Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Impact of Cindy and Ward

The dual events over the Memorial Day weekend, of CU President Hank Brown calling for the firing of Ward Churchill, and Cindy Sheehan announcing she's through with being an activist, underscore the sad state of oppositional and dissident activity in this nation.

First, Ward Churchill: I continue to believe that Churchill can do some fine research, particularly on the subject of government repression, as exemplified in a recent article on Richard Held Sr. and Jr. he did for Z magazine. But Brown's beef, as well as those of many Boulder faculty committee members, has been more about Churchill's unwarranted attacks on others accusing him of plagiarism and research misuse, as it has been about his ill-considered comments on 9/11. Churchill's snide comments on all those who critique him scarcely help his cause. It's interesting to note that the local comment boards at sites like the Denver Post are almost completely anti-Churchill. There are still a few activists in Boulder who support him, but the near-universal exasperation with him is an indication that one important attribute for any activist has to be "plays well with others." If you come across as defensive and arrogant, no one will listen to what you have to say.

As for Cindy, how can one disagree with most of her farewell screed? The Democratic Party does indeed lack the guts to seriously challenge the war, and the American people do indeed care more about American Idol winners than world events. Maybe some people think that Cindy gave up too easily, but as a concerned political buff with an interest in world affairs, I often feel that I need a crash helmet for the number of times I hammer my head against a brick wall. The problem does not begin or end with the unprecedented stubbornness and arrogance of the Bush administration. That problem is exceeded by the willful ignorance of American citizens, who seem to relish in going out of their way to avoid important news in order to obsess on Lindsay Lohan's latest arrest. A society built around info-tainment certainly does not deserve democracy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

No Admirable Ukrainian Sides

Libertarian ranters like Justin Raimondo were highly skeptical when Viktor Yushchenko claimed Dioxin poisoning, and I often thought Raimondo went too far. But in the current battle for Kiev taking place between Yushchenko and Yanukovich, neither side is trying to prove itself righteous. Yushchenko is as smarmy as his enemy. I hope that this teaches some neocon democracy spreaders to be cautious with Central Eurasian "color revolutions" on the Russian border. A pox on all Ukrainian houses.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Free Speech TV

Free Speech TV, on the satellite Dish network, is carrying a talk I gave at Mercury Cafe in early March - should be on rotation for next couple weeks. Still waiting to see if the Web site carries a streaming version of the video.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Honor Killings, Clitorodectomies, and Indigenous Rights

First off, let me say I'm a big fan of Cultural Survival International, and I think everyone should check out their quarterly magazine. Many traditions and histories of indigenous people are dying as quickly as endangered species, and we should do everything we can to preserve and honor indigenous cultures. But that does not mean that we need to take the hippie-dippie view that indigenous=righteous. There's a lot of traditional practicies that are abhorrent, and should be banned on a global basis. I remember getting into a heated discussion with a Lakota Sioux friend as long ago as 1984, telling him I thought that many "manhood" ceremonies of the plains tribes constituted torture. He asked me why I didn't put circumcision in the same category. Good point.
In recent years, female circumcision, or clitorodectomy, has become a heated issue in African cultures, while honor killings, usually of young women, have become an issue in Islamic cultures. The most recent case concerns Do'a Khalil, a teenage resident of Irbil (check out all my Jan-Feb postings on this Kurdish city in Iraq), and a member of the Yazidi sect. She was stoned to death for daring to fall in love with a Sunni boy. Let's hope this makes the issue of honor killings as red-hot in the Persian Gulf as recent cases have made the same issue in Pakistan. It's time for human rights activists, women's rights activists, and even indigenous rights activists to join together in one voice and say: There is not room on this planet for honor killings and clitorodectomies. Such practices must be universally banned, and such bans enforced. Some traditional cultural practices belong only in museums.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Even Tom Has a Monica Problem

Friends and regular readers (all two of you) know that I have very little respect for New York Times punditmeister Thomas Friedman. He's been such an unabashed cheerleader for globalization and the possible good impacts of the Iraq War, he simply bashed all Seattle WTO protesters as stupid hippies, and regularly made fun of those who opposed the war before it started. Tom's been morphing slowly into an Iraq War critic, hardly surprising since he resembles that strange bird of the 1960s known as the Cold War (Pseudo)Liberal. In the May 16 NYT, Tom did a great column bringing together three threads: evangelism in government, problems in Paul Bremer's de-Baathification strategy, and the collapse of the Justice Department under the ethically-challenged Alberto Gonzales.
The centerpiece of the Bush administration "problem," as Friedman sees it, is exemplified by former Gonzales underling Monica Goodling (pictured above). Goodling, one of the first to leave Justice after the U.S. prosecutor scandal began, supposedly ran a regular vetting operation for Gonzales in which she weeded out potential Democrats and insufficiently-Christian candidates from the U.S. attorney stable. As Friedman says, the similarities to the 2003-4 efforts to purge the Iraqi government of Baathists is only too clear.

On the one hand, I see a useful purpose in continuing to hound Goodling even after she has left the White House, since she exemplifies everything that is wrong with the way the Bush cabinet works. But let's not lose sight of two bigger goals: First, Paul Bremer, though long out of office, should be excoriated with equal fervor for the nasty way he ran the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Second and more important, Monica's former boss is still in office, and Bush is implying that, unlike the type of soft exit that might be envisioned for Paul Wolfowitz, the president will not let go of Alberto Gonzales unless and until he is impeached. With all the evidence of criminal behavior before them, capped off by recent revelations of forcing an NSA monitoring program on a very sick John Ashcroft, members of Congress have plenty of ammunition to justify taking Gonzales out of the Justice Department and into a prison cell.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sellafield Dead Have Organs Harvested

Former workers at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado were shocked in May when the federal Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health denied most compensation claims, but at least they didn't face the shame of Sellafield. An article in the May 14 Guardian in the UK discloses the regular harvesting of organs from dead workers to check for radiation. Is this some weird kind of compassion, or just covering the asses of the nuclear industry? Three guesses.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

These Are Our Stories

This guy conjures the ghost of Gil Scott-Heron.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

VCAST Your Vote for Verizon Stupidity

A lot of people think that Verizon Communications represents the epitome of cool these days, with its FiOS fiber-to-the-home service and its VCAST program for broadcasting and song downloads to mobile phones. Verizon's ads love to remind you how ultra-chic they are, sponsoring all that is trendy in music and culture.
But oops, they've gone and pulled money from the Gwen Stefani tour! Now, I could care less about rich pop icons like Stefani and her tour opener Akon, and whether or not Verizon sponsors them. It's also inaccurate to call the yanking of the sponsorship "censorship," since Verizon, like a private citizen, can boycott whatever or whomever it wants.
However, the company may have jumped the gun. It wanted to express its distaste for Akon, who was captured in a video in Trinidad simulating a sex act with an underage preacher's daughter. But there's a lot of evidence that Akon was caught unawares by many factors here. And let's face it, Akon is a lot more respectable than two-thirds of the R&B and hip-hop acts out there these days.
Besides, why is Stefani paying for Akon's so-called sins? Guilt by association was wrong in the McCarthyist era and wrong now. The pushback Verizon is getting from customers, as cited in the May 10 New York Times article, indicates the company has lost its cool cachet. When CBS fired Don Imus, enough people were sick of him that protest was muted. When Verizon dropped Stefani and Akon, the case was tenuous enough to probably cause Verizon more damage than it anticipated.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Thugs By Nature

In the aftermath of violent and juvenile behavior by tactical riot squads in Los Angeles and Colorado Springs, I'm reverting to the image of police I had at age 16 -- pigs until proven otherwise. But the saddest aspect of the recent provocations, as shown in citizen comment pages in the Los Angeles Times and Colorado Springs Gazette, is the number of citizens who see the beating of peaceful demonstrators and bystanders as par for the course. Praise the local police and first-responders, support the president, love the war, and never never doubt the words of any person in authority. Maybe on some issues involving the White House this position is becoming a minority view, but when cops in full battle regalia want to clobber those illegal aliens and annoying demonstrators, there are far too many citizens egging them on. Pigs aren't dressed just in blue and gold, they're commonplace throughout the society.

Friday, May 4, 2007


Cops - we serve and protect. Bratton should fire the lot of them.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Toast to Tori

Although I've followed Tori Amos since YKTR and Little Earthquakes days, I'll be the first to admit she can be insufferably annoying at times. But no good deed should go untoasted. American Doll Posse is a 21st century masterpiece, 23 songs and virtually all of them good, no filler and plenty of riffs to remember. It's a growing truism to say the album format is dead, but every now and then, someone like Tori or Modest Mouse or Arctic Monkeys comes along to knock that old, tired album format right out of the ballpark.