Friday, November 30, 2012

Blogging For Human Rights Day: December 10, 2012

Connor Kilpatrick: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
by Connor Kilpatrick

Whatever Spielberg says — there’s no comparing an empty-suit like Obama to a radical like Lincoln.

I thought about writing a critique of Aaron Bady’s mostly very good review of Lincoln for a long time this morning. It was a tough call: I do have some enamel left on my teeth and I can think of nothing else that could threaten to grind it all down to dust than publicly saying anything —anything at all — that could be construed as a defense of either Steven Spielberg’s politics or Barack Obama.

So I don’t want to defend the movie, which I thought was fine for what it was. Actually, by the standards of Hollywood history flicks, I thought it was more than fine.

Bady’s right to call out Kushner and Spielberg as card-carrying Obamaphiles. And it’s more than clear, particularly through interviews, that Kushner and Spielberg want us to connect the dots they’ve carefully laid out between Abe and Barack. Obama himself has done everything possible to encourage the comparison—even being sworn into office on Lincoln’s very own bible.

In their shared liberal revisionism, the Thirteenth Amendment becomes ObamaCare. The Emancipation Proclamation becomes a return to the marginal tax rates of the Clinton era. Thaddeus Stevens morphs into a fantasy of Bernie Sanders “doing the right thing” and sitting down with the prez to cut healthcare for the poor and elderly.

It’s laughable. But instead of calling them out, too many leftists concede this characterization of Lincoln and the Republicans to the Obamaphiles. They seem to believe that the first crop of Republicans did little more than press an official rubber stamp on “history from below” which had already delivered its verdict across the land.

The argument seems to be: “Spielberg says Lincoln and Obama are rubber-stampers. They are. But he’s wrong when he says that such men are the true makers of history.” Then they go looking elsewhere for the real revolutionaries, who can’t possibly have anything to do with these mere ‘stampers.

The question is why are we letting Spielberg, Kushner, and Obama get away with this?

Abraham Lincoln and the early Republicans (to say nothing of the Liberty Party or Free Soilers before them) shared a vision of a radically different society. Wiping out slavery — either through immediate abolition or through the “cordon of freedom” policy of the Republican Party — was hardly a technocratic reform.

And when it became clear that the only way to get there would be through revolutionary means, they took it without flinching: slaves were being emancipated as “contraband” by the summer of 1861, with the first Confiscation Act — written and debated in Congress explicitly as an emancipation act — signed into law that August, less than four months after the start of the war. The endgame of military emancipation had long been on the minds of antislavery politicians, all the way back to John Quincy Adams who first laid out such a scenario in 1836.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Jimi Hendrix: Little Wing (Studio and Live Versions)

Maximilian Yoshioka: History or Humanity? On Lu Chuan's City of Life and Death - A Nietzschean Perspective on Nanjing

History or Humanity? On Lu Chuan's City of Life and Death: A Nietzschean Perspective on Nanjing
by Maximilian Yoshioka
Bright Lights Film Journal

In 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army stormed into the city of Nanjing in China, causing massive physical and human devastation, in what is now known as the "Rape of Nanjing." The incident, and the broader scheme of Japanese militarism and imperialism in which it took place, is today still a constant source of political tension between the two nation-states and their respective citizens. The 2009 film City of Life and Death, by Chinese auteur Lu-Chuan, is a bold attempt to dig up and redefine the specter of Nanjing that continues to haunt the East Asian consciousness. But instead of ideologically measuring one side or the other on a Manichean scale, Lu chooses to focus on the instances of human compassion and solidarity that are able to manifest themselves even in the mindless, brutal atmosphere he so effectively creates within the cinematic world.

What one comes to grasp after seeing the film is the ultimate importance of history as first and foremost a study of the human condition, and of the art of living itself, as opposed to scientifically detached observation and categorization. The continuities of human consciousness and memory mean that our experiences of the past are necessarily intertwined with those of the present; as individuals inescapably grounded in a specific historical period, we are unable to avoid this contemporizing process. Furthermore, it is something that must be embraced, for it allows us to incorporate these historical "peaks" (and crevasses) of human experience into our future actions and values. But in this integration of the present with the past there is the danger of a selective blindness toward the past that must be understood and overcome. However, the purpose of history as a guide to the present and the future, to "life," must still be emphasized over the "neutral," "objective" study of history as "fact," "statistic," or what Nietzsche, in his essay "The Use and Abuse of History, refers to disparagingly as the "World Process" — that is, an attitude of detached passivity toward a historical narrative that is falsely seen as predetermined and unalterable.

City of Life and Death's narrative shifts between several characters on both sides of the conflict, which allows the film to largely transcend distinctions of nationality and ideology and focus on the more basic human tragedy underlying it. One is never informed of the strategic or ideological Japanese justifications for the various massacres and battles throughout the film; there is no attempt to rationalize the violence. Instead the viewer is presented with a war that is absurd, irrational, and pointless, and this nonpartisan alignment allows for the emergence of a more universal, humanistic perspective that links the various key characters in the film through their shared ethical commitments. These include Kadokawa, a Japanese soldier (Hideo Nakaizumi), Lu Jianxiong (Liu Ye), a Chinese resistance fighter, John Rabe (John Paisley), a German who ran a demilitarized safety zone within Nanjing, his assistant, Mr. Tang (Fan Wei), and several female characters of both Japanese and Chinese origin, all of whom are faced with sexual violence and slavery due to the notorious Japanese "comfort women" policies.

This humanistic impulse manifests itself in various ways, but is mostly emphasized in authentic moments of kindness, empathy, and bravery that shine through the madness. At the end of the film, Kadokawa, under orders to execute two Chinese civilians, one of whom is a young boy, instead decides to release them into the wilderness, much to the amazement but also admiration of his inferior officer. Yet even this act of compassion is insignificant in comparison to what he has previously been required to do and see; under the weight of an intolerable conscience, he kills himself. Earlier in the film he also falls in love with a Japanese prostitute brought in to satisfy the soldiers' animalistic needs; his genuine feelings of care and affection for her contrast strikingly with the objectifying and dehumanizing attitudes of the other soldiers. John Rabe, the only nonfictional character in the film, was a member of the Nazi Party, a group, like the Japanese, condemned for its role in the Second World War. Along with several other missionaries, he saved large numbers of Chinese civilians by instating a safety zone within Nanjing, and his inclusion further demonstrates the director's commitment to a study of war centered on individual human beings rather than political identities.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lovage: Book of the Month Club

Marilyn Adler Papayanis: Sex on the Beach - The Yin Yang of Female Sex Tourism in Two Films

Sex on the Beach: The Yin Yang of Female Sex Tourism in Two Films
by Marilyn Adler Papayanis
Bright Lights Film Journal

With the recent screening of Ulrich Seidl's Paradise: Love at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, the spectacle of female sex tourism has washed up, once again, on the shoals of popular culture. According to reviewers, it is not a pretty sight. Women who travel to the spaces peripheral to "modernity" and, by the way, have sex with the natives are not rare; however, in the continuum of capital expansion that stretches from colonialism to globalization, such practices tend to lose their luster as a kind of radical cultural immersion. For men, of course, such sexual adventurism would hardly qualify as a narrative with anything new to say. The notion, however, that women would travel to remote or less developed parts of the world for the express purpose of having sex with men who are, in many cases, younger and poorer than they are seems to cut against the grain. Yet many studies show this to be the case. Whether characterized as "sex" tourism (commercial sex with the locals) or "romance" tourism (commercial sex with the trappings of a "real" relationship), this practice has inspired a good deal of academic research in the social sciences and in popular literature as well. In her 2006 book Romance on the Road: Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men, journalist Jeanette Belliveau describes her subjects as "sex pilgrims." According to the Amazon review, her book is "the complete reference for anyone who wants to learn about a hidden phenomenon that affects hundreds of thousands of traveling women and foreign men: Instant vacation love affairs that banish loneliness, provide cultural insights, offer one-on-one, hand-to-hand foreign aid to the world's poor, create international children and sometimes even change the course of history."

Who can beat that? I believe, however, that the representation of female sex tourism in the cultural imagination is also worthy of study, as such depictions reveal a great deal about the anxieties aroused by the "aging" woman's sexuality. The staging of this cultural moment is explored in two radically different films, both, coincidentally, derived from works of fiction: the breezy How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), based on the book by Terry McMillan, and the far more disturbing French film Heading South (2005), based, in large part, on a short story by the Haitian writer Dany Laferrière. Both films indulge the notion that sex in the tropics with a dark-skinned exotic youth is all it takes to cure the malaise of the older woman. In one sense, the autonomy of the woman traveler is a real marker of progress. Sadly, though, the representation of female empowerment in these films is either complicit with racist attitudes still fraught with the lingering spirit of colonialism (Heading South) or in thrall to patriarchal norms (Stella.) In the former, sex tourism is punished; in the latter, it is celebrated.

We learn from the literature that women who sleep with the locals are not a uniform class. They vary in age and in their choice of destination; they vary in terms of their motivations and attitudes toward both their exotic partners and the imaginative geographies in which their partners are embedded. Improbably, for example, the Sinai is a popular venue for cross-cultural couplings. Some "ethnosexual" boundary crossings appear to pass unnoticed, while others are more disturbing, usually because they involve pairings between privileged white tourists of a certain age and marginal youths who navigate the interstices of the official institutions of tourism. Joane Nagel first used the term "ethnosexual" to describe "the intersection and interaction between ethnicity and sexuality and the ways each defines and depends on the other for its meaning and power" (10). In the Americas, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica are popular venues for the pursuit of ethnosexual adventurism. These are destinations where the opportunity for women to have sexual or romantic liaisons with exotic Others further complicates the shadowy social relations in the "contact zone" where, for centuries, sexual commerce between male travelers and the natives, male or female, have followed, roughly, the contours of imperial power. The term "contact zone" was coined by Mary Louise Pratt in her groundbreaking study Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation to describe "social spaces where disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination, like colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out across the globe today" (3).

To Read the Rest of the Essay

The Colbert Report: The Sisters are Doing It to Themselves

Unwelcome Guests Episode #7 - Report Back from A16 (The A16 IMF/World Bank Demonstrations in Washington, D.C.)

[MB: This is an essential documentary history from 2000. It is very useful in thinking about the development of state repression against social protests targeting global capitalism and how this was not necessarily the result of a post-9/11 security response. Also a unique documentary of the people/groups protesting and their tactics/goals -- in their own words.]

Episode #7 - Report Back from A16 (The A16 IMF/World Bank Demonstrations in Washington, D.C.)
Unwelcome Guests

This ... program features talks by Kevin Danaher of Global exchange, Njoki Njehu of 50 Years is Enough, and Walden Bello of the Center for the Global South; also interviews with organizers and participants in the demonstrations, and stunning material from the Independent Media Center.

To Listen to an Episode

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aaron Bady: Lincoln Against the Radicals

Lincoln Against the Radicals
by Aaron Bady


In short, if you widen your field of view, you will discover that W.E.B. Du Bois argued a century ago—and as the historical scholarship has increasingly come to agree—that slavery was already all but dead by the time Lincoln got around to declaring himself an abolitionist, far less because the North gave slaves their legal freedom than because they had already effectively taken it, because it had become the new status quo that would have required force to dislodge. At the end of the Civil War, with the South defeated, the choice for the north was not to end slavery or leave it; the choice was to ratify the fact that it was already dead or to re-impose it by military force.

In short, the idea that the white north “gave” freedom to the slaves draws from and reinforces an attractively simple and flattering myth, one which formed around the old historiography of the period like a noose cutting off oxygen to the brain: the myth that black slaves were rendered passive by their condition, and that—absent an outside force interrupting their state of un-freedom—they would simply have continued, as slaves, indefinitely. It’s only in this narrative that freedom can be a thing which is given to them: because they are essentially passive and inert, they require someone else—say, a great emancipator—to step in and raise them up.

W.E.B. Du Bois was already chipping away at this myth in 1909, but when scholars in the post-Civil Rights era started taking him and his 1935 Black Reconstruction seriously, the historiographic mainstream turned this myth on its head. Slaves were not and could not be “given” their freedom because they had always had it: it had required a great deal of violent force and political work to keep them enslaved, and when that force was removed—as the South collapsed politically and militarily—they began to act like the human beings they always already were, organizing, moving, and seizing their destinies in their own hands. At this point, the game was up; just as the institution of slavery had always depended on substantial governmental enforcement and support, it would have taken a substantial amount of violent force to re-impose it, a concerted project to re-establish slavery that no one in the north had any particular stomach for. At the end of the Civil War, to put it simply, the North had a simple choice: re-imposing slavery by force or accept the new reality. They chose the latter.

If you read these books, however, you’d gain a sense of perspective that the film works to make impossible. Spielberg and Kushner are interested in a kind of scrupulous (almost farcical) accuracy about things that do not matter, while working very hard to place everything else that was going on in the period—and everything else Lincoln was responding to—off camera. “The nation’s capital was transformed by the migration of fugitive slaves from the South during the war, but you’d never know it from this film,” as Kate Masur points out, and Lincoln’s own servants were leaders and organizers in this community, something of which Lincoln simply could not have been unaware. But the film makes a point of not showing any of this: while the vast majority of the movie takes place in cramped and smoky rooms, even the exterior shots (usually of conversations in moving wagons) show us very little of what was going on in the streets and neighborhoods of Washington (much less what was going on in the South). Which is to say: they give us the illusion of perspective without giving us its substance. They show you the elephant’s tail quite accurately, and then they declare, on that basis, that the entire beast is a snake.

In the big picture, the Thirteenth Amendment, on its own, just isn’t that important, and much of the forced suspense of the movie—will they pass it?—comes from an artificial sense that more is at stake in a single congressional bill than there actually was. As Eric Foner pointed out when he was asked about the movie, if it hadn’t passed when it did, Lincoln had pledged to call Congress into special session in March; “[a]nd there, the Republicans had a two-thirds majority and would ratify in a minute…It’s not this giant crisis in the way that the film’s portraying it.” This is important because the small picture is not the big picture in miniature, and taking it to be—taking the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to be 19th centuries democratic turning point, as this movie clearly does—will cause us to subordinate the big picture to the small picture.

To Read the Entire Essay

Monday, November 26, 2012

Unwelcome Guests #623 - Waking Up And Smelling The Kool-Aid (The Rhetoric and Practice of Finance Capital)

Episode #623 - Waking Up And Smelling The Kool-Aid (The Rhetoric and Practice of Finance Capital)
Unwelcome Guests

... professor of geography, Richard Peet, on the rise of 'Finance Capital'. He characterizes capitalism in US as being divided into 3 phases. Firstly liberalism, which generated a great disparity in wealth, prompting an era of Keynesianism and state intervention that reduced the wealth gap. Questioning the traditional explanation of the end of Keynesianism (irresolvable stagflation) he notes that since Ronald Reagan became US president, a 'neoliberal' ideology has rapidly recreated income and wealth inequalities in US. He argues that far from being opposed to the power of the state, finance capital effectively took control over it in the 1990s, and has been using nation states to cement its position of dominance.

... [the] first hour [concludes] with a continued reading of David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years, on the universality of debt in modern US. After the sub-prime collapse, he notes, the US govt made a fateful decision to bailout the finance capitalists and try to make the citizens foot the bill.

[The] second hour is given over to Chris Hedges who has just published a new book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Hedges give his account of the rise of corporate capital in USA, and speaks forthrightly on the suffering he saw there while researching his book. His 20 years as a war correspondent help him understand of people pushed to the limit, and give parallels for the scenes of extreme suffering of people 'sacrificed' to corporate profit.

Heartened by the unexpected way in which the occupy movement kicked off in USA, he concludes that 'all the tinder is there' for a dramatic uprising in USA, and that the rule of corporate capital is very unstable because its deceitful and destructive nature is so widely understood. Anyway, he argues, we should stop asking about resistance "Is it practical?" and ask instead "Is it right?"

[The episode concludes with] a pointer to Guerrilla Grafters, actively challenging the story of scarcity by working on secretly grafting fruit tree branches onto trees in public places.

To Listen to the Episode

Michelle Alexander -- The New Jim Crow - Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Michelle Alexander with Liliana Segura
We Are Many

This talk and interview were recorded at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico on September 12, 2012 as part of the Lannan Foundation's In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom series.

To Listen to the Presentation

The website for the book

Graham Daesler: Cutters' Way - The Mysterious Art of Film Editing

Cutters' Way: The Mysterious Art of Film Editing
by Graham Daesler
Bright Lights Film Journal


Porter's experiments, however fumbling they appear in hindsight, point us to a curious quandary at the heart of filmmaking: what is it that makes cutting work? How is it that we accept such a violent transition — whether it be from a wide shot to a close-up, from Paris to the Sahara desert, or from the seventeenth century to the present — as a cut? "Nothing in our day-to-day experience seems to prepare us for such a thing," Walter Murch observes. "From the moment we get up in the morning until we close our eyes at night, the visual reality we perceive is a continuous stream of linked images: In fact, for millions of years — tens, hundreds of millions of years — life on Earth has experienced the world in this way. Then suddenly, at the beginning of the twentieth century, human beings were confronted with something else — edited film."11 What prepared them for this? Not painting, not theater, not even literature, cinematic as some of Dickens's scenes now appear. Murch speculates that it was dreams. "We accept the cut because it resembles the way images are juxtaposed in our dreams," he writes. "In the darkness of the theater, we say to ourselves, in effect, 'This looks like reality, but it cannot be reality because it is so visually discontinuous; therefore, it must be a dream.'"12 Director John Huston saw it differently. Cinema, he said, was not just a reflection of our dream lives but the very essence of conscious thought, with its fitful jumble of visuals and sound: "To me the perfect film is as though it were unwinding behind your eyes, and your eyes were projecting it themselves, so that you were seeing what you wished to see. It's like thought. It's the closest to thought process of any art."13 Watch the final moments of his film The Dead (1987) and you'll have some idea of what he's talking about. As Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) gazes out the frosty filigree of his Dublin window, somberly musing on the emptiness of his life, the film, with no more than a few simple cuts, slips aboard his stream of consciousness as it glides from thought to thought: from past memories to future projections to the lonely churchyard on the hill where his wife's lover lies buried.

The first person to truly discover this cinematic language was D. W. Griffith, who was to early cinema what Jane Austen was to the English novel. He saw what Porter failed to see in The Life of an American Fireman: that you could crosscut between different points of view in a scene to create suspense. Perhaps his most signal technique, for which he is still remembered today, is the accelerated pace of cutting that he used during moments of heightened tension, as in The Lonely Villa (1909), The Lonedale Operator (1911), and The Birth of a Nation (1915), rapidly cutting between heroes and villains during chases and rescues. In this manner, he showed that, with some clever editing, he could subjugate time to his demands, either drawing it out for suspense or speeding it up for sudden denouement. Likewise, he dispensed with the custom, so reminiscent of the stage, of beginning a scene when a character enters a room, cutting instead at the moment of the important action, thereby accelerating the pace of the story. To show characters in thought, he used close-ups and cutaways (from a man's face, for example, to a shot of his sweetheart miles away) rather than the cartoonish dream balloons employed by previous filmmakers. Not only did this last technique prove that simple cuts could simulate consciousness, it established a dividing line between screen acting and stage acting that still exists to this day. In a tight close-up, a good actor need only think a thought to express it, rather than histrionically projecting to the back rows of the theater.

Early film cutting was a sometimes excruciating process. Editors viewed their movies in negative, making it difficult to tell one take from the next. Lacking any numbers on the film to guide them, they were forced to pore over millions of frames by hand, using minute alterations in the image to find their bearings. "Sometimes there'd be a tiny pinpoint on the negative and then you knew you were right," Margaret Booth recalls. "But it was very tedious work. Close-ups of Lillian Gish in Orphans of the Storm would go on for miles, and they'd be very similar."14 Most prohibitive, though, was the equipment, or rather the shocking lack of equipment. The essential tools of the trade consisted of a rewind bench, a magnifying glass, and an ordinary pair of scissors. The only way you could see the film in motion was to screen it, so editors took to pulling the film through their fingers to simulate movement. The work must have been exceedingly tiresome, yet it evokes a wonderful image, like some kind of strange tailor's shop, with reams of footage dangling from the walls and the editors, strands of film clenched in their teeth, unspooling bolts of celluloid before their eyes. If they wanted three seconds of footage, they held the film to the tip of their nose and pulled it out to the length of their arm. If they wanted to view it in progress, they hauled it into the projection room and screened it, then carried it back to the editing table to get chopped up some more.

All this changed with the invention of the Moviola in 1919. A chunky, frog-green machine with foot pedals to run the film and a four-inch spy hole to view it, the Moviola was the brainchild of Iwan Serrurier, a Dutch-born electrical engineer who designed the contraption on a whim, as a diversion from his job at the Southern Pacific Railroad Company in Pasadena. Originally, Serrurier tried to sell his gadget as a home-entertainment device (the name itself, Moviola, was chosen for its happy harmony with Victrola, the popular phonograph), but, at $600, it was too expensive for most families in 1920 to afford. Then in 1924, Serrurier ran across an editor at Douglas Fairbanks Studios who suggested he adapt it as an editing table for the movie industry. Serrurier "roughed together" a model that very weekend, turning it on its side and attaching a viewing lens and a hand crank he'd lifted from a clock.16 With that, the first editing machine was born. It arrived just in time, too. With the coming of sound, there was no way an editor, no matter how sharp-eyed, could sync sound to silent lips. To accomplish this aural feat, the Moviola was simply fitted with an additional sprocket for the soundtrack to run on, making possible the explosion of talkies that burst from Hollywood, beginning in 1927. After that, the device changed little. It was hefty, ugly, noisy (more than one editor compared the clanking it made to a sewing machine) and, because of its tilted viewer, required the user to sit hunched over all day at a forty-five-degree angle. Yet it remained the mainstay of the film industry for the next seventy years, an unequivocal, if curious, testament to its durability, almost as if the Model T had persisted as the car-of-choice until the new millennium.

To Read the Entire Essay

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Uprising Radio: Vandana Shiva on Prop 37, GMOs, Food Sovereignty, and More

[MB: Despite the fact that it was defeated (corporations, including Monsanto, spent 40+ million dollars to defeat it) -- it is still important to consider.]

Vandana Shiva on Prop 37, GMOs, Food Sovereignty, and More
Uprising Radio

A new poll conducted by the University of Southern California and the LA Times has found that Proposition 37, the GMO labeling initiative has slipped a whopping 17 points since the last poll in September. The proposition continues to lead but only by 2 percentage points with less than a week before the election. Thirteen percent of likely voters are still undecided on whether to require mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms in foods.

The dramatic shift in opinion is likely due to the barrage of dollars spent by vested corporate interests to defeat Prop 37. Chief among them are Monsanto corporation, the leading commercial force behind the creation, promotion, and widespread use of pesticides and genetically modified seeds in farming, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association which represents the world’s largest processed food producers and distributors such as Coca Cola, Pepsi Co, and Nestle. Together, they have spent $41 million in advertising and other campaigning, claiming that Proposition 37 is “anti-science,” and would lead to huge increases in food prices, the banning of safe foods. At least two newspapers have concluded the No on Prop 37 ads are misleading and deceptive.

Now, one of the world’s most renowned scientists and environmental activists, Vandana Shiva, is speaking out on behalf of proposition 37. Long a thorn in the side of Monsanto, Dr. Shiva has taken on big bio-tech and agribusiness companies in her home country of India and works with farmers groups all over the world to protect their right to farm using their traditional methods and seeds.

GUEST: Trained as a physicist, Vandana Shiva is the founder of Navadanya, “a movement which aims to protect nature and people’s rights to knowledge, biodiversity, water and food,” by creating community seed banks among other things. She just concluded a two week long global action called “seed freedom.” She has written nearly two dozen books, including Democratizing Biology: Reinventing Biology from a Feminist, Ecological and Third World Perspective, and Soil Not Oil. Her forthcoming book out next year is entitled Making Peace With the Earth: Beyond Land Wars And Food Wars. Vandana Shiva has won a number of awards including the Sydney Peace Prize and the Right Livlihood Award and was named by the Guardian newspaper as one of their Top 100 most inspiring women.

To Listen to the Episode

George Lakoff: How to Use the Language of “Systemic Causation” To Talk About Climate Change

[MB: Uprising Radio's description is couched in the presidential race of a few weeks ago, while this episode is not really about that and only barely touches on it, thankfully. So, here is my blurb: Linguist George Lakoff states that we need to change the name of Hurricanes -- we need to start calling them Hurricane Chevron, Hurricane Massey, Hurricane BP, etc....... interesting look into how science as a profession disciplines (as in making them conform) the language of climate scientists.}

George Lakoff: How to Use the Language of “Systemic Causation” To Talk About Climate Change

Glenn Greenwald: Obama's kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza

Obama's kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza: The US was once part of the international consensus against extra-judicial assassinations. Now it is a leader in that tactic.
by Glenn Greenwald
The Guardian


I want to focus on the US response to all of this. US policy always lies at the heart of these episodes, because Israeli aggression is possible only due to the unstinting financial, military and diplomatic support of the US. Needless to say, the Obama administration wasted no time expressing its "full-throttled support" for the Israeli attacks. And one can't help but notice the timing of this attack: launched just days after Obama's re-election victory, demanding an answer to the question of whether Obama was told in advance of these attacks and gave his approval.

Ultimately, though, Obama had no choice but to support these attacks, which were designed, in part, to extra-judicially assassinate Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari as he was driving in his car (the IDF then proudly posted the video of its hit on YouTube). How could Obama possibly have done anything else?

Extra-judicial assassination - accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children - is a staple of the Obama presidency. That lawless tactic is one of the US president's favorite instruments for projecting force and killing whomever he decides should have their lives ended: all in total secrecy and with no due process or oversight. There is now a virtually complete convergence between US and Israeli aggression, making US criticism of Israel impossible not only for all the usual domestic political reasons, but also out of pure self-interest: for Obama to condemn Israel's rogue behavior would be to condemn himself.

It is vital to recognize that this is a new development. The position of the US government on extra-judicial assassinations long had been consistent with the consensus view of the international community: that it is a savage and lawless weapon to be condemned regardless of claims that it is directed at "terrorists".

To Read the Rest of the Column

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Films We Want to See #18: A Royal Affair (Denmark/Sweden/Czech Republic: Nikolaj Arcel, 2012)

The Guardian: Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco -- Drawing America's invisible poor - audio slideshow

Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco: drawing America's invisible poor - audio slideshow
The Guardian

For his latest book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, out this month in paperback, Pulitzer prizewinning author Chris Hedges collaborated with awardwinning cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco to produce a heartfelt, harrowing picture of post-capitalist America. Together they explore the country's 'sacrifice zones' - areas that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement - and show in words and images what life looks like in places where the marketplace rules without constraints.

To Watch the Slideshow

Robert Fowler: Artifact - A musician’s struggle against a giant corporation

Artifact: A musician’s struggle against a giant corporation
By Robert Fowler
World Socialist Web Site

Jared Leto is perhaps best known to the general public for his work as a film actor, most notably in David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999) and Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000). However, in recent years he has devoted his attention to the world of music, as the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars.

Artifact, directed by Leto himself, under the pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbins (of Dr. Seuss fame), revolves around major record label EMI’s decision to sue the band for $30 million in August 2008. The film was screened November 8 as part of the New York City documentary festival DOC NYC and previously, in September, at the Toronto film festival.

The “crime” committed by Leto’s group was simply wanting to excuse themselves from their existing, demonstrably illegitimate contract. EMI, however, claimed that Thirty Seconds to Mars had failed to deliver the three albums required by their agreement.

Leto and his band mates were understandably aggrieved at the fact that having sold over 2 million albums at the time of being taken to court, they had not received a penny in royalties and … were still $1.4 million in debt to EMI. This, as the film makes clear, is the standard operating procedure of the record companies, who are in the business, as one commentator notes, “of not paying musicians.”

Leto explained the predicament on the band’s web site: “We had been signed with them [EMI] for nine years. Under California law, where we lived and signed our deal one cannot be bound to a contract for more than seven years. …

“Yes, we have been sued by EMI. But NOT for failing to deliver music or for ‘quitting’. We have been sued by the corporation quite simply because roughly 45 days ago we exercised our legal right to terminate our old, out of date contract, which according to the law is null and void.

“We terminated for a number of reasons, which we won’t go into here (we’d rather not air dirty laundry) but basically our representatives could not get EMI to agree to make a fair and reasonable deal.”

Thirty Second to Mars’ struggle with EMI commenced just as the financial crisis erupted. The filming of what would become Artifact also began at that time and Leto, with a certain degree of self-importance, draws parallels between the plight of the band and global economic crisis. “As we are trying to make a deal with EMI the world is falling apart,” he comments. Nonetheless, insofar as the musician denounces the record giants and Wall Street as part of the same problem, he is on to something.

To Read the Rest of the Review

George Lucas: On Complete Control as an Artist

[MB: is this an artistic or a political statement?]

Before, once you've photographed something, you were pretty much stuck with it. Now ... you can have complete control over it just like an artist does, and that to me is the way it should be ... You can make shots conform to your idea after the fact, rather than trying to conform the world to what your idea is.
--George Lucas, in Magid, Ron. "George Lucas: Past, Present, and Future." American Cinematographer #78 (February 1997): 49-52.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mother Love Bone: Stargazer

Chris Hedges: War Is Betrayal - Persistent Myths of Combat

War Is Betrayal: Persistent Myths of Combat
by Chris Hedges
Boston Review


Jessica Goodell came to understand that torment only too well, as she relates in her 2011 memoir Shade it Black: Death and After in Iraq. Goodell wasn’t poor. She grew up in a middle-class home near Chautauqua Lake in upstate New York. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother worked at home. But her “universe fractured” when she was sixteen and her parents divorced. She could barely continue “the motions of everyday existence.” She was accepted at Ithaca College her senior year, but just before graduation a uniformed Marine came to her high school. He told her he had come to find “tough men.”

“What about tough women?” she asked.

By that afternoon she was in the Marine recruiting office. She told the recruiter she wanted to be part of a tank crew but was informed that women were prohibited from operating tanks. She saw a picture of a Marine standing next to a vehicle with a huge hydraulic arm and two smaller forklift arms. She signed up to be a heavy equipment mechanic, although she knew nothing about it.

Three years later, while stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the desert town of Twentynine Palms, California, she volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps’ first official Mortuary Affairs unit, at Al Taqaddum Airbase in Iraq. Her job, for eight months, was to “process” dead Marines—collect and catalog their bodies and personal effects. She put the remains in body bags and placed the bags in metal boxes. Before being shipped to Dover Air Force Base, the boxes were stored, often for days, in a refrigerated unit known as a “reefer.”

Her unit processed six suicides. The suicide notes, she told me in an interview, almost always cited hazing. Marines who were overweight or unable to do the physical training were subjected to withering verbal and physical abuse. They were called “fat nasties” and “shit bags.” They were assigned to other Marines as slaves. Many were forced to run until they vomited or to bear-crawl—walk on all fours—the length of a football field and back. This would be followed by sets of monkey fuckers—bending down, grabbing the ankles, crouching like a baseball catcher, and then standing up again—and other exercises that went on until the Marines collapsed.

Goodell’s unit was sent to collect the bodies of the Marines who killed themselves. They usually blew their faces off with assault rifles in port-a-johns or in the corners of abandoned bunkers or buildings. She and the other members of the Mortuary Affairs unit would have to scrape the flesh and brain tissue from the walls.

Goodell fell into depression when she returned home. She abused drugs and alcohol. And she watched the slow descent of her comrades as they too tried to blunt the pain with narcotics and self-destructive behavior. She details many of her experiences in Shade It Black, a term that refers to the missing body parts of dead Marines, which she colored black on diagrams of the corpses.

In a poignant passage, she talks about what it was like for her and a fellow Marine named Miguel to come home and see all those yellow ribbons:

We’d frequently pass vehicles displaying the yellow ribbon ‘support-our-troops decal,’ but we never once mentioned it. We probably passed a hundred or more decals—two hundred if you count the multiple decals decorating the cars of the more patriotic motorists—and yet neither of us even once said, ‘Look, more support from the citizenry. Let’s give the ‘thumbs up’ as we pass.’ . . . I knew that these people on their way to work or home or dinner had no idea what it was they were supporting. They did not have a clue as to what war was like, what it made people see, and what it made them do to each other. I felt as though I didn’t deserve their support, or anyone’s, for what I had done. . . . No one should ever support the people who do such things.

Stateside “support” not only reflects the myths of war, but it also forces Goodell and her comrades to suppress their own experiences:

Here we were, leaving the ribbons behind us as we sped up on our way to Hell, probably, where we would pay for the sins these magnetic decals endorsed. There was an irony of sorts shaping the dynamic between our ribbon decal supporters and us. They were uninformed but good people, the kind whose respect we would welcome—if it were based upon something true. It was when we were around them that we had to hide the actual truth most consciously.

• • •

Those who return to speak this truth, like Goodell or Millard, are our contemporary prophets. They struggle, in a culture awash in lies, to tell what few have the fortitude to digest. The words these prophets speak are painful.

As a nation we prefer to listen to those who speak from the patriotic script. We prefer to hear ourselves exalted. If veterans speak of terrible wounds visible and invisible, of lies told to make them kill, of evil committed in our name, we fill our ears with wax. Not our boys and girls, we say, not them, bred in our homes, endowed with goodness and decency. For if it is easy for them to murder, what about us? It is simpler and more comfortable not to hear, to wish only that they would calm down, be reasonable, get some help, and go away. We brand our prophets as madmen. We cast them into the desert. This is why so many veterans are estranged and enraged. This is why so many succumb to suicide or addictions. Not long ago Goodell received a text message from a Marine she had worked with in Mortuary Affairs after he tried to commit suicide. “I’ve got $2,000 in the bank,” the message read. “Let’s meet in NYC and go out with a bang.”

War comes wrapped in patriotic slogans; calls for sacrifice, honor, and heroism; and promises of glory. It comes wrapped in the claims of divine providence. It is what a grateful nation asks of its children. It is what is right and just. It is waged to make the nation and the world a better place, to cleanse evil. War is touted as the ultimate test of manhood, where the young can find out what they are made of. From a distance it seems noble. It gives us comrades and power and a chance to play a bit part in the great drama of history. It promises to give us identities as warriors, patriots, as long as we go along with the myth, the one the war-makers need to wage wars and the defense contractors need to increase their profits.

But up close war is a soulless void. War is about barbarity, perversion, and pain. Human decency and tenderness are crushed, and people become objects to use or kill. The noise, the stench, the fear, the scenes of eviscerated bodies and bloated corpses, the cries of the wounded all combine to spin those in combat into another universe. In this moral void, naïvely blessed by secular and religious institutions at home, the hypocrisy of our social conventions, our strict adherence to moral precepts, becomes stark. War, for all its horror, has the power to strip away the trivial and the banal, the empty chatter and foolish obsessions that fill our days. It might let us see, although the cost is tremendous.

To Read the Entire Essay

Television: Peace and Conflict Studies Archive


Ball, Norman. "The Power of Auteurs and the Last Man Standing: Adam Curtis' Documentary Nightmares." Bright Lights Film Journal #78 (November 2012)

Dawson, Mike. "Television Special: The Wire." Left Field Cinema (February 25, 2009)

Dickinson, Tim. "How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory." Rolling Stone (May 25, 2011)

"Dude Looks Like a Lady: What the Kids in the Hall Taught Us About Womanhood." Canonball (April 27, 2011)

Engelstad, Audun. "It's not TV - or is it?" 16:9 (February 2011)

Grossman, Andrew. "When the World Was Wide(r): A Requiem for PBS." Bright Lights Film Journal #79 (February 2013)

Kahle, Brewster and Rick Prelinger. "The 9/11 TV News Archive: 3,000 Hours of Video News Coverage of 2001 Attacks Posted Online." Democracy Now (August 24, 2011)

Koerth-Baker, Maggie. "Archaeologists vs. The National Geographic Channel." Boing Boing (April 1, 2014)

Kuznick, Peter and Oliver Stone. "The Untold History of the United States." After Words (December 29, 2012)

---. "The Untold U.S. History from the Atomic Age to Vietnam to Obama’s Drone Wars." Democracy Now (November 16, 2012)

Leyda, Julia. "'This Complicated, Colossal Failure': The Abjection of Creighton Bernette in HBO's Treme." Television and New Media (February 7, 2012)

Mander, Jerry. "Privatization of Consciousness." Monthly Review (October 2012)

Mayer, Jane, et al. "24: Torture and Televised." Center on Law and Security (2010)

McChesney, Robert W. and John Nichols. "The Bull Market: Political Advertising." Monthly Review (April 1, 2012)

Mullins, Paul. "The Peep Show of Death: Televising Human Remains." Archaeology and Material Culture (March 28, 2014)

Seitz, Matt Zoller. "David Simon explains "Treme"
The show's creator defends some surprising choices, and explains how it's "a story of fundamental patriotism."
Salon (July 4, 2011)

Stone, Oliver. "Untold History of the United States: WWII." Showtime (Posted on Youtube: 2012)

Thorn, Michael. "Michael Thorn: Television Discourse and Governmentality: Considering Da Vinci's Inquest and Da Vinci's City Hall as Citizen Projects." Cineaction #82/83 (2010: 48-57)

West, Betsy. "Makers: Women Who Make America": New Film Chronicles Past 50 Years of Feminist Movement." Democracy Now (February 26, 2013)

Wu, Timothy. "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires." The Center of Internet and Society (May 15, 2011)

Democracy Now: Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone on the Untold U.S. History from the Atomic Age to Vietnam to Obama’s Drone Wars

Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone on the Untold U.S. History from the Atomic Age to Vietnam to Obama’s Drone Wars
Democracy Now

Academy Award-winning Oliver Stone has teamed up with historian Peter Kuznick to produce a 10-part Showtime series called "Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States." Drawing on archival findings and recently declassified documents, the filmmakers critically examine U.S. history, from the atomic bombing of Japan to the Cold War, to the fall of communism, and continuing all the way through to the Obama administration. Contrary to what’s taught in schools across the country, the filmmakers found the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were militarily unnecessary and morally indefensible. They also suggest the Soviet Union, not the United States, ultimately defeated the Germans in World War II. And, they assert, the United States, not the Soviet Union, bore the lion’s share of responsibility for perpetuating the Cold War. The filmmakers also found U.S. presidents, especially in wartime, have frequently trampled on the Constitution and international law, and they note the United States has brought the world dangerously close to nuclear war by repeatedly brandishing nuclear threats. The first episode of the series aired Monday night on Showtime. For more about this series and the companion book, we are joined by Stone and Kuznick.


Oliver Stone, three-time Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter. A Vietnam War veteran, he has made around two dozen acclaimed Hollywood films, including Platoon, Wall Street, Salvador, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Nixon, W., South of the Border and Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. Oliver Stone has now co-written a 10-part Showtime series called Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States. The first episode launched Monday night on Showtime. It also features a companion book with a similar name.

Peter Kuznick, professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. He is the co-writer on a 10-part Showtime series called Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.

To Watch the Episode

Reports on Israel's Continuing Bombardment of Gaza

Al Jazeera: Israel keeps up Gaza bombardment - Media centre hit for a second day as the death toll in the Palestinian territory passes 100.

Democracy Now: Palestinian Civilians Bear the Brunt of Unrelenting Bombings in U.S.-Backed Attack on Gaza

Democracy Now: U.N. Special Rapporteur Calls for Global Protection of Gaza Civilians from U.S.-Backed Israeli Assault

Democracy Now: Live Report from Gaza Hospital: As Civilian Toll Mounts, Israel Again Bombs Palestinian Journalists

Juan Cole: Top Ten Myths about Israeli Attack on Gaza

Ahram: Bel Trew and Nada El-Kouny - Eyewitness from Gaza: Historic convoy breaks the siege

Juan Cole: Gaza’s Health Crisis and Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity

Mona El-Farra: "No Place is Safe" - After Assault’s Worst Day, Gaza Doctor Says Israel Terrorizing Civilians (Democracy Now)

Phyllis Bennis: Gaza Ceasefire to Be Decided in Cairo, But Will Washington Reign In Israeli Occupation, Blockade? (Democracy Now)

Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams on Gaza: "We Can’t Support Punishing an Entire Population" (Democracy Now)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Democracy Now: Naomi Klein - Sandy’s Devastation Opens Space for Action on Climate Change and Progressive Reform

Sandy’s Devastation Opens Space for Action on Climate Change and Progressive Reform
by Naomi Klein
Democracy Now

At a speaking event in New York City this week, award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein discussed why the reconstruction from Superstorm Sandy is actually a great place to usher in progressive change. Klein’s latest article for The Nation magazine is called, "Superstorm Sandy — a People’s Shock?" She is the author of the best-selling book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," and is now working on a book about climate change.

To Watch the Episode

Democracy Now: Pamela Brown - Rolling Jubilee - Buying Up Distressed Debt, Occupy Offshoot Bails Out the People, Not the Banks

Rolling Jubilee: Buying Up Distressed Debt, Occupy Offshoot Bails Out the People, Not the Banks
Democracy Now

An offshoot of Occupy Wall Street has launched a new movement called "Rolling Jubilee" to buy distressed debt from financial firms, often for pennies on the dollar, and then canceling it so that borrowers do not have to repay. The people who incurred the debt in the first place then get a certified letter informing them they are off the hook. Typically, financial institutions sell debt for pennies on the dollar to third parties who either try to collect on it or bundle it up for resale. However, the Rolling Jubilee activists say they are buying up the debt in order to "liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal." Tonight, Rolling Jubilee is holding a sold-out benefit concert in New York City to continue its anti-debt fundraising. The group says it has already raised $129,000 through online donations, which is enough to buy approximately $2.5 million worth of defaulted loans, due to their steep markdowns. We’re joined by Pamela Brown, a Ph.D. student in sociology at the New School and one of the organizers of the Rolling Jubilee. She also is participating in the Occupy Sandy efforts to organize local relief efforts to people hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy.

To Watch the Episode

Democracy Now: Mohammed Omer - Breaking Truce, Israeli Strikes Kill "Moderate" Hamas Military Chief, Palestinian Civilians in Gaza

Breaking Truce, Israeli Strikes Kill "Moderate" Hamas Military Chief, Palestinian Civilians in Gaza
Democracy Now

Israel is threatening to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip after breaking an informal ceasefire with an ongoing series of deadly attacks. At least 13 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including a baby and a mother pregnant with twins, in addition to more than 100 wounded. Israel says it has launched the strikes to prevent Palestinian rocket fire, but the latest round of violence began last week when Israeli troops killed a young boy in Gaza. The situation has escalated since Saturday, when Palestinian militants fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Israel-Gaza border. After Palestinian militant groups agreed to an informal truce on Monday, Israel broke two days of quiet with Wednesday’s attack. Israel’s attack on Gaza marks its largest since the U.S.-backed operation that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians nearly four years ago. We go to Gaza City to speak with Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer.


Mohammed Omer, Palestinian journalist, reporting from Gaza.

To Watch the Report

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Black Mountain: Mary Lou (Live)

Webster's Word-of-the-Day: Watershed

watershed \WAW-ter-shed\


1 a : a dividing ridge between drainage areas

b : a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water

2 : a crucial dividing point, line, or factor : turning point

"Historians generally agree that the battle was a watershed in the war."

"Penn State's 38–29 win over previously unbeaten Northwestern felt like a watershed, the end of purgatory at the very least." — From an article by Mike Gross in the Intelligencer Journal/New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), October 8, 2012

Opinion on the literal geographic meaning of "watershed" is divided. On one side of the debate are those who think the word can only refer to a ridge of land separating rivers and streams flowing in one direction from those flowing in the opposite direction. That's the term's original meaning, one probably borrowed in the translation of the German Wasserscheide. On the other side of the argument are those who think "watershed" can also apply to the area through which such divided water flows. The latter sense is now far more common in America, but most Americans have apparently decided to leave the quarrel to geologists and geographers while they use the term in its figurative sense, "turning point."

Paul Oliver: Michel Foucault - The Development of Knowledge

The Development of Knowledge

Foucault was very interested in the history of knowledge, but not in a conventional sense. The history of knowledge has often been thought of as a series of events such as discoveries, inventions and journeys across previously uncharted areas. It was not, however, in this sense that Foucault perceived the history of knowledge. He was interested, first, in the way in which a particular set of ideas or a world view was pre-eminent for a long period of time, only to be replaced, either gradually or suddenly, by a different set of ideas. Secondly, he was also interested in the way in which concepts change over a long time period. While the word used to represent a concept may not change, the idea or ideas represented by the concept certainly do change. In other words, Foucault was less interested in the facts associated with the changes in knowledge, as with the mechanisms and processes by which our understanding of the world alters. Moreover, he saw ideological systems as exerting great influence over our ideas, and was interested in the way in which one belief system becomes liberated from one ideology, only to find itself later constrained by a different ideology. Foucault observed that history is often presented as a series of facts or events, completely dissociated from the nature of human society, and yet for him history was always firmly embedded in the thoughts and perceptions of human beings. As history was a human creation, it was subject to different interpretations at different times.


In Foucault's view, historical events are seen as a social construction, rather than as disembodied facts. For example, when someone is removed from power, it is not seen as a specific event at a particular time, but as the product of a complex interaction between human beings. Quite apart from the event itself, the manner in which it is perceived is also understood as a social interpretation. History is seen as a series of social interactions, rather than isolated events.

Much of human intellectual endeavor has been concerned with an attempt to understand the nature of historical development in purely rational terms. In other words, scholars have tried to understand the development of history by explaining it as a logical, sequential process that ultimately could lead to a more complete appreciation of the human condition. Foucault challenged the possibility of such a rational analysis, seeing history as much more unpredictable. [MB notes: Oliver suggests Foucault's books The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1970) and The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972) as references here -- although the reader should be aware this was Foucault's early writings and his methods/perspectives/theories would change as he, and his society, changed over the years.]

Foucault described his study of the history of knowledge as 'archaeology', an apt metaphor to refer to his efforts to gradually reveal the layers of human understanding that had existed in different epochs. One of Foucault's interesting suggestions was that human beings do not specifically and intentionally create systems of thought. Rather, the latter are a product of the activities of human beings. In other words, particular ways of acting or thinking presuppose a specific pattern of knowledge, which then become characteristic of a particular historical period. (19-21)

Oliver, Paul. Foucault: The Key Ideas. Black Lick, OH: McGraw-Hill, 2010.

David Cromwell and David Edwards: 'Sworn Enemies'? A Response To George Monbiot

A brilliant response from David Edwards and David Cromwell to liberal journalist George Monbiot (The Guardian) who complained when they pointed out inconsistencies in his reporting:

Media Lens: 'Sworn Enemies'? A Response To George Monbiot."

Michael Levitin: Europe Faces a Multi-National General Strike Against Austerity

Europe Faces a Multi-National General Strike Against Austerity
By Michael Levitin
Time World

Austerity has spawned general strikes in individual countries across the troubled European Union. But this week may see something to add to the union’s tensions: a coordinated, multi-national mega-strike. Organized labor plans a general strike against the E.U.’s austerity policies, borderless and spanning the south of the continent. With more than 25 million people out of work, Europe’s biggest unions have vowed to lead marches and demonstrations on Nov. 14 that unite opposition parties, activist movements like Spain’s M15 and a growing sea of unemployed to challenge their national governments, banking leaders, the IMF and EU policymakers to abandon austerity cuts ahead of a high-stakes budgetmeeting in Brussels later this month.

What makes Wednesday’s strike even more threatening to Europe’s managerial elite is the strong support it is receiving from traditional labor groups that rarely send their members into the streets—foremost, among them, the European Trade Union Confederation, representing 85 labor organizations from 36 countries, and totaling some 60 million members. “We have never seen an international strike with unions across borders fighting for the same thing—it’s not just Spain, not just Portugal, it’s many countries demanding that we change our structure,” says Alberto Garzón, a Spanish congressman with the United Left party which holds 7% of seats in the Spanish Congress. “It’s important to understand this is a new form of protest.”

The strike is expected to cause near or total shutdowns of the four most debt-battered countries—Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece—as all major unions march to oppose devastating cuts in salaries, pensions, benefits and social services, meanwhile protesting tax hikes and harsh labor reforms. There will be solidarity marches elsewhere. Though not formally striking, France’s largest labor groups signaled support with dozens of demonstrations planned nationwide. Rail workers in Belgium are striking; so are labor groups in Malta and Cyprus. In Britain, organizer Andrew Burgin of the Coalition of Resistance said marches and demonstrations there would “forge links across Europe, showing Britain’s austerity struggles as part of a pan-European, international movement.” And from Germany and Switzerland to Turkey, eastern Europe and Scandinavia, workers and many organizations have promised to rally around the single message: No to austerity.

To Read the Rest of the Article

More Resources:

Madrid, Spain (11/14/2012)

Democracy Now: General Strike Sweeps Europe as Millions Reject Austerity as Solution to Economic Crisis

RT: Mega strike hits Europe: LIVE UPDATES

Jerome Roos for ROAR: #14N: millions join largest European strike ever

Al Jazeera: Anti-austerity strikes erupt across Europe - Workers across the continent are protesting against unemployment and spending cuts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Unwelcome Guests #622 - Resisting The Military Financial Complex (Just Say No To Debt Repayment)

Episode #622 - Resisting The Military Financial Complex (Just Say No To Debt Repayment)
Unwelcome Guests

[The] first hour [is] a recent talk by Noam Chomsky on the larger picture of global politics. To understand the truth about the Cold War, he notes, we need only look at what happened when it came to an end; the US maintained the same policies (of global dominance by military means) but changed the pretexts - in so doing effectively admitting that the previous pretexts had been a fiction. Looking at the Middle East, especially Iran and Israel he highlights the hypocrisy of US's stated position. If Iran were to carry out 'cyberwafare' against them, or carry out hostile acts of finance, then this is sufficient ground for a military attack; at the same time, the US has already carried out both such attacks against Iran and is proud of the fact. The same amoral hypocrisy, he notes, is at play within the US - whereby an elite few dictate terms to the vast majority. Large corporations, for example, have been aggressively promoting what they [call] 'free market' doctrines. i.e. state support for bilking tax players. Chomsky concludes that this is likely to continue for as long as taxpayers allow the super rich to get away with it.

[The] second hour [is the soundtrack] of Story of Change, a recent short video by Annie Leonard, who highlights 3 key factors needed for social change: 1) An idea, 2) A group of people who unite behind it & 3) Their willingness to take action. Only the third factor is missing, she says.

Next [is] Aaron, an Occupy activist who reports on what the movement is doing to mark its first anniversary. As well as mass training for proactive resistance, Occupy is organizing a debt resistance movement, which is 'gaining a lot of traction' in [the] US. He also mentions that Occupy activists are getting help from financiers who have given up believing that authorities will ever prosecute any of the fraud that is rampant in the 'financial services' sector. After the soundtrack of part 2 of the Keynes and Hayek economics video which we first heard in episode 617, ... the show [concludes with a] reading from David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years. In this, the final chapter, he looks at how neo-liberal policies served to put the populace on notice that 'all deals were off' as regards standard of living, and how even the rise of finance capital succeeded in putting more and more people in debt, a media machine swung into action that promoted "debt as the new fat" - emphasizing the role of 'discretionary spending' in debt as opposed to the main cause of medical bills. A 'double theology' was created, whereby the ability to make money out of nothing was a sign of divine blessing for the rich, but the poor were not encouraged to be so creative, simply to tighten their belts and keep working harder to pay down debts.

To Listen to the Episode

Glenn Greenwald: FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation

FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation: That the stars of America's national security establishment are being devoured by out-of-control surveillance is a form of sweet justice.
by Glenn Greenwald
The Guardian

The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning - "Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers' Ethics" - illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it's only adultery that causes "concern" over their "ethics"). Nonetheless, several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state.

As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley - a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) - received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation:

"The emails that Jill Kelley showed an FBI friend near the start of last summer were not jealous lover warnings like 'stay away from my man', a knowledgeable source tells The Daily Beast. . . .

"'More like, 'Who do you think you are? . . .You parade around the base . . . You need to take it down a notch,'" according to the source, who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name.

"The source reports that the emails did make one reference to Gen. David Petraeus, but it was oblique and offered no manifest suggestion of a personal relationship or even that he was central to the sender's spite. . . .

"When the FBI friend showed the emails to the cyber squad in the Tampa field office, her fellow agents noted the absence of any overt threats.

"No, 'I'll kill you' or 'I'll burn your house down,'' the source says. 'It doesn't seem really that bad.'

"The squad was not even sure the case was worth pursuing, the source says.

"'What does this mean? There's no threat there. This is against the law?' the agents asked themselves by the source's account.

"At most the messages were harassing. The cyber squad had to consult the statute books in its effort to determine whether there was adequate legal cause to open a case.

"'It was a close call,' the source says.

"What tipped it may have been Kelley's friendship with the agent."

That this deeply personal motive was what spawned the FBI investigation is bolstered by the fact that the initial investigating agent "was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors' concerns that he was personally involved in the case" - indeed, "supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter" - and was found to have "allegedly sent shirtless photos" to Kelley, and "is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI".

[The New York Times this morning reports that the FBI claims the emails contained references to parts of Petraeus' schedule that were not publicly disclosed, though as Marcy Wheeler documents, the way the investigation proceeded strongly suggests that at least the initial impetus behind it was a desire to settle personal scores.]

What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI's investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime - or the need for any search warrant:

"Because the sender's account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques - including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address - to identify who was writing the e-mails.

"Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus's account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages."

So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime - at most, they had a case of "cyber-harassment" more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people - and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.

To Read the Rest of the Column

The Coup: Not Yet Free

Fault Lines: Chile Rising

Simon Hooper: British ban squatting to tackle ‘anarchists’ -- Squatting in empty properties is now a criminal offence, but homeless people say they are being unfairly criminalised

British ban squatting to tackle ‘anarchists’: Squatting in empty properties is now a criminal offence, but homeless people say they are being unfairly criminalised.
by Simon Hooper
Al Jazeera

London, UK - "Todd" was 18 when he came to the United Kingdom from Lithuania in 2005 in search of a better life. But things didn't work out. By 2009, with the British economy ravaged by recession, he had lost his job and had nowhere to live.

"I had really bad depression so I couldn't hold a job. I ended up sleeping rough on the streets. My mental health was deteriorating... I had suicidal thoughts," he recalls.

Todd - an adopted Anglicisation of his Lithuanian name - ended up in Brighton, a town on England's south coast with a reputation for tolerance, a vibrant arts scene and a homelessness problem. It was there that he began to rebuild his life, finding a vital support network among those squatting in the town's ample stock of empty and neglected buildings and sometimes opening them up as impromptu galleries and cultural spaces.

British squatters face eviction after law change

"I call myself houseless, not homeless. We are a community and we help each other out," he explains. "There is a lot of support and there is always somebody to talk to. Living like this, you're always in control of your own life. You don't have the money to support yourself food-wise, maybe, but you can go and get it from skips. It's still the same food."

But tens of thousands like Todd who seek shelter in unoccupied properties now risk arrest and imprisonment under a government-backed campaign to outlaw squatting.

Under a law in place since the beginning of September, squatting in empty residential properties in England and Wales is already a criminal offence, with those convicted facing months in prison and steep fines. The ministry of justice estimates that up to 2,000 people could be prosecuted each year.

Supporters of the law, including David Cameron, the British prime minister, argue that banning squatting is necessary to protect homeowners and landlords, to prevent associated anti-social and criminal behaviour, and to give the police and courts greater powers to evict, arrest and prosecute those engaged in it.

'Targets the vulnerable'

Recently, Mike Weatherley, the main architect of that legislation, met Chris Grayling, the justice minister, to discuss its extension to commercial properties as well.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Weatherley, whose Hove constituency is adjacent to Brighton, said that the law needed to be tougher because squatters were taking advantage of a "loophole" allowing the occupation of properties that were part-commercial and part-residential, such as pubs.

"The police like it, the public like it, it's a good law, and those who says it's not are just anarchists," said Weatherley. "These properties belong to somebody and the law for too long has been ineffectual."

But opponents say that the ban targets the vulnerable at a time when cuts to public services and benefits, high unemployment and a shortage of social housing mean that, for some, sleeping in a squat may be the last option before sleeping on the streets.

Squatting campaigners say there are also hundreds of thousands of properties being left empty and falling into dereliction even as rising rents and high property prices have left growing numbers struggling to find affordable accommodation.

"All it's doing is criminalising homeless people in the middle of a housing crisis," said Joseph Blake of the Squatters' Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) pressure group. He cited the case of a 21-year-old man, Alex Haigh, who in September became the first person to be jailed under the new law.

"The people who are being affected are those using squatting as the final means to get a roof over their head. Alex Haigh has gone to prison for sheltering in a building that had been empty for a year-and-a-half. We think squatting needs to be there as a last resort, especially in tough times."

Homelessness in many areas of the UK has risen sharply in recent years, with the latest government figures showing more than 50,000 families and individuals in need of emergency accommodation in 2012, a 25 percent rise since 2009.

Charities and campaigners argue that the actual number of "hidden homeless", including rough sleepers and those sleeping on sofas, is much higher. Up to 50,000 people are estimated to be living in squats, including about half now illegally in residential properties, and research by the charity Crisis showed that almost 40 percent of homeless people have resorted to squatting at some point, often in bleak and squalid conditions.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Thomas Frank: Too Smart to Fail -- Notes on an Age of Folly

Too Smart to Fail: Notes on an Age of Folly
by Thomas Frank
The Baffler

In the twelve hapless years of the present millennium, we have looked on as three great bubbles of consensus vanity have inflated and burst, each with consequences more dire than the last.

First there was the “New Economy,” a millennial fever dream predicated on the twin ideas of a people’s stock market and an eternal silicon prosperity; it collapsed eventually under the weight of its own fatuousness.

Second was the war in Iraq, an endeavor whose launch depended for its success on the turpitude of virtually every class of elite in Washington, particularly the tough-minded men of the media; an enterprise that destroyed the country it aimed to save and that helped to bankrupt our nation as well.

And then, Wall Street blew up the global economy. Empowered by bank deregulation and regulatory capture, Wall Street enlisted those tough-minded men of the media again to sell the world on the idea that financial innovations were making the global economy more stable by the minute. Central banks puffed an asset bubble like the world had never seen before, even if every journalist worth his byline was obliged to deny its existence until it was too late.

These episodes were costly and even disastrous, and after each one had run its course and duly exploded, I expected some sort of day of reckoning for their promoters. And, indeed, the last two disasters combined to force the Republican Party from its stranglehold on American government—for a time.

But what rankles now is our failure, after each of these disasters, to come to terms with how we were played. Each separate catastrophe should have been followed by a wave of apologies and resignations; taken together—and given that a good percentage of the pundit corps signed on to two or even three of these idiotic storylines—themy mandated mass firings in the newsrooms and op-ed pages of the nation. Quicker than you could say “Ahmed Chalabi,” an entire generation of newsroom fools should have lost their jobs.

But that’s not what happened. Plenty of journalists have been pushed out of late, but the ones responsible for deluding the public are not among them. Neocon extraordinaire Bill Kristol won a berth at the New York Times (before losing it again), Charles Krauthammer is still the thinking conservative’s favorite, George Will drones crankily on, Thomas Friedman remains our leading dispenser of nonsense neologisms, and Niall Ferguson wipes his feet on a welcome mat that will never wear out. The day Larry Kudlow apologizes for slagging bubble-doubters as part of a sinister left-wing trick is the day the world will start spinning in reverse. Standard & Poor’s first leads the parade of folly (triple-A’s for everyone!), then decides to downgrade U.S. government debt, and is taken seriously in both endeavors. And the prospect of Fox News or CNBC apologizing for their role in puffing war bubbles and financial bubbles is no better than a punch line: what they do is the opposite, launching new movements that stamp their crumbled fables “true” by popular demand.

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Still We Ride (USA: Andrew Lynn, Elizabeth Press and Chris Ryan, 2005)

Dead Prez: No Way as the Way

Two Upcoming Horror Films: World War Z and Warm Bodies

This one looks like a wretched horror film playing on elite fears of the "unwashed masses."

World War Z (USA: Marc Forster, 2013)

This one looks like it is coming from a different direction.

Warm Bodies (USA: Jonathan Levine, 2013)

The Colbert Report: 'Ass Off A Raccoon That Drowned In Your Birdbath' Is Preferable To Papa Johns

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Laura Webb: Landmarks and Memory - On the "When separate is not equal” bus

Landmarks and Memory: On the “When separate is not equal” bus
By Laura Webb
North of Center

On the afternoon of Saturday, October 13, NoC’s Film Department and I went willingly to a type of space we usually avoid: a church parking lot. Granted, we were not there in search of eternal salvation (much to my relatives’ disappointment, I’m sure), but instead as attendants of the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice’s bus tour of Historic Lexington, part of its ongoing “Voices” event series. The theme of this year’s series, “When Separate is Not Equal: Yesterday and Today,” focused on segregation and the struggle for civil rights.

From African American enclaves such as Kincaidtown (now known as the East End) to more recent inconsistencies in downtown restoration and development, Lexington has a long history of creating segregated spaces. Official area histories tend to recognize, and city revitalization efforts tend to prioritize, the upkeep and maintenance of spaces coded white and upper-class, often directly at the expense of black neighborhoods, landmarks and histories.

To cite one example, the popular Cheapside park — home to the recently developed Fifth Third Bank Pavilion and the substantial Lexington Farmer’s Market, as well as other well-publicized events — features prominent statues lauding two Kentucky Confederates, John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge. In revitalizing the area, the Breckinridge statue was moved to an even more prominent location abutting Main Street. Meanwhile, the square’s historical role as a slave market was only overtly acknowledged with a historical marker in 2003, and even then this marker is effectively hidden behind the old courthouse and beneath a tree. (It goes without saying that the plaque was left untouched during the recent renovation that moved the Breckenridge statue.)

Given the general lack of citywide interest in acknowledging landmarks important to Lexington’s African American community, a tour focused specifically on black landmarks about town naturally drew my attention. I was far from disappointed. Our guide, Yvonne Giles (founder and director of the Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum Gallery), amazed me with her depth and breadth of knowledge.

Wiping the landscape

As our new hybrid bus departed from First African Baptist Church, Giles began to outline the processes that would recurrently arise throughout the tour. Historically, black spaces such as hospitals and cemeteries were physically separated from white ones. As the city developed over time, important black spaces have been lost even as corresponding white spaces have been preserved.

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Faith No More: Angel Dust

Gomorrah and the Gangster Film

Gomorrah (Italy: Matteo Garrone, 2008: 137 mins)

Bochenski, Matt. "Gomorrah." Little White Lies (October 10, 2008)

Curti, Roberto. "File Under Fire: A brief history of Italian crime films." Offscreen (November 30, 2007)

Greenburg, Kathryn Elizabeth. "Rewriting Historical Neorealism in Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah." (A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the Department of Romance Languages, 2010.)

Ivey, Prudence. "Gomorrah Actors Arrested." Little White Lies (October 13, 2008)

Ming, Wu. "The New Italian Epic." Opening talk @ the conference "The Italian Perspective on Metahistorical Fiction: The New Italian Epic." Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London, UK. (October 2, 2008)

Stephens, Chuck. "Gomorrah: Terminal Beach." Criterion (November 23, 2009)

The Godfather (USA: Francis Ford Coppola, 1972: 175 mins)

Freedman, Carl. "Hobbes After Marx, Scorsese After Coppola: On GoodFellas." Film International (2011)

---. "The Supplement of Coppola: Primitive Accumulation and the Godfather Trilogy." Film International 9.1 (2011): 8-41

Gamman, Lorraine. "If Looks Could Kill: On gangster suits and silhouettes." Moving Image Source (May 8, 2012)

MacDowell, James. "John Cazale: Stepped Over." Alternate Takes (June 12, 2012)

Goodfellas (USA: Martin Scorsese, 1990: 146 mins)

Freedman, Carl. "Hobbes After Marx, Scorsese After Coppola: On GoodFellas." Film International (2011)

---. "The Supplement of Coppola: Primitive Accumulation and the Godfather Trilogy." Film International 9.1 (2011): 8-41

Gamman, Lorraine. "If Looks Could Kill: On gangster suits and silhouettes." Moving Image Source (May 8, 2012)

"A Life in Pictures: Martin Scorsese." BAFTA (April 6, 2011)