Monday, April 30, 2012

International May Day General Strike

Dialogic is honoring the International May 1st Strike -- the site will be up, but I will not be posting anything on May 1st! Go find your local May 1st celebration, gathering and/or protest. Solidarity!

Democracy Now: Ahead of May Day, David Harvey Details Urban Uprisings from Occupy Wall Street to the Paris Commune

Ahead of May Day, David Harvey Details Urban Uprisings from Occupy Wall Street to the Paris Commune
Democracy Now

On Tuesday, May 1st, known as May Day or International Workers’ Day, Occupy Wall Street protesters hope to mobilize tens of thousands of people across the country under the slogan, "General Strike. No Work. No Shopping. Occupy Everywhere." Events are planned in 125 cities. We speak with leading social theorist David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, about how Occupy Wall Street compares to other large-scale grassroots movements throughout modern history. "It’s struck a chord," Harvey says of the Occupy movement. "I hope tomorrow there will be a situation in which many more people will say, 'Look, things have got to change. Something different has to happen.'" Harvey’s most recent book is "Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution."


David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His most recent book is Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution.

To Watch the Interview

More Resources:

Michael Parenti: Political Science/History/Media Activist

Michael Parenti (Wikipedia)

Michael Parenti: Political Archive (Personal Website)

Abu-Jamal, Mumia and Michael Parenti. "Created Unequal (Law, Money and Mumia Abu-Jamal)." Unwelcome Guests #6 (April 12, 2000)

Parenti, Michael. "Contrary Notions." FORA TV (January 17, 2008)

---. "Executive Power and Democratic Needs." Unwelcome Guests #5 (April 5, 2000)

---. "Globalization: The New Imperialism." Unwelcome Guests (March 22, 2000)

---. "On the Culture Struggle." Democracy Now (May 8, 2007)

---. "Racism and the Ideology of Slavery." Unwelcome Guests #8 (April 29, 2000)

---. "The Sword and the Dollar." Unwelcome Guests #4 (April 5, 2000)

Parenti, Michael and Howard Zinn. "The US Constitution and the Rebellion that Shaped It, Pt. 1." Seeing Red Radio (September 18, 2009)

Parenti, Michael, et al. "American Imperialism." Seeing Red Radio (October 1, 2009)

---, et al. "The Cost of Empire at Home and Abroad." Unwelcome Guests #3 (March 22, 2000)

Project Censored [Parenti is a national judge]

Michael Parenti: Globalization, the New Imperialism; Brian Tokar: On Genetic Engineering

Episode #2 - Globalization and Genetic Engineering (Globalization, the New Imperialism: WTO threat to democracy)
Unwelcome Guests

Start of a 17 part lecture series with Michael Parenti. His talk this week "Globalization, the New Imperialism: WTO threat to democracy". In the second hour, Brian Tokar from Northeast Resistance Against Genetic Engineering (NERAGE).

To Listen to the Episodes

Alan Rabinowitz: A Voice for the Animals

A Voice for the Animals
On Being with Krista Tippett (American Public Media)

A profound stutter as a child left Alan Rabinowitz virtually unable to communicate and to prefer animals to people. Now a conservationist of tigers and jaguars, an explorer of the world's last wild places, he has extraordinary insight into both animals and the human condition.

To Listen to the Episode and Access More Resources

Sunday, April 29, 2012

James Bamford: The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)

The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say) By James Bamford Wired The spring air in the small, sand-dusted town has a soft haze to it, and clumps of green-gray sagebrush rustle in the breeze. Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. They came to escape the rest of the world, to understand the mysterious words sent down from their god as revealed on buried golden plates, and to practice what has become known as “the principle,” marriage to multiple wives. Magazine2004 Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978—and the number of plural marriages has tripled—so the sect has recently been looking for ways to purchase more land and expand throughout the town. But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves. Like the pious polygamists, they are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand. Just off Beef Hollow Road, less than a mile from brethren headquarters, thousands of hard-hatted construction workers in sweat-soaked T-shirts are laying the groundwork for the newcomers’ own temple and archive, a massive complex so large that it necessitated expanding the town’s boundaries. Once built, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol. Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks. In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors. The NSA has become the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever. Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy. But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.” For the NSA, overflowing with tens of billions of dollars in post-9/11 budget awards, the cryptanalysis breakthrough came at a time of explosive growth, in size as well as in power. Established as an arm of the Department of Defense following Pearl Harbor, with the primary purpose of preventing another surprise assault, the NSA suffered a series of humiliations in the post-Cold War years. Caught offguard by an escalating series of terrorist attacks—the first World Trade Center bombing, the blowing up of US embassies in East Africa, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally the devastation of 9/11—some began questioning the agency’s very reason for being. In response, the NSA has quietly been reborn. And while there is little indication that its actual effectiveness has improved—after all, despite numerous pieces of evidence and intelligence-gathering opportunities, it missed the near-disastrous attempted attacks by the underwear bomber on a flight to Detroit in 2009 and by the car bomber in Times Square in 2010—there is no doubt that it has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created. In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever. To Read the Rest of the Essay

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance; Detained in the U.S.: Filmmaker Laura Poitras Held, Questioned Some 40 Times at U.S. Airports; "We Don’t Live in a Free Country": Jacob Appelbaum on Being Target of Widespread Gov’t Surveillance; The NSA is Lying–U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails; More Secrets on Growing State Surveillance

Exclusive: National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance

In his first television interview since he resigned from the National Security Agency over its domestic surveillance program, William Binney discusses the NSA’s massive power to spy on Americans and why the FBI raided his home after he became a whistleblower. Binney was a key source for investigative journalist James Bamford’s recent exposé in Wired Magazine about how the NSA is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. The Utah spy center will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency, including private emails, cell phone calls, Google searches and other personal data.

Binney served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could "create an Orwellian state." Today marks the first time Binney has spoken on national television about NSA surveillance.


William Binney, served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could "create an Orwellian state."

Detained in the U.S.: Filmmaker Laura Poitras Held, Questioned Some 40 Times at U.S. Airports

The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras discusses how she has been repeatedly detained and questioned by federal agents whenever she enters the United States. Poitras said the interrogations began after she began working on her documentary, "My Country, My Country," about post-invasion Iraq. Her most recent film, "The Oath," was about Yemen and Guantánamo and follows the lives of two past associates of Osama bin Laden. She estimates she has been detained approximately 40 times and has had her laptop, cell phone and personal belongings repeatedly searched. Tonight she is leading a surveillance teach-in at the Whitney Museum in New York City with our other guests, computer security researcher and government target Jacob Appelbaum and National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney. Poiras is currently at work on a film about post-9/11 America.


Laura Poitras, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and producer. She is working on the third part of a trilogy of films about America post-9/11. The first film was My Country, My Country, and the second was The Oath.

"We Don’t Live in a Free Country": Jacob Appelbaum on Being Target of Widespread Gov’t Surveillance

We speak with Jacob Appelbaum, a computer researcher who has faced a stream of interrogations and electronic surveillance since he volunteered with the whistleblowing website, WikiLeaks. He describes being detained more than a dozen times at the airport and interrogated by federal agents who asked about his political views and confiscated his cell phone and laptop. When asked why he cannot talk about what happened after he was questioned, Appelbaum says, "Because we don’t live in a free country. And if I did, I guess I could tell you about it." A federal judge ordered Twitter to hand over information about Appelbaum’s account. Meanwhile, he continues to work on the Tor Project, an anonymity network that ensures every person has the right to browse the internet without restriction and the right to speak freely.


Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who has volunteered with WikiLeaks. He is a developer and advocate for the Tor Project, a network enabling its users to communicate anonymously on the internet.

Whistleblower: The NSA is Lying–U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails

National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion "transactions" — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States. Binney talks about Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and challenges NSA Director Keith Alexander’s assertion that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens.

More Secrets on Growing State Surveillance: Exclusive with NSA Whistleblower, Targeted Hacker

In part two of our national broadcast exclusive on the growing domestic surveillance state, we speak with National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney and two targeted Americans: Oscar-nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras and hacker Jacob Appelbaum, who has volunteered for WikiLeaks and now works with Tor Project, a nonprofit organization that teaches about internet security. Binney left the NSA after the 9/11 attacks over his concerns about the agency’s widespread surveillance of U.S. citizens. He describes how the FBI later raided his home and held him at gunpoint and notes there is still no effective way of monitoring how and what information the NSA is gathering on U.S. citizens and how that data is being used.

Pamela Brown and David Harvey: 1T Day -- As U.S. Student Debt Hits $1 Trillion, Occupy Protests Planned for Campuses Nationwide

1T Day: As U.S. Student Debt Hits $1 Trillion, Occupy Protests Planned for Campuses Nationwide
Democracy Now

Today marks what activists are calling 1T Day, the day U.S. student debt reaches $1 trillion. A coalition of groups from Occupy Wall Street plan to gather on college campuses and communities around the country to protest record-high college costs and call for an extension of low-interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans. In a bid to court the youth vote, President Obama weighed in on student debt on Tuesday with a speech at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The vast majority of the $1 trillion worth of student debt is actually held by Wall Street banks," says Pamela Brown, a Ph.D. student who helped launch the Occupy Student Debt Campaign "Pledge of Refusal." "Those banks actually securitize these loans, and they sell them off, and they make enormous profits from them," Brown says. We also speak with David Harvey, a professor and author whose most recent book is "Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution." "There’s been this immense attempt by corporations and the wealthy and so on to pass the costs of education on to the people who are being educated," says Harvey. "They don’t want to pay for training their own labor force. They want their labor force to train itself, and then they’ll use it."


Pamela Brown, Ph.D. student in sociology at the New School who’s helped launch the Occupy Student Debt Campaign "Pledge of Refusal."

David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has been teaching Karl Marx’s Capital for nearly 40 years and is the author of several books, including The Limits to Capital and A Brief History of Neoliberalism. His most recent book is Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution.

To Watch the Episode

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tom McCormack: Laws of Desire -- What did David Cronenberg's Videodrome get right about us?

Laws of Desire: What did David Cronenberg's Videodrome get right about us?
by Tom McCormack
Moving Image Source

It can be both fun and necessary to revisit famously prescient works of art and take account of just what they got right.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell was right that the most successful authoritarian regimes of the future would limit dissent by using mass media to control our conceptual tools. He was wrong about how they would do it; instead of issuing messages through a unified voice, the most durable authoritarianism has flourished by dispersing control among a small set of global corporations that justify their outsized power through their success in the marketplace. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley was right that sexual freedom and the triumph of therapy culture would develop alongside rigid class structures. The mainstream acceptance of casual sex and prescription pharmaceuticals really did happen alongside a consolidation of class power—a radical one we're still reeling from. But in Huxley this was accomplished through an exaggeration of class difference and an expanded language for class; in reality, the culture witnessed the atrophy of a language for class and an erasing of outward signs of class in terms of professed values, fashion, and manners of speech (hence "bourgeois bohemians" and "the millionaire next door").

David Cronenberg's Videodrome offered in 1983 a vision of dystopia that rivaled in ambition and sweep and foresight Orwell's and Huxley's more famous works. So what did Videodrome get right? And what, if anything, did it get wrong?

Cronenberg was right that new technologies would unleash a craving for scenes of increasingly extreme and increasingly realistic—if not just plain real—sexual violence. He was right about what this violence would look like ("No plot, no characters. Very realistic"); why the entertainment industry would turn to it ("I'm looking for something that will break through. Something tough!"); and how those in the media would talk about it ("It's absolutely brilliant. I mean look: there's almost no production cost!"). He was right that many people would experience these new products as addictive and would report a psychic bleed into the texture of their daily lives, frequently to their great concern.

Cronenberg was right, in a more subtle way, about what would cause the cultural turn to sexual violence. The movie isn't called "photodrome" or "cinemadrome"—it's not about the nature of mechanical reproduction or motion pictures but about the consequences of private access to public imagery. Professor Brian O'Blivion, Videodrome's resident philosopher, tells us that the television has become the "retina of the mind's eye"; that "the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain." What he's talking about is what contemporary social scientists studying the Internet call—borrowing terms from psychoanalysis—"solipsistic introjection." This refers to the tendency of individuals to believe, on at least a semi-conscious level, that things happening on their electronic devices are actually happening inside their heads. Describing how this effect works in online chat rooms, John Suler writes:

Reading another person's message might be experienced as a voice within one's head, as if that person magically has been inserted or "introjected" into one's psyche... The online companion now becomes a character within our intrapsychic world, a character that is shaped partly by how the person actually presents him or herself via text communication, but also by our expectations, wishes, and needs... People fantasize about flirting, arguing with a boss, or very honestly confronting a friend about what they feel. In their imagination, where it's safe, people feel free to say and do all sorts of things that they wouldn't in reality. At that moment, reality IS one's imagination. Online text communication can become the psychological tapestry in which a person's mind weaves these fantasy role plays, usually unconsciously and with considerable disinhibition. All of cyberspace is a stage and we are merely players.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Rage Against the Machine: Know Your Enemy

Against the Grain: Will Parrish -- Grapes of Wrath

Grapes of Wrath
Against the Grain (KPFA: Berkeley, CA)

It epitomizes corporate production in our neoliberal age: an industry tied into circuits of global finance, producing for markets far away; involving political cronyism, the superexploitation of immigrant labor, and the dramatic depletion of the environment. It might surprise you, but it's the wine industry. Investigative journalist Will Parrish lays bare wine production on the North Coast

To Listen to the Episode

Monday, April 23, 2012

Film Quarterly: Interview with Göran Hugo Olsson

Interview with Göran Hugo Olsson
by Rob White
Film Quarterly

The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 is a chronologically presented assemblage of re-edited documentary film from the archive of the Swedish National Broadcast Company. To this original material director Göran Hugo Olsson has added explanatory titles and a soundtrack that consists of original music by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Om’Mas Keith together with voiceover commentary by (among others) musicians Erykah Badu and Talib Kweli as well as professors Angela Davis, Robin Kelley, and Sonia Sanchez. Davis’s participation is noteworthy because The Black Power Mixtape includes an electrifying clip of her being interviewed in San Rafael County Prison in 1972 and rounding on the questioner, Bo Holmström: “you ask me whether I approve of violence,” she says, going on to recount the experience of seeing childhood friends of hers murdered in bomb attacks in Birmingham, Alabama, “limbs and heads strewn all over the place.” “When someone asks me about violence,” she adds, “what it means is the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea … what black people have experienced in this country since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.”

Though it has nine main segments, one for each year recorded, The Black Power Mixtape can be described as a kind of three-act tragedy. The first phase is one of radical eloquence and increasingly bold, militant organization. Stokely Carmichael is the star of the proceedings but we also see a grassroots Black Panther schoolroom in Oakland and hear Panther co-founder Bobby Seale declare that “we will defend ourselves, we will shoot … because we are bent on survival.” Crackdown occurs in the next phase: Eldridge Cleaver speaks unconvincingly from Algiers about “government-in-exile” but at home thousands of activists are imprisoned and scores killed. (When we see Davis after her release she is speaking from a platform that appears to be protected by bulletproof glass.) The final part of the film relies heavily on Lars Ulvestam’s documentary Harlem: Voices, Faces which dwells on the spreading blight of heroin. In one clip a young former prostitute and addict talks to camera about turning her life around, but it is arguably the discourse of self-betterment itself that contributes to an impression of isolation and vulnerability. The language of politics and the idea of a mass movement are no longer present. Although the voiceover commentators shortly afterwards discuss the lasting achievements of the struggle for black liberation in the 1960s and 70s, I could not shake a feeling of loss which emerged from the gulf between the defiant confidence of Davis’s jail-cell remarks and the suffering words of this lonely Harlem woman.

The film’s relationship to history is ruminative. Because of the audio commentary The Black Power Mixtape stages a “moving conversation between past and present,” as B. Rich put it in her spring 2011 Film Quarterly Sundance report. The dialogic mode of presentation means that it would be hard to watch the film without reflecting on the question of viewpoint. The Swedish crews who filmed the source footage were visitors to the U.S., reporting from a country in crisis and at war, their sympathies evidently extended to such people as the Hallandale, Florida veteran who speaks near the start of The Black Power Mixtape about being “ridiculed, discriminated, treated as less than a man … the environment has a whole lot to do with keeping a man down.” But is there truly an outsider perspective on such a history? When Olsson includes 1973 footage of a tourist bus tour of Harlem, its Swedish guide talking up the danger of street crime, before cutting to a camera position inside a police car, the question no longer permits of an easy answer—and that is how it should be.

To Read the Interview

Marilyn Waring and Elaine Bernard: Delusions of Modern Economics & The Free Market

Episode #1 - Delusions of Modern Economics & The Free Market (Women's Day Edition)
Unwelcome Guests

Feminist economist Marilyn Waring on how current economic measurements don't count unwaged work mostly done by women. In our second hour, Elaine Bernard speaks on sweatshops, labor organizing and solidarity.

To Listen to the Episode

Friday, April 20, 2012

Uprising Radio: Koch Brothers Exposed -- The 1% at its Very Worst

Koch Brothers Exposed: The 1% at its Very Worst
Uprising Radio

When the Occupy Movement speaks about the 1 percent which has wreaked havoc on this country’s financial system, the billionaire Koch brothers immediately come to mind. Charles and David Koch have given hundreds of million dollars to fund a conservative agenda which promotes the interests of the richest 1 percent of Americans. Now, in Robert Greenwald’s new documentary, “Koch Brothers Exposed: The 1% at its very Worst” we get an incisive look at the tentacles of the Kochs’ influence throughout the American political and cultural landscape.

After inheriting the family oil business from their father, Charles and David Koch amassed an estimated fortune of $60 billion dollars through Koch Industries. The company has become the 2nd largest privately held multi-national corporation in the world owning companies that range from Georgia-Pacific paper company to fertilizers, chemicals, ranching, manufacturing and oil pipelines. Veteran film maker Robert Greenwald, in his film, shows how the Koch Brothers have spent their money to wield enormous power and advance an extreme right wing political agenda through massive donations to think tanks, legislators and political groups like Americans for Prosperity.

Employing more than 50,000 people in the US, Koch-funded think tanks, according to Greenwald, are working to dismantle unions, weaken social security and deregulate government to dilute environmental protections around the country. In fact, Koch Industries is one of the top ten polluters in the United States. Not satisfied with influencing the economic system within which their companies operate, the brothers also aspire to shape the cultural fabric of the country. Through groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs are working to demolish the public school system by funding efforts to resegregate schools in places like Wake County North Carolina and undermine minority voting rights in dozens of states.

GUEST: Robert Greenwald, producer and director of Koch Brothers Exposed, also founder of Brave New Films, which has produced such hard-hitting documentaries as as Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.

To Listen to the Episode and To See a Preview of the Documentary

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marilyn Waring: Feminist Economics

Wikipedia: Marilyn Waring

Hunt, Tara. "The Influence of Marilyn Waring." National Film Board Blog (March 8, 2010)

Marilyn Waring (Personal Website)

Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics (Canada: Terre Nash, 1995: 94 mins)

Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics (Canada: Terre Nash, 1995: 94 mins)

NFB (Canada)

In this feature-length documentary, Marilyn Waring demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. As a result, unpaid work (usually performed by women) is unrecognized while activities that may be environmentally and socially detrimental are deemed productive. Waring maps out an alternative vision based on the idea of time as the new currency.


"Author/Entrepreneur Tara Hunt on the influence of Marilyn Waring"

Rage Against the Machine: Bullet in the Head

Elizabeth Mirsky: The Dormant Killer -- Plastic's Dirty Little Secret

(A student paper)

Elizabeth Mirsky
Professor Benton
English 102 J022
17 April 2012

The Dormant Killer: Plastic’s Dirty Little Secret

In 1997, a Californian sailor, surfer, environmentalist, and retired furniture restorer accidentally came across a sleeping giant lurking in the center of the Pacific Ocean—the dormant, swirling vortex of plastic waste was no longer hidden or asleep. On his way home from a catamaran boat race in Honolulu, Hawaii, Captain Charles Moore discovered what he named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Grant 22). Unbeknownst to the average American citizen, or most other human beings on the planet, our oceans were being invaded by an ever-increasing mass of plastic waste; the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only trash gyre which exists, four more can be located in the North and South Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. But where did all of this plastic come from? What are its impacts on the environment, marine life, and us? Is there anything we can do about it? These are all questions which I will answer in an attempt to touch the hearts of anyone who cares about not only our oceans or our environment, but about the life of our planet. Over 315 billion pounds of plastic float in almost every ocean and hardly anyone knows about it (Huff 108). After realizing these startling facts about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and its fatal impacts on marine life and the environment, it is up to us to decide whether we want to save our planet or watch it die.

First off, why do we not know that all of this plastic waste exists in the oceans, especially the giant mass in the Pacific? Researchers say that this is because of a lack of satellite footage—in other words, because the plastic is not an island of solid waste but is actually a wide area of scattered, miniature pieces of plastic, it cannot be seen on satellite (Kershaw et al. 24). In last year’s United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) year book, the plastic waste issue was the prominent news story. This is evidence that the plastic does truly exist but has just not been exposed as of yet—Mickey Huff, the director of Project Censored, gives a reason for this censorship. In Censored 2012, Huff explains that “the corporate media blocks all hope of stemming the tide of plastics and other refuse going into our waterways and into the gyres” (108). Because of the censorship of the corporate media, the only channels which this news story can use for exposure are independent news networks—but how many of us daily watch or hear those? A great example of this lack of coverage can be seen in Richard Grant’s shocking quote of David de Rothschild, the founder of an expedition group raising awareness of various environmental issues, Adventure Ecology. Rothschild says, “…the annual budget for the United Nations Environment Program [UNEP] last year was $190 million. And the budget for the latest James Bond movie was $205 million” (qtd. in Grant 34). This is why we don’t know (or have chosen to ignore) the truth about the plastic gyres in our Pacific Ocean. Mixed with the fact that we don’t have a clear satellite picture of the mass of plastic, people are either uninformed or chose to not believe what they hear around them due to a lack of evidence—this should come as an eye-opener.

Out in the Pacific Ocean, in an area called the doldrums, decades of carelessness have formed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. As mentioned before, it is not a solid patch of debris, but is more of a “marine soup” of floating plastic particles. Capt. Moore uses the term “nurdle” to describe these tiny plastic pellets of raw resin which are formed through photo-degradation by the sun of larger plastic waste. Because plastic can never biodegrade, it is up to the sun to disintegrate plastic waste in the ocean—this is a very drawn out process, as can be seen by plastic waste found in the ocean from the 1940s (Moore 86). These nurdles are also produced in factories and shipped out to various companies in order to be blown into various plastics (bottles, bags, containers, etc.). Every plastic item ever made is still out there somewhere. The non-biodegradability of plastic can be explained by looking back through history. After World War II had been fought, an epic shift from frugality to abundance occurred in the minds of most high-income countries. This became the era of comfort and entertainment—a big part of which called for the creation of the super-tough plastic which would never break and could be used for almost anything (Moore 96). But no one thought about what effects this mass use of plastic could possibly have on the environment, how it would never go away, or how it would continue to build up until something had to give. The combination of the industrial use of nurdles and the shift to plastic-crazy mindsets is what caused most of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to accumulate—all that it took was the converging, swirling currents of the Pacific Ocean to bring most of it all to one place.

But at this point, we still did not know the true extent of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. Capt. Charles Moore went on more than eight large expeditions to the Pacific Ocean to experiment with the abundance of plastic over the course of ten years. On his ship, Alguita, Capt. Moore, with the help of Marcus Erikson (the co-founder of 5 Gyres Institute), brought along five large nets, called trawls, with which he would trap plastic particles in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on his expeditions (Moore 200). What they discovered was horriffying. The ratio of plastic particles to naturally abounding plankton was 6:1—that is, for every plankton a fish might pick up to eat, it would also eat six pieces of plastic. Moore and Erikson also discovered that over 46,000 pieces of plastic float in the Pacific Ocean per every square kilometer (Grant 30). With the help of several researchers, scientists, and writers, Moore was able to publish a scientific paper which would make their research known. They also found that 90-95% of all waste in the ocean was plastic and that the swirling mass was twice the size of Texas (de Rothschild 22). The true horror was discovered when scientists began to study the plastics’ impacts on marine life.

The clearest example of the awful effects of plastic ingestion by marine animals is the case of the Laysan albatross. These giant, beautiful birds live exclusively on Midway Island, 2,800 miles off the coast of California. Thousands of albatross chicks are dying every year from eating pieces of plastic that their parents accidentally regurgitate back to them as food. UNEP found that plastic is killing a million seabirds a year and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles. The most common causes for death are entanglement, suffocation, and what Grant calls “fatal constipation” (25). Moore also discovered that an average of 46 pieces of plastic was being found in albatross chicks’ carcasses—these range from nurdles, to toothbrushes, to plastic bags, to cigarette lighters. The UNEP year book points out that the most common plastic in the oceans are cigarettes, and a close second is plastic bags (31). But this plastic also kills by a more silent method, one that doesn’t involve the last yelps of a suffocating baby bird or the starvation of its mom because she just can’t fit anything else into her stomach: toxicity. Nurdles become toxic after an accumulation of chemical poisons occurs from the waters; they, among other plastics, are known to absorb any matter they come in contact with, even pollutants which are Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBTs). These micro PBTs are then ingested by phytoplankton, which are ingested by zooplankton, which are ingested by small fish, later ingested by turtles, dolphins, and whales (Moore 252). Who or what is it that eats fish, sometimes even whales? Human beings. We are now discovering that these plastic pollutants climb through the food chain until they ultimately end up on our plates. So that plastic bag we used to bring our groceries home last night and carelessly threw in the street might just be our dinner one month from now.

I still haven’t explained exactly how plastic waste ends up in our oceans; it only takes one word—carelessness. In Censored 2012, Huff entitles the chapter on Pacific Ocean waste “Did You Really Think Your Plastic was being Recycled?” (107) This direct statement sums up where most of the plastic came from; the Ecology Center clears up seven misconceptions about plastic recycling. These include the fact that 1) many plastics which go into curbside bins blow away and never get recycled, 2) the same amount of trash is still being sent to landfills (if not more), 3) every plastic container has the chasing arrows recycling symbol on it, but most are not even recyclable, and 4) packaging resins waste energy which could be used for other sources (“Seven Misconceptions about Plastic and Plastic Recycling”). In the end, it turns out that recycling (the little which does occur) uses up more energy than it saves and is hardly ever done properly. Katherine Mieszkowski, a senior writer for Salon, reveals that plastic items (especially plastic bags) are collected at the recycling plant and are then trucked to the regular dump (133). Aside from these major recycling issues, peoples’ carelessness at tossing trash and litter out onto the streets is astonishing—I guess they think that it will just go away and won’t end up somewhere important, maybe like the ocean. Mieszkowski also states that every year Americans throw away over 100 billion plastic bags after they’ve been used just once—even more are yearly produced for customer convenience. Capt. Moore remembers a specific incident during one of his expeditions in which he and his team spotted 50 plastic bags in a 3-mile radius after a major bag spill had just occurred—but these sorts of spills are kept quiet, no hears of a massive plastic bag spill in the Pacific Ocean (Moore 167). Aside from large plastic waste, Moore also explains that nurdles come from careless plastic company employees who drop thousands of them during transportation (55).

Now that we know how most of the plastic waste reaches the Pacific Ocean, what can we do about it? David de Rothschild has set a great example of plastic innovation through his “Message on a Bottle” project. He and a very skilled team of architects built the Plastiki, a boat made up of 12,500 plastic bottles in order to inspire a change in how people view waste and to integrate it back into the web of life. He hopes to be the face of a new movement which instills smart ways to design and reuse everyday materials. De Rothschild took the plastic bottle and made it a symbol of hope, creativity, and innovation (24). Marcus Erikson has also gone to great lengths to encourage people to make a change. Through his website, 5 Gyres, he gives people an opportunity to participate in upcoming expeditions to the plastic gyres in the oceans and he also daily updates information on his own progress. He also provides us with five possible solutions to this major problem; reduction of plastic materials used, action to conserve and recycle, legislation of laws which require caring for where our trash goes, innovation and creativity on how to reuse plastic, and recovery of plastics throughout cities. Huff explains that once the plastic reaches the sea, there is no way to recover it without killing necessary plankton abundant in the oceans. The only way we can stop this devastation is by preventing further global garbage pollution by not throwing away plastics and cleaning up waterways and beaches before the plastics reach the sea (108).

Thanks to the courage and persistence of researchers like Capt. Charles Moore, Marcus Erikson, and David de Rothschild, we now know what lies out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (and every other ocean, as a matter of fact). We can now work to make a change—but that is all up to us. Moore shows that if we continue to carelessly pollute the oceans, ratios of plastic to wildlife will continue to drastically decrease—his experiments conclude that in 1999, the ratio of plastic to plankton was 6:1, and that less than a decade later, this ratio is as large as 49:1 (238). Those few environmentally-friendly people who are using recycled bags when they go grocery shopping are not enough to reverse this catastrophe; we all have to stop using plastic bags and the sooner the better. Plastic bottles are another problem; many people think that it takes more energy to produce glass bottles than plastic. This idea is wrong—glass takes less energy, is biodegradable, and is recyclable, unlike plastic. If we can just start with little changes such as these, we can begin a movement of change for the better. How is it possible that we have dumped 315 billion pounds of plastic and don’t even realize it? Did we think it would just go away if we threw it out of our homes and out of our sight? Well, we now know that it doesn’t and that we have left such a large plastic footprint behind, that it is almost too late to turn around and erase it (Moore 292). Almost. Let’s choose to save our planet and provide life for tens of generations to come, instead of watching our quality of life and the environment continually decrease without end. The “killer plastic” is no longer dormant, but is benign—time to send in the cavalry.

Works Cited

"5 Gyres - Understanding Plastic Pollution Through Exploration, Education, and Action." 5 Gyres. 2012 5 Gyres Institute, 2012. 02 Apr. 2012.

De Rothschild, David. "Message on a Bottle." The Plastiki. UNEP Our Planet Chemicals, 2010. 02 Apr. 2012.

Grant, Richard. "The World's Oceans Are Filling with Plastic." Garbage and Recycling. Ed. Candice Mancini. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2011. 21-34.

Huff, Mickey. "Project Censored News Clusters and the Top Censored Stories of 2010 and 2011." Censored 2012: Sourcebook for the Media Revolution: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2010-2011. New York: Seven Stories, 2011. 98-117.

Kershaw, Peter, Saido Katsuhiko, Sangjin Lee, Jon Samseth, and Doug Woodring. "Plastic Debris in the Ocean." UNEP Year Book 2011: Emerging Issues in Our Global Environment. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Programme, 2011. 20-33.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (2011).

Mieszkowski, Katharine. "In the United States and Around the World, Plastic Bags Must Go." Garbage and Recycling. Ed. Candice Mancini. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2011. 128-38.

Moore, Charles, and Cassandra Phillips. Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to save the Oceans. New York: Avery, 2011.

"Seven Misconceptions about Plastic and Plastic Recycling." Ecology Center (Accessed: April 2, 2012).

Uprising Radio: Arizona’s 20 Week Abortion Ban Is Latest Attack on Women’s Reproductive Rights

Arizona’s 20 Week Abortion Ban Is Latest Attack on Women’s Reproductive Rights
Uprising Radio

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer last week signed into law the Women’s Health and Safety Act, which reproductive rights advocates say could harm women. The new legislation requires schools to promote raising a baby, or adoption, as the best outcomes of a pregnancy and it requires clinics to notify patients against being coerced into abortion. It also requires that a woman have an ultrasound no sooner than 24 hours before an abortion, a considerably longer period of time than the previous 1 hour required by Arizona state law. The most controversial provision of the act bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of “serious risk” and according to the “good faith clinical judgement” of the doctor.

Abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are rare and usually only undertaken in cases of medical emergency. However in Nebraska, a state with a very similar 20-week abortion ban with a medical exception, a woman last year was forced to carry her baby to term even though tests showed the baby would die at birth. Danielle Dever’s doctors were so fearful of prosecution for performing an abortion at 20 weeks that they refused her the procedure. Dever wrote a testimony against Arizona’s Women’s Health and Safety Act saying, “Because lawmakers in my home state of Nebraska passed this sweeping abortion ban, my family’s loss a year and a half ago became a nightmare.”

GUEST: Sarah Posner, senior editor for Religion Dispatches and author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters

To Listen to the Episode

Uprising Radio: A special one-hour program on the South Central Farm in Los Angeles – lessons in human rights, immigrant rights, ecological sustainability, and activism. We’ll hear from farmers, organizers, local reporters, and more.

A special one-hour program on the South Central Farm in Los Angeles – lessons in human rights, immigrant rights, ecological sustainability, and activism. We’ll hear from farmers, organizers, local reporters, and more.
Uprising Radio

GUESTS: Fernando Flores, Rosa Romero, Alberto Taltoa, members of the South Central Farmers Support Committee, Aura Bogado, Anchor of Free Speech Radio News, Daniel Hernandez, LA Weekly Reporters, Peter Camejo, Green Party Candidate for Vice President (2004).

After weeks of nightly vigils and high tension, the South Central Farmers in Los Angeles were forcibly from the largest urban community garden in the United States.

For fourteen years poor, immigrant farmers from Los Angeles have been cultivating 14 acres of uninhabited land in the middle of an industrial region in South Central. They have grown rare, heirloom plants from Latin America, naturally and organically, feeding 350 families. The land was originally cultivated after the Rodney King uprising in 1992, when it was given to the neighborhood. The city of Los Angeles instead turned around and sold the land to a developer named Ralph Horowitz in a “backroom deal” for about $5 million.

Since [2005] the farmers have been struggling to save their garden from Horowitz who was ready to develop the land. They got organized and elected representatives who functioned as full time organizers and campaigned to save the farm. They campaigned for LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the city’s first Mexican American mayor, to save the farm.

The link between immigrant rights and environmental activism has attracted widespread support for the South Central farm. Horowitz initially agreed to sell the farm for $16.5 million and gave the farmers a March deadline to raise the cash. The deadline came and went, at which point LA Sheriffs were called upon to evict the farmers. Finally, in early June the Annenberg Foundation, teaming with the Trust for Public Land managed to pledge the amount that Horowitz was asking for. But Horowitz turned down the offer and on Tuesday June 13th, police forcibly evicted the farmers and the dozens of activists that had been camping on the farm.

The story initially got little national attention. But when Actress Daryl Hannah sat in a tree to protest the eviction, national media rushed to cover it. On Uprising, we’ve been covering the story of the South Central Farm for many months in our local programming. It is a profound story with many lessons for linking issues, sustainability, human rights, and activism. Today we present a special program on the South Central farm, with interviews from as early as this March to just a few days ago.

We begin with in interview with Fernando Flores, a member of the South Central Farm Support Coalition. Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Peter Camejo visited the farm and explained its the significance in our organizing.

We turn next to Rosa Romero and Alberto Taltoa who spoke with us on May 17th about the struggle to raise enough money to buy the farm from the developer, Ralph Horowitz.

Aura Bogado, the anchor for Free Speech Radio News, had been reporting from the farm. As the eviction became more imminent, activists began camping out at the farm. Bogado spent the night on May 25th and reported to us about what was taking place.

In the middle of the impending eviction, LA Weekly reporter Daniel Hernandez wrote a controversial article about some of the internal problems at the farm. Some farmers who had left the farm claimed that they were kicked out by the farm leadership. He joined us on Uprising on June 12th to explain the situation, as well as help see the South Central Farm in a broader context.

I asked Rosa Romero to respond to the allegations that Daniel Hernandez had made about internal problems among the farmers.

Finally, on the morning of June 13th, the sheriffs arrived and began evicting the farmers. After months of organizing, and finally raising the money needed, the developer Ralph Horowitz, decided not to sell the farm to the farmers. Again, FSRN’s Aura Bogado reported from the farm on the day of the eviction.

More than 40 arrests were made. Horowitz told the Los Angeles Times, “If the farmers got a donation and said, `We got $50 million, would you sell it to us?’ I would say no. Not a chance… It’s not about the money.” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a statement calling the eviction “disheartening and unnecessary.” He went to on say that “I understand a businessman’s need to invest and make a profit… But I also believe that we are called upon by a sense of community and civic duty to do the just and right thing. I had hoped that the landowner would have heeded that call.”

Aura Bogado put together this montage of sounds and interviews from the day of the eviction.

The struggle to save the farm continues with regular vigils being held in front of the farm and the LA City Hall. For more information on the South Central Farmers.

Sonali’s Subversive Thought for the Day:

We play an excerpt from a recent talk by Vandana Shiva on the “mono-culture of the mind.”

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Suzanne Goldberg: Emails expose BP's attempts to control research into impact of Gulf oil spill

Emails expose BP's attempts to control research into impact of Gulf oil spill
by Suzanne Goldberg
The Guardian

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show BP officials discussing how to influence the work of scientists

BP officials tried to take control of a $500m fund pledged by the oil company for independent research into the consequences of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, it has emerged.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show BP officials openly discussing how to influence the work of scientists supported by the fund, which was created by the oil company in May last year.

Russell Putt, a BP environmental expert, wrote in an email to colleagues on 24 June 2010: "Can we 'direct' GRI [Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative] funding to a specific study (as we now see the governor's offices trying to do)? What influence do we have over the vessels/equipment driving the studies vs the questions?".

The email was obtained by Greenpeace and shared with the Guardian.

The documents are expected to reinforce fears voiced by scientists that BP has too much leverage over studies into the impact of last year's oil disaster.

Those concerns go far beyond academic interest into the impact of the spill. BP faces billions in fines and penalties, and possible criminal charges arising from the disaster. Its total liability will depend in part on a final account produced by scientists on how much oil entered the gulf from its blown-out well, and the damage done to marine life and coastal areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The oil company disputes the government estimate that 4.1m barrels of oil entered the gulf.

There is no evidence in the emails that BP officials were successful in directing research. The fund has since established procedures to protect its independence.

Other documents obtained by Greenpeace suggest that the politics of oil spill science was not confined to BP. The White House clashed with officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last summer when drafting the administration's account of what has happened to the spilled oil.

To Read the Rest of the Article

More Resources:

Alabama Gulf Coast Citizen Advisory Panel: WKRG News 5 Video - BP Buying-Off Entire University Marine Science Departments

Chris Smith: What's Eating the NYPD

What’s Eating the NYPD? Ray Kelly has built the best police force in the country. Now it is turning on him.
By Chris Smith
New York

The kids are finally asleep. Charlotte Hill* looks like she could use a good nap, too. She wearily blows a strand of auburn hair off her face. The toddler-­induced fatigue, the small-­liberal-arts-college degree—Hill could be an early-thirties Anymom. Until she starts talking about work. “My first shooting—some kid got shot. I think he died. Did he die?” Hill pauses, thinks. So many bullets, so many bodies in eight years as a city cop. “It was winter, but no snow. It was like ten at night, he got shot in the arm, and then the shooter had run back into the projects. The lieutenant just went crazy on us: ‘You guys fucked up the crime scene!’ Apparently we were all stepping on the shell casings. But the thing is, nobody had trained us!”

The blood didn’t bother her, and she gradually figured out the procedural stuff. But that first shooting was an introduction to dysfunction. “It’s just such a highly punitive and numbers-driven job, and it’s gotten infinitely worse over eight years,” Hill says. “You’re giving me a psychological test and sending me through an academy so I can learn how to have good judgment—and now you don’t want us to have any judgment. Every message is that the department doesn’t trust us. When a cop is out sick, we have to call in if we’re going to the doctor during our shift hours. I’m not kidding. And then they want to know why cops act like children.”

Hill wasn’t naïve when she joined the force: She’d grown up in a major city and understood that Police Department culture is about rank, discipline, and rules, and that the job often means dealing with nasty, even evil people. But as she’s become a skilled foot soldier, part of the rank and file that has strung together an extraordinary decade of declining crime statistics while foiling terrorist plots, Hill has grown uneasy about the dehumanizing cost of keeping the city safe. “You don’t realize how much everyone is going to hate you,” she says. “At least where I work now, people look at you and go, ‘I fucking hate you.’ And I go, ‘I fucking hate you, too.’ And then we move on. I have a harder time with overeducated, moneyed people. When I work on the Upper East Side, or in Downtown Brooklyn, people just talk down to you. We don’t feel supported by the courts, we don’t feel supported by the department. I think everyone would say they love being a cop”—she laughs ruefully—“and they hate being in the NYPD.”

Last year ended with a spate of unpleasant Police Department headlines. On Staten Island, an officer was caught on tape bragging he’d “fried another nigger,” then pleaded guilty to extortion and civil-rights charges. In Brooklyn, eight current and former cops were arrested by the FBI for smuggling guns, among other charges. The nasty run continued: In March, a Washington Heights cop was convicted of a gunpoint sexual assault.

The NYPD was also increasingly under attack for the tactics it has used to drive crime down to historical lows and to head off terrorist strikes. City Council members, prospective mayoral candidates, and ­civil-liberties groups have flailed the NYPD for stopping and frisking thousands of innocent black and Latino New Yorkers; a series of Associated Press stories has explored the department’s far-reaching surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods.

But while those debates raise important questions, they are largely about policy choices that can be either altered or continued by the next mayor and police commissioner. And the spate of outright criminal behavior by cops, ugly as it was, was not particularly aberrant: Any large organization is going to employ a handful of miscreants, and every police era has its share of corruption. More worrisome, to the functioning of the department and the maintenance of public safety, now and in the future, was the anger rumbling just below the surface of the NYPD—and, on a couple of occasions, bursting out into plain view. In September, cops contributed to a Facebook discussion on the raucous West Indian Day parade that labeled marchers “animals” and “savages.” In October, scores of cops converged on the Bronx County courthouse as sixteen of their colleagues were arraigned on ticket-fixing charges, waving signs reading JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS and some wearing T-shirts that said IMPROVING EVERYONE'S QUALITY OF LIFE BUT OUR OWN. The accumulation of woes and discontent made it look as if Commissioner Ray Kelly was suffering from something more than third-term drift. It looked as if he were losing control of his department.

Cop cynicism is an art form and a self-defense mechanism. You expect black humor and grousing about “the job” and “the bosses” whenever you interview police. What I also expected to hear when I began my conversations with cops of many different ranks, from many different parts of the city, was some well-deserved boasting about being part of the winningest team in Western urban-law-enforcement history. And there are plenty of cops who talk proudly about their colleagues’ acts of heroism or, more quietly, about their own small moments of doing good. But the collective NYPD mood is surprisingly dark. There’s something different about the current discontent. The complaints aren’t about the old standby, low pay; they’re about the systems the NYPD uses to bring down crime—systems that are fueling a bitterness that can interfere with the department’s ability to keep the city safe.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Sukhdev Sandhu: 'Slow cinema' fights back against Bourne's supremacy

'Slow cinema' fights back against Bourne's supremacy
by Sukhdev Sandhu
The Guardian

The average length of shot in The Bourne Ultimatum is two seconds. But a new festival argues for 'slow cinema' – an act of cultural resistance, but also a gateway to beauty and delight


Certainly, for much of its early history, the movies appeared to be an engine to speed up the collective social pulse. As much as cars, telegraphs, telephones, photography, or department stores, they represented a technology of change. Cinema didn't merely chronicle the transformations of early 20th-century urban consciousness; like jazz, it embodied them. Its techniques of dissolves, cutting and montage mirrored the rhythms – at once alienating and exhilarating – of modern life.

By the 60s, however, the manufacture of speed no longer seemed quite the radical project it once did. An affluent America was flooded by fastness – cars, food, jukeboxes, multi-channel TV – and speed, rather than being thought of as a way to jolt a flaccid society into a boldly futurist direction, was more and more regarded as a mechanism to cretinise society, to deform citizens into consumers.

Film-makers from Antonioni (about whose L'Avventura Dyer claims "every second lasted a minute, every minute lasted an hour") to Andy Warhol (whose 485-minute Empire depicted nothing but slow-motion footage of New York's Empire State Building) increasingly saw slowness as a zone of avant-garde possibility.

Today, in the age of the fibre-optic cable, the velocity of the moving image – like that of all data – is even quicker. YouTube kittens, TMZ titillation, mobile phone footage of racist outbursts on tube trains: not only do we upload pixellated pictures as never before, we guzzle them up, click-trancing the hours away in search of new thrills and memes and "rofl" fare.

Meanwhile, the average length of shot in films such as Batman Begins (2005) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) is less than two seconds. To watch many multiplex movies, especially if you're no longer a teenager, is like being a lab rat into whose eyes are squirted noxious liquids, or a captive at a black-ops centre whose military personnel jab and jolt you in steady waves of sensory torture.

In this context, the cinema that Romney describes in terms of austerity can also be seen as a form of cultural resistance. What links otherwise distinct films such as Jia Zhang-ke's Still Life (2006), Carlos Reygadas's Silent Light (2007), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Palme D'Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) is the extent to which they opt for ambient noises or field recordings rather than bombastic sound design, embrace subdued visual schemes that require the viewer's eye to do more work, and evoke a sense of mystery that springs from the landscapes and local customs they depict more than it does from generic convention.

To Read the Entire Essay

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Re:sound #100: The Cambodia Show

Re:sound #100: The Cambodia Show
Third Coast International Audio Festival

Life and Death in Battambang
by Virginia Madsen (Radio Eye, ABC, 2007)
Australian Producer Virginia Madsen traveled to Battambang, Cambodia, four hours from the capitol of Phnom Pehn, to Komar Rikreay, an orphanage whose name means Happy Children. It was a family affair for this story. Not only is Madsen's brother a social worker at the orphanage, but Madsen brought her 11-year-old daughter along on the trip. In fact, her daughter became a co-narrator in the story, helping to tell the children's stories of life and death in Battambang.

Enchanted Dusk
by Aaron Ximm (Quiet American, 2000)
Sound artist Aaron Ximm made this recording near the entrance to Angkor Wat in Cambodia: the sounds of children, cicadas, fruit bats, the occasional motorcycle.

Cyclo Ride Home
by Aaron Ximm (Quiet American, 2000)
Another field recording from Quiet American, this one from a three-wheeled bicycle taxi zipping through the streets of Phnom Pehn.

To Listen to the Episode

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Naked Lunch Radio #9 – Minnesota Madness (Coen special)

[Discussion of the Coen Brothers more serious films up to No Country for Old Men with a healthy dose of music by Minnesota musicians]

Naked Lunch Radio #9 – Minnesota Madness (Coen special)
Sound on Sight

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Re:sound #76: Being Deaf

Re:sound #76: Being Deaf
Third Coast International Audio Festival

Being Deaf, part 1: Time Lost
by Kirsti Melville (Street Stories, ABC, 2007)
Kirsti Melville follows hearing parents with deaf children as they negotiate their way through the school systems, the medical establishment, and the sharp political divide between the deaf who learn to speak and those who exclusively sign.

Being Deaf, part 2: Deaf and Proud
by Kirsti Melville (Street Stories, ABC, 2007)
Deaf with a capital D: generations of proud deaf families who would never dream of using hearing aids or implants.

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Central Kentuckians Vigil to Warn of Increasing Hate Speech and Hate-driven Violence (April 10: 7:30 pm)

Central Kentuckians Vigil to Warn of Increasing Hate Speech and Hate-driven Violence

At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday April 10th the Central Kentucky Council for Peace & Justice will hold an Anti-hate Candlelight Vigil to call attention to the increasing amount of hate speech and hate-driven violence in the U.S. The event will be at Courthouse Square in downtown Lexington (corner of Main & Limestone). We will highlight Islamophobia, homophobia, and racism. There will be brief perspectives by representatives of the Muslim, gay and lesbian, and African American communities. We will conclude with the lighting of candles, a moment of silence, and the singing of Holly Near’s song “We are a gentle angry people.”

CKCPJ spokesperson Richard Mitchell commented: “No group of people should be the subject of repetitive and irresponsible hate-based speech – especially hate that is sent out over the public airwaves or internet. No person should have to live in fear of a hate-based attack because they are part of a minority group. Being a Muslim woman in a hijab, a gay or lesbian, or a young African-American male in a hoodie should not put your life endanger.

“Several of the cases in the news recently are still being investigated. We hope and pray that they turn out not to be hate crimes. But whatever ultimate truth about the individual instances, it is apparent that the amount of hate speech circulating in the U.S. is increasing. One need only search the web under the names “Trayvon Martin,” “Shaima Alawadi,” or “Tyler Clementi” to turn up dozens of web pages that are full of hate directed at groups that here in the U.S. are minorities.

“Hate is killing our brothers and sisters. We gather Tuesday night to say ‘no.’ We will stand with our brothers and sisters; we will stand with one another; we accept you and we will protect you. As Holly Near’s song says so well “we are singing for our lives.” Another world is possible. A basic building block for such a world is that each of us is committed to singing for ALL our lives.”

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Rania Khalek: Unarmed Black Woman Shot and Killed by Chicago Police Officer Less Than a Month After Trayvon Martin Shooting

Unarmed Black Woman Shot and Killed by Chicago Police Officer Less Than a Month After Trayvon Martin Shooting
By Rania Khalek

"Her death certificate says killed by police, but I feel like my sister was murdered," says Martinez Sutton, whose 22-year-old little sister, Rekia Boyd, was shot in the head by an off-duty Chicago detective on Wednesday, March 21. She died the following day at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Boyd's death comes less than a month after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, leaving many troubled by the regularity with which unarmed people of color are shot, particularly by individuals claiming self-defense. And for those left grieving, the failure of authorities to hold the shooter accountable is the greatest injustice of all.

In the case of Boyd, Chicago police almost immediately echoed the account of the off-duty detective responsible for her death. Police say the officer in question drove up to a group of people in Chicago's Douglas Park around 1 AM on Wednesday, March 21, to investigate a disturbance near his home. He rolled down his window and asked them to quiet down at which point police say 39-year-old Antonio Cross pulled out a gun forcing the detective to open fire in self-defense, hitting Cross in the hand and striking Boyd in the head.

But neighbors, witnesses and Cross paint a vastly different picture. Cross told WGN News that he was unarmed and on his cell phone at the time of the shooting. When Cross asked why the officer shot him, he says the officer's response was, "I thought your phone was a gun." Cross has since been charged with a misdemeanor of aggravated assault.

Local news outlets initially reported that police failed to recover Cross' alleged weapon. However, Police would not confirm or deny this to Truthout and referred all further questions to the Chicago Independent Police Review Authority (IRPA), the outside body tasked with handling the investigation. The IPRA's Deputy Chief Administrator William Weeden declined to comment on any details as well, saying, "We cannot comment on an open and ongoing investigation."

Rekia Boyd's older brothers, Martinez Sutton and Darian Boyd, told Truthout that their family has received no explanation or even condolences from the Chicago Police Department. "We've made multiple attempts to contact them and even asked news stations to please contact them since they won't talk to us," said Darian Boyd, adding, "It just makes it that much harder to deal with the grief."

Darian Boyd said it was both maddening and heartbreaking to hear Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy call the shooting "justified" in an interview with WGN without any mention of his sister on the very day she died in the hospital from a gunshot wound to the head.

According to Sutton, the only encounter the family has had with police since the shooting was when they came to his home, where Rekia lived, to notify him that his sister was injured. "The police came to my house and told me 'Your sister has been involved in a crime. She's been shot in the head and she's in critical condition.' They gave me no information besides the name and number of the hospital and said 'we're sorry' and walked away."

Alderman Michael Chandler of the 24th Ward, where the incident took place, has added his voice to the growing concerns over police handling of the investigation, calling the police officer's account "thin and weak". According to Chicago's WBEZ, Chandler says residents who witnessed the shooting have complained to him that authorities have not bothered to contact them for eyewitness testimony. "A young person's life [has been] taken away and there is not one person that has been out on these streets to canvass the area to talk to any of these witnesses," Chandler told WBEZ. Furthermore, Chandler has requested that police properly examine neighbors' claims that they heard the officer tell a crowd, "What do I have to do around here to get some peace, quiet and respect? Shoot someone?" the day before the shooting.

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Naked Lunch Radio #8: Funk, Soul, Pam Grier, Jack Hill & Exploitation!

Funk, Soul, Pam Grier, Jack Hill & Exploitation!
Sound on Sight

Blaxploitation is a film genre that emerged in the United States in the early 1970s when many exploitation films were made that targeted the urban black audience; the word itself is a portmanteau of the words “black” and “exploitation.” Blaxploitation films starred primarily black actors, and were the first to feature soundtracks of funk and soul music. Variety magazine credited Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song with the invention of the blaxploitation genre, although others concede that because the film was conceived and produced independently and directed by a black filmmaker, the Hollywood-financed film Shaft is closer to being blaxploitation, and thus, is more likely to have begun the genre.

To Listen to the Episode

Naomi Wolff: How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses

How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses: Believe me, you don't want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. And yet, it's exactly what is happening
by Naomi Wolff
The Guardian (United Kingdom)

In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. This horror show ruling joins two recent horror show laws: the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the "trespass bill", which gives you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection. These criminalizations of being human follow, of course, the mini-uprising of the Occupy movement.

Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit, Albert Florence, described having been told to "turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks." He said he felt humiliated: "It made me feel like less of a man."

In surreal reasoning, justice Anthony Kennedy explained that this ruling is necessary because the 9/11 bomber could have been stopped for speeding. How would strip searching him have prevented the attack? Did justice Kennedy imagine that plans to blow up the twin towers had been concealed in a body cavity? In still more bizarre non-logic, his and the other justices' decision rests on concerns about weapons and contraband in prison systems. But people under arrest – that is, who are not yet convicted – haven't been introduced into a prison population.

Our surveillance state shown considerable determination to intrude on citizens sexually. There's the sexual abuse of prisoners at Bagram – der Spiegel reports that "former inmates report incidents of … various forms of sexual humiliation. In some cases, an interrogator would place his penis along the face of the detainee while he was being questioned. Other inmates were raped with sticks or threatened with anal sex". There was the stripping of Bradley Manning is solitary confinement. And there's the policy set up after the story of the "underwear bomber" to grope US travelers genitally or else force them to go through a machine – made by a company, Rapiscan, owned by terror profiteer and former DHA czar Michael Chertoff – with images so vivid that it has been called the "pornoscanner".

Believe me: you don't want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state that is descending into fascism is powerfully effective in controlling and subduing populations.

The political use of forced nudity by anti-democratic regimes is long established. Forcing people to undress is the first step in breaking down their sense of individuality and dignity and reinforcing their powerlessness. Enslaved women were sold naked on the blocks in the American south, and adolescent male slaves served young white ladies at table in the south, while they themselves were naked: their invisible humiliation was a trope for their emasculation. Jewish prisoners herded into concentration camps were stripped of clothing and photographed naked, as iconic images of that Holocaust reiterated.

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Jonathan Kirshner: When Critics Mattered -- Kael, Ebert, and ’70s Film

When Critics Mattered: Kael, Ebert, and ’70s Film
by Jonathan Kirshner
Boston Review

The years from the late 1960s through the middle of the 1970s were remarkable ones for American movies. In the words of critic David Thompson, it was “the decade when movies mattered.”

With the collapse of the draconian censorship regime that had imposed a strict moral code on the content of films, the decline of the studio system, and economic and demographic changes in both the industry and its audience, a window of opportunity opened for a new type of commercial film. At the same time, the content of these movies was inevitably shaped by the social and political upheavals of the era: the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, women’s liberation, and the Shakespearean saga of the Nixon presidency.

These films, filmmakers, and, implicitly, their audiences, were dubbed the “New Hollywood.” New to reflect their relative youth, but also as a nod to the foundational influence of the New European cinemas of the 1950s and 1960s; Hollywood because the makers of these personal, ambitious, arty films nevertheless hoped to return a fair profit. During this golden age, a night at the movies was still an evening’s entertainment, but it was also an invitation to discuss important works of art that were shaped by, and in dialogue with, the political, social, and philosophical issues of their times.

The New Hollywood was a cinema of moral ambiguity. The notorious Production Code Authority, in ruins by the close of 1966, had insisted on movies about right and wrong, with right winning in the end. By contrast, in the world portrayed by the “’70s film” (and in tune with the tenor of the times) choices are not always easy and obvious (Klute, The King of Marvin Gardens), authorities and institutions are compromised (Medium Cool, The Friends of Eddie Coyle), and, finally, the “hero” rarely wins (Chinatown, Night Moves). Individually ’70s films offer character-driven explorations of troubled, imperfect protagonists and complex interpersonal relationships, with no obvious solutions or clean resolutions proffered (or expected). Collectively they reflect a thriving and identifiable film culture—movies that “don’t supply reassuring smiles or self-righteous messages,” but share “a new openminded interest in examining American experience,” as the critic Pauline Kael put it at the time. “Our filmmakers seem to be on a quest—looking to understand what has been shaping our lives.”

These were movies to talk about, and fight about, and accordingly it was also the decade when the critics mattered. An ambitious cohort of film critics, shaped by new sensibilities, expectations, and experiences, led a tumultuous public debate about the movies, their meaning, and their relationship with society. Of these critics, the argumentative, bohemian Kael was the most influential. A singular voice in the Berkeley film scene during the 1950s, Kael made her way East supported by a Guggenheim fellowship and then landed a job at McCall’s, from which she was fired soon after dismissing The Sound of Music (1965) as “a sugarcoated lie.” A brief stint at The New Republic also ended unhappily, but in 1968 she would land, and remain, at The New Yorker, having established her reputation with an elaborate, breathtaking defense of Bonnie and Clyde (1967). That review fills out twenty exhilarating pages of her new Selected Writings, and it remains well worth reading (and re-reading). Kael wrote in a distinct, jazz-inflected style, offering a personal, emotional reaction to what she saw on the screen. Her reviews were steeped in the rich context of film history, but, in contrast to the stentorian lectures of many authoritative critics, Kael told you what she felt, and if she didn’t feel it, it wasn’t worth seeing. (Her first collection of reviews was called I Lost it at the Movies.)

Bonnie and Clyde, in what would become a watershed moment in the emergence of the New Hollywood, was originally dismissed and buried by establishment critics as a brutal, immoral farce. With its outlaw heroes, rule-breaking portrayal of bloody violence, and counter-culture sensibilities, Bonnie and Clyde was particularly offensive to critics such as Bosley Crowther, the enormously influential guardian of good taste at the New York Times, who famously trashed the film in print not once but three times. Kael, in dissent, opened her review with a question: “How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on?” For Kael, “Bonnie and Clyde brings into the almost frighteningly public world of movies things that people have been feeling and saying and writing about.” It is a film that “upsets people,” even viewers who pride themselves in maintaining an emotional distance from what they see on the screen. But “Bonnie and Clyde, by making us care about the robber lovers, has put the sting back in death.”

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Friday, April 06, 2012

Maria Popova: What Is Science? From Feynman to Sagan to Asimov to Curie, an Omnibus of Definitions

What Is Science? From Feynman to Sagan to Asimov to Curie, an Omnibus of Definitions
by Maria Popova
Brain Pickings

“We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology,” Carl Sagan famously quipped in 1994, “and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.” Little seems to have changed in the nearly two decades since, and although the government is now actively encouraging “citizen science,” for many “citizens” the understanding of — let alone any agreement about — what science is and does remains meager.

So, what exactly is science, what does it aspire to do, and why should we the people care? It seems like a simple question, but it’s an infinitely complex one, the answer to which is ever elusive and contentious. Gathered here are several eloquent definitions that focus on science as process rather than product, whose conduit is curiosity rather than certainty.


But hardly anyone captures the essence and ethos of science more eloquently than The Great Explainer. In 1966, the National Science Teachers Association asked the great Richard Feynman to give an address that answers the question, “What is science?” The answer comes true to character:

And so what science is, is not what the philosophers have said it is, and certainly not what the teacher editions say it is. What it is, is a problem which I set for myself after I said I would give this talk.

After some time, I was reminded of a little poem:

A centipede was happy quite, until a toad in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
This raised his doubts to such a pitch
He fell distracted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.

All my life, I have been doing science and known what it was, but what I have come to tell you–which foot comes after which–I am unable to do, and furthermore, I am worried by the analogy in the poem that when I go home I will no longer be able to do any research.

Later in the speech, Feynman hones a more answer-like answer:

[I]f you are going to teach people to make observations, you should show that something wonderful can come from them. I learned then what science was about: it was patience. If you looked, and you watched, and you paid attention, you got a great reward from it — although possibly not every time.


[Science] teaches the value of rational thought as well as the importance of freedom of thought; the positive results that come from doubting that the lessons are all true.

He closes with a keen point for his audience of professional science educators:

Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Wesley Houp: Abandoned Channels -- Elkhorn to Lockport

Abandoned channels: Elkhorn to Lockport
By Wesley Houp
North of Center

To say a river is a living system is a scientific truism that even the most scientifically uninitiated intellect can grasp with minimal cognitive stretching: rivers teem with life, from unicellular diatoms to aquatic invertebrates and on up to vertebrata, fish, amphibian, avian, mammalian. Watersheds branch like trees, only their life-force moves in reverse from tiniest green-shoot to broad trunk, the faintest spring or rill gaining momentum, joining forces with other rivulets, debouching into larger creeks that eventually embolden the flow of master streams. Geologists, taking the long view of things, give rivers human-like agency, noting how they “capture” and “pirate” this or that watershed, or “desert” and “abandon” this or that channel, ever insisting on a course of least resistance. Rivers, like so much of life on earth, adapt to physiographic vagaries and persist through course of time as if accumulating the knowledge of experience.

But to say a river is alive, animated by a sort of conscious but unknowable will is not so easily grasped, particularly by those who have spent little time bankside or adrift on one. What is this consciousness but the pull of gravity, the swell of storm-water, and the turbulence of headwinds? What is it but cold, blind nudgings of fish barbels along some deep ledge? Perhaps the bioturbations of gastropods inching through fine-silted shallows and eddies, or the plashing of kingfishers and the winging acrobatics of thirsty bank swallows? Certainly it is these things. But certainly it is something else, particularly with a river as old as the Kentucky, whose origin reaches back to the far cusp of the Mesozoic world (perhaps even into Paleozoic time), whose waters were flowing a northwesterly course when giant reptiles held dominion, and later when large mammals, long of tooth, tusk, and trunk, grazed on grass of the rolling, featureless peneplains. The Kentucky, whose deeply entrenched meanders appeared to prehistoric nomads precisely as they appear to us today, is witness to hundreds of millions of years of earth’s evolution and, barring cosmic cataclysm, shall be witness to hundreds of millions more.

Now having paddled nearly the entire mainstream of the Kentucky, in all weathers, in every season, I can say with surety the river is a living system, governed by immutable geologic laws, and the river is alive—a singular entity that breaths and speaks a language all its own, perhaps the oldest tongue on earth—words we never knew for things long vanished, for things yet to come long after we, ourselves, have vanished. We catch the utterances in bits and pieces, like children overhearing hushed conversation between parents in the next room. And like children, the messages we construe are all preposterously self-serving. We hear conversation about ourselves; we want the river to echo our significance back to us. From the earliest record, humans have nominalized themselves as masters and victims of, along, beside, upon the river.

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Thomas Doherty: Portraits of a Serial Killer -- A time-honored public enemy, from Dirty Harry to Zodiac

Portraits of a Serial Killer: A time-honored public enemy, from Dirty Harry to Zodiac
by Thomas Doherty
Moving Image Source

In Adaptation (2002), screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the voice of weary experience, remarks that the serial killer is Hollywood’s hoariest cliché, the overexposed go-to-guy for the inspiration-impaired hack. Point taken—but the perp has certainly earned his star billing on the multiplex marquee. The serendipitous release in recent months of two serial-killer-centric DVDs—Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry (a two-disc edition and an "ultimate collector's edition" from Warner Home Video) and David Fincher’s Zodiac (Paramount Home Entertainment), a film from the 1970s and a film about the 1970s, both stalked by the same serial killer—traces the emergence of a predator whose criminal profile, once a blurry police sketch, has sharpened into a wanted poster more photogenic than the western outlaw, urban gangster, or corporate mobster.

The common source for both films—deep backstory for Dirty Harry (1971), narrative arc for Zodiac (2007)—is the Zodiac killer. In 1969, the Zodiac began a slow burn spree that claimed five (confirmed) murder victims in and around San Francisco, a relatively low body count that belies the city-wide terror incited by a territorial predator with a penchant for epistolary expression. Taking a page from Jack the Ripper, the self-christened Zodiac sent ominous ravings and coded messages to Bay Area newspapers, bragging of his homicides and threatening, in his most chilling taunt, to shoot children on school buses, or, as he phrased it, to "pick off kiddies as they come bouncing out.” Going on hiatus as suddenly as he opened fire, the Zodiac eluded capture and denied the reassurance of a case closed.

The investigation came to a more pleasing conclusion at the movies. In Dirty Harry, the opening salvo in what turned out to be a bellwether franchise for both Hollywood and Washington, a squinty, flinty Clint Eastwood incarnated a vigilante detective whose fidelity to Fourth Amendment niceties was retro even by 1972 standards. “Does Escobedo ring a bell? Miranda?” barks the exasperated DA after Harry tortures a confession out of his suspect-nemesis, a frothing psychopath named Scorpio (played with rabid relish by Andy Robinson), a Zodiac stand-in whose nom de plume also elegized an Age of Aquarius-Haight Ashbury scene gone bad. Though ripped from contemporary headlines, Scorpio could claim a long lineage in American cinema, from the psycho who pushed old ladies in wheelchairs down staircases (Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, 1947) to the psycho who played old ladies in wheel chairs (Anthony Perkins in Psycho, 1960). In terms of temperament, MO, and clinical termscondition, Scorpio was a wack job, or, as Detective Callahan famously tagged him, a punk.

Yet even as Harry fired his .44 caliber Magnum into Scorpio’s chest, the smirking psychopath was being supplanted by a more lethal criminal type. Abetted by the mobility and anonymity of urban life, a feeding ground teeming with hapless prey (typically, young female hitchhikers), and a police force not yet equipped with computer databases, a cohort of less literary, publicity-shy serial killers thrived throughout the 1970s.

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Georgi Derluguian: The Making of Chechen Terrorists -- The Clash of Forces and Discourses

"The Making of Chechen Terrorists: The Clash of Forces and Discourses"
The World Beyond the Headlines (University of Chicago International Studies)

A talk by Georgi Derluguian, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University; introduced by Ronald Grigor Suny, Professor of Political Science and History, U. of Chicago.

To Listen to the Presentation

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Jesse Hagopian: My Greatest Teaching Moment

My Greatest Teaching Moment
by Jesse Hagopian

As a teacher, you never know when your greatest teaching moment will present itself. For high school history teacher Jesse Hagopian that moment came after he was arrested at the state capitol and his students made their own history.

I achieved the greatest moment in my teaching career this past winter.

Though billionaire education reformers may fall out of their brass-studded leather chairs to hear it, I did not attain this moment of euphoria from running bubble tests through a Scantron machine and reading the red-inked percentages it spit out. It occurred, in fact, as hundreds upon hundreds of students streamed past me in the hallways, leaving school in the middle of the day carrying hand-made signs that read, “Fund Our Future!” and “No More Cuts.” I was simply overwhelmed with emotion.

The journey to this pinnacle was a long one—and part of an ongoing struggle—but one worth recounting because I think it offers lessons to educators across the country who face child-abusing budget cuts and teacher-bashing corporate education reform.

I began teaching in an elementary school in Southeast Washington, D.C., in 2001. Directly across from the entrance of the school was a decrepit building with vegetation growing out the windows. The library’s book collection was more appropriate for an archeological study than a source for topical information. Police roamed the halls of our elementary school looking for mouthy kids to jack up against the wall. I had one hole in the middle of the chalkboard and another hole in the ceiling that often meant rain flooded my classroom.

One lasting memory of this experience came on my third day of teaching. I had asked my sixth graders to bring a meaningful object from home for a show-and-tell activity.

I received a higher degree in education theory that year as I witnessed our nation spend money to bomb children halfway around the world while refusing to care for my students in the shadow of the White House.We gathered in a circle in the back of the room that Friday morning and the kids sat eagerly with paper bags on their laps that concealed their autobiographical mementos. One after another, each and every hand came out of those crumpled brown lunch sacks clutching a photo of a close family member—usually a dad or an uncle who was either dead or in jail. When it was my turn, all I could do was stare stupidly at the baseball I had pulled out, nervously picking at the red stitches as I mumbled something about how I had played in college.

Only a few days after this lesson, the attacks of 9/11 were carried out, closely followed by the government’s launching of the war on Afghanistan. I received a higher degree in education theory that year as I witnessed our nation spend money to bomb children halfway around the world while refusing to care for my students in the shadow of the White House. Soon, too, it became apparent in all of the No Child Left Behind rhetoric about accountability that I was being asked, from inside of the classroom, to correct all of the mistaken priorities of the politicians.

My start in education in Washington, D.C., Public Schools taught me that being a social justice educator has to mean two things: provide an anti-racist curriculum in the classroom and be an activist in the community—that is, fight to restructure society so education is a priority over war spending and bank bailouts.

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