Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hate Message #24 Concerning the New Socialist Student Union at BCTC

Original Email (I asked the author to explain why he sent me a comment "what an idiot" and explained the etymology of the word):

look i was just simply asking if you were serious about this union crap thing, not trying to get into any type of exchange with someone whos able to successfully dodge all questions and look up the history of words. congrats on that by the way. also, maybe you should look at history- people say all socialist models have failed because they have- russia? cuba? venezuela? north korea? germany? i lived in germany from 01-05, please. that place is a joke. people say capitalism works because it does, and has never failed. if you are trying to think originally then maybe you shouldnt rely on centuries old political thinking ;) compare economies and opportunities in the US vs. ANYWHERE ELSE. that speaks for itself. as far as trying to cleverly argue your way out of answering questions and into some sort of government institute where everybody gets an equal shake and no inequality exists, good luck on this planet. life isnt fair- get over it. all you can do is try hard and stop complaining. government is never the answer- just look at history.

My response:

Why the anger?

1) You haven't mentioned unions until this message and I never mentioned unions--where has this come from? Are you opposed to unions? Why?

2) When did it become a bad thing to understand the origins of words? Does that bother you? For the record, I didn't look up the meaning of "idiot"--I already knew it from studying political philosophy and ancient Greek history.

3) Who are these ambiguous "people" who "say" these bad things about socialism? It is very difficult to understand your point when you do not cite your sources of information beyond "people say?"

4) I would like to encourage you to read some history about capitalism and socialism so you have a better grasp of what you are talking about.

5) I would also like to encourage you to investigate current trends of capitalism and socialism. For instance, currently, Latin America has multiple thriving socialist countries, including Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez just this week won again, for the third time, a socialist majority in the elections.

6) So according to you "Germany is a joke?" Germany is a capitalist country--what are you trying to tell me here? You are undercutting your own argument?

7) Once again who are these "people" you are referring to in regards to "capitalism" great benefits?

8) You state: "if you are trying to think originally then maybe you shouldnt rely on centuries old political thinking ;)" I'm not, I rely on contemporary events in combination with history. You should try it!

9) You state: " as far as trying to cleverly argue your way out of answering questions and into some sort of government institute where everybody gets an equal shake and no inequality exists, good luck on this planet." Sorry, it makes no sense, so I have no way to respond to it--would you like to explain it.

10) You state: " government is never the answer- just look at history" Once again you are undercutting your argument for a capitalist government, unless you are an anarchist and are against governments. If that is the case, welcome brother, because I am not a socialist, I am an anarchist :)

11) I can lend you a book on argument/logic/critical thinking if you would like to develop these skills. It is a vital skill for citizens in our society and I encourage all citizens to develop those skills, including citizens that disagree with me.

Last, but definitely not least, I would like to encourage you to understand political discussions/dialogues as an opportunity to engage with different ideas, to interact with people who are different than you, and to refine your own ideas. Try not to shut the rest of the world out--those that are different than you and/or those that think differently. Otherwise you will miss out on a lot ...


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Per Krogh Hansen: Unreliable Narration in Cinema -- Facing the Cognitive Challenge Arising from Literary Studies

Unreliable Narration in Cinema: Facing the Cognitive Challenge Arising from Literary Studies
by Per Krogh Hansen
Amsterdam International Electronic Journal for Cultural Narratology


Ideological changes

So much for the first aspect I wanted to touch upon. The second concerns the change in ideology and historical context, and its potential effect on our understanding of a narrator's reliability.

I will here turn my attention towards a film which at first seems as if it is being told in an conventional objective mode, but by the very end opens for another possibility.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen (2006) is concerned with the period of the cold war and divided Germany. The story takes place in East Berlin in 1984, where the Stasi agent Wiesler, a convinced supporter of the communist regime, is assigned to monitor playwright Georg Dreyman, who is suspected of Western leanings. Secretly, Dreyman's apartment is being bugged, and Wiesler himself is in charge of the surveillance. But Wiesler soon finds out that the real reason why Dreyman is being spied on is that a minister is attracted to Dreyman's girlfriend, actress Christa-Maria; if Dreyman is arrested, the minister will have free rein. This demotivates Wiesler.

Dreyman is a supporter of the regime, but dislikes the way dissidents are treated. When an artist friend commits suicide because of his marginalisation, Dreyman anonymously publishes an article in West Germany on the neglect of suicide rates in the GDR.

Wiesler observes this development, but via his monitoring has gained an understanding of Dreyman, and starts lying in his reports in order to protect him. When Christa-Maria is arrested for drug abuse, she turns Dreyman in, but Wiesler removes the evidence from the apartment before the search team arrives. Unaware of this, Christa-Maria walks away in shame, and dies when she is hit by truck. As a result, the operation becomes pointless; hence Wiesler's chief officer, Anton Grubitz, calls it off and ensures the end of Wiesler's career.

At the end of the film, after German reunification, Dreyman finds out the truth while searching through his file in the Stasi archives. He finds out Wiesler's location and sees that he has meanwhile become a distributor of leaflets. Dreyman does not approach Wiesler, but writes a book called 'Die Sonate vom Guten Menschen' dedicated to "HGW XX/7" (Wiesler's Stasi code name). When Wiesler buys the book and the bookseller asks him if he is to wrap it as a present, Wiesler responds: "Nein. Es ist für mich."

Even though critical voices were raised against the tendency to caricature, Das Leben der Anderen has been highly praised for its realistic depiction of the horrors of the former communist state, and this is of course a very important layer in the film. But one cannot but be astonished by the fact that no critic has paid attention to the complexities and ambiguities raised in the final sequence about Dreyman writing a novel about the incidents since an obvious conclusion for the spectator is that what we have witnessed, the film we have seen, is this novel, so to say, that is: Dreyman's recollection of what happened then and his reconstruction of the events. And when one follows this strategy, the film turns into a rather different story.[5]

First of all the status of Dreyman's novel is rather dubious: Dreyman makes an effort to find Wiesler, but he never approaches him to check whether his understanding of the events is right. Spectators who trust the text would probably claim that this is due to the fact that Wiesler at one and the same time was Dreyman's persecutor and saviour, and that Dreyman's gratitude to Wiesler doesn't include forgiveness. But considered from the perspective of the film being told by Dreyman, there are more obvious reasons - namely that contacting Wiesler on this issue might disturb the picture he himself has constructed. The fact is that Dreyman must have written his book based on his own memory and what he learned from studying his file in the Stasi archive. Here, however, there is no evidence of e.g. Maria being forced to turn him in or of Dreyman turning from a regime-supporting artist into an undercover dissident, or of Wiesler's motivation for covering Dreyman - if he actually did cover anything. All these events are - if the film is a depiction of Dreyman's novel - pure speculation and construction.

This of course doesn't change the general theme of the film - i.e. what the effects of suppression and totalitarian systems are. But it adds another layer to this story, one which we might approach by way of Phelan's ethical criticism.

According to Phelan, ethical criticism is a matter of binding "ethical response to the techniques of narrative itself", by focusing "on the links among technique (the signals offered by the text) and the reader's cognitive understanding, emotional response, and ethical positioning." (Phelan 2005: 22) Phelan goes on to specify this ethical positioning as being established through the dynamic interaction between four ethical situations, that of the characters, that of the narrator, that of the Implied Author, and that of the empirical reader. I am not going to get involved in the never-ending discussion of whether it makes sense to operate with an Implied Author in film - but instead intend to make a swift adjustment to Phelan's conception and substitute 'Implied Author' by a term suggested by Manfred Jahn: 'FCD' - the Filmic Composition Device being the corporate principle for filmic communication.

If Das Leben der Anderen is considered as objectively told, one would say that the ethical positioning primarily takes place between the reader, the characters and the FCD, insofar as the narrator is anonymous and the characters function as rather flat and stereotyped figures, with the exception of the two protagonists developing from bad guy into good guy (Wiesler), and from not all that good a guy to good guy (Dreyman). Everyone else plays their more or less expected role - that is of puppets in the hands of FCD in a piece about the value of sincerity, goodness and humanity.

If the movie is told by Dreyman, the ethical positioning changes from the FCD level to that of the narrator (being Dreyman) and his relation to the person he was earlier, according to the Stasi files (the regime-supporting artist), and the one he want us to see he was (a good human being), which also might be indicated by his name: Dreyman, drei man, three persons; and at the same time the active interaction of the reader is being stressed. We are put in a position of dynamic interpretative response, where we not only are supposed to perceive a story being told but have to reconstruct it actively by negotiating and evaluating what we have been told. In that sense we are not only recipients of a story, but also re-tellers insofar as we, as soon as we realise that what we have been watching might not be the 'real' story, perform an act of re-evaluation of the story. When we do so, we find a lot of details make better sense than they did in our former approach: e.g. that Stasi and the minister are caricatured (we laugh at their stupidity in spite of the seriousness of the topic), and that the only person who seems to be a sincerely good man (vis-à-vis the title of Dreyman's book) is Dreyman himself: He shows understanding towards the relationship between his fiancée and the minister; he understands the dissidents, but balances himself somewhere in-between loyalty and responsibility. We are also given a reason for him not contacting Wiesler: If he made contact with him, he would no longer be in absolute control of the story. From this perspective another dimension is added to the title of the movie: Das Leben der Anderen not only refers to the border between dissidents and the regime supporters - but also refers to the life Dreyman would liked to have lived - but that he failed to accomplish.

My aim with this - rather schematic - reading of Das Leben der Anderen is not to claim that the first suggested understanding of the film is wrong. Rather the point is to show that the film is open to both readings because of a potential instability in the narration. The question of why no critic of the film has detected this potential and, would I say, plausible understanding of the film is impossible to give a clear answer to. But we might at least achieve some understanding by comparing with similar texts where the trust in the narrator's account has changed utterly - like for instance Marlow's from Conrad's Heart of Darkness. As most of you know, it was not until 1958, with Guerard's book Conrad the Novelist, that we began to realise "that the story is not primarily about Kurtz or about the brutality of Belgian officials but about Marlow its narrator" (Guerard 1958: 37). - Perhaps because the brutality of imperialism was very urgent when the first readings of the story was made, just as the horrors of the socialist regime are in the contemporary context of Das Leben der Anderen. As time passes, the grey shades of initially black-and-white historical tragedies become more visible to us; - and perhaps even more urgent for us to recognise.

To Read the Entire Essay

Eddie Daniels Speaking on the South African Struggle to End Apartheid (BCTC : 10/27)

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 and ENG 102 students)

Eddie is a vibrant 80 year old and former school teacher. He is an excellent storyteller who routinely speaks with students of all ages about his life – living through racial oppression in South Africa, working as a whaler and a miner, and becoming friends with Nelson Mandela in prison. Dr. Mark Lawrence Kornbluh, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said “I have heard Mr. Daniels speak many times, and he never disappoints.”

As way of introduction to Mr. Daniels’ life, he was imprisoned as a political prisoner on Robben Island for 15 years with Nelson Mandela and others. Mr. Mandela has said of Eddie, "We recall his loyalty and courage; his sense of humor, and justice as well as total commitment to the struggle of the prisoners for the eradication of injustice and for the betterment of their conditions."
Mr. Daniels is willing to speak with any age group, though slightly older students may be more appropriate. I have attached two interviews with him for your review: Overcoming Apartheid. You can also see his autobiography here: There and Back

Mr. Daniels will share his story with BCTC students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, October 27 at 2:00pm in OB 230 (Auditorium). Please encourage your students to attend this presentation.

BCTC Theatre: "Three Cheers for the Peanut Gallery" (9/30 - 10/2); Auditions for MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (10/4 - 10/5)

1) The BCTC Theatre program in conjunction with Actors Guild of Lexington will present the play "Three Cheers for the Peanut Gallery" by Theatre coordinator Tim Davis, this Thurs-Sat, September 30th-October 2nd at the Student Center on the Leestown Campus (164 Opportunity Way). The show is directed by two of our Theatre students, Jared Sloan and Kevin Greer. Showtime each night is 8 pm. Tickets are FIRST COME/ FIRST SERVED and go on sale at 7 each night at the venue. Admission is $5 for students and $10 for general admission. Cash or check ONLY please.
*Warning- this show contains adult language and adult situations and is intended for mature audiences only!

2) AUDITIONS for the second Fall production of William Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING will take place Monday and Tuesday, October 4th and 5th. Auditions are from 5-8 pm each night, and will be held in the student center of the Leestown Campus. This is a cold reading audition (no prepared pieces necessary) and we are looking for men and women of all ages. Auditions are open to both students, faculty and staff AND the general public. The show will take place Nov 18th-20th at the Talon Winery. Scripts are available online (just google 'Much Ado scripts" and you should come up with a number of sites to do the job).
For more information, contact Tim Davis at 859-246-6672.

See you at the Theatre!!
Tim "X" Davis
Theatre and Film Coordinator

Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Matt Taibbi: Tea & Crackers -- How Corporate Interests and Republican Insiders Built the Tea Party Monster

Tea & Crackers: How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster
by Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone


Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it's going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry's medals and Barack Obama's Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.

Early in his campaign, Dr. Paul, the son of the uncompromising libertarian hero Ron Paul, denounced Medicare as "socialized medicine." But this spring, when confronted with the idea of reducing Medicare payments to doctors like himself — half of his patients are on Medicare — he balked. This candidate, a man ostensibly so against government power in all its forms that he wants to gut the Americans With Disabilities Act and abolish the departments of Education and Energy, was unwilling to reduce his own government compensation, for a very logical reason. "Physicians," he said, "should be allowed to make a comfortable living."

Those of us who might have expected Paul's purist followers to abandon him in droves have been disappointed; Paul is now the clear favorite to win in November. Ha, ha, you thought we actually gave a shit about spending, joke's on you. That's because the Tea Party doesn't really care about issues — it's about something deep down and psychological, something that can't be answered by political compromise or fundamental changes in policy. At root, the Tea Party is nothing more than a them-versus-us thing. They know who they are, and they know who we are ("radical leftists" is the term they prefer), and they're coming for us on Election Day, no matter what we do — and, it would seem, no matter what their own leaders like Rand Paul do.

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will "take our country back" from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don't realize is, there's a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP. What few elements of the movement aren't yet under the control of the Republican Party soon will be, and even if a few genuine Tea Party candidates sneak through, it's only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country. Its leaders will be bought off and sucked into the two-party bureaucracy, where its platform will be whittled down until the only things left are those that the GOP's campaign contributors want anyway: top-bracket tax breaks, free trade and financial deregulation.

The rest of it — the sweeping cuts to federal spending, the clampdown on bailouts, the rollback of Roe v. Wade — will die on the vine as one Tea Party leader after another gets seduced by the Republican Party and retrained for the revolutionary cause of voting down taxes for Goldman Sachs executives. It's all on display here in Kentucky, the unofficial capital of the Tea Party movement, where, ha, ha, the joke turns out to be on them: Rand Paul, their hero, is a fake.


This, then, is the future of the Republican Party: Angry white voters hovering over their cash-stuffed mattresses with their kerosene lanterns, peering through the blinds at the oncoming hordes of suburban soccer moms they've mistaken for death-panel bureaucrats bent on exterminating anyone who isn't an illegal alien or a Kenyan anti-colonialist.

The world is changing all around the Tea Party. The country is becoming more black and more Hispanic by the day. The economy is becoming more and more complex, access to capital for ordinary individuals more and more remote, the ability to live simply and own a business without worrying about Chinese labor or the depreciating dollar vanished more or less for good. They want to pick up their ball and go home, but they can't; thus, the difficulties and the rancor with those of us who are resigned to life on this planet.

Of course, the fact that we're even sitting here two years after Bush talking about a GOP comeback is a profound testament to two things: One, the American voter's unmatched ability to forget what happened to him 10 seconds ago, and two, the Republican Party's incredible recuperative skill and bureaucratic ingenuity. This is a party that in 2008 was not just beaten but obliterated, with nearly every one of its recognizable leaders reduced to historical-footnote status and pinned with blame for some ghastly political catastrophe. There were literally no healthy bodies left on the bench, but the Republicans managed to get back in the game anyway by plucking an assortment of nativist freaks, village idiots and Internet Hitlers out of thin air and training them into a giant ball of incoherent resentment just in time for the 2010 midterms. They returned to prominence by outdoing Barack Obama at his own game: turning out masses of energized and disciplined supporters on the streets and overwhelming the ballot box with sheer enthusiasm.

The bad news is that the Tea Party's political outrage is being appropriated, with thanks, by the Goldmans and the BPs of the world. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that those interests mostly have us by the balls anyway, no matter who wins on Election Day. That's the reality; the rest of this is just noise. It's just that it's a lot of noise, and there's no telling when it's ever going to end.

To Read the Entire Essay

Sister Helen Prejean at Cazenovia College on the subject of the death penalty

(Extra Credit for HUM 121 students--think about the way she frames the death penalty issue as a peace/conflict issue?)

Sister Helen Prejean ... at Cazenovia College on the subject of the death penalty.
Radio Indymedia

To Listen to the Speech

Yannis Toussulis: Anti-Islamic trends in the U.S. ...and anti-U.S. trends in the Islamic World

Anti-Islamic trends in the U.S. ...and anti-U.S. trends in the Islamic World
Raising Sand Radio

Dr. Yannis Toussulis is professor of inter-cultural conflict and he focuses on Muslim-majority nations and the U.S. He is a Muslim convert as well as author of a soon-to-be-published book on the Islamic tradition of Sufism. Here, Dr. Toussulis discusses anti-Islamic trends in the U.S. as well as anti-U.S. trends in the Islamic World. He paints a picture of these trends in broad strokes and invites listeners to explore the myths and realities about Islam that are alive and well in our world today.

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Joe Peek: I Guess You Can Take It with You After All -- On the University of Kentucky Trustees Great Giveaway to Outgoing President Lee Todd

Note to readers: Joe is unable to email faculty at this time. He attended his first official (ro)BOT meeting last week and has since been huddled in the corner in the fetal (near-fatal) position. He has been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD (Preposterous Trustee Statements and Delusions). Consequently, I have taken over as communications officer.

Sincerely (sort of),
(Joe’s evil twin)

I Guess You Can Take It with You After All

It’s said the quitters never prosper. Wrong again! At the recent (ro)BOT meeting, the trustees voted 17-2 in favor of a salary “reclassification” for outgoing UK President Todd. (The lone dissenters were me and Sheila Brothers, the staff trustee.) Even though I pointed out (more than once) that this reclassification had real implications for the UK budget, it had no impact on the “discussion.” For the record: Base salary, but not bonus, carries with it a 15% retirement contribution by UK, and the change is retroactive to this past year as well. (I know, only the chosen few at the top get UK to make their 5% contribution for them.) Second, President Todd’s retention incentive bonus that will be paid on his last day at UK is equal to his base, not total, compensation. So the cost to UK is at least several hundred thousand dollars. And, silly me, I thought UK was in a budget crisis and could not afford raises at this time. The fact that some of Todd’s “reclassification” was done in arrears is at least consistent with the way UK has been treating faculty and staff (who have been getting it in arrears for a long time).

The good news is that faculty and staff had a say in President Todd’s evaluation. Specifically, our 2000+ faculty had the opportunity to collectively provide a grand total of 1/22 of the input, the same as any one of the 20 individual trustees (and similarly for the staff).

But, just so you know, I am not going to just sit here quietly and take it. Actually, I would take it if it were offered, but, in any case, at the next (ro)BOT meeting, I am going to propose a motion that I receive a substantial raise because that will make it easier to hire my replacement when I resign or retire.

UK 63 Florida 17!

Congratulations to Joker Phillips for finally breaking 20+ years of domination by UF on the football field! Wait a minute, those numbers look familiar; and the Florida game isn’t until this weekend. I get it now: these are the USN&WR rankings for Public Universities. But I guess it is still the same story, continuous academic domination by Florida. . .and Georgia. . .and Alabama. . .and, God help us all, even Auburn.

“Who are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes?”

Is President Todd channeling the Marx Brothers? He has made it clear that he views the USN&WR rankings as being inappropriate for UK. Yet when the Martin School of Public Policy and the College of Law were named in USN&WR’s America’s Best Graduate Schools a few years ago, President Todd was quoted in a press release as saying: “To have these programs listed by U.S. News is certainly an honor, and it comes at a time when we, as a university, have been actively striving for excellence. It shows that we are doing our part.”

Feeling a little dazed and disoriented by President Todd’s statements, I headed over to the hospital to see about getting my meds adjusted, but I ran smack into the humongous banners on UK Hospital buildings touting our USN&WR rankings in America’s Best Hospitals. So I am very confused about the value of the USN&WR rankings, but guess I’m not alone.

President Todd did admit in his State of the University speech that we could do better in the rankings. The Herald-Leader reported that President Todd said “the school could recruit larger numbers of students with high ACT scores from states such as California and Texas and refuse to serve Kentucky students who score lower on the ACT, but that is not UK's mission.” I have always been cursed with a blinding sense of the obvious, so what I am missing here? Can somebody explain to me how accepting high ACT students paying out-of-state tuition hinders us in our unfunded (and probably hopeless) pursuit of Top 20 status? We desperately need revenue, and out-of-state students pay substantially higher tuition. And we have been trying to grow the size and quality of our student body at UK, so wouldn’t additional high ACT students contribute to that mission?
In another puzzling news item, the Courier-Journal reported that following his speech, President Todd said that “he was aware some people were unhappy, but that he has not personally received any feedback from faculty or staff.” I guess he has been too busy to get around to reading my email inbox.

Better Times Ahead?

The NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee just announced the end of the recession. I wonder if they have any idea about when our depression will end? While the war on student attrition is going well, so is the war of faculty attrition. But keep in mind that it could be worse. You could be a student. Yes, they do get annual raises. . . in tuition expense. As for me, I have been offered a golden parachute; well, not exactly golden, but it did contain a lot of metal (perhaps because I am a faculty lead-er?). But I told them that when I was ready to jump I would like to pack my own chute. And they said “Fine, go pack yourself.”

Joe Peek
Professor of Finance
Gatton Endowed Chair in International Banking and Financial Economics
School of Management

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gogol Bordello: Supertheory of Everything

Jeff Biggers: Mass Arrests in DC -- We Shall No Longer Be Crucified Upon the Cross of Coal

Mass Arrests in DC: We Shall No Longer Be Crucified Upon the Cross of Coal
by Jeff Biggers
Common Dreams

Over one hundred protesters from the Appalachian coalfields were arrested in front of the White House today, defiantly calling on the Obama administration to abolish mountaintop removal mining. As part of the Appalachia Rising events, the coalfield residents took part in a multi-day series of events to bring the escalating human rights, environmental and health care crisis to the nation's capitol.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth leaders Teri Blanton and Mickey McCoy, the first arrested in today's nonviolent act of civil disobedience, were joined by allies from around the country, including NASA climatologist James Hansen. Meanwhile, protesters led by the legendary Rev. Billy Talen staged a nearby sit-in at the office of the PNC bank, which remains one of the last major financiers of coal companies engaged in this extreme form of strip-mining in Appalachia.

In a stark reminder of the national connection to the coalfields, the Obama administration officials looked on from their White House offices, as their electricity came from a coal-fired plant generated partly with coal stripmined from Appalachia.

As a litmus test of the administration's commitment to science and the rule of law, Appalachian residents are calling on the EPA to halt any new permit on the upcoming decision over the massive Spruce mountaintop removal mine.

Mountaintop removal coal only provides, in fact, less than 10 percent of all coal production.

Fed up with the regulatory crisis and circumventions by outside coal companies, coalfield residents have been rising up against reckless strip-mining practices against the country, from Alaska to Alabama to Arizona.

In southern Illinois, scores of black crosses were found at coal mines, strip mines, coal-fired plants, coal ash piles, and at the Southern Illinois University Coal Research Center.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Michael Pollan and Raj Patel: The Politics and Economics of Food (How Markets Promote Famine and Subsidize Sickness)

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students)

The Politics and Economics of Food (How Markets Promote Famine and Subsidize Sickness)
Unwelcome Guests

Most Americans seem to know little about what is in the food they eat, by any standards a pretty remarkable state of affairs. Our first speaker this week is Michael Pollan, author of several books on food. His 2008 talk, "In Defence of Food", encourages us to look at food from a common sense, rather than a scientific perspective. His advise on what to eat is simple - "Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables". But what is food? He also advises "not to eat anything that your great grandmother wouldn't recognise as food."

On the relationship between food and health, he notes that around 1960, the average US citizen spent 18% of their income on food, while their healthcare expense was about 5%. Nowadays, the average US citizen spends only 9% of their income on food, but their healthcare bill is up to around 17%. He discusses the role of the farm bill in shaping the food choices available to Americans, by heavily subsidizing corn and soy, and explains why the cheapest foods in the modern supermarket are the least healthy ones. He concludes that the agribusiness is overreaching, both politically and technologically, while a grassroots resistance movement is growing to food hegemony.

After a junk food song, "Twinkies and Ding Dongs" by Slash J. Frank, our second hour features Raj Patel, speaking on "The Hidden Battle for the World Food System". He will be asking questions such as

"Which unhealthy ingredient is in ¾ of all processed fast food?"
"What is lecithin?"
"Why is there no Wal★Mart in Germany?"
"What is Bunny Chow, and how does it relate to the apartheid laws?"
"Is your food made to suit you, or are you made to suit your food?"
"What is the importance of the Italian Communist Party to food?"

He rejects 'supermarket democracy' which allows consumers to choose from multiple different brands of the same toxic junk, and suggests that the answer is not shopping but political organising.

To Listen to the Episode

David Schwartz: Transformer -- Tilda Swinton on donkeys, identity, and the nature of screen acting

Transformer: Tilda Swinton on donkeys, identity, and the nature of screen acting
by David Schwartz
Moving Image Source

The malleability of identity, the way that categories like gender and class confine us if we let them define us—these are among the subjects that Tilda Swinton has consistently explored in a varied body of work that encompasses the Super-8 experiments of British filmmaker Derek Jarman and such mainstream movies as Michael Clayton (2007), for which she won an Academy Award.

In Jarman's The Last of England (1987), a poetic assault on stultifying Thatcher-era England, Swinton improvised the film's climactic scene, as a frenzied bride who tears apart her gown and performs a whirling dance on a beach: a rite of transformation, an attempt to transcend fixed roles. In Sally Potter's Orlando (1992), which is being rereleased this week, Swinton plays an androgynous nobleman who changes sex and travels through time, trying to find his or her true self.

Fittingly, for someone who looks seriously at the roles we play, many of Swinton's best performances can be seen as meditations on the nature of acting. In a remarkable passage in Michael Clayton, we see Swinton's character, the high-powered corporate lawyer Karen Crowder, prepare for a video interview. As the film cuts between Crowder's nervous rehearsal in her hotel room and her polished performance in the interview, we see the disparity between the confident facade and the anxious actor. In one of the strongest performances of her career, in Erick Zonca's Julia (2008), she is an alcoholic whose life has become an outlandish performance motivated by her desperate need to connect with those around her. And in her latest film, the current arthouse hit I Am Love, she is Emma Recchi, a Russian native who has married into a wealthy Italian family. Emma's aristocratic veneer is a stylish performance; she maintains her social status only at the cost of repressing her true self, and sexuality. The contrast in style between Julia and Emma couldn't be greater; the former is a brash American whose psyche—and body—are in shambles. The latter is a refined, elegant woman who speaks fluent Italian with a Russian accent. Yet both characters are on a search for the same things: connection and authenticity.

Swinton herself has found connection in an intense series of cinematic collaborations; she seems drawn to directors whose films are labors of love (often with long gestation periods). And she has found authenticity in her astonishing performances, in work that is both physically and verbally articulate. In film after film, Swinton shows us that identity is more than a performance—it is a mystery.

To Read the Interview

Unwelcome Guests: JFK and The Unspeakable (Khrushchev, Cuba, World Peace and Martyrdom of JFK/MLK)

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students)

JFK and The Unspeakable (Khrushchev, Cuba, World Peace and Martyrdom of JFK/MLK)
Unwelcome Guests

This week has a single main presentation, by Jim Douglass, author of "JFK and The Unspeakable". He describes how during the course of his presidency, JFK turned from a pliable young man who could be manipulated by the US security apparatus into a peace campaigner so forthright that even the prospect of his own death did not diminish his resolve. Douglass starts by introducing the Catholic theologian and peace activist, Thomas Merton, reading a letter in which Merton doubted whether Kennedy had it in him to face what he called the "unspeakable evil" at the heart of the US establishment, but opined that if he did, he would be marked out for assassination.

We supplement Douglass' talk in our first hour by including what he describes as definitely the most important of JFK's speeches, the American University address in which he announces a unilateral ban on US atmospheric nuclear tests, just 6 months before he was murdered. Douglass describes the importance of JFK's personal relationship with Khrushchev in diffusing the Cuban missile crisis, and notes that both leaders defied great pressure from their military establishments not to back down.

In the second hour, we hear a short section describing how on in WW1, describing how front line troops spontaneously put down their weapons and declared a truce, realising how much they had in common with each other. We then return to Douglass' speech, detailing JFK's tireless work to make peace with USSR, in spite of the awareness that by challenging the primacy of the military industrial complex, he was running a great risk to his own life. He details arrangements made by the CIA to assassinate Kennedy in Chicago, and explains why Dallas was chosen instead as the final venue.

Following the speech are questions about the events of 1963 and about their importance nowadays. The show concludes that, in the language of Charles Eisenstein, it was Kennedy's public rejection of the discrete and separate self, his altruistic efforts for peace, that marked him out as an enemy of "the unspeakable". We reflect on the implications for the 21st century, before concluding with the last speech of another thorn in the side of the US war machine, Martin Luther King, with an afterword by Bill Hicks.

Credits: Thanks to PirateTV of Seattle for the Douglass' speech.
Music: Mates of State

To Listen to the Episode

Friday, September 24, 2010

James McMurty: We Can't Make It Here Anymore

Susan Galleymore and Raising Sand Radio: Dahr Jamail in the Spill Zone...and the Drill Baby Drill Lobbyists...

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students)

Dahr Jamail in the Spill Zone...and the Drill Baby Drill Lobbyists...
Susan Galleymore and Raising Sand Radio

Israel and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty...and goods into Gaza.

Dahr Jamail reports from the Gulf spill zone on how media is treated, how locals fare day-to-day, and how the future looks.

The "Drill, Baby, Drill" proponents in Congress and state government fare very well from the oil and gas lobby. We look at their handsome handouts and then examine the true cost of oil to America's bottom line as we examine whether fossil fuels are in the best interests of the American people even in the short term.

To Listen to the Episode

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Michael Atkinson: Storytelling -- Why Alain Resnais's Wild Grass is the secret key to his sensibility

Storytelling: Why Alain Resnais's Wild Grass is the secret key to his sensibility
by Michael Atkinson
Moving Image Source


What’s going on? Most of the film is overtaken with Georges’s life as it is—uneventful and unbothered by work—and as it is disrupted, mildly and then radically, by his dogged pursuit of Marguerite, for reasons unclear. He stalks her, phones her, leaves messages, bugs Amalric’s cop about her, and through it all his wife is strangely tolerant. But it’s that “You disappoint me” call that sends up flares: what Georges is doing is seeking story. He’s a character on the prowl for plot, desiring to make movie sense out of arbitrariness. Here, what he seems to want is the kind of fantastical emotional connection that movies and fiction often use as shortcuts to invest relationships and lives with meaning—and he doesn’t get it.

Georges’s airy, Romantic passion plays almost like a kind of Alzheimer’s—except it’s the rest of the world that won’t cohere into a genre construction, not his inability to recall or grasp connections. (“Nobody ever dies from reading,” the narrator offhandedly remarks at one point. “Reading helps us live.”) He’s a modern Scheherazade, fending off mortality with the erection of fictions (except he is both the yarn-spinner and the king). Eventually, the lust for narrative drives Georges to slash Marguerite’s car tires, thereby genuinely involving the police and launching a new story arc Georges didn’t anticipate.

From there the movie goes quietly nuts, scrambling genres (the end credits change genre-signaling styles five times), tossing grand romantic gestures, suffering the characters as they hesitantly try to figure out what they’re supposed to do in the story Georges has in his head, a fictional schema the movie finally succumbs to, after a lot of flirting. It’s the only romantic comedy ever made in which only its hero is aware of the brand, and the other characters often resist it. When Marguerite tells Georges to bring his wife along for a flight—a situation he and we can easily imagine as an amorous movie turning point without the wife—Georges is furious, as if she’d gone completely off script.

It’s a singularly enlarging, inspiring idea—how meaning in life can be found within story, and how story is memory and how it is in fact all we have, whether the stories be cinematic formulas like those that Georges harbors, or something completely different, waves and particles of experience that, however they’re shaped, make up our histories. Suddenly, all of Resnais crystallizes around a single, poignant, frankly lovable conceit: the pursuit of story as a way to understand living. The zombies in Last Year in Marienbad are the most woeful practitioners of Resnais’s thesis, memory-impaired and helplessly failing to arrange a meaningful narrative for their lives. The lovers in Hiroshima, mon amour, the war-haunted Parisians of Muriel (1963), the windblown leaf of a time traveler in Je t’aime, je t’aime (1968), the sociology professor in Mon Oncle d’Amérique, the couples in Mélo (1986), and so on. Resnais’s people are all contrivers of meaning, tale-tellers compelled like Beckett’s ghosts to build and rebuild the scaffolding of memory and history as a way of insisting on their own significance.

To Read the Entire Essay

War News Radio: Passing Time

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students)

Passing Time
War News Radio

... a look at how [military] stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan spend their free time and the various projects that they have come up with to keep themselves entertained. Emily Crawford reports.

... peace movements in Afghanistan, including President Karzai’s own peace jirga. Karim Sariahmed has the story.

... the director of a new documentary about the individual journeys of several Iraqi refugees. Marina Tucktuck reports.

To Listen to the Episode

Open Source: Andrew Bacevich -- How War Without End Became the Rule

(For my ENG 102 students you can do an extra credit response to this episode--listen to it and write a 2 page response in which you analyze Bacevich persuasive rhetoric; For my HUM 121 students you can do an extra credit response to this episode--listen to it and write a 2 page response in which you analyze Bacevich's perspective in light of our Peace and Conflict Studies theories/concepts. Click the link at the bottom of this page and once you are on the website, go to the top where you see "listen to the conversation" click on the "play" button at the top of the page.)

Andrew Bacevich: how war without end became the rule
Open Source

Andrew Bacevich is the soldier turned writer who’s still unlearning and puncturing the Washington Rules of national security. The rules have turned into doctrines, he’s telling us, of global war forever. He is talking about the scales that have fallen from the eyes of a slow learner, as he calls himself — a dutiful, conformist Army officer who woke up at the end of the Cold War twenty years ago to the thought that the orthodoxy he’d accepted was a sham.

Andrew Bacevich’s military career ran from West Point to Vietnam to the first Gulf War in 1991. The short form of the story he’s been writing for a decade now is: how unexamined failure in Vietnam became by today a sort of repetition compulsion in Iraq and Afghanistan. Washington Rules is Andrew Bacevich’s fourth book in a project to unmask American empire, militarism, over-reach and what sustains them.

To Listen to the Episode and Access More Videos/Resources

Open Source: David Hoffman -- A Running Tour of YouTube Nation

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students--think of how it relates to our viewing of Century of Self and the discussions about consumer distractions)

David Hoffman: A Running Tour of YouTube Nation
Open Source (Watson Institute for International Studies)

David Hoffman produced 88 PBS documentary features and five feature-length films over a forty-year career. But that was then. And this is a guy whose life keeps starting over. Always interestingly. We’ve shared before our adventures with the great sound-man Tony Schwartz…

We’re in James Der Derian’s class on global media at Brown again, and David Hoffman is pushing through the cliche that we live in a screen culture and a YouTube world. We didn’t know the half of it. Today we’re taking his tour of YouTube nation, peopled by more 1 billion searches every day. Hoffman, who thought he’d been around the whole block, has stumbled on a sort of “Louisiana Purchase” of the media landscape. It’s homey, it’s cheap, it’s much much bigger than network television already, and it’s barely begun to chew up what we used to call media and spit it all out.

Documentary film-making was, and is, a rich person’s pursuit, as he tells us. But anyone can talk to a camera and post the result. He loves YouTube’s celebration of a messy, cheap aesthetic, helping viewers learn to love jump cuts and engage raw content. No one could be happier about this victory of moving image and spoken word: “It’s terrible to sit at your computer screen and read words,” he says, “It’s painful.”

For David Hoffman, this is just the beginning of a long-needed move away from censorship and big media control over information. But it’s a shift, he cautions, that demands a comprehensive new standard of media literacy.

Our conversation begins with this month’s release – by Wikileaks – and its viral penetration – through YouTube – of a classified US government video documenting the alleged “indiscriminate slaying of more than a dozen people” outside of Baghdad ...

To Listen to the Conversation and To Access More Videos/Resources

Howard Zinn: Neutrality is Complicity

The world is already moving in certain directions--many of them horrifying. Children are going hungry, people are dying in wars. To be neutral in such a situation is to collaborate with what is going on.

--Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy. NY: Seven Stories Press, 1997: 17.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mogwai: Hunted By a Freak

Political Compass Test: Economic Left/Right: -9.00; Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.44

So my students are taking The Political Compass Test and I have retaken it and (not so) surprisingly Obama has pushed me even further into the left-libertarian quadrangle

Tariq Ali on The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students)

Tariq Ali on "The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad"
Democracy Now

We speak with British Pakistani political commentator, writer, activist and editor of the New Left Review, Tariq Ali. He is the author of numerous books; his latest is The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad.

To Watch/Listen/Read

Late Night Thoughts: Standing on the shores of Quiddity...

Standing on the shore of Quiddity I cast out my nexus to catch quicksilver dreams that will supply me wih glimpses of other realities.

Understanding that there are other realities, other possibilities, other journeys, other methods, is the path of wisdom. Learning how to engage with them is the essence of Art in all its manifestations.

The possibility for true peace is only ever possible when differences learn to co-exist. No need to assimilate, conform or convert. Crusades are for the insecure; instead we will create an environment in which people will be encouraged to continuously become what they would be.

Peace and love,


The Progressive Radio Show: Peace Activist Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan
The Progressive Radio Show

To Listen to the Interview

Monday, September 20, 2010

PFLAG Lexington: Straightlaced -- How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up (10/16: 12 noon)

(Extra credit opportunity for my students)

Saturday, October 16, 2010 12 Noon
Free Film

Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up

Presented by PFLAG Lexington

at the Unitarian Universalist Church
564 Clays Mill Rd., Lexington, KY

With courage and humor, teens who identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning, open up their lives to the camera -- from the intricacies of choosing a deodorant, to handling the locker room and the restroom, to mourning the suicide of a classmate.

Coming of age today has become increasingly complex and challenging; Straightlaced offers teens and adults a way out of anxiety, fear and violence, and points the way toward a more inclusive, empowering culture.

For more information, go to PFLAG

Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Man, The Myth, The Controversies

Martin Luther King, Jr. is a radical hero that should be remembered for his ethical challenge to the American government/people:

In this excerpt from Shambhala magazine Charles Johnson reveals The King We Need.

Earl Ofari Hutchison at AlterNet examines how many local government agenices still ignore this national Holiday for a Hero.

Martin Luther King was a pacifist in that he preached change through non-violent protest, but he was not "passive" when confronted with the need to address injustice and oppression. His words were an active rallying cry for a re-vision of the United States of America... now that he has a holiday, streets, and schools named for him it is easy to forget how he, and other strong souls, fearlessly spoke truth to power:

Film: Honor the Legacy

One of the better articles attempting to realize Martin Luther King's "truth force":

Dr. King: The Remix

And from Cornel West (thanks to Ray Garraud for pointing this essay out):

Prisoners of Hope

“I am an Anarchist”: 170 Years of Anarchism

“I am an Anarchist”: 170 years of anarchism
by Anarcho
Anarchist Writers

In 1840, two short expressions, a mere seven words, transformed socialist politics forever. One put a name to a tendency within the working class movement: “I am an Anarchist.” The other presented a critique and a protest against inequality which still rings: “Property is Theft!”

With “What is Property?” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon became one of the leading socialist thinkers of the nineteenth century and the libertarian movement was born, that form of socialism based on “the denial of Government and of Property” and which did “not want the government of man by man any more than the exploitation of man by man.”

Proudhon’s ideas played a key role in the development of revolutionary anarchism in the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA). Their application in the Paris Commune of 1871 was praised by Marx (although he did not mention the obvious source). Michael Bakunin proclaimed that “Proudhon is the master of us all” while for Peter Kropotkin he laid “the foundations of Anarchism.” It is easy to see why, for Proudhon was the first to discuss most of the ideas we associate with anarchism: the critique of property and capitalism; critique of the state; socio-economic federalism; free association; socialisation of the means of life; decentralisation; the abolition of wage-labour by self-management; and so on.
Critique of the State

Proudhon subjected the state to withering criticism. While recognising that the state had exploitative and oppressive interests of its own, he clearly saw its role as an instrument of class rule: “Laws! We know what they are, and what they are worth! Spider webs for the rich and powerful, steel chains for the weak and poor, fishing nets in the hands of the Government.” The state protected the class system:

“In a society based on . . . inequality of conditions, government, whatever it is, feudal, theocratic, bourgeois, imperial, is . . . a system of insurance for the class which exploits and owns against that which is exploited and owns nothing.”

For Proudhon, the state was “the EXTERNAL constitution of the social power” by which the people delegate “its power and sovereignty” and so “does not govern itself.” Others “are charged with governing it, with managing its affairs.” Anarchists “deny government and the State, because we affirm that which the founders of States have never believed in, the personality and autonomy of the masses.” Ultimately, “the only way to organise democratic government is to abolish government.”

For Proudhon democracy could not be limited to a nation as one unit periodically picking its rulers. Its real meaning was much deeper: “politicians, whatever their colours, are insurmountably repelled by anarchy which they construe as disorder: as if democracy could be achieved other than by distribution of authority and as if the true meaning of the word ‘democracy’ was not dismissal of government.”

Given this, Proudhon did not think seizing political power could transform society. This was confirmed when he was elected to the French National Assembly in 1848: “As soon as I set foot in the parliamentary Sinai, I ceased to be in touch with the masses; because I was absorbed by my legislative work, I entirely lost sight of the current events . . . One must have lived in that isolator which is called a National Assembly to realise how the men who are most completely ignorant of the state of the country are almost always those who represent it.” There was “ignorance of daily facts” and “fear of the people” (“the sickness of all those who belong to authority”) for “the people, for those in power, are the enemy.”

To Read the Rest of the Essay and Access Hyperlinked Resources

Sonic Youth: Teen Age Riot

Al Jazeera: Argentina pupils rally over neglect

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Peter Dreier: The Fifty Most Influential American Progressives of the Twentieth Century

The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century
by Peter Dreier
The Nation

A hundred years ago, any soapbox orator who called for women's suffrage, laws protecting the environment, an end to lynching, workers' right to form unions, a progressive income tax, a federal minimum wage, old-age insurance, the eight-hour workday and government-subsidized healthcare would be considered an impractical utopian dreamer or a dangerous socialist. Now we take these ideas for granted. The radical ideas of one generation are often the common sense of the next. When that happens, give credit to the activists and movements that fought to take those ideas from the margins to the mainstream. We all stand on the shoulders of earlier generations of radicals and reformers who challenged the status quo of their day.

Unfortunately, most Americans know little of this progressive history. It isn't taught in most high schools. You can't find it on the major television networks or even on the History Channel. Indeed, our history is under siege. In popular media, the most persistent interpreter of America's radical past is Glenn Beck, who teaches viewers a wildly inaccurate history of unions, civil rights and the American left. Beck argues, for example, that the civil rights movement "has been perverted and distorted" by people claiming that Martin Luther King Jr. supported "redistribution of wealth." In fact, King did call for a "radical redistribution of economic power." Using his famous chalkboard, Beck draws connections between various people and organizations, and defines them as radicals, Marxists, socialists, revolutionaries, leftists, progressives or social justice activists—all of which leads inexorably to Barack Obama. Drawing on writings by conspiracy theorists and white supremacists, Beck presents a misleading version of America's radical family tree.

Many historians, including Howard Zinn in his classic A People's History of the United States and Eric Foner in The Story of American Freedom, have chronicled the story of America's utopians, radicals and reformers. Every generation needs to retell this story, reinterpret it and use it to help shape the present and future. Unless Americans know this history, they'll have little understanding of how far we've come, how we got here and how progress was made by a combination of grassroots movements and reformers.

Progressive change happens from the bottom up, as Zinn argued. But movements need leaders as well as rank-and-file activists. Movement leaders make strategic choices that help win victories. These choices involve mobilizing people, picking and framing issues, training new leaders, identifying opportunities, conducting research, recruiting allies, using the media, negotiating with opponents and deciding when to engage in protest and civil disobedience, lobbying, voting and other strategies.

This list includes fifty people [1]—listed chronologically in terms of their early important accomplishments—who helped change America in a more progressive direction during the twentieth century by organizing movements, pushing for radical reforms and popularizing progressive ideas. They are not equally famous, but they are all leaders who spurred others to action. Most were not single-issue activists but were involved in broad crusades for economic and social justice, revealing the many connections among different movements across generations. Most were organizers and activists, but the list includes academics, lawyers and Supreme Court justices, artists and musicians who also played important roles in key movements.

The list [1] includes people who spent most of their lives as activists for change—long-distance runners, not sprinters. Many of them were born in the nineteenth century but gained prominence in the twentieth. Some important activists who lived into the twentieth century but whose major achievements occurred in the previous century—such as labor organizer Mary Harris "Mother" Jones; environmentalist John Muir; African-American journalist, feminist and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells; agrarian Populist leader Mary Lease; and Knights of Labor leader Terence Powderly—are not included.

Although many politicians were important allies of progressive movements—including Senator (and Governor) Robert La Follette; Senators Robert Wagner, Paul Douglas and Paul Wellstone; Congress members Victor Berger, Jeannette Rankin, Vito Marcantonio, Bella Abzug and Phil Burton; Mayors Tom Johnson, Fiorello LaGuardia and Harold Washington; as well as Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and (for his domestic social programs) Lyndon Johnson—the list excludes elected officials. (Eugene Debs, Harvey Milk and Tom Hayden, who were elected to public office, are included because they made their reputations primarily as activists.)

A few of the people on the list expressed views, at some point in their lives, that progressives consider objectionable, such as Margaret Sanger's endorsement of eugenics, Earl Warren's support for rounding up Japanese-Americans during World War II, Bayard Rustin's support for the Vietnam War and Jackie Robinson's attack on Paul Robeson. They made mistakes, which may be understandable in historical context, but which should be acknowledged as part of their lives and times.

There is, of course, much room for dispute about who belongs on the list—who is missing and who might be replaced. This listing is simply a starting point for further debate and discussion, which we invite you to join.

To Read More and View the Slideshows

Peter Ludlow: WikiLeaks and Hacktivist Culture

WikiLeaks and Hacktivist Culture
by Peter Ludlow
The Nation

In recent months there has been considerable discussion about the WikiLeaks phenomenon, and understandably so, given the volume and sensitivity of the documents the website has released. What this discussion has revealed, however, is that the media and government agencies believe there is a single protagonist to be concerned with—something of a James Bond villain, if you will—when in fact the protagonist is something altogether different: an informal network of revolutionary individuals bound by a shared ethic and culture.

According to conventional wisdom, the alleged protagonist is, of course, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the discussion of him has ranged from Raffi Khatchadourian's June portrait in The New Yorker, which makes Assange sound like a master spy in a John le Carré novel, to Tunku Varadarajan's epic ad hominem bloviation in The Daily Beast: "With his bloodless, sallow face, his lank hair drained of all color, his languorous, very un-Australian limbs, and his aura of blinding pallor that appears to admit no nuance, Assange looks every inch the amoral, uber-nerd villain."

Some have called for putting Assange "out of business" (even if we must violate international law to do it), while others, ranging from Daniel Ellsberg to Assange himself, think he is (in Ellsberg's words) "in some danger." I don't doubt that Assange is in danger, but even if he is put out of business by arrest, assassination or character impeachment with charges of sexual misconduct, it would not stanch the flow of secret documents into the public domain. To think otherwise is an error that reflects a colossal misunderstanding of the nature of WikiLeaks and the subculture from which it emerged.

WikiLeaks is not the one-off creation of a solitary genius; it is the product of decades of collaborative work by people engaged in applying computer hacking to political causes, in particular, to the principle that information-hoarding is evil—and, as Stewart Brand said in 1984, "Information wants to be free." Today there is a broad spectrum of people engaged in this cause, so that were Assange to be eliminated today, WikiLeaks would doubtless continue, and even if WikiLeaks were somehow to be eliminated, new sites would emerge to replace it.

Let's begin by considering whether it is possible to take WikiLeaks offline, as called for in the Washington Post by former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who added that "taking [Assange] off the streets is not enough; we must also recover the documents he unlawfully possesses and disable the system he has built to illegally disseminate classified information."

Consider the demand that we "recover the documents." Even the documents that have not been made public by WikiLeaks are widely distributed all over the Internet. WikiLeaks has released an encrypted 1.4 gigabyte file called "insurance.aes256." If something happens to Assange, the password to the encrypted file will be released (presumably via a single Twitter tweet). What's in the file? We don't know, but at 1.4 gigabytes, it is nineteen times the size of the Afghan war log that was recently distributed to major newspapers. Legendary hacker Kevin Poulsen speculates that the file "is doubtless in the hands of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of netizens already."

It's also a bit difficult to "disable the system," since WikiLeaks did not need to create a new network; the group simply relied on existing electronic communications networks (e.g., the Internet) and the fact that there are tens of thousands of like-minded people all over the world. Where did all those like-minded people come from? Are they all under the spell of Assange? To the contrary, they were active long before Assange sat down to hack his first computer.

It has long been an ethical principle of hackers that ideas and information are not to be hoarded but are to be shared.In 1984, when Assange turned 13, Steven Levy described this attitude in his book Hackers. After interviewing a number of hackers, he distilled a "hacker ethic," which included, among others, the following two maxims: (1) all information should be free; (2) mistrust authority and promote decentralization.

These sentiments were poetically expressed by a hacker named The Mentor, in an essay titled "The Conscience of a Hacker." It was written shortly after his arrest, and appeared in the important hacker publication Phrack in 1986.

We explore…and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge…and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias…and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals. Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for. I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can't stop us all.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Timothy Noah: The United States of Inequality

The United States of Inequality: Trying to understand income inequality, the most profound change in American society in your lifetime.
By Timothy Noah

In the late 1970s, a half-century trend toward growing income equality reversed itself. Ever since, U.S. incomes have grown more unequal. Middle-class incomes stagnated while the top 1 percent's share of national income climbed to 24 percent. Middle-income workers no longer benefit from productivity increases, and upward mobility, long the saving grace of the American economy, has faltered. Why is this happening? In the following 10-part series, Slate's Timothy Noah weighs eight possible causes of what Princeton economist Paul Krugman has labeled the Great Divergence. This 30-year trend "may represent the most significant change in American society in your lifetime," Noah writes, "and it's not a change for the better."

To Read the Series of Essays

Radio West: Jill Lepore -- The Battle Over American History

The Battle Over American History
Radio West (KUER: The University of Utah)

There's a lot of talk these days about the ideals of the American Revolution, but historian Jill Lepore says the Tea Party isn't the first to yearn for the past. In the Civil War, both sides claimed the revolution. Civil rights leaders and segregationists said they were the sons of liberty. The problem, Lepore says, is that people are talking about an America that never was.

To Listen to the Interview

Jeff Biggers: Big Coal Tea Party in DC Today Betrays Real Coal Miners’ Crisis

Big Coal Tea Party in DC Today Betrays Real Coal Miners’ Crisis
by Jeff Biggers

Now it’s Big Coal’s turn to pick up the tab for the Tea Party.

Under the guise of “celebrating the American coal miner,” an infamous K-Street Big Coal front lobby group has bankrolled the buses, hotels and meals to bring Appalachian coal mining supporters to Washington, DC today. According to their press releases, they will be greeted in the halls of Congress by sycophantic Big Coal-bankrolled politicians, from “million-dollar Big Coal-lobby-money- man” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) from the Appalachian states.

Today’s rally continues the Big Coal Gone Wild episodes of the now debunked Faces of Coal.

In truth, the extremists trolling through the halls of Congress are not concerned about the “American miners.” You won’t hear anyone defending coal miners in 25 other states today. With a classic divide and conquer strategy, Big Coal lobbyists are fomenting fear and exaggerating potential jobs loss from halting human rights-violating mountaintop removal operations, as outside corporate coal interests in Appalachia circle their wagons in front of our nation’s Capitol.

More importantly, Big Coal lobbyists are desperate to keep the media and the general American public from learning that heavily mechanized strip-mining operations, which account for most of our coal today, have wiped out more than 60 percent of the Appalachian coal jobs in the last 25 years–at least 10-15 times more job loss than any potential environmental regulations. By placing a stranglehold on any economic diversity in the coalfields, strip-mining operations have also led to the highest unemployment and poverty rates; a West Virginia University study last year pointed out that “coal mining costs Appalachians five times more in early deaths as the industry provides to the region in jobs.”

To Read the Rest of the Article

Aaron Aradillas and Matt Zoller Seitz: Razzle Dazzle -- A six-part video essay about fame and the movies

Razzle Dazzle: A six-part video essay about fame and the movies
by Aaron Aradillas and Matt Zoller Seitz
Moving Image Source

Razzle Dazzle is a six-part video essay that looks at how movies have examined the many facets of fame (heroism, infamy, and everything in between) and how they have shaped the audience's perception of what fame offers. Chapter 1, "The Pitch," lays out how movies are just one component of an all-consuming media that is constantly shaping the modern image culture. Subsequent chapters look at certain archetypes—the Hero, the Fraud, the Parasite, the Maverick, and the Takeaway—that have become staples of the media cycle.

To Watch the Video Essays

Saturday, September 18, 2010

ENG 282: Research Topics

(Building file for International Film Studies students--in process, feel free to provide suggestions)

The French New Wave

"Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player, France 1960)" The Case For Global Film


"Kurosawa #8 Throne of Blood (Japan 1957)." The Case for Global Film (December 16, 2010)

Media Matters: Alex Gibney -- Casino Jack and the United States of Money

Alex Gibney - Filmmaker talks with Bob about "Casino Jack"
Media Matters with Bob McChesney (WILL: Illinois)

Alex Gibney is the founder of Jigsaw Productions. An Oscar, Emmy and Grammy award-winning producer, he is well known for producing one of the top grossing documentaries of all time, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.” In addition, Gibney is sought after for his experience in mounting large international productions, particularly multi-part series, such as Martin Scorsese’s Emmy and Grammy award-winning “The Blues” and David Halberstam’s “The Fifties.”

An accomplished writer and director in his own right, Gibney is the leading creative force behind many of Jigsaw’s productions and is well known for crafting stories that take an unflinching look at the political landscape of America. His work as a writer/director includes: the 2008 Oscar-winning film "Taxi to the Dark Side," the 2006 Oscar-nominated film “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” and the current Magnolia Pictures release, “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson,” featuring Johnny Depp.

To Listen to the Episode

Media Matters: Charlie Pierce -- Idiot America

Charlie Pierce a NPR regular discuss his new book "Idiot America"
Media Matters with Bob McChesney (WILL: Illinois)

McChesney and Charlie Pierce familiar to NPR listeners from shows "Only a Game" and "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" discuss Pierce's new book called "Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free."

To Listen to the Episode

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On University of Kentucky President Lee Todd's Retroactive Raise

Death: Let the World Turn

Post Regiment: Kolory

BCTC Students for Peace and Earth Justice: Fall 2010 Presentations and Training

(Extra credit opportunities for my HUM 121 and ENG 102 students--talk to me about the requirements)

Students for Peace and Earth Justice
Fall 2010 Presentations and Training

Tuesday, October 19, 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Oswald 230 (Auditorium), BCTC – Cooper Campus
Afro-Colombian artist/activist
Witness for Peace

Thursday, October 28, 12:30-1:45 p.m.
AT Lobby, BCTC – Cooper Campus
Paul Chappell, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Saturday, October 30, 9:00-3:00 p.m.
AT Lobby, BCTC – Cooper Campus
Paul Chappell, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Peace Leadership Training (lunch will be provided; certificate upon completion)
No cost, but pre-registration is required (email to reserve your space)
Sponsored by BCTC and Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice
• Introduction to Peace Leadership
• Persuasion for Peace Leadership
• Peace Strategy and Tactics
• Dissolving Hostility
• Conflict Resolution for Peace Leadership
• Identifying and Preventing Manipulation

Wednesday, November 19, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Oswald 230 (Auditorium), BCTC – Cooper Campus
Dick Shore: Dr. Shore “becomes” John Muir”

Tuesday, November 16, 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Oswald 230 (Auditorium), BCTC – Cooper Campus
Dave Cooper on Mountaintop Removal

Monday, November 29, 6:30-7:45 p.m.
Oswald 230 (Auditorium), BCTC – Cooper Campus
Dr. Nadia Rasheed on the Reality in Iraq, and Reflections on the Hajj

War News Radio: Sudan -- Channels of Peace

Channels of Peace
War News Radio (Swarthmore College)

... a show from our sister studio, the Sudan Radio Project.

First, we hear where the hope of bringing peace to Sudan is taking one women’s organization.

Next, a look at the challenges of clearing sixty years’ worth of landmines from Sudan.

Then, we learn about issues of representation in political processes for internally displaced persons.

And, we explore the role of Sudanese Catholic radio stations in spreading news and building ties across the country.

To Listen to the Episode

Skepchick: Birds -- Smart? Or Scary Smart?

Birds: Smart? Or SCARY SMART?
Skepchick Podcast

Everybody knows parrots talk, but does Polly actually want a cracker, or has she just learned to mimic that sentence?

The debate over animal cognition goes way back. Darwin and Descartes had differing views on the subject, with Descartes falling on the side of disbelief.

But has science shed any light on this debate over the years? Many studies have been done on primates, mostly on the ones most similar to humans, but what about animals that could hardly be more genetically different from us? Descendants of the dinosaur with wings, a walnut sized brain, and opposable claws? Parrots, despite these defiantly un-human characteristics, are one of the few types of birds and only animals to vocalize human speech. But do they mean what they say, or are they just "parroting" the words.

In this episode of Curiosity Aroused, Stacey Baker gives an overview of the science on avian cognition, focusing mostly on the work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her African Grey parrot, Alex.

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot and Bob McChesney discuss "South of the Border"

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot and Bob discuss "South of the Border"
Media Matters with Bob McChesney (WILL: Illinois)

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He has written numerous research papers on economic policy, especially on Latin America and international economic policy. He is also co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000).

He writes a weekly column for The Guardian Unlimited (U.K.), and a regular column on economic and policy issues that is distributed to over 550 newspapers by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. He also writes a column for Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo. His opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and almost every major U.S. newspaper. He appears regularly on national and local television and radio programs. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy. Listen while he and Bob discuss Mark Weisbrot's collaboration with Oliver Stone on the film "South of the Border."

To Listen to the Conversation

Media Matters with Bob McChesney: Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald
Media Matters with Bob McChesney (Illinois: WILL)

Glenn was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of two New York Times Bestselling books: "How Would a Patriot Act?" (May, 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, and "A Tragic Legacy" (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy. His most recent book, "Great American Hypocrites", examines the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press, and was released in April, 2008, by Random House/Crown.

To Listen to the Episode

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jean Pierre Mirouze: Sexopolis

Voodoo Queens: Supermodel-Superficial

Rex Wingerter: Israel-Iran War -- Not Inevitable

Israel-Iran War: Not Inevitable
by Rex Wingerter
Foreign Policy in Focus

A chorus of pundits has lately been arguing that an Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities is either inevitable or commendable. Recently, Jeffery Goldberg predicts in The Atlantic that Israeli will strike by next July. Reuel Marc Gerecht, an editor for the Weekly Standard, urges that regional stability calls for Israel wasting no more time in launching a pre-emptive hit. These arguments predictably come from the neoconservative crowd who urged the United States to topple Saddam Hussein as an avenue toward reaching regime change in Iran.

But similar voices have been heard outside the usual cohort. Nearly a third of House Republicans have signed onto a resolution endorsing a pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iran. A so-called Bipartisan Policy Center report coauthored by two former U.S. senators has foretold of an Israeli attack. The Joint Forces Quarterly, a publication of the National Defense University, recently counseled that the United States must “prepare for the inevitable aftermath” of an Israeli strike on Iran.

Common to the views of both the predictors and the prescribers is an apocalyptic view of Iranian nuclear attack on Israel. Inexplicably absent from the argument is any consideration as to why Iran would initiate a first strike attack on Israel. President Ahmadinejad’s vitriolic anti-Zionist, Holocaust-denying spew is unconscionable, but it does not translate into a clear-cut intent to launch a nuclear missile against Israel.


A report by the International Crisis Group recently described in chilling detail how Israel, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran currently are poised in a precarious balance of terror. The slightest provocation or miscalculation could trigger carnage heretofore unseen in the modern Middle East, a catastrophe a strike on Iran surely would trigger.

An Israeli attack would bolster al-Qaeda’s propaganda that the United States is at war with Islam. Washington currently is at war in five Muslim countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia). The Arab world and other majority Muslim countries would view the United States as wholly complicit in any Israeli attack, a Christian state supporting a Jewish state to make war against a sixth Muslim state. President Obama’s standing in the Arab world, which a new Pew Research opinion poll shows has precipitously dropped in the past year, would nose dive into an uncontrollable free fall, canceling out his vow to reach out to the Muslim world.

Among the many lessons drawn from the U.S. invasion of Iraq was that unintended consequences invariably flow from a war, even one of your own making. Current assurances that an Israeli attack on Iran would protect U.S. allies and bolster regional peace and stability should be treated with the same respect that we now treat the Bush administration’s assurances that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

To Read the Entire Essay

David Cortright: Peace is more than the absence of war

Peace is more than the absence of war. It is also "the maintenance of an orderly and just society," wrote [Michael] Howard -- orderly in being protected against the violence or extortion of aggressors, and just in being defended against exploitation and abuse by the more powerful. Many writers distinguish between negative peace, which is simply the absence of war, and positive peace, which is the presence of justice. "Peace can be slavery or it can be freedom; subjugation or liberation," wrote Norman Cousins. Genuine peace means progress toward a freer and more just world. Johan Galtung developed the concept of "structural violence" to describe situations of negative peace that have violent and unjust consequences. Violence in Galtung's expansive definition is any condition that prevents a human being from achieving her or his full potential. Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian priest and theologian, employed the term "originating violence," which he defined as an oppressive social condition that preserves the interests of the elite over the needs of the dispossessed and marginalized populations. Originating or structural violence can include impoverishment, deprivation, humiliation, political repression, a lack of human rights, and the denial of self-determination. Positive peace means transcending the conditions that limit human potential and assuring opportunities for self-realization. (7)

Cortright, David. Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas. Cambridge UP, 2008.

Robin Wood: On Ideology

"... ideology is our home—the home in which we grew up. While we remain within it, however constricted and frustrated we may feel, we have ‘nothing to worry about: It's so safe': we know the rules. As soon as we step outside, renouncing it, we are alone, we have no bearings, there are no rules anymore, we must discover new ones or construct our own. Though less abrupt, it is as frightening and disorienting as the experience of birth must be, when the infant leaves the security and warmth of the womb (even if it is a bit uncomfortable at times) for a strange new world in which the first experience is usually to get slapped and made to scream."

Robin Wood, quoted in Tom McCormack: Reinterpreting the Gods

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Live in Concert From All Songs Considered: Neko Case, Martha Wainwright in Concert

Neko Case, Martha Wainwright in Concert
Live in Concert from All Songs Considered

Though she defies most conventional genre labels, singer Neko Case swings somewhere between the worlds of heavy art rock and bittersweet country. ...

When she isn't singing for the Canadian power-pop group New Pornographers, Neko Case works as a solo artist, crafting gospel and country-inspired songs. For her latest CD, she collaborates with artists like The Sadies, Giant Sand leader Howe Gelb, vocalist Kelly Hogan, Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino, and others.

Early in her music career, Case played drums in punk bands. But her views on music changed when she heard an obscure spiritual album by Bessie Griffin & Her Gospel Pearls.

"I was 19," Case says. "I was heavily into punk rock, and punk rock was really dogmatic and macho. But this record made me feel like, you know what, these people are singing about something they really care about. These ladies aren't kidding. And they sing about religion with more passion than anybody sings about anything — not about love or sex or violence or anything. It's like their voices are these crazy cannons or something. I wanted to be able to sing like that, because I thought that must've felt really good."

Case has since released a half a dozen solo albums. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is her most critically acclaimed CD to date.

Case is joined on the tour by singer Martha Wainwright. Wainwright recently released a self-titled debut CD after previously appearing on albums by her father, Loudon, and her brother, Rufus, both established and relatively well-known musicians. Martha's mother and aunt are folk singers Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Uncut magazine says Martha's songwriting "combines something of her mother's grace, her father's wit and her brother's artful, cabaret-pop sophistication, delivered with a rock 'n' roll passion that is all her own."

"I was insecure and fearful of making the leap because the bar is set so high with the McGarrigles and Rufus and Loudon that I didn't want to fall flat on my face," Martha says. "I also think I needed to go through a certain amount of life experience to know for sure that this is what I wanted."

To Listen to the Shows

Live Concerts from All Songs Considered: Artic Monkeys

Artic Monkeys Live In Concert
Live Concerts from All Songs Considered


With obvious influences from bands like The Clash and The Smiths, Arctic Monkeys have a blistering, guitar-heavy sound with infectious melodies and lyrical swipes on small-town life, teen angst and the music industry.

Fans have responded, making the quartet from Sheffield nothing short of a phenomenon. The band's ... album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, debuted at number one on British charts in January, selling more copies than all the other top-20 albums combined.

The UK music magazine New Musical Express calls the Arctic Monkeys' CD one of the top five British rock albums of all time.

"What's happened has been proper hysterical," says lead singer and guitarist Alex Turner. "If I say 'phenomenon' it sounds like I'm right up my own arse, but we'd be daft to act like we didn't realize how incredible the last year's been. When it all started we were like 'what's going off here?'"

Following the Internet buzz and word-of-mouth hysteria, major labels lined up to court Arctic Monkeys. The band eventually signed with the independent UK Domino Records.

To Read the Rest of the Intro and to Listen to the Show

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stefan Auer: Contesting the origins of European liberty: The Europoean Union narrative of Franco-German reconciliation and the eclipse of 1989

Contesting the origins of European liberty: The Europoean Union narrative of Franco-German reconciliation and the eclipse of 1989
by Stefan Auer

The European Union loves anniversaries. To the extent that the EU seeks to foster European identity, it is not surprising that it is increasingly deploying tools and methods that states used to create nations: commemoration of key moments in the nation's history served as rallying points for national attachments, creating or strengthening a sense of national identity.

Europe is different from nations. The European Union is not a state and Europe struggles to turn its history, or, to be more precise, its many histories, into one unifying narrative. From the outset, the European project was based on a somewhat paradoxical relationship with its past. Europeans were initially united more by what they rejected than that to which they aspired. In 1945, the great French poet, Paul Valéry, described the European predicament: "We hope vaguely, we dread precisely".[1] What people vaguely hoped for was peace, what they dreaded was the devastation of past wars. To find more positive sources of identification in their past, Europeans had to reach back further to the Enlightenment and its cosmopolitan ideals, which found expression in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with Schiller's Ode to Joy.[2] It is thus fitting that the EU adopted the tune of the Symphony's finale as its anthem in 1986.[3]

However successful the project of European unity has been in securing peace and prosperity underpinned by a strong commitment to liberal democracy, it was initially limited to western Europe. The collapse of communism enabled Europe to reach beyond these limitations. For the first time in their turbulent histories, the nations of Europe in the West and in the East could pursue unity together. The peaceful revolutions in central and eastern Europe gave the European Union a new set of images and a date to remember: 9 November 1989, the day on which the Berlin Wall lost its purpose.

One of the first public celebrations of this event was the performance in the Schauspielhaus Berlin (East Germany) of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony by a multinational orchestra with musicians from Germany, Russia, the UK, the US and France, and conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Responding to the spirit of the time – the concert took place only a few weeks after the demise of the wall – Bernstein felt justified in making a small but significant change to Schiller's lyric, substituting the word Freiheit (freedom) for Freude (joy). Ever since, the liberation of 1989 and Beethoven's famous finale seem to have gone hand in hand as two positive symbols of European unity. The same music accompanied celebrations of the "big-bang" enlargement in May 2004, which brought eight countries from the former eastern Bloc into the EU, followed by the admission of Bulgaria and Romania in January 2007.[4]

Twenty years after the demise of communism, the EU has succeeded in giving itself a new institutional architecture through the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. However, the new Europe of 27 member states needs more than new institutions: it requires a new self-understanding. Judging from a number of recent attempts by key EU actors, achieving a basic agreement about the "meaning" of decisive events in Europe's recent past, including 9 November 1989, might prove at least as troublesome as the protracted process of institutional reform. The politics of identity is fraught with difficulties and the main aim of this paper is to show the limits of EU identity politics, with a particular focus on the legacy of 1989 in Poland, Germany and Europe at large.

To Read the Rest of the Essay