Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Corbett Report: Politics and Language with Andrew Gavin Marshall

Politics and Language with Andrew Gavin Marshall (Video)
The Corbett Report

It’s all around us. We all use it on a daily basis, and it is used against us, even if we don’t know it. It is language, and it can be used as a political weapon even more effectively than outright oppression. Andrew Gavin Marshall of The People’s Book Project joins us tonight to discuss his article, “Austerity, Adjustment, and Social Genocide: Political Language and the European Debt Crisis” and how the public can put up their mental defenses against linguistic manipulation by the would-be so-called political elite.

To Watch the Episode

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The F Word: Where have all the radicals gone? When feminism gets moderate

Where have all the radicals gone? When feminism gets moderate
by Meghan Murphy
The F Word

In a world where feminism as a whole is often touted as a bad word, radical feminism in particular is marginalized, not only by the mainstream media, but often within third-wave feminist discourse. Are we afraid to be 'too' radical at the risk of alienating the masses? Or is radical feminism simply misunderstood?

This radio documentary asks: Where have all the radicals gone? Has feminism been swept up in the neoliberal current? Have we de-radicalized in order to be more palatable to the masses? In the face of strippercize, Sarah Palin, and 'post-feminism,' is feminism in need of a re-radicalization?

Featuring an interview with renowned feminist scholar, Sheila Jeffreys, your host Meghan Murphy explores all these questions and more.

To Listen to the Episode

Friday, September 28, 2012

Democracy Now: In U.N. Address, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Urges Obama Admin to End "Regime of Secrecy; Exposed: U.S. May Have Designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks an "Enemy of the State"

Democracy Now

In U.N. Address, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Urges Obama Admin to End "Regime of Secrecy

Speaking via videolink from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed a side meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday evening. In his remarks, Assange gave thanks to the United Nations for its treaties on political asylum and denounced the U.S. treatment of alleged Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. Assange also accused President Obama of exploiting the Arab Spring and called on the end its persecution of WikiLeaks and its supporters. We air Assange’s address.

To Watch the Report and Assange's Address

Exposed: U.S. May Have Designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks an "Enemy of the State"

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may have been designated an "enemy of the state" by the United States. U.S. Air Force counterintelligence documents show military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or its supporters may be at risk of being charged with "communicating with the enemy" — a military crime that carries a maximum sentence of death. We speak to attorney Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a legal adviser to Assange and WikiLeaks.

To Watch the Report

Democracy Now: The United States of ALEC -- Bill Moyers on the Secretive Corporate-Legislative Body Writing Our Laws

The United States of ALEC: Bill Moyers on the Secretive Corporate-Legislative Body Writing Our Laws
Democracy Now

Democracy Now! premieres "The United States of ALEC," a special report by legendary journalist Bill Moyers on how the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council has helped corporate America propose and even draft legislation for states across the country. ALEC brings together major U.S. corporations and right-wing legislators to craft and vote on "model" bills behind closed doors. It has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in promoting "stand your ground" gun laws, voter suppression bills, union-busting policies and other controversial legislation. Although billing itself as a "nonpartisan public-private partnership," ALEC is actually a national network of state politicians and powerful corporations principally concerned with increasing corporate profits without public scrutiny. Moyers’ special will air this weekend on Moyers & Company, but first airs on Democracy Now! today. "The United States of ALEC" is a collaboration between Okapi Productions, LLC and the Schumann Media Center.

"United States of ALEC", a special report by Bill Moyers airing this weekend on Moyers & Company. The film is a collaboration between Okapi Productions, LCC and the Schumann Media Center.

To Watch the Report

Films We Want To See #11: Stoker (USA/UK: Chan-Wook Park, 2013)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Skeptoid #1: New Age Energy -- An examination of energy, as new agers use the term

New Age Energy: An examination of energy, as new agers use the term.
by Brian Dunning

Faith in pseudoscience is rampant. Everywhere you turn, intelligent people fully accept the existence of anything from psychic phenomena, to angels, to new age healing techniques, to ancient health schemes based on mysterious energy fields not understood by science. Most of these paranormal phenomena rely on "energy," and when the performers are asked to explain, they'll gladly lecture about the body's energy fields, the universe's energy fields, Chi, Prana, Orgone, negative energy, positive energy, and just about anything else that needs a familiar sounding word to explain and justify it. Clearly, there are too many loose interpretations of the word energy, to the point where most people probably have no idea exactly what energy really is.

I believe that if more people had a clear understanding of energy — and it's not complicated — there would be less susceptibility to pseudoscience, and more attention paid to actual technologies and methods that are truly constructive and useful.

A friend told me of her ability to perform minor healings, and her best explanation was that she drew energy from another dimension. She had recently rented What the Bleep Do We Know, so she was well prepared to explain that alternate dimensions and realities should be taken for granted, since science doesn't really know anything, and thus those things cannot be disproven. That's fine, I'll concede that she can make contact with another dimension: after all, the latest M theories posit that there are probably ten or eleven of them floating around, and I'll just hope that my friend's is not one of those that are collapsed into impossibly small spaces. What I was really interested in was the nature of this vaguely defined energy that she could contact.

I asked what type of energy is it, and how is it stored? Is it heat? Is it a spinning flywheel? Is it an explosive compound? Is it food? These are examples of actual ways that energy can be stored.

To Read the Rest or to Listen to the Episode

Monday, September 24, 2012

Glenn Greenwald: State department attacks CNN for doing basic journalism - Obama officials hide behind Ambassador Stevens' family to delegitimize reporting that reflects poorly on them

State department attacks CNN for doing basic journalism: Obama officials hide behind Ambassador Stevens' family to delegitimize reporting that reflects poorly on them
by Glenn Greenwald
The Guardian

Three days after Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in Benghazi, Libya, CNN found a seven-page handwritten journal he had written. That journal, found on the floor of what CNN called "the largely unsecured consulate compound where he was fatally wounded", contained obviously newsworthy information: specifically that "in the months leading up to his death, the late ambassador worried about what he called the security threats in Benghazi and a rise in Islamic extremism". CNN also reported that Stevens "mentioned his name was on an al Qaeda hit list".

After finding the journal, CNN personnel did the only thing which any minimally competent journalist would and should do: they read it, identified the parts that were in the public interest, confirmed their authenticity with independent sources, and then reported those facts to the world. They also notified Stevens' family of what they had found.

In response to this reporting, State Department spokesman Philippe Reines issued a blistering, unusually aggressive attack on the news network. Denouncing CNN's conduct as "disgusting", Reines invoked Stevens' family to insist that CNN had done something unconscionable:

"What they're not owning up to is reading and transcribing Chris's diary well before bothering to tell the family or anyone else that they took it from the site of the attack. Or that when they finally did tell them, they completely ignored the wishes of the family, and ultimately broke their pledge made to them only hours after they witnessed the return to the United States of Chris's remains.

"Whose first instinct is to remove from a crime scene the diary of a man killed along with three other Americans serving our country, read it, transcribe it, email it around your newsroom for others to read, and only when their curiosity is fully satisfied thinks to call the family or notify the authorities?"

The answer to that question is: any journalist worthy of the name. CNN's first obligation is to disclose to the public information that is newsworthy, not conceal it. Had they not reported this information, that would have been an inexcusable breach of their obligation - then the word "disgusting" would have been appropriate. What they reported had nothing to do with Stevens' personal life and everything to do with his role as a government official; his family's "permission" was therefore irrelevant.

(At least a few Democratic Party loyalists have dutifully joined in the State Department's attack on CNN. One of Nancy Pelosi's daughters, Christine - yet another in the endless stream of televised pundits who is given a public platform due to a politically famous parent in a nation that claims to loathe aristocracy - went on Fox News this weekend and denounced CNN as "outrageous" and demanded that "they absolutely ought to be stopped", whatever that might mean.)

What is actually "disgusting" here is that the State Department is exploiting the grief of Chris Stevens' family in an attempt to suppress and delegitimize reporting that reflects quite poorly on them. As Michael Hastings documented yesterday, the State Department views the revelations from Stevens' journal as threatening to Hillary Clinton's reputation, the legacy of the war in Libya, and possibly Obama's political prospects in an election year:

"The blockbuster news contradicted the line the State Department and the administration had been pushing since the horrible tragedy took place almost two weeks ago: that there was no intelligence of a coming attack. In fact, the Ambassador himself was aware of a persistent high level threat against him.

"'Perhaps the real question here,' CNN responded to the State Department criticism, 'Is why is the State Department now attacking the messenger.'

"That is the real question, and State Department's bizarre criticism of CNN gives clues to the answer. Foggy Bottom is now in full-on damage control mode, with the primary goal of keeping Hillary Clinton's legacy in Libya - and in Washington - intact.

"The election-year focus on President Barack Obama meant that the White House had at first been catching most of the heat for the tragedy in Benghazi. It's certainly true the explanations from White House spokesman Jay Carney and UN Ambassador Susan Rice have strained common sense - mainly, the idea that the attack could be blamed solely on an anti-Islamic video, and that there was a protest outside the consulate at 10 p.m. (there reportedly wasn't,) among other misleading details. That initial story has crumbled . . .

"But in reality, the fiasco appears to be largely - if not entirely - a State Department botch. It was the State Department that failed to provide its ambassador adequate security; it was the State Department that fled Benghazi in the aftermath of the attack, apparently failing to clear or secure the scene, leaving Stevens' diary behind; and it was State that had taken the lead on the ground after the Libya intervention."

I'm not particularly impressed with the criticism that the Obama administration should have better secured the consulate. It is always easy retroactively to demand greater security when an attack occurs, and it is impossible to safeguard against all potential threats. Nonetheless, that is a criticism that is being widely voiced, rendering Stevens' journal clearly relevant and newsworthy. If a US ambassador is murdered, the fact that he spent months worrying about his security is obviously something the public should know.

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

Gogol Bordello: Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)

Yves Smith: Occupy Wall Street 2.0 -- The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual

Occupy Wall Street 2.0: The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual
by Yves Smith
Naked Capitalism

The anniversary of Occupy Wall Street [was] September 17. While there will be public events in New York, it’s likely that [the] number of people that will be involved will not be large enough to impress the punditocracy (multi-citi militarized crackdowns have a way of discouraging participation), leading them to declare OWS a flash in the pan.

That conclusion may be premature.

The release of the The Debt Resistors’ Manual suggests something very different: that the movement is still alive, if much less visible, and is developing new avenues for having impact. This guide is designed not only to give individuals advice for how to be more effective in dealing with lenders but also sets forth some larger-scale ideas. This is a project of a new OWS group, Strike Debt. Fighting for debt renegotiation and restructuring, something that the bank-boosting legacy parties have refused to do, is becoming a new focus for OWS efforts.

Quite a few well qualified people who in Occupy fashion are going unnamed, participated in developing this manual. Having read most of the chapters in full and skimmed the rest, I find that this guide achieves the difficult feat of giving people in various types of debt an overview of their situation, including political issues, and practical suggestions in clear, layperson-friendly language. For instance, the chapter on credit ratings gives step-by-step directions as to how to find and challenge errors in your credit records, and what sort of timetable and process is realistic for getting results. The chapter on dealing with debt collectors is similarly specific and detailed. The discussion of the bankruptcy process includes this section:

One detailed law study found that bankruptcy laws, specifically Chapter 13, implicitly favor a certain profile, an “ideal debtor,” who is usually white and married. Most bankruptcy laws tend to favor wealth over income, ownership over renting, formal dependents over informal dependents and heterosexual married couples, all of which have significantly higher rates in white communities. Before 2005, African Americans filed for Chapter 13 nearly 50% of the time, compared to less than 25% by whites. Why, you may ask? Here’s one explanation: a study found that when all other factors are equalized (identical financial cases), lawyers are twice as likely to steer Black clients toward Chapter 13 than they are white clients. The study could find no other cause besides racism in all forms: conscious, unconscious, structural and institutional.

The manual also includes two chapters on “fringe finance”, meaning financial services for the barely banked or underbanked, including check cashing outlets, prepaid cards, payday lenders, and pawn shops. It stresses that these are tantamount to a poverty tax, since low income people pay more for these services.

Each chapter has a list of resources at the end, including websites, articles and books, as well as footnotes. Some end with ideas for collective action, others with survival strategies.

To Read the Rest of the Post and to Acces the Links to the Manual

Pink Floyd: Echoes

BCTC Students: Learn About Study Abroad Opportunities (10/23)

*Tuesday, October 23: 2:00-3:00
Study Abroad Opportunities
Nathan Smith, OB 248

Have you thought about studying art history in China or French in the heart of Paris? This workshop will provide you the information and tools you need to begin that process. Learn about different programs, types of study abroad, scholarships and more.

Boiling Frogs: 3 Part Interview of Paul Thompson Author of the Terror Timeline

[Michael: I'm very discriminating of and skeptical about 9/11 research as it often leads to the "rabbit hole" effect (we fall down it like Alice and there is no way out). On the other hand, this three part interview with Paul Thompson, the author of the Terror Timeline and contributor at History Commons, is a very useful and relevant outline of what has been documented about the events leading up to 9/11.]

Boiling Frogs with Sibel Edmonds and Peter B. Collins

This is Part I of our three-part one-of-a-kind interview series with author and researcher Paul Thompson. For additional background information please visit the complete 9/11 Timeline Investigative Project at HistoryCommons and Richard Clarke’s interview by John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski at SecrecyKills.Com

Paul Thompson joins us to discuss the latest revelations by former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke and his explosive allegations against three former top CIA officials – George Tenet, Cofer Black and Richard Blee – accusing them of knowingly withholding intelligence about two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who had entered the United States more than a year before the attacks. He provides us with the most comprehensive history and context to date on Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 with three other terrorists and flew the jetliner directly into the Pentagon killing 189 people. Mr. Thompson takes us through a mind-boggling journey through the Yemen Hub, the highly critical Malaysia Summit, Thailand, USS Cole bombing, CIA’s Alec Station, NSA, FBI and beyond!

To Listen to Pt 1 of the Interview

To Listen to Pt 2 of the Interview

Paul Thompson joins us to discuss one of the most blacked-out and censored aspects of Al-Qaeda-CIA connections: The partnership and alliance between the CIA and Al Qaeda and their joint operations in Central Asia, Balkans and Caucasus throughout the 1990’s. Mr. Thompson talks about Al-Qaeda’s Balkans operations, running training camps, money-laundering, and drug running networks in the region, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and his residence in Bulgaria in order to help manage the Al Qaeda effort in nearby Bosnia, the Al Qaeda cells in Chechnya and Azerbaijan, BCCI and more!

To Listen to Pt 3 of the Interview

Paul Thompson is the author of the Terror Timeline, a compilation of over 5,000 reports and articles concerning the September 11, 2001 attacks. His research in the field has garnered over 100 radio and TV interviews. Mr. Thompson holds a psychology degree from Stanford University obtained in 1990. For the complete 9/11 Timeline Investigative Project visit HistoryCommons.Org.

More resources:

Boiling Frogs Breaking News: CIA Goes After Producers Nowosielski & Duffy

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Naked Lunch Radio #12 – Superstar! The Todd Haynes Story

Naked Lunch Radio #12 – Superstar! The Todd Haynes Story
Sound on Sight

... a very special look at director Todd Haynes and all his movies from Velvet Goldmine to his new smash hit I’m Not There. A ton of great queer related Canadian rock and enough Dylan cover songs to keep you warm under the cold winter.

Hosted by Crystina Benyo & Sic Ric!

To Listen the Episode

Michael A. Lebowitz: The Unifying Element in All Struggles Against Capital Is the Right of Everyone to Full Human Development

The Unifying Element in All Struggles Against Capital Is the Right of Everyone to Full Human Development
An Interview with Michael A. Lebowitz
Monthly Review

Let’s start with your ideas about rethinking Marx, capital’s logic, and the logic of the working class? And how we can relate these subjects with today’s social movements?

For some time, I have argued that Marx did not develop theoretically the side of the working class. In his major theoretical work, Capital, he looks at the nature of capital and capital’s logic. But he doesn’t really develop the other side of capitalism which is the logic of the working class and the drive of the working class and its orientation. So, I always say that people have misinterpreted Marx in the sense that they think he has given a picture of capitalism whereas he has only given the picture of capital. That analysis is important because that knowledge is a weapon for the working class. But it’s not the whole picture. In much of his other work, he does talk about the working class; he talks about working-class struggles and how workers who do not struggle in fact produce themselves as apathetic, more or less well-fed instruments of production. You won’t find an examination of struggle, though, from the side of workers in Marx’s Capital. In particular, there is no discussion of the wage struggle. He just assumes that wages are given and that there is a given standard of necessity. Removing that assumption was to occur in a later volume that he never got around to writing, the planned book on Wage-Labour.

So that led me to explore the question of that other side. And in doing that, I constantly came back to the Marxist concept of revolutionary practice, that simultaneous changing of circumstance and human activity or self-change—how people transform themselves through their struggles. But not only through struggles; they produce themselves through their daily activity. People are formed by what they do. So, for example, a person who is a wage laborer under capitalism is produced and produces himself in a certain way, as a person who is alienated, as a person who simply wants to consume because of the emptiness of capitalist production. We always have to ask the question, “what kinds of people are produced under particular relations of production?” What kinds of people are produced in an exchange relationship, which is “I will do this for you, if you do that for me” as opposed to functioning in a communal society in which people act in solidarity? You produce certain kinds of people under those conditions.

Much of what I have stressed is the way people transform themselves through their activity. That is where social movements are absolutely critical. Because in social movements people transform themselves and they make themselves into different people. That’s what Marx says in a number of places. What he says is, “well, of course, wage struggle is not going to change things. But if workers were to give up the wage struggle, they would demonstrate that they would not be capable of anything larger.” Because it is only in that struggle that they make themselves fit to create a new society. Well, that’s the wage struggle. But it is true of every struggle. In every struggle, you are transforming yourself and making yourself fit, not only individually but also collectively.

After the post-2008 historical crisis of capitalism at a global scale, in which direction and under which forms do you think of the social movements should form and develop?

I don’t know. One thing that we have to think about is that we traditionally have looked at the organized working class as this main vehicle for building socialism. Certainly that’s what Marx talked about. He said trade unions were the main center of organization for the working class. But in the creation of workers’ movements, it wasn’t only their position as wage laborers that created the workers’ movement. They also lived in the same neighborhoods. They related to the communities and this was always an element. I think that it’s a big mistake to identify the working class as simply those who are wage laborers in large-scale industry. Other people are separated from the means of production and separated from the historical results of social labor. If you take Venezuela (and Venezuela is not unique in this), half of the working class is in the informal sector. They are not outside capitalism, though. Many of the people selling goods on the street are selling capitalist-produced goods; they are simply part of the sphere of circulation of capital. They just have a such weak position that capital manages to get them to bear the risk of selling, rather than just simply being wage laborers in the sphere of circulation.

Chávez’s main base is the urban poor. What do we mean by the urban poor? These are people separated from the means of production—members of the proletariat. We have to talk not simply about the exploited; we have to talk about the exploited and those who would love to be exploited but who in fact are excluded. They are in a common position in the sense that they lack access to the means of production, to the social heritage of human beings. They are all excluded. So they are in a common position in that respect. I think that so much of the current struggles (and this is certainly what I’ve being emphasizing in my work) is that these are struggles for people’s right to full development. That transcends particular cases and is a unifying factor. The idea of everyone having the right to full development and to development of their potential means, of course, adequate health facilities, adequate education, adequate food, etc. That is an element which can unify the whole working class.

My book The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development talks theoretically about issues that I’ve learned in this process here. But the book also looks at concrete measures. One of the central measures that has to be part of a struggle for building a socialist alternative is the struggle to expand the commons. What does neoliberalism, what does capitalism, do? Its whole focus is to commodify everything. Health care—commodify it. Schools—commodify them. Commodify everything. So what is the alternative for human beings trying to develop their potential? Decommodify everything and bring things under control. Of course, when you talk about decommodifing and about expanding the commons, the immediate question that comes up is “well we all know about the ‘tragedy of the commons’ so if we have everything free and available to people then it just leads to absolute tragedy.” Well, there’s no truth to that. Communities have managed common resources all the time. But the key element is community. You have to have a local community that is effective, one that can monitor the commons. In short, I argue that social movements and all movements to remove the power of capital can unite on one common point—the right of everybody for full human development. That’s the goal in the Communist Manifesto—the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Timothy Wu: On the Archetype of the Heroic Inventor

Over the twentieth century, most innovation theorists and historians became somewhat skeptical of the importance of creation stories like [Alexander] Bell's. These thinkers came to believe that the archetype of the heroic inventor had been over-credited in the search for a compelling narrative. As William Fisher puts it, "Like the romantic ideal of authorship, the image of the inventor has proved distressingly durable." These critics undeniably have a point: even the most startlingly inventions are usually arrived at, simultaneously, by two or more people. If that's true, how singular could the genius of the inventor really be?

There could not be a better example than the story of the telephone itself. On the very day that Alexander graham Bell was registering his invention, another man, Elisha Gray, was also at the patent office filing for the very same breakthrough [Note: Consequently many books have been dedicated to the question of who actually invented the telephone, and the majority seem to side against Bell, though of course to do so furnishes a revisionist the more interesting conclusion. More damning to bell is the fact that his telephone, in its specifications, is almost identical to the one described in Gray's patent. On the other hand, Bell was demonstrably first to have constructed a phone that was functional, not yet presentable enough to patent. A final bit of evidence against Bell: the testimony of a patent examiner, Zenas F. Wilbur, who admitted to accepting $100 bribe to show Gray's design to one of Alexander Bell's lawyers. (New York Times, May 22, 1886)]. The coincidence takes some of the luster off Bell's "eureka." And the more you examine the history, the worse it looks. In 1861, sixteen years before Bell, a German man named Johann Philip Reis presented a primitive telephone to the Physical Society of Frankfurt, claiming that "with the help of the galvanic current, [the inventor] is able to reproduce at a distance the tones of instruments and even, to a certain degree, the human voice." Germany has long considered Reis the telephone's inventor. Another man, a small-town Pennsylvania electrician named Daniel Drawbaugh, later claimed that by 1869 he had a working telephone in his house. He produced prototypes and seventy witnesses who testified that they had seen or heard his invention at that time. In litigation before the Supreme Court in 1888, three Justices concluded that "overwhelming evidence" proved that "Drawbaugh produced and exhibited in his shop, as early as 1869, an electrical instrument by which he transmitted speech. ..." [Note: Unfortunately for Drawbaugh, four justices found his testimony and that of his seventy witnesses not credible and dismissed the case. The dissenting Justices accused the majority of siding with Bell, essentially owing to his fame. "It is perfectly natural for the world to take the part of the man who has already achieved eminence. ... It is regarded as incredible that so great a discovery should have been made by the plain mechanic, and not by the eminent scientist and inventor."]

There was, it is fair to say, no single inventor of the telephone. And this reality suggests that what we call invention, while not easy, is simply what happens once a technology's development reaches the point where the next step becomes available to many people. By Bell's time, others had invented wires and the telegraph, had discovered electricity and the basic principles of acoustics. It lay to Bell to assemble the pieces: no mean feat, but not a superhuman one. In this sense, inventors are more like craftsmen than miracle workers.

Indeed the history of science is full of examples of what the writer Malcolm Gladwell terms "simultaneous discovery" -- so full that the phenomenon represents the norm rather than the exception. Few today know the name Alfred Russell Wallace, yet he wrote an article proposing the theory of natural selection in 1858, a year before Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. Leibnitz and Newton developed calculus simultaneously. And in 1610 four others made the same lunar observations as Galileo.

Is the loner and outsider inventor, then, merely a figment of so much hype, with no particular significance? No, I would argue his significance is enormous; but not for the reasons usually imagined. The inventors we remember are significant not so much as inventors, but as founders of "disruptive" industries, ones that shake up the technological status quo. Through circumstances or luck, they are exactly at the right distance both to imagine the future and to create an independent industry to exploit it.

Let's focus, first, on the act of invention. The importance of the outsider here owes to his being at the right remove from the prevailing currents of thought about the problem at hand. That distance affords a perspective close enough to understand the problem, yet far enough for greater freedom of thought, freedom from, the cognitive distortion of what is as opposed to what could be. This innovative distance explains why so many of those who turn an industry upside down are outsiders, even outcasts.

To understand this point we need to grasp the difference between two types of innovation: "sustaining" and "disruptive," the distinction best described by innovation theorist Clayton Christensen. Sustaining innovations are improvements that make the product better, but do not threaten its market. The disruptive innovation, conversely, threatens to displace a product altogether. It is the difference between the electric typewriter, which improved on the typewriter, and the word processor, which supplanted it.

Wu, Timothy. The Master Switch. NY: Alfred A. Knoff, 2010: 18-20.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Johnny Barber: International Peace Day from Kabul, Afghanistan

International Peace Day from Kabul, Afghanistan
by Johnny Barber


Established in 1981, by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of Peace was to coincide with its opening session. The first Peace Day was observed on September 21st, 1982. In 1982 the Soviet Union was increasing its troop presence in Afghanistan and facing fierce fighting throughout the provinces.

Thirty years later Afghanistan is still at war. The opponents have changed, and the weaponry has changed. The War on Terror, Armored Humvees, IED’s, suicide bombers, night raids, smart bombs, and drones have all entered the American lexicon.

The constant through all these years is the suffering of the non-combatants. Just this week, a van was blown up by an IED in southern Helmand province, killing 9 women and 3 children. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast. A drone strike before dawn in Laghman Province killed 8 women gathering firewood and injured 8 more. I spoke with a father of six children in ParwanSa refugee camp. He has been an Internally Displaced Person for 11 years, living in a small mud-brick enclosure with a plastic, canvas, and cardboard roof. I asked if the government had offered any assistance for the coming winter. He said the government has done nothing; he could only count on God to take care of his family. Oct 7th will mark the 11th anniversary of America’s war in Afghanistan. 11 years and $550 billion dollars later, peace is still elusive.

The war has pushed the Taliban out of power, but the current government is full of the very same warlords that were carving up Afghanistan prior to the Taliban’s rise. These “representatives” have very little backing among the people, mainly because they have continued to line their pockets while their constituents suffer. The call for peace may fill their speeches, but to work for peace distracts from their income.

The International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) as well as the Afghan Army and Afghan Police force, often employing strong-arm tactics, struggle to bring a semblance of security to the countryside. Security in Kabul is tentative as well, with suicide bombings and armed attacks on the rise. On Sept 18th, a woman rammed a car full of explosives into a van containing 9 foreign workers, killing herself, all 9 foreigners, their Afghan translator, as well as passerby. While temporary security may be imposed with an iron fist, peace cannot be forced.

On Sept 19th, an Afghan holiday in the remembrance of the death of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a warlord turned “peace envoy” who was killed by a suicide bomber in his home, President Hamid Karzai called on Afghans to pursue peace. A generation that has known nothing but war has little faith in government calls for peace while the very same government loots the country. The government led peace initiative seems to have died with Rabbani a year ago.

The past week has been disastrous for Afghans, and points towards more mayhem in the future. While profits are still being generated for arms suppliers, reconstruction experts, and contractors, peace has not been generated for anyone. In America, peace is never spoken of outside the context of war or security. In Obama’s acceptance speech in Charlotte, he mentioned America’s “pursuit of peace” exactly once, shortly after getting cheers for claiming, “Osama bin Laden is dead.”

A partial list of American military involvement since 1982 includes Lebanon, Grenada, Chad, Libya, Honduras, Bolivia, Columbia, Peru, Philippines, Panama, Iraq, Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Haiti, Serbia, Afghanistan (currently, America’s longest war), Sudan, Iraq (again, after years of crippling sanctions that killed half a million children), and Libya (again). This is not an exhaustive list, it doesn’t include covert attacks, special operations, or America’s special relationship with Israel, which has rained down horror on Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli drones continue to kill people in Gaza on a nearly weekly basis. American drones are currently killing people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Syria and Iran loom on the horizon, with American threats of intervention and war ramping up. Death is a top American export.

To Read the Entire Essay

William K. Tabb: The Crisis - A View from Occupied America

The Crisis: A View from Occupied America
by William K. Tabb
The Monthly Review

The theme of the 2012 Left Forum, “Occupy the System—Confronting Global Capitalism,” calls for a historical imagination informed by a realistic sense of where we are. To occupy the system is first to be aware of the system as a system—a system of unequal privilege and control. It requires that we occupy the narrative of public debate, which is something the Occupy movement, to a remarkable degree, has been able to achieve. Even President Obama, who so far has followed the economic policies of his Wall Street-friendly advisers, has used campaign rhetoric taken from Occupy Wall Street. But this time around voters are hardly convinced that the “Change” Obama promised last election will happen through the existing system.

The breath of fresh air from Occupy and related activism challenges corporate power and capitalism. It rebukes the dominant political parties, which are dependent on the 1% for their funding and in turn represent them in Congress. As Gordon Lafer has said, “If the Republicans are cheerleaders for the 1 percent, most Democrats are quiet collaborators.”1 Both parties have accepted that the major problem facing the country is the deficit—which of course it is not. The project of class-coded austerity (complete with bad cop Republicans and good cop Democrats) is deemed unavoidable, both to pay for the mess and to continue enhancing the wealth and power of the 1%. Neither party wants to discuss what has happened to working people over the last three decades, a scenario which is likely to continue as incomes stagnate or fall for the vast majority of the 99% and wealth and power further concentrate at the top. This not just true for the 1%, but also for the one-tenth of 1% and even the one-one thousandth of the 1%—that is, those billionaires who decide who the viable candidates are and what economic policies Congress and the media should take seriously.

While this recognition is hardly new to Monthly Review readers, there is a sense among Americans, in numbers not seen for some time, that capitalism is losing (and, for many, has already lost) its legitimacy. There is also an understanding that the dominance by a small, corrupt, and exploitative elite is under challenge, as the upsurges from Cairo to Moscow witness. Around the world massive numbers are looking to a post-capitalist social structure based on participatory democracy and social control over the economy, and a displacement of the 1%—the elites and the ruling classes.

Whatever the Dow Jones stock average reads, the crisis for working people will continue for many years at an intense level of suffering and insecurity. Profitability and growth can pick up in the precincts of monopoly capital, while still leaving working people with less and less of the surplus they create. This is both a general aspect of capitalism and a specific trait of this period of rapid financialization that has become globalized alongside the concentration and centralization of transnationalized corporations. There is a growing awareness that the policies the 1% are imposing as their solution to the crisis will actually make things worse—even if the so-called recovery continues in the United States and can miraculously appear in Europe. The preferred policies of the ruling class prefigure a recovery that will allow a tightening of their control.

Some of the basic numbers have been presented in these pages by Michael Yates. The extreme class redistribution of the surplus cannot be overestimated. Between 2009 and 2011, 88 percent of national income growth went to corporate profits, while just 1 percent went to wages. In terms of personal income, in 2010 (the last year for which we have data) 93 percent of all income gains went to the top 1 percent of Americans. In terms of economic inequality, the CIA’s World Factbook puts the United States behind Cameroon and the Ivory Coast, but just ahead of Uganda.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Friday, September 21, 2012

Andrew O'Hehir: "I Was Just Following Orders"

“I was just following orders”: Why are we so eager to obey authority, whether the boss, the TSA or the president? A new movie has some answers
By Andrew O'Hehir

All of us believe that we possess the strength and willpower to resist evil. Perhaps we do; who is to say? Most of us are not likely to face life-or-death situations out of Holocaust movies or “Star Trek” episodes. But a more important question – not to mention a more practical and ultimately far more disturbing one — is whether we will recognize evil when we encounter it, especially when it claims to be something else. As a former research subject wrote to Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1970, “Few people ever realize when they are acting according to their own beliefs and when they are meekly submitting to authority.”

Every time I take my shoes off at the airport, and permit my person and possessions to be invaded by intrusive technologies for unclear reasons – meekly submitting to authority in the name of getting on the damn plane – I think about Milgram. (I am not suggesting that the TSA is evil, exactly, although you couldn’t really call it good.) By the time he received that letter, Milgram had become one of the most famous and controversial figures in the social sciences. In the early ‘60s, he had crafted a notorious series of experiments that suggested that most people, most of the time, were willing to obey the instructions of an authority figure, even when they involved delivering electrical shocks to strangers as part of a patently ludicrous “teaching” exercise.

Various complaints have subsequently been aired about Milgram’s ethics and methodology; while the electrical shocks were fake, the distress of his research subjects was all too real. Unfortunately for the human species, his findings have been replicated many times and in many contexts, and are now generally regarded as valid. While his colleagues and students predicted that only a minuscule proportion of experimental subjects would deliver the full (if fictional) voltage, more than 60 percent of them pushed the final button as instructed. It isn’t that we lack empathy or a sense of morality; most people in the Milgram experiments felt terrible about administering the shocks, and quite a few began crying or laughing or otherwise behaving erratically. But they went ahead and did it anyway, because a guy in a white coat was telling them to. (I don’t know whether this is mostly hilarious or mostly horrifying, but one post-Milgram experiment involved having subjects deliver real electric shocks to a real puppy — and most people did that too!)

It may be impossible to exaggerate the historical and political ramifications of Milgram’s discoveries about humanity’s misplaced faith in authority, which would seem to shed light on everything from Auschwitz to Abu Ghraib to the fact that we’ve apparently all agreed in 2012 that it’s OK for the president of the United States to kill whoever he wants to without providing a reason. (Milgram was inspired by the widely publicized trial of Nazi war criminal and Holocaust engineer Adolf Eichmann, a mild-mannered fellow who claimed to have no particular antipathy for Jews.) But on an intimate level these ideas can still prove shocking or unacceptable, as they do in “Compliance,” a nail-biting thriller from indie writer-director Craig Zobel that has been dividing, energizing and alienating audiences since its Sundance premiere earlier this year.

On one level “Compliance” dramatizes a Milgram-like scenario, but more importantly it acts out a psychological experiment of its own, right there in the theater. This film is not set in Nazi Germany or Iraq or Gotham City under the rule of a supervillain. It takes place in an unidentified American suburb or exurb, almost entirely inside a fast food restaurant whose employees are cajoled and coerced by an official-sounding voice on the telephone into imprisoning, humiliating, strip-searching and finally abusing one of their co-workers. As a fictional premise that may sound outrageous, but some readers will surely remember that there was a wave of such real-life cases in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Zobel is drawing primarily on the last and most notorious of these, an April 2004 episode at a McDonald’s in Mt. Washington, Ky., where a young female employee was detained for several hours against her will and subjected to escalating and improbable levels of degradation.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Tom Englehardt: Monopolizing War

Monopolizing War
by Tom Englehardt

It’s pop-quiz time when it comes to the American way of war: three questions, torn from the latest news, just for you. Here’s the first of them, and good luck!

Two weeks ago, 200 U.S. Marines began armed operations in…?:

a) Afghanistan
b) Pakistan
c) Iran
d) Somalia
e) Yemen
f) Central Africa
g) Northern Mali
h) The Philippines
i) Guatemala

If you opted for any answer, “a” through “h,” you took a reasonable shot at it. After all, there’s an ongoing American war in Afghanistan and somewhere in the southern part of that country, 200 armed U.S. Marines could well have been involved in an operation. In Pakistan, an undeclared, CIA-run air war has long been underway, and in the past there have been armed border crossings by U.S. special operations forces as well as U.S. piloted cross-border air strikes, but no Marines.

When it comes to Iran, Washington’s regional preparations for war are staggering. The continual build-up of U.S. naval power in the Persian Gulf, of land forces on bases around that country, of air power (and anti-missile defenses) in the region should leave any observer breathless. There are U.S. special operations forces near the Iranian border and CIA drones regularly over that country. In conjunction with the Israelis, Washington has launched a cyberwar against Iran’s nuclear program and computer systems. It has also established fierce oil and banking sanctions, and there seem to have been at least some U.S. cross-border operations into Iran going back to at least 2007. In addition, a recent front-page New York Times story on Obama administration attempts to mollify Israel over its Iran policy included this ominous line: “The administration is also considering… covert activities that have been previously considered and rejected.” So 200 armed Marines in action in Iran–not yet, but don’t get down on yourself, it was a good guess.

In Somalia, according to Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, there have been far more U.S. drone flights and strikes against the Islamic extremist al-Shabaab movement and al-Qaeda elements than anyone previously knew. In addition, the U.S. has at least partially funded, supported, equipped, advised, and promoted proxy wars there, involving Ethiopian troops back in 2007 and more recently Ugandan and Burundi troops (as well as an invading Kenyan army). In addition, CIA operatives and possibly other irregulars and hired guns are well established in Mogadishu, the capital.

In the post-2001 era… we’ve been regularly sending in the Marines or special operations forces… Such acts are, by now, so ordinary that they are seldom considered worthy of much discussion here, even though no other country acts this way.

In Yemen, as in Somalia, the combination has been proxy war and strikes by drones (as well as piloted planes), with some U.S. special forces advisors on the ground, and civilian casualties (and anger at the U.S.) rising in the southern part of the country–but also, as in Somalia, no Marines. Central Africa? Now, there’s a thought. After all, at least 100 Green Berets were sent in there this year as part of a campaign against Joseph Kony’s Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army. As for Northern Mali, taken over by Islamic extremists (including an al-Qaeda-affiliated group), it certainly presents a target for future U.S. intervention–and we still don’t know what those three U.S. Army commandos who skidded off a bridge to their deaths in their Toyota Land Rover with three “Moroccan prostitutes” were doing in a country with which the U.S. military had officially cut its ties after a democratically elected government was overthrown. But 200 Marines operating in war-torn areas of Africa? Not yet. When it comes to the Philippines, again no Marines, even though U.S. special forces and drones have been aiding the government in a low-level conflict with Islamic militants in Mindanao.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lady Vengence and the Representation of Violence in Films

Lady Vengeance (South Korea: Chan-Wook Park, 2005: 112 mins)

Benton, Michael. "Violence and Film: Audience-Experience as a Factor in Our Reception of a Film." Dialogic (January 10, 2007)

Buruma, Ian. "Mr Vengeance." The New York Times (April 9, 2006)

Castillo, Elaine. "Last Words: Park Chan-wook, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance." Pank (December 3, 2010)

Castle, Robert. "Disturbing Movies or, the Flip Side of the Real: Disturbing movies shouldn't equivocate." Bright Lights Film Journal #44 (May 2004)

Ebert, Roger. "Evil in film: To what end?" Chicago Sun-Times (August 19, 2005)

Erickson, Steve. "Lady Vengeance and Its Critics." Undercurrent #2 (2006)

Grossman, Andrew. "Bleeding Realism Dry or How to Turn One's Back on a Tyrant: The cripplingly small-minded art of verisimilitude becomes crippled by its own technology." Bright Lights Film Journal #37 (August 2002)

Isaacs, Bruce. "Non-Linear Narrative." New Punk Cinema ed. Nicholas Rombes. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005: 126-138. (In BCTC library)

Kehr, Dave. "De-finger the Piano Player." The New York Times (October 30, 2005)

Kim, Se Young. "A Sociohistorical Contextual Analysis of the Use of Violence in Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy." (A thesis presented to the faculty of the College of Fine Arts of Ohio University: June 2010)

László, Tarnay. "On the Metaphysics of Screen Violence and Beyond." Apertura (2008)

"NYFF Review: Sympathy For Lady Vengeance>" Like Anna Karina's Sweater (September 30, 2005)

Radford, Kristina. "ENG 282 Response to Lady Vengeance." Dialogic (October 12, 2010)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Manohla Darghis and A.O. Scott: Film Is Dead? Long Live Movies - How Digital Is Changing the Nature of Movies

Film Is Dead? Long Live Movies: How Digital Is Changing the Nature of Movies
by Manohla Darghis and A.O. Scott
The New York Times

IN the beginning there was light that hit a strip of flexible film mechanically running through a camera. For most of movie history this is how moving pictures were created: light reflected off people and things would filter through a camera and physically transform emulsion. After processing, that light-kissed emulsion would reveal Humphrey Bogart chasing the Maltese Falcon in shimmering black and white.

More and more, though, movies are either partly or entirely digital constructions that are created with computers and eventually retrieved from drives at your local multiplex or streamed to the large and small screens of your choice. Right before our eyes, motion pictures are undergoing a revolution that may have more far reaching, fundamental impact than the introduction of sound, color or television. Whether these changes are scarcely visible or overwhelmingly obvious, digital technology is transforming how we look at movies and what movies look like, from modestly budgeted movies shot with digital still cameras to blockbusters laden with computer-generated imagery. The chief film (and digital cinema) critics of The New York Times, Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, look at the stuff dreams are increasingly made of.

A. O. SCOTT: In Jean-Luc Godard’s 1986 movie “Keep Up Your Right” a movie director (played by Mr. Godard) declares that “the toughest thing in movies is carrying the cans.” Those once-ubiquitous, now increasingly quaint metal boxes contained the reels of exposed celluloid stock that were the physical substance of the art form. But nowadays the easiest thing in digital movies might be carrying the hard drive or uploading the data onto the server. Those heavy, bulky canisters belong to the mechanical past, along with the whir of the projectors and the shudder of the sprockets locking into their holes.

Should we mourn, celebrate or shrug? Predigital artifacts — typewriters and record players, maybe also books and newspapers — are often beautiful, but their charm will not save them from obsolescence. And the new gizmos have their own appeal, to artists as well as consumers. Leading manufacturers are phasing out the production of 35-millimeter cameras. Within the next few years digital projection will reign not only at the multiplexes, but at revival and art houses too. According to an emerging conventional wisdom, film is over. If that is the case, can directors still be called filmmakers? Or will that title be reserved for a few holdouts, like Paul Thomas Anderson, whose new film, “The Master,” was shot in 70 millimeter? It’s not as if our job has ever been to review the coils of celluloid nestled in their cans; we write about the stories and the pictures recorded on that stock. But the shift from photochemical to digital is not simply technical or semantic. Something very big is going on.

MANOHLA DARGIS: Film isn’t dead yet, despite the rush to bury it, particularly by the big studios. Film does not have to disappear. Film isn’t broken — it works wonderfully well and has done so for a century. There is nothing inevitable or natural about the end of film, no matter how seductive the digital technologies and gadgets that are transforming cinema. A 16-millimeter film camera is plenty cool. A 35-millimeter film image can look sublime. There’s an underexamined technological determinism that shapes discussions about the end of film and obscures that the material is being phased out not because digital is superior, but because this transition suits the bottom line.

The end of film isn’t a just a technological imperative; it’s also about economics (including digital rights management). In 2002 seven major studios formed the Digital Cinema Initiatives (one later dropped out), the purpose of which was “to establish and document voluntary specifications for an open architecture for digital cinema that ensures a uniform and high level of technical performance, reliability and quality control.” What these initiatives effectively did was outline the technological parameters that everyone who wants to do business with the studios — from software developers to hardware manufacturers — must follow. As the theorist David Bordwell writes, “Theaters’ conversion from 35-millemeter film to digital presentation was designed by and for an industry that deals in mass output, saturation releases and quick turnover.” He adds, “Given this shock-and-awe business plan, movies on film stock look wasteful.”

To Read the Rest of the Conversation

Greg Mitchell: Major Media FAIL in Reporting on the Man Whose Anti-Islam Film Sparks Riots

Major Media FAIL in Reporting on the Man Whose Anti-Islam Film Sparks Riots
by Greg Mitchell
The Nation

It turns out almost everything most in the media told us for more than half a day about the man behind the anti-Islam film that sparked (and is still sparking today) riots in the Arab world was wrong, and with possibly deadly consequences.

Protesters, along with the rest of us, were flatly informed, based on no confirmation or face-to-face evidence, that the man was Israeli or Israeli-American and that he made the film to help Israel. It turns out he is a Coptic Christian with other motives, although all in the area of anti-Islam. And he is allied with a better-known militant Christian activist named Steve Klein.

Oh, a few other small things: he is not Sam Bacile, is not a real estate tycoon, did not obtain $5 million in funding from “100 Jews,” the film may not even be a real film (see still at left), and on and on.

[[UPDATE: The Daily Beast now reports he is a convicted meth cooker. Many more details in this L.A. Times piece. And the AP has a fresh update here. ]]

As an example of the early reporting, here is the opening of a top story in the Los Angeles Times, based on AP reporting: “An Israeli filmmaker based in California who made a movie belittling Islam’s prophet Muhammad that has ignited Middle East riots and led to the death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya says he is in hiding. Sam Bacile, 56, who described himself as an ‘Israeli Jew’ who develops real estate in California, told the Associated Press by phone that he went into hiding Tuesday after assaults by conservative Muslims on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya.”

The AP, in an early report, flatly called Bacile “an Israeli fillmmaker.” Even Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, published this under the headline, “Israeli Filmmaker in Hiding.”

The media accounts on “Bacile” slowly fell apart as the day wore on yesterday, as I documented here in update, thanks mainly to reporting by blog sites, including Gawker, Buzzfeed and Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic’s site. Then last night, the AP weighed in with an excellent report that seemed to track down the real Bacile, using some fine investigative techniques, and outed him as one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (Basseley=Bacile, for one thing) in Cerritos, California.

A bit more here in this ABC report, which also notes police called to his home—and the site connected to the making of the film, “Movies for Christ”—for “protection” after word got out. Just now, a US official source in law enforcement confirmed that Nakoula is Bacile.

What’s disturbing is that so many in the reputable media had reported “facts” about “Bacile” earlier, obviously based on second-hand sources (mainly an ally named Steve Klein, a longtime anti-Islam activist and Christian) and nothing more. Even passing along the $5 million budget concept was ludicrous given the amateur quality of the thirteen-minute trailer on YouTube (since removed). Meanwhile, many rioters believe that this is a major film production—and its creator is Israeli. Some sites, such as the New York Times, did cover the blog updates on their sites during the day.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Sleater Kinney: What's Mine Is Yours

What Was It Again the Terrorists Hate?

Michael Muhammad Knight: The Innocence of White People

[For the English 102 students working on the "Contentious Identities" book, this post by Knight is a great exploration of identity]

The Innocence of White People: Popping the Marks
By Michael Muhammad Knight

So I’ve just received an email from a reader, asking whether I might have something to say about The Innocence of Muslims. “Is tolerance for satire really a concept that is not compatible with Islam?” he asks. “Is there something about all this indignation that ‘we,’ the West, don’t understand?”

When asked to explain Muslim rage, I have an answer, but I already know the response to my answer. A defender of “Western civilization” will tell me, “Yeah, but we aren’t violent. They’re the ones who kill people over religion.” If numbers matter, however, the mythology of “America” kills many, many more people today than any myth of “Islam.” To sustain a pseudo-secular military cult, we have produced a nation of cheerleaders for blood and murder. We speak of the cult’s heroic work as “sacrifice” and say that it’s all for a divine cause of “freedom.”

That’s what we send out there, at them. This is not simply a world in which one side has a sense of humor and the other does not, or one side is “modern” and “enlightened” while the other side needs to catch up. The modern, enlightened side is burning people alive. Innocence is simply the playground bully calling your mother a slut after already breaking your jaw, and then wondering why you can’t take a joke.

I am not trying to excuse violence. As an artist, I support everyone’s right to make shitty, cheap-looking art, and I do not believe that bloodshed is ever an acceptable way of responding to art. But in the big picture, this isn’t really about violent religion vs. nonviolent art; it’s violence vs. violence.

Last week, the day on which my column runs happened to fall on September 11. My column was not about September 11; I offered no recollections of the day, no meditation on where we’ve gone as a nation since then, no diagnosis, no hope for a better future, and no apology on behalf of “moderate” Muslims. Instead, I wrote about drugs. It seems that every year, the anniversary produces a number of Muslim bloggers and commentators publicly performing our love of peace, assuring everyone that we, too, shared in the suffering of that day. I am thankful for them and respect their efforts, because this is work that needs to be done. But I did not try.

The reason for my silence on 9/11 is that I am not only Muslim. I am also American. I am also white. I am male and heterosexual. However, I am not asked, as an American, to reflect on the yearly anniversary of our atomic bombs falling upon Japan, or our countless military interventions throughout the world. There is no date on the calendar for me, as a white person, to demonstrate that I have properly reflected on slavery and the generations of inequality and naked white sadism between the slave era and our own unjust present; we could potentially have such a day, but often turn it into shallow self-congratulation. As a white person, I am not asked to consider the wanton murders of young black men by white cops or white civilians, or the white terrorism of shootings in gurudwaras, as directly relevant to my identity. Nor do I have a designated anniversary for reflection, as a straight man, on the horrifying statistics of rape or the ways in which heterosexism makes this country unsafe for so many.

As a Muslim, however, people do expect me to show evidence of my soul-searching over a single event, and I am regularly instructed by popular media to imagine 9/11 as a cancer within my own self. Journalists ask me about Islam’s “crisis” as though it’s a private demon with whom I must personally wrestle every day; meanwhile, my whiteness remains untouched and unchallenged by the decade of hate crimes that have followed 9/11. Journalists don’t often ask whether “white tradition” can be reconciled to modern ideals of equality and pluralism, or whether the “straight male community” is capable of living peacefully in America. When it comes to my participation in America, my whiteness and maleness are far more likely than my Islam to wound others, and thus perhaps more urgently in need of “reform” or “enlightenment” or whatever you say that Islam needs. Again, this is only if numbers matter.

To Read the Rest of the Post

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Michael Dean Benton: There is a Whole World Out There....

I work with young Americans and it is devastating to hear them talking about how the American political system has destroyed their desire to participate. I do think it is important that you care about and participate in your local, regional and national elections, but I think for too long Americans have been pacified into believing that simply voting is the full range of their democratic rights and they have only thought of democracy as a limited national concern. I encourage you to expand your horizons and conceive of new political possibilities. There is a whole world out there ...

People's Assemblies Networks

Monday, September 17, 2012

Angus Johnston: CUNY Declares War On Rebel English Department - New Information from QCC

[Angus Johnston's previous post on this action: CUNY Administration Declares War On Rebel English Department]

CUNY Declares War On Rebel English Department: New Information from QCC
by Angus Johnston
Student Activism

Yesterday I reported that the English department at Queensborough Community College had voted to reject an administration-initiated restructuring of their composition program, and that the college’s Vice President for Academic Affairs had in response informed them that the department will be largely dismantled next fall.

According to the letter, which I have since posted on this site, CUNY intends to eliminate the composition program at QCC, dismiss all Queensborough English department adjuncts, and immediately cancel all job searches in the department. The administration has threatened to terminate full-time faculty left idle as a result of the downsizing, a move that by my estimate could lead to the firing of as many as nineteen of the department’s twenty-six full-timers. Some 175 composition sections per semester would be pushed off campus by the move, threatening local students’ ability to advance in their studies and overburdening resources at surrounding colleges.

That’s the situation as I understood it yesterday evening. I have since received further information about the crisis that confirms all of the above information and allows me to provide a fuller accounting of the events of last week.

The Queensborough dispute arose, as I noted yesterday, out of the Pathways initiative, a CUNY-wide administrative attempt to systematize and centralize course offerings throughout the system. Faculty throughout CUNY have argued that Pathways is insufficiently responsive to local campus conditions and students’ needs, but the administration has continued to push forward with the plan on an aggressive timetable.

At Queensborough’s English department the primary practical issue with Pathways was its reduction of weekly course hours for composition classes from four to three. This change would cut into students’ class time, require heavier faculty courseloads and — not incidentally — dramatically reduce faculty compensation for teaching composition, a particularly writing (and grading) intensive class.

The shift from the department’s existing four-hour composition courses to new Pathways-compliant three-hour offerings required a departmental vote, and as it became clear that faculty were disinclined to approve the change, administrators made it known that a failure to approve the Pathways plan would result in harsh consequences.

Faculty were alarmed by these threats. They delayed the vote by a week, and asked that an administrator appear at their next meeting to state CUNY’s case in person. Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Karen Steele represented the administration at Wednesday’s meeting, and according to the faculty member I spoke with, made the threat to the department’s offerings explicit prior to the vote.

When the vote was eventually held — conducted by secret ballot as a result of faculty fears of individual retaliation — the department rejected the administration proposal by a margin of 14 to 6, with one abstention.

In an email the following afternoon, Vice President Steele carried out the administration’s earlier threats. As of fall 2013, she said, all QCC composition courses will be eliminated, with students forced to enroll at other CUNY campuses to meet those requirements. Because composition makes up the great majority of the QCC English department’s course offerings, moreover, all of the department’s faculty searches are to be “immediately” cancelled, all of its adjuncts are to be terminated, and all current full-time appointments, including those of tenured faculty, are to be reviewed on the basis of “ability to pay and Fall ’13 enrollment in department courses.”

By my estimate, QCC’s plan will have the effect of eliminating all part-time faculty and approximately 19 out of the department’s current 26 full-time faculty positions, while shifting nearly two hundred composition sections a semester to other CUNY campuses.

The current situation, in short — and it should be remembered that Steele has presented this as a done deal — represents an effective dismantling of QCC’s English department. The Professional Staff Congress, CUNY’s faculty union, has declared its intention to file a labor grievance in response, and is threatening a federal lawsuit. Faculty have expressed concern that the move could threaten Queensborough’s accreditation.

To Read the Rest of the Post


Angus Johnston: CUNY Administrator Apologizes to QCC Campus for English Dept Threat

Occupy Movement (Social Movement)

[September 17, 2012 marks the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and the beginning of the global Occupy Movement.]

"The 99 Percent Wakes Up (Occupy Wall St Part 1)." The Best of the Left #538 (October 15, 2011)

"365 Days of Occupy Wall Street—an Anniversary Timeline." Mother Jones (September 17, 2012)

Adbusters ["The Media Foundation: We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century. Adbusters Magazine: Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Adbusters is a not-for-profit, reader-supported, 120,000-circulation magazine concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces. Our work has been embraced by organizations like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, has been featured in hundreds of alternative and mainstream newspapers, magazines, and television and radio shows around the world. Adbusters offers incisive philosophical articles as well as activist commentary from around the world addressing issues ranging from genetically modified foods to media concentration. In addition, our annual social marketing campaigns like Buy Nothing Day and Digital Detox Week have made us an important activist networking group. Ultimately, though, Adbusters is an ecological magazine, dedicated to examining the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment. We want a world in which the economy and ecology resonate in balance. We try to coax people from spectator to participant in this quest. We want folks to get mad about corporate disinformation, injustices in the global economy, and any industry that pollutes our physical or mental commons."]

Alim, H. Samy. "What If We Occupied Language." The New York Times (December 21, 2012)

Bailey, Kenneth. "Who Shall Occupy Make Demands Of?: The Modern Case of the One-Eyed Monster." Groundswell (November 4, 2011)

Bauwens, Michael, Noam Chomesky and Richard Lang. "Occupy 2.0 (Peer-Produced Politics)." Unwelcome Guests #594 (March 10, 2012)

Benton, Michael Dean. "A nation starts to mobilize: Something’s happening here." North of Center (October 12, 2011)

---. "Occupy: One Year Later." North of Center (September 17, 2012)

---. "What Does Our Nation Value: Examining Two Cases of Student Demonstrations and Police Responses (or non-responses)." Dialogic (November 10, 2011)

Brown, Pamela. "Rolling Jubilee: Buying Up Distressed Debt, Occupy Offshoot Bails Out the People, Not the Banks." Democracy Now (November 15, 2012)

Brown, Pamela and David Harvey. "1T Day: As U.S. Student Debt Hits $1 Trillion, Occupy Protests Planned for Campuses Nationwide." Democracy Now (April 25, 2012)

Calhoun, Craig and David Graeber. "The Democracy Project." The London School of Economics and Political Science." (April 30, 2013)

Chinese, Vera. "Financial District In Chaos On 'Occupy Wall Street' Anniversary." New York Daily News (September 17, 2012)

Chomsky, Noam. "Direct Action, Occupy and the Power of Social Movements." Rochester Red and Black (April 16, 2013)

---. "The Occupy Movement to the Arab Spring." On Point (June 11, 2012)

---. "Occupy Wall Street "Has Created Something That Didn’t Really Exist" in U.S. — Solidarity." Democracy Now (May 14, 2012)

---. "On America's Economic Suicide." AlterNet (May 4, 2012)

---. "On Corporate Personhood." (University of Colorado-Boulder, April 22, 2011: Video posted on Youtube)

Collado, Suzanne, Frances Fox Piven, and Nathan Schneider. "Roundtable: After 1 Year, OWS Gives Voice to Resistance of Crippling Debt and Widening Inequality." Democracy Now (September 17, 2012)

"Consensus (Direct Democracy @ Occupy Wall Street)." Meerkat Media Collective (Posted on YouTube: October 13, 2011)

Crosby, David and Graham Nash. "Soundtracking Movements from the 1960s to Occupy Wall Street." Democracy Now (November 10, 2011)

"Declaration of the Occupation of New York City." New York City General Assembly (September 29, 2011)

Devereaux, Ryan, et al. "Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper on Paramilitary Policing From WTO to Occupy Wall Street." Democracy Now (November 17, 2011)

Fang, Lee. "Yahoo Appears To Be Censoring Email Messages About Wall Street Protests (Updated)." Reader Supported News (September 20, 2011)

Finkelstein, Norman. "Norman Finkelstein on What Gandhi Says About Nonviolence, Resistance and Courage." Democracy Now (June 5, 2012)

Flores, Dennis, Laura Gottesdiener and Sara Lopez. "Occupy Sunset Park: 99% Solidarity Takes Root in Brooklyn Community Where Tenants Stage Rent Strike." Democracy Now (September 17, 2012)

Flowers, Margaret and Raymond Offenheiser. "Occupy G8: Peoples’ Summit Confronts World Leaders at Camp David, Urging Action on Poverty, Hunger." Democracy Now (May 18, 2012)

Goodman, Amy. "Occupy Louisville: Voices from Social Justice Encampment in the Hometown of Muhammad Ali." Democracy Now (October 24, 2011)

Gosztola, Kevin and Dorian Warren. "Occupy Wall Street Emerges as "First Populist Movement" on the Left Since the 1930s." Democracy Now (October 10, 2011)

Graeber, David. "Can Debt Spark a Revolution." The Nation (September 5, 2012)

---. "Concerning the Violent Peace-Police - An Open Letter to Chris Hedges." N+1 (Reposted with introduction by Michael Dean Benton on Dialogic: February 8, 2012)

---. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. NY: Melville House, 2011.

---. "Occupy and anarchism's gift of democracy." The Guardian (November 15, 2011)

---. "Occupy's liberation from liberalism: the real meaning of May Day." The Guardian (May 7, 2012)

---. "Occupy Wall Street's anarchist roots." Al Jazeera (November 30, 2011)

---. "A Practical Utopian's Guide to the Coming Collapse." The Baffler #22 (2013)

Graham, Stephen. "Police Crackdowns on Occupy Protests from Oakland to New York Herald the "New Military Urbanism." Democracy Now (November 16, 2011)

"Greed is no longer good (Occupy Wall St Part 4)." The Best of the Left #542 (October 27, 2011)

Greenwald, Glenn. "OWS-Inspired Activism." Salon (November 17, 2011)

---. "What's Behind the Scorn for the Wall Street Protests?" Common Dreams (September 28, 2011)

Guersava, Julie. "Occuprint & OWS: Notes on Art as a Weapon for Non-Violent Insurrection." Groundswell (March 21, 2012)

Hanrahan, John. "Local police forces are now little armies. Why?" Reader Supported News (October 16, 2011)

Harkinson, Josh. "Exclusive Video: Inside Police Lines at the Occupy Wall Street Eviction." Mother Jones (November 15, 2011)

---. "Occupy Wall Street—Where Are They Now?" Mother Jones (September 17, 2012)

Harris-Perry, Melissa and Allison Kilkenny. "How Occupy Has Changed the Conversation on Class." MSNBC (September 17, 2012)

Harvey, David. "Urban Uprisings from Occupy Wall Street to the Paris Commune." Democracy Now (April 30, 2012)

Hedges, Chris. "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt." Law and Disorder Radio (July 30, 2012)

---. "Go to Pittsburgh, Young Man, and Defy Your Empire." Truthdig (August 31, 2009)

---. "A Master's Class in Occupation." TruthDig (October 31, 2011)

---. Neoliberalism and Its Effects in the Modern USA." Unwelcome Guests (September 28, 2012)

---. "On 9/11, Touring U.S. Economic Disaster Zones in "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt." Democracy Now (September 11, 2012)

---. "Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand." Truthdig (March 14, 2011)

Hedges, Chris and James Wright. "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt." Lannan Podcasts (December 3, 2012)

"Keeping Wall St Occupied (Occupy Wall St Part 9)." The Best of the Left #556 (December 11, 2011)

Khatib, Kate. "On We Are Many, our new Occupy book." Revolution By the Book (September 11, 2012)

Kilkenny, Allison. "Occupy Wall Street Protesters Swarm NYC Financial District to Mark 1st Anniversary of 99% Struggle." Democracy Now (September 17, 2012)

Knefel, John. "After Weekend Protests See 50 Arrests, Protesters Detained in Early-Morning Action on Wall Street." Democracy Now (September 17, 2012)

Knight, Sam. "In Immigrant Struggle, Occupy’s Presence Still Felt." Jacobin (September 14, 2012)

Leonard, Sarah. "OWS and the Downfall of the Smartest Guys in the Room." Bookforum (November 8, 2011)

Lindorff, Dave. "FBI Ignored Deadly Threat to Occupiers." Counterpunch (December 28, 2012)

Mackey, Robert. "Occupy Wall Street: help us reconstruct the 'pepper spray' incident." The Guardian (September 27, 2012)

Maher, Stephen. "Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball and the Plague of the 99%." Monthly Review (December 1, 2012)

Mallis, Alex. Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St) (7 min. video posted on Vimeo in 2012)

Marchman, Michael. "New Movements of Resistance, USA." The International Institute for Research and Education (2013)

Marut, Ret. "Egypt Today, Tomorrow the World." Crimethinc. (February 2, 2011)

Miller, Anna Lekas. "Occupy vs. Monsanto: Activists, Farmers Fight the Corporation They Fear Will Take Over All America's Crops." AlterNet (February 6, 2012)

Milstein, Cindy. "Democracy is Direct." Revolution By the Book (Pamphlet: 2011)

---. "On Radicalism." Deep Green Philly (November 8, 2011)

Moody, Rick. "Frank Miller and the Rise of Cryptofascist Hollywood." The Guardian (November 24, 2011)

Myerson, J.A. "Quo Vadis Occupy? Mic Check on the State of the Revolution." TruthOut (September 17, 2012)

New York City General Assembly ["This is the official website of the working groups which comprise the New York City General Assembly. Together we work to organize and set the vision for the #occupywallstreet movement. New York City General Assemblies are an open, participatory and horizontally organized process through which we are building the capacity to constitute ourselves in public as autonomous collective forces within and against the constant crises of our times."]

"Notes From the Editors." The Monthly Review 63.7 (December 2011)

"Notes From the Editors." The Monthly Review 63.8 (January 2012)

Occupied Stories

The Occupied Wall St Journal ["The Occupied Wall Street Journal, an OWS affinity group, is one of many media projects participating in the Occupy movement."]

"Occupy! N+1 (Four Issues of this publication available as PDF Files: 2011/2012)

Occupy California

Occupy Graduation

"Occupy Movement." Democracy Now (Collection of ongoing reports)

"Occupy My Heart (Occupy Wall St Part 12)." The Best of the Left #562 (January 4, 2012)

Occupy Together ["The Occupy Movement is an international movement driven by individuals like you. All of us have many different backgrounds and political beliefs but feel that, since we can no longer trust our elected officials to represent anyone other than their wealthiest donors, we need real people to create real change from the bottom up. Organized in over 100 cities in the United States, #occupy aims to fight back against the system that has allowed the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. We no longer want the wealthiest to hold all the power, to write the rules governing an unbalanced and inequitable global economy, and thus foreclosing on our future."]

Occupy Wall Street [About: " is the unofficial de facto online resource for the growing occupation movement happening on Wall Street and around the world. We're an affinity group committed to doing technical support work for resistance movements. We're not a subcommittee of the NYCGA nor affiliated with Adbusters, anonymous or any other organization. Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future. The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a "people's assembly". To learn more about how to use this process to organize your local community to fight back against social injustice, please read this quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies.]

"Occupy Wall Street: One Year Later." TruthDig (September 17, 2012)

"Of the people, by the people and for the one percent (Economics)." The Best of the Left #567 (January 18, 2012)

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

Olzen, Jake. "Police Entrapment of Nonviolent Movements." Counterpunch (May 21, 2012)

People Assemblies Network ["The People’s Assemblies Network is an informative and resource platform to support the ongoing democracy protests and open, democratic assemblies in the UK, Europe and throughout the world."]

"Pepper spray is a weapon, not a seasoning (Occupy Wall St Part 8)." The Best of the Left #552 (November 29, 2011)

Pitt, William Rivers. "I Will Occupy." TruthOut (September 17, 2012)

"The police are the 99 percent too (Occupy Wall St Part 7)." The Best of the Left #551 (November 23, 2011)

Ramsey, Nick. "Rewriting Police vs. Protesters." The Last Word (September 26, 2011)

"Resisting The Military Financial Complex (Just Say No To Debt Repayment)." Unwelcome Guests (September 22, 2012)

Right Here All Over: Occupy Wall Street Protests (Alex Mallis and Lily Henderson, 2011: 6 minute video on Vimeo)

"RNC Protests 1." Mic Check Radio (August 28, 2012)

Roos, Jerome. "Beyond Occupy: liberating ourselves from debt slavery." ROAR (September 17, 2012)

Ross, Andrew. "Are Student Loans Immoral?" The Daily Beast (September 27, 2012)

"S17 Anniversary: Where Do We Stand?" Adbusters (September 17, 2012)

Sauter, Molly. "The Visual Life of Occupy Wall Street." Comparative Media Studies at MIT (2012)

Schneider, Nathan. "Occupy, After Occupy." The Nation (September 5, 2012)

Scott, William. "The People's Library of Occupy Wall Street Lives On." The Nation (November 20, 2011)

Shankula, David M.F. "Occupy Lexington — Noon, 9.29.2011, come on down!" Barefoot and Progressive (September 28, 2011)

Sharlett, Jeff and Marina Sitrin. "As Occupy Enters Third Month, a Look at How Protesters Are Building a Global Movement ." Democracy Now (November 16, 2011)

Smith, Yves. "Occupy Wall Street 2.0: The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual." Naked Capitalism (September 14, 2012)

Solnitt, Rebecca. "Occupy Your Victories." Guernica (September 17, 2012)

---. "You Can Crush the Flowers, But You Can’t Stop the Spring." Z-Net (November 23, 2011)

Stiglitz, Joseph. On The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future; On Occupy Wall Street & Why U.S.-Europe Austerity Will Only Weaken Economic Recovery; On Ways to Lessen Inequality in the United States." Democracy Now (June 6, 2012)

Stolar, Marty. "Jury Trial Begins for Occupy Wall Street’s Cecily McMillan" Law and Disorder (February 17, 2014)

Surico, John. "Marches and Arrests Mark Occupiers Return to Zuccotti." Village Voice (September 16, 2012)

Tabb, William K. "The Crisis: A View From Occupied America." The Monthly Review 64.4 (September 2012)

Taibbi, Matt. "Who Goes to Jail? Matt Taibbi on American Injustice Gap from Wall Street to Main Street." Democracy Now (April 15, 2014)

Taylor, Astra. "Occupy 2.0: Strike Debt. The Nation (September 5, 2012)

"Then they fight you (Occupy Wall St Part 6)." The Best of the Left #547 (November 11, 2011)

Thompson, A.K. "Chris Hedges vs. CrimethInc. on Violence: Will We Get the Debate We Deserve?" TruthOut (September 12, 2012)

Tidal ["Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy."]

Tomasic, John. "Watchdog targets mayors: Stop harassing journalists covering Occupy protests." Colorado Independent (November 16, 2011)

"Unite like an Egyptian (Occupy Wall St Part 3)." The Best of the Left #541 (October 24, 2011)

Verheyden-Hilliard, Mara. "FBI Considers The Occupy Movement A Terrorist Threat: The State of Civil Rights and Public Policy." Law and Disorder Radio (January 7, 2013)

"We Are the Other 99 Percent (Occupy Wall St Part 2)." The Best of the Left #539 (October 18, 2011)

West, Cornel and Chris Hedges. "The People vs.Goldman Sachs." Dangerous Minds (November 6, 2011)

West, James, et al. "Occupy II: What's Happening Now in Lower Manhattan." Mother Jones (September 17, 2012)

"The whole world is, in fact, watching and taking part (Occupy Wall St Part 5)." The Best of the Left #546 (November 8, 2011)

"Why we’re winning (Occupy Wall St Part 10)." The Best of the Left %557 (December 14, 2011)

Wolff, Richard D. "Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism, Pt 2." Law and Disorder Radio (July 30, 2012)

Yates, Michael D. "The Great Inequality." The Monthly Review (March 1, 2012)

"Year of the uprising (Occupy Wall St Part 11)." The Best of the Left #560 (December 29, 2011)