Thursday, November 30, 2006
He Gave Dreams Form
Giant Size X-Men #1 - May 1975, cover by Gil Kane & Dave Cockrum
No, I’m not going to grow up, and I treasure those wonderful pulp distillations of fantasy. I’m saddened to learn that a man who contributed to a comic that had a huge impact on me when I was twelve passed away last Sunday:
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP)—Wearing Superman pajamas and covered with his Batman blanket, comic book illustrator Dave Cockrum died Sunday.
The 63-year-old overhauled the X-Men comic and helped popularize the relatively obscure Marvel Comics in the 1970s. He helped turn the title into a publishing sensation and major film franchise.
Cockrum died in his favorite chair at his home in Belton, South Carolina, after a long battle with diabetes and related complications, his wife Paty Cockrum said Tuesday.
At Cockrum’s request, there will be no public services and his body will be cremated, according to Cox Funeral Home. His ashes will be spread on his property. A family friend said he will be cremated in a Green Lantern shirt.
At Marvel Comics, Cockrum and writer Len Wein were handed the X-Men. The comic had been created in 1963 as a group of young outcasts enrolled in an academy for mutants. The premise had failed to capture fans.
Cockrum and Wein added their own heroes to the comic and published “Giant-Size X-Men No. 1” in 1975. Many signature characters Cockrum designed and co-created—such as Storm, Mystique, Nightcrawler and Colossus—went on to become part of the “X-Men” films starring Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry.
It’s easy to overestimate the impact of pop culture on how we see the world, and one can ask seriously whether “low” culture (actually, after Warhol, does it make sense anymore to talk about “low” or “high” culture?) like comics merely reflect who we are (or want to be), or whether it can help change us. I believe that it does both, and that art and stories can be powerful conduits through which people can come to see things anew.
The X-Men, like many of the other groundbreaking characters turned out by Marvel, delivered a straightforward story about how much people can accomplish by working together despite their differences. Mr. Cockrum designed many of the multiracial characters gathered together to rescue the endangered original X-Men, and presented faces and outlooks all-but absent from comics up until then. While not perfect, and sometimes veering toward stereotypes, that book represented on paper the very process of questioning and change that the nation itself was going through.
Mr. Cockrum may not have been one of the great innovators in comics, but he did help to design and drive some great characters who’re now part of our culture. I’m glad I got to enjoy his work.
The Madman Takes the Oath
Washington D.C.—Madman I. T. Marketplace caused a stir today when he took the oath of office, placing his hands on a fine leatherbound edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
“I’ve found this book to be a fine and insightful source of moral instruction and good illustrations of how to live a moral life,” Mr. Marketplace said.
Conservatives across the country reacted in outrage, disturbed that Mr. Marketplace had spurned the traditional collection of fairy stories. Dennis Prager was especially vocal on his radio program.
“America is interested in only one book, the Bible.” [...] he added “If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress.”
Mr. Marketplace smiled when informed of Mr. Prager’s objections. “My book instructs me that wicked people who spout falsehoods generally come to messy ends. I suggest to Mr. Prager that he stay out of dark woods and secluded cabins.”
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The Real Spirit of America
The Homeowner’s Association board has backed down and resigned in Pagosa Springs, CO, but the best part of the story is this:
Mr. Trimarco said he put up the wreath as a general symbol of peace on earth, not as a commentary on the Iraq war or another political statement.
In any case, there are now more peace symbols in Pagosa Springs, a town of 1,700 people 200 miles southwest of Denver, than probably ever in its history.
On Tuesday morning, 20 people marched through the center carrying peace signs and then stomped a giant peace sign in the snow perhaps 300 feet across on a soccer field, where it could be easily seen.
“There’s quite a few now in our subdivision in a show of support,” Mr. Trimarco said. [...]
Town Manager Mark Garcia said Pagosa Springs was building its own peace wreath, too. Mr. Garcia said it would be finished by late Tuesday and installed on a bell tower in the center of town.
It is heartening to see when the all-too-silent citizens finally get fed up with the nuts and zealots and push back. Bravo to the neighbors who stood beside the Trimarcos when that community’s Cotton Mather overstepped his bounds.
Meanwhile, reason has also prevailed in Fond du Lac, WI, though in a mixed result:
A controversial book by Maya Angelou is staying in the Fond du Lac High School English curriculum, after an agreement was reached this week.
Parents of a Fond du Lac High School sophomore challenged the required reading of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in an advanced English class.
The Fond du Lac County School District issued a statement about a resolution with the parents saying it will now notify parents about required reading materials.
According to the statement, school administrators “will work with the English department to notify parents of the sensitive nature of this book prior to its use in the classroom.”
Also, the district “will review the process for and documentation of material selection within the educational program.”
Finally, it stresses that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings “is recommended for continued use within the high school English curriculum.”
The statement read in part, “In the end, we agree that all of our students will benefit by involving parents prior to using Maya Angelou’s book in our classrooms. In circumstances like this, we believe all parents are empowered to help their child while also supporting our teachers."
The mixed part?
Many school districts told Action 2 News the issue of honoring family values is among the reasons Angelou’s book isn’t used in their own classrooms. Most teachers feel there are less controversial substitutes that students can learn from.
Few if any educators have anything bad to say about I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings but they say using Angelou’s book, and others like Catcher in the Rye and Huckleberry Finn, comes with a risk of alienating some parents.
That’s why many teachers avoid the book, even though they admire Angelou’s work.
“The point, and probably why the Fond du Lac school district would be teaching it, or anybody would teach it, is because of the racism. It exposes children to racism, but there are other books that do it just as well… without the rape,” Kathy Golem of the Oshkosh School District said.
Apparently students, teachers and other parents rallied to the book’s defense, but this idea that we have to dumb down and protect ALL children from the realities of life, realities that they may already be facing themselves, is a sign of how far off track we’ve gotten when it comes to educating our young.
Mike Nichols sums up in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal how counter-productive educating down to the most sensitive is:
What’s unique here is the fact parents aren’t just rejecting a book; they are rejecting a life, a heroic one.
There is no denying it. Parts of Angelou’s young life were tragic and horrifying. Parts were sad beyond description, and parts make you wince. But parts, too, were and are beautiful and lyrical and heartening in a fundamentally redemptive way.
This is a brutally honest book about racism and coming of age. It is also a book about intellect and compassion and resilience and, among many other things, tender love for a sibling.
It is Angelou’s sibling, an older brother named Bailey, in fact, who utters my favorite quote of the whole book.
In the passage, Angelou writes of a high school teacher in San Francisco who opened up whole new worlds of reading to her. I imagine the teacher to be like some of those in Fond du Lac. Her name was Miss Kirwin.
“Miss Kirwin proved Bailey right,” wrote Angelou. “He had told me once that ‘all knowledge is spendable currency, depending on the market.’ “
As a parent, you can understand those who want to keep their children young and innocent. Don’t we all? School officials reportedly understand that so well that they allowed the child of the parents who initially complained to read a different book.
Harder to understand is the parents’ reported desire to have the book removed from the sophomore advanced English curriculum completely so that, I guess, nobody else in those classes reads it, either.
You can’t change the whole world just to keep it from changing your child.
That’s an impossible objective and, as Angelou herself would certainly conclude, not a wise one, either, because kids will, one way or another, learn about the world.
The only thing overprotective parents can be assured of forever separating their child from, in fact, is themselves.
I’m sure that many others have observed what I’ve observed ... that kids from such homes are the very ones who get victimized when they go out into the real world. It’s bad enough that such parents, out of fear or superstition, endanger their own children. They cannot be allowed to leave ALL children similarly benighted and vulnerable. Good on the folks in Fond du Lac for choosing to keep the real world in the curriculum, rather than surrendering to those who want to wrap us all in gauzy Hallmark-style fantasies.
Freedom's Just Another Word ... And You Should Shut Up About It
We seem eager, desperate, to throw away the freedoms we imperfectly hold in this country. So little that needs to be said ever actually GETS said, yet so many want everybody to just shut up:
MANCHESTER – Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.
Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a “different set of rules” may be needed to reduce terrorists’ ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.
“We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade,” said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP’s takeover of Congress in 1994.
Never mind, you idiot, that 9/11 happened BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO NEEDED TO TALK TO EACH OTHER DIDN’T. Yes, yes, that’s not a case of public speech, but it’s still on point. A democratic republic can only function if there is MORE speech happening, not less. Does this idiot not understand that terror cells will find ways to communicate, that silencing EVERYBODY in the hope of making things harder for them is a fool’s game?
Gingrich isn’t talking about how to make us safe, not really. He’s talking about maintaining control. Control for his authoritarian party. Oh, and what “speech” SHOULD be protected?
Gingrich sharply criticized campaign finance laws he charged were reducing free speech and doing little to fight attack advertising. He also said court rulings over separation of church and state have hurt citizens’ ability to express themselves and their faith.
His fans are floating his name as a potential PRESIDENTIAL candidate, yet the only freedom that concerns him is keeping campaign donations rolling in and making sure that the religious (the right kind of religious people, of course, not those scary OTHER religious people) amongst us have more and more influence over public life in this country.
Does anybody have any doubt WHO would be silenced in Gingrich’s brave new world? It sure wouldn’t be voices from the rabid right. It would be people who question the status quo, of course, and I bet they start with people already on their lists. Gingrich is considered one of the leading THINKERS on the right, and that should frighten us all.
Behind all of their bromides and lectures about goodness, the right worships destruction, exploitation and the cultivation of hatred and bigotry. They rely upon ignorance, and there is no better way to foster ignorance than to deny speech, to ban books. Silencing speech will not make us safe. It won’t bring back the dead, or stop extremists from hatching their plans or rebuild destroyed buildings. What it will do is enable more criminal wars, more looting of the public treasury, more expansions of the already-too-big police state. Beneath Gingrich’s professorial demeanor is the rictus grin of the authoritarian. His idiotic suggestions need to be roundly condemned ... while we still have a public square that ALLOWS us to condemn them.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Americans Are Morons - Peace is BAD edition
Woman faces fines for wreath peace sign
Do you think you are free to do as you please with YOUR private property? Well, not if you’re in a development with crazy people:
Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.
“Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday.
Lisa Jensen said she wasn’t thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, “Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing."
I’m sure that a big huge yellow ribbon stuck to the slab of concrete would be perfectly fine.
This sort of herd-like behavior isn’t uniquely American, of course, but it is sadly endemic for a country that pats itself on the back for being “free”. Those who’re most loud about being patriotic, or being “good Christians”, are often the most thin-skinned about being confronted by something that is, or is imagined to be, “offensive”. Often remarkably easily bruised, these people often object based on weird beliefs and conspiracy theories, like the continual insistence that the peace symbol is “satanic”. Some call it “Nero’s Cross”, an inverted cross or the “witch’s foot". The symbol was actually designed by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist and a graduate of the Royal College of Arts and was meant to invoke the semophore symbols for “N” and “D”, standing for nuclear disarmament.
Gerald Holtom, a conscientious objector who had worked on a farm in Norfolk during the Second World War, explained that the symbol incorporated the semaphore letters N(uclear) and D(isarmament). He later wrote to Hugh Brock, editor of Peace News, explaining the genesis of his idea in greater, more personal depth:
I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.
Eric Austin added his own interpretation of the design: "the gesture of despair had long been associated with the death of Man and the circle with the unborn child."
The symbol went on to become a broader symbol for peace as counter-culture demonstrations spread:
The symbol almost at once crossed the Atlantic. Bayard Rustin, a close associate of Martin Luther King had come over from the US in order to take part in that first Aldermaston March. He took the symbol back to the United States where it was used on civil rights marches. Later it appeared on anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and was even seen daubed in protest on their helmets by American GIs. Simpler to draw than the Picasso peace dove, it became known, first in the US and then round the world as the peace symbol. It appeared on the walls of Prague when the Soviet tanks invaded in 1968, on the Berlin Wall, in Sarajevo and Belgrade, on the graves of the victims of military dictators from the Greek Colonels to the Argentinian junta, and most recently in East Timor.
Many Americans would rather wallow in their ignorance and preconceptions, so these niggling little details would matter not a whit to Ms. Jensen’s neighbors. What matters to them are the cozy little myths and superstitions that protect their narrow little worldviews. Use the cross to “support the troops” ... that would doubtless be okay. Scatter little mangers or Santas or reindeer around to your heart’s content, but if you dare to stumble across the easily-bruised psyches of these disturbed people then you may find some representative of authority telling you what you can do with your land, and what thoughts you’re allowed to share with the world around you.
Free thought isn’t welcome in the land of the blind and ignorant.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
How Long Has This Been Going On? I'll Tell You:
Well for starters we’ve now been in Iraq longer than we fought in WW2. From Yahoo:
As of Sunday, the conflict in Iraq has raged for three years and just over eight months.
Only the Vietnam War (eight years, five months), the Revolutionary War (six years, nine months), and the Civil War (four years), have engaged America longer.
Fighting in Afghanistan, which may or may not be a full-fledged war depending on who is keeping track, has gone on for five years, one month. It continues as the ousted Taliban resurges and the central government is challenged.
It looks like we’re right on schedule to be involved in Iraq’s Civil War longer than we were involved in our own, only 120 days or so before we break that record too. Sobering, no?
Friday, November 24, 2006
fri rdm 10 - "ham or turkey?" edition
So, if you’re a Republican, you’re supposed to choose between:
Suckers get the leaders they deserve. Of course, that doesn’t speak well of us more to the left either, does it? Seeing as in how we don’t seem to have any ... well, other than:
Today’s random tunes:
- "Losing Combination” - Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys
- "Happy When It Rains” - The Jesus & Mary Chain
- "Have You Seen My Chicken” - George Jones
- "Tie Your Mother Down” - Queen
- “Greenville" - Lucinda Williams
- "Streamline Woman” - Muddy Waters
- "Dear God” - XTC
- “Badlands" - Bruce Springsteen
- "Smoke on the Water” - Deep Purple
- "Black Sabbath” - Black Sabbath
Thursday, November 23, 2006
For John Dillinger
In hope he is still alive
Thanks for the wild turkey and the Passenger Pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts —
thanks for a Continent to despoil and poison —
thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger —
thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving the carcass to rot —
thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes —
thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through —
thanks for the KKK, for nigger-killing lawmen feeling their notches, for decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces —
thanks for “Kill a Queer for Christ” stickers —
thanks for laboratory AIDS —
thanks for Prohibition and the War Against Drugs —
thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business —
thanks for a nation of finks — yes,
thanks for all the memories… all right, let’s see your arms… you always were a headache and you always were a bore —
thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.
Watch Burroughs recite it here
This holiday is has both wonderful memories and bitter knowledge for me. I fervently hope that someday we can give thanks for we Americans finally turning our backs on militarism and imperialism, for us embracing one another with hope instead of fear, cooperating instead of viciously competing. Consider this a prayer for us to finally own our past so that we can stop letting it poison us, twist us, make us less than what we aspire to be.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Bush Admin Ghoul Steps Into Light, Admits Greatest Fear
Oh, THE HORROR:
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who runs the giant agency that keeps track of threats to the United States, has shared what he calls his “chilling vision” of the future - a time when U.S. government actions might be constrained by international law.
Chertoff outlined his nightmare scenario in a Nov. 17 speech to the Federalist Society, an organization of right-wing lawyers who spearheaded the legal arguments for granting President George W. Bush authority unbound by any law, including the constitutional rights of Americans.
But the focus of Chertoff’s warning was that the United States is under growing pressure from legal scholars and the world community to comply with international law, especially on war crimes and humane treatment of detainees in the “war on terror.”
“The fact is, whether we like it or not, international law is increasingly entering our domestic domain,” Chertoff said.
The culprits, according to Chertoff, include a narrow majority of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has begun to bring it through cases like Hamdan,” a reference to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in which the high court cited the Geneva Conventions in ruling that hundreds of suspects being held without charges at Guantanamo Bay had legal rights.
Chertoff objected to the Supreme Court’s reference to the Geneva Conventions despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution states that treaties entered into by the U.S. government are the “supreme law of the land” and all four Geneva Conventions were long ago signed by the U.S. Executive and ratified by the U.S. Senate.
Chertoff also protested the mounting worldwide legal criticism of the U.S. government.
“International law is being used as a rhetorical weapon against us,” Chertoff said. “We are constantly portrayed as being on the losing end, and the negative end of international law developments."
How DARE those damned foreigners use pesky wounding WORDS against the right-by-definition American government?!?!
Can’t everybody see how terrible this is? State sanctioned ghouls, vampires, werewolves, psycho killers have to go about their business, and how are they supposed to do that if the happy meals on legs start fighting back with fancy words and guys in robes?
What Chertoff’s speech highlighted is the growing transatlantic divide between two visions of the world. The Bush administration’s view is that national sovereignty - often defined by the dictates of the so-called “unitary executive” - is held as inviolable. Meanwhile, the EU views national sovereignty as secondary to principles of environmental protection, human rights and individual dignity.
Under the European concept, authority is shared and fragmented in a way that both protects the rights of the individual and ensures that no member state of the EU could develop the sort of arbitrary power needed to institute an authoritarian government.
In the Bush administration’s view, international law in no way constrains actions of the U.S. President. Bush, who calls himself The Decider, can personally decide whose phone will be tapped, whose medical records are gathered, who will be detained without charges and who will subjected to “alternative” interrogation methods, such as waterboarding.
Bush’s own opinion about international law is one of contempt. When asked once if the occupation of Iraq violated U.N. or other legal principles, Bush joked, “International law? I better call my lawyer."
After all, where is the Waterboarder In Chief supposed to get his snuff films if someone stands up to him? High Def updates on torture, death, destruction and despair are SO much better than blowing up frogs.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
LSF Review: Fast Food Nation
The new film Fast Food Nation covers quite a bit of ground but then it has alot on its mind. This new Richard Linklater ("Dazed and Confused”, “Before Sunrise") film is based on the bestselling book of the same name which I hate to admit I haven’t read.
Fast Food Nation is set in and around a meatpacking plant in Cody Colorado and the US border where many of the undocumented workers who toil there make their crossing. We view this meatpacking plant from stories by executives from a burger chain who get their meat there, the workers from the plant and employees of a single burger franchise. The interwoven stories cover a canvas of so many different things Americans should be considering: the treatment of animals, immigration, food safety, ecology, the Patriot Act and multi-national Corporations and their influence in America. It’s pretty safe to say the Bush Administration, Congress and Corporate America will not embrace this film as it has much to say critically of their neglect of us.
This film plays and is shot in a cinema verite fashion but is scripted and not a documentary. An all-star cast featuring Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderama and Kris Kristofferson amongst others play these characters who interact one way or another with this meatpacking plant. I don’t want to give too much away but Linklater weaves them in very cleverly to create a whole fabric of Americana at this moment in time. I recommend this film for anyone who cares about the issues involved as it is very well crafted and always intriguing.
Monday, November 20, 2006
It Was a Shameful ENTRANCE ...
One thing you can say for the right-wing mind ... it’s consistant in it’s reliance upon hoary old myths:
Flee Iraq, relive shame of Vietnam
The folks who believe the Iraq war looks increasingly like the Vietnam War are right.
At least the part where the United States pulls out and leaves millions of people hanging out to dry. That part where the war comes to a dishonorable, murderous end. Like on the day, April 30, 1975, that America broke its promises to millions of South Vietnamese and jumped ship. The day on which hysterical Vietnamese civilians and officials were crowding a ladder to the top of the U.S. Embassy, pleading for a seat on the last American helicopter out. The day that crowds of Vietnamese swarmed the embassy gate, crying for escape or protection, as North Vietnamese tanks approached. The day that uncounted thousands turned into freedom-seeking boat people.
Yes, yes, that terrible shame of a war-mongering imperialist power forced to retreat by dirty hippies, commie reporters and spitting college girls. That noble freedom that was advanced by the propping up of one corrupt puppet government after another, a war launched by lies, broadened by lies, prosecuted with lies.
We abandoned millions of people to be stripped of their freedoms, imprisoned for their beliefs or slaughtered by a monstrous, tyrannical regime. It was one of the most shameful days in American history. It was our own day of infamy.
Blame public opinion for bringing shame on ourselves. Public opinion demanded a Congress that simply decided to choke the life out of the South Vietnamese. Yes, the Iraq war is beginning to look a whole lot like the Vietnam War.
Wingers have strange ideas about what constitutes shame. Lying about the nature of our imperialism isn’t shameful. Slaughtering untold thousands of innocent people isn’t a shame:
This is not to minimize the sacrifice of those who have fought or died in Iraq, but in World War II, almost 300,000 American military personnel died in combat, as compared to nearly 3,000 in the Iraq war. (More than 47,000 died in Vietnam and nearly 34,000 in the Korean War.) Civilian deaths in World War II amounted to at least 38 million, compared with the 30,000 to 60,000 by UN and other reliable estimates in Iraq. (The recent, ridiculous 600,000 estimate by researchers from John Hopkins is not included among the reliable.)
This is not to diminish the importance of any life; its value is not set by the number of people who die with you.
But it is to make the point that the cost of defending the freedom of millions in the Middle East has been somewhat less than Pelosi and crew would have it.
Turning young men and women into corpses or broken and battered survivors isn’t a shame. Turning some of them into monsters isn’t a shame, or unleashing those who already showed signs of being monsters. Nope, the shame is “losing” or “retreating”, no matter how hopeless the cause, no matter how much more meat will be fed into a grinder that shouldn’t have been activated in the first place. The shame is in failing to escalate into full-out genocide if that is what is necessary to accomplish “winning” and “freedom” ... after all, it worked in the American West, didn’t it? Manifest Destiny marches on, after all, and we exceptional Americans have no choice to wade into our designated enemies (and any innocents in the way) like Gabriel swinging his bloody angel’s sword. Carnage is God’s work, and we’ll be damned (literally) if human decency or the basic good sense to see it’s hopeless will allow us to be stayed from our righteous course.
The right has bled this country dry for decades with this myth, this myth of “winning” bloody occupations. People of principle and decency failed to make the case against this behavior after the pile of war crimes that was the Vietnam “conflict”, and they’ve failed so far leading into this debacle. J. S. Paine makes the point that it’s past time to make the case THIS time, so that in another generation we’re not being bullied into another war with tales of how terrible Cindy Sheehan and Nancy Pelosi were when we “lost” an Iraqi war that was actually lost at the very moment Bush started it:
Indeed, where is the root blowing charge we need to place at the stump of each one of these brutal gun play interventions? We need right here and now to stop the insanity from happening again. But we haven’t even begun to set the charges—in fact I suspect most of us dare not set any charges—because, as Max writes, “Criticism of imperialism can still be painted as ‘anti-American.’” He’s dead right. He continues, “The only safe way to do it [i.e. attack the American empire project] is as a conservative or libertarian.”
But doesn’t the horrendous debacle that the Iraq escapade has become give us progs the means to beat the empire’s battle apes senseless in the public square, right now, even as they still grapple like ruthless futile imbeciles with their sand hydra? To free ourselves and our future from these horrors repeating twice every generation, we must wave the bloody shirt of this present monstrous carnage like raft-bound castaways trying to flag down a passing ship.
Flashback to the low 70’s: the “anti-imperialists” lost the Nambo post-mortem, didn’t they? The GI’s were near rebellion in 1970, but by 1980, these same vets had joined the white-trash roar for Reagan. The Nixon white house did it up brown. Man, were they good, what with the brilliant MIA cult, and the fabricated Jane College anti-vet spitskrieg. In spite of Dick’s personal and temporary disgrace and fall, his pattern of goverence and his notion of national entitlement passed through the gauntlet without a scratch.
As Hunter T wrote in ‘72, “we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen, with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.” Yes, this rabid vicious national moment was “lived with” and we were lullabyed to sleep each night with hands still soaked in foreign blood.
The FIRST step toward making amends for this crime, for Vietnam, for so many other imperial invasions and expansions and assasinations and coups, is to finally build the case for us to become a civilized, compassionate people who can finally say “enough”. Enough to the shame brought upon us by the Charles Grainers and Lt. Calley’s and Henry Kissingers and George Bushes and Lyndon Johnsons and Richard Nixons and Dick Cheneys. Perhaps we can start to undo the shame brought upon us by the shallowness with which far too many of us fall for the lies of murderers, eager to bask in the warm glow of their glory, washed in the blood they spill in waves.
The shame was in starting this damnable war, a shame that can only be redeemed by a heart-felt promise that we will never do it again.
Friday, November 17, 2006
fri rdm 10 - man of peace edition
Some years ago, at Jones Beach on Long Island, I was lucky enough to attend a WOMAD show. One of my strongest memories of the day was watching the band Ashkhabad from Turkmenistan on the second stage. They fused instrumentation and rhythms from so many of the cultures that traveled along the Silk Road. There we were, mostly middle-class Americans who had probably had never heard of their country, yet they had us dancing and singing along with them, eagerly repeating back the lyrics we didn’t understand in an enthusiastic call and response.
So much great music, fellowship and openness that day, sung in so many languages. WOMAD, of course, is one of the gifts given to us by Peter Gabriel, who described their mission:
"Pure enthusiasm for music from around the world led us to the idea of WOMAD in 1980 and thus to the first WOMAD festival in 1982. The festivals have always been wonderful and unique occasions and have succeeded in introducing an international audience to many talented artists.
“Equally important, the festivals have also allowed many different audiences to gain an insight into cultures other than their own through the enjoyment of music. Music is a universal language, it draws people together and proves, as well as anything, the stupidity of racism."
For his work with WOMAD, his Real World Records and humanitarian work to help people find common ground through music and art, Peter Gabriel was honored as a Man of Peace at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates:
Gabriel was recognized for his work promoting human rights and world peace. He received the award in a ceremony on Rome’s Capitoline Hill that marks the opening of a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize laureates organized every year in Rome by the Gorbachev Foundation and city hall.
Music has been a real blessing in my life, and opened my eyes to more beauty, joy, sadness, loss, opportunity and broad human experience than I could have otherwise ever dreamed. Gabriel has always been one of my favorites, and I’m glad to see him recognized for his work helping to spread this most wonderful of human creations, music, the doorway through which we can pass to know one another a little better, the glue with which we can hold together a better world.
The random music soothing my savage breast after you hit “more”:
- "That’s Just What You Are” - Aimee Mann
- "Beyond Love” - The The
- "Goodbye Stranger” - Supertramp
- "Once Upon A Time She Said” - Allison Moorer
- “Sunset" - Roxy Music
- "Brighton Rock” - Queen
- "One On The House” - Allison Moorer
- "All Tomorrow’s Parties” - Velvet Underground
- "Communication Breakdown” - Led Zeppelin
- "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” - Lucinda Williams
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Show Your Papers, Or Else ...
According to a campus police report, the incident began when community service officers, who serve as guards at the library, began their nightly routine of checking to make sure everyone using the library after 11 p.m. is a student or otherwise authorized to be there.
Campus officials said the long-standing policy was adopted to ensure students’ safety.
When Tabatabainejad, 23, refused to provide his ID to the community service officer, the officer told him he would have to show it or leave the library, the report said.
Like docile sheep, too many Americans buy these arguments.
On campus Wednesday, many students said they were surprised by news of the incident.
“UCLA is a very peaceful campus,” said Chen Mei, a third-year political science student from Laguna Hills. “I study in Powell Library at night all the time. I’ve seen people without ID cards who are removed. But none of the time has it been this dramatic.”
Karen Jou, a second-year student from Orange, said the campus police “usually are really good.”
“I wouldn’t have thought that would have happened here,” she said. “It’s really odd.”
Julia Newbold, a third-year English literature major from Walnut Creek, said her impression from her limited contact with campus police was good.
"They seem like a peacekeeping force," she said. “I’m really surprised to hear they had to resort to something like that. It sounds a little too forceful to me to Taser someone."
HAD TO?!?! PEACEKEEPING FORCE?!?!
All of this, in a supposedly free country.
Afraid of drunk drivers? Please submit to random checkpoints happily ... after all, it will keep you safe.
Think you have the right to travel freely within the borders of this free nation? Better be ready to identify yourself when near the US/Canadian border, or if you are within certain areas of the desert Southwest. It’s not an intrusion, NO, we NEED to allow our law enforcement officers to keep us safe from terrorists and drugs! After all, what do you have to hide?
Planning on traveling overseas? You may need permission first, even to take your love on a cruise ship.
As we come closer and closer to requiring national ID cards, as our corrupt political establishment seeks to limit the right to vote, demanding ID cards to carry out the most basic freedom in a democracy, how can we as a people so blithely submit to this growing, insidious encroachment?
We surrender to these demands, empowering people with weapons and badges to enforce greater and greater restrictions on our movements, our civil liberties, our ability to act as free citizens. We surrender to people who often have disturbing histories of abusing their authority, resulting in injury and death when some hapless citizen rouses their ire. We surrender to the watchmen, and then act surprised when they abuse their power. Just ask some of the students at UCLA:
During the altercation between Tabatabainejad and the officers, bystanders can be heard in the video repeatedly asking the officers to stop and requesting their names and identification numbers. The video showed one officer responding to a student by threatening that the student would “get Tased too.” At this point, the officer was still holding a Taser.
He’s keeping them safe, after all, and how DARE you question how he chooses to exercise his “protective” actions?
"I realize when looking at these kind of arrest tapes that they don’t always show the full picture. ... But that six minutes that we can watch just seems like it’s a ridiculous amount of force for someone being escorted because they forgot their BruinCard,” said Ali Ghandour, a fourth-year anthropology student.
"It certainly makes you wonder if something as small as forgetting your BruinCard can eventually lead to getting Tased several times in front of the library," he added.
Edouard Tchertchian, a third-year mathematics student, said he was concerned that the student was not offered any other means of showing that he was a UCLA student.
Whether you’re walking down the street and you happen upon a cop who thinks you might be drunk, or you’re going to the library or driving or using public transportation, you’d better be careful if a man with a uniform, badge and weapon demands that you prove that you have the right to be doing what you’re doing, that you can show who you are. You’d better be especially careful if you’re of middle-eastern dissent, or black, or hispanic, for failing to respond quickly enough, or to have an ID on you rather than forgotten on your dresser at home, or you could be in for a beating, or “non-lethal” torture, or even death.
All of this, here in the land of the free. Show that ID, or else ...
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Who Exactly Is An "Average American"?
photo by Kat Berger via mkeonline dot com
Senator Schumer, doing his usual appropriation of rightwing talking points, was quoted in the LA Times recently: (Democrats need to) “push aside the special interests and always keep our eye on the average American family."
Wow, Senator, what keen insight you have. Who, pray tell, is this chimera you speak of, this "average American family?
Does this family include the closeted gay son, afraid to admit to his friends, his parents, his clergyman, to himself, who he really is? Is he average, filled by society’s hate and fear and loathing, as he contemplates his future in a society that doesn’t want the likes of him, as thoughts of suicide bedevil him ... is he, a citizen of this country denied his equal rights under the law, is HE an “average American”?
Does this family include the woman in the hospital, staring down the barrel of an aggressive cancer and a doomed pregnancy, facing the possibility of a more dangerous procedure because the oh-so-learned politicians in this country hope to make safer late-term abortions illegal to pander to one particular religious point of view? Does this family include the husband and children who have to go on without her after infection or complications take her life?
Does this family include the children left home alone as their mother works two jobs to keep food on the table?
Does this family include the mother left with nothing but a flag, her memories and her sorrow, her precious child dead in the sand of a foreign land, a land decimated by a criminal war rubberstamped by the jingoistic hawks beside you in the halls of Congress?
Does this family include the one who’s father has been deported to the foreign land he left decades ago?
Does this family include the one decimated by the draconian laws of our drug war, their mother sent away for mere possession of an herb that grows like a weed in nearly every corner of the earth?
Does this family include the worker who stood in a long line, in the rain, waiting to vote on a broken machine, or worse a machine that doesn’t register her vote?
Does this family include the increasing number of children struggling against chronic asthma, drowning in the particulate-saturated air poured out by polluting industries who buy off both your’s and the “other” political party?
Tell me, Senator, just what is this “average American family”, of which “average Americans” is it constituted?
Please, Sir, tell me ... these people who face challenges that you apparently can’t even imagine, to whom are they to turn when EVERY institution in this country fails to address their problems? When political parties pander to loud, fractious, bigoted and superstitious minorities, rapacious corporations and corrupt wealthy contributors ... who then do people turn to to make their voices heard? Those self same organizations that you denigrate as “special interests”, of course.
Is the Chamber of Commerce a “special interest”? How about the credit card industry, recently rewarded with a law that enables their increasingly usurious behavior? Hollywood .. what about them, with their demands that culture be straitjacketed into business-plan-protection schemes with wrong-headed copyright “reforms”? Are THEY a “special interest? Maybe you’d think of Big Pharma, or the defense industries, or the increasingly out-of-reach higher education system as “special interests”? Maybe you think of the HMOs, the increasingly profitable insurance companies that do everything they can to avoid paying out to their policy holders ... are THEY “special interests”?
Probably not. They, after all, line your pockets, line the pockets of your fellow politicians, your lobbying family members. They pay for your hand-tailored suits, no doubt delivered right to your office. Do you have any idea what the average American has to do, the ill-fitting suits bought off the rack, on high-priced credit, required to keep a job that fails to keep up with his mounting costs?
None of this is in your little grifter’s mind, sir, and we all know it. When you talk of “average Americans”, you are aping the Republicans, playing games with people’s resentments, their fears, their prejudices and hatreds. You hope that when the easily-duped “centrist” voters, running in place in their tract homes, hear those words, that they will think, “that’s MY FAMILY” and not some other family that you and the other hacks running the Democratic Party are preparing to abandon to the vagaries of the marketplace, the swirling waters of the floods, the flesh-stripping winds of a far-flung desert.
When you spew forth terms like “average American”, you are appealing to DIVISION. You are appealing to fear and anger and bigotry and homophobia and misogyny and all of the other cancers bedeviling the American soul, because you, sir, are little different from the characters in the other party. Hell, you want to BE the other party, and you are unwilling or unable to see that this country is crying out for political leaders who will address the problems facing the greater majority of Americans. There is no “average” American. Averages are mathematical constructs, fake distinctions, the province of the accountant and the statistician, NOT the realm inhabited by real leaders, visionary leaders.
Sadly, though, the people look around and find no leaders. We’re offered hazy rememberances of murdered leaders dead decades ago, and cold stone monuments to unfulfilled dreams. No, we are left mainly with wealthy corrupt hacks like you, with conmen masquerading as statesmen, liars instead of giants. You can’t find it within yourself to offer unity and shared ground, only more division and lazy Hallmark sentiment.
We will get nowhere in this country, we will continue down our disasterous path, as long as we allow ourselves to be divided with such talk. Workers, families, men, women and children need to face the basic truth that none of us are free until ALL of us are free. Labor will get nowhere until women have control of their bodies. Families will never find steady ground until ALL families can find equal protection under the law to secure their future, their assets, their right to love one another. You, Senator Schumer, contribute to ugly divisions already exploited and incited by the ugly tactics of the Republican Party, and for that you should be ashamed.
Please, sir, contemplate these words, spoken by a soon-to-be slaughtered leader to commemorate the loss of Dr. King, for whom more cold stone is to be erected beside the memorial of another murdered hero:
But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
(Interrupted by applause)
So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love - a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.
Sadly, I doubt that you have it within your cold, cynical heart to look upon those words with anything but a smirk. There are no “average Americans” sir, there is only us, your fellow citizens, the people who entrusted you with high office, looking for leadership, not cynical exploitation. A people who might very well rise to support a party that bothered to embrace them and the organizations that they turned to for lack of anywhere else to make their voices heard. If you or the other Democrats can’t offer them that opportunity, I promise you that the other party will offer up a demogogue to further feed on their fear and desperation, and if we go down that road, this long experiment in representative Democracy will come to its bitter end.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
South Africa Rules
Gay marriage comes to South Africa!
From the AP:
The South African parliament on Tuesday approved new legislation recognizing gay marriages — a first for a continent where homosexuality is largely taboo.
The National Assembly passed the Civil Union Bill, worked out after months of heated public discussion, by a majority of 230 to 41 votes despite criticism from both traditionalists and gay activists and warnings that it might be unconsitutional. There were three abstentions.
The bill provides for the “voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union.” It does not specify whether they are heterosexual or homosexual partnerships.
What a shame that a country like the US still can’t comes to terms with what is basically just human love between consenting adults. If only our newly elected Democratic Senators like Webb, Casey and Tester offered even a beacon of hope on the subject but they are just another crop of Neanderthals.