Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dan Pink: Drive (or, what really motivates us)

[MB: I would be very interested to hear from students, or anyone else, what they think about Dan Pink's presentation. The video is only 11 mins.]

Der Spiegel: Sandra Scgulz -- Mao's Disneyland: 'Red Tourism' Is Golden for Chinese Economy

Mao's Disneyland: 'Red Tourism' Is Golden for Chinese Economy
By Sandra Schulz
Der Spiegel

China's leaders have responded to waning interest in ideology by setting up a vast "red tourism" industry. While celebrating the great members and moments of the Communist Party of China, it also helps the economy.

Wu Yongtang's great advantage is having a mole on his chin almost exactly where Mao Zedong did. The 56-year-old actor pulls at the bandage covering the spot, then carefully peels it off and touches the scab with his fingertip. He saw a doctor to have the size of the mole reduced, and now it is exactly as large Mao's was. Wu is pleased. He looks like Mao, he speaks like Mao and his mole might be his ticket to landing movie roles as Mao. There's demand for Mao look-alikes in China -- and especially now. "People have deep feelings for the chairman," Wu says.

Wu spent a full theater season playing Mao at the open-air theater in Yanan, a city in central China described locally as the "Holy Land of the Chinese Revolution." Yanan is where the Long March ended in 1935, the military retreat that marked Mao's ascent to power, and where the Communist Party of China established its headquarters for the province of Shaanxi. Every morning, visitors can watch a performance here called "The Defense of Yanan," complete with fake tanks and real horses. A model airplane even drops from the sky at the end of the show, a moment captured by all the mobile-phone cameras of audience.

The Chinese government has dubbed this "red tourism," and it is meant as a response to its people's identity crisis, to a certain sense of emptiness and alienation. What exactly should people in China believe in these days? Who is really still interested in ideology? Taking a proactive approach to these questions, the Communist Party decided to put its own history on stage to create reminders of the revolution in various places around the country -- and to make clear to all Chinese citizens who made their country great. The government has also set up a "National Coordination Group for Red Tourism" and convened "Conferences for Red Tourism" that have even been attended by a member of the Politburo.

But one thing sets this approach apart from similar campaigns in the past. This time, the idea is for Chinese people to have fun with their political party, to enjoy themselves in the great amusement park of Communism. They're invited to feast on braised pork, Mao's favorite dish, in the leader's birthplace of Shaoshan. They can drink from the well Mao himself supposedly dug in Ruijin or carry fake rifles aboard a rollercoaster at the "Cultural Park of the Eighth Route Army," where they can re-enact the war against Japan. There have even been "National Red Games," including events such as "storming the log house" and a "grenade toss." Party training centers and companies send members to these destinations as part of educational holidays. China saw over half a billion "red tourists" in 2011 alone.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It Is Time: So Say We All

[MB: via Stephen Shepard]

Adam Liptak: Justices Say Time May Be Wrong for Gay Marriage Case

Justices Say Time May Be Wrong for Gay Marriage Case
by Adam Liptak
The New York Times

As the Supreme Court on Tuesday weighed the momentous question of whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry, six justices questioned whether the case, arising from a California ban on same-sex marriages, was properly before the court and indicated that they might vote to dismiss it.

“I just wonder if the case was properly granted,” said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who probably holds the decisive vote, in a comment that showed a court torn over whether this was the right time and right case for a decision on a fast-moving social issue.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed to share that concern. “If the issue is letting the states experiment and letting the society have more time to figure out its direction,” she said, “why is taking a case now the answer?”

Those justices and others seemed driven to that conclusion by an argument in which no attractive middle ground emerged on the substance of the question before them: whether voters in California were entitled to enact Proposition 8, which overturned a State Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage.

Justices who appeared sympathetic to same-sex marriage indicated that there was no principled way to issue a ruling that could apply only in California or only in the nine states that have robust civil union or domestic partnership laws but withhold the word “marriage.”

That appeared to leave the court with an all-or-nothing choice on the merits: either a ruling that would require same-sex marriage in all 50 states or one that would say that all states may do as they wish. Neither choice seemed attractive to a majority of the justices.

Five members of the court asked questions indicating that they might vote to dismiss the case on the threshold issue that supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal a lower court’s decision. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., whose questions on the merits indicated discomfort with requiring states to allow same-sex marriage, seemed particularly interested in the standing issue.

Justice Kennedy seemed more open to the possibility that the proponents of Proposition 8 had standing, but he twice asked lawyers why the court should not dismiss the case outright. When the justices have second thoughts about agreeing to hear a case, they sometimes dismiss it as “improvidently granted.”

Questions from the justices do not always reliably forecast votes, of course, and many of the justices also indicated their views of the central issue presented in the case.

When Justice Kennedy turned to the merits of the case, he voiced sympathy for the children of gay couples. “There are some 40,000 children in California,” he said, who “live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case.”

To Read the Rest of the Article

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Democracy Now: Kevin Connor and Justin Elliott -- Energy Nominee Ernest Moniz Criticized for Backing Fracking & Nuclear Power; Ties to BP, GE, Saudis

Energy Nominee Ernest Moniz Criticized for Backing Fracking & Nuclear Power; Ties to BP, GE, Saudis
Democracy Now

President Obama’s pick to become the nation’s next secretary of energy is drawing criticism for his deep ties to the fossil fuel, fracking and nuclear industries. MIT nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz has served on advisory boards for oil giant BP and General Electric, and was a trustee of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, a Saudi Aramco-backed nonprofit organization. In 2011, Moniz was the chief author of an influential study for MIT on the future of natural gas. According to a new report by the Public Accountability Initiative, Moniz failed to disclose that he had taken a lucrative position at a pro-drilling firm called ICF International just days before a key natural gas "fracking" study was released. Reaction to his nomination has split the environmental community. Advocacy groups such as Public Citizen and Food & Water Watch are campaigning against Moniz’s nomination, but the Natural Resources Defense Council has praised his work on advancing clean energy based on efficiency and renewable power. We speak to Kevin Connor of the Public Accountability Initiative and ProPublica reporter Justin Elliott, who have both authored investigations into Moniz’s ties to industry.


Justin Elliott, a reporter at ProPublica. He recently wrote an article called "Drilling Deeper: The Wealth of Business Connections for Obama’s Energy Pick."

Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit research organization focused on corporate and government accountability. The group recently published a report called "Industry Partner or Industry Puppet? How MIT’s Influential Study of Fracking Was Authored, Funded, and Released by Oil and Gas Industry Insiders." Connor is also the co-founder of, which compiles data on over 40,000 people and organizations with special influence over the political process, including politicians, corporate executives and lobbyists.

To Watch the Episode

Michael Schuman: Marx’s Revenge -- How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World

Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World
By Michael Schuman

Karl Marx was supposed to be dead and buried. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and China’s Great Leap Forward into capitalism, communism faded into the quaint backdrop of James Bond movies or the deviant mantra of Kim Jong Un. The class conflict that Marx believed determined the course of history seemed to melt away in a prosperous era of free trade and free enterprise. The far-reaching power of globalization, linking the most remote corners of the planet in lucrative bonds of finance, outsourcing and “borderless” manufacturing, offered everybody from Silicon Valley tech gurus to Chinese farm girls ample opportunities to get rich. Asia in the latter decades of the 20th century witnessed perhaps the most remarkable record of poverty alleviation in human history — all thanks to the very capitalist tools of trade, entrepreneurship and foreign investment. Capitalism appeared to be fulfilling its promise — to uplift everyone to new heights of wealth and welfare.

Or so we thought. With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,” Marx wrote.

A growing dossier of evidence suggests that he may have been right. It is sadly all too easy to find statistics that show the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not. A September study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington noted that the median annual earnings of a full-time, male worker in the U.S. in 2011, at $48,202, were smaller than in 1973. Between 1983 and 2010, 74% of the gains in wealth in the U.S. went to the richest 5%, while the bottom 60% suffered a decline, the EPI calculated. No wonder some have given the 19th century German philosopher a second look. In China, the Marxist country that turned its back on Marx, Yu Rongjun was inspired by world events to pen a musical based on Marx’s classic Das Kapital. “You can find reality matches what is described in the book,” says the playwright.

That’s not to say Marx was entirely correct. His “dictatorship of the proletariat” didn’t quite work out as planned. But the consequence of this widening inequality is just what Marx had predicted: class struggle is back. Workers of the world are growing angrier and demanding their fair share of the global economy. From the floor of the U.S. Congress to the streets of Athens to the assembly lines of southern China, political and economic events are being shaped by escalating tensions between capital and labor to a degree unseen since the communist revolutions of the 20th century. How this struggle plays out will influence the direction of global economic policy, the future of the welfare state, political stability in China, and who governs from Washington to Rome. What would Marx say today? “Some variation of: ‘I told you so,’” says Richard Wolff, a Marxist economist at the New School in New York. “The income gap is producing a level of tension that I have not seen in my lifetime.”

Tensions between economic classes in the U.S. are clearly on the rise. Society has been perceived as split between the “99%” (the regular folk, struggling to get by) and the “1%” (the connected and privileged superrich getting richer every day). In a Pew Research Center poll released last year, two-thirds of the respondents believed the U.S. suffered from “strong” or “very strong” conflict between rich and poor, a significant 19-percentage-point increase from 2009, ranking it as the No. 1 division in society.

The heightened conflict has dominated American politics. The partisan battle over how to fix the nation’s budget deficit has been, to a great degree, a class struggle. Whenever President Barack Obama talks of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to close the budget gap, conservatives scream he is launching a “class war” against the affluent. Yet the Republicans are engaged in some class struggle of their own. The GOP’s plan for fiscal health effectively hoists the burden of adjustment onto the middle and poorer economic classes through cuts to social services. Obama based a big part of his re-election campaign on characterizing the Republicans as insensitive to the working classes. GOP nominee Mitt Romney, the President charged, had only a “one-point plan” for the U.S. economy — “to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.”

Amid the rhetoric, though, there are signs that this new American classism has shifted the debate over the nation’s economic policy. Trickle-down economics, which insists that the success of the 1% will benefit the 99%, has come under heavy scrutiny. David Madland, a director at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank, believes that the 2012 presidential campaign has brought about a renewed focus on rebuilding the middle class, and a search for a different economic agenda to achieve that goal. “The whole way of thinking about the economy is being turned on its head,” he says. “I sense a fundamental shift taking place.”

To Read the Rest of the Essay

The B-52s: Studio Jam 1978

Rachel Maddow urges students to master the art of argument in her first return to Stanford

Rachel Maddow urges students to master the art of argument in her first return to Stanford
Stanford News

Stanford alumna and MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow insists that an education in the humanities is a crucial asset in today's job market, illustrating with her own story how the ability to make good arguments and write well powered her career in advocacy, activism and the national media.

Asked by students what kind of major she looks for in a successful job candidate, Rachel Maddow, the popular television host and best-selling author, did not hesitate in her answer. "I look for people who have done mathematics. Philosophy. Languages.

"And really," she concluded, "History is kind of the king."

After earning her bachelor's degree from Stanford in public policy in 1994 and winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, Maddow spent the next decade raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and fighting for health reform in British and American prisons. She said to make an impact in the world and to change hearts and minds, she needed to know how to convince others and how "to make good arguments."

And that meant knowing how to write well. On Saturday, during an evening conversation with students and other Stanford affiliates, Maddow said that an education in a humanities subject was indispensable to her past and present success in advocacy and activism. The event was organized by Stanford's "Ethics in Society" program.

While a student at Stanford, Maddow took numerous classes in humanities subjects, including philosophy and history. It was at Stanford, she said, that she learned how to structure and present a persuasive argument.

In today's tough job market, she said, perfecting this skill is a must.

"Most people can't write," she said. "Only one in 50 resumes is somebody who can write."

Poor reasoning is not a winning argument, neither for employment nor, in fact, for anything in life. Learning how to write a resume that reasons its way from A to B to C to D is very important, she said. And this, she insisted, is the skill taught in the humanities.

To Read the Rest

Enku Ide: On the Marriage Equality Act

[MB: Enku is a friend who has some great insights into this issue and I wanted share his thoughts.]
In the streets and in the courts; in the legislative halls and in our communities; liberals have demanded marriage equality. This issue has not only divided liberals from conservatives. It has divided liberal gays and allies from radical queers and allies. Queers, being anti-assimilationist, have often taken the position that either 1. Marriage doesn’t matter to 2. Marriage is the wrong fight, a conservatizing effort within the LGBTQ community and should be rejected. I have found myself on the cusp of these arguments. On the eve of possibly securing marriage equality finally through the courts, I would like to weigh in and challenge the gays and the queers.

First, I’ll challenge the pro-marriage gays and allies:

Marriage is not THE issue of the LGBTQ community, and the domination of this issue within the movement has been destructive. It has left us blind to the realities of many LGBT people, primarily the poor. LGBT youth are twice as likely as straight youth to face homelessness. LGBT people are legally discriminated against in employment and housing. Hate crimes against our community continue. The marriage fight will primarily benefit middle class LGBT folk, and the movement overall has been elitist in this way, making other very real challenges facing LGBT people invisible.

For those (including President Obama) who seem to believe that the fight for justice for LGBT people is culminating in marriage, that our fight is soon to be over, I would say that your conception is narrow and classist. I would also say that the movement has given into the assumption that monogamous, married families are the best way we should organize ourselves thus disempowering, making invisible, or demonizing those of us (and straight people) who choose to build our families differently. This could be polyamorous people or people who recognize the historic oppression that has come along with marriage. The movement for marriage equality cannot interrogate the economic and social construct of marriage and will divide our community among the “respectable” married folk and the rest of us. The fight for marriage also precludes us from interrogating larger social systems that push people to get married. On this point, the rhetoric of “choice” to marry or not is undermined. Social policy privileges the married in many ways, and the fight for marriage equality has been about both the nonmaterial (respect) as well as the material (health benefits, taxes, housing, etc.). I do believe we should be fighting for a world where people have the true freedom to choose their relationships and not be coerced by a system that privileges the married over the non-married. I believe we should be fighting for a world where everyone has healthcare, for example, and not one where we can extend privileges of marriage to gays, thus coercing us into marriage. Marriage often facilitates one individual’s dependence on another. Historically, wives were considered to be the property of their husbands, and we haven’t interrogated this violent history of the institution which still shapes the institution today. In this, the fight for marriage equality has become low hanging fruit for liberal middle class folk, and is problematic.

Now, I’ll challenge the queers…

Given all of this above, I believe LGBT people should have the right to choose whether or not to be married. Although I note above that “choice” is undermined by a system that coerces people into marriage, I do not believe the correct response is to say that no-one should have a choice. In fact, it is a privileged choice in some circumstances to be able to not get married and take such a purist political stance. Yes, we must fight for a society where marriage doesn’t mean these massive material benefits over the unmarried. But, that is a fight to be waged by those who do not marry or choose not to marry, not a fight for LGBTQ people who are forcibly excluded from marriage. Marriage is deeply important to many people. While we might hope that it wasn’t, or that society didn’t coerce people into marriage, this is the world we live in. Repeating radical critiques of marriage has become as knee-jerk and non-reflexive as the pro-marriage side and instead of moving the conversation forward we have often retreated into queer communities to pat ourselves on the backs for our ideological purity. I recently heard a queer theorist say “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to get married.” This poverty of understanding, this lack of heart, this ideological purity, has cost us our ability to connect with many people. Such a stance does not take people where they are and engage them. It blames people for not being where we are. It does not recognize the community-level symbolic importance of marriage. For a theory (queer) that seems to be all about the shifting subjectivities of people, it casts the pro-marriage gays and liberals in static terms, one based on a false-consciousness argument that would be theoretically detestable to many radical queers.

It may be the case that the marriage fight will be seen as the end of the LGBTQ movement, but it might also be the case that achieving marriage equality will make it considerably easier to tackle issues like housing and employment discrimination.


The movement for marriage equality has been highly problematic, and rightly criticized. I support marriage equality.

More Resources:

The New Yorker: Supreme Court Justice Scalia Says Marriage Views Not Affected by Lifelong Fear of Gays

Salon: Robert Marshall - The Dark Legacy of Carlos Castaneda

The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda
By Robert Marshall

The godfather of the New Age led a secretive group of devoted followers in the last decade of his life. His closest "witches" remain missing, and former insiders, offering new details, believe the women took their own lives.

For fans of the literary con, it’s been a great few years. Currently, we have Richard Gere starring as Clifford Irving in “The Hoax,” a film about the ’70s novelist who penned a faux autobiography of Howard Hughes. We’ve had the unmasking of James Frey, JT LeRoy/Laura Albert and Harvard’s Kaavya Viswanathan, who plagiarized large chunks of her debut novel, forcing her publisher, Little, Brown and Co., to recall the book. Much has been written about the slippery boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, the publishing industry’s responsibility for distinguishing between the two, and the potential damage to readers. There’s been, however, hardly a mention of the 20th century’s most successful literary trickster: Carlos Castaneda.

If this name draws a blank for readers under 30, all they have to do is ask their parents. Deemed by Time magazine the “Godfather of the New Age,” Castaneda was the literary embodiment of the Woodstock era. His 12 books, supposedly based on meetings with a mysterious Indian shaman, don Juan, made the author, a graduate student in anthropology, a worldwide celebrity. Admirers included John Lennon, William Burroughs, Federico Fellini and Jim Morrison.

Under don Juan’s tutelage, Castaneda took peyote, talked to coyotes, turned into a crow, and learned how to fly. All this took place in what don Juan called “a separate reality.” Castaneda, who died in 1998, was, from 1971 to 1982, one of the best-selling nonfiction authors in the country. During his lifetime, his books sold at least 10 million copies.

Castaneda was viewed by many as a compelling writer, and his early books received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Time called them “beautifully lucid” and remarked on a “narrative power unmatched in other anthropological studies.” They were widely accepted as factual, and this contributed to their success. Richard Jennings, an attorney who became closely involved with Castaneda in the ’90s, was studying at Stanford in the early ’70s when he read the first two don Juan books. “I was a searcher,” he recently told Salon. “I was looking for a real path to other worlds. I wasn’t looking for metaphors.”

The books’ status as serious anthropology went almost unchallenged for five years. Skepticism increased in 1972 after Joyce Carol Oates, in a letter to the New York Times, expressed bewilderment that a reviewer had accepted Castaneda’s books as nonfiction. The next year, Time published a cover story revealing that Castaneda had lied extensively about his past. Over the next decade, several researchers, most prominently Richard de Mille, son of the legendary director, worked tirelessly to demonstrate that Castaneda’s work was a hoax.

In spite of this exhaustive debunking, the don Juan books still sell well. The University of California Press, which published Castaneda’s first book, “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge,” in 1968, steadily sells 7,500 copies a year. BookScan, a Nielsen company that tracks book sales, reports that three of Castaneda’s most popular titles, “A Separate Reality,” “Journey to Ixtlan” and “Tales of Power,” sold a total of 10,000 copies in 2006. None of Castaneda’s titles have ever gone out of print — an impressive achievement for any author.

Today, Simon and Schuster, Castaneda’s main publisher, still classifies his books as nonfiction. It could be argued that this label doesn’t matter since everyone now knows don Juan was a fictional creation. But everyone doesn’t, and the trust that some readers have invested in these books leads to a darker story that has received almost no coverage in the mainstream press.

Castaneda, who disappeared from the public view in 1973, began in the last decade of his life to organize a secretive group of devoted followers. His tools were his books and Tensegrity, a movement technique he claimed had been passed down by 25 generations of Toltec shamans. A corporation, Cleargreen, was set up to promote Tensegrity; it held workshops attended by thousands. Novelist and director Bruce Wagner, a member of Castaneda’s inner circle, helped produce a series of instructional videos. Cleargreen continues to operate to this day, promoting Tensegrity and Castaneda’s teachings through workshops in Southern California, Europe and Latin America.

At the heart of Castaneda’s movement was a group of intensely devoted women, all of whom were or had been his lovers. They were known as the witches, and two of them, Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar, vanished the day after Castaneda’s death, along with Cleargreen president Amalia Marquez and Tensegrity instructor Kylie Lundahl. A few weeks later, Patricia Partin, Castaneda’s adopted daughter as well as his lover, also disappeared. In February 2006, a skeleton found in Death Valley, Calif., was identified through DNA analysis as Partin’s.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Monday, March 25, 2013

Could Bill O'Reilly Pass Economics 101?

Radio Open Source: Gore Vidal on the Great Republic and its Fall

Gore Vidal on the Great Republic and its Fall
Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Having read all the Gore Vidal obits and the many more-and-less grudging encomia, I find the man himself at very near his best in my own conversational files — from an evening at Harvard just before Thanksgiving in 2003, on the occasion of his publishing Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams and Jefferson. He’d walked into the hall slowly, on a cane, that night, but his chatter was was crackling with fresh mimicry and mischief. (Two nights earlier, his reward at a joint reading in Provincetown was discovering that ancient nemesis Norman Mailer was getting around on two canes.) Great entertainer and great complainer, Vidal at 78 came through as passionate historian and erudite old comic who could still fill the house, and whose repartee was not all repertoire. I asked him, as the novelist of Empire, whether the hard plunge in these Bush years from republic to empire was now irreversible. He said the temptations of empire and the fate of ours were inescapable: “I think Gibbon would say: no. It’s highly reversible. And try to step aside when the Capitol falls on you. Ours will go as the others have gone.”

Harry Truman’s Cold War was the beginning of the end of our Great Republic, in the Vidal litany — the “Russians are coming” campaign when Truman and Dean Acheson knew that the Russians weren’t going anywhere. “Senator Vandenberg told Truman: ‘if you want this buildup because “the Russians are coming,” you’re going to have to frighten the American people to death or you’re not going to get any money out of Congress.’ Truman said: ‘I’ll take care of that,’ and he did!” Vidal’s heroes turned out to be General U. S. Grant, for writing in his celebrated memoirs that our Civil War was God’s judgment and retribution for the cruel folly of our war on Mexico; Benjamin Franklin, for forseeing the corruption of the people; and John Quincy Adams, for the Munroe Doctrine and his warning not to “seek out monsters to destroy” in the world.

To Read the Rest of the Introduction and to Listen to the Interview

HUM/ENG Extra Credit Opportunity: 5 Broken Cameras

William T. Young Library Auditorium

UK Students for Justice in Palestine will be holding a free public screening of the Oscar-nominated film "5 Broken Cameras" on March 28 at the William T Young Library Auditorium. Doors will be opening at 6:00pm and the documentary will start at 6:30pm.

Filmed from the perspective of Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, "5 Broken Cameras" was shot using six different video cameras – five of which were destroyed in the process of documenting Emad’s family’s life as well as Palestinian and international resistance to Israeli appropriation of land and occupation. It is a first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. In 2009 Israeli co-director Guy Davidi joined on to create the film. Structured around the destruction of Burnat's cameras, the filmmakers' collaboration follows one family's evolution over five years of turmoil.

Radio Open Source -- Dennis Lehane: Between Dorchester Ave and Sunset Boulevard

Dennis Lehane: Between Dorchester Ave and Sunset Boulevard
Radio Open Source

Dennis Lehane so rules the neighborhood of Noir (“Nwaaah,” as we say in Boston) that he gets street credit for work he didn’t write, like “The Departed” and “The Town.” But does the author of “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” and the new Moonlight Mile get credit enough for a body of artistic work now far beyond private-eye or “genre” of any kind — way beyond his gift for Boston-accented dialog?

Our conversation is about the murkier depths of his Gothic novel and movie “Shutter Island,” with Leonardo diCaprio as a U.S. Marshall apparently trapped in a Boston Harbor lock-up for the criminally insane in the 1950s. I think it’s Lehane’s version of the War on Terror. He says it’s more nearly his answer to the Patriot Act, his reliving of the Cold War and the repressions it licensed in America. “All past is prologue,” he remarks. “Noir is without a doubt the ultimate genre of ‘you cannot outrun the past’… That’s ‘Mystic River’: you cannot outrun your nature. You cannot escape the past.” “Shutter Island” in that sense turns out to be Dennis Lehane’s recapitulation of McCarthyism (an American Stalinism): those good old days when the CIA experimented with LSD and other psychotropic drugs on Federal prisoners and other unsuspecting guinea pigs. It was a time, he’s saying, that foreshadowed the suspension of habeas corpus and the tortures of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib in the George Bush years.

To Read the Rest of the Introduction and to Listen to the Episode

Hardcore History: Logical Insanity

[MB: an intense, thorough look at the "logical insanity" that led to the authorization of WWII atrocities from/on all sides.]

Show 42 - (BLITZ) Logical Insanity
Hardcore History

After many listener requests, Dan examines the issue of the morality of dropping the Atomic Bombs in the Second World War. As usual, he does so in his own unique, unexpected way.

“MHQ SUMMER 1990 VOL: 2 NO: 4. The Battle of Britain: How did The Few Win?" by Williamson Murray

To Listen to the Episode

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hardcore History: Old School Toughness

Show 33 - (BLITZ) Old School Toughness
by Dan Carlin
Hardcore History

Does the toughness of peoples play any role in history? How can historians deal with such an amorphous human quality? Historiography, boxing, barbarians, philosophy and wisdom are among the subjects touched upon.

1.Anabasis by Xenophon
2.Cyropaedia by Xenophon
3."Our Oriental Heritage" The Story of Civilization, Vol.1 by Will Durant
4. "Warfare in Antiquity" History of the Art of War, Volume 1 by Hans Delbruck
5."A History of the Ancient World" by Chester G. Starr
6."The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1" by Edward Gibbon
7. "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond
8."The Histories" by Herodotus

To Listen to the Episode

Davey D: On the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War We Recall key Anti-War Hip Hop Songs

On the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War We Recall key Anti-War Hip Hop Songs
by Davey D
Davey D's Hip Hop Corner

The other night ABC News did a special report on the growing popularity of anti-war protest songs. The report focused on how all these musicians were now coming out and providing a sound track to the growing discontent many of us are having with the war in Iraq. It talked about how people are more accepting of such songs and how major record labels were loosening up in the aftermath of the Dixie Chicks who got lambasted and later boycotted for speaking out against George Bush and his policies in 2003.

The report also brought to light the impact anti-war songs had on fueling the Anti-war movement against Vietnam in the late 60s and the question was raised as to what sort of impact todays rash of songs would have.

I cant remember all the singers they profiled, but I did recall seeing country singer Merle Haggard, Rock-N-Roll icon Bruce Springstein and pop sensation Pink. What surprised me was not seeing any mention of Hip Hop especially with the exception of KRS-One, since it was artists in the rap community that up to date have released more anti-war songs and were the first to unabashedly do so right after 9-11.

If we take a short walk down memory lane, folks may recall that the day after 9-11 Bay Area Hip Hop activists from organizations like Lets Get Free, The Ella Baker Center and Minds Eye Collective put together a rally that was held in Snow Park in Oakland. Close to 500 people attended this event which focused on the loss of human life and questioned the foreign policy missteps of the Bush administration. It was at this rally that many of us heard our last poem from the late June Jordan.

We also heard an incredible song from Michael Franti & Spearhead calling for healing and peace. A couple of months later, Franti appeared on Conan O’Brian and performed the anti-war song Bomb the World to Pieces only to find that his sentiments angered producers who threatened to censor the song when the show aired. Community outrage lead to OBrian’s people eventually showing the performance.

Early on we heard anti-war songs from acts like the Beastie Boys (World Gone Mad), Nas (Rule), Wu-Tang Affiliates Known Associates (World So Cold), Talib Kweli (the Proud), J-Live (Satisfied) and Mr Lif (home of the Brave). All in all there are more than 150 anti-war songs that have been recorded by Hip Hop artists.

The song that really made heads turn was by Bay Area artist Paris who came out of retirement and released a 6 minute missive called What Would You Do? that went into great detail about The Caryle Group, Bush’s relationship to the Bin Laden family and the hawkish action plans of the Neo-cons serving in Bushs cabinet. Paris gave the song away for free and then followed it up with an entire antiwar album called Sonic Jihad which went on to sell over 200 thousand units. Another great anti-war cut off that album was ‘Sheep to Slaughter‘.

To Read the Rest of the Essay and Listen to the Songs

David Harvey: Crises of Capitalism

David Harvey looks beyond capitalism towards a new social order. Can we find a more responsible, just, and humane economic system?

Alice Walker: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution
by Alice Walker

Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel The Color Purple has been celebrated as a modern literary classic and was made into a film and theatrical musical. ...

This article is adapted from her introduction to Nancy Stout’s One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution, forthcoming from Monthly Review Press


The people in this book who were tortured, assassinated, disappeared, left me yearning for and missing them. For instance, Frank País—a young schoolteacher of twenty who was the other comandante, Fidel’s partner in guiding the overthrow of the dictator, and Celia’s primary contact in the early days of the Revolution—was murdered by Batista’s police a month after his younger brother, Josué, had been killed by them. Their mother, Rosário, who claimed their bodies, is now gone too, yet I am still able, as I experience their story, to feel some of her agony. And that of two indomitable rebel women, Clodomira and Lydia, tortured sadistically before they died in the custody of the police. Much of the world continues to grieve the loss to humanity of Ché Guevara, assassinated so young and with so much still to offer, but he is far from the only astonishing person who is missing, and played a role in Celia’s Revolution and her story.

Cuba has suffered so much I sometimes think of it as the country whose greatest wealth is the people’s collective experience of deeply shared emotion. All those who struggled so bravely and died, sometimes horribly, were passionately loved and appreciated by the revolutionaries they left behind, and strengthened. I believe it is the glue of this mutually lived history, and the hope of creating a free and healthy Cuba that, even today, holds the country together. In this book we see some of the cost of seeking to live one’s own way, charting and being drawn by one’s own destiny. These fallen heroes, women and men, young and old, many of them revealed for the first time in this book, are cause to mourn.

But just as much, and also as revealed in this book, cause to celebrate, or simply to admire.

Reading this story we see precisely why Fidel Castro adored Celia Sánchez and why Ché and Celia were good friends. All three of these revolutionaries were persons of the highest moral character and integrity; deeply human also in their transgressions and imperfections, they were equals of the fiercest sort. There was also a price on all their heads.

We see something else as well: that the women of Cuba were full participants in the Revolution, combatants, covert operatives, and even co-instigators. It was in fact Celia and Haydée Santamaría who, early on and with other women, took up arms to fight the dictatorship. Celia, the daughter of a doctor, who frequently helped her father in his attendance to the poor, a society girl and high-school beauty queen, this woman who wore red lipstick, wide skirts, high heels (and would wear high heels with her rebel army uniform when she felt like it) took to the mountains of eastern Cuba with Fidel, Ché, and other revolutionaries no less brave but far less known, and placed her life against the killing machine of wealth, corruption, and depravity that so insulted and wounded her beloved country.

I love this book. Biographer Nancy Stout is to be congratulated for her insightful, mature, and sometimes droll exploration of a profoundly liberated, adventuresome, and driven personality. I love the life of Celia Sánchez, a life that was singular, sui generis, and true to its time of revolution and change in Cuban society, but also archetypal in its impact and relevance to all times of social struggle and revolt, including this one, in which Cuba’s archenemy, the government of the United States, is also experiencing transformation. To fight the demons that have overtaken us, and to lead the world back to its senses, such an intrepid woman warrior would have to exist: a Durga, a Kali. A Celia.

Knowing her as well as I now believe I do, I ask myself: Did we meet? I remember visiting Cuba for the first time in 1978. Celia would have been very ill by then; she died in 1980. I do recall a visit to the Federation of Cuban Women and if I’m not mistaken I met Vilma Espín, another remarkable revolutionary, and perhaps Haydée Santamaría, whom I surely had “met” in the story of the torture and murder of her brother Abel, one of those captured after the attack on the Moncada garrison in 1953. I remember Haydée especially for her reply to the guard who brought her one of her brother’s eyes: if he would not talk, nor can I.

To Read the Entire Essay

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dan Savage: "What is the most important issue related to sex and sexuality today?"

"Dan Savage answers an audience question at Jacksonville University -- "What is the most important issue related to sex and sexuality today?" His answer is a classic Dan rant, covering such varied topics as faith, sex, love and politics."

Jessica Taft: Growing Up and Rising Up

Growing Up and Rising Up
by Jessica Taft
New York University Press

Nenetzin stands in the center of the plaza, her arms painted white, wearing a skeleton mask and a bridal veil. Along with a dozen other young activists all dressed as skeletons, she sings a song about remembering those who have died due to poverty, domestic violence, state repression, and other social and political injustices. It is “El Dia de los Muertos,” the Day of the Dead, and Nenetzin’s Mexican youth activist collective is interweaving tradition with political theater to educate others and build oppositional consciousness. At the end of the singing and dancing, another young skeleton steps forward to inform the audience that this performance was part of the construction of La Otra Campaña, a Zapatista-initiated campaign for building an alternative progressive politics in Mexico.

* * * *

Emma reports on labor issues for an independent, public access television show in Vancouver. She has presented stories on a speech given by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, a day of mourning for workers who have died on the job, and other “progressive, or working things that are going on around the city.” In addition to being a media activist, Emma also played a key role in the organization of a student rally in support of striking teachers. Emma and some of her pro-labor friends convinced a citywide student organization to take a stand on the issue and coordinated an exuberant display of student solidarity. Taking over a major intersection, the teens played music, danced, had fun, and demonstrated to the city that they wanted the district administration to return to contract negotiations with the teachers’ union.

* * * *

Manuela and I sit at her kitchen table, making pins out of foam, ribbon, and printed logos for tomorrow’s Communist Youth of Venezuela (Juventud Comunista de Venezuela or JCV) concert and cultural event. We talk about Presidents Chavez and Bush, and discuss the future of social movements in Venezuela and the United States. As members of the JCV, Manuela and her comrades see themselves as having an important role in Venezuela’s revolutionary Bolivarian process. They spend most of their time and energy doing political education work with the many young people who are excited about Chavez and the possibilities of his government, but, according to Manuela, do not yet understand all of the economic and social problems and their potential solutions. Chavez speaks openly about socialism, and the JCV is trying to work with youth to mobilize for substantial, “real” socialism, not just a few minor reforms. To do this, they hold study groups, discussing global political economy and reading Marx, Lenin, and Che. And they organize community events, like the upcoming concert, trying to bring youth together to talk about the problems they see around them and to develop their collective knowledge.

* * * *

Pitu, a tiny seventeen-year-old with a pixie haircut and wearing a fluffy pink sweater, takes my hand and leads me around one of Buenos Aires’ most well-known comedores, a new set of social institutions that can be loosely translated as soup kitchens. A cooperative, self-governing, and democratic enterprise that includes a pasta workshop, soup kitchen, photo shop, textile factory, screen-printing operation, and bakery, this comedor provides prepared and raw foods, employment opportunities, and political and social community for its members. Pitu is the youngest member of the center’s youth group, a subsection of the organization where youth participants gather together to talk and learn from each other, and to work on their own projects or assist in the various facets of the organization’s operation.

* * * *

Lisette’s dedication to fighting against environmental racism and for community health and safety finally paid off in the summer of 2001 when a San Francisco Bay Area toxic waste disposal facility, which her youth organization had been trying to shut down for more than eight years, was forced to close. Motivated by her anger at the health problems her community has experienced because of the facility’s lack of concern for the well-being of neighborhoods of poor people of color, Lisette spent countless hours planning and implementing educational events, rallies, and press conferences. She and her peers also documented the company’s violations, went to planning meetings, confronted the regulating agency, and lobbied politicians. As an activist, Lisette has been focused primarily on this one campaign for several years because, she said, “I know everything is connected and messed up, but let me try to just focus on this one thing because, if not, then I just feel like it’s too much.” Now, with the facility closed, she and her group are moving on to new projects, and Lisette is hopeful that she’ll see some major “systemic changes” in her lifetime.

* * * *

These brief stories about five teenage girl activists provide just a glimpse of their vibrant political identities and practices. From the young Zapatistas with the braids and bandanas who climbed the fence at the WTO protests in Cancun to throw flowers at the police to the U.S. high school students designing curriculums to educate their peers about child labor and sweatshops, teenage girls in the Americas are participating in a variety of struggles for social justice. Radical cheerleaders at a high school in Los Angeles, wearing red shirts with black stars, chant against the U.S. war in Iraq and in support of striking workers while doing splits and pyramids.1 Forty-four juveniles were arrested at the 2004 American Indian Movement march against the celebration of the Columbus Day Parade in Denver, Colorado. Girls and queer youth are increasingly visible in the boisterous pink blocs that have mobilized at numerous large-scale protests since the initial pink and silver column at the IMF/World Bank protests in Prague in 2000. The MST land occupations in Brazil include whole families, not just adults.3 The YouthPower! program of Desis Rising Up and Moving in New York, Khmer Girls in Action, in Long Beach, California, and other community-based youth groups organize for immigrant rights and against the detention and deportation of community members. Philadelphia students have resisted the privatization of their schools. Teenage women working in export processing zones are forming workers’ organizations. Young sex workers are organizing for their rights to health and safety. Anti-capitalist urban youth are reclaiming buildings, setting up squats, and creating autonomous spaces. Across the United States, youth are fighting for increased spending on education and against the development of more juvenile justice facilities and youth jails.4 Teenagers are actively participating in indymedia centers and youth media projects, producing a variety of alternative media and challenging the corporate concentration of television, radio, and print news. And, on March 6, 2003, hundreds of thousands of students walked out of classes around the world to protest the impending U.S. bombing of Iraq.

To Read the Rest of the Introduction

Excerpt from the Introduction to

Body/Beauty: Peace and Conflict Studies Archive

[MB: Representations, conceptualizations, distortions, stereotypes, criticism and activism. Embodied cognition.]


Angier, Natalie. "Abstract Thoughts? The Body Takes Them Literally." The New York Times (February 2, 2010)

Apodaca, Greg. Greg's Digital Portfolio (Professional website for his digital retouching services with examples of his work: 2012)

Bergen, Benjamin K. "The New Science of Meaning." Huffington Post (December 11, 2012)

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

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

Fabello, Melissa A. "Five Locker Room Myths About Penises Debunked." Everyday Feminism (April 28, 2013)

Fernandez, Ingrid. "Visions of the Other: The Return of the Abject in Roman Polanski's The Tenant." Bright Lights Film Journal #78 (November 2012)

Figueroa, Alyssa and Sarah Seltzer. "#SayVagina: Politicians Perform “The Vagina Monologues” in Protest at Michigan’s State Capitol." AlterNet (June 19, 2012)

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

Kalmár, György. "Body Memories, Body Cinema: The Politics of Multi-Sensual Counter-Memory in György Pálfi’s Hukkle." Jump Cut #55 (Fall 2013)

Kuldova, Tereza. "Lookism: Why we don't want to be perceived as "ugly" or "different." Antropologi (December 13, 2011)

Pruitt, Jos. "Racist Psychology Today article claims black women are objectively less attractive than other women." Feministing (May 16, 2011)

Sanford, Matthew. "The Body's Grace." On Being (May 3, 2012)

Vanderwees, Chris. "Sartorial signifiers, masculinity, and the global recession in HBO's Hung." Jump Cut #55 (Fall 2013)

Watson, Rebecca. "Your Body is Obscene if You’re a Woman, or Look Like One." SkepChick (May 16, 2011)

Democracy Now: Dying Iraq War Veteran Tomas Young Explains Decision to End His Life

Exclusive: Dying Iraq War Veteran Tomas Young Explains Decision to End His Life
Democracy Now

In the week marking the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we spend the hour looking at the remarkable life and imminent death of Iraq War veteran Tomas Young. Citing his overwhelming physical pain from wounds that left him paralyzed in Iraq, Young recently announced he has decided to end his life by discontinuing his medicine and nourishment, which comes in the form of liquid through a feeding tube. Young joins to explain his decision from his home in Kansas City, along with his wife Claudia Cuellar. We’re also joined by Phil Donahue, the legendary TV talk show host, whose 2007 documentary, "Body of War," follows Tomas’ rehabilitation and his political awakening to become one of the most prominent antiwar U.S. veterans speaking out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. "I am, on one hand, sick and tired of being sick and tired," Young says. "And on the other, I don’t want to watch my body waste away." Donahue calls Tomas’ announcement "a very unusual act of moral courage. He wants people to see this, because he came home from the most sanitized war of my lifetime. We don’t see this. But less than 5 percent of us, maybe 1 percent ... have made a personal sacrifice for this war. And Tomas is one of them."


Tomas Young, Iraq War veteran and the main subject of the documentary, Body of War. On April 4, 2004, his fifth day in Iraq, Young’s unit came under fire in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. Young was left paralyzed, never to walk again. Released from medical care three months later, Young returned home to become an active member in Iraq Veterans Against the War. He recently announced that he will stop his nourishment, which comes in the form of liquid through a feeding tube — a decision which will hasten his death.

Phil Donahue, one of the best-known talk show hosts in U.S. television history, his show was on the air for more than 29 years. In 2002, he returned to the airwaves, but he was fired in 2003 on the eve of the war by MSNBC because he was allowing antiwar voices on the air. Along with Ellen Spiro, he directed the documentary, Body of War, which tells the story of Tomas Young, an Iraq War veteran paralyzed from a bullet to the spine. Now, at the age of 33, Tomas has decided to end his life.

Claudia Cuellar, the wife and primary caregiver of Tomas Young.

To Watch the Episode

Extra Credit Opportunity for ENG/HUM Students: BCTC International Dialogue Series - Focus on Iraq, Jordan, Nepal and Singapore

Our last International Dialogue this spring will be on Wednesday 3/27 led by our international students. Our students bring firsthand knowledge and experiences from their native countries. They will share stories of growing up, going to school, and living day to day in their respective countries. They will also share traditional clothing, music, photographs, food, Henna designs, among others.

Where: AT 117
When: 1-2 pm
What: International Dialogue Series—Focus on Iraq, Jordan, Nepal and Singapore
Who: BCTC ESL Students : Sarah Abbas from Iraq, Sobhyea Shalash from Jordan, Prabina Bhattrai from Nepal, and Keshabi Adhikari from Nepal
Moderators: Keith Gilbertson / Iddah Otieno

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

David Swanson: Iraq War Among World's Worst Events

Iraq War among World’s Worst Events: Ever More Shocked, Never Yet Awed
by David Swanson
War is a Crime

At 10 years since the launch of Operation Iraqi Liberation (to use the original name with the appropriate acronym, OIL) and over 22 years since Operation Desert Storm, there is little evidence that any significant number of people in the United States have a realistic idea of what our government has done to the people of Iraq, or of how these actions compare to other horrors of world history. A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefited Iraq. A plurality of Americans believe, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are in fact grateful.

A number of U.S. academics have advanced the dubious claim that war making is declining around the world. Misinterpreting what has happened in Iraq is central to their argument. As documented below, by the most scientifically respected measures available, Iraq lost 1.4 million lives as a result of OIL, saw 4.2 million additional people injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. That compares to 2.5% lost in the U.S. Civil War, or 3 to 4% in Japan in World War II, 1% in France and Italy in World War II, less than 1% in the U.K. and 0.3% in the United States in World War II. The 1.4 million dead is higher as an ab solute number as well as a percentage of population than these other horrific losses. U.S. deaths in Iraq since 2003 have been 0.3% of the dead, even if they’ve taken up the vast majority of the news coverage, preventing U.S. news consumers from understanding the extent of Iraqi suffering.

In a very American parallel, the U.S. government has only been willing to value the life of an Iraqi at that same 0.3% of the financial value it assigns to the life of a U.S. citizen.

The 2003 invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by another 3,900 over the next eight years. The U.S. military targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances It also made use of what some might call “weapons of mass destruction,” using cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in densely settled urban areas.

Birth defects, cancer rates, and infant mortality are through the roof. Water supplies, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, bridges, and electricity supplies have been devastated, and not repaired. Healthcare and nutrition and education are nothing like they were before the war. And we should remember that healthcare and nutrition had already deteriorated during years of economic warfare waged through the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever imposed in modern history.

Money spent by the United States to “reconstruct” Iraq was always less than 10% of what was being spent adding to the damage, and most of it was never actually put to any useful purpose. At least a third was spent on “security,” while much of the rest was spent on corruption in the U.S. military and its contractors.

The educated who might have best helped rebuild Iraq fled the country. Iraq had the best universities in Western Asia in the early 1990s, and now leads in illiteracy, with the population of teachers in Baghdad reduced by 80%.

For years, the occupying forces broke the society of Iraq down, encouraging ethnic and sectarian division and violence, resulting in a segregated country and the repression of rights that Iraqis used to enjoy, even under Saddam Hussein’s brutal police state.

While the dramatic escalation of violence that for several years was predicted would accompany any U.S. withdrawal did not materialize, Iraq is not at peace. The war destabilized Iraq internally, created regional tensions, and -- of course -- generated widespread resentment for the United States. That was the opposite result of the stated one of making the United States safer.

If the United States had taken five trillion dollars, and -- instead of spending it destroying Iraq -- had chosen to do good with it, at home or abroad, just imagine the possibilities. The United Nations thinks $30 billion a year would end world hunger. For $5 trillion, why not end world hunger for 167 years? The lives not saved are even more than the lives taken away by war spending.

A sanitized version of the war and how it started is now in many of our school text books. It is not too late for us to correct the record, or to make reparations. We can better work for an actual reduction in war making and the prevention of new wars, if we accurately understand what past wars have involved.

To Read the Rest of the Report and Access Sources

Stephen Zunes: Democrats Share the Blame for Tragedy of Iraq War

Democrats Share the Blame for Tragedy of Iraq War
by Stephen Zunes

Here on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, it is important to remember that it was not just those in the Bush White House who were responsible for the tragedy, but leading members of Congress as well, some of whom are now in senior positions in the Obama administration. The 4,500 Americans killed, the far larger number permanently wounded, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and millions displaced, the trillion dollars of US taxpayers' money squandered (and the resulting cutbacks through sequestration), the continued costs of the war through veterans' benefits and interest on the national debt, and the anti-American extremism in reaction to the invasion and occupation which has spread throughout much of the world all could have been avoided if the Democratic-controlled Senate hadn't voted to authorize this illegal and unnecessary war and occupation.

On this and other web sites - as well as in many scores of policy reports, newspaper articles, academic journals and other sources - the tragic consequences of a US invasion of Iraq and a refutation of falsehoods being put forward by the Bush administration to justify it were made available to every member of the House and Senate (see, for example, my cover story in The Nation magazine The Case Against a War with Iraq). The 2003 vote authorizing the invasion was not like the vote on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution on the use of force against North Vietnam, for which Congress had no time for hearings or debate and for which most of those supporting it (mistakenly) thought they were simply authorizing limited short-term retaliatory strikes in response to a specific series of alleged incidents. By contrast, in regard to the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, Congress had many months to investigate and debate the administration's claims that Iraq was a threat as well as the likely implications of a US invasion. Members of Congress also fully recognized that the resolution authorized a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation and a subsequent military occupation of an indefinite period.

Violating International Legal Conventions

Those who voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq did so despite the fact that it violated international legal conventions which the US government is legally bound to uphold. The resolution constituted a clear violation of the United Nations Charter that, like other ratified international treaties, should be treated as supreme law, according to Article VI of the US Constitution. According to articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, no member state has the right to enforce any resolution militarily unless the UN Security Council determines that there has been a material breach of its resolution, decides that all non-military means of enforcement have been exhausted, and then specifically authorizes the use of military force.

This is what the Security Council did in November 1990 with Resolution 678 in response to Iraq's ongoing violations of UN Security Council resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Kuwait, but the Security Council did not do so for any subsequent lesser Iraqi violations. The only other exception for the use of force authorized by the charter is in self-defense against armed attack, which even the Bush administration admitted had not taken place.

This effective renunciation of the UN Charter's prohibition against such wars of aggression constituted an effective repudiation of the post-WWII international legal order. Alternative resolutions, such as one authorizing force against Iraq if authorized by the UN Security Council, were voted down by a bipartisan majority.

Concerned Scholars

Members of Congress were also alerted by large numbers of scholars of the Middle East, Middle Eastern political leaders, former State Department and intelligence officials and others who recognized that a US invasion would likely result in a bloody insurgency, a rise in Islamist extremism and terrorism, increased sectarian and ethnic conflict, and related problems. Few people I know who are familiar with Iraq were at all surprised that the US invasion has become such a tragedy. Indeed, most of us were in communication with Congressional offices and often with individual members of Congress themselves in the months leading up to the vote warning of the likely consequences of an invasion and occupation. Therefore, subsequent claims by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Harry Reid and other leading Democratic supporters of the war that they were unaware of the likely consequences of the invasion are completely false.

To Read the Rest

Happy Persian New Year - 1392

Extra Credit Opportunity for ENG/HUM Students: 19th Annual Black Women’s Conference (U of Kentucky, March 22 - 28)

[MB: attend one of these free events]

This Friday, March 22, 2013 begins the 19th Annual Black Women’s Conference. The theme this year is Voices of Resistance: Black Women and the Power of Song. The speakers are Dr. Renita Weems, Dr. Bettina Love, Dr. Judith Casselberry and UK’s own, Dr. Angelique Clay.

Schedule of Presentations:

Dr. Renita Weems: Call for the Weeping Women: Women, Resistance, and The Blues (12 pm, Student Center, 3/22)
Dr. Angelique Clay: Songs of Forgotten Voices: African-American Women Composers of American Art Songs (2 pm, Student Center 3/22)
Dr. Bettina Love: Black Girlhood, Hip Hop and the New South (3:30 pm, MLK Cultural Center, 3/27)
Dr. Judith Casselberry: The Amazon 35 Project: Race, Coalition Politics, and Lesbian Musical Culture (5:30 pm. Lyric Theater, 3/28).

The theme for this conference is unbound by discipline and time. The speakers were called on to use their intellectual and personal gifts to discuss the ways in which song, singing spaces, and places where black women gather to hum or moan have been powerful and necessary to the survival of black women. In the 19th year of the conference, we gather women/scholars/sisters/girlfriends and discuss the meaning, uses and importance of music in the lives of black women. We will discuss music from hip hop to gospel to folk to whatever moves and motivates people to keep on keeping on. The work and voices of these scholars draw from the wide span of black culture, history and spirituality.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Take (Canada/Argentina: Avi Lewis, 2004: 87 mins)

Description from:

In suburban Buenos Aires, thirty unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats and refuse to leave.

All they want is to re-start the silent machines. But this simple act - The Take - has the power to turn the globalization debate on its head.

In the wake of Argentina's dramatic economic collapse in 2001, Latin America's most prosperous middle class finds itself in a ghost town of abandoned factories and mass unemployment. The Forja auto plant lies dormant until its former employees take action. They're part of a daring new movement of workers who are occupying bankrupt businesses and creating jobs in the ruins of the failed system.

But Freddy, the president of the new worker's co-operative, and Lalo, the political powerhouse from the Movement of Recovered Companies, know that their success is far from secure. Like every workplace occupation, they have to run the gauntlet of courts, cops and politicians who can either give their project legal protection or violently evict them from the factory.

The story of the workers' struggle is set against the dramatic backdrop of a crucial presidential election in Argentina, in which the architect of the economic collapse, Carlos Menem, is the front-runner. His cronies, the former owners, are circling: if he wins, they'll take back the companies that the movement has worked so hard to revive.

Armed only with slingshots and an abiding faith in shop-floor democracy, the workers face off against the bosses, bankers and a whole system that sees their beloved factories as nothing more than scrap metal for sale.

With The Take, director Avi Lewis, one of Canada's most outspoken journalists, and writer Naomi Klein, author of the international bestseller No Logo, champion a radical economic manifesto for the 21st century. But what shines through in the film is the simple drama of workers' lives and their struggle: the demand for dignity and the searing injustice of dignity denied.


In general, this documentary shows A) how neo-liberal politics can utterly destroy a country and B) how syndicalist and anarchist concepts can work today. (Which are exactly the concepts behind the resistance, although they seldom call themselves anarchist they certainly achieve what anarchists have been striving for for generations.)

Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols - The Bull Market: Political Advertising

The Bull Market: Political Advertising
by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols
Monthly Review


For Americans born after 1950, and for those born before 1950 but with faltering memories, the televised commercial deluge that now defines American political campaigns likely seems the natural order of things, for better or for worse.2 But American campaigns were significantly different in the 175 years before political advertising, specifically television political advertising, became the order of the day. When one reads Theodore White’s epic The Making of the President series, especially for 1960 and 1964, the emerging role of television is a recurring theme—but TV political advertising is barely present in the early 1960s volumes. By White’s account, Nixon paid virtually no attention to his Madison Avenue advisors throughout his unsuccessful 1960 presidential campaign.3 Joe Klein recounts how his research shows that in the 1950s and ‘60s candidates routinely hired advertising experts and pollsters, “But these were peripheral advisers; they didn’t run the campaigns.”4

This quickly changed. In 1969 Joe McGinniss published his groundbreaking The Selling of the President, to chronicle what he termed “a striking new phenomenon—the marketing of political candidates as if they were consumer products.” The book, which involved McGinniss spending time with Nixon’s television advertising advisors including Roger Ailes during the 1968 presidential campaign, seemed shocking and a sharp departure from the political-driven campaign narratives provided by the likes of White. McGinniss documented how Nixon came to rely upon TV political commercials, based on Madison Avenue marketing principles, as the foundation of his campaign. In the book Ailes presciently concludes immediately after the November victory, “This is the beginning of a whole new concept. This is it. This is the way they’ll be elected forevermore.”5 It is ironic that today, when one reads the book, it seems downright quaint, even homespun, in comparison to subsequent elections. The liberal McGinniss is able to wander through the corridors of power in Nixon’s campaign like a serendipitous hippie roaming around at Woodstock. The narrative reminds one of the Dr. Evil character in the Austin Powers film who returns to life in 1997 after being frozen for thirty years, and then threatens to blow up the world unless he is given his ransom demand of…one million dollars.

Consider also The Candidate, a 1972 film about a young idealistic California candidate for a U.S. Senate seat, starring Robert Redford. The film, with a screenplay by a former Eugene McCarthy speechwriter, dealt with the phoniness and superficiality that marketing and television had brought to political campaigns. It was provocative and controversial and contributed to subsequent debates about the role of money in politics. TV political advertising plays an important role in the piece and is cast in a negative light. But what is ironic is that the TV ads Redford’s character airs in the fictional campaign are closer to Lincoln’s Gettysburg address in tone and substantive content than they are to the asininity that typifies political ads of more recent vintage. Ads of that caliber today would have political scientists and pundits shouting from the mountaintops that we were free at last. But in 1972 such ads were considered highly suspect and part of the problem.

As it was, by 1972 the total amount spent for all races on television political advertising, and that so alarmed McGinniss, Redford, and the nation—from President and House and Senate to governorships, mayors, state legislatures, referenda, initiatives and city council, the works!—had increased almost fourfold from 1960 to reach $37 million.6 That would amount to approximately $200 million in 2012 dollars; so, factoring for inflation, the 1972 election spent less than 3 percent of what will be spent on TV political ads in the 2012 election cycle.

For a concrete example, in 1972, a little-known Colorado Democrat, Floyd Haskell, spent $81,000 (roughly $440,000 in 2010 dollars) on television advertising for a campaign that unseated incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Gordon Allott. The figure was dramatic enough to merit note in a New York Times article on Haskell’s upset win. Fast-forward to the 2010 Senate race, when incumbent Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet defeated Republican Ken Buck. The total spent on that campaign in 2010 (the bulk of which went to television ads) topped $40 million, more than $30 million of which was spent by Super PAC-type groups answering only to their donors. In the last month of the election, negative ads ran nearly every minute of every day. The difference in spending, factoring in inflation, approached one hundred-to-one. The 2010 Colorado Senate race is generally held up by insiders as the bellwether for 2012 and beyond. As Tim Egan puts it, “This is your democracy on meth—the post–Citizens United world.”

The total number of TV political ads for House, Senate, and Gubernatorial candidates in 2010 was 2,870,000. This was a 250 percent increase in the number of TV ads as there were for the same category of races in 2002. In terms of spending, and compared strictly to 2008, just two years earlier, House race TV ads cost 54 percent more in 2010 and the cost of Senate race TV ads was up 71 percent.7 By the end of 2011 it was already clear that 2012 would have a quantum leap in campaign spending from 2008, the greatest increase in American history, and much of this would go to TV political ads. “In 2010, it was just training wheels, and those training wheels will come off in 2012,” says Kenneth Goldstein, president of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. “There will be more bigger groups spending, and not just on one side but on both sides.”8

This is not a commercial market where a speculative boom leads to an eventual bust. This is a political market and it is going in one direction, quickly. The federal and state budgets are enormous multi-trillion-dollar troughs and there is no sign that corporate interests are anywhere near their upward limit of what they will pay to have access to them and control the laws, policies, subsidies, and regulations that affect their profitability. Indeed, it is possible that 2012 may one day appear to be a democratic panacea compared to what lies ahead, much like 1968 or 1972 looks to us today.

Any way you slice it, to mix metaphors, we are not in Kansas anymore.


To Read the Entire Essay

Monday, March 18, 2013

Matt Zoller Seitz -- Harold and Maude: Life and How to Live It

Harold and Maude: Life and How to Live It
By Matt Zoller Seitz

Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude, about the love between a suicidal young man of about twenty and an almost eighty-year-old widow, is timeless in part because it never quite belonged to its own time. Conceived in the late 1960s, at the height of the counterculture, it was released in 1971, when the political narrative of peaceful rebels versus the jackbooted establishment had lost what little mainstream appeal it had briefly enjoyed. In the popular imagination, the March on Washington and the Summer of Love had been displaced by Woodstock, Altamont, Kent State, and a string of assassinations and riots. Richard Nixon had ridden into office in 1968 on a wave of law-and-order sentiment and was about to cakewalk into a second term (and unprecedented shame). The counterculture was in retreat. As Peter Fonda’s record producer tells his young girlfriend in 1999’s The Limey, the sixties were “really . . . just ’66 and early ’67. That’s all it was.”

But the movement’s ideals lived on, in a disguised and ultimately more daring form, in Harold and Maude, which took values that had been expressed by youthful rebels and dropouts in the late 1960s—peace, love, understanding, distrust of authority, a determination to march to the beat of a different drummer—and put them in the mouth of an old woman embroiled in one of the oddest and most original love stories ever filmed. The movie’s apoplectic authority figures, dotty old-money types, poetic interludes, and trance-inducing folk-rock soundtrack (by Cat Stevens) may seem typical of earlier hippie flicks. But its two central premises—that an elderly woman could embody the most unguarded, delicate variety of Summer of Love openness and that she and a much younger man should be able to fall in love and get married without being judged, much less stopped—are anything but. Harold and Maude was shocking by the standards of 1971 Hollywood movies, even the ones that styled themselves as adventurous or hip. But it is so ideologically and emotionally consistent, and weaves such a gentle spell, that we can accept the central romance as a metaphor for beleaguered political and social sentiments even as we get to know Harold (Bud Cort) and Maude (Ruth Gordon) as individuals and root for their happiness. It’s a romance, a tragedy, a satire, a paean to eccentricity, a philosophical statement, and a “trip” film whose music montages seem to roll in like waves. Its mix of elements felt strange and new at the time, and still does, even though the film’s characters, tone, and soundtrack have been referenced and plundered by many modern directors, including Wes Anderson, who used two Stevens songs in Rushmore; P. T. Anderson, whose first four features are filled with Ashby-like innocents stumbling through cruel worlds; and David Fincher, whose Fight Club features a misfit couple flirting at self-help groups that they don’t even belong to, as Harold and Maude do at strangers’ funerals.

Ashby was a former editor and one of the staunchest exemplars of countercultural values ever to work in Hollywood. He debuted with 1970’s The Landlord, starring Beau Bridges as a white preppy who buys a brownstone in then black Park Slope, Brooklyn, alienates his stuck-up family, and learns what really matters in life: love, honesty, and spontaneity. He followed it with an impressive string of pictures that rank among the decade’s best, including Harold and Maude, The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975), Coming Home (1978), and Being There (1979). The films vary widely in subject matter, style, and tone. But they all share a fascination with naive outsiders who are part of a larger system or machine, even if they don’t realize it, and who inspire others, accidentally or on purpose.

In all these movies, but especially in Harold and Maude, Ashby displays an extraordinary sensitivity to the spectrum of human experience. Both The Landlord and Harold and Maude are built around disaffected young men who act out against lives of stifling privilege and ossified values, but the latter film is simpler and more direct, and less tied to ripped-from-the-headlines issues. Building on the innovations of the landmark releases The Graduate (1967) and Easy Rider (1969), Harold and Maude explores outsider mentalities through fragmented cutting, using those music montages to embellish its themes and create a feeling of emotional suspension. But Harold and Maude is ultimately a richer, deeper movie, less measured and a lot more meandering, and also warmer, weirder, and tougher to reduce to catchphrases. It doesn’t position rebels against the establishment, or any group against any other group. It just wants people to be themselves and to be appreciated instead of judged—and to spread bliss by reaching out.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Media Responses to the Verdict of Guilt for Two Defendants in the Steubenville Rape Case

[MB: Originally collected these reports on the attempted community cover up of the football players boasting about the gang rape in this post Local Leaks: Steubenville Files. After the verdicts against only two of the players involved in the gang rape and no charges against the adults that attempted to suppress the truth about the incident -- CNN has stunningly provided coverage in which they sympathize with the rapists who are sentenced, with no mention of the Jane Doe victim on which they enacted a violent rape and then boasted about it online.]

More responses to the verdict of guilt for Ma'Lik Richmond and Trent Mays

Mia McKenzie: On Rape, Cages, and the Steubenville Verdict (Black Girl Dangerous)

Megan Carpentier -- 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

Excerpt from Megan Carpentier:

Generally speaking, the news media don't lament the theretofore bright futures of young men (or women) convicted of other violent crimes, such as the killing of girlfriends or executing down-on-their-luck job-hunters. They don't grieve at the loss of college football careers for kids convicted of drug-related offenses, or empathize with would-be murderers who break down in tears when faced with consequences for the crimes they committed. They don't assign deeper motivations to the tears of men and women who must now contend with the most openly broken part of the American criminal justice system – incarceration – to which around 2.2 million Americans are currently consigned (at 730 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, the highest rate of imprisonment in the world) and which is widely recognized as minimally rehabilitative and maximally punitive.

But rape isn't any other crime in America, or elsewhere. Statistics show that every 100 rapes in America results in only five felony convictions. It's the only crime in which the level of intoxication of the victim is considered by some, like the convicted rapists' lawyers and some in the media, to be mitigating evidence. It's the only crime in which the perceived attractiveness of the perpetrators to other people or the victim is considered relevant information. It's the only one in which we're encouraged to sympathize with why perpetrators picked their victims – their supposed drunkenness, their clothes, their reputations – and then blame the victims for making themselves attractive targets.

And it's probably the only crime these two boys could have committed and gotten international coverage for their football prowess and the supposed harm that the victim – not the two rapists – did to their team. But when everyone is done being sympathetic to two convicted rapists whose own bad decisions – not those of the victim, or those made within the criminal justice system – put three promising young lives on very different paths than the ones on which they started that terrible night, maybe then they can give some thought to the young girl. It is she, whose body was violated by two boys and hundreds of thousands of strangers, who has to walk into a school and among residents of a town where some people want her not just shamed for her own sexual assault but dead for reporting it. For her, the few memories of that night but the many of its extended aftermath cannot be erased.

And maybe, then, everyone could spare some sympathy for the next girl, and the one after that – and all the victims of sexual assault who are created at an average of one every two minutes in America. Because it's only by reversing who automatically qualifies for society's sympathy that we can even start to make an impression on the needs of those who really deserve our empathy and some sort of justice.

WTOV: 2 arrested in connection with threats to Jane Doe

Citizen Radio: On the Steubenville guilty verdict and rape culture

Skepchick: Steubenville & the Cult of Consequence-Free Forgiveness

Steubenville Rape Trial: Blogger Who Exposed Case Speaks Out After Ohio Teens Found Guilty (Democracy Now)

Gender Focus: Steubenville - Not a Bug in the System

Mark Weisbrot, Jake Johnston and Stephan Lefebvre -- Ecuador’s New Deal: Reforming and Regulating the Financial Sector

Ecuador’s New Deal: Reforming and Regulating the Financial Sector
by Mark Weisbrot, Jake Johnston and Stephan Lefebvre
Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Since President Correa took office in January of 2007, the government has embarked on a series of reforms to transform and regulate the financial system. Some of these reforms and goals were included in the 2008 Constitution, which was overwhelmingly approved with 64 percent of the vote; others were embodied in laws and regulations described below.

The government built up a liquidity fund for banking system emergencies that is funded by taxes on the banks themselves, which is now at $1.2 billion dollars. It also established procedures for resolving insolvent banks. The Central Bank, which had previously been independent of the government, was made part of the executive branch’s economic team. This also included a new Economic Planning Ministry (Ministerio Coordinador de la Política Económica), created by President Correa during the second month of his administration. These changes, especially with regard to the accountability of the Central Bank, have proven very important to the implementation and coordination of new economic policies in Ecuador.

The Correa administration wanted the Central Bank to regulate interest rates, and this was achieved at the end of 2007. Average real (inflation-adjusted) lending rates have come down considerably during the Correa Administration, from a high of 8.28 percent in April 2007 to 3.85 percent today.

The new constitution defined the financial sector as composed of the public, private, and popular and solidarity-based sector, which includes cooperatives, credit unions, savings and loan associations and other member-based organizations. The government set a goal of expanding the popular and solidarity-based financial sector, creating the Programa de Finanzas Populares in 2008 to expand lending to smaller financial cooperatives, so that they could lend more to small businesses. In January 2007 co-op loans stood at 11.1 percent of private bank lending; by July 2012 this percentage had nearly doubled, to 19.6 percent. Co-op loans have also seen a large increase in the absolute total amount, tripling in real (inflation-adjusted) terms during this period.

A number of regulatory measures were adopted to protect consumers and the public interest, for example placing maximum fees on various financial transactions.

In May of 2009 the government established a Domestic Liquidity Coefficient, which required that 45 percent of all banks’ liquid assets had to be held domestically. This was increased to 60 percent in August of 2012. The purpose was to require Ecuador’s banks to keep more of their assets in the country; some hundreds of millions of dollars were brought back as a result of this regulation during the first year. This proved to be extremely important in the government’s response to the 2009 world recession.

The government also placed a tax on capital leaving the country. Since its implementation, this has become a key source of transparency and also a significant share of government revenue, increasing from less than 1 percent of revenue in 2008 to over 10 percent in 2012.

The government also took measures to limit the economic and political power of the financial sector. Before Correa’s election, banks owned most of the major TV media; this was prohibited.

Also, a Glass-Steagall-type provision in the Anti-Monopoly Law from October of 2011 prohibited combining multiple banks or different types of financial institutions, so deposit institutions, investment banks and insurance firms had to be separate. A regulatory body was also created to enforce anti-trust legislation.

These and other reforms described below appear to have contributed greatly to the economic success of the Correa government, as well as improvements in various social indicators.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Glenn Greenwald: Finally: hear Bradley Manning in his own voice

Finally: hear Bradley Manning in his own voice
A full audio recording of the whistleblower is released [March 12th] despite a court prohibition on such recordings
by Glenn Greenwald
Comment is Free

The court-martial proceeding of Bradley Manning has, rather ironically, been shrouded in extreme secrecy, often exceeding even that which prevails at Guantanamo military commissions. This secrecy prompted the Center for Constitutional Rights to commence formal legal action on behalf of several journalists and activists, including myself, to compel greater transparency. One particularly oppressive rule governing the Manning trial has barred not only all video or audio recordings of the proceedings, but also any photographs being taken of Manning or even transcripts made of what is said in court. Combined with the prohibition on all press interviews with him, this extraordinary secrecy regime has meant that, in the two-and-a-half years since his arrest, the world has been prevented, literally, from hearing Manning's voice. That changes today.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), the group I recently helped found and on whose board I sit, has received a full, unedited audio recording of the one-hour statement Manning made in court two weeks ago, and this morning has published that recording in full.

In that statement, Manning details at length what he did and, more important, the reasons he chose to do it. I'm personally unaware of who made the recording and am not aware of how it was made, but its authenticity has been verified. Last week, the superb independent journalist Alexa O'Brien, who has covered the proceedings from start to finish, created the best transcript she could of Manning's statement, which was published, among other places, in the Guardian. But this audio recording provides the first opportunity to hear Manning, in his own voice, explain his actions; that, presumably, is why whoever recorded Manning's statement risked violating the court-martial rules to do so.

Earlier this morning, the FPF, along with the full audio, published a statement of why it chose to publish this along with some brief analysis. I'm posting below some of the most significant excerpts of Manning's statement. The first excerpt is in the form of a 5-minute video produced by the documentarian and FPF Board Member Laura Poitras, highlighting Manning's explanation of how he reacted when he first saw the video of the Apache helicopter gunning down Reuters journalists in Baghdad and then those who showed up to rescue the wounded, including a van with children in it.

The US government and its military has carefully ensured that people hear about Manning from the government, but do not hear from Manning himself.

To Read the Entire Commentary, to Watch the Video Excerpts/Documentaries, to Listen to Bradley Manning's Full Statement and to Access More Resources