JP124: Jury Duty

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The 124 on Jury Duty

It’s been a busy few weeks, honest! First it’s Easter and now I have this jury duty summons! But excuses are like assholes, right? Or maybe that’s opinions. . . anyway, going to have to walk back my commitments to doing 124s on Terrorism and Israel/Palestine for the time being. Turns out they’re rather daunting and all time management problems aside, I’d like to devote a little more time to those two topics regardless. This week: The Roundup, Unknown Minstrel Week 5, and some baqia.


Weekly Roundup

“In Indonesia, pious “punks” promote Islam”, Tommy Ardiansyah, Johan Purnama, Kanupriya Kapoor, and Nick Macfie, Reuters

My knee jerk response to this headline was to remember the Christian Rock garbage I was encouraged to listen to at summer camp, the sort of music to which Hank Hill famously opined “You’re not making Christianity better, you’re making rock and roll worse!”. But comparative religions is risky business and I’m not here to be a critic. Interesting contrast to the Orientalist image.

Ahmad Zaki, one of the movement’s founders, believes the genre of punk is often associated with a “tendency towards misbehaviour” but he wants to change that.

“We can redirect ourselves to better, more positive things,” he said.

“The Airline Industry Is a Starving Giant That’s Gnawing at Our Economy”, Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

When the Carter administration began deregulating the airlines in the late ’70s, it did so in the name of fostering price competition. Sure, relinquishing public control might jeopardize smaller, rural cities’ access to convenient air travel, but free-market competition would also make flying more affordable for the vast majority of Americans.

But thanks in no small part to lax antitrust enforcement by President Reagan and his successors, deregulation ultimately turned a public quasi-monopoly into a private one.

War and Peace

“What We Do Best”, Patrick Blanchfield, n+1

Last night, on the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, President Donald Trump authorized the launch of fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian government military base. There has been no call for mass mobilization, no avuncular injunction to report to your local recruiting station. Donald Trump can launch $94 million of cruise missiles from the comfort of Mar-a-Lago; he does not Need You to do anything. But that won’t stop us.

“Trump’s Indonesian Allies In Bed with ISIS-Backed Militia Seeking to Oust Elected President”, Allan Nairn, The Intercept

Associates of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in a campaign that ultimately aims to oust the country’s president. According to Indonesian military and intelligence officials and senior figures involved in what they call “the coup,” the move against President Joko Widodo (known more commonly as Jokowi), a popular elected civilian, is being impelled from behind the scenes by active and retired generals. . . .

. . . Like many officials I spoke with, Kivlan said that the current army-backed street movement and crisis began as a result of the Symposium, a 2016 forum organized by the Jokowi government that allowed survivors and descendants of ’65 to publicly describe what had happened to them and to discuss how their loved ones died. For much of the army, the Symposium was an intolerable outrage and in itself justified the coup movement. One general told me that what most outraged his colleagues was that “it made the victims feel good.” The Symposium, of course, had nothing to do with Gov. Ahok or with religious questions of any kind. It was about the army and its crimes.

Discrimination and Hate Crimes

“Chechen police ‘kidnap and torture gay men’ – LGBT activists”, Laurence Peter, BBC

Gay men are fleeing brutal persecution in Chechnya, where police are holding more than 100 people and torturing some of them in an anti-gay crackdown, Russian activists say.

Poverty and Class Struggle

“Investors are paying college students’ tuition — but they want a share of future income in return”, Frank Chaparro, Business Insider

Melissa Gillbanks is no fan of student loans, so when she was looking for a way to pay for her senior year at Purdue University, she was happy to sign away a portion of her future income in exchange for a very different way to raise cash for college.

Oligarchy

“Oligarchy in America”, Andrew Levine, Counter Punch

Ironically, though, over the same period, income and wealth inequality and other problems associated with plutocracy have gotten worse; voting hasn’t helped with that at all.   Indeed, many less well off voters nowadays vote for candidates and policies that make the problems associated with plutocratic rule worse.  So much for expropriating the expropriators through the ballot box!

There are many reasons why this has happened: false consciousness comes immediately to mind; it is surely part of the explanation.  For evangelicals and others with retrograde social views in the United States, so is “values voting.”

But the most important part of the explanation, in the American case, is the lack of a real opposition party that the system in place does not thoroughly marginalize.  The Democratic Party is useless for that.  To be sure, even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been known to mouth off about the evils of inequality.  But you don’t need a bullshit detector to see that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Israel/Palestine

“Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails begin hunger strike”, Nidal Almughrabi, Ori Lewis, Jeffrey Heller, and Alison Williams, Reuters

Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday in response to a call by prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, widely seen as a possible future Palestinian president.


Unknown Minstrel Week 5
By Daniel Suhre

Back at it again this week, this time returning to my PNW roots to pay homage to Kind of Like Spitting, a project of Ben Barnett that started around 1995 and lasted 10 or so years (with occasional releases/tours after 2006).

A friend introduced me to KOLS only last year, and what I found was a lot of music, probably created under less-than-ideal circumstances (though not without a sense of humor. Take a look at the cover of Professional Results:1999-2014 for instance).

What I like so much about Ben’s songwriting is he seems perfectly at home channeling Leonard Cohen as Death Cab for Cutie, and doesn’t get mired in purity struggles. On The Thrill of the Hunt we hear covers of much loved classics by Big Star (‘Thirteen’) alongside Dean Martin psuedo-deep cuts (‘Lay Some Happiness on Me’), all in an endearing bedroom folk configuration.

It’s telling that Ben chose to make an entire album of Phil Ochs covers. It was central to Phil’s music never to bow to the ideological demands of the folkies (Take, for example, the infamous Gunfight at Carnegie Hall album, a joyous romp of Elvis medleys and songs by Merle Haggard and Buddy Holly, complete with a telephone bomb threat, Phil smashing the box office window, and a three hour second set ended only by Carnegie Hall cutting the power).

I hear Ben’s music as somewhat of a continuation of Phil’s legacy. Class politics come through subtly on many KOLS releases, perhaps most pronounced on In the Red from 2005 (not coincidentally, this is my favorite KOLS album).

Around 2009, Ben started releasing songs with the band Blunt Mechanic, so more recordings to check out there. For now, listen to Sherriff Ochs (presumably about Phil Ochs, though I can’t verify that) from In the Red.

“There’s more to life than lovers and chores / there’s more to life than an office at the top floor”

https://kolsband.bandcamp.com/track/sheriff-ochs


al-Baqia

Jury Duty

In 10 minutes I’m going to sign in for my jury duty summons. While the timing is inconvenient, I’ve looked forward to jury duty since my 1st grade teacher Ms. Swenson was summoned in the spring of 1995. I hear it’s boring, but I’m also sappypleased to be doing my civic duty.

In honor of this life landmark, I’m posting the trailer to Pauly Shore’s Jury Duty, easily one of the funniest movies ever made about jury duty.


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JP124: Islamophobia

Scrolling so smooth like the butter on the muffins

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The 124:

I shared this anecdote on February 4th and I’m bringing it up again, because this month I want focus on Islamophobia in the west.

I was chatting with a guy today and my studying Arabic came up. He cautiously asked me about my opinions of Islam. I told him that I’ve never met a Muslim that I didn’t like (not totally true, I’ve met A FEW Muslims I didn’t like) and gave my fair opinion, ya know, that they’re people. He seemed relieved. He told me that his wife is Muslim and that he was asking because his boss “doesn’t trust Islam” and “thinks Muslims are dangerous.” Though not too surprising, this is always disheartening to hear. What really struck me though, was that he had a lot of compassionate understanding for his boss. More than the boss deserves. He told me that this person was “just shell-shocked” after being a marine for XX years.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sort of compassion from Muslims and their community. They’re so mistreated here. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the cruelty, fear of, and disregard for Muslims in this country and the west in general. There’s a lot of kindness and solidarity, but too much callousness. Despite all this, despite being the victims of a long lists of western and American injustice, so often the cruelty is met with compassion — a lot of sadness and confusion too — but real compassion and mercy. It really moves me. Almost to tears. It then makes me angry. Furious at anyone who express enmity to the people of this faith. And that, in turn, embarrasses me. These Muslim victims of oppression respond with powerful compassion, but this little privileged man gets furious. What a mess.

In Islamophobia I see a greater and lesser evil. The greater evil is the most critical and refers to the effect that this fear and hatred of Muslims has on the Muslims themselves. The anecdote above is one such example that fits on a spectrum spanning the infliction of terror and insecurity,  outright attacks on Muslim symbols and institutions, actual violence against Muslim people, and the founding of a cultural background that enables torture, more than a decade of war, and the near complete disregard for Muslim lives.

The lesser evil begs attention too. That evil is the one that harms those who hold the prejudice and it wounds twice. First it wounds in the way that any prejudice twists and corrupts its bearer’s heart. Fear and hatred of the other stokes and exacerbates a very ugly part of the human psyche. What’s worse is that the sense of superiority it cultivates can be intoxicating and addicting. This is why, I think, folks who give in to a prejudice like Islamophobia have such a hard time letting go. The other wound is that it robs the prejudiced person of a rich and profound culture. I have an infinite appetite for beauty of this world. I pity any who close themselves off to a treasure in favor of the poisonous intoxicant of prejudice.

I intend to devote some time to both evils, but the greater evil is of more importance. Islamophobia hurts people; makes them feel unwelcome and unsafe. My relationships with Muslims (friends, teachers, mentors) has instilled in me a sense of loyalty and I take any abuse personally. The way these people have been woven into my life has instilled in me a sense of duty and it is incumbent on me to find ways to engage and extract Islamophobia for their defense. I’m not under any illusions,  but a sure path to failure is not to try. Nor do I have any white savior complex, but a mere need to try and do a simple kindness.

Like any prejudice, Islamophobia thrives in ignorance. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do what I can to shed some light on this subject with an emphasis on history, Orientalism, western imperialism and its aftermath, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and terrorism. This is both to provide some resources for anyone interested and to help me organize my thoughts on the matter so I can conduct better dialog with folks in the future.

An added component each week will be an article or piece about the greater problem of prejudicial thinking. What enables it? From where does it derive its strength?

I should add that the Muslims world is expansive, but most of my research and experiences regard the Arab states, spanning the Middle East and North Africa, with a some supplement on the Ottoman-Turks and central Asian peoples.

Middle Eastern Imperialism, Reactions, and Aftermath

In my view, the starting point to a political analysis of the Middle East and North Africa today is the history of Western imperialism. Few parts of the world have been spared this scourge and this region is no different. Most imperialists stories are variants on this narrative: a violent conquest and subjugation justified by an imperial rhetoric of racial and cultural superiority, imposition of an autocratic command structure, a siphoning of the colonized region’s natural resources and labor, a consistent violent suppression of popular resistance, and eventual “decolonization” in the mid-20th century.

Decolonization in quotation marks because these imperial powers often leave behind autocrats with western ties, populations traumatized by violence,  a cultural inferiority complex, economies structured to be reliant on the former imperial power, and oftentimes a large western military presence. Indeed, while these states are nominally independent today, they sometimes strike little contrast to 19th and early 20th century colonial structures and forms of indirect rule, which begs the question: is the age of imperialism really over?

For the Reading List:

Christopher de Bellaigue’s The Islamic Enlightenment, is a book about the Middle East’s struggle against and response to western imperialism. Andrew Lycett’s review breezes over the relevant history and the important cities and leaders covered in the book. This book covers some west-alternative giants: Said Qutub, Hassan al-Banna, and al-Afghani. I studied these three intellectuals in an Contemporary Islamic Thought class at the University of Jordan. For nyone serious about understanding the political landscape of the middle east, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Arab anti-imperialist sentiments, these three intellectuals are required reading  and de Bellaigue’s book appears to be great starting point.

Check your local bookstore, because Frick Amazon, emirite?

Exploring Prejudice

“The Death of Expertise”, Tom Nichols, The Federalist

None of this ignorance stops people from arguing as though they are research scientists. . .This subverts any real hope of a conversation, because it is simply exhausting — at least speaking from my perspective as the policy expert in most of these discussions — to have to start from the very beginning of every argument and establish the merest baseline of knowledge, and then constantly to have to negotiate the rules of logical argument.

Disclaimer: I am not a federalist and take some issue with technocratic conclusions that may or may not be implied, but this article articulates a problem I’ve frequently come up against.

Just about every confrontation I have about Islam comes down to this. Me against an almost complete lack of baseline knowledge. I agree with the author, it’s absolutely exhausting. What’s worse, is how this sort of problem has been playing out, especially recently. The natural and fair response to someone arguing from an imagined authority is to refuse them. Why waste the time? Especially considering how these kinds of people often aren’t arguing in good faith; just want to troll or harass and offend their ‘opponent’.

Unfortunately, ignoring trolls and people arguing in bad faith fuels their culture. I had a family member once retort with that “snowflake” insult, something like ‘Uh-oh, Jimmy’s mad someone disagreed with his worldview”. On a larger, more alarming scale, is how trolls take this refusal to engage as a evidence that they must be right. A friend recently showed me how there are reddit threads devoted to this sort of thing.

This leaves us in a sort of lose-lose situation. Open a dialog with a troll and you fall into a trap of an insulting, unwinnable argument. Refuse this dialog and stoke the flames of ignorance. My best conclusion at this point is that it is worthwhile to hone my debate skills and engage, using tactics to attempt encouraging civil dialog. If its on social media or in an online forum, at the very least anyone else who reads may be able to tell who is reasonable and who is a troll. What do you think?


Weekly Roundup

Julie Johnson: A Legacy of Song“, Bethany Blitz, The Coeur d’Alene Press

The late Julie Johnson spent time teaching in about every elementary school in the Coeur d’Alene School District plus some middle schools. Her passion and joy spread like wildfire to everyone around her.

Now, eight years after her death, her influence is still celebrated at the annual Julie Johnson Jamboree.

“You Shouldn’t Blame Islam for Terrorism. Religion Isn’t A Crucial Factor in Attacks”, Mehdi Hasan, The Intercept

The common stereotype of the Middle Eastern, Muslim-born terrorist is not just lazy and inaccurate, but easy fodder for the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam far right. Consider the swift reaction of White House official Sebastian Gorka to the horrific terror attack in London last week. “The war is real,” he told Fox News while the bodies of the victims were still warm, “and that’s why executive orders like President Trump’s travel moratorium are so important.”

“Meet the Palestinian-American Chef Fighting Cultural Appropriation in Food”, Mona Khalifeh, teenvogue

Abeer Najjar is a South Side Chicagoan, Palestinian, Muslim, chef. Abeer is American.

She is the epitome of what a modern-day American looks like. When you strip away the identifiers, at her core, Abeer is a foodie. From an early age, she had a passion for food. Abeer envisioned having her own cooking show, and while the rest of us were watching Rugrats, Abeer was watching Julia Child. Growing up in the cultural metropolis that is the South Side of Chicago, the typical Palestinian fare Abeer was accustomed to at home was influenced by the foods and cultures of the African, Latino, and Asian friends and neighbors she was surrounded by. Those influences made their way into not only her mother’s cooking but also her own as she took the helm in her home kitchen.

Islamophobia and Antisemetism

“The 712-page Google doc that proves Muslims do condemn terrorism”, Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian

It happened in history class. Heraa Hashmi, a 19-year-old American Muslim student at the University of Colorado, was supposed to be discussing the Crusades with the man sitting next to her. Within a few minutes, however, he was crusading against Islam.

“Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims,” Hashmi’s classmate told her. What’s more, he complained, not enough Muslims were making a stand against terrorism.

“Two charged with hate crime for attack on Arab teacher outside AIPAC conference”, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two men were charged with a hate crime for an assault on an Arab teacher allegedly carried out by members of the Jewish Defense League outside this week’s AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C.

Israel/Palestine

“More Gazans sick from polluted drinking water, says utility chief”, Sakher Abou El Oun, The Times of Israel

GAZA CITY (AFP) — More and more Gazans are falling ill from their drinking water, highlighting the humanitarian issues facing the Palestinian enclave that the UN says could become uninhabitable by 2020.

“Israeli Soldier’s Explosive Tell-All: “Palestinians are right to resist”, Abby Martin interviews Eran Efrati, Empire Files

“Thousands of Palestinians March to Commemorate Land Day”, Activestills, +972

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 1.28.09 PM.png

Hundreds of Palestinians took part in marches across Israel on Wednesday and Thursday to mark “Land Day,” commemorating the six Palestinian citizens killed by Israeli forces in 1976. The events began on Wednesday in a torch-lit march in the northern village of Deir Hanna, and continued Thursday, when hundreds marched in Sakhnin, Araba and Deir Hanna, as well as in the occupied territories.

War and Peace

“Iraq: Civilians killed by airstrikes in their homes after they were told not to flee Mosul”, Amnesty International

Hundreds of civilians have been killed by airstrikes inside their homes or in places where they sought refuge after following Iraqi government advice not to leave during the offensive to recapture the city of Mosul from the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), said Amnesty International. Survivors and eyewitnesses in East Mosul said they did not try to flee as the battle got underway because they received repeated instructions from the Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes.

Climate Change and The Environment

“After therapy dog refuses to drink, San Diego unified finds lead in water”, Gary Warth, The Los Angeles Times

A dog’s reluctance to drink from a bowl in a San Diego classroom led to the discovery of lead in the school’s water system, and testing of all pipes in the San Diego Unified School District will begin soon.

American Oligarchy

“David Rockefeller: An Alternative Obituary”, Erik Wallenberg, Jacobin

As a child growing up in a mansion on 54th Street in Manhattan, David Rockefeller remembered roller-skating with his siblings down Fifth Avenue trailed by a limousine in case they got tired. Rockefeller and his family, which included billionaires and politicians at all levels of government, spent a lifetime ensconced in this kind of luxury. At the time of his death on March 20, Forbes estimated that the 101-year-old Rockefeller’s investments in real estate, share of family trusts, and other holdings stood at $3.3 billion.

Democratic Socialism

“IBM’s CEO wrote Trump a glowing letter. Employees responded with a list of demands”, Jack Smith IV, Mic

When IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, wrote a glowing letter to President Donald Trump after his inauguration, it landed poorly, to say the least.

Many used the opportunity to remind the public that IBM collaborated with the Nazis throughout World War II. One senior content strategist quit, writing an open letter about Rometty’s “tacit endorsement” of Trump’s platform.

State Violence and The American Carceral State

“17% Of The Prison Population Has Hepatitis C, Here’s how that could Change”, George Lavender, In These Times

Hepatitis C affects an estimated 1% of the general population but 17% of the prison population. Until relatively recently, treatment for the disease had extremely limited success rates and highly unpleasant side effects. That’s changed with the introduction of new drugs that are significantly more effective at treating the disease.


Unknown Minstrel: Week 4
by Daniel Suhre

A few years back I went to a venue in Washington, D.C. called Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel to see one of the more popular local groups against my better judgement. I’ll keep them nameless here, but it turns out they were opening for a group unknown to me called Those Darlin’s.

Having very little expectations, as well as a general skepticism towards the Nashville commercialized Americana terrain they were skirting the edge of (albeit in a grunge rock context), I was not looking for much more than a few overpriced beers and a laugh or two.

The group blew me away. The creative energy and guitar chops from the two frontwomen was nothing new, but something about the drawl of lead singer Jessi Zazu mixed with a free flowing, organic feminism really delivered a punch in the vein of Kitty Well’s It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk Angels or Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me. Listen to That Man (perhaps their response to Gore’s own feminist anthem) performed live:

The group is no longer. Creative differences brought them to the decision to part ways in late 2016, and a week after getting back from their final tour Jessi was diagnosed with cancer. If the outpouring of love in the form of donations to crowd fund her recovery is any indication, the group had a huge cult following and a lot of love in the music community.

Of course, nobody should have to crowd fund their right to medical treatment. #MedicareForAll


Your Essay/Post/Blurb/Whatever Here

I think news blogs are a good idea. I want more people to start doing them. That means you. I want you to start a news blog and include a regular blurb, editorial, or essay that I can add to my blog here. I’ll do one for you in exchange. It is a good idea. So, any interest in starting a news blog? Please contact me. Or tweet @jp124blog


al-Baqia

“Get Out”, Jordan Peele
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford

This week I saw Jordan Peele’s Get Out

This horror movie is a nightmarish “Meet the Parents” in which a black man, Chris Wallace (Daniel Kaluuya), goes to meet his white girlfriend Rose Armitage’s (Allison Williams) family on their rural estate. Throughout the film, Chris is subjected racial insensitivies of increasing severity. The first few are benign and can be laughed off, like when Mr. Armitage goes out of his way to say wink and say he’d have voted for Obama a third time, but these insensitivites quickly progress to outright objectification. All of this against a backdrop with some rich, symbolic mise-en-scène.

In my view the social commentary outweighed the scares, but that was no problem as this movie has an important message about cultural appropriation and being black in a white social context. And that’s not to say that the movie isn’t thrilling. Rather, director Peele brilliantly elicits the title phrase from its audience. Throughout the film I couldn’t help urging Chris to “Get out. Get out! Get the fuck OUT!”

Great directorial debut from Jordan Peele. I highly recommend it and am eager to see what more he has to offer (Rumor has it, it might be live action adaptation of Akira).


Nations

I’ve caught up on the effort to memorize all the nations and capitals. This week’s additions are:
Antigua and Barbuda — St John’s
Bahamas — Nassau
Barbados — Bridgetown
Dominica — Roseau
Grenada — St. George’s
Saint Kitts and Nevis — Basseterre
Saint Lucia — Castries
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — Kingstown
Trinidad and Tobago — Port of Spain


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JP124: Chess and Community, and The Silence of the Lambs

the scroll, the scroll,
the buttons, the buttons

The 124

I want to use this space to put a little bit more of myself on the page by editorializing a little bit. I’ve done some of that here, but I want to make it a part of the weekly commitment. A fringe benefit I’m discovering from this whole process is that it’s an exercise in expressing my ideas and that’s a type of growth I’d like more of. That said, I have nothing to type up for you this week. Instead, I’m going to use the space to share a PBS report on local youth development organization Chess and Community. This is a really cool organization and it’s the sort of thing that makes me proud to live in Athens.

Ben & Jerry’s has chosen Chess and Community as their charity for free cone day this April 4th. I’ve been meaning to work on my chess game… hopefully will have a chance to play a game or two after I get my ice cream.


Weekly Roundup…. scroll fast, ‘cuz it’s lengthy

Black Liberation and Left Renewal“, Jordan T. Camp, Jacobin

Drawing on a range of sources that include Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, and the Combahee River Collective, Taylor shows how the black freedom movement has historically “pushed mainstream politics to the left.” In sharp contrast to backlash narratives that depict white working-class resistance to civil rights and anger at the 1960s urban uprisings as the source of a punitive turn in politics, she highlights how elites deployed law-and-order strategies to defeat these struggles. The freedom movement, we learn from Taylor, threatened those elites by upending racist stereotypes in service of a reconstruction agenda that would improve material conditions not only for African Americans but for the multiracial working class as a whole.

For Donald Trump, A Terror Attack Will Be An Opportunity Not A Curse“, Peter Maas, The Intercept

Can we breathe a sigh of relief after federal judges blocked President Donald Trump’s discriminatory executive orders? For a moment we can, but we are just a terrorism attack away from the White House gaining a new pretext for its wrathful crackdown against Muslims and immigrants.

Reporter assassinated in Chihuahua capital“, Mexico News Daily

The journalist [Miroslava Breach Velducea] was the third killed in Mexico this month.

Mexico was denounced last month as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists. Reporters Without Borders said 99 were assassinated between 2000 and 2016.

American Oligarchy

The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency“, Jane Mayer, The New Yorker

Last month, when President Donald Trump toured a Boeing aircraft plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, he saw a familiar face in the crowd that greeted him: Patrick Caddell, a former Democratic political operative and pollster who, for forty-five years, has been prodding insurgent Presidential candidates to attack the Washington establishment.

He has not worked directly for the President, but at least as far back as 2013 he has been a contractor for one of Trump’s biggest financial backers: Robert Mercer, a reclusive Long Island hedge-fund manager, who has become a major force behind the Trump Presidency.

During the past decade, Mercer, who is seventy, has funded an array of political projects that helped pave the way for Trump’s rise. Among these efforts was public-opinion research, conducted by Caddell, showing that political conditions in America were increasingly ripe for an outsider candidate to take the White House. Caddell told me that Mercer “is a libertarian—he despises the Republican establishment,” and added, “He thinks that the leaders are corrupt crooks, and that they’ve ruined the country.”

The Bizarre Far-Right Billionaire Behind Bannon and Trump’s Presidency“, Thomas Hedges, The Real News Network

In Gorsuch, Conservative Activist Sees Test Case for Reshaping the Judiciary“, Eric Lipton and Jeremy W. Peters, The New York Times

Deep into the Senate’s 68-page questionnaire of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee was asked to describe how he had come to President Trump’s attention.

The first thing he wrote was, “I was contacted by Leonard Leo.”

Labor

Why the U.S. Women’s Hockey Players are Planning to Strike“, Sarah Jaffe, Dissent

Equal pay for equal work is a demand of women around the globe, yet these athletes—despite dominating their sport in international competition, where only Canada is on their level—get nothing close to it. They make just $20,000 for four years of play. But their demands go beyond wages; theyre also asking for USA Hockey to put money into the sport as a whole, from support for girls youth hockey to marketing for the game.

Afraid of losing their jobs, workers take over the business“, Anna-Catherine Brigida, PRI

Three years into operating as a cooperative, the staff at Los Chanchitos said a day of work is not much different from before. Employees arrive on time for their scheduled shifts, waiters attentively take orders and food is served promptly. But with no owner, decisions are made democratically with consideration for each worker’s concerns.

Discrimination and Hate Crimes

Suspect in Manhattan Killing Hated Black Men, Police Say“, Ashley Southall, The New York Times

An Army veteran with a long-simmering hatred of black men claimed responsibility on Wednesday for using a sword to fatally stab a homeless man in Manhattan this week, the police said, calling the attack random and racially motivated.

US soldier admits killing unarmed Afghans for sport“, Paul Harris, The Guardian

An American soldier has pleaded guilty to being part of a “kill team” who deliberately murdered Afghan civilians for sport last year.

Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 23, told a military court he had helped to kill three unarmed Afghans. “The plan was to kill people, sir,” he told an army judge in Fort Lea, near Seattle, after his plea.

Immigration and Deportation

Deportation of African and Other Immigrants Is Quietly Increasing and No One is Taking Note” David Love, Atlanta Black Star

As the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency conducts its sweeps on immigrant communities, African people are among those who are being detained and deported. While deportations were in no short supply under the Obama administration, these deportations are expected to soar under Trump, whose immigration ban on six Muslim nations includes three African nations — Libya, Somalia and Sudan. Trump also is clamping down on refugees and asylum seekers.

War and Peace

War Correspondent Describes U.S. Air Strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen“, Malak Habbak, The Intercept

In Iraq, U.S. forces are helping Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers in their months-long battle to drive ISIS out of western Mosul. As many as 600,000 civilians are trapped there, amid widespread hunger and destruction, and more than 1,000 civilians were killed or injured last month in Iraq.

As Claims Escalate Under Trump, Airwars Tracks 1,000th Alleged Coalition Civilian Casualty Event“, Samuel Oakford, Airwars

Following an unprecedented increase in claims, researchers at Airwars have tracked their 1,000th alleged civilian casualty event tied to reported Coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria. Recent evidence indicates that in both countries, civilian casualties rose during the last months of the Obama administration and are now accelerating further under the presidency of Donald Trump – suggesting possible key changes in US rules of engagement which are placing civilians at greater risk.

US threat to strike North Korea is ‘aimed at Beijing’s ears’” Liu Zhen, South China Morning Post

A pre-emptive strike on North Korea threatened by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is most likely just rhetoric to pressure Beijing, analysts say, despite the tension on the peninsula.

Climate Change and The Environment

The Plant Next Door“, Sharon Lerner, The Intercept

When the Environmental Protection Agency informed people in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, last July that the local neoprene plant was emitting a chemical that gave them the highest risk of cancer from air pollution in the country, the information was received not just with horror and sadness but also with a certain sense of validation.

Flooding, Mudslides Strike Peru, Killing 72; Thousands Homeless“, Pam Wright, weather.com

According to the Associated Press, at least 72 people lost their lives and thousands are now homeless after a series of storms wreaked havoc on the South American nation. At least 115,000 homes have been destroyed, roadways are impassable and 117 bridges are reportedly washed out, the report added.

Islamophobia and Antisemitism

Leader of group widely identified as anti-Muslim meets with White House“, Lois Beckett, The Guardian

Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese American conservative, has written two books warning about the dangers of “radical Islam”. Act for America, the organization she founded, describes itself as the “the NRA of national security” and claims 500,000 members and 1,000 chapters across the country focused on advancing policies “to protect America from terrorism”.

State Violence

Thousands Protest Police Violence in Paris“, Gonzalo Fuentes, RFI

More than 7,000 people joined the march, which follows the baton rape of 22-year-old Théo Luhaka in a Paris suburb in February and the death in custody of Adama Traoré in Beaumont-sur-Oise last year.

Philippines’ Duterte welcomes prospect of ICC case, says ‘brutal’ war on drugs to go on“, Karen Lema, Reuters

But Duterte has said he is on the right track regarding human rights and has never instructed security forces to kill suspects who were not resisting arrest. More than 8,000 people have died since he took office last year and began his anti-drugs campaign, a third in raids and sting operations by police who say they acted in self-defense.

The Carceral State

Prison labour is a billion-dollar industry, with uncertain returns for inmates“, The Economist

Employment upon release is perhaps the best defence against recidivism. The chief justification for prison labour is that it both defeats idleness and gives inmates marketable skills. Whether it actually does so is unclear. “The vast majority of prison labour is not even cloaked in the idea of rehabilitation,” says Heather Thompson of the University of Michigan. Simple manufacturing jobs, like the ones done cheaply by most inmates, have already left the country. The study pushed by the Bureau of Prisons, showing drops in reoffending, was published in 1996. More recent comparison statistics often ignore bias in how those being studied are chosen. Rigorous academic work on the subject is almost non-existent.


Unknown Minstrel
by Daniel Suhre

This week we take a look at another under-appreciated musician named Gary Stewart. Stewart was a good-timin’ honky tonkin’ man from Kentucky, who never quite achieved wide success. He was “too rock” for country and “too country” for rock.

Despite this Gary did find himself a small but devoted fan base. He was a favorite of Bob Dylan, who said he would listen to ‘Ten Years of This’ over and over again, and the extremely-hard-to-impress critic Robert Christgau called ‘Out of Hand’ “the best regular issue country LP I’ve heard in about five years”.

The song that first drew me in was his more country-rock hit Cactus and a Rose.  There are a few lines in the song that hit me along a certain class line in a way that few other modern country or even folk songs do. See if you can pick them out.


Your Essay Here

A few weeks ago Dan began submitting his blurb Unknown Minstrel to the blog and I think it’s absolutely brilliant. He’s considering starting a blog of his own, an impulse that I’m encouraging, but he currently has other projects that take priority. In the meantime, I want to encourage more people to start news blogs like this one. Moreover, I would like to encourage someone to start up a weekly news blog with an editorial or essay that I can share right here. You interested? Let me know…


al-Baqia (the rest)

Clarice triumphs over sexism:
The feminist theme in The Silence of the Lambs

This week I watched Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, based on the Thomas Harris novel of the same name. This movie is well-known enough that I feel little obligation to go over the plot, so I’ll make it quick and then get to my thoughts on its feminist theme.

FBI trainee Clarice Starling is called in by mentor and role model, behavioral specialist Jack Crawford. Crawford assigns Clarice to go interview cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in order to gain insight into at large serial killer Buffalo Bill, nicknamed because he skins his female victims. Lecter, who speaks to no one, takes an interest in Clarice and offers insight quid pro quo, in exchange for information about Clarice’s life. This relationship pays off and Clarice is able to solve Dr. Lecter’s riddles in order to find and kill Buffalo Bill, save his most recent victim, and graduate from the FBI academy.

The Silence of the Lambs is a story about FBI trainee Clarice Starling’s triumph over sexism. This conflict plays out both in her successive encounters with sexism in her professional life and then, of course, against the movie’s villain Buffalo Bill who is a personification of violence against and hatred of women.

The movie introduces Clarice in what will be a fairly consistent form: busting her ass to overcome obstacles. In this first instance she’s literally on the FBI obstacle course. This is the form of the movie, throughout which Clarice is relentless in her pursuit of Buffalo Bill and need to prove herself, facing down benevolent sexism and casual disregard from her her respected mentor Jack Crawford, who means well and put Clarice on the case, but ultimately lets us down; belittlement from the correctional director Chilton, who believes she was put on the case solely to tantalize Dr. Lecter and turns from accommodating to cold when Clarice asserts her independence as an investigator;  aggressive sexual harassment from an inmate who later flings semen at her; and the resentment of a roomful of local police, who acknowledge her authority, but clearly don’t respect it. Ironically, and brilliantly imo, the only man in the entire movie who shows Clarice the respect she deserves is depicted to be a monster: the sociopath psychoanalyst serial killer who eats his victims, Hannibal “the cannibal ” Lecter.

Director Jonathan Demme sets up an excellent juxtaposition to introduce Dr. Lecter. The path to Hannibal is a gauntlet beginning with a long descent down and down into the depths of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, which is paired with melodramatic scoring as we’re told of how Hannibal faked chest pains and used the opportunity to brutalize a nurse, during which “his pulse never got above 85.“, all the guards are tense and uneasy, together with Chilton they piece together a monstrous mythology — this man is evil. The final stretch is a row of violent and repulsive inmates before finally arriving at the startling contrast: Hannibal the Cannibal is remarkably likable; someone who’s respect you’d want to earn.

Not only is Dr. Lecter the only man in the film who respects Clarice, but Clarice is the only person in the film who he takes an interest in at all. Everybody else is either a bother or food to him. After escaping prison, Dr. Lecter calls Clarice to congratulate her on the case and to let her know that he has no intent to come after because “the world’s more interesting with you in it”. This is the devil affirming the film’s message that women deserve their place in the world. It’s a striking choice. I suppose that it represents how deep you have to go to subvert an established order? Not sure.

While the antagonist in the movie is sexism itself, it is grotesquely manifested in the movie’s villain, Buffalo Bill, a  serial killer who skins women to make a suit for himself to enable the transformation he desires. Dr. Lecter makes point of clarifying that Buffalo Bill isn’t a transexual, but actually is disturbed and seeks a transformation that removes him from himself.

This brings up a common criticism against the film and one that I’m sympathetic to: it’s transphobic. The the status of trans people and the rampant violence against trans women in this country, 8 murdered in the US so far this year and 27 last year, is why Hannibal’s disclaimer — that Bill isn’t actually trans —  isn’t enough and I determine this choice to have been irresponsible. Transphobia isn’t intended to be part of the movie’s message, clearly, but unintended consequences are relevant and demand attention. It brings to mind how some so-called feminists actively exclude trans women.

Regardless, The Silences of the Lambs is an entertaining thriller in which a powerful woman faces and overcomes sexism with dogged determination and brilliant professional intuition. It holds up well and is well worth a visit or revisit. Let me know if you watch it and what you think!


Nations

I’m catching up and will be back on track with progress on the effort to memorize all the nations and capitals next week.


Thank you for scrolling

March 4, 2017: Mark Fisher and Alfonso Cuarón

This is the post excerpt…

 

The 124

This week I read the late Mark Fisher’s “Capitalist Realism: Is There Really No Alternative?” This short polemic against neoliberal capitalism proclaims that we’re in an era of ideological and cultural malaise which took root at the end of the Cold War and the defeat of the western Left, and has grown to supplant the postmodernism that preceded it. He calls this new era capitalist realism and describes it, if I’m reading him correctly, as the sought and achieved dominance of capital over government, culture, religion, and psychology and both the intended and accidental effects that achievement has caused.

The starting point of his elaboration and the title of the first chapter of the book is, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism”. He then goes on to weave together (pop)culture and political philosophy into his cogent and compelling theory.

His first reference and inspiration for the book is Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men”, which is set in a future dystopia where women have lost the ability to have children — the first scene is a coffee shop where patrons get the news that “baby Diego”, the worlds youngest person, has died at the age of 18 years, xx months, xx days, xx hours, xx minutes and the news is devastating. All world governments have collapsed save Great Britain, which is where the story takes place. In the foreground our characters live in a perpetual state of desperate longing and in the background is the violence and cruelty that is creating the space for the British ennui.

In this movie, Mark Fisher sees our present. A time of cultural malaise in which we’ve been robbed of our future. I highly recommend both the book and the film that inspired it.

Mark Fisher, 1968-2017: Mark Fisher gave a morbund left the imaginative jolt it needed to wake from the nightmare of neoliberal complacency” Alex Niven, Jacobin

Mark Fisher took his own life this past January and this eulogy in Jacobin is what introduced me to him.

During a tricky period — I had recently suffered a head-on collision with the British music industry — Mark’s writing really did give me a reason to hope. Through his eloquence, his lucidity, but more than that, his ability to get to the heart of what was wrong with late-capitalist culture and right about the putative alternative, he seemed to have cracked some ineffable code. Capitalist Realism made a series of simple points that bypassed years of postmodern hedging to offer a foundation for action; it was a spiritual call to arms, diagnosing the neoliberal problem and reimagining the socialist solution with the force of revelation.

“all this is temporary: Mark Fisher”, cci collective

“The default saying [capitalist realism] is a concept, an idea that capitalism is the only viable or realistic political-economic system, but that isn’t really quite accurate, because people on an everyday level aren’t even thinking about capitalism at all — nevermind that capitalism is the only system that’s viable.

Really, I think the best way to think about capitalist realism is a form of what I call consciousness deflation. Just to make a crude schematic point, the rise of capitalist realism, the rise of this sense of capitalist social relations, capitalist conceptions, capitalist forms of subjectivity, etc, as calcified, inevitable, and impossible to eradicate; the rise of this sense is directly correlated  with the receding of the concept of consciousness from culture.

I think we have to understand neoliberalism not on its own terms. . . but as a strategy directly aimed at crushing the forms of consciousness that were forming and flourishing in the 60s and 70s.”


Weekly Update

Hate Crimes:

Florida mosque fire was deliberately set, $5k reward offered“, RT

“Whoever did this maybe intended to discourage us not to be part of this community,” Mazen Bondogji, a member of the mosque’s board, said at a news conference on Friday, according to the Times. “But this makes us stronger than before, than ever, because of the huge amount of support and solidarity we are receiving. We are part of this community and we will stay.”

100 Headstones Toppled at a Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia“, Niraj Chokshi, The New York Times

The episode drew almost immediate comparison to a similar discovery last Monday in University City, Mo., where more than 150 headstones were toppled at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. Also on Monday, 11 bomb scares were called into Jewish community centers nationwide, the fourth wave of such threats this year. A community center in Philadelphia was among those targeted in the first round.

Chyna Gibson Identified As The Fifth Transgender Woman Killed in 2017“, Desire Thompson, Vibe

Gibson’s death comes days after the death of Keke Collier of Chicago. The 24-year-old also known as Tiara Richmond, was the fourth trans woman killed this year and also the third black victim after stylist Mesha Caldwell and 23-year-old Jo Jo Striker. An unidentified friend also spoke out about Gibson and the special light she possessed. “She was just a really good person,” the friend said. “Everyone loved her. This is unnecessary.”

“Judge orders stiff sentences for two in Douglasville hate crime“, Rosalind Bentley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As the defendants wept, a Douglas County judge on Monday sentenced two people to lengthy prison terms for their part in disrupting an African-American birthday party with Confederate flags, racial slurs and armed threats in 2015.

Keith Ellison loses DNC Race:

Key Question About DNC Race: Why Did Obama White House Recruit Perez to Run Against Ellison?” Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

The New Republic’s Clio Chang has a great, detailed analysis of the contest. She asks the key question about Perez’s candidacy that has long hovered and yet has never been answered. As Chang correctly notes, supporters of Perez insist, not unreasonably, that he is materially indistinguishable from Ellison in terms of ideology (despite his support for TPP, seemingly grounded in loyalty to Obama). This, she argues, is “why the case for Tom Perez makes no sense”: After all, “if Perez is like Ellison — in both his politics and ideology — why bother fielding him in the first place?”

Keith Ellison Loses DNC Race After Heated Campaign Targeting Him For His Views on Palestine“, Zaid Jilani, The Intercept

Perez was widely perceived as being brought into the race by allies of President Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and other members of the party establishment. One of the speakers who introduced his nomination, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison, also works as a corporate lobbyist for the D.C.-based Podesta Group. After neither candidate reached a majority of votes in the first round of voting, Harrison was on the floor, whipping votes for Perez.

Nina Turner: DNC Chooses Not to Be the Party of Everyday People“, Interview with Paul Jay, Real News Network

Former Ohio State Senator Turner tells Paul Jay that in defeating Keith Ellison as DNC Chair, the leadership has chosen to maintain the dominance of big donors and reject the progressive wing of the party

Climate Change and Environment:

Northern hemisphere sees in early spring due to global warming: Spring is sprung 26 days earlier than a decade ago, causing problems for the natural cycle of plants and wildlife, Climate News Network reports”, Tim Radford, The Guardian

Researchers say the evidence from the plant world is consistent with the instrumental record: 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded, and it was the third record-breaking year in succession. Sixteen of the hottest years ever recorded have happened in the 21st century.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Brings Back Lead Ammo In Parks and Refuges: Lead poisoning from ammunition and tackle kills up to 20 million birds and animals a year, environmentalists say.”, Hayley Miller, The Huffington Post

Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3346, which repeals a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directive the Obama administration issued the day before President Donald Trump took office barring the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in national parks and wildlife refuges. Zinke also signed an order to expand hunting, fishing and recreation access on federal lands.

War and Peace:

Generals May Launch New ISIS Raids Without Trump’s OK: The commander in chief is taking heat– and hearing cheers– for a raid in Yemen that killed a SEAL. But for the next mission, Trump may take himself out of the loop altogether.” Kimberly Dozier, The Daily Beast

The Yemeni government reacted to the raid with a statement, reiterating “its firm position that any counterterrorism operations carried out in Yemen should continue to be in consultation” with Yemen’s civil-war-embattled government, and include “precautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties.”

Berta Cáceres court papers show murder suspects’ links to US-trained elite troops: The Honduran environmentalist activist’s killing a year ago bears the hallmarks of a ‘well-planned operation designed by military intelligence’ says legal source”, Nina Lakhani, The Guardian

Last year, the Guardian reported that a former Honduran soldier said he had seen Cáceres’s name on a hitlist that was passed to US-trained units.

This Week in the Executive:

Trump ‘seeks $54bn increase’ in military budget: Proposal, which could entail big cuts in foreign aid and spending on domestic agencies, to fulfill key campaign promise.Al Jazeera


al-Baqia (The Rest)

https://theintercept.com/2017/03/01/intercepted-podcast-donald-in-wonderland/

Jeremy Scahill begins every episode of Intercepted with something silly and annoying. Please don’t let it deter you, he’s actually a very accomplished and serious journalist and so far his podcast been indispensable .

This week on Intercepted, an ex-CIA analyst and a former FBI counterterrorism agent say they fear that a terror attack against the U.S. could result in a coup for the radical ideologues in the Trump White House. As Trump continues to promote his alternative facts, Nada Bakos and Clint Watts explain how Trump’s administration could use Dick Cheney’s model of “alternative intelligence” to justify dangerous military actions. Immigrant communities across the U.S. are facing a dramatic uptick in raids as part of Trump’s pledge to deport millions while Attorney General Jeff Sessions cancels the Obama-era order to end the use of private prisons. Shane Bauer of Mother Jones worked as a private prison guard and breaks down the connections between the raids and soaring private prison profits. Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux discusses his investigations into the Department of Homeland Security and the White House plans for mass deportations.

Ask a Buddhist: How do you know that you’re BUddhist and not just someone who likes the ideas?“, Ven. Thubten Semkye

My question, answered! 😀

Movies: Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men

Over the past couple weeks I’ve watched four Alfonso Cuarón movies: Y Tu Mamá También, Gravity, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. He’s a brilliant director and I recommend (re)watching all of these films. Keep an eye out for his motifs and important backgrounds.

The two I most highly recommend are Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men. They have a lot in common (both told largely road stories, both have brilliant foreground/background juxtapositions, both have good fart jokes).


Nations (New Additions Only)
Rachael and I have embarked on a years-long ambition to memorize all the nations and capitals. I’m adding 10-15 each week and posting it here so you can join us and/or help us by throwing us a pop quiz from time to time!

Antigua and Barbuda — St John’s
Bahamas — Nassau
Barbados — Bridgetown
Dominica — Roseau
Grenada — St. George’s
Saint Kitts and Nevis — Basseterre
Saint Lucia — Castries
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — Kingstown
Trinidad and Tobago — Port of Spain

Image via Pitchfork Media (http://cdn2.pitchfork.com/news/70901/8e9fb61a.jpg)