Friday, October 29, 2010

Laura Sullivan: Prison Economics Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law
by Laura Sullivan

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

"The gentleman that's the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger," Nichols said. "He's a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman."

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

"They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community," Nichols said, "the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate."

But Nichols wasn't buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

"They talked like they didn't have any doubt they could fill it," Nichols said.

That's because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona's immigration law.

Behind-The-Scenes Effort To Draft, Pass The Law

The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it's upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny

Among hundreds of bills drafted by an alliance of business, lawmakers: Arizona's immigration law.
When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

He also sits on a American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) task force, a group that helped shape the law. Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill was his idea. He says it's not about prisons. It's about what's best for the country.

"Enough is enough," Pearce said in his office, sitting under a banner reading "Let Freedom Reign." "People need to focus on the cost of not enforcing our laws and securing our border. It is the Trojan horse destroying our country and a republic cannot survive as a lawless nation."

To Read the Rest of the Report and/or Listen to it

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adil E. Shamoo: If Israel Wants Peace...

If Israel Wants Peace...
By Adil E. Shamoo
Foreign Policy in Focus

The current right-wing government of Israel wants to negotiate with the Palestinians for their independent state as much as China wants to negotiate with Taiwan for its independent state. I have very little faith that this Israeli government will negotiate in earnest with the Palestinians. Netanyahu wants to negotiate for the sake of negotiation.

Writing in a New York Times op-ed, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren bemoans how the Palestinians have not recognized Israel as a Jewish state for 62 years. For 62 years, I did not know or hear that the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was an issue for the Palestinian to address. More importantly, everyone in the world, including the Palestinians, knows full well that Israel is a Jewish state. So the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is, in reality, a done deal. However, no one in the world, including the United States - Israel’s strongest ally – has recognized Israel as a Jewish state either. There is as much a chance of Israel becoming a non-Jewish state as Saudi Arabia becoming a non-Muslim state. Adding the Jewish-state recognition will add nothing to the security of Israel and the region, but Ambassador Oren knows that already.

Israel’s right-wing governments and their neo-conservative supporters have used other excuses to postpone negotiations with the Palestinians. We remember the line that “peace in Jerusalem goes through Baghdad.” More recently, it’s “peace goes through Tehran” because Iran has nuclear weapons – never mind Israel has nuclear weapons and not Iran.

Yes, the Palestinian leadership outright rejected the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority countered the Netanyahu proposal with its own clever proposal. The Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish state if Israel agreed to go back to 1967 borders, freeze all settlement building, and give them East Jerusalem as their capital. This proves that both sides are intractable.

The crux of Israel’s security problem is that for 62 years, Israelis enjoyed higher standards of living than Palestinians within and outside of the 1967 borders. Israel has treated the 1.5 million Israeli-Arabs as second-class citizens. Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza have lived in poverty, with a high unemployment rate, and under threat of expulsion (or have been actually expelled). Israel has beaten the Palestinians to a pulp with a 100-to-one kill ratio. The Palestinians have never given up. One would think Israel’s government would have learned its lessons and looked for more peaceful alternatives.

If Israel really wants peace, why have they not negotiated a two-state solution with the most ardent peacemaker, pro-American and anti-Hamas leader – Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the president of the Palestinian Authority? If Israel really wants peace, they should deal with a man who is willing to do it. For all of his life, and especially in the last six years, President Abbas has demonstrated his willingness to be a peacemaker. He will accept any semblance of a state for Palestinians. When Abbas came to power in 2004, he immediately declared that war with Israel was over and denounced terrorism. He not only made pronouncements but followed up with actions. He fired anyone who disagreed with him. He accepted training of his security forces by the United States. During Israel’s conflicts with Hamas, he used his security forces to clamp down on any pro-Hamas demonstration by West Bank residents.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Peeping Tom: We're Not Alone

Tom Philpott: Why Monsanto is paying farmers to spray its rivals’ herbicides

Why Monsanto is paying farmers to spray its rivals’ herbicides
by Tom Philpott

Monsanto's ongoing humiliation proceeds apace. No, I'm not referring to the company's triumph in our recent "Villains of Food" poll. Instead, I'm talking about a Tuesday item from the Des Moines Register's Philip Brasher, reporting that Monsanto has been forced into the unenviable position of having to pay farmers to spray the herbicides of rival companies.

If you tend large plantings of Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" soy or cotton, genetically engineered to withstand application of the company's Roundup herbicide (which will kill the weeds -- supposedly -- but not the crops), Monsanto will cut you a $6 check for every acre on which you apply at least two other herbicides. One imagines farmers counting their cash as literally millions of acres across the South and Midwest get doused with Monsanto-subsidized poison cocktails.

The move is the latest step in the abject reversal of Monsanto's longtime claim: that Roundup Ready technology solved the age-old problem of weeds in an ecologically benign way. The company had developed a novel trait that would allow crops to survive unlimited lashings of glyphosate, Monsanto's then-patent-protected, broad-spectrum herbicide. It was kind of a miracle technology. Farmers would no longer have to think about weeds; glyphosate, which killed everything but the trait-endowed crop, would do all the work. Moreover, Monsanto promised, Roundup was less toxic to humans and wildlife than the herbicides then in use; and it allowed farmers to decrease erosion by dramatically reducing tillage -- a common method of weed control.

There was just one problem, which the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out as early as 1993, New York University nutritionist and food-politics author Marion Nestle recently reminded us. When farmers douse the same field year after year with the same herbicide, certain weeds will develop resistance. When they do, it will take ever-larger doses of that herbicide to kill them -- making the survivors even hardier. Eventually, it will be time to bring in in the older, harsher herbicides to do the trick, UCS predicted.

At the time and for years after, Monsanto dismissed the concerns as "hypothetical," Nestle reports. Today, Roundup Ready seeds have conquered prime U.S. farmland from the deep South to the northern prairies -- 90 percent of soybean acres and 70 percent of corn and cotton acres are planted in Roundup Ready seeds. Monsanto successfully conquered a fourth crop, sugar beets, gaining a stunning 95 percent market share after the USDA approved Roundup Ready beet seeds in 2008. But recently, as I reported here, a federal judge halted future plantings of Roundup Ready beets until the USDA completes an environmental impact study of their effects.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brian Becker: French Workers' Uprising and Prospects for the U.S.

Video: French workers and students rise up
Brian Becker analyzes French workers' uprising and prospects for the U.S.

The US government spends $1 billion every two days to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. It spends nearly $1 trillion each year for weapons and war. War is very profitable for the corporations and the bankers that dominate all parts of the economy. Meanwhile, working families are seeing their wages cut, pensions eliminated, jobs disappearing while being lectured by the same elites about the need to tighten our belt in the new “age of austerity”.

Working people and students around the globe are facing the same problem.

Right now, millions of public and private sector workers, students and others are taking to the streets in cities across France. They are taking aim at the French government's pledge to raise the retirement age for workers and other so-called austerity measures.

The heroic demonstrations and strikes, including the blockade of fuel terminals, has virtually shut down the country. Transportation services, businesses, media outlets and banks have been crippled by militant mass protests.

The struggles facing workers in the United States are the same as those in Europe and around the world. The bankers and politicians want to make us pay for an economic crisis caused by the bankers and corporate elites. They want us to send our young people to fight in endless wars for Empire.

Over 30 million people in the United States are unemployed or underemployed. The wages of part-time workers have been slashed in the last year.

While the banks and corporations are making record profits, the poverty rate has reached a new high point. Young people are being forced out of college because of tuition increases.

To Read the Rest of the Article and to View the Video Report

Deltron 3030: Things You Can Do

Monday, October 18, 2010

This Land is Our Land: The Fight To Reclaim the Commons

(Extra credit for ENG 102 and HUM 121 students)

This Land is Our Land: The Fight To Reclaim the Commons
Uprising Radio

Everywhere we look there is corporate control of American lives, from the private stranglehold of our food systems, to the privatization of the internet. A brand new documentary released earlier this month by the Media Education Foundation called “This Land is Our Land”, makes the case for reclaiming The Commons, and awakens audiences to what we are losing as ideas, and even the air we breathe and the water we drink, become the private property of corporations. This Land is Our Land: The Fight to Reclaim the Commons, is narrated by David Bollier author, blogger, and activist for commons based policy. The film gives a history of the commons in the United States and explains how values shifted and a movement to privatize everything from medical research to natural resources overtook our nation. Finally, the film offers examples of ways people around the world, and here at home, are reclaiming the commons.

To Listen to the Episode

Kentucky New Power: Youth debate the real issues in the US Senate race (University of Kentucky: Oct 21st)

(Extra Credit Opportunity for students in all my classes)

This week is the "Kentucky New Power: Youth debate the real issues in the US Senate race" event.

Issues that will be talked about at the forum include education, healthcare, clean energy, MTR, global warming, cap and trade, jobs, and more. As you talk to young people, let them know that this will be participatory and there will be lots of time for dialogue and discussion, and encourage them to bring their own stories and connections to this issues and speak up.

It is going to be this Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in Room 102 of the White Hall Classroom Building at the University of Kentucky (140 Patterson Drive, Lexington). Free parking is available in Lot E-C7 on campus (off of Scott St., where Limestone and Upper meet). There will be refreshments available after the event.

Thanks all!

If you are going to attend please contact Carissa at 859 986 1277

My Journey—A Lifetime of Experience: Earlene Huckleberry (11/04/10)

(Extra credit for ENG 102 students)

The first speaker scheduled this semester for our BCTC lecture series Lessons from My Journey—A Lifetime of Experience.

This series highlights the life of various Kentuckians. The series is open to our entire college and community. We work to schedule speakers from a variety of backgrounds.

Earlene Huckleberry
5:30pm, Thursday, November 4,
Rm 230, Oswald Bldg

Transformative Radio: Martha Ackelsberg

Transformative Radio

Martha Ackelsberg: In 2008 a small collective of anarchists in Hartford, Connecticut organized a series of lectures and events called "Spotlight on Anarchism". This lecture, by Martha Ackelsberg, was the opening talk for the series. In it, she discusses the tensions managing multiple identities–in her case as an anarchist, a lesbian, a Jew, and a feminist.

To Listen to the Lecture

Joseph Torres: Google's Evil Plan

Google's Evil Plan
By Joseph Torres
Save the Internet


The irony is that, while Google is colluding with Verizon on a deal that would allow for corporate censorship on the Internet, it is also working the State Department to pressure foreign countries to open up their markets to prevent government censorship abroad.

What makes this deal so problematic is that a federal court ruled in April that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not have the authority to regulate the broadband industry. The decision threw out the legal framework adopted by the Bush administration to deregulate the broadband industry, a framework that has resulted in a broadband market dominated by companies like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T.

At this moment, the FCC does not have the authority to prevent companies like Verizon from engaging in online corporate censorship by blocking or discriminating against certain content online. The FCC, however, can reestablish its authority to reregulate the broadband industry and protect the public from discriminatory business practices.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has faced relentless pressure from the phone and cable companies to stop the FCC from moving forward. Instead of standing up for the public, his office has held closed-door meetings with Google, AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, allowing these companies the opportunity to write their own rules that would restrict our free speech rights online.

The chairman announced last week that his office will end the backroom negotiations. But no matter how the chairman tries to put a positive spin on what went on at these meetings, we all know nothing good comes from federal agencies allowing themselves to be captured by industry.

If we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the open Internet as we know it, Chairman Genachowski wouldn't be the only one who deserves blame.

While the news media have been obsessed by the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, one story they have missed is how corporate campaign contributions have united both Democrats and Republicans to work together to kill an open Internet. Close to 80 Democrats have formed an alliance with House Republicans to kill net neutrality. They have written to the FCC, urging the Commission not to move forward with protecting an open Internet.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who has led the effort among Democrats in the House to undermine the FCC, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) just introduced bipartisan legislation that would prevent the commission from acting to protect the public.

President Obama campaigned on a promise to take a "back seat to no one" in his support of network neutrality, a position he restated earlier this year. There's worry the White House now might retreat from that position since it wants the phone and cable companies to continue writing checks to Democrats during this midterm election.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Alan Watts: The Most Strongly Enforced of All Known Taboos.....

"The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated egos." -- Alan Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (1966)

Sodexo workers strike at hospitals, schools nationwide

Very impressive nationwide strike: Sodexo the nation's largest food service corporation posts record profits over a billion dollars and there workers make only $8 an hr. with no benefits. This wage is so low, workers could qualify for food stamps. This means taxpayers supplement the profits of this corporation.

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students)

Dialogic stands in solidarity with these workers!

Andrew Bacevich: Lost in the Desert

Lost In the Desert
Tom Dispatch

Andrew Bacevich, retired US Army colonel, current professor of history and international relations at Boston University and author most recently of Washinton Rules, discusses US involvement in the Af-Pak [Afghanistan/Pakistan] theater.

To Listen to the Interview

Chalmers Johnson: An Empire of Bases

An Empire of Bases

Chalmers Johnson discusses how the US became an unprecedented empire of bases, as well as the topic of his new book "Dismantling the Empire."

To Listen to the Interview

Saturday, October 16, 2010

That's How I Roll......

Al Jazeera: Protests attack France pension plan -- More than 2.5 million demonstrators take to the streets, unions say, as fears of a fuel shortage

"Of all the groups fighting against changes to the retirement age, young people arguably represent the biggest menace to the government. Workers' unions may have considerable political influence, but historically youth protest have contributed significantly toward bringing down government reforms."

Al Jazeera: Protests attack France pension plan -- More than 2.5 million demonstrators take to the streets, unions say, as fears of a fuel shortage loom

Armond White: Revival of the Fittest

(ENG 282 students--this is a highly recommended film that is one of your options for outside viewing responses)

Revival of the Fittest
by Armond White
Criterion Collection

Revanche begins with a reflection of trees in a lake at twilight. They’re seen upside down—an image of nature reversed—yet the earth is eerily calm. This almost otherworldly illusion arouses a viewer’s awareness of perspective, which is then disturbed by the splash of an object tossed into the middle of the lake. Widening ripples shatter the impression of stillness, and a genuine sense of mystery sets in. Such an intimation of the supernatural typifies Austrian writer-director Götz Spielmann’s unique vision in this film.

Although Revanche is Spielmann’s first film to be released in the United States, it is actually his fifth overall, so his style and tone come to us fully developed. He began his career as a playwright, yet Revanche is thoroughly cinematic in story, look, and pace. Its chronicle of underworld desperation and domestic loyalties observes a plain, uncontrived natural universe whose immanence and splendor are depicted realistically, mysteriously, classically. This is the story of several seemingly unrelated characters whose interconnectedness evokes the quizzical, unknowable facts of existence and announces the potential of faith.

Spielmann’s arrival on the American film scene is exciting for the way Revanche opposes the contemporary trend toward dark pessimism with a vision that contemplates light and, conditionally, belief. At one point, a repentant character is asked, “What would your God say?” and she answers, “He’d understand.” Revanche’s plot resembles classic film noir yet ultimately renovates it: Alex (Johannes Krisch), a strapping ex-convict working as a bouncer at the Cinderella, a bar/brothel in Vienna, schemes to escape that mean world, along with Tamara (Irina Potapenko), a Ukrainian immigrant working there as a stripper and prostitute, by robbing a bank and investing the money in a friend’s bar. An unforeseen turn of events reconnects Alex to his estranged grandfather, Hausner (Hannes Thanheiser), an elderly farmer in a small village, and to the rural life Alex escaped. These events also irrevocably tie Alex’s and Tamara’s fates to those of a couple living near Hausner’s farm, policeman Robert (Andreas Lust) and housewife Susanne (Ursula Strauss). Moving from city to country allows Spielmann to poignantly contrast the experiences of the two couples.

But these characters’ relationships go deeper than dramatic coincidence. By giving both couples equal narrative weight, Spielmann shows striking commonalities among seemingly different people. When Robert complains of being cursed with bad luck, he echoes Alex’s earlier cry of desperation. Each of the four main characters becomes involved in a form of retaliation against life’s unfairness (Revanche is German for “revenge,” as well as “second chance,” as in a rematch). Spielmann’s classical unities and timeless storytelling verities avoid sentimentality and thus seem fresh.

Like that disturbing image of an upside-down lakefront, Spielmann’s charac­ters change our perspective on the world and life as movies conventionally present them. The spiritual conflicts of the dead-end urban underground, where gangsters and hookers deceive and exploit one another, extend to the peaceful-looking countryside, where people live in neat houses and work in respectable professions. Bringing together urban and rural struggle, Spielmann balances mankind’s philosophical quandaries and daily strife, searching for meaning in our shared fate.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Kristian Williams: American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students--watch the episode and write a response)

Kristian Williams: American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination
FORA TV (Originally broadcast on C-SPAN)

In American Methods author Kristian Williams argues that the U.S. Government has used torture as a method of social control and terror since the 1980s. Mr. Williams cites the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison incident, where American military personnel were investigated for the abuse of prisoners, as an example of traditional American torture. This event was hosted by Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington.

Kristian Williams' writings have appeared in CounterPunch, Columbia Journalism Review, and We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-Capitalism. A member of Rose City Copwatch in Portland, Oregon, Williams also authored Our Enemies in Blue. There is no transcript for this program

To Watch the Episode

Tell Somebody: Robert McChesney On Saving Journalism

Prof. Robert McChesney On Saving Journalism
Tell Somebody

Recently, Robert McChesney put out an email that said,in part, "The Nation just published an article I wrote on the crisis on journalism with my friend John Nichols. It is titled " The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers," though it concerns the entirety of journalism. If this is an issue that you care about, I think you might find the piece of more than passing interest. We make an argument to address the problem going far beyond most of what has been proposed to date."

To Listen to the Interview

Fort Worth, Texas, City Councilman Joel Burns Tells Gay Teens "It Gets Better"

(Extra Credit for HUM 121 students--watch this and respond to it with your understanding of peace & conflict issues)

Mohatama Gandhi: On Civil Resistance

An out-and-out civil resister argues to himself, that a state allows personal freedom only in so far as the citizen submits to its regulations. Submission to the state law is the price a citizen pays for his personal liberty. Submission, therefore, to a state wholly or largely unjust is an immoral barter for liberty. A citizen who thus realizes the evil nature of a state is not satisfied to live on its sufferance. Thus considered, civil resistance is a most powerful expression of a soul's anguish and an eloquent protest against the continuance of an evil state.

-- Mohatama Gandhi

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Answers to Questions Pt. 1

(Like the hate mails I received last week, I want to start archiving the discussions I have with people trying to start more genuine dialogues. Visitors, feel free to join in.)

The questions:

I was curious of your opinion on a few things.

First off I have read a lot about the 60's. The whole counter culture is still a big interest to me. One of the groups I found quite intriguing was Jerry Rubin and the Yippys. I read the Manifesto, and I think Rubin went nuts after a while. He became really dark. Abby Hoffman really remained peaceful all through his hiding and the FBI setup and plea deal. Rubin didn't endure nearly that and started calling for a violent takeover of government. He began aligning himself with the Weather Underground. I was wondering what you think of Jerry Rubin and the yippy movement, and what he later became in the form of a business man.

I also wanted to ask why you think activism is not as prevalent in the US as it used to be. I think much of it has to do with the fact that as the income gap increases, it is harder for families to survive. This leads to frustration in peoples own lives and survival becomes a distraction or deterrent from protest. People are becoming less involved in politics and less informed which leads to a simple complacency. Is that a part of the design though? I am very politically active, as you can see, which is why it drives me crazy to see people so unconcerned about politics and what the country is doing. It almost seems that distraction is the tool used to avoid an uprising, and it is working.

As you can see, I am very politically active. I now work to get those that I think will make the changes desperately needed elected. I know that I will disagree with you on some things as I am a liberal leaning moderate. That said, I love learning knew things from those I may not entirely agree with. This is the same reason I listen to right wing talk radio. I look forward to engaging in some enlightened conversation with you.

The Answers:

1) Jerry Rubin and the Yippies were a particular reaction to the growing spectacle of corporate media. They recognized that the spectacle (the illusions, the hypnotic factor, the commanding effect, the dominance of mainstream discourse) of mainstream media culture required that activists rethink their traditional methods of movement organizing and direct action. Pranks, irreverence, dropping-out, were seen as the acceptable attitudes needed to challenge the hegemonic structure. Unfortunately they underestimated A) the ability of corporate culture to appropriate and exploit these subversive tactics and B) the passivity of the burgeoning consumer culture. Rubin was equivalent to a sideshow barker, in another time he might have been P.T. Barnum and/or a businessman… oh, wait, in another time he did become that. That in itself doesn’t discount his ideas. Of course he was pissed off, the radical counter culture (including very peaceful people) found themselves being hunted and persecuted by the American government (FBI, COINTELPRO, etc). Are you familiar with Situationism in Europe that took a more serious and unbending position in the struggle with what they termed the “spectacle?”

2) The Weather Underground were at least partially motivated by the FBI’s infiltration, persecution, surveillance and execution of major groups/figures that were resisting the military-industrial-media-university complex in the 60s/70s. Remember The Weather Underground never killed anyone (other than two members killed in their own bomb mishap) in their long series of organizational bombings of buildings of institutions/businesses they viewed as complicit and/or active with the war-mongering for profits activities of the M-I-M-U complex. Ironically, when the major figures finally turned themselves in (like Ayers and Dohrn) and went to trial, they were exonerated because of the illegality of the government’s tactics against them. Imagine that, an illegal organization that bombed govt/bank buildings for over a decade, were exonerated because the law enforcement tactics were so seriously illegal/wrong. Most of the members were re-assimilated into mainstream society without giving up the same values they have always championed and to this day fight injustice. I can provide you with some writings/documentaries that could help expand your understandings of governance and resistance, national as well as global, during the 60s/70s.

3) I honestly believe that activism is at least as prevalent today, if not more so, than it was in the 60s. The problem is that the media has been allowed (encouraged) to consolidate to the point where 6 major corporations control 85+% of the world’s media. These corporations act in their own interest, in true hegemonic fashion, and they thus turn away from the actions of those that protest the systems that enable and protect their dominance (and of their allies). So, the questions we need to ask, keeping in mind the 10 million people worldwide who protested in the streets at the start of the current, ongoing Iraq War (despite two U.S. Presidents now having declared it over)-- why didn’t we get a detailed picture of these protests? If ten million trees fall in a forest and no one hears about it—did it happen? I can count off the top of my head in the U.S. ten major protest actions this year on ten different issues… I could probably double that if I did a day’s research (and double again when we turn to global protests…). Only one has been covered, some would say promoted, in the mainstream media—why is that? Are you familiar with Project Censored’s work… ?

4) Having said that, what about the rest of the people who are distracted or overworked? From childhood, we, in our society, are trained to shut up and be quiet. We are trained to unquestioningly acquiesce to authority. We are trained to think “America, the land I love, right or wrong” or if you have a problem with this country you should go somewhere else. We, like Sunday Christians, begin to believe as long as we prostrate ourselves before the symbols of our secular religion, then we are saved regardless if we act out our essential beliefs. We are trained to fragment/compartmentalize our lives (work has no connection to our homelife, America’s global actions are removed from American's everyday lives, our investments/purchases don’t need to reflect our supposed values—the documentary The Corporation portrays this ethical disconnect effectively)? Most people have no training in media literacy, how to find alternative/independent/community news sources, and/or even why they should question the official propaganda that flows through the mainstream media.

5) Beginning in the 70s two major assaults on the gains of previous generations began A) conservative corporate-funded think tanks and their government flunkys began a concerted attack on unions/labor and worked to roll back basic worker rights/securities in order to further enrich the wealthy B) American education was defunded almost across the board and a new emphasis was placed on purely factual knowledge absent of more abstract critical reasoning abilities (except in the schools of the wealthy who supported supplemental higher standards through higher property values and expected their kids to dominate). I encourage everyone to begin to educate themselves about the root causes of current economic, political and social conditions. Develop archives of valued sources/resources that you can easily share with others. Always seek to lend a helping hand to people.

6) The increasing income gap is a serious threat that will explode on the national, and global scene, as larger sections of previously entitled people lose their supposed privileges. Unfortunately because we don’t deal with this through our legitimate channels of communication and governance, it will be brutally bloody and devastating. Who knows what ugly monster will arise from the destruction (and by monster, I don’t refer to the people, but those with power that will attempt to use the chaos to their advantage). Our only hope is to begin to seriously and honestly confront the actions of our corporate dominated government/military/media and begin honest and direct discussion of these issues in the public, in the media, and amongst ourselves (do I even dare to dream it could be done in education?).

Thanks for asking,

Democracy's Ghosts (10/14)

(Extra credit for all of my students: in the main auditorium)

Thursday October 14th 7:30pm

Democracy’s Ghosts

From the cradle of the civil rights movement in Selma, Alabama, to the
wind-blown plains of South Dakota's Native American reservations, to
Florida's cumbersome rights restoration process, this 34-minute film
from the ACLU and Off Ramp Films spends time with people who are
living their lives as legal ghosts because of felony convictions.

Sponsored by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and the Bluegrass Film Society

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Left Field Cinema: The Political Position of Glengarry Glen Ross

The Political Position of Glengarry Glen Ross
by Mike Dawson
Left Field Cinema

The early 1980’s. This is the era; the time when David Mamet wrote Glengarry Glen Ross. A play about the competitive and ruthless world of a real estate salesman. A play which is very reflective of its time. The early 1980’s in the United States of America is a time of consumerism; materialism; and of competition. Ronald Reagan was the president of the country for most of the decade; as a result the trend of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer was largely due to his administration and the creation of Reaganism. A set of economic policies very similar to Thatcherism; which was rising in Britain at the same time. Reaganism centred on the individual prospering.

Ronald Reagan was inaugurated President in 1980 and succeeded James Carter, the democrat. He would usher in a twelve-year era of Republican Party rule, which would change the shape of the USA in many ways. The US was a nation still dealing with the scars of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, scars which hadn’t been healed completely by the Carter Administration. Both Carter and Reagan were elected largely because of public dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in Washington. There was a lack of trust. They were both political outsiders; from other states and had little to do with central government until their elections to President.

“Both Carter and Reagan played successfully on business or public dissatisfaction with government to get elected… Once in office they became targets. They were outsiders who became insiders, anti-Washington candidates who became, with success, the very symbol of Washington.” (Fawcett and Thomas, 1983, 140)

Where Carter failed to heal the nation, Reagan partly succeeded. Instead of trying to be the ‘outsider’ after taking office. He worked on ways of making the people trust Washington again. Unlike Carter, he was an actor, and managed the public well for the most part.

“Carter a conservative Southern populist campaigned under Democratic colours, who promised lower defence spending and national health insurance, raised the first and never got around to the second.” (Fawcett and Thomas, 1983, 166)

Instead of continuing to heal the wounds of the Nixon era; Reagan decided to change the way people felt and what they were thinking by a series of new laws, which would radically alter the labour forces. “By partially ‘deregulating’ labour relations along with banking and transportation, Reagan has paved the way for more rapid capital flight, plant closure, deunionisation, and the proliferation of all manner of new sweated industries. In the process he has also eliminated, temporarily or permanently, the judicial supports upon which the practice of bureaucratic trade unionism has vitally depended for over a generation.” (Davis, 1986, 131)

The Reagan administration - similarly to the Thatcher government – had a goal of phasing out the work unions. This was done primarily to make new work related laws easier to enforce. The new laws created a situation where low level employees were paid less, and the higher level employees were paid more. Attorneys, stockbrokers, landowners, and many other professions in the private sector all earned more. Meanwhile government workers, and others suffered from pay cuts and redundancies. One of the laws which allowed this difference in wages to expand was the ‘two tier’ system. The system was created allowed the more recently commissioned employees to be started on a lower wage than their older counterparts for doing the same job. This encouraged many employers to simply make redundant older employees and bring a cheaper and younger work force whose pensions weren’t close at hand. Another law was introduced which allowed part time workers to be paid less than the full time workers. This encouraged full time workers to be replaced by part time workers.

To Read the Rest of the Analysis

To Listen to the Analysis

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ENG 282: Kristina Radford on Lady Vengeance

Violence is a disease of the mind and eyes that so often tricks us into numb belligerence through television and theatre and video games. We find ourselves consumed by emotionless abuse and gruesome deaths for the sake of entertainment. After being subjected to such an extensive amount of pointless violence eventually our minds will lose their ability to distinguish between humanities terms of what is physically right and wrong. This is when watching body parts fly from the swoosh of an assassins sword becomes as humorous recreation as watching a chef chopping up vegetables for a salad on the food network. The mind is a fragile and impressionable tool that should have great care taken in what images condition it for life.

I normally do not prefer to watch vengeful stories that play out in cruel tragic death. I have never found myself in a situation where someone close to me was violently murdered. Therefor I cannot say exactly how my emotions would allow me to react if I were to watch such documentation as of my child being tortured and murdered. I find it difficult to hold anything against the families in this movie who chose to murder the murderer of their children but at the same time I do not know if I can agree with their actions. "Lady Vengeance" has really pulled at my heart strings and made me think about what should be considered "just" punishment and what actions can be defined as playing "god". There is a fine line between the two and even though I do not believe in an all powerful "god" watching over our every move I also do not feel we should invoke the power to take lives of another human being no matter what atrocious crime they have committed. We have the ability to bring new life into this world but I do not believe that the right to take those same lives is given to us. There is a balance to the world and we must put into it what we wish to get back in return. I believe the only way to do that is to send out positive vibes that will overpower the negative ones. What can we possibly learn from these tragic situations if we allow ourselves to become the same monster as the murderer?

The ethical concepts this film forces you to consider remind me in such a similar way what i felt when watching the hit Showtime television show "Dexter". As a young child Dexter witnesses his mother and three other people being hacked to death with a chainsaw which sparks his addiction for blood and killing. For a great deal of his life he has no real recollection of what he had seen but only new that he could only feel alive when he was taking another life. The series tells us that this demented forensics specialist only seeks out disgusting criminals who seemed to have gotten away with horrific crimes they committed as his victims. I find myself drawn to this story much like "Lady Vengeance" because I do believe that violent criminals should be punished for the pain and suffering they've inflicted upon the innocent. However internally I struggle so much with this idea of vengeance that Guem Ja and the families of the kidnapped children along with traumatized blood specialist Dexter carry out. I have always been taught to rise above the trials and tribulations life has dealt me and learn from the mistakes of others. I find it hard to think about allowing myself to become a murderer even if i was murdering a murderer. What may feel right for some people I find would cause too much guilt within my own heart and destroy my will to live.

ENG 282: Jeff Stiles -- Pulp Fiction, or, Obligatory "How I Learned to Love Film Essay" with Standard Tarantino--Apologist Sentiments

by Jeff Stiles
ENG 282: International Film Studies

Like lots of annoying children, my brother and I used to pilfer our dad's giant, clunky camera (recording directly to a massive VHS tape) to film idiotic movies on the fly, occasionally remaking our childhood favorites (I got to be the Joker, he Batman; once we tried to do Terminator 2 but one of us got in trouble with our parents for some unrelated crime, and it was left unfinished). I don't know how, but he eventually found out that "independent" movies were what cool people watched. In 1994, maybe in Entertainment Weekly or some now-extinct publication, he saw that a movie called Pulp Fiction got an "A", read all the praise, grew fascinated with this film that no one could really seem to describe, that seemed to piss some people off and delight others. With his twelve-year-old savvy he convinced Mom (she being the parent most likely to use the F-word and turn the other way when we watched violent action films) to take him to see this R-rated movie. Somehow, he had talked her into bringing his ten year old brother along as well. Later, my Mom tells me the guy selling us tickets asked her if she knew what kind of movie it was while eying the two children skeptically. She told him to mind his own fucking business and on we went.

The picture did a lot for a lot of people at the time. While it produced a legendary amount of imitators for the remainder of the 90s-- painfully awful films like Blood Guts Bullets and Octane and Boondock Saints-- it also managed to shed some light on the unrealized commercial viability of unconventional, cheaply-but-expertly-made films. For me, I managed to understand the majority of it, despite having to close my eyes while Marcellus Wallace was being raped (what I pieced together in my head hearing the sounds was probably worse'). Afterwards, my brother and I became devotees of independent film, scouring film magazines for "buzz" on new films, finding films and researching the director's back catalogs. We found Reservoir Dogs, then read somewhere that Tarantino was inspired by Brian De Palma, so in a weekend we rented and devoured Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, and Body Double (being very careful to pick out the most praised films and watch them in chronological order). Discovering that Hitchcock was De Palma's biggest influence, we got our hands on a box set starting with The 39 Steps and ending with The Birds. That pulled the cork out of something, and suddenly art was flowing around us. We wouldn't settle for less than classic films, or highly-praised festival darlings. Make no mistake, I was still a child, and certainly no prodigy; I was still into Batman and shit, and I would still be baffled by much of the more difficult cinema I attempted (eg, Lars Von Trier, Ingmar Bergman) despite my best efforts. Due to all of this, however, I was starting to accept that art didn't need to have answers written explicitly all over it. An ambiguous ending to a film seemed more satisfying to me now, as I could spend hours or days thinking about it, whereas I used to be done with the flickering images in front of my eyes as soon as they stopped.

Within the year or two following its release, I recall a glut of overly-complimentary Tarantino books being released; titles like Cinema of Cool and Shooting from the Hip that essentially fellated the director for his otherworldly talents. In the years since, the praise has cooled, and some would say he's been exposed for the charlatan he is. One of the producers of Natural Born Killers (a film originally written by Tarantino, though the finished product bears almost no resemblance to the original script) wrote a fairly scathing and gossipy book (Killer Instinct) that trashed the man as some sort of womanizing imbecile, while making hints at the traditional Tarantino complaint-- that the man simply steals his ideas from others and passes them off as his own. Ever since Pulp Fiction, this has been a familiar position.

The complaint definitely isn't without merit. It doesn't take a film historian to trace Tarantino's talents to his idols-- samurai, blaxploitation, spaghetti western, and of course his beloved grindhouse films. The real task, then, is to question the necessity of innovation in art, and then maybe to define innovation. The fact that Tarantino so plainly and proudly wears his influences on his sleeve seems to enrage a good deal of people, but I'm not convinced that a for piece of art to succeed, the artist needs to mask his inspirations in subtlety. Many would consider Bob Dylan's “The Times They Are A-Changin'” an important piece of American art, despite the fact that it is clearly derivative of his idol, Woody Guthrie.

Pulp Fiction was a significant moment in many a film-lover's life, particularly for me due to its presence at a very young age. Though the film's universal praise and hype inspired a momentous backlash (that has continued for over fifteen years), there's no denying that it shifted the cinema industry permanently, paving the way for films like Trainspotting and, for many viewers, rekindling interest in the art films from which it was molded. Tarantino may have hastily been crowned a genius by an overexcited media, but I find his giddiness for film refreshing and contagious. Having said all that, I will certainly concede to the anti-Tarantino crowd that the director does seem to be a pompous little shit.

---Jeff Stiles

ENG 282: Response Credits

Alex Sanders: 1 (The Return)

Chris Bright: 1 (Lady Vengeance)

Jeff Stiles: 2 (Tarantino; Trainspotting)

Kate Cannon: 0

Katherine Brown: 2 (Code Unknown; Hero)

Kristina Radford: 2 (Lady Vengeance; The Return)

Megan Mefford: 1 (Hero)

Ramona Waldman: 1 (Code Unknown)

Ruda Tovar: 0

Sean McNally: 1 (Code Unknown)

Thadeus Pettrey 1 (Trainspotting)

Guest Lecture Sources for PS 271: Why Protest Is Still Important

(Resources for Political Science 271 students)

Propaganda 101: The Manufacture of Consent by Mark Crispin Miller (New York University professor of Culture and Communication: It is a 28 minute audio discussion about how propaganda works in our democratic society)

Changing the Story: Story Based Strategies for Direct Action by Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough

Couple of quick trailers (illustrate why I believe that social protest is still necessary):

The People Speak (Howard Zinn)

Blue Gold: World Water Wars

The Corporation

War Made Easy

Why We Fight

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian (October 18 and 21)

(Extra credit opportunity for all of my students)

Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian

Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond takes a look at the Hollywood Indian, exploring the portrayal of North American Natives through a century of cinema. Traveling through the heartland of America, and into the Canadian North, Diamond looks at how the myth of “the Injun” has influenced the world's understanding—and misunderstanding—of Natives. More information on the film.

Reel Injun Screenings

October 18, 2010 6:00 PM
Lexington Public Library, Central Branch
140 East Main Street
Lexington, KY 40507

October 21, 2010 3:30PM & 6:00PM
Fern Creek High School
9115 Fern Creek Road
Louisville, KY 40291

KET partners with the Louisville Film Society and the Lexington Public Library to host Community Cinema and hopes to include more cities across the state. If you would like to discuss the possibility of Community Cinema screenings in your Kentucky location, contact Sara O'Keefe at KET.

John Hamilton: Progressive Hunter -- Byron Williams' Jailhouse Confession

"Progressive Hunter"
Jailhouse Confession: How the right-wing media and Glenn Beck's chalkboard drove Byron Williams to plot assassination
by John Hamilton
Media Matters

Byron Williams, a 45-year-old ex-felon, exploded onto the national stage in the early morning hours of July 18.

According to a police investigation, Williams opened fire on California Highway Patrol officers who had stopped him on an Oakland freeway for driving erratically. For 12 frantic minutes, Williams traded shots with the police, employing three firearms and a small arsenal of ammunition, including armor-piercing rounds fired from a .308-caliber rifle.

When the smoke cleared, Williams surrendered; the ballistic body armor he was wearing had saved his life. Miraculously, only two of the 10 CHP officers involved in the shootout were injured.

In an affidavit, an Oakland police investigator reported that during an interview at the hospital, Williams "stated that his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU."

Fifteen years after militia-movement-inspired bombers killed 168 people in the Oklahoma City federal building, right-wing domestic terror plots are a fact of life in America. Since 2008, violent extremists -- many of whom subscribe to the hate speech and conspiratorial fantasies of the conservative media -- have murdered churchgoers in Knoxville, police officers in Pittsburgh, and an abortion provider in Wichita.

Conspiracy theory-fueled extremism has long been a reaction to progressive government in the United States. Half a century ago, historian Richard Hofstadter wrote that right-wing thought had come to be dominated by the belief that Communist agents had infiltrated all levels of American government and society. The right, he explained, had identified a "sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt's New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism."

In a 2009 report, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that the anti-government militia movement -- which had risen to prominence during the Clinton administration and faded away during the Bush years -- has returned. According to the SPLC, the anti-government resurgence has been buttressed by paranoid rhetoric from public officials like Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and media figures like Fox News' Glenn Beck.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Paul Le Blanc: What does Socialism have to say about Democracy?”

Seeing Red Radio

Fresh from the new site ... Paul Le Blanc speaking on the topic, “What does Socialism have to say about Democracy?” He gave this talk in Chicago, IL, last weekend at Socialism 2010.

Democracy – Albino!
Democracy Is… – Mad Professor
Demo Crazy – Femi Kuti (Earthrise Soundsystem Remix)
Demokracy – Abjeez feat. MC Talka
Demokrassy – CivilianSlave
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy – David Rovics
People’s Choice – Derrick Harriot
Democrazy – Kokolo

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Jessica Valenti: Who Stole Feminism?

Who Stole Feminism?
by Jessica Valenti
The Nation

Sarah Palin opposes abortion and comprehensive sex education. While mayor of Wasilla she made sexual assault victims pay for their own rape kits. She also calls herself a feminist. Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell has said that allowing women to attend military academies "cripples the readiness of our defense" and that wives should "graciously submit" to their husbands—but her website touts her "commitment to the women's movement." Pundits who once mocked women's rights activists as ugly bra burners are abuzz over the "new conservative feminism," and the Tea Party is lauding itself as a women's movement.

The right once disparaged feminism as man-hating and baby-killing, but now "feminist" is the must-have label for women on the right. Whether or not this rebranding strategy actually succeeds in overcoming the GOP's antiwomen reputation is unclear (see Betsy Reed, "Sex and the GOP"). After all, Republicans have long supported overturning Roe v. Wade, voted against family and maternity leave, and fought groundbreaking legislation like the Lilly Ledbettter Fair Pay Act. When it comes to wooing women's votes for the GOP, there's a lot of damage control to do.

Feminists are understandably horrified—the movement we've fought so hard for is suddenly being appropriated by the very people who are trying to dismantle it. But this co-opting hasn't happened in a vacuum; the mainstream feminist movement's instability and stalled ideology have made stealing it that much easier. The failure of feminists to prop up the next generation of activists, and the focus on gender as the sole requisite for feminism, has led to a crisis of our own making.

Conservative women have been trying to steal feminism for more than a decade—organizations like the Independent Women's Forum and Feminists for Life have long fought for antiwomen policies while identifying themselves as the "real" feminists. But their "prowoman" messaging didn't garner national attention until actual feminists paved the way for them in the 2008 presidential election. During the Democratic primary, feminist icons and leaders of mainstream women's organizations insisted that the only acceptable vote was for Hillary Clinton; female Barack Obama supporters were derided as traitors or chided for their naïveté. I even heard from women working in feminist organizations who kept mum on their vote for fear of losing their jobs. Perhaps most representative of the internal strife was a New York Times op-ed (and the fallout that followed) by Gloria Steinem in which the icon wrote, "Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life."

Soon after, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, responded in a Democracy Now! segment, "Part of what, again, has been sort of an anxiety for African-American women feminists like myself is that we're often asked to join up with white women's feminism, but only on their own terms, as long as we sort of remain silent about the ways in which our gender, our class, our sexual identity doesn't intersect, as long as we can be quiet about those things and join onto a single agenda."

The argument was not a new one—women of color and younger feminists have often taken white second-wave feminists to task for focusing on gender inequities over a more intersectional approach that also takes race, class and sexuality into account. But this intrafeminist skirmish over identity politics took on a life of its own in the aftermath of the bitter primary struggle. By pushing a vote for Clinton on the basis of her gender alone, establishment feminists not only rehashed internal grievances—they opened the door for conservatives to demand support for Palin for the very same reason. Unwittingly, the feminist argument for Clinton gave credence to the GOP's hope that the mere presence of a female on the ticket would deliver women's votes.

Is it any wonder, then, that everyone from Palin's supporters to the mainstream media was eager to paint the vice presidential candidate as a feminist? If all it took was being a woman, well, then Palin was it! The Wall Street Journal called it "Sarah Palin Feminism." The New York Post called her "a feminist dream," while the Los Angeles Times ran a piece headlined "Sarah Palin's 'New Feminism' Is Hailed."

In much the same way Obama-supporting feminists were criticized, women who didn't back Palin were swiftly denounced as hypocrites by those on the right. Rick Santorum called Palin the "Clarence Thomas for feminists," blasting women who didn't support her. Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America said, "Even feminists—who supposedly promote women's equality and the so-called 'women's rights' agenda—are questioning a female candidate's ability to get the job done." The criticism of women who failed to back Palin even indulged in sexism. Dennis Miller said that women who weren't behind Palin were simply jealous of the candidate's sex life, and Time magazine reporter Belinda Luscombe wrote that some women had a "hatred" for Palin simply because she was "too pretty." (My favorite, however, was Kevin Burke's argument in National Review that women who didn't support Palin were suffering from "post-abortion symptoms.") Palin even managed to divide some feminists. Elaine Lafferty—a former editor of Ms. magazine who had endorsed Clinton but then signed on as a consultant to the McCain campaign—condemned feminist leaders for "sink[ing] this low" and called feminism an "exclusionary club" for not welcoming Palin with open arms.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Dave Lindorff: Forget Radar, Now the Government Is X-Raying You as You Drive

Getting Some Rays: Forget Radar, Now the Government Is X-Raying You as You Drive
by Dave Lindorff
Common Dreams

If you have been feeling uneasy about having to be X-rayed by a Transportation Security Administration goon who can look under your clothes every time you fly, consider this: at least you can say no, and agree to be subjected to an old-fashioned full-body search.

No opt-out for the latest in anti-terror technology though, with reports just out in Forbes Magazine and the Christian Science Monitor that the Homeland Security Department has purchased 500 mobile X-ray vans called ZBVs that can scan cars, trucks and homes without the drivers even knowing that they're being zapped.

These vans, made by a Massachusetts company called American Science & Engineering, are fitted out with what are called Z Backscatter X-ray devices, which aim a focused X-ray beam that reportedly has the capability of penetrating 14 inches of steel.

In theory, the device is supposed to be safe for human targets, because it is operated at a distance, and because the beam is weakened by penetrating the metal of a vehicle before it reaches a person. But the flaws in this kind of reassuring safety calculus are readily apparent in a photo of a small truck carrying contraband that accompanies the Christian Science Monitor story. The X-ray image, after penetrating the truck cab's metal body, clearly shows the contraband behind the driver's seat, but it also just as clearly shows the shadowy outline of the driver of the pickup. Worse yet, even his window is half-way down, so there is no shielding at all of the X-rays hitting his head.

We can expect these mobile X-ray vans to be proliferating around the country soon, if they're not out there already, but they may be hard to spot. As American Science & Engineering says in a note to investors on the company website:

A breakthrough in X-ray detection technology, AS&E's Z Backscatter Van is the number one selling non-intrusive mobile inspection system on the market. The ZBV system is a low-cost, highly mobile screening system built into a commercially available delivery van.

Prof. Peter Rez, a physicist a Arizona State University who specializes in X-ray technology, and who has been doing research on backscatter X-ray dosages, says that if used properly, the radiation doses received by targeted persons would be very minute, but then he notes that if the government begins a major campaign of surreptitious X-raying on highways and at locations of security concern (the machines are already being used at major sporting events like the Superbowl), there have to be concerns about whether the machines are being maintained in proper working condition (driving them around on America's run-down highways is subjecting the machines to quite a beating), and about whether the operators are using them properly.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Des'ree: Ain't no sunshine

Salon Radio: Eric Boehlert -- Bloggers on the Bus -- How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press

Eric Boehlert's new book about political blogs
By Glenn Greenwald

Eric Boehlert has just released a truly superb, illuminating and entertaining new book: Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press. As the title suggests, the book examines the impact which the blogosphere has had on both journalism and political activism, and it is, in my view, by far the best book yet to examine the rise of political blogs. Boehlert is my guest today on Salon Radio to talk about the issues raised by this new book.

In order to dispel stereotypes and myths propagated about bloggers (mostly by establishment journalists eager to demonize what they perceive as their competitors), Boehlert focuses on 8-10 bloggers, and writes in detail about their background and what brought them to blogging. There is a chapter that focuses heavily on the fight over FISA and telecom immunity, which also includes a discussion of the work I've done (and provides a lot more information and details about me than, frankly, I expected or desired). Today, Salon has published a partial excerpt from that chapter, and it thoroughly highlights how that fight was waged and what it reflects about the ability of bloggers and their readers to affect our political debates.

Boehlert's book is a very balanced and provocative examination of the role blogs now play, and he devotes an entire chapter -- perhaps the most interesting one -- to the acrimonious civil war that erupted during the Obama-Clinton primary fight. He also examines what role bloggers now play in light of Obama's victory. One of Boehlert's specialties, as a Senior Fellow at Media Matters and author of the equally excellent Lapdogs, is the profoundly corrupted establishment media, and the book does an excellent job of describing the dynamic between establishment journalists and blogs.

To Read the Transcript and/or Listen to the Interview

Kevin Gosztola: Obama Employs Bush Administration Tactic, Blocks Photos

"The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.” -- Barack Obama (Jan 21, 2009)

Obama Employs Bush Administration Tactic, Blocks Photos

Glenn Greenwald: War on Terror Logic

(Extra credit opportunity for HUM 121 students--read entire essay, watch Rachel Maddow video, and write a response)

War on Terror logic
By Glenn Greenwald

The U.S. war in (against) Pakistan continues to escalate, as Pakistanis attacked NATO tankers carrying fuel through their country to soldiers in Afghanistan last night, killing three people, an attack that was in retaliation for vastly increased U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan this month, which were ordered in alleged response to reports of increased Terrorist threats aimed at Europe, which, in turn, were in retaliation for the escalating wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (as evidenced by the large numbers of individuals of Afghan descent involved in these plots). Jim White -- in a post this morning entitled "Stuck in Feedback Loop: Drone Strikes Provoke Terrorists Who Provoke More Drone Strikes" -- documents exactly the process at play here:

The situation in Pakistan appears to have reached a point where a positive feedback loop prompts continued escalation on both sides. The US sees drone attacks as its primary weapon and has stepped up such attacks in the belief that they will create more security for military actions in Afghanistan and disrupt planning of terrorist attacks on the West. Instead, the attacks appear to enrage the surviving targets, recruit more to their ranks and lead to more attacks.

What a surprise: bombing Muslims more and more causes more and more Muslims to want to bomb the countries responsible. That, of course, has long been the perverse "logic" driving the War on Terror. The very idea that we're going to reduce Terrorism by more intensively bombing more Muslim countries is one of the most patently absurd, self-contradicting premises that exists. It's exactly like announcing that the cure for lung cancer is to quadruple the number of cigarettes one smokes each day. But that's been the core premise (at least the stated one) of our foreign policy for the last decade: we're going to stop Terrorism by doing more and more of exactly the things that cause it (and see this very good Economist article on the ease with which drones allow a nation's leaders to pretend to its citizenry that they are not really at war -- as we're doing with Pakistan).

Speaking of counter-productive U.S. actions in Pakistan, this Washington Post article from Friday discusses the possibility that a coup could be engineered in that country to overthrow the current Government and replace it with one that is friendlier to U.S. interests:

U.S. officials pointed to recent signs that Pakistan's powerful army and opposition parties are positioning themselves to install a new civilian government to replace President Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister in the coming months. . . . U.S. officials indicated that the administration has begun to contemplate the effects of a change, engineered through Zardari's resignation as head of his political party, the dissolution of the current coalition government, or a call for new elections under the Pakistani constitution, rather than any overt action by the military. Some suggested that a new, constitutionally-approved government that was more competent and popular, and had strong military backing, might be better positioned to support U.S. policies.

The article does not say that the U.S. is actively involved in those efforts, but it's very difficult to imagine American military and intelligence officials simply sitting passively by as a coup is underway in a country (like Pakistan) where we are so invested, just keeping their fingers crossed that it results in a new government "better positioned to support U.S. policies." Whatever else is true, it's very easy to imagine how such a coup -- resulting in a more U.S.-friendly government -- will be perceived in that country and around the Muslim world. That perception is unlikely to help reduce the threat of Terrorism.

To Read the Rest of the Essay, Access More Resources, and Watch a Rachel Maddow Commentary

Monday, October 04, 2010

Deconstructing Hazelton: Immigrant Discrimination

Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010)

Watching Theology: Kevin Smith's Dogma (1999)

Kevin Smith's Dogma (1999)
Watching Theology

Religious movies sure have a way of making religious people angry. Kevin Smith's 1999 film, Dogma, is no exception. Fearing death threats - from the "Thou Shall Not Kill" folks who ought to know better - Smith went as far as putting a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie to let people know he's just having some fun (the disclaimer thing didn't work for Scorsese either). In the midst of Smith's fun is a film that is a bit long on exposition, a bit indulgent in profanity and a lot smarter than given credit. Dogma may be one of the most original films of recent years, and the perspectives it offers are more than enough material for a little half-hour show. Join us as we talk about a few of the primary players and wonder if God is really a Canadian pop star.

To Listen to the Episode

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Robert Barsky: Acting in Your Own Self-Interest

... any dissident or dissenter comes up against power, and interests, and, accordingly, considerable resources dedicated to the maintanence of status quo power relations, so it is incumbent upon him to offer up credible sources, "indisputable" facts and convincing rhetoric to guide people along the path to understanding not only the world but even their own self-interest. We ought to be concerned about how the government is spending our money, that is, the rational for spending a huge percentage of the federal budget on military and Pentagon expenses rather than upon the kind of social projects and programs that promote a higher standard of living for the majority of the population. This is self-interest, and informed involvement in political discussions by that measure is the exercise of our individual interest, in the same way as figuring out how our monthly income is being spent is in our own interest. But given that such self-interest conflicts with a power elite interest, because government officials like corporate managers would generally prefer to act with impunity (the cloaks of secrecy that surround our own government's actions on a range of fronts is testament to this), it's likely that attempts to become engaged in our own affairs will be met with resistance or scorn.

Watching Theology: Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man (2005)

Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man (2005)
Watching Theology

A few summers ago, while most of us were out camping or having a bar-b-q, Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend were being killed and eaten by a starving grizzly bear in Alaska. One of our most significant working directors, Werner Herzog, picked up his video footage and compiled a documentary about the severity of nature and Treadwell's death. In this episode, we look at the tragic life of "the Grizzly Man" as interpreted and remembered by Herzog and his cynicism. Is nature neutral, sinister or - as Treadwell believed - the Disney-like world of compassion and sentiment?

To Listen to the Episode

Friday, October 01, 2010

Tom McCormack: Madness and Civilization -- Monsieur Verdoux and the meaning of Chaplin's cinema

Madness and Civilization: Monsieur Verdoux and the meaning of Chaplin's cinema
by Tom McCormack
Moving Image Source


My argument is that, in ways both subtle and blatant, Monsieur Verdoux, in terms of its content and the public reaction it garnered, foreshadowed the cultural tumult of the late 1960s and 1970s—and that it recasts Chaplin's previous work in a way that reveals the deep cultural roots of the radical agenda of "the '60s." Take another look at Agee's language in analyzing the film. Verdoux has "estranged his soul." His wife and child are "shut away in a home which is at once a shrine and a jail; and there, immobilized, they become an ever more rigid dream." This isn't like the language that would be used, in the 1960s, to attack the suburban dream; this is that language. Of course, in 1947, anti-bourgeois sentiments were not new. If anything was new it was the flavor of Agee's language and the popular platform—this was happening in movie theaters and the pages of Time and The Nation. Agee wrote, "Like many businessmen who feel unloved, or incapable of full enough love, he can only propitiate, and express, his love by providing for his family as handsomely as possible." "Only his satisfaction really counts, in this household—his wife and child scarcely exist for him except as a self-vindicating dream." We come across, again, this idea of a dream that is in fact an excuse, a lie. Even when discussing Verdoux in formal terms, Agee's writing reeks of the '60s. Verdoux "looks handmade, not machine-turned." Agee praised the film for "atmosphere, authenticity, and beauty in mock formlessness." He might well have been talking about folk music, appreciating the scrape of the fingernails against the strings of the guitar.

There are more treasures to be found in Agee's review. He writes that Verdoux is a "Responsible Man," "a metaphor for the modern personality—that is, a typical ‘responsible' personality reacting to contemporary pressures according to the logic of contemporary ethics." Verdoux may very well be the first in a line of 20th-century characters—the model citizen as homicidal maniac—that stretches through Bertolucci's Marcello Clerici in The Conformist and up to Bret Easton Ellis's (and Mary Harron's) Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. The unifying text for this type is probably Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Serialized in The New Yorker in 1961, and revised and expanded into a book in 1963, Eichmann in Jerusalem argued that Holocaust villain Adolf Eichmann really was as boring as he seemed to be, that he merely thought he was being an upright citizen—that it was possible he was, by many definitions, an upright citizen, "a typical ‘responsible' personality reacting to contemporary pressures according to the logic of contemporary ethics." Arendt quoted psychiatrists who spoke with Eichmann and claimed that his outlook on his family was "not only normal but most desirable." Another said Eichmann was "more normal, at any rate, than I am after having examined him." Half a dozen psychiatrists examined Eichmann and all of them settled on: normal. A minister said he was "a man with very positive ideas." Because Arendt took Eichmann at his word, instead of assuming that his normality was a mere façade, her book aroused a furor among Holocaust scholars, one that has lasted to this day. But Eichmann in Jerusalem quickly found a following in the counterculture of the 1960s—not so much because it shed any light on the Nazis (though it might have), but because it seemed to confirm a deeply rooted feeling that many intellectuals had after living through the 1950s: that conformity could be, and perhaps usually was, as wicked as the most dire transgression, that transgression might actually be preferable, that not only might evil be banal, but banality itself—the banality of, say, Levittown—could be viewed as a force of evil. (This latter sentiment is a misreading of Arendt, but it's not very hard to get there.)

If we put Eichmann up against Verdoux certain facets of the film snap into place. I believe that, when Chaplin loaded Verdoux's mouth with clichés, he knew exactly what he was doing. When Verdoux's son plays a little too rough with the household cat, Verdoux chastises him, "Violence begets violence, son." I don't think his self-justifications at the end of the film are meant to be any less deluded, and that Chaplin wasn't far off when he called Verdoux "the cleverest and most brilliant film of my career." A penchant for cliché was the defining quality of Eichmann. "As long as he was capable of finding, either in his memory or on the spur of the moment, an elating stock phrase," Arendt wrote of Eichmann, "he was quite content." She could have been writing of Verdoux. And the complaint about Verdoux, echoed by many modern critics, that Chaplin relies too heavily on cutaways of trains—obviously this takes on an eerie resonance. The trains don't just refer, obliquely, to the Holocaust; they also symbolize order, industrial progress, rationality—all things that found themselves under attack in the counter-enlightenment thought that gestated in the Frankfurt School and bubbled over to the surface of American culture about 20 years after Verdoux was made. The train wheels are sister objects to the gnashing machinery that chews up and spits out the Little Tramp in Modern Times.


The counterculture that embraced Eichmann in Jerusalem found an academic arm in psychiatrists like R.D. Laing and Thomas Szasz, and in philosophers like Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze; people who argued, among other things—and yes, I'm abstracting some general sentiments from a broad, heterogeneous group of thinkers—that what society called insanity, maladaptation, was actually a valid way of life and that what society called sanity was in fact madness or worse. That we are all potential Eichmanns, because every regime is a fascist regime, different only in the extent to which methods of control are hidden. (It's worth pointing out that the title of AMC's Mad Men, which offers a view of the early 1960s from the perspective of the later 1960s, is no accident.) Critics of these thinkers tended to regard these ideas as unprecedented, a kind of radical anti-culture—and proponents of this thought, with a natural sense of self-promotion, often nodded along. But how new was this kind of thinking? How unprecedented were the 1960s? That one can find premonitions of this thought in the realm of high modernism—and in art and philosophy generally—is beyond dispute. That one can find premonitions in popular culture is more interesting. Certainly this attitude toward madness and sanity, adaptation and maladaptation, finds its popular apotheosis in the 1950s in the pop writing of the Beats, but it goes back much further than that; one can see it at work in many of the comedies that came out of early Hollywood, particularly in the work of the most popular entertainer who ever lived, the first universally recognizable symbol in the global village: Charles Spencer Chaplin. Issues of sanity and madness were on Chaplin's mind when he made Verdoux. In an interview, he called Verdoux a "madman," and said, "When a thing is overstated it becomes ridiculous. This is the salvation of man's sanity." At the press conference for Verdoux, Chaplin stated, "We are going to grow up a bunch of neurotics."

Bazin is right when he says, "Monsieur Verdoux casts a light on Chaplin's world, sets it right and gives it a new significance." Verdoux is superadapted and he's a madman. The Tramp is maladapted—and if we follow the logic insisted on by Bazin—he is supremely sane. James Agee—who a colleague once described as "a sort of hippie a generation prior to the hippie era," and who, a friend noted, "got more delight out of factory-second sweaters and a sleazy cap than a straight dandy does from waxed calf Pearl shoes"—said that the Tramp "indicates what is obviously the good way to live: to live that way would mean a complete ‘withdrawal from the world' for each individual; would mean the destruction of the world as is."

To Read the Entire Essay

Hate Message #25 Concerning the New Socialist Student Union at BCTC: A Tea Party Supporter

The quotes the respondent is referring to in the beginning of his response are in my email signature:

Anyone who believes that every individual film must present a "balanced" picture, knows nothing about either balance or pictures.
--Edward Murrow

Democracy is a great conversation, a community defined by the scope and substance of its discourse.
--James David Barber

"Believing is seeing and not the other way around."
--Errol Morris

"There are in fact no masses; there are only ways of seeing people as masses.”
--Raymond Williams

The email to me:

Those quotes are nice, but what you all dont realize is that I, you, or any other average American had nothing to do with all the evil stuff that has happened in our country, but the average American has for decades been the first to help all around the world. So when you all teach about hating America and then trying to tear it all down with redistribution around the world, you are actually hurting decent hard working Americans. Not the Politicians who cut under the table deals to secure themselves and their the families. This country is filled with wonderful people who want the government to back off and stop with the regulations. Everyone is not equal and people who work hard and love the way their country is, should not be punished. There was a Socialist party back in the early 1900's and the country sent them running to blend in with both Republicans and Democrats. If the government doesnt stop,(being a innocent bystander), there will be a rebellion. Obama got the benefit of the doubt back in 08 because we where fed up with Bush. But the Dems have abused their power very badly and they will be held accountable. This time period will be in the History books as when America decided to squash Socialism and the liberal philosophy. Its ok, we just need to clean up both parties and the "Tea Party", I think will do both.

My response:

1) We are citizens of this country, and as such, we are complicit when we do nothing to stop the evil that our country does. A quote from Howard Zinn in regards to your claim that "average Americans" are not responsible for the evil their country does

2) There is no such mythical creature as the “average American.” Try to use specific examples if you want to illustrate your points.

3) Who is the “all” you are referring to… you are writing to one person. Can you supply me with your understanding of who these “all” are and why you would insist on lumping me in with them—rather than responding to me as an individual?

4) What “evil stuff” has/is happened/happening in our country (or that we are doing overseas)? Can you explain what you mean when you say this?

5) You state: “So when you all teach about hating America and then trying to tear it all down with redistribution around the world, you are actually hurting decent hard working Americans.” Do you have knowledge of my teaching or are you making gross assumptions? If you have experienced my teaching perhaps it would be helpful if you supplied concrete examples? Is criticism of one’s country (or anything else) necessarily hatred? Does a parent that works with their children to correct destructive behaviors hateful of that child?

6) How would redistribution tear down our country—can you explain? Are you trying to make the claim that our country depends (and was created upon) inequality and injustice? Interesting claim ;)

7) How am I hurting “hard working decent Americans” and can you provide me with a concrete example of how I am doing this?

8) Who are these “wonderful people”?

9) Is regulation a bad thing? Can you provide me with specific examples? Are you able to imagine how regulation could be necessary or good?

10) How are people “who work hard” hurt by my understanding of the equality of people? Have you read our country’s foundational document “The Declaration of Independence”? How does that jive with your claim?

11) You state: “There was a Socialist party back in the early 1900's and the country sent them running to blend in with both Republicans and Democrats.” You have no understanding of this history. I would be willing to provide you a reading list if you were truly interested about this—kind of get to know your enemy. As it is right now you are so clearly uninformed about what you are talking about, that you couldn’t convince anyone of your points (unless you are talking to people equally ignorant of these histories). Once again, my goal is the development of critical thinking and historically informed citizens, it doesn’t matter to me that you have different views.

12) “If the government doesnt stop,(being a innocent bystander), there will be a rebellion.” Vague statement that is ridiculous in its simplicity. Take some time to explain what you are talking about here? “Doesn’t stop” what? What “rebellion”? By whom/where/how/why? I truly want to know—can you explain for me?

13) Would you care to explain what the Tea Party stands for and what it will do for us?

14) Do you use any government service? Any—should we get rid of them?

15) Have you read Matt Taibbi’s latest article on the Tea Party in KY? Here it is, feel free to comment on it if you want—of course try to read it all the way through and if you want to debate his points try to use specific examples

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 ...


Otto Rene Castillo: Apolitical Intellectuals


One day
the apolitical
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.

They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
like a sweet fire
small and alone.

No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
after lunch,
no one will want to know
about their sterile combats
with "the idea
of the nothing"
no one will care about
their higher financial learning.
They won't be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward's death.

They'll be asked nothing
about their absurd
born in the shadow
of the total life.

On that day
the simple men will come.
Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they'll ask:
"What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness
and life
burned out of them?"

Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.
Your own misery
will pick at your soul.
And you will be mute in your shame.

--Otto Rene Castillo