Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I hate to diss the Democratic urban activists who tend to think that "populism" is a cute word to toss around, but the posts below on Lou Dobbs et. al. should make clear that I equate populism with Juan Peron, if not with the German Nazi Party. It's nice to see that Middle East Report, a fairly lefty quarterly covering the Middle East, thinks so too. Their new Winter issue is a special on Iran that is worth reading cover to cover, particularly Kaveh Ehsani's piece on the inside nature of the Iranian regime. Some U.S. activists think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a pretty cool guy because he hates the U.S. and Israel, and many Iranians treat him as a rock star. He's a populist, dictatorial snake. I still am reserving a small portion of hope for Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, since many of his domestic policies are cool, but his international grandstanding is getting tiresome, and has "populist" written all over it. Populism is not cool. It leads to "Sieg Heils" when you least expect it.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Bob Kearns is the kind of guy the ACLU was made for. A resident of his neighborhood in Pagosa Springs, Colo. (down near Durango) tried to hang a peace-sign wreath. Kearns, the NA President, called it disrespectful and a possible Satanic symbol. When his architectural control commission disagreed with him, he fired all five members. The fact that resident Lisa Jensen is not backing down means that she'll probably win this one, but this should serve to remind us that mandatory neighborhood associations are, with rare exceptions, dictatorial fiefdoms that have no place in a democracy.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
My own exasperation with this story stems from the new image that the Miami area, particularly South Beach, retains among young rich playtime celebrities who like to purchase bazillion-dollar condos. Of course hip-hop artists and sports stars never pay attention to local politics. And of course, with an urban area that is heavily Hispanic and close to Cuba, you have to expect passionate politics of this sort. But Miami has been out of bounds for at least 20 or 30 years. Its police have developed a reputation for routinely beating anyone vaguely "leftist," most recently in the shocking actions Police Chief John Timoney took at the Nov. 2003 Free Trade of the Americas Act protests in downtown Miami. The police are never taken to task for this, because several successive mayors and city councils of Miami support the violent fascism they learned at the feet of the CIA and anti-Castro Cubans.
I was asked to speak at a liberal-funders conference in Miami in late 2004, and I asked several organizers why they didn't boycott a town like this. Most seemed blissfully unaware of the kind of city Miami was (not surprising, giving funding institutions' general unfamilarity with reality, but that's another story). Maybe the fight between the two Heralds and the wacky actions of Jose Varela will lead to some much needed fresh air and public debate in a very smarmy and repressive city. But until that time, the rest of the country ought to boycott the entire Miami metro area, and let local civic leaders know why!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2006
Contact in Tucson:
Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa: 520-323-8697
Two Priests Arrested as 120 Join Ft. Huachuca Torture Protest
As more than 120 people gathered at the gate of Fort Huachuca today to protest military intelligence training there that fosters torture, two Roman Catholic priests were arrested when they tried to enter the base, located in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly intended to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post, denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Major General Fast is the highest ranking intelligence officer tied to the torture at Abu Ghraib torture, yet she has never been punished. Two soldiers with ties to Fort Huachuca are among 28 implicated earlier this year in the beating deaths of two prisoners in Afghanistan in 2002.
Today¹s demonstration took place in conjunction with the annual vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia, where over 20,000 people vigiled today and at least 14 were arrested as they called for closing the infamous School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Dozens of Latin American military leaders who trained at the ³School of Assassins² have since been convicted of torture, murder, and other heinous crimes in their own countries.
Frs. Vitale and Kelly walked into the base but were stopped as they approached the gatehouse. An officer from the base offered to deliver their letter to the Commander, but the priests persisted, because they also intended to speak with the service men and women receiving interrogation training at Fort Huachuca. When they were not allowed to pass, the two men knelt in prayer and were arrested. They both received a federal citation for trespass and were released without conditions, and told they should be contacted within 45 days with a court date.
Fr. Louie Vitale is a member of Pace e Bene, whose mission is ³to develop the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence as a way of living and being and as a process for cultural transformation.² Fr. Vitale is also a co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based organization that has opposed nuclear weapons testing for a quarter of a century. Fr. Vitale recently served six months in jail following his arrest at the Ft. Benning vigil in November, 2005, and was ejected from congressional hearings in September after speaking out against the Military Commissions Act.
Fr. Steve Kelly is a member of the Redwood City Catholic Worker community and has served time in federal prison for the nonviolent direct disarmament of nuclear weapon delivery systems. In December, 2005, Kelly served as chaplain for Witness to Torture, a delegation of over two dozen U.S. anti-torture activists who defied the U.S. embargo of Cuba with a peaceful march through that nation to the gates of the Guantanamo Bay navel base and prison camp.
The text of the letter delivered to the base commander follows this news release.
- 30 -
To: Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast -
We are here today as concerned U.S. people, veterans and clergy, to speak with enlisted personnel about the illegality and immorality of torture according to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions.
We condemn torture as a dehumanization of both prisoners and interrogators, resulting in humiliation, disability and even death. In addition to the hundreds of detainees who have died, we are also concerned about U.S. military personnel. Alyssa Peterson committed suicide after participating in the torture of Iraqi prisoners. Lynndie England and others have been imprisoned for their illegal activities.
We are here today at Ft. Huachuca in solidarity with tens of thousands of people at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Ft. Benning, Georgia (formerly known as the School of the Americas) to say that the training of torturers must immediately stop. Nothing justifies the inhumane treatment of our fellow brothers and sisters.
Torture by U.S. military personnel has reached alarming proportions and has horrified people around the world. We are convinced that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is unconstitutional. We totally reject its conclusions. Torture is a useless and unreliable tool that leads to an accepted practice of terrorization and the rationalization of wrongdoing.
We are here today to repent and clearly state that because of our sense of moral and human decency we condemn torture.
NOT IN OUR NAME.
Signed this 19th day of November, 2006 -
Louis Vitale,OFM Steve Kelly, SJ
Jack & Felice Cohen-Joppa
Tucson AZ 85733
I'll be busy through December finishing Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, with its massive goofy conspiracy theories of the Louis XIV era, so I won't be getting to Pynchon until early 2007. No matter how much I love and revere the guy, I worry that Kakutani may be on to something.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
On the electronic surveillance front, there is nothing in the Constitution that assumes or allows global electronic networks of the National Security Agency to operate. Even if we assume a lenient stance at Echelon's existence, the post-1975 Congress created the conditions under which NSA operated with its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation. Following 9/11, George Bush could have broadened FISA legislation by asking Congress to broaden FISA. Instead, he simply bypassed FISA. This runs counter to everything the Constitution's authors assumed about the breakdown of authority across legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Similarly, there are two realms in which enemy-combatant preventive detention goes against Constitutional structures. First, the very nature of a combatant outside Geneva POW constraints goes against U.S. precedent and international law. Second, the existence of prisons external to Guantanamo, where prisoners can be mistreated by the CIA separate from the lenient Guantanamo constraints, makes a mockery of treatment at Guantanamo. For those that would put all the blame for the latter on Cheney, the CIA now has admitted that the CIA "rendition" prisons were established by executive order from Bush, with advice from Gonzales.
A good amount of the blame for such nonsense, of course, can be placed on the 109th Congress, which conducted the fewest number of oversight hearings of any Congress in the last century, and virtually begged Bush to extend executive authority to the detriment of legislative and judicial. But the intellectual cover used by the White House has come from Gonzales, and the fact that the attorney general is promoting his "myths" to Air Force cadets, while calling legitimate defense of Constitutional law a new form of myth, shows the depths of depravity to which this administration has sunk.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Sanneh is a bit harsh in the way that friends who sympathize with an argument but think the argument is overblown can always be harsh. There are holes in both sides of this music debate, but I think Sanneh's conclusion speaks volumes at the end of this essay when he says that "It's nice to imagine we're all in this together. But we ain't." Remember Lou Reed's scathing critique of Jesse Jackson and his "quilt" theory? I disagreed with Reed, as he thought Jackson was too anti-Semitic and Reed himself was too accepting of Israel's policy, but I agreed with his observation that there may never be a quilt big enough to cover what once was called The Movement. And in fact, there was never a form of rock and roll that was going to lead the revolution. Despite what The Who, Springsteen, Abbie Hoffman, and Don McLean said, rock and roll was never going to save anyone's mortal soul.
Point for Sanneh: The so-called unity of music was largely a product of clever advertising during the 1960s, and a temporary media fascination with youth culture during that same period. Yes, AM radio programming in the 1960s provided temporary unity of genres, and FM underground programming a few years later presented an illusion of an underground. Yes, there was a lot more politics in million-seller music of the past, and it sure felt good to hear Grace Slick say, "Up against the wall motherfucker," but that particular revolution was always brought to you by RCA.
Point for Shapter/Rasmussen: The filmmakers recognize the star-making machinery has been broken for decades, and Sanneh points out that even its executives are willing to concede that now. But the same is true for mainstream media - the owners of newspapers and TV news concede they've been stenographers to power for over 20 years, yet they keep sucking up to the big corporate and government teats. Music industry developers knew they were touting talentless boy-girl bubble bands and flat hip-hop and R&B acts for many years, even as they were slicing out the hearts of good A&R people pursuing real talent. But as long as the money came in, they weren't willing to rock a boat that was obviously springing leaks everywhere. Sanneh isn't emphasizing how utterly hypocritical it is for former music execs to complain now.
Point for Sanneh: The column says the filmmakers don't identify what genre they support, though there are suggestions that the love for Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat, and obscure blues singers may indicate a wannabe-hippie/world-music love. That does indeed seem to be the Shapter/Rasmussen bias. I have news for them: The best pop music was not necessarily made before 1975. The punk explosion of the late 1970s, the grunge/indie explosion of the 1990s, had just as much validity and talent as any late-60s cornucopia. (Maybe we can all agree that with exceptions like Smiths, Talking Heads, and REM, the 1980s were a pretty empty period.) Maybe it's a shame that a lot of good 1990s bands didn't get the attention they deserved, but sometimes it's better when certain revolutions aren't televised. Besides, if the filmmakers are hippie-jammers, what the hell are they complaining about, they've got more String Cheese Incident and Phish albums than could be listened to in a finite amount of time.
Uncertain Point: Power pop, values, and million-seller hits make for interesting debates, but please don't use Nickelback as an example of someone with all political and cultural hearts in the right place! Shapter and Rasmussen only were wrong in their particular iconic choice. The fact remains that hit-making radio goes through inexplicable trends in tastemaking. No form of power pop could get on a Top 40 station in the late 1990s and very early 2000s. Today, we have Killers and Fallout Boy and The Fray and Panic at the Disco, but we don't have a thousand more deserving indie bands. And it's not due to any band's inherent grace or better politics, there's a random suckup factor at work here.
Point for Sanneh: What in the world is the Shapter/Rasmussen obsession with Bob Dylan, and the queries on Dylan made to fans attending an Ashlee Simpson concert? Didn't the filmmakers read the excellent and highly-deserved slam on Dylan-worshippers by Richard Goldstein in The Nation magazine in May? (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060515/goldstein) Dylan gave the world two years of biting political commentary, five years of surrealist hyper-observations of the culture, and 38 years of uneven, shlocky material. Every decade has given us plenty of good, political, topical folk singers, many of whom have talents nearing Dylan's. (Best one today is David Rovics, http://www.davidrovics.com) The only difference is that revolutionary songwriters in later decades were singing to the committed, while Dylan grabbed a mass audience through good PR.
Uncertain Point: Neither the filmmakers nor Sanneh recognize the value in keeping your music-making away from mass culture as a deliberate strategy. I'm not arguing for willful obscurity, if you happen to find an audience of millions, good for you! But true underground music is healthier in the 21st century than it's ever been, and if you're not aware of it, it's because you may not know about it. Remember, the albums from the psychedelic era that fetch the highest prices on eBay these days are by bands that even the most adamant Haight-Ashbury acidhead wouldn't have heard of. They were released in editions of 200 copies by regional revolutionaries who never scratched the pop culture surface. There are thousands of great musicians and bands in the 21st century who tout their stuff only on MySpace, YouTube, and online mail-order lists, using the Internet to completely bypass the mass culture. Many use an art-curator model to offer hand-painted editions of CDs and vinyl in worldwide editions of 50 or 100. Sanneh mentioned the execs lamenting the kids who don't buy any physical copies of music today, and simply download files from iTunes. Well, let them have their Nelly Furtado or Kanye West in disposable format, since it's disposable music! Meanwhile, the true underground thrives, and doesn't care how healthy Sony Music or Island Records may be at any given moment.
Remember what your friends at indymedia say, "Be the media." Large corporations will never provide a soundtrack for revolution.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
From the site:
Building on the success of previous mass blockades
of the Trident nuclear base at Faslane, there will be a
year-long continuous peaceful blockade at Faslane in
Scotland. To make this happen, groups and organisations from
Scotland, England and Wales, and beyond are being invited
to come and shut down the base for at least one 48-hour
period each during the year.
The purpose of Faslane 365 is twofold: to bring people
to witness and impede the nuclear base where Britain's
nuclear weapons are deployed, and enable them to demonstrate
the range of serious concerns - from human rights to climate
change - that people in the real world consider to be the vital
challenges for the 21st century. Running from October 1st 2006
for a year, at a time when Tony Blair has put on the political
agenda the prospect of spending some £40 billion more to keep
nuclear weapons in Scotland until at least the year 2055, Faslane
365 will draw attention to the dangerous insecurity and waste
of resources inherent in the Trident nuclear system,
and will mobilise support for these nuclear mistakes to be disarmed.
In preventing nuclear 'business as usual' we also intend to highlight
our real, human security needs, which will require a very different
allocation of resources and action.
In order to do this, Faslane 365 is asking a wide range
of local, national and even international groups from all sections
of civil society to come to Faslane with at least 100 people
committed to stay and make their visions for a just and peaceful
future visible for at least one period of 48 hours.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
-through-the-eyes-of-a-singing-bull that is Caroliner Rainbow
(aka Caroliner Rainbow Stewed Angel Skins, Caroliner Rainbow Scrambled Eggs Taken for a Wife, etc.) As the old saying goes, if you've seen Caroliner Rainbow perform, no explanation is necessary. If you haven't seen Caroliner Rainbow, no explanation is possible.
23 Years of Caroliner
Curated by Sarrita Hunn, Marcella Faustini, and Museum of Viral Memory
December 13, 2006 – January 19th, 2007
Closing Reception:Saturday, January 13th, 6-8pm
with Caroliner performance starting at 8pm
"This is some lost American Baroque, retrieved at rummage
sales...Caroliner holds on to an old-fashioned esthetic of sensory
assault, raised to anunusually high pitch of musical sophistication"
-Alex Ross, New York Times, April 15, 1993
23 Years of Hernia Milk and Ergot Dreams: A Retrospective of Caroliner
and itsHomage to a 19th Century Singing Bull
Echo de Pensees Sound Series in conjunction with The Museum of Viral
23 Yearsof Hernia Milk and Ergot Dreams,
the first ever opportunity to see the internationally recognized band
Caroliner's extensive ephemera (propitious props, salutary sets,
corrupted costumes, random releases, maligned missives, reviled relics
and loquacious lyric books) collected in one place!
Caroliner was formed in San Francisco in 1983 when a ragtag band of
temporally misplaced troubadours ran afoul of an astrally displaced
gang of misbehaved minstrels.
Initial violence blossomed from the dead bull ghost into corporate
confusion when deep inside a mould induced hallucination they
copyrighted the original songs of a singing bull,Caroliner, who was
tragically killed and eaten by its starved owner in the mythic age of
Taking ergot-poisoned pills through a Wisconsin death trip, the group
began recreating their hallucinatory dream state through hypnotic
sound, flamboyant costumes, and glowing props. Two decades later they
are still digging through Caroliner's prodigious aural droppings with
The sounds are a heady mix of toxic shock and shocking talk, folk
confusion and percussive dissolution.
For Hernia Milk and Ergot Dreams concerned folks have dug through the
group's checkered past and black-light warehouse to choose the cream
of the crop of 23 years of Caroliner props, costumes,instrument
records, books, flyers and assorted other detritus.
The show will close on January 13thwith Caroliner's first performance
in a year and a half.
The set will take place at California College of the Arts' Graduate
Center in San Francisco,
with Luz Alibi and Georgio Marauder, Theremin Barney and Ploc Monster.
23 Years of Hernia Milk and Ergot Dreams exposes Caroliner's tragic
trail of tears through the American dream and across the world.
PLAySPACE California College of the Arts
1111 8th Street (at 16th and Wisconsin)
San Francisco, CA 94107
Regular gallery hours are Wed., Thurs., andSat. 12-3pm. or by appt.
Here's an idea for donations and restitutions the sisters came up with in mid-November. It's worth your attention:
OPEN LETTER from SACRED EARTH AND SPACE PLOWSHARES II, 2002
We need your help! Please join us in our response to the judge, prosecutor, and probation officers to complete our restitution issue.
Through prayer, discernment and an inspired action, we are conducting a canned food drive that will be donated to children of Air Force military families who receive food stamps and/or are on public assistance. We believe that we must collect at least 4,000 cans of food or more to fulfill the comparable amount for our restitution.
Please put a can or number of cans of healthy food in a padded envelope or box and send it now. (Important weeks are from Nov. 15 - 29 with Thanksgiving included. (Information below)
We have printed a coupon for your use. Put it inside the package with the can(s). Then, please mail it.
Send no money, please!
If you live in the Denver, CO area we are outside the U.S. Attorney's Office Building, 1225 17th St. each work day from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M from November 15 -28th (except week-ends and holidays when public buildings are closed. Come see us, drop off your donation and hear our voices of appreciation.
We hope and pray that this will put to rest our restitution mandate and requirement.
l. The judge denied our alternative restitution plan he requested in November, 2005.
2. The prosecutor rejected the plan unless the Air Force receives our response as victim.
3. The prosecutor knows that we are prohibited from going onto a military site for community service according to our supervised release prohibitions.
4. We sincerely have worked hard to do many services in lieu of restitution and trust this inspired idea to give canned food to the children of Air Force families who are in need will complete the requirement.
Children are the most vulnerable in war under the bombs and in military families as their parent(s) are separated from them.
We thank you in advance for your assistance! Let us continue our work together for disarmament and peace.
From: Jackie Hudson, O.P., Carol Gilbert, O.P. and Ardeth Platte, O.P.
United States Department of Justice
JACKIE HUDSON ENCLOSE THIS COUPON TO GUARANTEE
CAROL GILBERT PROPER APPLICATION OF RESTITUTION
ARDETH PLATTE AND MAIL TO ADDRESS BELOW
In lieu of $3,052.75 in
restitution please accept ROBERT BROWN
this food to be given to U.S. ATTORNEYʼS OFFICE
children of military families 1225 17TH ST. Suite 700
on assistance at Peterson AFB, DENVER, CO 80202
Shriever AFB, Buckley AFB. ATTENTION: U.S. CLERK OF COURT
1. Some, like Sunburned Hand of the Man, offer recordings that one could play at parties without clearing the room. Listen to "The Splintering" or "Blues for Game 2" and see what I mean:
2. Others, like Marcia Bassett's merry collective of bands -- Double Leopards, GHQ, Hototogisu, Zaimph, Zaika, and others I've probably never heard of -- seem to dive deeper into a vacuum-cleaner morass:
3. Others wander completely over to the other side of formlessness, and come back sounding like 1930s blues recordings. The fact that Pete and Gabe from Yellow Swans and Tom Carter from Charalambides can make such a melodic work as "Mudsuckers" amazes me:
Noise: It's what's for dinner.
I wish some of these folks would read Tamara Jacoby's article in the new Foreign Affairs (hardly a liberal journal), "Immigration Nation," in which she points out vital stats on the critical roles played by both legal and illegal immigrants. Sure, let's have arguments about bracero programs, status of amnesty, border control, but let's not penalize a whole subpopulation! Local Colorado politicians like Tom Tancredo are famous for doing this, but many folks calling themselves liberal are doing it too. When The Nation magazine had a special issue on the immigrant debate, scores of letter-writers castigated The Nation by saying one could be liberal and still love Lou Dobbs. Sorry, Dobbs is a right-wing nutcase. On this subject, even George W. has a more nuanced position than half the Democrats.
The other topic had to do with Marine Reserves rejecting talking-Jesus dolls for Toys for Tots:
What really sets me off here is the comment by Michael LaRoe, business development manager for one2believe and Teddy Bear Corp., that anyone can benefit from Biblical quotations. When the character is Jesus and the sound bytes are New Testament quotes directly from the main man, I question that - and I consider myself Christian. Too many evangelicals assume that the faith-based truths from the New Testament are universal, even for Jews or Muslims. Now, it's one thing to evangelize or prosyletize, but when you do so, use a little humility in assuming that the view you bring to people may not be what they consider truth. Too many Christian evangelical groups cannot define the various layers of "truth" and their relative universality. The Marines made the right call on this one.
It's surrealist historical fiction from the 1680s, weaving together Louis XIV's imperial wars in Central Europe, the Newton-Liebniz battles over who invented calculus, women's role in Euro-nobility, and swashbuckling piracy among the Barbary Muslims. If it sounds too Yo-Ho, rest assured that the quality of writing here is at the Tom Pynchon-Richard Powers level - writing careens from prose to poetry to screenplay in a hilarious and unpredictable way, but it's as scary-profound as it is silly. As trilogies go, this one can take on the scope and style of Lord of the Rings or the Dos Passos America series.
You can find the trilogy everywhere, as it was on the NY Times bestseller list - the three constituent books are Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World. By the way, Richard Powers' new one, The Echo-Maker, is out now, and Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day comes out in a week. Won't dive into them until I'm done with Stephenson though.