Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Casseroles - Montréal, 24 Mai 2012

[There have been daily protests in Quebec for over a 100 days by hundreds of thousands of people. Starting over steep increases in student fees/tuition, accelerated by the citizen response to bill 78 which attempted to force students to get permits for any march over 50 people (and fines of 7,000 for student leaders and at least 25,000 for student groups that didn't do this), it has now become a broad based public protest of citizens (one nights march was app. 400,000 people). Watch this five minute video and see something amazing -- I think it is beautiful and ask myself, why does the Canadian government fear it ......? ]

by Jeremie Battaglia

More reports:

Riley Sparks: Large, peaceful night protest after talks break down: 'I hope it’ll go all summer'

Jim McGovern: Rescuing "We the People"

Rescuing 'We, the People'
by Representative Jim McGovern (MA)
Huffington Post

Defenders of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United and the ascendant corporate rights doctrine that underlies it must be getting nervous.

Why else would George Will resort to arguing, as he so outrageously does ("Taking a scythe to the Bill of Rights", May 6) that the bipartisan People's Rights Amendment I have introduced in the House is "comparable" to condoning infanticide?

A large majority of Americans believe that corporations exert too much influence on our daily lives and our political process. A Hart Research poll released last year found that nearly four in five (79 percent) of registered voters support passage of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Resolutions calling for such an amendment have passed in several states and cities across the country. Eleven state attorneys general have written to Congress demanding action.

We are already witnessing the corrosive effects of Citizens United: an election system awash in a sea of millions of dollars in unregulated money, drowning out the voices of individual citizens. Politicians are increasingly beholden to wealthy special interests. A multi-national oil company that doesn't like a particular member of Congress can now simply write a big, undisclosed check to "Americans for Apple Pie and Puppies" and watch the negative advertisements work their magic.

But the effects of the corporate rights doctrine go far beyond campaign finance. A Vermont law to require that milk products derived from cows treated with bovine growth hormone be labeled to disclose that information was struck down as a violation of the First Amendment. A federal judge has found that tobacco companies have a free speech right that prevents the government from requiring graphic warning labels on cigarettes. A pharmaceutical corporation has claimed that their corporate speech rights protect them from FDA rules prohibiting the marketing of a drug for "off-label" uses.

As Justice Stevens rightly noted in his dissent in Citizens United (and contrary to what Mr. Will would have us believe), the majority ruling was "a radical departure from what has been settled First Amendment Law." These corporate "rights" are relatively new, appearing in the last few decades. They overturn centuries of established jurisprudence and national consensus. The Supreme Court used to repeatedly affirm that the elected governments of the states and the nation could regulate corporations. Chief Justice John Marshall described the corporate entity as "an artificial being ... existing only in contemplation of law." No less an authority than James Madison viewed corporations as "a necessary evil" subject to "proper limitations and guards." Thomas Jefferson wished to "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Inside Job Director Charles Ferguson: Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America

"Inside Job" Director Charles Ferguson: Wall Street Has Turned the U.S. into a "Predatory Nation"
Democracy Now

Two years after directing the Academy Award-winning documentary, “Inside Job,” filmmaker Charles Ferguson returns with a new book, “Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America.” Ferguson explores why no top financial executives have been jailed for their role in the nation’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We also discuss Larry Summers and the revolving door between academia and Wall Street, as well as the key role Democrats have played in deregulating the financial industry. According to Ferguson, a "predatory elite" has "taken over significant portions of economic policy and of the political system, and also, unfortunately, major portions of the economics discipline."


Charles Ferguson, the Academy Award-winning director of Inside Job, a documentary about the financial crisis. His film on the war in Iraq, No End in Sight, was nominated for an Academy Award. His new book is called Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America.

To Watch the Interview

Part 2: “Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America”

We continue our conversation with Charles Ferguson, director of the Oscar award-winning documentary, “Inside Job,” about the 2008 financial crisis. In his new book, “Predator Nation,” he argues “the role of Democrats has been at least as great as the role of Republicans” in causing the crisis. Ferguson notes the Clinton administration oversaw the most important financial deregulation, and since then, “we’ve seen in the Obama administration very little reform and no criminal prosecutions, and the appointment of a very large number of Wall Street executives to senior positions in the government, including some people who were directly responsible for causing significant portions of the crisis.” Ferguson also calls for raising the salaries of senior regulators and imposing stricter rules for how soon they can lobby for the private sector after leaving the public sector.

To Watch the Interview

Trailer for Inside Job

2010 Oscar Winner for Best Documentary, 'Inside Job' provides a comprehensive analysis of the global financial crisis of 2008, which at a cost over $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly resulted in a global financial collapse. Through exhaustive research and extensive interviews with key financial insiders, politicians, journalists, and academics, the film traces the rise of a rogue industry which has corrupted politics, regulation, and academia. It was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.

Watch Inside Job online for free at Film for Action

Benjamin Shingler: Protesters finding creative ways around controversial new Quebec law

Protesters finding creative ways around controversial new Quebec law
by Benjamin Shingler
The Star

Only a day after becoming law, protesters were finding creative ways around Quebec’s controversial legislation aimed at restoring order in the province.

In an attempt to avoid hefty fines, one prominent student group took down its web page Saturday that listed all upcoming protests. Another anonymous web page with listings quickly popped up in its place — with a note discouraging people from attending.

The disclaimer is meant to evade new rules applying to protest organizers, who must provide an itinerary for demonstrations and could be held responsible for any violence.

The website also accepts submissions for future protests and suggests using software that blocks a sender’s digital trail.

Meanwhile, Montreal police were trying to figure out how to use the legislation without heightening tensions during the city’s nightly marches through the city.

Spokesman Ian Lafreniere said the force was still considering its options.

“I’ve got a lot of people working on it now,” Lafreniere said in an interview. “We don’t want to cause a commotion, we want to prevent one.”

Lafreniere said police would likely set up a website or email address where organizers could submit planned protest routes.

Bill 78 lays out strict regulations governing demonstrations of over 50 people, including having to give eight hours’ notice for details such as the protest route, the duration and the time at which they are being held.

Failure to comply could bring stiff penalties for the organizers, but the law could be difficult to enforce.

A late night protest has started in the same downtown square at 8:30 p.m. every night for nearly a month. There’s no clear organizer for the march, and the route is determined by the marchers on a street by street basis.

Still, the law says that student associations who don’t encourage their members to comply with the law could face punishment. Fines range between $7,000 and $35,000 for student leaders and between $25,000 and $125,000 for student unions or student federations.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Monday, May 28, 2012

Joshua Clover: Fall and Rise

Fall and Rise
by Joshua Clover
Film Quarterly


But Toyota-ization too reached its limits. “Tokyo drift” describes a style of street racing where the cars are made to slide almost frictionlessly through corners, with the low impact grace of a tap dancer in a sandbox. It might just as well be a rubric for the Japanese economy of the ongoing “lost decade”—having avoided a massive economic crash, it is still unable to get back on track or restore profitability, and drifts endlessly through the long turn of late capitalism.

A consultation with reference materials suggests that Tokyo Drift was meant to be out of series and out of time; Fast Five, a less nimble film, takes place earlier. Looks like the present. So Han, a ghost of the Lost Decade, walks into a garage in the emerging economy of Brazil to take his place in the team assembled by Dom (Vin Diesel), who looks like a muscle car with legs, and Brian (Paul Walker), former federal agent. Our heroic band’s admixture of criminal and lawman is matched by the villains: the caper involves a crime lord who is also a political boss. All parties meet at money, obviously. The boss has $100 million socked away in a police station vault. Being street racers, our crew proposes to prise the vault forth from the station cabled to a couple of their vehicles, then flee through downtown Rio. But first they lay hands on an identical vault: a salute to the (remade) Ocean’s Eleven, where the team acquires a replica of the casino vault so as to practice their mechanics. In the event of it, eluding unencumbered pursuit while dragging an enormous steel oblong across pavement proves easier said than done. Call it Rio Friction, the very inverse of Tokyo Drift. Or call it Attack of the BRIC. Abandoning all hope of escape, Dom turns to use the vault as a weapon. Indeed, it has been functioning as such all along; the flight to safety, even before it becomes a demolition derby, has managed to obliterate considerable swaths of the world capital.

Not only is it impossible to imagine the characters thinking this was a good or even plausible idea for getting the dough, it is also impossible to imagine the screenwriters thinking this would make for a good caper. The ten-minute sequence is finally a bit dull; absurdity does have a way of turning to boredom.

But what if we have been thinking of this all wrong, and the entire movie is just a pretext for something else altogether? It may be narrative idiocy of the first water—but it is, we must admit, the single best cinematic representation of the global financial crisis yet contrived, immeasurably better than Inside Job or Capitalism: A Love Story.

A weaponized concentration of capital seems to be dragged about by supermen; it is in fact dragging them around, laying waste to the world before it, destroying houses and urban centers and bodies as it races for safety—before recognizing that there is no safety and it should just turn violently on its pursuers in a festival of destruction.

In the textbook definition, capital is generally self-valorizing value; in a crisis it is inverted, and becomes self-annihilating value. The supermoney that seemed to run the world is revealed as “fictitious capital,” unrealized and finally unrealizable, but still in its auto-destruction capable of laying low the world around it. Which explains what would otherwise be the most intolerable plot device. In the end, it turns out that Dom and Brian have been hauling the fake vault through the city, while the actual box is spirited away, loot enclosed. As a scheme, it’s ludicrous. As a reading of crisis in the world system, it’s immaculate—as if Hollywood had come to an intimate knowledge of volume 3 of Capital without reading, simply by bathing in the current of world money—and should complete the contemporary genre. I am seriously considering renaming this column “The Marx and the Furious.”

Now that we no longer want for figurations of the financial crisis, we can turn to what comes next, if anything, and how one imagines the vectors and contexts of an adequate response. In this arena apocalyptic pictures continue to hold us captive. The signal version this season is Contagion—arriving as an updating of the 1970s disaster flick, and bearing with it some backdated ideas indeed.

To Read the Entire Essay

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bruce Schneier, Robert Jensen, Rob Hawkins and David Graeber: The Psychology of Transition (Undoing Millennia of Social Control)

#597 - The Psychology of Transition (Undoing Millennia of Social Control)
Unwelcome Guests

We start the show this week with a short interview of Bruce Schneier on Social Change and Defectors. He assesses the imminent threats to the internet as being layers 8 & 9 - i.e. overregulation and control by corporations and governments keen to prevent innovative use of information technology.

Next we hear Robert Jensen who starts by speaks on the entrenched mindset of hierarchy - focusing particularly on the naturalized violence against women by men, but looking at others such as racism.

Next we hear a 2009 interview by Frank of the Agroinnovations Podcast. Rob Hopkins speaks on the origins of the transition movement and shares some potential pitfalls, and his thoughts on a quote from Charles Eisenstein's 'Ascent of Humanity'. As well as discussing suburban permaculture, he discusses the practical application of the transition model as a grassroots community organizing strategy and its potential for construction of parallel systems to take over from the existing centralised power structures.

We conclude by finishing chapter 7 and starting on chapter 8 of David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years.

To Listen to the Episodes

Michael Parenti: The Costs of Empire at Home and Abroad; Michel Chussodovsky: The International Monetary Fund (IMF)

#3 - The Costs of Empire and the IMF
Unwelcome Guests

Number 2 of our 17 part lecture series with Michael Parenti. His talk this week "The Costs of Empire at Home and Abroad". In the second hour, Economist Michel Chussodovsky.

To Listen to the Episode

Maggie Sauter: The Visual Life of Occupy Wall Street

The Visual Life of Occupy Wall Street
by Maggie Sauter
MIT Comparative Media Studies

Many visual tropes have accompanied Occupy Wall Street's rise to public prominence. In the beginning, there was the ethereal image of a ballerina poised delicately on the back of the Wall Street bull which graced the original posters and calls-for-action. There were photos of Zuccotti Park crammed with tents and blue tarps. The iconic "I am the 99%" stance, a photo of a single person, holding a handwritten sign dense with text, became a form in and of itself, attracting spinoffs, parodies, and rebuttals.

Two images, in particular, have become highly associated with the Occupy movement in the public eye: the image of Officer Pike pepper spraying students at UC Davis, popularized by the Pepper-Spray Cop remix meme; and the Guy Fawkes mask, first popularized by Anonymous. Each of these images speaks to different aspects of the Occupy movement, its origins, and its challenges, as well as hinting to where the movement will go in the future.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Common Sense with Dan Carlin: #214 - The Bitter Harvest of Fear

Show 214 - The Bitter Harvest of Fear
Common Sense with Dan Carlin

What happens to "The Land of the Free" when it is no longer "The Home of the Brave"? You get the evisceration of constitutional protections in the name of fighting terrorism. Dan wonders why everyone is surprised.

1. ”Detaining US citizens: How did we get here?” by D. Parvas for Al Jazeera News, December 15, 2011.


To Listen to the Episode

Kentucky Rising (Frankfort: June 1, 2012)

Dear Friends and Allies:

I write to invite you to join fellow Kentuckians at the Capitol in Frankfort this June 1 to demand the end of corporate interference in (what should be) OUR politics, especially the overwhelming influence of the coal industry. The time to demand a participatory society for all Kentuckians is NOW!

A broad-based group of citizens is organizing a mass convergence we are calling Kentucky Rising: Occupy the Capitol. By drawing upon the energy of the Kentucky Rising sit-in of February 2011 and the momentum of the nationwide Occupy movement, we intend to create a critical mass of citizens to form a People's Assembly to give voice to concerns about injustice and to work together to find creative and positive solutions to the problems we face. We will respectfully occupy public space and the occupation will also serve as a base for teach-ins, sit-ins, and other non-violent direct actions.

We wish to encourage Kentuckians of all political inclinations to attend. While we may not all agree with each other on some things, most people can agree that corporate domination of Kentucky politics has got to go. This event will be a space for Kentuckians of all backgrounds to come together to talk with each other and find common ground. However, oppressive behavior of any sort will not be tolerated, and there will be a process for dealing with it when it arises.

As a citizen activist or organizer, you are in a crucial position to assist the event organizers in mobilizing a large and diverse group of Kentuckians on June 1 and the following days of the occupation. Will you reach out to inform and invite people in your networks to rise up, united by our love for the land and people of Kentucky?

Over the next month, please make calls and send out emails letting people know and direct them to the event website Ketucky Rising for information and updates. They can also visit the the facebook event page: here

Finally, if you would like to be more involved in organizing this event, please send your contact info, skills, and capacity to help via this web form. We believe that we are all leaders, so the organizing will be decentralized and horizontal, rather than top-down. If you know someone who would like to help organize or reach out, please forward them this email.

More than anything, we want this convergence to be a fun and family-friendly experience as well as a learning opportunity. The problems we face are dire, but if we face them together in a spirit of love and comradeship, we can create the Kentucky we want to pass on to future generations.

In Solidarity,

The Organizers of Kentucky Rising

Anna Kruzynski and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois: Maple Spring -- Nearly 1,000 Arrested as Mass Quebec Student Strike Passes 100th Day

Maple Spring: Nearly 1,000 Arrested as Mass Quebec Student Strike Passes 100th Day
Democracy Now

More than 400,000 filled the streets of Montreal this week as a protest over a 75 percent increase in tuition has grown into a full-blown political crisis. After three months of sustained protests and class boycotts that have come to be known around the world as the "Maple Spring," the dispute exploded when the Quebec government passed an emergency law known as Bill 78, which suspends the current academic term, requires demonstrators to inform police of any protest route involving 50 or more people, and threatens student associations with fines of up to $125,000 if they disobey. The strike has received growing international attention as the standoff grows, striking a chord with young people across the globe amid growing discontent over austerity measures, bleak economies and crushing student debt. We’re joined by Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for CLASSE, the main coalition of student unions involved in the student strikes in Quebec, and Anna Kruzynski, assistant professor at the School of Community and Public Affairs at Concordia University in Montreal. She has been involved in the student strike as a member of the group, Professors Against the Hike.


Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the spokesperson for CLASSE, the main coalition of student unions involved in the student strikes in Quebec, Canada.

Anna Kruzynski, assistant professor at the School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University in Montreal. She’s been involved in the student strike as a member of Professors Against the Hike.

To Watch the Episode

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sharon Kinsella: Men Imagining a Girl Revolution

"Men Imagining a Girl Revolution"
by Sharon Kinsella
CMS Colloquium (MIT Comparative Media Studies)

Foreign Languages and Literatures visiting professor Sharon Kinsella examines the media constructions of a teenage female revolt in contemporary Japan drawing from her current book project Girls as Energy: Fantasies of Social Rejuvenation.

To Listen to the Presentation

ENG 102 Reminder: Cite Your Sources

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Matthew J. Iannucci: Postmodern Antihero -- Capitalism and Heroism in Taxi Driver

Postmodern Antihero: Capitalism and Heroism in Taxi Driver
by Matthew J. Iannucci
Bright Lights Film Journal

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is a gritty, disturbing, nightmarish modern film classic that examines alienation in urban society. From a postmodernist's perspective, it combines the elements of noir, the Western, horror, and urban melodrama as it explores the psychological madness within an obsessed, inarticulate, lonely antihero cab driver, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). The plotline is simple: Travis directs his frustrated anger at the street dwellers of New York and a presidential candidate, and his unhinging assault is paired with an attempt to rescue a young prostitute, Iris (Jodie Foster), from her predatory pimp. Historically, Taxi Driver appeared after a decade of war in Vietnam (1976), and after the Watergate crisis and subsequent resignation of Nixon. Five years later, when it was linked to would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley and his obsession with Jodie Foster, it became prima facie evidence for those on the political right who believed that violence in film translates into crime in real life. It is now almost impossible to separate Taxi Driver from this debate. However, Bickle's antiheroic character is more directly related to a failure of a capitalist system that pits his working-class position as a cab driver against those who have already been disenfranchised according to socioeconomic class, gender, and/or race.

As the film opens, Travis emerges from a forgotten Midwestern form of Americana that appears as obsolete as Travis himself in a big city heterogeneously composed of corporate financiers, political patrons, gun dealers, and prostitutes. In order to survive, he wants to "become a person like other people" as he puts it, but his own disenfranchisement from this nation has left him both intellectually and emotionally bankrupt from the Vietnam War. Freedom, the very nucleus of the American dream, is dependent on individual socioeconomic choices that inform and shape one's identity. But Travis's lack of a distinct identity compels him to cut and paste together what he believes is a heroic identity from an external menu of personages such as the "gunslinger" and the Indian. In actuality, what he does is stitch together a postmodern antiheroic identity that is nostalgic and pop culture-oriented, evidenced by the Mohawk haircut that he sports in the penultimate sequences — because he possesses no internal self.

Taxi Driver implies that identity is not genuine but always synergistic, a kind of potpourri of idolatry and maxims drawn from popular culture, especially from violent movies and television news. In this vein, Robert Ray views Taxi Driver as a postmodern "corrected" Right film, the type of film generally aimed at a naïve audience. Ray explains that a "Right" film presents a traditional conservative philosophy that promotes the application of Western-style, individual solutions to complex contemporary problems. He writes, "Taxi Driver's basic story followed the right wing's loyalty to the classic Western formula: a reluctant individual, confronted by evil, acts on his own to rid society of spoilers. As played by Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver's protagonist had obvious connections with Western heroes…even his name, Travis, linked him to the defender of the Alamo."1 Ray's notion that the film is a "correction" of the right-wing concept of justice is accurate because of its odd plot twist at the conclusion. Normally, such a story would identify Travis's complicity with these criminals and thereby relegate him to some form of institutional punishment. But the film's underlying theme reveals how absurd the Western idealistic depiction of heroism is because the news media in the film not only ignores his actions but also glorifies a psychopathic killer as a noble warrior.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Michael D. Yates: The Great Inequality

The Great Inequality
by Michael D. Yates
Monthly Review


Schutz’s approach here is ingenious, and it takes us directly to a consideration of class not just as a condition—as in, you and I are in different social classes—but as a dynamic relationship in which one class exercises power over another so that society is structured in such a way that there can be no escape from persistent inequalities unless the power (class) relationship is confronted directly and abolished. As we make our choices, we also collectively make “social choices,” that is we structure the very society that faces us with constraints when we choose. However, to say this is to suggest that we are not at all equal in terms of how society itself is constructed. At the level of society, power is critically important. Here is how Schutz defines power: “If person A can get person B to do something in A’s interest by taking advantage of some situation or set of circumstances to which B, were he or she free to choose with full knowledge from among all possible alternatives, would not give full consent, then A has power over B” (66).

While this is a general definition, it is still possible immediately to say some particular things about power. First, power allows a person unilaterally to change another’s constraints, and it can, when exercised long enough, change the habits of subordinates so that the latter act automatically in the interests of their masters. Second, those with personal power will inevitably also have social power, and this will allow them to make the rules that all must obey, and these will benefit the powerful. These rules, in turn, may come to seem normal, which lowers any costs the powerful would have to incur to maintain their power. Third, wherever there is power, there can be no democracy, since if there were, such power would be abolished by majority rule.

After defining power, Schutz examines it in a capitalist context. The most important kind of power is that which employers exert at the workplace. The power advantage capitalists have vis-à-vis their employees is as obvious as it is neglected by mainstream economists. Workers do not have the wealth to withstand periods without employment, and while they might quit a particular job, they cannot quit all jobs. In addition, the ownership of businesses gives capitalists the legal right to structure their workplaces (through detailed division of labor, mechanization, close monitoring to ensure maximum intensity, and so forth) so that the amount of labor used is always a good deal less than the supply of workers. This pool of surplus labor, Marx’s “reserve army,” serves to keep the employed in line, from making excessive wage and hour demands on the bosses. Employers also create artificial job hierarchies to split workers and keep them from seeing their common interests. In larger firms, seemingly impersonal bureaucracies make rules that come to be accepted as inevitable and even fair. All of these things allow employers to extract a surplus of work from their hired hands, a surplus that the employers get to keep. Power always involves a “taking” by the powerful from those without it. What is taken is the fruits of the exercise of their labor time. The control of the labor power of others over a definite period of time, in other words, is the principal basis of economic profit and power under capitalism.

Of course, a “pure” model of power in capitalism, one in which the capitalists merely exploit workers and the analysis stops there, is too simple, even if it remains the essential starting point, and Schutz devotes chapters to other classes, such as managers and professionals, to the hierarchy of businesses (with the largest monopoly capitals at the top), to political power, and to the power represented by complex social networks and cultural institutions such as colleges and universities and media. Each of these other power hierarchies has a certain degree of independence from the basic economic hierarchy, but each is, in the end, connected to it. Together, they serve inevitably to reinforce it; they make it more impregnable to change by, in large part, making it appear normal, the consequence of human nature, and creative of the best world possible. All of these other power structures make our economic system extraordinarily complex and difficult to penetrate, but they do not negate the essential importance of the capital-labor power inequality. They come into being because of it, and they make it stronger. We cannot understand any of them if we do not grasp it.

Once Schutz has laid out his theoretical position on inequality, he addresses the question of why it has risen so dramatically in the United States. He critiques several mainstream hypotheses, the most important of which is that the information technology revolution has raised the skill requirements (education and training costs) at the upper end of the wage hierarchy, while these costs at the lower end have either not risen or fallen. Since, according to neoclassical theory, wages equal the costs of entry into an occupation, this implies that wages at the top are rising disproportionately to those at the bottom. Schutz points out that wage equality began to rise at least a decade before the IT revolution took off. Also, education and training have become more equally distributed, and this should have been reflected in more equality. And if we consider a particular skill group, say those with college degrees in a certain field, inequality has risen within such groups. Schutz might have noted as well that the de-skilling practices associated with Frederick Taylor are deeply ingrained in what all managements do, so that any argument concerning widespread and long-lasting increases in skill requirements is implausible.

To Read the Entire Essay

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rick Perlstein: Chicago History Repeats Itself As Cops and Protesters Clash

Chicago History Repeats Itself As Cops and Protesters Clash
by Rick Perlstein
Rolling Stone

In 1972, writing in Rolling Stone about a looming confrontation between protesters and police in the streets in front of the Republican National Convention in Miami, Hunter S. Thompson described the moment he slipped off his watch. "The first thing to go in a street fight is always your watch, and once you've lost a few, you develop a certain instinct that lets you know it's time to get the thing off your wrist and into a safe pocket." Times have changed: Few people wear watches any more. So when the first objects starting flying in Chicago yesterday night on the corner of Cermak and Michigan, I buttoned my cell phone into my cargo pants pocket instead.

I'd begun marching, four hours earlier, from the bandshell behind the Art Institute of Chicago to a temporary protest zone with 2,000 people (by city estimates) protesting NATO’s role in the Afghanistan war. Our destination was a half mile east of the NATO summit taking place at the south-of-downtown McCormick Place Convention Center; it had been an awkward traipse. I was following legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild; they were watching the police, who were everywhere: thousands were deployed for the summit, plus ringers from forty other agencies from as far away as North Carolina. At least a few hundred were in my field of vision at all times. Volunteers surrounded the parade column with yellow cord; just outside that perimeter hundreds of officers kept stride, all of us starting, stopping, slowing up at a pace dictated by the police wagons inching along ahead.

Up ahead, from sidewalk to sidewalk, marched another row of cops, walking backward, sometimes joining hands red-rover style. Flying squadrons of riot police in those fearsome security-visored blue helmets, chest-protectors that make them look like black turtles, and massively bulging shiny shin guards sometimes appeared, then disappeared down abandoned side streets. Then, at the march's culmination at a makeshift stage 800 yards and innumerable eight-foot-tall steel security barriers west of where 65 world leaders were gathering to talk, largely about the course of the war in Afghanistan, they were suddenly among us, en masse: black turtles, row upon row, arrayed on the elevated median strips that afforded them the high ground for whatever battle might ensue.

This was Chicago in May of 2012, where all week citizens have been cordially invited by authorities to savor what it would feel like to live in a police state – 7.5 miles of street closings; several "maritime security zones"; the thwukthwukthwuk of helicopters and the continuous scream of jet fighters overhead; those infamous "Long Range Acoustic Devices" that make it too painful to stand, poised at the ready; and, in one particularly surreal touch in my tranquil Hyde Park neighborhood, a misplaced suitcase that shut down the 57th Street train station as well access to the two adjacent nerdy used bookstores, a full forty blocks from the NATO zone. (An email to every University of Chicago student, staffer, and faculty member: "Police activity 57th Street at Metra. Avoid area. Additional information to follow." Thirty-nine minutes later: "All clear 57th Street and Metra. Will resume normal operations.")

Just as intended, the city thrummed with fear, uncertainty, and doubt, the most effective tool the powerful possess to keep the rest of us in line; so pervasive was the dread that people working downtown wore jeans on Thursday (no one showed up to work on Friday), lest they be randomly attacked by "self-described anarchists" – in the news media's odd formulation – mistaking them for members of "the 1%."

That night, it all came to a head with the warrantless violent police raid of an apartment in the gentrifying neighborhood of Pilsen, followed by the "disappearing" – no other term for it – of three anarchists, Jared Chase, 27, Brian Church, 22, and Brent Betterly, 24, for over twenty-four hours. They resurfaced Saturday in a Cook County courtroom, where they were charged with "conspiring to commit domestic terrorism during the NATO summit," including "plotting to attack President Obama's Chicago campaign headquarters, the Chicago mayor's home and police stations." What the suspects said was home-brew equipment the city insisted was the makings of Molotov cocktails. Bail was set at $1.5 million.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jake Olzen: Police Entrapment of Nonviolent Movements

Police Entrapment of Nonviolent Movements

The old trope of the bomb-throwing anarchist is back in the news, with a round-up in Ohio on May 1 and the three would-be NATO protesters arrested on Wednesday who are now charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. While the impression that appears in the media is one of remnants of the Occupy movement verging toward violence, the driving forces behind these plots are the very agencies claiming to have foiled them.

The five activists arrested in Cleveland, Ohio, are facing multiple charges for conspiring and attempting to destroy the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge on May Day to protest corporate rule. According to the FBI press statement released shortly after the May 1 arrests, FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony said “the individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views.” But that is only one side of the story.

The mainstream media and blog reports, both nationally and in Cleveland, have emphasized that the young activists were part of Occupy Cleveland and self-identified anarchists (here, here, and here). The men — Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of nearby Lakewood; Connor C. Stevens, 20, of suburban Berea; and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and Anthony Hayne, 35, both of Cleveland — were arrested and remain in jail after they attempted to detonate a false bomb that they had set, in conjunction with the FBI.

It’s an old script: Violence-prone anarchists devise a nefarious plan and, just before they can carry it out, law enforcement swoops in to save the day, catching them red-handed. But there’s another script being acted out here too, one much more sinister, complex, and morally and legally dubious: Agents of the state infiltrate an activist group and, through techniques of psychological manipulation, lead its most vulnerable members into a violent plan — for which explosives, detonators, contacts and case mysteriously become available — until SWAT teams and prosecutors suddenly arrive and haul the accomplices off to jail for the rest of their lives. In both cases, at the end of the story, officials congratulate each other for their bravery and bravado and the public breathes a sigh of relief as more of their civil liberties are stripped away.

I recently spoke with Richard Schulte, a veteran activist who has known the Five from groups like Food Not Bombs and is helping to organize their legal and jail support. Schulte explained that under the influence of undercover federal agents and informants, the activists — particularly the youngest, Baxter and Stevens — found themselves increasingly vulnerable and reliant on their informant. Baxter’s lawyer, a public defender named John Pyle, recently identified the informant working with the group as Shaquille Azir, a 39-year old ex-con.

“[Azir] became something of a role model, stepping in as a father figure, offering guidance on emotional and social stuff,” said Schulte. “Connor and Brandon thought he was a rad dude but getting more and more pushy.”

Collectively, according to accounts from friends and associates, statements from lawyers, and the FBI affidavit, members of the Cleveland Five have backgrounds that include mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness and social marginalization.

Brandon and Connor had been part of the full-time occupation over the winter in Cleveland’s Public Square. After having grown frustrated with what they perceived as the Occupiers’ timidity — Schulte called it “passive gradualism” — the Five were encouraged by Azir to break off from Occupy Cleveland and form their own, much smaller group, “The People’s Liberation Army.” At first it was mostly just a graffiti crew — tagging the phrase “rise up” around the city and putting up stickers, said Schulte.

Azir would give them a case of beer in the morning, according to Schulte, have them work outside on houses all day, and then give them a case of beer at night. He gave them marijuana and would wear them down by keeping them up late into the night with drinking and conversation — all the while urging them to break away from other groups, keep their arrangement secret and not to trust other activists.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Trevor Link: Polisse

by Trevor Link
Spectrum Culture

It goes without saying that the subject matter of Polisse is dispiriting and heartbreaking: a group of police officers working for the Child Protection Unit (or CPU) in Paris deal, on a daily basis, with cases involving rape, abuse, prostitution and organized crime. To compound this bleakness, the details of these cases were, in fact, drawn from real life: director and co-writer Maïwenn spent time following actual officers and constructed her film from events she witnessed or heard about during that time. This patina of ultra-realism coats the events in the film, making them reverberate beyond the screen and suggesting, for each unimaginable horror, a series of unseen but real-life analogues. Maïwenn wisely eschews the tedious offering of answers; her film is instead satisfied in tracing the outline of a vast problem, letting its shape impress an urgent tenseness upon us. Unable to intervene, Maïwenn’s camera can only observe, bringing us back once again to a fundamental question of cinema: to what extent can merely seeing the events of the world—bearing witness to them—actually matter?

Polisse is most interesting when it stays faithful to this ocular theme. As Carol J. Clover has noted in her study of horror films, the eye itself, despite being considered a source of domination (the gaze), is actually quite vulnerable and penetrable (the eyeball-impaling sequence from Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 drives this point home quite strikingly). Filmmakers have moreover understood the camera, like the eye, to be an instrument of control and even aggression—its phallic associations reached a climax in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, which coupled masculine ineffectuality and truth’s elusiveness: together, a lack of mastery. These associations are reversed in Polisse through the character of Mélissa (played by Maïwenn herself), a photographer tasked with documenting the work of the CPU. Mélissa embodies the eye’s vulnerability, and her camera bestows upon her the power of empathy, an uncontrollable receptivity that manifests as an openness to the plight of others. Following the CPU around, she becomes shaken by the horror she sees, the documentation of which cannot console her, but her role is to look—to look only—and take in what she sees, the camera and the eye functioning in tandem.

To Read the Rest of the Review

Belén Fernández: Tom Friedman’s War on Humanity

Tom Friedman’s War on Humanity
by Belén Fernández

Thomas Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, once offered the following insight into his modus operandi: “I often begin writing columns by interviewing myself.”

Some might see this as an unsurprising revelation in light of Edward Said’s appraisal: “It’s as if … what scholars, poets, historians, fighters, and statesmen have done is not as important or as central as what Friedman himself thinks.”

According to Friedman, the purpose of the auto-interviews is merely to analyze his feelings on certain issues. Given that his feelings tend to undergo drastic inter- and sometimes intra-columnar modifications, one potentially convenient byproduct of such an approach to journalism is the impression that Friedman interviews many more people than he actually does.

For example, while one of Friedman’s alter-egos considered blasphemous the “Saddamist” notion that the Iraq war had anything to do with oil, another was of the opinion that the war was “partly about oil,” and another appeared to be under the impression that it was entirely about oil, assigning the blame for U.S. troop deaths in Fallujah to Hummer proprietors. Despite Friedman’s identification as “a liberal on every issue other than this war,” competing layers of his persona defined said conflict as “the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched” as well as part of a “neocon strategy.”

Other novel interviewing techniques employed by Friedman have meanwhile resulted in anthropological discoveries such as that “[t]he people of Sri Lanka” understand that it is “stupid” to oppose US-directed corporate globalization, which our columnist learns by chatting with the owner of a Victoria’s Secret factory in the village of Pannala in 1999. Friedman testifies that, “in terms of conditions, I would let my own daughters work in” the factory—an offer that is not revisited in 2012 when Friedman produces a glowing report on an Apple factory in China.

The gist of the report is that, because the factory reached a daily output level of over 10,000 iPhones simply by rousing 8,000 workers from their dormitories in the middle of the night and administering them each a biscuit and cup of tea, Americans must understand that “average is officially over.” Friedman’s exuberance at the above-average abilities of the Chinese factory workers is occasioned by a “terrific article in The Times by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher about why Apple does so much of its manufacturing in China.” The fact that the same Duhigg produces another co-authored article four days after the terrific one—in which other aspects of Apple factory life in China are discussed, such as explosions, exposure to poisonous chemicals, and worker internment in overcrowded dormitories surrounded by safety netting to impede suicides—raises questions about what sub-average American laborers will have to do to woo jobs back to the U.S.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Democracy Now: U.S. Army Vets Join With Afghans For Peace to Lead Antiwar March at Chicago NATO Summit

U.S. Army Vets Join With Afghans For Peace to Lead Antiwar March at Chicago NATO Summit
Democracy Now

Sunday’s antiwar march at the NATO summit in Chicago was led by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Afghans For Peace. "We’re here to protest NATO and call on all NATO representatives to end this inhumane, illegal and barbaric war against our home country and our people," says Suraia Sahar, a member of Afghans For Peace who marched alongside Afghan war veteran Graham Clumpner during anti-NATO protest in Chicago. "I feel honored standing next to this veteran because in my opinion they are doing the right thing by speaking out against the occupation and war alongside us." Clumpner says, "I reject any affiliation with this war."


Suraia Sahar, member of Afghans For Peace.

Graham Clumpner, Afghan war veteran who is now a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

To Watch the Report

Andrew Martin and Andrew W. Lehren: A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College

A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College
The New York Times

ADA, Ohio — Kelsey Griffith graduates on Sunday from Ohio Northern University. To start paying off her $120,000 in student debt, she is already working two restaurant jobs and will soon give up her apartment here to live with her parents. Her mother, who co-signed on the loans, is taking out a life insurance policy on her daughter.

“If anything ever happened, God forbid, that is my debt also,” said Ms. Griffith’s mother, Marlene Griffith.

Ms. Griffith, 23, wouldn’t seem a perfect financial fit for a college that costs nearly $50,000 a year. Her father, a paramedic, and mother, a preschool teacher, have modest incomes, and she has four sisters. But when she visited Ohio Northern, she was won over by faculty and admissions staff members who urge students to pursue their dreams rather than obsess on the sticker price.

“As an 18-year-old, it sounded like a good fit to me, and the school really sold it,” said Ms. Griffith, a marketing major. “I knew a private school would cost a lot of money. But when I graduate, I’m going to owe like $900 a month. No one told me that.”

With more than $1 trillion in student loans outstanding in this country, crippling debt is no longer confined to dropouts from for-profit colleges or graduate students who owe on many years of education, some of the overextended debtors in years past. As prices soar, a college degree statistically remains a good lifetime investment, but it often comes with an unprecedented financial burden.

About two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients borrow money to attend college, either from the government or private lenders, according to a Department of Education survey of 2007-8 graduates; the total number of borrowers is most likely higher since the survey does not track borrowing from family members.

By contrast, 45 percent of 1992-93 graduates borrowed money; that survey included family borrowing as well as government and private loans.

For all borrowers, the average debt in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports. Average debt for bachelor degree graduates who took out loans ranges from under $10,000 at elite schools like Princeton and Williams College, which have plenty of wealthy students and enormous endowments, to nearly $50,000 at some private colleges with less affluent students and less financial aid.

Here at Ohio Northern, recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees are among the most indebted of any college in the country, and statewide, graduates of Ohio’s more than 200 colleges and universities carry some of the highest average debt in the country, according to data reported by the colleges and compiled by an educational advocacy group. The current balance of federal student loans nationwide is $902 billion, with an additional $140 billion or so in private student loans.

“If one is not thinking about where this is headed over the next two or three years, you are just completely missing the warning signs,” said Rajeev V. Date, deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog created after the financial crisis.

Mr. Date likened excessive student borrowing to risky mortgages. And as with the housing bubble before the economic collapse, the extraordinary growth in student loans has caught many by surprise. But its roots are in fact deep, and the cast of contributing characters — including college marketing officers, state lawmakers wielding a budget ax and wide-eyed students and families — has been enabled by a basic economic dynamic: an insatiable demand for a college education, at almost any price, and plenty of easy-to-secure loans, primarily from the federal government.

The roots of the borrowing binge date to the 1980s, when tuition for four-year colleges began to rise faster than family incomes. In the 1990s, for-profit colleges boomed by spending heavily on marketing and recruiting. Despite some ethical lapses and fraud, enrollment more than doubled in the last decade and Wall Street swooned over the stocks. Roughly 11 percent of college students now attend for-profit colleges, and they receive about a quarter of federal student loans and grants.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Portishead: Wandering Star

Democracy Now: Scott Olsen, U.S. Vet Who Nearly Lost Life at Occupy Protest, Brings Antiwar Message to NATO Summit

Scott Olsen, U.S. Vet Who Nearly Lost Life at Occupy Protest, Brings Antiwar Message to NATO Summit
Democracy Now

We’re joined at the NATO summit in Chicago by Scott Olsen, who survived two tours in Iraq but almost died when he was hit with a police projectile at an Occupy Oakland protest last year. Olsen returned four of his medals at Sunday’s antiwar march. When asked why he’s joined the Occupy movement and is protesting against the heavily-policed NATO summit, Olsen says, "I am going to make every effort I can to show them that we’re doing the right thing. No matter what they do to any of us, we’ve got each other’s backs and we’re going forward."

To Watch the Interview

Annie Leonard: The Story of Cap and Trade

[via Thought Maybe]

More videos at Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff website.

Veterans/Soldiers: Peace and Conflict Studies Archive


Berends, Andrew, et al. "The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans." Making Contact (July 1, 2009)

Bhagwati, Anuradha, et al. "Many Lines of Fire: Women at War." Making Contact (May 27, 2009)

Carlin, Dan. "Secret Leakage." Common Sense #248 (March 2, 2013)

Cioca, Kori, Kirby Dick and Trina McDonald. "The Invisible War: New Film Exposes Rape, Sexual Assault Epidemic in U.S. Military." Democracy Now (January 30, 2012)

Clumpner, Graham and Suraia Suhar. "U.S. Army Vets Join With Afghans For Peace to Lead Antiwar March at Chicago NATO Summit." Democracy Now (May 21, 2012)

Crespo, Glenn and Larry Hildes. "Inside the Army Spy Ring & Attempted Entrapment of Peace Activists, Iraq Vets, Anarchists." Democracy Now (February 25, 2014)

Cuellar, Claudia, Phil Donahue and Tomas Young. "Dying Iraq War Veteran Tomas Young Explains Decision to End His Life." Democracy Now (March 21, 2013)

Espirit de Corps To the Best of Our Knowledge (May 16, 2008)

Gosztola, Kevin and Chase Madar. "Bradley Manning Trial: After 3 Years, Army Whistleblower Begins Court Martial Shrouded in Secrecy." Democracy Now (June 3, 2013)

Greenwald, Glenn. "Bradley Manning: the face of heroism." The Guardian (February 28, 2013)

Hedges, Chris. "War is Betrayal: Persistent Myths of Combat." Boston Review (July/August 2012)

Holland, Joshua. "Scary Flashes of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars in the LAPD's Manhunt for Chris Dorner." AlterNet (February 8, 2013)

Jones, Ann. "How US Wars Came Home With the Troops: Up Close, Personal and Bloody." Truthout (April 17, 2014)

Kilkenny, Allison. "The Poster Boy For Unending War." The Smirking Chimp (February 20, 2014)

"Mike Ferner of Veterans for Peace and Zach Choate of Iraq Veterans Against War on the 8th anniverary of the invasion of Iraq." Raising Sand Radio (March 18, 2011)

Miller, T. Christian. "Invisible Wounds of War." Pro Publica Podcast (March 28, 2011)

""No NATO, No War": U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Return War Medals at NATO Summit." Democracy Now (May 21, 2012)

Olsen, Scott. "U.S. Vet Who Nearly Lost Life at Occupy Protest, Brings Antiwar Message to NATO Summit." Democracy Now (May 21, 2012)

Peebles, Stacey. "Stories from the Suck: The First Wave of Iraq War Narratives." Berfois (April 15, 2011)

"Sebastian Errazuriz: American Kills." Design Bloom (August 19, 2010)

"US Military." History Commons (Ongoing Historical Timeline)

Zeese, Kevin. "Bradley Manning and the Rule of Law." TruthOut (January 14, 2011)

Democracy Now: "No NATO, No War" -- U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Return War Medals at NATO Summit

"No NATO, No War": U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Return War Medals at NATO Summit
Democracy Now

We broadcast from Chicago, site of the largest NATO summit in the organization’s six-decade history. On Sunday, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as members of Afghans For Peace, led a peace march of thousands of people. Iraq Veterans Against the War held a ceremony where nearly 50 veterans discarded their war medals by hurling them down the street in the direction of the NATO summit. We hear the soldiers’ voices as they return their medals one by one from the stage. "I am giving back my global war on terror service medal in solidarity with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan," said Jason Heard, a former combat medic who spent 10 years in the U.S. Army. "I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in these countries and around the globe."


Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, returning their medals outside the NATO summit in Chicago.

To Watch the Coverage

Reports and Images from the NATO Protests in Chicago (May 20-21, 2012)

Was going to post some of this collection here, but lets give credit where it is due by sending you to Richard Reilly's Facebook page and I'll try to catch up on some other reports throughout the day. I'm curious how this is being covered in other parts of the world, if you are so inclined, please share your perspective or reports.

CHIASMOS: McQuire Gibson and Fred Donner -- Iraq before Saddam Hussein; Salim Yaqub and Rashid Khalidi -- Constraining and Shaping Nationalism: The United States and Iraq; John Mearsheimer and Robert Pape -- The War in Iraq and America's Role in the World

[These are all from 2003 in the aftermath of the USA's invasion and occupation of Iraq, but they provide a good glimpse into the knowledge/understanding about the causes and consequences at that time. Also very useful for those still seeking to understand about the causes and consequences.]

CHIASMOS (University of Chicago Area and International Studies Multimedia Outreach Source)

From the Rethinking America in the Middle East Series, presented by: International House Global Voices Program, the Norman Wait Harris Fund of the Center for International Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the Human Rights Program.

"Iraq Before Saddam Hussein"

McGuire Gibson, Oriental Institute and Departments of History, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Fred Donner, Oriental Institute and Near Eastern Languages and Civilization

To Listen to Gibson and Donner

"Constraining and Shaping Nationalism: The United States and Iraq"

Salim Yaqub, Assistant Professor, Department of History

Rashid Khalidi, Director, Center for International Studies and Professor, Departments of History andNear Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Yo Listen to Yaqub and Khalidi

"The War in Iraq and America's Role in the World"

John Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Political Science; Director, Program on International Security

Robert Pape, Director, Program on International Security and Department of Political Science

To Listen to Mearsheimer and Pape

Friday, May 18, 2012

Margaret Flowers and Raymond Offenheiser: Occupy G8 -- Peoples’ Summit Confronts World Leaders at Camp David, Urging Action on Poverty, Hunger

Occupy G8: Peoples’ Summit Confronts World Leaders at Camp David, Urging Action on Poverty, Hunger
Democracy Now

World leaders are convening at the heavily guarded Camp David in Maryland today for the G8 Summit. Leading nonprofits such as Save the Children and Oxfam are urging G8 leaders to live up to a 2009 pledge of $22 billion towards food security in developing nations of which only a quarter has been met. Activists are also urging G8 leaders to build on their previous commitments and partner with developing countries to urgently tackle hunger. We’re joined by Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, and Dr. Margaret Flowers, a physician and organizer with the Occupy G8 Peoples’ Summit.

Raymond Offenheiser, President of the international relief and development organization, Oxfam America.

Dr. Margaret Flowers is a pediatrician, single payer advocate, co-director of Its Our Economy and organizer of Occupy Washington, D.C. She helped organize the Occupy G8 Peoples’ Summit outside of Camp David.

To Watch the Episode

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Best of the Left: #605 The climate of our discontent (Climate Change)

#605 The climate of our discontent (Climate Change)
Best of the Left

Ch. 1: Intro – Theme: A Fond Farewell – From a Basement On the Hill

Ch. 2: Act 1: Climate change denial think tank industries – Green News Report

Ch. 3: Song 1: Nantes – The Flying Club Cup

Ch. 4: Act 2: Fox Guest: Obama Wants High Gas Prices – Young Turks

Ch. 5: Song 2: Acorn Factory – Time To Die

Ch. 6: Act 3: Big Oil More Powerful Than Government – Rachel Maddow

Ch. 7: Song 3: Crystalised – xx

Ch. 8: Act 4: Climate Change Predictions Made 30 Years Ago Prove Accurate – Majority Report

Ch. 9: Song 4: Walking On Sunshine – Anthology

Ch. 10: Act 5: Fox News Lie Wind Farms Cause Global Warming – David Pakman

Ch. 11: Song 5: Peace of Mind – Popular Music That Will Live Forever – EP

Ch. 12: Act 6: Climate Change Coverage Plummets On Broadcast Networks Study – Young Turks

Ch. 13: Song 6: Ignore the Ignorant – Ignore the Ignorant

Ch. 14: Act 7: The Conservative Smear Campaign to Discredit Climate Scientists – Majority Report

Ch. 15: Song 7: Circle of Life – The Lion King (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Ch. 16: Act 8: The Human Race & Other Evil Little Bastards – Lee Camp

Ch. 17: Song 8: Across the Universe – I Am Sam (Music from and Inspired By the Motion Picture)

Ch. 18: Act 9: Charlie Foster: The most invasive species – Story Collider

To Listen to the Episode

Mick Jagger: Memo From Turner

Mr Airplane Man: Commit a Crime

Monday, May 14, 2012

Richard Lang, Noam Chomsky, Michel Bauwens and David Graeber: Occupy 2.0 (Peer Produced Politics)

Episode #594 - Occupy 2.0 (Peer Produced Politics)
Unwelcome Guests

We start the show with some reflections of the various Occupy battles as symptoms of society's auto-immune disease. In this context, we hear a November 2011 open letter from Occupier, Reverend Richard Lang to the Seattle Police Department. Encouraging them to work with, not against the occupiers, he notes their common interest, and that the police who accept their orders to brutalize and provoke protestors are no longer serving humanity or their own interests.

Then we hear an interview of Noam Chomsky about the meaning of the Occupy Movement in the context of US politics. He highlights the need for direct civic engagement by the occupiers to transform their wide mandate of support from a habitually inactive populace into a broad active engagement -- which is the best defense against brutal police. Chomsky notes that the established US political parties will try to coopt Occupy to meet their own ends. He recalls David Hume's observation that "Power is in the hands of the governed" and that the only way that an elite can maintain control is through an enormous and ongoing campaign to shape public opinion. Occupy threatens that control to the extent that it presents a counter narrative independent of commercially controlled media.

Our first hour concludes with a recent interview of Michel Bauwens about the significance of Occupy. He highlights the emerging phenomenon of peer production, which substitutes traditional top down hierarchies such as corporations with a pattern of more amicable and egalitarian interrelationships. Bauwens suggests that Occupy is a manifestation of the same, decentralized spirit in the political arena. This continues into the second hour and we conclude with another half hour of Chapter 7 of David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years.

Music: Welcome To The Occupation by REM

To Listen to the Episode

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yvonne Ridley: Bush Convicted of War Crimes in Absentia

Bush Convicted of War Crimes in Absentia
by Yvonne Ridley
Foreign Policy Journal

Kuala Lumpur — It’s official; George W Bush is a war criminal.

In what is the first ever conviction of its kind anywhere in the world, the former US President and seven key members of his administration were yesterday (Fri) found guilty of war crimes.

Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo were tried in absentia in Malaysia.

The trial held in Kuala Lumpur heard harrowing witness accounts from victims of torture who suffered at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They included testimony from British man Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee and Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi who was tortured in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

At the end of the week-long hearing, the five-panel tribunal unanimously delivered guilty verdicts against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their key legal advisors who were all convicted as war criminals for torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

Full transcripts of the charges, witness statements and other relevant material will now be sent to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations and the Security Council.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission is also asking that the names of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee, Addington and Haynes be entered and included in the Commission’s Register of War Criminals for public record.

The tribunal is the initiative of Malaysia’s retired Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who staunchly opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

To Read the rest of the Report

Laura Kacere: The Radical History of Mother's Day

The Radical History of Mother's Day
by Laura Kacere
Nation of Change

There’s a good number of us who question holidays like Mother’s Day in which you spend more time feeding money into a system that exploits our love for our mothers than actually celebrating them. It’s not unlike any other holiday in America in that its complete commercialization has stripped away so much of its genuine meaning, as well its history. Mother’s Day is unique in its completely radical and totally feminist history, as much as it has been forgotten.

Mother’s Day began in America in 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Written in response to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, her proclamation called on women to use their position as mothers to influence society in fighting for an end to all wars. She called for women to stand up against the unjust violence of war through their roles as wife and mother, to protest the futility of their sons killing other mothers’ sons.

Howe wrote:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Graham Fuller: Jean Vigo - Artist of the Floating World

Jean Vigo: Artist of the floating world
by Graham Fuller
Sight and Sound

Jean Vigo’s great work about a pair of troubled newly-weds and the crusty old mate with the Hapsburg jaw and unfettered imagination who travels with them aboard the Normandy freight barge L’Atalante was based on a one-page scenario by Jean Guinée. This was the pen name of Roger de Guichen, who had been intrigued by the sight of a woman helming a barge on the Seine, and had named his fictional vessel after a frigate commanded by one of his ancestors in the Seven Years War. Following the banning of Vigo’s Zéro de conduite in 1933, the director’s supportive producer Jacques-Louis Nounez sent him Guinée’s scenario hoping it would deter him from the kind of radical experimentation that had illuminated Vigo’s scabrous 42-minute satire of boarding-school life.

“What the fuck do you want me to do with this? It’s Sunday-school stuff,” was Vigo’s response when he read the scenario. It was workaday melodrama. Juliette, the young wife, bored with the monotony and domestic drudgery of her life on the barge after the initial erotic charge of her marriage has dwindled, runs away from her conservative husband Jean, the skipper, for an afternoon of window-shopping in Paris, only to find herself stranded when he angrily takes off in the barge. Her handbag is stolen, she’s propositioned, she fears for her survival. The husband languishes, despite the kindly attempts of the mate, le père Jules, to rouse him. In Guinée’s scenario, Juliette is found by the old salt in a church. Penitent, she returns to Jean, confirming she is faithful. But Guinée pessimistically concluded in his synopsis, “Happiness has fled the vessel.”

Despite his reservations, Vigo sensed he could tell the story imaginatively. Nounez struck a deal whereby he would cover the running costs while Gaumont provided studio space, cameras and distribution. Vigo and his co-writer Albert Riéra would eliminate Guinée’s moralising, take advantage of the on-shore plight of Juliette (Dita Parlo) to show the inroads of the Depression and expose the spite of the petit bourgeois mob and the brutality of the police – and use music and magic to bring her home to Jean (Jean Dasté). The genie-like le père Jules (Michel Simon), who discovers her working in a palais de chansons instead of telling her rosary in a church, carries her out on his shoulder, as if she were one of the many cats that cling to him on the barge.

In October 1933, just before shooting, Vigo told a Belgian journalist that he was using Guinée’s scenario “merely as a loose frame allowing me to work with images of the waterways, the environment of the canal-workers, and the actors”. He was as good as his word. The connecting thread of L’Atalante is the realist footage depicting the harsh, unremitting lives of the crew and the waterfront folk as the barge heads to Paris and, minus Juliette, on to Le Havre. Contrasting with the voyage sequences, however, are exquisitely sensual flights into surrealism. Jean, believing an old wives’ tale told him by Juliette in the first days of their marriage, dives into the icy river to seek a glimpse of her underwater, whereupon she is magically superimposed over him in her wedding dress as he swims. (Vigo drew on his 1931 short about a swimming champion, Taris ou la Natation.) Then Jean and Juliette, though miles apart, ‘make love’ by dreaming erotically of each other in parallel scenes, their bodies impressionistically speckled in unifying dots of shadow. L’Atalante.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Joost Hiltermann: Bahrain -- A New Sectarian Conflict

Bahrain: A New Sectarian Conflict?
by Joost Hiltermann
NYR Books (The New York Review of Books)

Until 2011, the tiny island nation of Bahrain was mainly known to the outside world for one thing: an annual Formula One car race, the first of its kind in the Middle East, that signified the country’s arrival among the community of stable advanced nations. But then came last spring’s popular uprising and brutal government crackdown, and a different side of this Gulf monarchy came to light: the longstanding grievances held by many Bahrainis, including above all members of the island’s Shia majority, against its Sunni ruling family, who in turn seem prepared to use force to hold onto power. The regime prevailed, and after inviting an investigation of human rights abuses last fall, it suggested it was bringing the country back to normal; this spring’s Grand Prix would show the world it had succeeded.

But as I discovered during a five-day visit shortly before the race, nothing could be further from the truth. Talking to dozens of people both in Manama and in smaller communities outside the capital, I was told again and again that the situation was becoming worse, not better: police forces have been using large quantities of tear gas against protesters, repeatedly causing deaths; police brutality had not ended but moved from police stations to alleyways and undeclared detention centers; young activists are increasingly resorting to Molotov cocktails, subverting the peaceful nature of the protests; and the government has not opened any dialogue with the opposition or offered hope for political reform. Protests occurred nightly in Shiite villages and neighborhoods during my stay, and a veritable battle of graffiti took place on the walls of shops and houses, with protesters writing slogans calling for the end of the regime, police erasing them with a quick coat of paint, and activists scribbling new ones seemingly before the paint had dried.

And so while the Grand Prix, Bahrain’s single prestige event, did take place in late April, it happened amid clouds of tear gas and wafts of smoke from firebombs, as well as an outcry over the death of a protester apparently as a result of shotgun pellets fired by riot police. On the day of the event, a political activist, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, was into his eleventh week of a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment on allegations of plotting to overthrow the state during last year’s protests. (As of this writing, the hunger strike is now in its ninetieth day.)

Part of what makes the current situation in Bahrain so disturbing is that the regime has succeeded in replacing the narrative of a peaceful movement for reform with an altogether different one: that the country’s majority Shia are intent on driving the Sunnis off the island and handing the country over to Iran. Although last year’s protests were led by predominantly Shia opposition groups, Bahrain’s urban populations have long been mixed and the uprising also drew Sunnis dissatisfied with how the country was run. But now, by mobilizing Sunnis against Shia protesters on the claim the latter are manipulated by a predatory Iran, the regime has made Shia-Sunni hostility the conflict’s overriding theme.

Consider the recent cases of Ali and Omar: two Bahraini boys, one a teenager, the other a pre-schooler. Ali, of course, is one of the more common Shia names while Omar is a common Sunni name. Their stories, much embellished in the retelling, have been wielded by each side in the conflict to attack the other side.

In March, the Bahraini Internet was full of Twitter comments about 4-year-old Omar, who was said to have been forced to kiss his (Shia) teacher’s feet simply because of his name. The historical Omar was one of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions and Islam’s second Caliph. To Shia, he was a usurper, who muscled aside Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, in the succession crisis that erupted following Muhammad’s death.

The teacher denied the accusation, but when it was leaked to the press that the school had launched an investigation (after a complaint lodged by Omar’s parents), the Ministry of Education became involved, and the matter, quickly amplified by social media, soon became a national controversy. The school was forced to suspend the teacher, and a picture of her husband and his daily route to work were circulated on Twitter in an attempt to intimidate the couple.

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Bauhaus: In the Flat Field

Joshua Land: Migrating Forms - David Cronenberg and the challenge of the impossible adaptation

Migrating Forms: David Cronenberg and the challenge of the impossible adaptation
by Joshua Land
Moving Image Source

What makes a film a successful literary adaptation? Ask a random literate moviegoer, and they're likely to answer that a good film adaptation should be "like the book" (or play). In other words, a successful adaptation is a faithful adaptation. What then is a faithful adaptation? One that follows the story of the original text, of course. It's this fixation on story that prompts the common contention that most great modernist and postmodernist novels, which often either lack a traditional story or integrate story elements with discursive material, are "unfilmable." One possible strategy of adaptation is to "flatten out" the original by simply discarding everything that doesn't move the story along, as in Philip Kaufman and Jean-Claude Carrière's version of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a conventional 1980s Euro-prestige picture that preserves the novel's plot line while eliding the philosophical digressions and ruminations on love and kitsch that are essential to its meaning. So is it a successful adaptation of Milan Kundera's novel? Well, that depends on what you mean by "successful."

Over the latter half of his career, David Cronenberg has intervened in this tiresome discussion with a series of what have been termed "impossible adaptations." In films like Naked Lunch (1991) and Crash (1996), adaptations of novels once regarded as unfilmable, Cronenberg approaches the problem of adaptation from a different angle. One of these films closely follows the story of its source novel and one does not, but both could be described as successful—and even, after a fashion, faithful—adaptations.

Discussion of adaptations is often haunted by the unresolved question of whether a film should be regarded as merely the extension of a literary work into another form, or as a separate work entirely. Cronenberg's Naked Lunch takes that decision out of the viewer's hands to the extent that it's not really an adaptation of William S. Burroughs's novel at all—at least if adaptation is conceived primarily in terms of story. While most of the movie's major characters and settings (as well as the famous "talking asshole" anecdote) come from the Burroughs novel, it also draws from other Burroughs writings as well as the author's life. Seeing Naked Lunch is in no way a substitute for reading the book, or vice versa—which may be precisely the point.

Talking centipedes and organic typewriters notwithstanding, Naked Lunch is relatively restrained by the standards of Cronenberg's previous work, marking, along with Dead Ringers (1988), a transition between the director's visceral early films and the cooler, more formalist late work. The outré visual effects are played more for laughs than chills. Indeed, Naked Lunch might be Cronenberg's funniest film, beginning with the ironic casting of Robocop himself, Peter Weller, as the alter ego of the outlaw writer. Weller's stone-faced performance positions the film's protagonist, William Lee, as a straight man (pun intended) who takes its bizarre happenings in stride. Recounting a not atypical incident in which his Clark Nova typewriter kills and disembowels a potential rival instrument, Lee deadpans: "I understood writing could be dangerous. I didn't realize the danger came from the machinery."

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Smashing Pumpkins: Twilight to Starlight

Public Radio International: Survivor tries to make sense of aftermath of Norway attacks as trial continues

Survivor tries to make sense of aftermath of Norway attacks as trial continues
Public Radio International (PRI)

The trial of Anders Breivik has faded from the headlines, but the trial continues.

On Friday, the court heard details of the deaths of the 69 people he massacred on Utoya Island. Breivik appeared unmoved by the testimony.

But the survivors of the shootings have spent a lot of time thinking about the horrific event and what it means for him and for Norway.

Gathered in a hall in downtown Stavanger a small group of Norwegians are still grappling with what happened.

A moderator had brought together four panelists to talk about the how the media have reported on the massacre and the trial and to examine just what it means for Norway’s future. Eventually, it was Arshad Mubarak Ali’s turn to speak.

Ali stands out not only because of the color of his skin. He is also a survivor of the day of horror on Utoya Island. Ali knows while he may not have died, he was, in Breivik’s mind, the enemy simply because he is different from so many other Norwegians.

Ali, who was born in Norway to parents from Sri Lanka, never noticed that difference until Sept. 11, 2001. A teenager at the time, he remembers telling classmates how upset he was about what happened that day.

So he said he was shocked when one of them identified him with the 9/11 assassins.

“A person said to me, ‘I didn’t think that you thought this was terrible; I thought that you supported these people.’ So that experience made me think,” Ali said. “When this classmate said this to me, I started to think who am I? Why am I so different because I am a Muslim.”

Ali spent the following years exploring that question, studying the history of his faith, listening to a national debate that seemed to equate Islam with terrorism. Then, at the suggestion of his politically active father, he ran for city council and won a seat at the age of 20.

Ever since, he’s worked hard for the Labor Party. That’s why he was at the party’s youth meeting on Utoya Island that day.

Ali recounted the terror of the day quietly and deliberately. He went with others to shelter inside a building after they heard gunshots outside. He was standing next to a closed door when a bullet came flying in.

“And then I just saw a shot, a gunshot that went through the wall and hit this person and he fell down and he started to shout,” Ali said. “Then I knew that, OK, this is something serious.”

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Ken Butigan: A May to Remember

A May to remember
by Ken Butigan
Waging Nonviolence

April may be the cruelest month, as T.S. Eliot once claimed, but May is the month of exuberant mass action. We’re currently in the thick of the latest iteration of May mobilizations for justice and peace, with the worldwide protests that got rolling on May 1 and the actions that will take place later this month in Chicago focused on the NATO summit. May actions are a venerable tradition, reaching back to Emancipation Day in 1886 when — also in Chicago — 340,000 workers went on strike demanding an 8-hour workday. Since then, by design or coincidence, numerous May protests — perhaps egged on by the feisty vitality of spring and its alluring promise of rejuvenation — have been momentous.

In the month of May, one million South Africans demonstrated against apartheid (1986); 1,400 people were arrested protesting the construction of a nuclear power plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire (1977); the Freedom Riders challenged racial discrimination in interstate travel (1961); hundreds of schoolchildren were arrested during the civil rights movement’s historic Birmingham campaign (1963); the Poor People’s Campaign challenged economic inequality (1968); a general strike spread across France calling for social change, eventually mobilizing ten million people (1968); and millions protested U.S. immigration policy across the nation (2006). These, as the invaluable This Week in History attests, are only a small fraction of the many historic social struggles that have been launched in the month of May.

Here is one of the most notable.

Forty-one years ago today — May 3, 1971 — thousands of people were arrested in Washington D.C. as they clamored for an end to the U.S. war in Vietnam. Though no one could have known it at the time, this event proved to be the movement’s last monumental mobilization. There would be other national and local demonstrations before the war finally ended in 1975, but nothing would match the sheer size and intensity of this powerful drama played out on the streets of the nation’s capital.

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Monday, May 07, 2012

The Who: Behind Blue Eyes

Jake Olzen: NATO’s crisis of legitimacy spreads in Chicago

NATO’s crisis of legitimacy spreads in Chicago
by Jake Olzen
Waging Nonviolence

As NATO forces find themselves under fire in Afghanistan, NATO’s spokespersons are taking to another battlefield to win the hearts and minds of an increasingly skeptical populace: Chicago Public Schools. Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported from a sixth-grade classroom where representatives from the Chicago NATO Host Committee gave a primer on NATO and its member countries to the Walt Disney Magnet School on the Northside of Chicago.

According a Host Committee press release, the classroom visits and programming are part of a whole series of events “designed to engage and educate residents about the upcoming NATO Summit.” Other events include sponsored sports competitions, culinary classes and specialized menus at Chicago restaurants featuring NATO member countries’ heritages, and a three-part speaker series:

The first will focus on the future of the transatlantic alliance, the second will examine American leadership in the 21st Century, and the third will give Chicagoans an opportunity to hear from visiting NATO leaders.

A Host Committee spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comments on the goals or content of the CPS programming.

Chicagoans are not likely to hear about the civilian deaths that NATO “covered up” during the 2011 Libyan uprising against Col. Qaddafi or the migrants left to die at sea after NATO failed to respond to distress calls. Furthermore, a recent NATO report leaked to The New York Times reveals what many already know: NATO is the U.S.’s wingman and can barely function without it. Alongside a faltering mission against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, NATO is facing a crisis of legitimacy as citizens of its member countries are mobilizing for protest and anti-NATO education en masse.

“AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) is working to combat the pro-NATO discussion happening not only at CPS but in general as well,” explained Barbara Morenoan, an AFSC intern, by email. Moreno has helped put together a number of resources to challenge the NATO narrative and has taken its presentations advocating protest to Chicago Public Schools. Along with students from Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy, AFSC has created a mural depicting the realities of NATO.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, nearly 500 people were arrested in protests at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels in early April. The protests reveal the increasing anti-militarism and anti-nuclear sentiments among many Europeans.

“We neither want the anti-missile shield, nor intervention by NATO in Libya or Afghanistan, nor nuclear bombs that are illegal in our country,” said Benoit Calvi to Agence France Presse about the April 1 action.

As the NATO summit nears, drawing protesters from around the world, local resistance is increasing. On Monday, clergy, along with labor leaders, announced their opposition to NATO at the Chicago Temple; the United Methodist Church, located in the Loop, is the oldest church in Chicago. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Phil Blackwell, two long-time Chicago leaders, both stated their intentions to march against NATO. The Chicago Temple, in conjunction with SCUPE — a Chicago consortium of cross-denomination seminaries — announced a Chicago-wide discussion amongst pastors on NATO, the G8 and economic justice, following by strategizing for action.

The May 20–21 meetings are less than two weeks away and the summit’s theme — “CHICAGO 2012 — the Global Crossroad” — is uncannily prophetic as thousands of protesters plan to converge in what may be the largest demonstration against NATO in history. And the lead up to those protests will see more educational events and teach-ins all over the city as to why people should be concerned about NATO.

Occupy Chicago’s “People’s Summit” will take place on May 12–13, featuring speakers and workshops about developing protest actions for the NATO summit as well as visions for inhabiting a world without NATO.

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Unwelcome Guests: Episode #593 - Let Your Life Be A Friction (To Stop The Machine)

Episode #593 - Let Your Life Be A Friction (To Stop The Machine)
Unwelcome Guests

We start this week with a brief except from Mario Savio's 'Odious Machine' speech, followed by the soundtrack to a video by ClassWarFilms which retells the myth of American exceptionalism. It concludes by recalling Thoreau's injunction to 'Let Your Life Be A Friction To Stop The Machine'.

We then hear from UK anti-nuclear activist Angie Zelter on how she started the ploughshares movement which has inspired thousands to damage nuclear weapons and other oppressive military equipment. She reports that juries are increasingly finding in favor of those who put their lives on the line with such direct action.

Then we hear from Gwen Schulman on how she broke the story of Canadian Environmental NGOs teaming up with the largest mining companies. Next a section by John Stewart on his experience opposing airport expansion -- and his summary expulsion from USA.

We conclude with another reading from chapter 7 of David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years.

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