Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The War Macine Ain't Green

Hats off to Bill Sulzman for putting together an excellent flyer for the opening of the Fort Carson Sustainability Conference in Colorado Springs Oct. 30-31. Fort Carson, one of the leading battle-management sites for Iraq, has been trying to convince the Colorado Springs community it's been "going green" since 2002. This year, it has signed up Sierra Club, Colorado Springs Independent, and Natural Capitalism Inc., among others, to support its efforts. As the flyer points out, Defense Department facilities can claim compliance with hazardous-waste or alternative-energy laws, but an active military base for deployment can't claim it's green, and environmental groups "greenwash" the effort when they support such nonsense. The conference comes at a particularly sensitive time, when Fort Carson is trying to expand its training area to include millions of new environmentally-fragile acres in southeastern Colorado.
The flip side of Bill's flyer points to two particularly revealing quotes from Natural Capitalism founder Hunter Lovins, ex-wife of Amory Lovins. In 2004, Lovins called the Bush team going into Iraq the number-one enemy of environmentalists. In 20o06, after receiving a contract from Fort Carson, Lovins was praising the ability of Fort Carson troops to enter Iraq in an environmentally-sustainable way. Hmm. It's also interesting to note that Susan Gordon found a deck of playing cards at the conference lauding the efforts of the U.S. military to preserve historical sites in Iraq. Can anyone say National Museum?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thought Crimes and the Bounds of Thinkable Thought

I posted below the excellent New York Times editorial excoriating the Democrats for their position on FISA legislation on warrantless surveillance, since said position was indistinguishable from the Republicans. There's nothing that unusual here -- in the last two years of the Reagan administration, even after Iran-contra had sullied the White House's reputation, Dems took a more conservative position on Contras and mujahedeen than The Gipper himself. Today, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find a civil-liberties-destroying piece of legislation that both major parties wouldn't sign their names to. Witness HR1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, sponsored by California Democrat Jane Harman. It's passed the House and is on to the Senate. As Lee Rogers of Roguegovernment.org points out, it's a thought-crime bill, criminalizing mere thought. The scary thing is, I have sometimes jokingly said in public speeches that Noam Chomsky was inadvertently right in making jokes about "the bounds of thinkable thought" -- that perhaps there are certain forms of Wahhabism, Pol-Potism, not to mention child porn, that should be criminal to ponder, let alone act upon. But when such parameters are spelled out in serious legislation, the joke isn't funny. And neither is the present Congress. At least with our three branches of government, we can take heart in knowing all three branches suck separately and equally.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"No Rox-Sox Tix for You!"

Server busy.. please do not refresh your browser or you will be placed at the end of the line...server does not respond, try again?... Sorry, Game 3 now sold out, you may try Games 4 or 5...server busy...cannot reload...Sorry, Games 3 and 4 sold out...server busy....sorry, Games 3, 4, and 5 sold out, thank you for supporting Colorado Rockies. Rox Sox Sux.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Salman Rushdie at Colorado College!

Sorry, folks, no pics allowed for obvious reasons, but he signed my first edition of Satanic Verses!

Rushdie gave a charming and captivating speech to a packed audience at CC Sunday night. Some of his points:
* Westerners consider the storyteller to function best in linear fashion (like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland who says stories should start at the beginning, wander on, and stop when they get to the end). Punjabi oral story-tellers begin with anecdotes that lead to verbal asides, both political and personal. Listeners keep their attention focused on the wandering story because they want to see if the storyteller can keep all the balls in the air. Novelists could consider the equivalent in linear and nonlinear storytelling.
* Those in cultures like South Asia who must learn three or more languages develop more playfulness in their use of language, developing the equivalent of mash-ups.
* The novel, by its nature, insists on a human scale where the public world need not intrude. This was realized in the novels of Jane Austen, where no mention was ever made of the Napoleonic Wars taking place at the time her novels were written. Today, Rushdie said, the Internet and globalization has forced a closing between personal and public space where history and the larger world will always intrude on a novelist's private space.
* Rushdie quoted a barking dog in Romania, in a Saul Bellow novel, who was telling the world he was tired of the limits of his dog consciousness: "For God's sake, open the universe a little more!" This is the goal of a good novelist, Rushdie said, which requires moving out to the edge and pushing. One cannot dwell in the safe middle space and hope to open the universe.
* The ultimate lesson of the Satanic Verses fatwa is that one must never let an external political, religious, or cultural leader define the right of the artist to re-tell stories. Only the artist can define the limits of the type of story to be re-told, and the way it can be re-told.

What an inspirational evening!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Scopes, Epperson, and Intelligent Design

Sometimes some profound heroes can be right next door. At the ACLU state dinner in Denver Oct. 20, biology author and Colbert Report star Kenneth Miller described his battles with school boards over the intelligent design/evolution controversy. After giving a rundown on the critical Dover, Pa. school board case, Miller talked about the history of the Scopes trial, and how Scopes was not overturned in several southern states until 1968, when Little Rock science teacher Sue Epperson filed suit against the state of Arkansas for its evolution ban, and took it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to score a victory. Miller later revealed that Sue was right there in the audience. Turns out she lives one exit north of me, just north of Monument. These are the quiet heroes who keep the Constitution alive.

Jesse Sykes at Larimer Lounge

Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter are just so good going down, like single-malt scotch on a fall afternoon. She stretches every syllable for maximum impact, and her band sounds like the best of Allman Brothers and Crazy Horse and Built to Spill rolled into one. An odd thing about Jesse's voice -- when she talks she has perfect diction, but when she sings it's a strange husky chant where her 's's almost sound slurred. But the effect works well on her best songs, like "Cold Raindrops Fall" and "Thin Air." Great fun.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Why I Hate Web 2.0

I didn't want to waste space here ragging about the disgusting young entrepreneurs being lionized in the Web 2.0 environment, so I will just point to my EE Times blog rant on the subject. Lord protect me from Facebook MySpace Ning Flikr and the zillions of worthless blogs like this one...

FISA: Trust but Verify

I had the distinct honor this past week of participating in a Colorado ACLU Fall Forum panel on electronic surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The panel featured such luninaries as Jean Dubofsky, the first woman justice on the Colorado Supreme Court (pictured), talking about the Denver Police Intelligence files; Bill Hochman, Colorado College history professor and FISA legislation expert; and Pat Huhn, Pikes Peak Community College English professor who keeps tabs on data mining.

One thing we all agreed on is that civil libertarians could reach reasonable compromises with the National Security Agency as to how domestically-located switches and routers could be used for monitoring legitimate terror networks -- provided a revamped version of the Protect America Act provided specificity. That same specificity should be applied to telecom carriers seeking indemnity from helping government agencies without obtaining warrants -- in fact, Sen. Patrick Leahy said this week he'd look at indemnity, provided no blank checks were offered. The people fighting such explicit and formal legislation are not necessarily the intelligence agencies. Instead, there is a clear majority among Republicans in Congress, a significant minority among Democrats, and far too many media pundits, who do not want the topic of signals intelligence discussed under any venue. They want us to simply trust leaders like Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, former head of NSA. Hats off to Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com, who blasted the entire editorial-page staff of The Washington Post, as well as Joe Klein from Time, for saying that we should simply amend FISA in open-ended ways and hope our leaders are honest. As Greenwald said, this kind of thinking is dangerous for democracy. As my old pal Ronald Reagan said about Soviet arms-control treaties, "Trust, but verify."

NEWS FLASH: In the October 20 edition of The New York Times, the editors gave us a long and very hard-hitting editorial blasting the Oct. 18 Senate compromise on FISA. The editorial was titled "With Democrats Like These..." and concluded by saying that the only thing worse than having a single party rule Washington prior to late 2006, was having the Democrats win both houses and still have a single party ruling Washington. You can say that again!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jihad vs. McWorld

Remember that great 1992 book by Benjamin Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld? Seven years before the anti-globalization protests erupted in Seattle, six years before the first big terror actions of al-Qaeda, Barber was warning us that, if a stark choice had to be made between globalized corporate branding led by Ronald McDonald and worldwide violent Wahhabism, most Westerners would have no trouble picking the Golden Arches. Now, thoughtful critics insisted the choice Barber gave us was no choice at all, but after witnessing the bombing of the Bhutto parade today, I continue to see his point.

I always had a problem with cheering the Westernizing tendencies of Benazir Bhutto, since she came from that Georgetown-Harvard-CIA clique responsible for so much Cold War liberalism. And even though she was set up by Musharraf, it was pretty clear that her husband was at least partially guilty of corruption charges. I'm not ruling out the possibility that one of Musharraf's friends in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency set this up as a dirty trick, but it seems likely that al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban was responsible. This not only gives Bush more fuel for pursuing his endless War on Terror, but it underscores the belief that the planet simply is too small to allow such catastrophist forms of belief as end-times Wahhabism. In fact, if we're going to get anywhere in cultural meetings of minds, I would insist in my Western-steeped ways that a baseline requirement for living on this planet is tempering one's belief system through the filter of 17th-century Enlightenment thought. Too hung up on reason? Well, a violent faith-based way of knowing allows no cross-cultural discussions outside a frame of reference. How can you talk with someone about restoring the caliphate if you don't believe Muhammad has 50 virgins in paradise? How can you talk about missionary work if you don't believe "Jesus is the way the truth and the light"? Only reason, Enlightenment, and the scientific method allow this. So let's hear it for Ronald McDonald, Isaac Newton, and Benazir Bhutto - not my favorite people, admittedly, but consider the alternative.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sunburned Circle

Oh, boy, here's the collaboration album of the year - Finland's Circle and Boston's Sunburned Hand of the Man got together in late 2006 for a session that resulted in The Blaze Game, part freeform noodling, part percussive nonsense, part Deadhead hippie jam. Wacky, sophisticated, and goes well with intoxicants of all types. Two. Thumbs. Way. Up.

That '70s Shtick

There seems to be a lot of strange fascination with the 70s lately - Rilo Kiley loves that disco and Fleetwood Mac sound, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is channeling a dimension between J. Geils and Climax Blues Band, and now Fiery Furnaces gives us an Eleanor Friedberger wishing she were a Joan Jett/Suzi Quatro hybrid. (I saw Fiery Furnaces in Denver last year and hoped for some of that strange piano-driven Rundgren-style stuff, and got Eleanor being a metal queen - nice, but...)

What's my problem? It's not the 1970s I knew and loved. The one where the burst of punk in 1976-77 represented the highlight of the decade. The one where the glam rockers early in the decade, precursors to goth types, could always trump lovers of Bachman Turner Overdrive and Deep Purple with their collections of Roxy Music, New York Dolls, Mott the Hoople, and Velvet Underground. In fact, the only place where me and the metalheads came to common cause was Blue Oyster Cult, a band everyone could love for their cheesy chutzpah.

Given that prejudice, my vote for 1970s retro of 2007 goes to Thurston Moore's Trees Outside the Academy. Yeah, I know, Thurston is destroying the indie cred of his band, Sonic Youth, with a Starbuck's contract, but think of the wonderful things he continues to do in promoting unusual and non-commercial improv music. What's special about this album is he gets weirdo artists like Christina Carter to sing actual songs with traditional melodic structure on this album, and gives us a booklet with pics of himself as a teenager, worshipping Patti Smith and The Ramones and The Dead Boys while letting his red-haired freak flag fly. Now that's a 1970s I recognize.

Homeland Security Shopping Network

When Strategic Space conference came to Omaha, the conference was met by activists from Nebraskans for Peace driving an oversized shopping cart filled with fake weapons. Here's a picture of everyone's favorite choir director Frances Mendenhall leading her group in a canticle for arms purchases. Even Elliot Pulham, CEO of the US Space Foundation which sponsored the conference, made a not-unkind mention of the humorous protest during the opening ceremony for Strategic Space.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Red-Hot Racism for Columbus Day

I haven't liked Columbus Day for a long time, and the whole "500 Years of Oppression" is just a secondary reason for me -- even given Denver's annual Columbus parade, complete with American Indian Movement civil disobedience. Those who think there was something positive in Columbus coming to the North American continent, have to overlook his very genocidal tendencies in helping Ferdinand and Isabella chase the Jews and Moors out of Spain (Housley, The Later Crusades, pg. 311). In his later years, Columbus was becoming a messianic racist nutcase, spouting about how God had chosen him to eradicate the Jews of Europe. This is someone to celebrate?
Well, I guess so, given the way people are responding to recent hoopla about an African-American teenage girl being pepper-sprayed and punched in Fort Pierce, Fla. Admittedly, the facts in this case can be as controversial as those in the Jena Seven events, and the cops in Fort Pierce arguably used restraint. But when I saw the user comments regarding the YouTube video in question, I was dumbfounded (they might have been removed by the time you read this). Users, some giving full names, bandied about the word "nigger" as though it's commonplace and OK to use as a white person, which several YouTube observers obviously are. Now, the Fort Pierce brutality case is a borderline event, because the 15-year-old wasn't doing the slightest thing to comply with a cop's request. But to use a discussion as an excuse to dredge out racist terms that should have died a century ago, shows how far we have to go to eradicate racism in this country. 515 years of white folk eradicating everyone else in North America, ain't ya proud?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright, International Criminals

Once upon a time, I used to cite the FBI's National Crime Information Center database as slightly more reliable than the private police-intelligence databases traded around by the likes of the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit and the MAGIC (Multi-Agency Group Intelligence Conference) program. No longer. On Thursday, Oct. 4, former Army Col. and State Department Ambassador Ann Wright, along with Code Pink organizer Medea Benjamin, were stopped at the Canadian border by Canadian officials, and turned back on the grounds that they were on the NCIC "international criminals" database. This is far more ominous than "do not fly" lists. Independent investigations carried out since the incident, according to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! program, would suggest that the FBI now sees any individual committing civil disobedience on a nationally-prominent issue to be an "international criminal," unable to travel to any country using the NCIC database. This is beyond outrageous. We are now living in the lockdown state, friends.

Hats Off to Radiohead, Death to RIAA

I don't care what a damn jury had to say about it, the Recording Industry Association of America is a despicable organization for filing suits like these. File-sharing will prevail, and the RIAA will die before the decade is out. Meanwhile, more musicians may be forced by necessity to go the direction Radiohead is headed, offering downloads of its new album for whatever price the public wants to pay. I'd love to get the LP+CD hard copy, but what with exchange rates, $81 is just too painful for a deluxe In Rainbows.

James Woolsey, Al-Jazeera, Pinon Canyon, and more

Oct. 4 was one of those everything at once days. Producers from Al-Jazeera called at 6 a.m., wanting input for a "50 years after Sputnik" story. The results are below.

Meanwhile, former CIA Director James Woolsey was in town to speak at Colorado College and The Broadmoor on his new "going green" mission. While his intentions may be good, the man still works for Booz Allen Hamilton and such questionable organizations as Committee on the Present Danger and Project for a New American Century. Protesters were on hand at Shove Chapel to pass out these excellent "playing card" flyers designed by Eric Verlo. What was impressive is that the audience was happy to see the protests, and most of the protesters went into the speech (without being hassled by security), and let Woolsey make his points without shouting him down. No one was tasered. This is how freedom of speech was supposed to work. Woolsey made the predictable points about "tipping points" in climate change, but I kept thinking how the Oct. 2 finding on North Pole polar ice seems to indicate we already passed the tipping point.

Elsewhere on the CC campus, the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, which is challenging the US Army's desire to add several million acres to Fort Carson in southern Colorado, had an organizing meeting with a standing-room turnout, comprised mostly of students. Maybe CC is awakening from its slumber after all!

And speaking of standing room, we had a board meeting of First Steps Spirituality Center down the street, where Rev. Leanne Hadley and Fred Michel recounted their trip to the ESCAP conference in Florence, where their session on integrating spirituality with psychosocial models of child development got standing-room only crowds. Even the agnostic/atheist rationalists in the group were praising Leanne for developing models of spirituality to present at a scientific conference. This woman is not only amazing, her work is going to be cited for decades to come.

If all days were this overwhelming, I'd fall over.

Inside Story- Space exploration- 04 Oct 07- Part 1

This is the first part of the Al-Jazeera story on "50 Years After Sputnik" that I appeared on October 4. Part 2 is below.

Inside Story- Space exploration- 04 Oct 07- Part 2

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Magnetic E Street Fields

Of course, I agree wholeheartedly with Entertainment Weekly that Bruce's Magic is his best since Born in the USA or maybe The River. But why hasn't any reviewer thus far

mentioned a new source of inspiration for The E Street Band - namely, Magnetic Fields from the 69 Love Songs period? Don't believe me? Listen to the opening riffs of "Your Own Worst Enemy" or "Girls In Their Summer Clothes." Almost spooky. Of course, Bruce Springsteen and Stephin Merritt both follow the Phil Spector wall-of-sound style, though hopefully without harming Hollywood starlets. But what should be an unpleasant mashup works as well as a Reese's commercial - "Hey, you got Merritt in my Springsteen!" "Hey, you got Springsteen in my Meritt!" Yum.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sister Barbara Says Goodbye

Close to 100 people came to John Bourbonais' house Oct. 1 to say goodbye to Sister Barbara Huber, who is heading to El Paso for health reasons. (That's John B. introducing Barbara for a "this is your life" presentation.) Barbara has been a staple in the Colorado Springs peace community since the 1970s, and I've worked with her on all kinds of campaigns since 1990. She's been instrumental in Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, Active for Justice, and Pax Christi. Others hope to carry on important projects she initiated, like the Aug. 6 Sisters Witness Against War, but no one will ever be able to take her place.