Thursday, January 06, 2005
Are You READY?
According to new findings by FEMA, it is better to run away from a nuclear blast than directly into it. I know that my personal plan was to charge past my melting neighbors and into the blinding light and screams. We need to get this info out to as many people as possible.
Are the phone lines down? Are your children missing? Is there a mushroom cloud on the horizon? Has the president been whisked away to an undisclosed classroom in Florida? Donâ€™t be scared, Felicity, be READY!
In scene #1, Bob is being sprayed with a biochemical that turns your lungs inside out. As you can see in scene #2, Bob is ready. Bob gets the fuck out. Scene #3 takes place after he gets home and his vital organs explode, contaminating the rest of his family.
Now, you HAVE to go and check out these videos. Discuss below, and remember… don’t be afraid!
Civil Rights • Pure Snark • War on Terra • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
Education Thursday - "Taliban On The Palouse"
One problem with the red state/blue state dichotomy that is assumed to define American politics is that it ignores the real nature of politics in each of these states by painting them with a broad, totalizing brush. This approach puts further distance between urban and rural America, and blinds us to the forces at work there.
An excellent example of this comes from the University of Idaho, located in Moscow, about 100 miles SE of Spokane, WA. During 2004 the town was embroiled in a controversy over a neo-Confederate activist who claimed that slavery was good for blacks, the local evangelical apparatus that supported his claims, and the efforts of the U of I and the local community to oppose them.
U of I historian William Ramsey has recently written a revelatory article about the matter. He shows how it goes beyond a simple controversy over the past, and instead reveals the ways in which the American Taliban seeks to take over the country by intentionally targeting “strategic and feasible” objectives. In the end, this isn’t so much about slavery as it is about the future of rural America.
The controversy began in late 2003 when Douglas Wilson, a fundamentalist pastor in Moscow, and Steve Wilkins, co-founder of the “League of the South”, published a book entitled Southern Slavery: As It Was. Ramsey describes it:
Wilsonâ€™s and Wilkinsâ€™ booklet, published by Wilsonâ€™s â€œCanon Pressâ€? in Moscow, argues that southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks. Wilson and Wilkins are quite specific about the many benefits of slavery for African-Americans, and they conclude that southern slaves genuinely appreciated those benefits and supported the system that provided them. As such, they claim that â€œslavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.â€? (p. 38). Their praise of the institution is almost unbounded in places. â€œThere has never been,â€? they argue, â€œa multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.â€? (p. 24). They repeatedly deride the consensus view of slavery that has emerged over the last fifty years of academic scholarship as â€œabolitionist propagandaâ€? and â€œcivil rights propaganda.â€? Most of the modern problems confronting the United States, they feel, are the logical result of the theological heresies implicit in the abolitionist movement and its unfortunate victory over the South in the Civil War.
Who is Douglas Wilson? Ramsey estimates that as many as 10% of residents of Moscow are members of Wilson’s church. Wilson runs a Christian school that teaches from a “Biblical worldview”, is a strong supporter of home schooling, and has ties to two presses: Canon, in Moscow, and Veritas, in Lancaster PA.
In response, Ramsey and another historian responded with a book review rebutting the book’s ridiculous claims. Two other U of I history professors wrote a book attacking Wilson and Wilkins, Southern Slavery As It Wasn’t: Professional Historians Respond to Neo-Confederate Misinformation. Ramsey summarizes the historians’ response:
In response, my colleague Sean M. Quinlan and I naively wrote a book review to rebut their arguments and point out what we considered to be obvious: that slavery was not a happy experience for southern blacks. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) interviews with former slaves are not, we argued, conclusive proof that African Americans were overwhelmingly content and pleased to be enslaved. The slave narratives are not, we stressed, conclusive proof that â€œthe majorityâ€? of slaves remembered the experience of forced labor as being â€œso pleasantâ€? that they wished to become slaves again. As we wrote the book review, we often found it difficult to believe that anyone would have to explain these things. We expected to be vilified and attacked, of course, by Wilson and Wilkins, but we failed to anticipate the depth of their commitment to pro-slavery ideology and the sophistication of their attacks. We underestimated the extent of their support base in northern Idaho and the ability of organizations such as the League of the South to refocus their efforts on Moscow and to mobilize activists.
Although the Moscow/Pullman [WA] Daily News published a very supportive article about the professional historians, with quotes from nationally recognized scholars about the idiocy of the neo-Confederate claims, the controversy only intensified. Ramsey says the majority of the Moscow community - which is “overwhelmingly Christian and Republican” - organized to oppose Wilson. Wilson responded by organizing a “history conference” in February, which would bring some of America’s worst hatemongers to the U of I campus:
Wilson had scheduled himself as the keynote speaker, praising the southern racist ideologue R.L. Dabney, but he had also scheduled as co-speakers white supremacist League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins and the anti-gay Tennessee minister George Grant, notorious for advocating the extermination of all homosexuals in his book Legislating Immorality.. University of Idaho students were especially outraged that the conference was surreptitiously scheduled to take place on their own campus in the Student Union Building. Wilson had apparently paid good money for the facility well in advance, and nobody had balked at taking it. Student anger, however, ultimately forced the president and provost of the University to issue a joint disclaimer of the event, which tried retroactively to take the moral high ground by denouncing efforts to â€œrecast or minimize the evils of slavery.â€?
Additionally, the president of Washington State University, just 8 miles to the west of the U of I (WSU and UofI are twin schools in a sense, and share a medical school if not a law school), came out with a strong statement against Wilson and his claims. Wilson had legally rented out the U of I student union for his conference and the administration could not kick them out. So they organized a teach-in that took place at the same time as Wilson’s conference. Many activists and scholars attended, some from as far away as Seattle.
For Ramsey, the highlight and most important part of that day came when Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center presented his group’s research on Wilson and his activities. Describing him as a Christian Reconstructionist (someone who believes that America should become a theocracy), he pointed out the importance of Wilson’s strategy. As Ramsey tells it:
Potokâ€™s research offered some of the most sobering evidence to date that Moscow, Idaho, had been intentionally targeted as a major battlefield in the culture wars. He quoted from a sermon delivered by Douglas Wilson on December 28, 2003, posted publicly on his church website. Wilson explained to his congregation the military significance of what he called a â€œdecisive pointâ€? in an enemyâ€™s defenses. A decisive point, he said, was a military target that was both â€œstrategic,â€? meaning that it would be a debilitating â€œloss to the enemy if taken,â€? and one that was also â€œfeasible.â€? Boville, he argued, was a â€œfeasibleâ€? target but not â€œstrategic.â€? New York City, on the other hand, was â€œstrategicâ€? but not â€œfeasible.â€? â€œSmall college towns with major research universities,â€? he continued, such as â€œ Moscow and Pullman . . . are both strategic and feasible.â€? A number of audience members gasped as Potok read from Wilsonâ€™s sermon. According to Potok, Wilson concluded his sermon by stating the obvious, â€œthat is why the conflict is here.â€?
I found this to be an amazing statement.
What Wilson is saying is that rural research universities are particularly vulnerable to a radical right-wing attack. If his numbers increase, he correspondingly gains power in the community and can exert a great deal of pressure on the University. In the event that fundamentalists ever capture a state government, the University would find itself in serious trouble.
Although the U of I responded admirably to the matter, it suggests a deeper threat. Rural America is by no means a lost cause, as many of the posters here at Exile_lsf can attest. Republicanism is strong in these states, to be sure, and in places like Northern Idaho, right-wing radicalism has sunk down deep roots. But universities act as a bulwark against the American Taliban. Many of the Republicans in these rural states currently are not dominionists (although their support of Bush and his attack on individual freedoms is worrying enough). And so long as there is a research university in these areas, there always exists the possiblity for enlightened, moderate, rational thinking to influence the region’s young, to build a generation of good citizens.
Of course, it is precisely that open nature of the university that radicals like Wilson feel threatened by and wish to destroy. Similarly, it is that openness that the right-wing critics of “liberal academics” oppose. Someone like David Horowitz would find a certain level of agreement with Douglas Wilson, in that they believe education should be about the politically correct (from their point of view) indoctrination of the young, not about free inquiry. Yet while Horowitz tries to work the mainstream GOP via lobbying and Fox News, Wilson prefers an under-the-radar grassroots strategy that puts pressure on vulnerable local officials. And Wilson can exploit the resentment over “liberal bias” that more mainstream Republicans have for their own ends.
At the moment it remains quite unclear what Wilson’s future is, or exactly what the scale of the threat - if any - is to the U of I or other rural universities. But it is safe to say that we’d all be better off if we recognized the broad-based threat posed by the Christian Reconstructionists to our rural friends. “Red America” isn’t lost yet - and we in the blue urban centers are deluded if we think we can lose those valuable redoubts and still maintain our own position.
I’m not familiar enough with the politics of rural America to suggest a strategy for victory. But I do know that it’s no denigration of them to say that they can’t win without getting some real and effective support from the urban folks. Also, we all have a stake in academic freedom, and this case shows why academic freedom is something that matters beyond the campus, beyond the immediate community, beyond even the rural states themselves. Education is vital to a progressive society. It must be defended at all costs.
Megatractor: Aid: Feed The Beast! Feed The Beast! Or Maybe Not.
I was in Brasilia a while back for some meetings in the Brazilian federal government and was rather surprised to find myself rattling around in a number of vast and essentially empty buildings. Just about everyone in the Ministries, seemingly all the way down to the post of dog-catcher, had just been fired. There was a change of government going on, and as the political-appointee layer is very dense (better make that very deep) in a few odd countries, Brazil included, that is what they do there: totally re-staff all the top layers of government with a new crop of rank amateurs every three or four years.
So you can imagine my astonishment when I ended up in Washington a while back, on an invitation to advance the very odd cause of federal strategic planning (yes, Virginia, your government plans; extremely oddly, and without a budget, but it tries; you can read all about it by googling â€œGPRAâ€?) and found that wow, the exact same thing takes place there too! It seems there are presently 9,051 amateurs manning the upper layers of the federal government - and if that doesnâ€™t result in the most amazing political sensitivity, well bless my soul, whatever will?!
Which is all by way of explaining (awwww, now you are all going to be disappointed - you thought I was onto something good there, right?)(hey, I want to come back to it; later) that the self-same thing ALSO occurs in the top layers of the worldâ€™s development institutions. You may have just read that the president of the World Bank is near the end of his contract (at 72) and OF COURSE he is to be replaced by another American; governments are VERY protective about their own posts - and their own appointees.
You may have read that the UN was embroiled in an oil-for-food scam to do with Iraq that even made Kofi Annan look bad; well that was essentially the work of these guys that are appointed in at very high levels and virtually untouchable by the regular professional staff managers. There is a lot less corruption in these bodies than you might suppose from the media but insofar as corruption does exist you are fairly safe in supposing that it is NOT at the layer of the long-term professional career staff.
There are two results of the bizarre staffing pattern it seems to me that we as a world could do without..
First, the more amateur part of the performance tends to be at the top levels, which can take off in some very odd directions, and if you could mix a lot with the professional staffs that have to put up with, well, all of the above, you would probably feel like selling your own home if only that would finally make things work for them.
Second, the more reactionary and conservative and short-term-horizon part of the performance also comes from the top layers (mostly being held back by their own governments for fear that - gasp - the minuscule budgets could actually increase) and the more activist and long-term-horizon part of the performance comes from, you guessed it, the long-term professional career staff.
The headache of the faulty development paradigm not lying down that I have been attempting to explain in previous posts, even though it is dead dead dead, is largely the outcome of all this: too many guys at the top who could not develop-manage their way out of… you got it. Which means that the money that DOES finally get through to development is not exactly being spent in ways that could rocket the developing countries beyond, well, terrorism and sweatshops and cutting down all the rain forests. Donor countries and their proxies in the organizations micro-manage to serve their own interests and not true global interests in a way really quite hard to exaggerate.
So like too many of my colleagues I am forever very much in two minds about development funding. Put it under the control of the folks at the top and it really becomes a driver BACKWARD from where development ought to be headed. Put it under the control of the professionals who mostly know better and push the paradigm I am in the course of explaining (its all around you in plain sight here in the US economy - you just canâ€™t see it; yet) and you may see some VERY good results.
Okay. To todayâ€™s quotes to punch home the message. These remarks in todayâ€™s Financial Times by Quentin Peel should now come as no surprise to you.
A more profound danger is that the whole exercise will become neo-colonial, as the aid donors seek to dictate how and where to distribute their supplies, instead of helping the nations of the region to help their own people. Local administrations may be rapidly overwhelmed in their capacity to handle so many demands and set their own priorities.
...there must be a fear that the relief effort, so well-intentioned, will become politicised by governments seeking to gain popularity and prestige. That has already been apparent in the bidding auction by governments to make the most generous pledges of funds. The US in particular seems tempted to make more of its contributions: Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, has said he hopes that the Muslim world, so alienated by the war in Iraq, will now be able to see “American generosity, American values, in action”.
Ha ha ha ha ha! And this also should come as no surprise to you if you happened to find my post last week on the vexed matter of UN funding and who really makes out like a bandt.
Lack of co-ordination is the most immediate challenge. The only institution that has the capacity and political status to organise such an international effort is the United Nations. Yet the UN lacks the resources, and relies on the support that it receives from its member states. But the least supportive is also the most important - the US.
And more of the same. Aid driven by seemingly generous governments - but for whom looking after Number One is always the one and only business of the day.
Then there is the problem of the wrong sort of aid being sent to the region. Wherever possible, it is cheaper and better to source supplies locally. Yet the temptation is to send everything by plane from Europe and America. No doubt that is why gallons of bottled water are even now being transported - at an estimated cost of about $4 a kilo - from Britain to Sri Lanka. There will certainly be other examples.
Yet perhaps the greatest dilemma for aid agencies is how to help in such an emergency without undermining the local government and indigenous charities that will always be the first line of defence. Most agencies recognise the need to reinforce local structures, not replace them. But there is often an assumption back home, not least in the media, that local organisations are at best irrelevant, at worst incompetent and corrupt.
If the local institutions are not encouraged and reinforced, there will be no one to take over when the aid workers leave. Carolyn Miller, chief executive of Merlin, the UK medical charity, says aid agencies should be thinking ahead about sustainable systems from the moment they arrive. “You have to start off thinking how you are going to hand things over,” she says.
Bottled water at $4 a kilo, indeed… Get with the program Poland Spring! If you are not there already.
Take that, Frenchie! WalMart takes it to l'homme.
A year ago December, Fast Company exposed the relentless pressure WalMart exacts on its suppliers in order to achieve it’s Always Low Pricesâ„¢ mantra.
A gallon-sized jar of whole pickles is something to behold. The jar is the size of a small aquarium. The fat green pickles, floating in swampy juice, look reptilian, their shapes exaggerated by the glass. It weighs 12 pounds, too big to carry with one hand. The gallon jar of pickles is a display of abundance and excess; it is entrancing, and also vaguely unsettling. This is the product that Wal-Mart fell in love with: Vlasic’s gallon jar of pickles.
Wal-Mart priced it at $2.97--a year’s supply of pickles for less than $3! “They were using it as a ‘statement’ item,” says Pat Hunn, who calls himself the “mad scientist” of Vlasic’s gallon jar. “Wal-Mart was putting it before consumers, saying, This represents what Wal-Mart’s about. You can buy a stinkin’ gallon of pickles for $2.97. And it’s the nation’s number-one brand.”
Therein lies the basic conundrum of doing business with the world’s largest retailer. By selling a gallon of kosher dills for less than most grocers sell a quart, Wal-Mart may have provided a service for its customers. But what did it do for Vlasic? The pickle maker had spent decades convincing customers that they should pay a premium for its brand. Now Wal-Mart was practically giving them away. And the fevered buying spree that resulted distorted every aspect of Vlasic’s operations, from farm field to factory to financial statement....
Vlasic filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2001 not long after the mega-sized pickle promotion debuted at WalMart. The Fast Company article concludes “the gallon jar of pickles, everyone agrees, wasn’t a critical factor” in the company’s financial woes.
Our West Coast cub reporter, Hollyweird, has discovered the latest in the mega-store’s hard ball tactics to simultaneously challenge the economic security of liberal elitist beverage store owners and small family farmers, better known as government trough-feeding socialists.
Soon, select WalMart customers will be able to sample a new discount item: WalMart private label wine. Yes, the world’s largest retail chain is teaming with E&J Gallo Winery of Modesto, CA, to produce the spirits at an affordable $2-$5 price range.
While wine connoisseurs may not be inclined to throw a bottle of WalMart brand wine into their shopping carts, there is a market for cheap wine, said Kathy Micken, professor of marketing at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI. She said, “The right name is important.”
The beauty of WalMart wine is that it can be served with white meat (possum) or red meat (squirrel). So, here we go… The top 12 suggested names for WalMart Wine:
12. Chateau Traileur Parc
11. White Trashfindel
10. Big Red Gulp
9. Grape Expectations
8. Domaine Walmart “Merde du Pays”
6. Chef Boyardeaux
5. Peanut Noir
4. Chateau des Moines
3. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Vinegar!
2. World Championship Riesling
And the number one name for WalMart Wine:
1. Nasti Spumante
Why waste precious lucre on product branding consultants? Filthy swine! Let’s give those cheap bastards in Bentonville a hand and offer up some suggested names for Vin du WalMart.