michelle. "New Book Examines Christian Nationalism." Fresh Air. (NPR: May 11, 2006)

Greenwald, Robert. Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (Documentary: 2004; revised edtion 2008) [This documentary is available in our library and also online]

Hedges, Chris. "The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free." Truthdig (June 29, 2009)

Historical Figures/Events/Groups (Archive)

Johnson, Chalmers. "Our Managed Democracy." TruthDig (May 8, 2008)

Kuhn, Gabriel. "Statement on the Controversy at the Anarchist Congress in Berlin." Alpine Anarchist (2009)

Lakoff, George. "Framing 101: How to Take Back Public Discourse." AlterNet (September 8, 2004)

---. "The Republican Nights: Frame by Frame, Word for Word." Media Channel (2004)

Klein, Naomi. Shock Doctrine—The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. (Metropolitan Books, 2007)

---. Lecture on Shock Doctrine—The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. (Video: 2008)

The Language of the War on Terror, Pt. 3 (Archive posted on Dialogic: June 29, 2004)

Lemke, J.J. "Violence and Language: The Signs that Hurt". 21st-C 1.2 (1995)

May, Jon. Excerpt of “The View From the Streets: Geographies of Homelessness in the British Newspaper Press.” Cultural Geography in Practice. Ed. Alison Blunt, et al. Oxford UP, 2003: 23-36.

Media Czech. "Fun at the Creation Museum." Dialogic (May 14, 2008)

Montenegro, Maywa. "Is There a Better Word for Doom?: Six experts discuss the merits of framing climate change, the language that troubles them, and the inherent bias of any chosen word." Seed (May 21, 2009)

Nielsen, Greg M. "Framing Dialogue on Immigration in The New York Times." Aether: The Journal of Media Geography (Spring 2009)

Nisbet, Matthew. "Earth Day's Untold Story: Climate Change and Human Health." Framing Science (April 22, 2010)

---. "Food Inc: Will It Connect the Dots on Food System Problems? Framing Science (June 16, 2009)

---. "Framing and Science Debates." Framing Science (2007)

---. Framing Science. (Weblog: 2006 - Present).

---. "What is Framing?" Framing Science (2007)

"Persuasion Analysis." HUM 120: Introduction to Cultural Studies (Compiled by Michael Benton: April 13, 2009)

Pope, Rob. Excerpt from: "Communication." English Studies Book: An Introduction to Language, Literature, and Culture. 2nd ed. Routledge, 2002: 66-68.

Project Censored (Sonoma State University)

Proust, Marcel. "Art, Perspective and Reality." Dialogic (July 23, 2009)

Revkin, Andrew C. "A Climate (Communication) Crisis?" The New York Times (June 15, 2009)

Rosen, Jay, James Der Derian and Christopher Lydon. "The News About the News." Open Source (March 28, 2008)

Ross, Stephen S. "'Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics': The Seven Deadly Sins." 21st-C 3.3 (Fall 1998)

Shepard, Alicia. "Torturous Wording." On the Media (June 26, 2009)

Tallim, Jane. "Photographic Truth in the Digital Era." Media Awareness Network (2009)

Talvi, Silja J.A. "Race: Time to Give Up on the Four-Letter Word." LiP Magazine (September 4, 2001)

The Union: The Business Behind Getting High (Canada: Brett Harvey, 2007)

Virilio, Paul. "Weapons are tools not just of destruction but also of perception..." quote from War and Cinema (Posted on Dialogic: February 13, 2006)

We Want Everything. "Communiqué from an Absent Future." (September 24, 2009)

Wolin, Sheldon. "Myth in the Making." Democracy Incorporated. Princeton University Press, 2008: 4-16.

Wood, Elizabeth and Kiersten F. Latham. "Object Knowledge:Researching Objects in the Museum Experience." Reconstruction 9.1 (2009)

Wright, Dean. "Watching our language: Writing about the financial crisis." Full Disclosure (March 16, 2009)

Zappa, Frank. "On Censorship." Crossfire (CNN: 1986)


Zinn, Howard. The People's History of the United States. (Harper Perennial Modern Classics: 2005)

---. "War and Social Justice." Democracy Now (Text/Audio/Video: January 2, 2009)

Žižek, Slavoj. Excerpt from: “The Spectre of Ideology.” The Žižek Reader. ed. Elizabeth Wright and Edmond Wright. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999: 65.

Ruth Shagoury Hubbard: The Truth About Helen Keller (selective framing of historical figures)

Thinking About Culture, Nationalism, War, Empire, Rhetoric and Media (archive)

Myths and Falsehoods About Oil Prices (Economic Framing)

David Brin: "Star Wars" despots vs. "Star Trek" populists (narrative framing)

Philip K. Dick: "If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who use the words" (Science Fiction Author Reflecting on the Framing of Reality)

Cormac Deane: The Embedded Screen and the State of Exception--Counterterrorist Narratives and the War on Terror (Framing in Entertainment Media)

Noam Chomsky and Robert Trivers: On Deceit , Groupthink, Maintaining Credibility, and Denial (Linguistics/Political Science/Evolutionary Biology)

Brent Cunningham: Rethinking Objective Journalism (Columbia Journalism Review)