Thursday, January 31, 2013

Democracy Now: May Ying Welsh and Hannah Armstrong - US Administration Aids French Bombing of Mali After U.S.-Trained Forces Join Rebels in Uranium-Rich Region

[MB: More background history for the French and US intervention in Mali (and NW Africa) -- this is from two weeks ago, but it is an important mapping out of some of the historical context that is needed to understand why this is happening and the groups involved.]

Admin Aids French Bombing of Mali After U.S.-Trained Forces Join Rebels in Uranium-Rich Region
Democracy Now

France is in its fifth day of an offensive to oust rebels that have held much of Mali’s northern region since March, an area larger than Afghanistan. The strikes have reportedly killed 11 civilians, including three children fleeing the bombardment of a camp near the central town of Konna. The United Nations estimates as many as 30,000 may have been displaced since fighting began last week. The United States has backed the offensive by helping transport French troops and making plans to send drones or other surveillance aircraft. It is aiding a fight against Malian forces that it once helped train, only to see them defect and join the Islamist rebellion. We discuss the latest in Mali with Al Jazeera correspondent May Ying Welsh, who has reported from Mali’s north, and with freelance journalist Hannah Armstrong, a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs, who joins us from the Malian capital of Bamako.


May Ying Welsh, correspondent for Al Jazeera English who recently reported from inside Mali’s restive northern region and is currently working on a documentary about Mali.

Hannah Armstrong, Bamako-based research fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs. She has been analyzing the Sahel region of Africa for the past five years and spent the past year in Mali, Muaritania and Tunisia.

To Watch the Episode

Maximum Rock n Roll Radio #1333

Maximum Rock n Roll Radio #1333

Intro song:
AYE NAKO – Good Grief

Greg sorts through the newly-arrived bin…
EXUSAMWA – Thank You, Teachers
NO MORE ART – Tough to Breathe
UPPGÅNG OCH FALL – Partytt Är Över
RAS – Ras
THE STOPS – Wait for Today

Sick new shit
LAS OTRAS – Asesinos
SYNTHETIC ID – Waterlogged
BELGRADO – Vicious Circle

One-woman bedroom party
CASUAL DOTS – E.S.P. for Now
LIVID – Be a Man
BLOOD SAUSAGE – Dennis Lavant
MISTAKES – 16 Pins
DOG FACED HERMANS – How Much Vegetation Have You Got?

“The modern sidewalk sound…”
MECCA NORMAL – Water Cuts My Hands
THE SPELLS – Octaves Apart
SOME VELVET SIDEWALK – Valley of the Clock
TOURETTES – Horse Girl

Outro song:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jane's Addiction: I Would For You

High winds, up and down weather patterns, serious thoughts and playful attitude --> plus missing my lover ... sometimes you miss someone so bad that every cell in your body vibrates with that lack (whether it is 10 second or ten months since you last saw each other)... my thoughts and feelings this morning as I was heading to work and then this started to play...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Synchron City (Mix) by J. Sprig

Synchron City from J. Sprig on Vimeo.

Words for Critical Citizens #6: nomothetic


: relating to, involving, or dealing with abstract, general, or universal statements or laws

"Even the authors that emphasize the existence of cross-cultural differences … acknowledge that a nomothetic characterization of a country cannot apply equally to every member of its population." — From an article by Jaime Bonache et al. in the Journal of Business Research, December 2012

"Moreover, there is the often-incorrect assumption that crimes and offenders are sufficiently similar to be lumped together for aggregate study. In such cases the resulting nomothetic knowledge is not just diluted, it is inaccurate and ultimately misleading." —From Brent E. Turvey's 2011 book Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis, Fourth Edition

Assuck: Anticapital Blindspot (Full Album)

[Thanks to Andy Yates for introducing me to this band]

Basil of Caesaria: "Which Things are Yours?"

Which things, tell me, are yours? Whence have you brought your goods into life? You are like one occupying a place in a theater, who should prohibit others from entering, treating that as his own which was designed for the common use of all. Such are the rich. Because they preoccupy common goods, they take these goods as their own. If each one would take that which is sufficient for his needs, leaving what is superfluous to those in distress, no one would be rich, no one poor ... The rich man is a thief.

Basil of Caesaria was the Bishop Caesaria Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He was sainted in both the Western and Eastern traditions of Christianity. He gave away his family inheritance to help the poor.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Maurice Cobbs: On Tailwind's Child Toy "Drone"

Maurice Cobbs provides this excellent comment for the child toy "drone" made by Tailwind and listed on Amazon: "You've had a busy play day - You've wiretapped Mom's cell phone and e-mail without a warrant, you've indefinitely detained your little brother Timmy in the linen closet without trial, and you've confiscated all the Super-Soakers from the neighborhood children (after all, why does any kid - besides you, of course - even NEED a Super-Soaker for self-defense? A regular water pistol should be enough). What do you do for an encore?

That's where the US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator from Maisto comes in. Let's say that Dad has been labeled a terrorist in secret through your disposition matrix. Rather than just arrest him and go through the hassle of trying and convicting him in a court of law, and having to fool with all those terrorist-loving Constitutional protections, you can just use one of these flying death robots to assassinate him! Remember, due process and oversight are for sissies. Plus, you get the added bonus of taking out potential terrorists before they've even done anything - estimates have determined that you can kill up to 49 potential future terrorists of any age for every confirmed terrorist you kill, and with the innovative 'double-tap' option, you can even kill a few terrorist first responders, preventing them from committing terrorist acts like helping the wounded and rescuing survivors trapped in the rubble. Don't let Dad get away with anti-American activities! Show him who's boss, whether he's at a wedding, a funeral, or just having his morning coffee. Sow fear and carnage in your wake! Win a Nobel Peace Prize and be declared Time Magazine's Person of the Year - Twice!

This goes well with the Maisto Extraordinary Rendition playset, by the way - which gives you all the tools you need to kidnap the family pet and take him for interrogation at a neighbor's house, where the rules of the Geneva Convention may not apply. Loads of fun!


Tim Parks: In Praise of the Language Police

In Praise of the Language Police
by Tim Parks
New York Review of Books


By the same token, very little is said of the mediating work of translators, even though we know that where a great piece of literature has been translated more than once, the various versions can sound quite different and obviously owe a great deal not just to the technical expertise but also the personality and mindset of people we usually know nothing about. In general, we don’t like to think of creative writing as a joint venture, and when it emerges, for example, that Raymond Carver allowed his work to be drastically edited, our appreciation of him, and indeed the work, is at least temporarily diminished. We want to think of our writers as geniuses occupying positions of absolute independence in relation to a tediously conventional society. Conversely, we abhor, or believe we abhor, the standard and the commonplace.

Yet nobody requires the existence of a standard and a general pressure to conform more than the person who wishes to assume a position outside it. It is essential for the creative writer that there be, or be perceived to be, a usual way of saying things, if a new or unusual way is to stand out and to provoke some excitement. So when D. H. Lawrence in Women in Love writes of Gudrun’s insomnia after first making love to Gerald that she was “destroyed into perfect consciousness,” he needs the reader to sense at once that this is syntactically anomalous; a person can be “transformed into,” “turned into,” “changed into” but not “destroyed into.” The syntactical shock underlines Lawrence’s unconventional view of consciousness as a negative rather than positive state, which again is emphasized by the unexpected use of the word “perfect,” rather than a more immediately understandable and neutral “intense.”

Naturally, anyone writing with this level of creativity needs a copy editor willing to accept that rules can be bent and broken. But that doesn’t mean such editors have no role. It is important that the “special effect” stand out from a background of more conventional prose, and that a deliberate departure not be mistaken as something merely regional, British perhaps, or simply that there not be so much clutter around it of one kind or other that it is hardly noticed. George Orwell, a champion of strict grammar as a vehicle of clear thinking, memorably begins 1984 with a very simple, almost embarrassingly conventional novel-opener of a sentence in order that the anomaly constituted by the last word pack a big punch: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” In a different field, David Hume, when presenting his radical and unconventional philosophy, did everything to remove from his writing any indication of his Scottishness, sending drafts to friends to have them check his writing for “Scottishisms.” It was not that he thought standard English superior, just that he did not want a reader’s attention to be distracted from his main purpose.

The editor’s job then becomes one of helping the writer to see where an unessential, perhaps unconscious departure from the norm is actually draining energy away from places where the text is excitingly unconventional. That is, the editor reminds an author that to construct a coherent identity he has to remember his relationship with society and with the language we share and cannot express ourselves without. To go out on a limb linguistically, accepting no compromise and creating an idiolect that really is entirely your own, may win awed admiration, as did Finnegans Wake, but will likely not attract many readers, and arguably does not allow for the communication of nuance, since all the ordinary reader will understand is that you are indeed off on a trip on your own; even Joyce’s hitherto staunch supporter Pound had no truck with it.


To Read the Rest of the Essay

Jerry Mander: Privatization of Consciousness

Privatization of Consciousness
by Jerry Mander
Monthly Review

Is advertising legal? Most people agree that it is an uninvited intrusion into our lives and our minds, an invasion of privacy. But the fact that we can be aware of this without being furious, and that we do little to change the situation, is a good measure of our level of submission. There is a power relationship in advertising that is rarely, if ever, looked at, and yet it is a profoundly corrupt one. Some speak; others listen.

A. J. Liebling famously said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed, but only if you own one.” Freedom of speech is also guaranteed. But only if you have a few million dollars for an effective media strategy. Soapbox oratory doesn’t sway the public anymore. But the powers of advertising go well beyond the amount of money spent. The true power is in the nature of moving-image media, projected for hours every day into human brains. It’s a form of intrusion we have never before in history had to face. Even now in the Internet age, the powers of television and advertising are undiminished and insufficiently examined or discussed.

Very early in my advertising career, it became clear to me that I was being paid to stop you from doing or thinking whatever else you might want to do or think, and instead get you to focus on the piece of information that was of interest to my client. All advertising is an attempt by one party to dominate the other. More than $150 billion is now spent annually in advertising in this country—$450 billion in the world. Every dollar of that has the same purpose: to get people to do what the advertiser wants. Very few people have a similar opportunity to speak back through media, to make demands on the advertisers. Or to suggest some other way to find happiness besides buying things. This makes it a very one-sided deal. Advertisers say that you have the choice of not buying their products, as though that’s satisfactory. You get to say yes or no, like voting a one-party ballot. And you get to say it thousands of times per day.

Advertising is now literally everywhere, interrupting our lives at every turn, requiring that we deal with it. We walk through life as a kind of moving target; hawked at by media, hawked at by signs on the street —blinking, flowing, five stories high. Even clothes have ads on them, and we wear them proudly. Corporations have become like “community” for us. Steve Jobs was our guru. We mourn him as we once mourned Martin Luther King. What a transition.

The situation has advanced to a capitalist utopia: a giant, nonstop global marketplace that carries itself into all our experiences. Life has become a process of constantly avoiding things that people are trying to sell us. Yet most people don’t complain.

Why do we tolerate this? What right do advertisers have to treat us this way? When did we sell the rights to run pictures in our brains? If the airwaves are public, then why are they filled with people selling things all day without our permission? In fact, the “public airwaves” are supposed to be a “public commons.” We own them. In the early radio days, you and a few friends could throw up an antenna behind the house and speak to the world. It was like the early Internet days—YouTube, radio-style.

That stopped when the broadcast frequencies got crowded and capitalists realized what a crucial instrument this could become. The FCC fell quickly in line with the corporations during the 1920s and started selling off our public rights to the airwaves, granting licenses to commercial interests who could pay. Over the years it made little rules about “fairness and balance” and “equal time,” but those rules and rights were soon overpowered and, under Ronald Reagan and then Bill Clinton (who helped launch the infamous Telecommunications Act of 1996), effectively eliminated. The “public airwaves” are now nearly totally privatized. Even the remnants of public airwaves, like PBS and NPR, now have commercials. When the PBS NewsHour reports some horror story about Chevron’s behavior in the Amazon, it feels obliged to say, “Chevron, a ‘sponsor’ of the NewsHour, was today accused of….” I turn off the program the minute I hear that.

The fact that advertising can be occasionally entertaining does not mitigate matters. You could also enjoy a visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses, or from an entertaining vacuum cleaner salesman who came ringing the doorbell five times daily. But you would do that only if you had nothing else to do. Your public airwave commons have been invaded, as has your mental space. If that is not a constitutional invasion of privacy, then what is?

In 1975, I convened a small meeting in my living room in San Francisco, which included some of the leading public interest attorneys in the Bay Area, to ask them if they thought advertising was legal. The way I read the First Amendment, I said, was that its intention was clearly to promote democracy by assuring that all people have equal rights to free speech —at least a fair amount of equality in opportunities for expression —and a similar ability to access all other points of view. When the Bill of Rights was written, in the late 1700s, there were no national broadcast networks that could project one political point of view to millions of people. There was no advertising, either, except for the occasional handbill, to project a particular vision to those same millions of people.

If the goal of the First Amendment was to sustain a democratic flow of information, those days are long gone. The commercial broadcast media speaks to everyone all day and night, and we don’t get to speak back. And those media outlets are owned by a tiny group of megacorporations.

As for advertising, it’s a medium that, by definition, is confined only to the people who can afford to pay for it. The First Amendment wasn’t conceived to give powerful advertising conglomerates power over the people. The advertisers speak their imagery, and we absorb it. Shouldn’t that qualify as a violation of the Constitution? Isn’t that illegal? The group in my living room thought maybe it was, or ought to be, but, given the way the Supreme Court was ruling in those days, they decided there was not yet much opportunity there. Since then, things have only gotten much worse, especially since the Supreme Court’s passage of Citizens United.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Words for Critical Citizens #5: provocateur

provocateur \proh-vah-kuh-TER\

: one who incites or stimulates another to action

The show's host is a notable provocateur who has made a career of creating controversy for its own sake.

"The 66-year-old director has always fared best as a provocateur. His 1991 film, JFK, might not be great history, but it did prompt the release of thousands of pages of previously classified documents. [Oliver] Stone is a relentless stirrer who is never happier than when tipping buckets on the received wisdom." — From an article by Tim Elliott in the Sydney Morning Herald, December 15, 2012

Words for Critical Citizens #4: whelm

whelm \WELM\


1 : to cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect

2 : to overcome in thought or feeling : overwhelm

3 : to pass or go over something so as to bury or submerge it

The avalanche whelmed everything in its path.

"Nevertheless, much will remain whelmed in mystery. Messrs Cameron and Clegg both promised before the general election that the new regime would cover Network Rail, an oddly constituted body laden with publicly backed debt that runs Britain's railway tracks." — From an article in The Economist, January 22, 2011

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Words for Critical Citizens #3: fanfaronade

fanfaronade \fan-fair-uh-NAYD\


: empty boasting : bluster

Having grown weary of the former governor's fanfaronade and lack of concrete action, voters sent a clear message at the polls and elected his opponent by a landslide.

"I don't intend this as an article about how to divorce oneself from conceit, narcissism and fanfaronade…." — From an article by Phil Guarnieri in the Floral Park Dispatch (New York), August 10, 2012

Friedrich Nietzsche: To see differently.....

... to see differently in this way for once, to want to see differently, is no small discipline and preparation of the intellect for its future “objectivity”—the latter understood not as “contemplation without interest” (which is a nonsensical absurdity), but as the ability to control one’s Pro and Con and to dispose of them, so that one knows how to employ a variety of perspectives and affective interpretations in the service of knowledge. … There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective “knowing”; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our “concept” of this thing, our “objectivity,” be.” (Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals: 555)

University of Kentucky: 2013 Greek Cinematography - Critical Approach and Discussion

The University of Kentucky and the College of Arts & Sciences, under the initiative of Prof. Haralambos Symeonidis, are inviting you to a series of Greek films with discussion, screened on 3 Sundays at 5.00 p.m. at the UK Athletic Association Auditorium of the William T. Young Library. The screenings are free of charge.

This event is sponsored by the UK College of Arts & Sciences and the Greek Orthodox Church of Lexington.

January 27th: Stella (Greece: Mihalis Kakogiannis, 1955: 90 mins)

February 24: A Touch of Spice (Greece: Tassos Boulmetis, 2003: 108 mins)

March 31: El Greco (Greece: Yannis Smaragdis, 2007: 119 mins)

The Coup: Pick a Bigger Weapon (Full Album)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Films We Want to See #21: War Witch (Canada: Kim Nguyen, 2012)

Films We Want to See #20: No (Chile/France/USA: Pablo Larraín, 2012)

Words for Critical Citizens #2: Traduce


traduce \truh-DOOSS\


1 : to expose to shame or blame by means of falsehood and misrepresentation

2 : violate, betray

Richard Becker: Re-framing the Discourse Surrounding the Drug Wars

[Framing example for my HUM 221 students, Richard Becker comments]

In a WFPL story on Indiana drug laws, one law enforcement officer stated that "not all potheads may become heroin addicts, but I guarantee every heroin addict started out smoking pot." What I want to know is: how many heroin addicts started out drinking milk?

Craig Crow reminds us: Correlation does not imply causation

Democracy Now: The Invisible War -- New Film Exposes Rape, Sexual Assault Epidemic in U.S. Military

[The Invisible War has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary this year.]

The Invisible War: New Film Exposes Rape, Sexual Assault Epidemic in U.S. Military
Democracy Now

On the heels of a new military survey that the number of reported violent sex crimes jumped 30 percent in 2011, with active-duty female soldiers ages 18 to 21 accounting for more than half of the of the victims, we speak with Trina McDonald and Kori Cioca, two subjects of "The Invisible War,” a new documentary that examines the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the U.S. military, which won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. "Not only was I astounded by the numbers, but when I started talking to the women and men who had experienced this, I was just so devastated by their stories," says the film’s Academy Award-nominated director, Kirby Dick. "These are women and men who are very idealistic. They joined the military because they wanted to serve their country. They were incredible soldiers. And then, when they were assaulted, they had the courage to come forward, even though many people advised them not to," Dick says


Kori Cioca, formerly served in the U.S. Coast Guard, where she was beaten and raped by her supervisor and then charged with adultery because he was married. Cioca is one of the main subjects of the new documentary, The Invisible War.

Trina McDonald, was drugged and raped repeatedly by the military police on her remote Naval station in Adak, Alaska. McDonald is one of the subjects of the new documentary, The Invisible War.

Kirby Dick, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and director of The Invisible War, which just won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

To Watch the Episode

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review of Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow (1997)

The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1)The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I usually browse the science fiction sections of my local bookstores wondering if anything will jump out of the piles of juvenilia, serials and techno-worship. I've always been more an inner-space than an outer space SF reader. That doesn't mean that I dislike aliens, starships and inter-galactic romps, instead, what it means is that the story must contain some exploration of what it means to be human (or better yet, what it means to be sentient). Hard SF techno-geeks (once again I like Hard SF as long as it has the meatier philosophical explorations) like to dismiss this fiction as "soft" SF.

I read to escape, but I also read to learn and to experience beyond my means.

So I have often passed by Mary Doria Russell's novel "The Sparrow" wondering if it could live up to its promise as a "startling, engrossing, and moral work of fiction" (New York Times blurb). Having finally picked it up and slowly got involved with it (I'm usually reading about 4 or 5 things at a time because my work involves reading/researching) and finally getting hooked (I'll be honest, I discard well over half of the books I start, out of frustration with the author's incompetence or laziness) and then becoming obssessed with the solving of the core mystery of what happened to Emilio Sandoz, a South American Jesuit Priest, and his crew who were sent across space to engage a newly discovered sentient species.

This book starts off slowly, introducing its dual, layered narratives, one centered around Emilio after the disastrous mission, the other 40 years earlier as Emilio recounts the journey. The buildup though is worthy of the patient reader and Russell provides a rich array of characters and events in this future society. The mystery is at first vague (other than the recognized outcome) but it draws strength as the narrative progresses and nearly overwhelms the reader in the last 50 pages.

I don't want to give any of the story away, so let me finish with a few themes: Religion, but more so, struggles of faith/non-faith, especially in an age of science; predators and prey amongst sentient societies; contamination and violence in colonial enterprises; institutional power and individual promise; the intertwining of business/military/culture; redemption and renewal; death and destruction; the nature of evil; and our own prejudices. There is one last powerful issue/theme explored in the book, but it is a part of the mystery and cannot be mentioned or else it would give away the story for any potential readers.

Supposedly Brad Pitt's Plan B productions has optioned the film and he wants to play Emilio--it would make a fascinating film, if done with integrity and intelligence.

View all my reviews

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. in 2013

"As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems... But they ask -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government."

- Martin Luther King Jr., "Beyond Vietnam" excerpts from a Speech at Riverside Church Meeting, New York, N.Y., April 4, 1967. In Clayborne Carson et al., eds., Eyes on the Prize: A Reader and Guide (New York: Penguin, 1987), 201-04.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

After Words: Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick -- The Untold History of the United States

Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, "The Untold History of the United States"
hosted by Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
After Words

Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick argue that U.S. leaders must chart a course for the future by first honestly facing what they call the country's troubling history of drifting farther away from its democratic traditions. They talk with Michael Kazin, Georgetown University history professor and co-editor of Dissent magazine.

Oliver Stone is the Academy Award winning director of such films as "Platoon," "Wall Street," "Born on the Fourth of July," and "JFK."

Peter Kuznick is a history professor at American University and director of its award-winning Nuclear Studies Institute. He is also in his third term as a distinguished lecturer with the Organization of American Historians.

To Listen to the Episode

To Watch Episodes of the Showtime series The Untold History of United States on Youtube

Democracy Now: Chris Wood - As U.S. Escalates Pakistan Drone Strikes, Expansive "Kill List" Stirs Fears of Worse Civilian Toll

[MB: I was listening to this while working out yesterday and I was struck by the manipulative word games the US/British government are engaging to cover up citizen casualties -- Jeremy Scahill's public denunciation of these tactics (the word games and indiscriminate drone killings) as murder is an important voice of dissent.]

As U.S. Escalates Pakistan Drone Strikes, Expansive "Kill List" Stirs Fears of Worse Civilian Toll
Democracy Now

At least 27 people have been killed in three consecutive days of U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan, part of a new wave of attacks over the past two weeks. The surge in drone strikes comes just a week after the New York Times revealed that President Obama personally oversees a "secret kill list" containing the names and photos of individuals targeted for assassination in the U.S. drone war. We go to London to speak with Chris Woods, award-winning reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, who heads the Bureau’s drones investigation team. Under the Obama administration’s rules, "any adult male killed in effectively a defined kill zone is a terrorist, unless posthumously proven otherwise," Woods says. "We think this goes a long way to explaining the gulf between our reporting of civilian casualties in Pakistan and Yemen and the reporting of credible international news organizations, and the CIA’s repeated claims that it isn’t killing [civilians], or rather, is killing small numbers. ... If you keep assuring yourself that you’re not killing civilians, by a sleight of hand, effectively, by a redrafting of the term of 'civilian,' than that starts to influence the policy and to encourage you to carry out more drone strikes." Woods adds that the latest attacks "indicate not just a significant rise in the number of CIA strikes in Pakistan, but an aggression for those strikes that we really haven’t seen for over a year."


Chris Woods, award-winning reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London. He leads the Bureau’s drones investigation team.

To Watch the Episode

Trevor Timm: Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments

Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments
By Trevor Timm
Electronic Frontier Foundation

[On December 28th], after just one day of rushed debate, the Senate shamefully voted on a five-year extension to the FISA Amendments Act, an unconsitutional law that openly allows for warrantless surveillance of Americans' overseas communications.

Incredibly, the Senate rejected all the proposed amendments that would have brought a modicum of transparency and oversight to the government's activities, despite previous refusals by the Executive branch to even estimate how many Americans are surveilled by this program or reveal critical secret court rulings interpreting it.

The common-sense amendments the Senate hastily rejected were modest in scope and written with the utmost deference to national security concerns. The Senate had months to consider them, but waited until four days before the law was to expire to bring them to the floor, and then used the contrived time crunch to stifle any chances of them passing.

Sen. Ron Wyden's amendment would not have taken away any of the NSA's powers, it just would have forced intelligence agencies to send Congress a report every year detailing how their surveillance was affecting ordinary Americans. Yet Congress voted to be purposely kept in the dark about a general estimate of how many Americans have been spied on.

You can watch Sen. Ron Wyden's entire, riveting floor speech on the privacy dangers and lack of oversight in the FISA Amendments Act here.

Sen. Jeff Merkley's amendment would have encouraged (not even forced!) the Attorney General to declassify portions of secret FISA court opinions—or just release summaries of them if they were too sensitive. This is something the administration itself promised to do three years ago. We know—because the government has admitted—that at least one of those opinions concluded the government had violated the Constitution. Yet Congress also voted to keep this potentially critical interpretation of a public law a secret.

To Read the Rest of the Report and Access the Hyperlinked Resources

Friday, January 18, 2013

Norman Finkelstein: Waning Jewish American Support for Israel Boosts Chances for Middle East Peace; The Role of BDS & Why Obama Doesn’t Believe His Own Words on Israel-Palestine

Democracy Now

Norman Finkelstein: Waning Jewish American Support for Israel Boosts Chances for Middle East Peace

Well over a year into the Arab Spring, the author and scholar Norman Finkelstein argues that there is a new, albeit quieter, awakening happening here in the United States that could provide a major boost to the winds of change in the Middle East. In his new book, "Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End," Finkelstein contends that American Jewish support for the Israeli government is undergoing a major shift. After decades of staunch backing for Israel that began with the 1967 war through the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, to the repression of two Palestinian intifadas, Finkelstein says that a new generation of American Jews are no longer adopting reflexive support for the state that speaks in their name. With this shift in American Jewish opinion, Finkelstein sees a new opportunity for achieving a just Middle East peace.

To Watch the Episode

Norman Finkelstein on the Role of BDS & Why Obama Doesn’t Believe His Own Words on Israel-Palestine

Norman Finkelstein, author of the new book, "Knowing Too much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End," argues that President Obama’s hawkish support for Israel is belied by his liberal background as a law professor and community organizer. Responding to Obama’s speech this year before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Finkelstein says, "President Obama clearly doesn’t believe a word he’s saying [on Israel-Palestine]. And that’s probably the most troubling or the most disconcerting thing about listening to him. ... He says we have Israel’s back. Well, what he actually means is, rich American Jews have me, meaning Obama, in their pocket, and I have my hands in their pocket." Known as one of Israel’s most prominent critics, Finkelstein says the goal of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions campaign and the broader movement for Middle East peace should be to mobilize public opinion on what most already support: a two-state solution rooted in international law. "Politics is not about personal opinions," Finkelsten says. "It’s about trying to reach a public and getting them to act on their own sense of right and wrong."

To Watch the Episode

Peter Staley and David France: How to Survive a Plague -- As ACT UP Turns 25, New Film Chronicles History of AIDS Activism in U.S.

[MB: Nominated by the Oscars for Best Documentary]

"How to Survive a Plague": As ACT UP Turns 25, New Film Chronicles History of AIDS Activism in U.S.
Democracy Now

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of ACT UP — the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power — an international direct action advocacy group formed by a coalition of activists outraged over the government’s mismanagement of the AIDS crisis. We speak with ACT UP founding member Peter Staley, one of the longest AIDS survivors in the country; and David France, director of the new documentary "How to Survive a Plague," which tells a remarkable history of AIDS activism and how it changed the country. "I’m alive because of that activism," Staley says of the triple drug therapy he was able to take. "This was a major victory this movie tells about getting these therapies. But that was only the beginning of the battle. Now we have these treatments that can keep people alive, and there are still two to three million dying every year. There are more dying now than when we actually got the therapies to save people. So it’s a huge failure of leadership internationally. And it shows a failure of our own healthcare system."


Peter Staley, HIV/AIDS activist featured in How to Survive a Plague. In the mid-’80s, Staley was diagnosed with AIDS. He left his job as a bond trader in New York to work as a full-time activist. He became a founding member of ACT UP in 1987 and served on the board of the American Foundation for AIDS Research until 1991.

David France, director of the new AIDS activism documentary, How to Survive a Plague.

To Watch the Episode

Matt Taibbi: Zero Dark Thirty Is bin Laden's Last Victory

'Zero Dark Thirty' Is bin Laden's Last Victory
by Matt Taibbi
Reader Supported News (Originally published in Rolling Stone)


There's no way to watch Zero Dark Thirty without seeing it as a movie about how torture helped us catch Osama bin Laden. That's why I was blown away when I read this morning that Bigelow is now going with a line that "depiction is not endorsement," that simply showing torture does not amount to publicly approving of it.

If Bigelow really means that, I have a rhetorical question for her: Are audiences not supposed to cheer at the end of the film, when we get bin Laden? They cheered in the theater where I watched it. And is Maya a good character or a bad character? Did she cross some dark line in victory like Michael Corrleone, did she lose her moral self and her humanity chasing her goal like Captain Ahab, or is she just a modern-day Sherlock Holmes (or, hell, John McClane) getting his man in the end?

It seemed to me more the latter than anything else. I barely caught a whiff of a "moral journey/descent" storyline in this film - the closest they came to that was in the first scene, where Maya looks a little grossed out by Clarke's methods. A few minutes later, though, she's all street and everything, wearing a hijab and getting some henchman to throw fists at her suspects on command. She went from queasy to hardass in about ten seconds and we didn't linger on the transformation at all.

Bigelow is such a great storyteller that she has to know, deep inside, that the "depiction is not endorsement" line doesn't wash. You want audiences gripped to the screen, you've gotta give them something to root for, or against. This was definitely not a movie about two vicious and murderous groups of people killing and torturing each other in an endless cycle of increasingly brainless revenge. And this was not a movie about how America lost its values en route to a great strategic victory.

No, this was a straight-up "hero catches bad guys" movie, and the idea that audiences weren't supposed to identify with Maya the torturer is ludicrous. Are we really to believe that viewers aren't supposed to be shimmering in anticipation for her at the end, as she paces back and forth with set-fans whooshing back her beautiful red hair, waiting for her copter to come in? They might as well have put a cape and a Wonder Woman costume on her, that's how subtle that was.

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal clearly spent a lot of time with sources in the CIA who were peddling a version of history where the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" program, though distasteful, scored us the big prize in the end.

In Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney's agonizing and affecting documentary about EIT called Taxi to the Dark Side, he talks about the phenomenon of "force drift" in torture, when interrogators start using harsher methods when the permitted ones don't work. Well, in journalism, what happened with Boal and Bigelow is what you might call "access drift" - when you really, really love the drama of the story you're hearing, you start leaning in the direction of your sources even if the truth doesn't quite cooperate.

Obviously, torture does produce some information, maybe even some good information. If you really squint hard, it may very well be that, technically speaking, there's a lot of truth in the plot of Zero Dark Thirty. It may be that we wouldn't have found bin Laden without torture. And as such, any movie about the hunt for bin Laden that excluded scenes of torture would have been dishonest.

But that's not what's messed up about this movie. The problem had nothing to do with the fact that Bigelow showed torture. It was the way she depicted it - without perspective, and in the context of a pulse-pounding thriller where the audience is clearly supposed to root for the big treasure find.

For one thing, Gibney put out a compelling argument in a Huffington Post piece that the ZD30 storyline is not accurate in the sense that it excluded crucial information. He points to several facts that Bigelow and Boal chose to ignore (and remember, this was supposed to be a "journalistic account," according to Bigelow), like for instance:

Mohammed Al-Qatani, the so-called "20th hijacker," who may have been some part of the inspiration for the "Ammar" character who was tortured in the opening scene, might have been the first detainee to mention the name of bin Laden's courier. But as Gibney points out, al-Qatani gave that information up to the FBI, in legit, torture-free interrogations, before he was whisked away to Gitmo for 49 days of torture that included such insanities as forcing him to urinate on himself (by force-feeding him liquids while in restraints), making him watch a puppet show of him and bin Laden having sex, making him take dance lessons, making him wear panties on his head, and making him wear a "smiley-face" mask, along with the usual sleep and sensory deprivation, arm-hanging, etc. In other words, the key info may have come before they chucked our supposed standards for human decency.

The CIA waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, and throughout this "enhanced interrogation," the former al-Qaeda mastermind continually played down the importance of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, the man who led the CIA to bin Laden. But the CIA was so sure KSM was telling the truth under torture - so sure waterboarding was a "magic bullet," as Gibney put it to me - that they discounted the lead. So torture may have actually delayed bin Laden's capture.

The CIA took another detainee, Ibn al-Sheik al Libi, and duct-taped his head, put him in a wooden box, shipped him off to Cairo to be waterboarded, and got him to admit under torture that there were links between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden. This "intel" became part of Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. on the need to invade Iraq. So while torture might have found us bin Laden, maybe, it also very well might have sent us on one of history's all-time pointlessly bloody wild goose chases, invading Iraq in search of WMDs.

A more accurate movie about the torture program would have been a grotesque comedy that showed grown men resorting to puppet shows and dance routines and fourth-rate sexual indignities dreamed up after spending too much time reading spank mags and BDSM sites - and doing this thousands of times to thousands of people, all over the world, "accidentally" murdering hundreds of people in the process, going to war by mistake at least once as a result of it, and having no clue half the time who they're interrogating (less than 10 percent of "terror suspects" at places like Bagram were arrested by American forces; most of the rest were brought in by Afghanis or other foreigners in exchange for bounties).


To Read the Entire Response

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beware of Images: WTF Happened to the Music

By the late 60s the music charts were filled with songs featuring social and political content. During the Vietnam War, hundreds of anti-war songs were released and more than 70 made it to the Billboard charts, with 14 occupying a spot in the top 10. Artists expressed compassion and empathy towards the plight of others, and they were propelled to the top by an equally empathetic audience. Then...

Call For Submissions from BCTC Students/Staff/Faculty: Bluegrass Accolade

Have a short story, poem, or artwork (including photographic art) that you would like to share? Consider submitting it to be considered for publication in the Spring 2013 issue of the Bluegrass Accolade, BCTC’s literary journal. Deadline: February 14th, 2011. More Details

Death Penalty/Executions: Peace and Conflict Studies Archive

Axtman, Chris. "Growing introspection in death-penalty capital." Christian Science Monitor (November 16, 2004)

Burden of Innocence Frontline (May 1, 2003)

Cohen, Stanley. The Wrong Men: America's Epidemic of Wrongful Death Row Convictions." Carroll and Graf, 2003. [The book is available in BCTC Library]

Ebert, Roger. "Nobody has the right to take another life." Chicago Sun-Times (January 4, 2012)

Feffer, John. "Governments Kill." Institute for Policy Studies (August 24, 2011)

Free, Marvin D., Jr. and Mitch Ruesnik. "Wrongful Convictions in the United States." Excerpted from Race and Justice: Wrongful Convictions of African American Men. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2012: 1-16.

Gettleman, Jeffrey. "Americans’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push." The New York Times (January 3, 2010)

Goodman, Amy. "Troy Davis and the Politics of Death." TruthDig (September 13, 2011)

Hedges, Chris. "The Unsilenced Voice of a ‘Long-Distance Revolutionary.'" TruthDig (December 9, 2012)

Jonsson, Patrik. "North Carolina creates a new route to exoneration: An official innocence commission can revisit death penalty convictions." Christian Science Monitor (August 10, 2006)

Leo, Richard A. and Jon B. Gould. "Studying Wrongful Convictions: Learning from Social Science." Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 7.7 (2009)

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty [Founded in 1976 with headquarters in Washington DC]

The Plea Frontline (June 17, 2004: To Watch it Online)

Prejean, Sister Helen. "Death in Texas." New York Review of Books (January 13, 2005)

---. "On the Death Penalty." Radio IndyMedia (Presentation at Cazenovia College on September 20, 2010)

Richman, Joe and Bridgette McGee-Robinson. "The Story of Willie McGhee." Re:sound (2010)

The Thin Blue Line (USA: Errol Morris, 1988) [This documentary is available in the BCTC Library]

Tremmel, Pat Vaughan. "Death penalty history made at Northwestern." Observer (January 23, 2003)

Wise, Tim "Killing One Monster, Unleashing Another: Reflections on Revenge and Revelry." (May 2, 2011)

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty [Founded in Rome, Italy, in 2002, with headquarters in Strausborg, France]

Yohnka, Ed. "A "Near-Death Experience" for Death Penalty Abolition in Illinois." Blog of Rights (January 10, 2011)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Humanist: The other side of the street -- Laurie Taylor interviews Stan Cohen

The other side of the street: Laurie Taylor interviews Stan Cohen
New Humanist

Sociologist Stan Cohen, who died on 7 January 2013, spent his life analysing and opposing injustice and inhumanity. In this extended interview from 2004, he talks to his friend and collaborator Laurie Taylor about torture, social control and our extraordinary capacity to deny.


It's a well–-expressed sentiment even if the phrase "little refusals" hardly does sufficient justice to the times, particularly during his long stay in Israel, when Stan Cohen risked ostracism from even his most liberal colleagues and friends because of his big refusal to go along with what he saw as their fatally compromised vision.

I'm anxious to talk to him about that time in his life and specifically about the manner in which the work he did there on the torture used by Israeli security agents in the Occupied Territories led to the detailed psychological analysis of denial and self–-deceit in his prize–winning States of Denial.

But these days it's no longer possible to talk to Stan without first checking up on his own state of mind. The last few years have been cruel to him. Seven years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Despite the cocktails of drugs that he consumes, he now finds it increasingly difficult to walk any distance or to sit and write for any length of time.

Matters have been further complicated by an extreme back condition which has failed to respond to surgery. The latest blow was the death from cancer this Christmas of his beloved wife, Ruth. "You know," he jokes, after he's waved away my clumsy solicitations. "If Glen Hoddle was right, then I must have had a wonderful previous life."

I take that as a cue to turn to his present incarnation. I know that he grew up in Johannesburg, where he and Ruth were involved in the Zionist youth movement. It was there that he developed his conviction that Israel provided an opportunity to build a good and fair society. At the same time, both of them were student activists in the struggle against apartheid (Znele Dlamini, now wife of the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, was in Stan's social work class). Stan always looks back to South Africa as the real source of his political ideals. But when he left South Africa for England in 1963, he fully intended to stay for only a couple of years before going off to Israel to resume his Zionist commitment. Somehow or other he ended up living in England for 18 years — 18 years in which any utopian hopes about the type of good society that might be established in Israel were being brutally and systematically dashed.

But it was then, at the very time when even the most fervent supporters of the Israeli cause were beginning to run for cover, that he and Ruth decided to activate their early resolution and move to Israel. Why? "Well, the quick answer is 'madness'. The long answer includes the pulls of 'being Jewish', what Saul Bellow called 'potato love', and then there was the idea of our kids growing up without this connection. I was also acutely aware that our original commitments could never find a home in English politics. I couldn't read about what was happening in South Africa and Israel and then connect with the striking British trades unionists or university Trotskyists. And I was also a sucker at that time for the notion of community, for the sense that there was somewhere where I would be at home. I felt that I had to report in somewhere and do my good things for some recognisable group around me."

But hadn't he read enough about the realities of Israel in the early 80s to know that it had nothing to do with the Zionist ideals that he'd imbibed in his adolescent days in South Africa? "For some reason, maybe now I'd call it denial, I didn't really take it in. So strong was the brainwashing that I'd received from the Zionist youth movement that I'd managed to avoid facing the full reality. But I do remember saying to someone who asked me the same question, 'No, it is precisely because things are bad now, precisely because there is so much discontent, that people like us with real commitment should be going there'."

What made him feel so confident that he could make a difference? "I suppose I was still sold on the 60s idea that you could integrate every part of your life: the idea that your self, your soul, your teaching, writing, political activity could all be harmonised into a single whole. I felt that Israel was somehow the place to do this, that there was a ready– made identity for me there. I would slip into this liberal Jewish intellectual identity and tell these brutal people all around me that if they edged a little this way and that then things would be all right."

I can personally remember when Stan had been gripped by this set of beliefs. Just before he went to Israel we'd been busy working together on a project, and when I'd heard about his wish to move to Israel I felt almost betrayed. Here was one of my intellectual heroes committing an act of ideological treachery.

I did reluctantly visit him a couple of times in Jerusalem but I spent much of my time there looking for the signs of his disillusionment with the regime. It's only now that I can properly discover how well he was concealing them from me. I ask him if any of his long list of personal and political hopes were realised.

"I have never felt so far from 'home' in all my life. I have never been in a place so alien. As for the community of liberal forces, I found their hypocrisies especially repugnant. There was no point in attacking the Right and Centre forces; I had to criticise the people who should have been standing up and weren't.

"Their attitude to Palestinians was quite unlike the liberalism I knew in South Africa. Nowhere had I met a group of intellectuals who were so sensitive to their country's good image. Many of them adopted a curiously dishonest position. There would be a smell of tear gas coming up from one of the villages near the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus, and inside the university they would be talking about legality and jurisprudence. Once when I was fund–raising for a human rights organisation, I met a well–informed, very progressive American woman who promised that her foundation would provide the grant that we needed for further work. I then casually mentioned that we would need another $2,000 to translate the final report on torture from Hebrew into English. 'Why into English?' she said. 'These are terrible things but I don't think they should be known to everyone'."

Most readers of this magazine probably have some sort of history of political activism. What made Cohen's radicalism in Israel different was his readiness to go it alone and to improvise. The issue of torture was important itself but he also chose it to test the liberal threshold of the liberals. He and a colleague spent a year investigating (for an Israeli human rights organisation) the use of torture by Israeli troops in the Occupied Territories.

Their report produced devastating and conclusive evidence that torture was indeed employed systematically against Palestinian detainees. At first, he hoped that the evidence would speak for itself. "In Israel you can produce that sort of thing. Within the contours of liberal democracy, I could talk openly about the findings and how torture was rationalised and justified."

But although the findings were indeed made public they were systematically undermined in the press and elsewhere. I asked him if these were similar in kind to those now being invoked to deal with the American torture of terrorist suspects in the jails of Iraq and in Guantanamo Bay. "George Orwell predicted that democratic societies would use torture. It happened with the French in Algeria, the British in Northern Ireland, the Israelis, and now the Americans. Unlike more totalitarian societies, though, democracies, however flawed, are open to public, and self, scrutiny. So, they have to find a vocabulary to account for abuses. In 1987 an Israeli judicial commission on torture tried to work out a model of how to respond to allegations of torture, a model which was used explicitly in the early days of Guantanamo Bay.

"To start off with, the Israelis and others realised that one way to deal with the problem was simply to come right out and acknowledge that torture had indeed been used, however reluctantly, and that all decisions about when it was appropriate were left to the security services. But that was not viable. No Israeli or any other democratic government could abandon all political or legal control over such a practise: that would be the road to fascism.

"The second idea was to deny that it happened at all, to keep on saying, whatever the evidence, that it was prohibited and therefore couldn't exist. Not an easy choice either, when the evidence was so compelling. So, we now arrive at the third way: regulation. Yes, it does go on, but it is carefully regulated and supervised by bureaucrats. This third way is now is what is actually being called 'torture lite'.

"It isn't people hanging from their fingernails, but in the terminology of the Israeli commission, 'moderate physical pressure.' To the French such torture was 'an administrative procedure', to the British it was 'deep interrogation'. Each justified what they were doing by reference to the other. Well, after all, this is what the French did in Algeria. Well, after all, this is what the British did in Northern Ireland. A peculiar cosmopolitan circuit."

And behind this official talk lie the justifications used by those who carried out the actual work? "Yes. And here you have the classic components of what Kelman called 'crimes of obedience': authorisation, de–sensitisation, and depersonalisation. Someone else authorised me to do it: now that I've done it once I can do it again: I'm only doing it to 'others' — people who are our enemy and therefore less than human.

"Then, of course, there is also the justification that torture is only being used now because we are in a completely new situation, in a state of emergency, or a completely different kind of war. And reality television adds one further component. People actually take photographs to show their participation in torture as though their actions had no ethical status at all.

"The assumption is that everyone will accept it. This is a normalisation of the taboo. On any cheap television show you can find nudity and body exposure. What's the difference here? So Alan Dershowitz, a Professor of Law at Harvard, can be presented as a 'civil libertarian' on the Larry King Show and proceed to give concrete examples of approved torture.

"It's as if he's saying: we sit around at Harvard graduate seminars and work this all out. After consultation with doctors our message is that you can effectively torture someone by putting needles and pins just underneath their fingernails and pressing. Punters can then say, 'Well, I saw this liberal professor at Harvard who not only says that torture is okay in special circumstances but actually shows us how to do it.' Why should there be any inhibitions after that?"

So what could be done to counteract this sort of moral slippage? Should one stand up and shout out to anyone who would listen that torture was simply wrong and that all these stories about how it wasn't really torture were nothing more than cover–ups?


To Read the Entire Interview

Sports: Peace and Conflict Studies Archive

Bigger Stronger Faster (USA: Christopher Bell, 2008)

Carpentier, Megan. "Steubenville and the misplaced sympathy for Jane Doe's rapists: Rape is unique in US society as a crime where the blighted future of the perpetrators counts for more than the victim's." Comment is Free (March 18, 2013)

Chomsky, Noam. "On the Basic Role of (Non-Participatory) Sports." Dialogic (Excerpts of Chomsky quote published in Robert F. Barsky's The Chomsky Effect: November 5, 2009)

Christina, Greta. "Wealthy, Handsome, Strong, Packing Endless Hard-Ons: The Impossible Ideals Men Are Expected to Meet." AlterNet (June 20, 2011)

The Edge of Sports (Website for sports reporter and historian Dave Zirin's weekly columns and podcasts)

Engle, John. "August and Everything After: A Half-Century of Surfing in Cinema." Bright Lights Film Journal #80 (May 2013)

Gwynne, Kristen, Monica Johnson Hostler, and X. "Hacker Group Anonymous Leaks Chilling Video in Case of Alleged Steubenville Rape, Cover-Up." Democracy Now (January 7, 2013)

Johnson, Ian. "The New Olympic Arms Race." The New York Review of Books Blog (August 8, 2012)

Walker, Shaun. "Russia to monitor 'all communications' at Winter Olympics in Sochi." The Guardian (October 6, 2013)

Watkins, Boyce. "University of Kentucky: The Plantation that Never Quits." (June 12, 2012)

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

Zirin, Dave. "Brazil’s World Cup Will Kick the Environment in the Teeth." The Nation (April 22, 2014)

---. "Here Come Los Suns: Sports and Resistance to Arizona's SB 1070." Socialism 2010 Conference in Oakland, CA

---. "Jason Collins: The Substance of Change." The Nation (April 30, 2013)

---. "LeBron James and the Quote Heard Round the World." The Nation (July 13, 2011)

---. Not Just a Game: Power, Politics and American Sports. Media Education Foundation (2010: available online 62 mins)

---. "The Politics of Sports." Media Matters (August 29, 2010)

---. "The UConn Huskies Win ‘NCAA Hunger Games Bingo’." The Nation (April 8, 2014)

Democracy Now: Hacker Group Anonymous Leaks Chilling Video in Case of Alleged Steubenville Rape, Cover-Up

[Original post with detailed reports on all of the people involved in the crime and the cover-up: Local Leaks: The Steubenville Files]

Hacker Group Anonymous Leaks Chilling Video in Case of Alleged Steubenville Rape, Cover-Up
Democracy Now

We turn to Steubenville, Ohio, where members of a high school football team allegedly raped an underage girl and possibly urinated on her unconscious body over the course of an evening of partying in late August. The young men chronicled their actions on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But after many in the town of Steubenville, including the high school football coach, rallied to the players’ defense, the hacker group "Anonymous" vowed to release the accused players’ personal information unless an apology was made. Anonymous has since released a video showing a male Steubenville high schooler joking about the alleged victim. We’re joined by three guests: Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence; Kristen Gwynne, an associate editor at AlterNet; and "X", a member of the hacktivist group Anonymous using a pseudonym.


Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

"X", member of the hacktivist group Anonymous, using a pseudonym.

Kristen Gwynne, associate editor at AlterNet. Her recent article is "How Anonymous Hacking Exposed Steubenville High School Rape Case."

To watch the episode

Monday, January 14, 2013

Words for Critical Citizens #1: Taradiddle

taradiddle \tair-uh-DID-ul\


1 : a trivial or childish lie : fib

2 : pretentious nonsense

"Even parents with the very best of intentions find themselves telling taradiddles to their offspring." — From a blog post by Ben Schott at, November 12, 2010

"As truths go, the history of Miss Rossiter she had laid out was unimpressive: a forked-tongue taraddidle of the highest order and if I were to serve it up to Hardy and be found out afterwards I should be lucky to escape arrest, if not a smack on the legs with a hairbrush for the cheek of it." — From Catriona McPherson's 2009 novel Danny Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains

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

The Clash: Career Opportunities

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beautiful Trouble: Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army

"The clowns are organizing. They are organizing. Over and out." -- Overheard on UK police radio during action by Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (July 2004)

"Clowns always speak of the same thing, they speak of hunger; hunger for food, hunger for sex, but also hunger for dignity, hunger for identity, hunger for power. In fact, they introduce questions about who commands, who protests." — Dario Fo (Italian playwright/fool) [source Rebel Clowning

CIRCA aims to make clowning dangerous again, to bring it back to the street, restore its disobedience and give it back the social function it once had: its ability to disrupt, critique and heal society. Since the beginning of time tricksters (the mythological origin or all clowns) have embraced life's paradoxes, creating coherence through confusion - adding disorder to the world in order to expose its lies and speak the truth.
[source Rebel Clowning

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Killer Meteor: Trollop from a Checkered Past

"Why I Quit the Klan”—An Interview with C. P. Ellis By Studs Terkel

C.P. Ellis was born in 1927 and was 53-years-old at the time of this interview with Studs Terkel. For Terkel, America's foremost oral historian, this remains the most memorable and moving of all the interviews he's done in a career spanning more than seven decades, for C.P. Ellis had once been the exalted cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan in Durham, N.C. During the interview, Terkel learned that Ellis had been born extremely poor in Durham, North Carolina; had struggled all his life to feed his family; had felt shut out of American society and had joined the Klan to feel like somebody. But later he got involved in a local school issue and reluctantly, gradually, began to work on a committee with a black activist named Ann Atwater, whom he despised at the time. Eventually, after many small epiphanies, he realized that they shared a common concern for their children, common goals as human beings. More surprising still, Ellis became a union organizer for a janitor's union—a long way from his personal philosophical roots. The Ellis-Atwater story is best documented in The Best of Enemies, a book by Osha Gray Davidson that tells of the unlikely friendship that developed between Ann and C.P. Ellis, when they first met in the 1960's. Apparently, their commonalities as oppressed human beings proved far stronger than the racial hatred that initially divided them.

"Why I Quit the Klan”—An Interview with C. P. Ellis By Studs Terkel (1980)

Nikki Giovanni: We are Virginia Tech

[MB: I wanted to share this poem written in the aftermath of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings as a reminder to think about why the deaths/injuries of some receive endless mention in the media/government and why others are deemed unworthy for consideration.]

We Are Virginia Tech
by Nikki Giovanni

We are Virginia Tech

We are sad today
We will be sad for quite a while
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning

We are Virginia Tech

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend to cry
And we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again

We are Virginia Tech

We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it

But neither does a child in Africa
Dying of AIDS

Neither do the Invisible Children
Walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army

Neither does the baby elephant watching his community
Be devastated for ivory
Neither does the Mexican child looking
For fresh water

Neither does the Iraqi teenager dodging bombs

Neither does the Appalachian infant killed
By a boulder
Because the land was destabilized

No one deserves a tragedy

We are Virginia Tech
The Hokie Nation embraces
Our own
And reaches out
With open heart and mind
To those who offer their hearts and hands

We are strong
And brave
And innocent
And unafraid

We are better than we think
And not yet quite what we want to be

We are alive to imagination
And open to possibility
We will continue
To invent the future

Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness

We are the Hokies

We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail

We are
Virginia Tech

Nikki Giovanni, delivered at the Convocation, April 17, 2007

Stephen Maher: Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball and the Plague of the 99%

Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball and the Plague of the 99%
by Stephen Maher
Monthly Review

On his most recent album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen crafted a powerful statement of support for the working class, the existence of which barely penetrates contemporary art or politics. This is not an accident: the growing power of capital over public discourse has provided it a forceful means through which to shape individual consciousness, and establish an apolitical and at most technocratic understanding of power. Those at the top, we are led to believe, are there because of their technical skills and have risen by meritocratic means—the vast gulfs created by inequalities in wealth, power, and privilege are ignored. In fact, gigantic corporations—controlled by the 1% (or by the 0.1%)—dominate all forms of production. Even in the cultural realm, the art and voices of the working class are sidelined and squelched. Working people thus become invisible. As Occupy has helped make clear, the 99%, though divided in all kinds of ways, share the collective disappointment of being ruledby others, as opposed to ruling themselves;of constantly producing and reproducing the bases of wealth and power at the top of society, rather than fulfilling their own developmental potential…. Power over surplus distribution—and thus nearly everything else—is left to an unelected ownership class. The overwhelming majority of the population is unable to locate itself in the “democratic consensus” or the dominant culture.

In our ad-driven consumer age, it is a monumental struggle to encourage sympathy and solidarity by bringing the stories and views of working people to a mass audience. Indeed, one of the greatest successes of the Occupy movement has been to force the idea into the national discourse that the working class exists as such (we are the 99%), a notion that is usually reserved for the radical fringe. On Wrecking Ball, Springsteen channels and supports the proletarian discourse of the 99%, which overcomes post-political, technocratic ideology and constructs a world sharply divided between exploited and exploiters. He crosses over from his earlier lament for a fallen America and the unfulfilled promise of the American dream to rage at the “robber barons” who “ate the flesh off everything they’ve found” and “whose crimes have gone unpunished,” calling on workers to stand united in seeking social justice. In telling the seldom-heard stories of working people and subjectivizing them as victims of the violence of capital, Wrecking Ball represents an important salvo in the cultural struggle, providing justification for and encouraging solidarity with the cause of the 99%.

In its review of the album, the popular music website Pitchfork chides Springsteen for “rail[ing] against those up on ‘Banker’s Hill’ in the sort of black-and-white terms that continue to plague and cleave his home country.” In suggesting that those who have united as “the 99%” are merely troublemakers, and that Occupy is actually a “plague” on society, Pitchfork—regarded as a hip and liberal publication in the hegemonic discourse—paradoxically adopts a position that would make Newt Gingrich blush. How is this possible? In fact, the Pitchfork review can be taken as a model to demonstrate the shortcomings of the so-called “hipster” current. This social current, of which Pitchfork is the ultimate expression, is the embodiment of postmodern skepticism and relativism. Artistically, it is concerned solely with exhibiting middle-class angst, while it presents liberation as the styling of an individualized consumerism and pornographic self-expression. Any transformational social project, or genuine contact with the working class, is seen as anachronistic and totalitarian. As Arcade Fire described on their 2010 album The Suburbs, what appears as progressive experimentation and “liberation” is really Rococo—trivial but elaborate ornamentation that amounts to little more than an indication of privilege and isolation, like the elaborate dress of the court of Louis XVI.

Naturally, this ideology—which emphasizes consumerism and the liberation of the market while discouraging social and political engagement—poses no threat whatsoever to structures of power and domination, and is therefore ubiquitous. It has served to mask and even defend the marginalization of working-class art while concealing the domination of the cultural terrain by the forces of capital, under the guise of liberation and freedom. As Arcade Fireput it, “they seem wild, but they are so tame.” With Wrecking Ball, Springsteen has produced a record of startling beauty, that unambiguously proclaims solidarity with the 99% and reaffirms the possibility of a better world. It is a powerful statement in support of the Occupiers’ struggle against a ruling class that is waging unmitigated war against workers and the poor. The force of this statement, and the nature of Pitchfork’s response, help to reveal the class bias concealed behind postmodern “common sense” and hipster skepticism.

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Jay Nordlinger - Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, The Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World

Jay Nordlinger, "Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, The Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World"
After Words

Mr. Nordlinger presents the history of one of the world's best known and most prestigious awards, the Nobel Peace Prize. In it, he shines a spotlight on Alfred Nobel, the prize's founder, and discusses many noteworthy activists and leaders who were overlooked for the prize. He talks with the Wall Street Journal's International Editor Matt Murray.

Jay Nordlinger is a senior editor of National Review.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Scapegoat Hunter - Gun Control

Ray McGovern: Excusing Torture, Again

Excusing Torture, Again
by Ray McGovern
Common Dreams


The Downside of Torture

Besides the moral opprobrium that the practices brought upon the United States, the CIA’s use of torture alienated many Muslims who otherwise would have felt no sympathy for Islamic extremists. For example, U.S. military interrogators report that the vast majority of jihadists who came to fight against U.S. forces in Iraq were motivated by the disclosures about torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

FBI interrogators also have said their rapport-building techniques with an early detainee, logistics specialist Abu Zubaydah, were succeeding in eliciting important information from him before the CIA interrogators arrived and insisted on applying their brutal methods.

Author Jane Mayer in her book The Dark Side writes that the two FBI agents, Ali Soufan and Steve Gaudin, “sent back early cables describing Zubayda as revealing inside details of the [9/11] attacks on New York and Washington, including the nickname of its central planner, ‘Mukhtar,’ who was identified as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad [KSM]. …

“During this period, Zubayda also described an Al Qaeda associate whose physical description matched that of Jose Padilla. The information led to the arrest of the slow-witted American gang member in May 2002, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. …

“Abu Zubayda disclosed Padilla’s role accidentally, apparently. While making small talk, he described an Al Qaeda associate he said had just visited the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. That scrap was enough for authorities to find and arrest Padilla” who was suspected of plotting a “dirty bomb” attack inside the United States (although he was never charged with that offense).

In 2009, Soufan broke his personal silence on the topic in an op-ed in the New York Times, citing Zubaydah’s cooperation in providing information about Padilla and KSM before the CIA began the harsh tactics. “It is inaccurate … to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative,” Soufan wrote. “Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.” [NYT, April 23, 2009]

Nevertheless, Bush administration defenders have cited the information wrested from Zubaydah — who was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002 — as justification for the interrogation tactics that have been widely denounced as torture.

The problem of eliciting false intelligence was demonstrated by the handling of another al-Qaeda captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who responded to threats of torture by fabricating an operational link between Saddam Hussein’s government and al-Qaeda. It was exactly the kind of information that the Bush administration had been seeking to justify its desired invasion of Iraq.

By Feb. 11, 2003, as the countdown to the U.S. invasion progressed, CIA Director George Tenet began treating al-Libi’s assertions as fact. At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Tenet said Iraq “has also provided training in poisons and gases to two al-Qa’ida associates. One of these associates characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.”

But the CIA’s promotion of al-Libi’s information ignored the well-founded suspicions voiced by the Defense Intelligence Agency. “He lacks specific details” about the supposed training, the DIA observed. “It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers.”

The DIA’s doubts proved prescient. In January 2004, al-Libi recanted his statements and claimed that he had lied because of both actual and anticipated abuse. In September 2006, the Senate Intelligence Committee criticized the CIA for accepting al-Libi’s claims as credible. “No postwar information has been found that indicates CBW training occurred and the detainee who provided the key prewar reporting about this training recanted his claims after the war,” the committee report said.

Al-Libi ended up in a Libyan prison during the period when Col. Muammar Gaddafi was cooperating with the U.S. in hunting down “terrorists.” Al-Libi “committed suicide” just two weeks after being visited in the Libyan prison by a team from Human Rights Watch in April 2009.

‘No Good Intelligence’

The al-Libi case demonstrated one of the practical risks of coercing a witness to talk. To avoid pain, people often make stuff up, an obvious point that other truth-tellers also have noted. On Sept. 6, 2006, for example, Gen. John Kimmons, then head of Army intelligence told reporters at the Pentagon, in unmistakable language:

“No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.”

Gen. Kimmons is a rare species – a general officer with guts, not to mention an intelligence career focusing mostly on interrogation practices. He was well aware that President George W. Bush had decided to claim publicly, just two hours later, that the “alternative set of procedures” for interrogation – methods that Bush had approved, like waterboarding – were effective.

So the real experts say one cannot acquire “good intelligence” from torture, i.e. an empirical reality upon which to base sound policy. But what about bad intelligence, especially preferred bad intelligence? If your goal in 2002 and 2003 was to make a case showing operational ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq – when none existed – well, then, torture works like a charm.

Yet, Jose Rodriguez now seeks to rewrite this sordid chapter in the CIA’s history and put his own complicity in a more favorable light.

One could say his first major move in this cover-up came in 2005 when he ordered the destruction of videotaped evidence of these “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Surely, it is easier to soft-pedal the cruel reality of waterboarding and other abusive tactics if people can’t actually see the human suffering.

And, the Washington Post, which once basked in the glory of its investigation of the Watergate cover-up, now gives generous space for a practitioner of both waterboarding and destruction of evidence to make excuses without challenge.

Just think how Official Washington’s attitude toward respect for the law has degraded over the past three decades or so. Not even President Richard Nixon dared to destroy the incriminating tapes of Watergate, even though he knew only too well that the evidence on them would be his undoing.

Yet, Rodriguez never faced criminal charges for destroying 92 videotapes recording hundreds of hours worth of CIA black-site interrogation footage. Rodriguez ordered the tapes destroyed at precisely the time when Congress and the courts were intensifying their scrutiny of the CIA interrogation program. Yet – surprise, surprise – nowhere in Sunday’s Post is there mention of that felony fact.

Indeed, as Rodriguez and his torture-friendly colleagues seek to use the occasion of the new Hollywood blockbuster to burnish their image, they are getting a helping hand from neocon newspapers like the Washington Post.

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Modest Mouse: The Moon & Antartica

Henry A. Giroux: Racism and the Aesthetic of Hyperreal Violence - Pulp Fiction and Other Visual Tragedies

Racism and the Aesthetic of Hyperreal Violence: Pulp Fiction and Other Visual Tragedies
by Henry A. Giroux
Social Identities 1:2 (1995): 333-354


Violence, Race, and the Politics of Realism

I have no more of a problem with violence that I do with people who like bedroom comedy versus slapstick comedy. It's an aesthetic thing. -- Quentin Tarantino

Extreme violence in Tarantino's films represents a central element in his cinematic style. Tarantino first generated a great deal of controversy through the comic-book style of torture in Reservoir Dogs, gruesomely played out by Michael Madsen who cuts off a hostage policeman's ear and then holds it in his hand while talking to it. Pulp Fiction continues the tradition of hyperreal violence, for example, when Jules just for effect shoots a defenseless college kid. This act of sudden violence is not aimed at some wooden, Hollywood gangsta. On the contrary, the victim is a scared kid and his random murder is senseless and disturbing. Of course, the effects are no less shocking when Vincent accidently blows off the head of a black kid who appears to be barely 17 or 18 years old. These are disturbing representations of violence, endorsed by a director who appears to have "turned murder into performance art."

Tarantino makes no attempts cinematically to rupture or contest the patterns of violence that his films produce or claim to represent. On the contrary, he empties violence of any critical social consequences, offering viewers only the immediacy of shock, humor, and irony as elements of mediation. And none of these elements get beyond the seduction of voyeuristic gazing so as to demand critical involvement. In this sense, the facile consumption of shocking images and hallucinatory delight that is provoked undercut the possibility of educating audiences to "comment on the image instead of allowing it to pass," there is virtually no space in which the audience can unsettle the "`moment of violence' [to allow it to] resonate meaningfully and demand our critical involvement."

Tarantino employs cruelty, humor, and postmodern parody to parade visually his extensive knowledge of film history and to rewrite the dynamic of repetition and difference. For example, the male rape scene in Pulp Fiction does homage to the classic film, Deliverance (1972), but in the end Tarantino's use of parody is about repetition, transgression, and a softening the face of violence by reducing it to the property of film history. In this case, aesthetics is about reordering the audience's sense of trauma through a formalism that denies any vestige of politics. This is violence with an escape hatch, one that suggests that violence is a "force over which we have no control" based on a aesthetics that promotes the false assumption that "violence can be distanced from reality through its apparent autonomy of signs." This is what Tarantino suggests when he claims that:

Violence in real life is one of the worst aspects of America. But in movies-It's fucking fun! One of the funniest, coolest things for me to watch. I get a kick out of it-all right?

Tarantino's comments reveal more than a hip aesthetics that infantalizes violence by reducing it to an arid formalism and slapstick humor, it is also about a cinematic amoralism which separates the representation of violence from real life. His films offer no language for rendering ruthless violence dangerous in its ability to numb us to the senseless brutality that has become a part of everyday life, especially for children and youth. Tarantino justifies his graphic representations of violence through an appeal to realism. He argues that his violent depiction and deceleration of pain is about "stopping movie time and playing the violence out in real time. Letting nothing get in the way of it and letting it happen the way real violence does." But "real" violence comes from somewhere; it is neither innocent, nor does it emerge outside of existing historical contexts and social relationships. More fundamentally, representations of violence, regardless of how realistically they are portrayed, do not rupture or challenge automatically the dominant ideologies that often justify or celebrate violence in real life. An uncritical appeal to realism does not allow audiences to think imaginatively about ways to disrupt conventional patterns of violence. Tarantino's celebration of realism does not offer any normative grounds on which to challenge violence or to resist power that is oppressive and brutal; on the contrary, the aesthetic of realism serves pedagogically to justify abstracting the representation of violence from the ethical responsibility of both filmmakers and the audience to challenge it as an established social practice.

Tarantino's view of violence represents more than bad politics, it also breeds a dead-end cynicism. His films are filled with characters who have flimsy histories, are going no where, and live out their lives without any sense of morality or justice. In Tarantino's celluloid world, the pursuit of happiness is a bad dream and violence is one of the few options for exercising any sense of human agency. Tarantino acknowledges that his own twenty-something sense of the world was informed less by the social and political events of the `60's and `70s than by French thrillers and Hollywood gangster movies: "The attitude I grew up with was that everything you've heard is lies." In the end, violence for Tarantino submits to the demands of a publicly celebrated, stylized formalism, but the price that is exacted exceeds instant notoriety. What Tarantino ends up with are films in which ultra violence serves as a gateway to sadistic humor at everyone's expense, a chance to depict brutality while assuring the audience that its own complicity and involvement, whether in symbolic terms or in real life, can be avoided.

Tarantino's fame, in part, is due to his willingness to substitute an aesthetic radicalism for a political and moral one. For all of his technical, cinematic virtuosity, he cannot escape the surfacing of his own politics and values conveyed through his storytelling and the dialogue he gives to his characters. What betrays Tarantino's attempts to render the underbelly of society on its own terms is the overt racism that informs his films, evident on a number of registers. First, there is the racist language that streams forth from his characters in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Racist slurs and verbal assaults abound in these films, especially in Pulp Fiction. There is a disturbing quality to this language, especially in a film that represents a cinematic tradition that Amy Taubin calls a "new acceptable white male art form." The use of supposedly naturalist, racist language aimed largely at white audiences appears to have a jokey quality about it, a kind of porno subtext that suggest that as whites "we're saying something really nasty and really evil, and let's share this secret thrill." This form of verbal racist violence did not escape Allen and Albert Hughes, the black film directors behind Menace II Society , who challenge Tarantino's repeated use of the word "nigger" in Pulp Fiction. Tarantino has defended himself against the use of racist language in his films. He response is worth quoting at length:

My feeling is the word nigger is probably the most volatile word in the English language. The minute any word has that much power, as far as I'm concerned, everyone on the planet should scream it. No word deserves that much power. I'm not afraid of it. That's the only way I know how to explain it.

What Tarantino fails to acknowledge is the history that informs the term and how the power of the word "nigger" is tied to the power of white dominant groups who traditionally control how meanings are produced, circulated, and rewarded. The point being that the term is powerful for a set of complex reasons that cannot be left unexplained. Moreover, the use of the terms by different groups of whites and blacks has different connotations. The rapper, Ice Cube, makes this clear in his comment "Look, when we call each other nigger it means no harm, in fact in Compton [CA] it is a friendly word. But if a white person uses it, it's something different, it's a racist word." Similarly, as Robin Kelly points out in Race Rebels the word "nigger" has multiple meanings in black history and in the current context of black popular culture. Unaware of the complex nuances associated with the different contextual uses of the word "nigger," Tarantino parades the term unself-consciously before audiences for whom the signifying power of the term is far from open-ended. For many whites, the word "nigger" is deeply inscribed in their memories and minds less as a term of cultural resistance than as an expression of their support for racist discourse and values. Bell hooks captures the racist implications of the use of the word nigger by white men in films such as Pulp Fiction. She writes:

Yet the film (via these...white men) can also legitimate racist folks by providing a public space where suppressed racist slurs and verbal assaults can be voiced and heard. No one seemed to worry that the film would offer white folks license to verbalize racist aggression.

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