Friday, September 30, 2005


On Stage

I was reading Michael McFaul's article Political Charades in the Moscow Times this morning, in which he reviews Andrew Wilson's book Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World.

In the book, says McFaul, Wilson shows how "PRshchiki, or political technologists, became the main actors in elections, not political parties. Their trade largely consisted -- and consists to this day -- of creating the illusion of normal electoral politics. As this industry grew, many of our Russian discussion-group participants, originally trained as academics, stopped trying to analyze the nonexistent institutions and organizations of a democratic Russia, and instead joined the lucrative business of staging virtual politics."

Virtual Politics, says McFaul, is the first truly comprehensive account of the sophisticated industry of political technology that has emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, which Wilson carefully documents the wide array of methods used by political technologists, both in and out of the government, to destroy political enemies, invent pro-government parties and personalities, and even create, manipulate and control so-called opposition parties.

As McFaul observes, "At first glance, an American reader would find something familiar about the methods used to fake politics in Russia...K Street in Washington is filled with firms specializing in the invention of grassroots movements that pressure the government to pass legislation or stop regulation on behalf of the people, while actually supporting corporations ..."

McFaul also notes Wilson's point about the one fundamental difference from the American model: the role of the state. "In the United States, this industry is still a private one. In Russia, it is becoming increasingly nationalized." But then, I ask, if the illusion-makers and the illusion-fakers are all in bed together, what real difference does it make?

Which brings me back to the title of McFaul's article, and the notion of charade as it is enacted in the American street, not to mention the halls of Congress. I mean, what do the plethora of 501-C-3 do-gooders in turtle costumes or Che berets, waving signs to save this or stop that, really have to do with authentic democracy? In truth, shouldn't their radical academic courses in activism and social change be relocated from political science departments to that of theatre arts?

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Sol Man

Between 1979 and 1998, you could usually find us this time of the year camping in the Olympic National Park at either Sol Duc hot springs, Shi Shi beach, La Push, or Lake Ozette. For us, Indian summer on the Olympic Peninsula was unsurpassed: totally clear skies, complete silence, and autumn colors to surround our morning and evening campfires and afternoon hikes or swims.

For some reason, this morning I found myself recalling our camp at Lake Ozette, an 8x5 mile by 300 foot deep home to spawning sockeye salmon, a short three miles in from the sea between the Makah and Quileute Indian Reservations in the North Coastal Wilderness near Cape Alava. This most westerly point of the coterminous US was accessible by a cedar plank "boardwalk" consisting of split lengths of three-foot-long cedar bolts placed in a line on the mud and moss that meandered through bogs and meadows for three miles to the beach--an exhausting way to hike, or slip and stumble.

Still, the serenity among the coastal spruce and wild blueberries on the way to view the ancient petroglyphs and site of the old whaling village makes all the sweat and smears worthwhile. And in late September, other than rangers or wildlife, you're often alone.

The last time we were at Ozette, we listened to loons singing in the moonlit evenings and misty mornings, and watched the aerobatic maneuvers of a pair of Peregrine falcons that rested in the small alder tree next to our tent. Then on the way home we stopped to picnic by the Sol Duc River and watch silver salmon jumping the falls, before pausing to soak in the hot springs watching ravens playing games in the ancient fir pine valley surrounding the pools.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Function or Style

Now in my fifth week of physical therapy for injuries sustained by the defective and poorly-designed top-of-the-line sandals I had bought myself for my birthday, I'm finally beginning to get a full night's sleep--one where I don't wake up with aching feet or throbbing pain in my knees. And to think the whole reason behind spending $75 for Teva's was to protect my good health.

But aside from my having to drop five hundred bucks on repairing my legs, or suffering through a couple months of pain and discomfort, I've been wondering just what Teva was thinking when they redesigned a perfectly suitable sandal--a model that I'd purchased several times over the last seven years--into an instrument of torture. Sure they look more sporty, in a kind of extreme way--much like SUVs--but why ruin a reputation built on function for style?

By chance I recently came across an article on shoes in the Feb. 14 & 21 issue of New Yorker magazine titled Sole Survivor, which asks the question, "Were Stone Age shoes more comfortable?" In this fascinating story about footwear, we meet Petr Hlavacek, a professor of shoe technology at Tomas Bata University, who concludes that, "The number of incorrect and dangerous shoes is high...higher and higher."

Noting that Czech shoes were once the best-made in Europe, he observes that the world has been "flooded with cheap, poorly-designed Asian shoes, and the effects are showing." In the Czech Republic, the number of complications from bad footwear is three times higher than twenty years ago. According to Hlavacek, the majority of today's footwear is less ergonomic than Roman sandals of two thousand years ago.

Hlavacek's father was a shoemaker, and his home town was renowned for making quality shoes, fifty-eight million pairs a year at it's peak. Recently he tried out a pair of custom-made sandals concluding, "First ten minutes, no problem. One hour, no problem. But after four hours...,"which reminded me of the comment made by the salesman who initially persuaded me that the new design would improve my posture. When I phoned him about my painful experience a day later, he told me to keep at it--that they were realigning my body, and that I would soon be fine. A week later I hobbled into the physical medicine center with excruciating knots in my insteps, calves, knees and hamstrings.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Divided We Fall

I listened at lunch today to a discussion on the radio involving two very sober international energy and climate analysts. There conclusions about the consequences of global warming were no surprise: more hurricanes, permanent dislocations for major ports and coastal settlements worldwide, colossal environmental disruptions from melted ice caps.

But three remarks they made did grab my attention: the Chinese plan to build a thousand huge coal-fired plants over the next thirty years; the World Bank is still promoting fossil fuels at the expense of anything else; and the one country on the planet absolutely required as an active partner in addressing the problem--the US--is so divided internally as to render any hope for meaningful international cooperation on this matter silly.

Even were Americans somehow able to oust the energy cartel from the halls of Congress, they noted, moving forward against the onslaught of media and industry and widespread denial among a largely imbecilic US citizenry is a virtually impossible task. More likely, they say, is another global total war with no real purpose than to vent anger and frustrations through suicidal means.


A Failure to Communicate

A few years after Brazilian independence in 1888, the transition from a monarchy to a republic by military coup--thanks in large part to positivist intellectuals associated with the military school in Rio de Janeiro--was followed by a rebellion in the Bahia state by peasants opposed to the progressive agenda.
Three military expeditions to subdue the insurrection failed; modern-thinking Brazilians could not understand the rebellion by the poor against social justice.

Intellectuals developed a theory that the rebels were being fueled by monarchists and landowners, or maybe English agents. Republican journalists played up these angles in the press; rumors of shipments of British explosives being discovered were widely commented on. After a fourth military expedition massacred some forty thousand rebels who refused to surrender, all the peasants' homes were destroyed.

But a journalist by the name of Euclides da Cunha sarted asking questions about the non-existent British and un-used explosives and rebels who fought the army shouting "Life to Jesus." In his subsequent book, Os sertoes, da Cunha wrote about the dangers of importing institutions, ideas, and values from Europe to Latin America, and how the fanatical Catholic, rural poor who'd recently been slaughtered by the army of the republic had been led by a cult figure Antonio Conselheiro who believed the republic was the antichrist--a view reinforced by the church missionaries.

A century later, the people of the region still spoke of this civil war as the most important event in their lives, having heard stories and songs from the time by grandparents and parents. Priests in the area today blame modern corruptions on the republicans winning the war.

Newspaper stories from the time of the rebellion reveal how the media inflamed the divisiveness by contributing to this vast misunderstanding--a discord dependent on the opposing combatants' inability to communicate.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Dewey Beard Finale

A Man Born Free

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Condemned by History

In the chapter titled Novels Disguised as History, from the book A Writer’s Reality, renowned Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa describes how the Quechua Inca were paralyzed by their religion when confronted by the alien patterns of war and peace presented by the Spanish conquerors, enabling a force of less than two hundred Europeans to topple an empire of twenty million Indians almost without resistance.

The chronicles of conquest Llosa examined as part of coming to understand his country are what he calls “the beginning of literary fiction as we understand it today…a world totally reconstructed and subverted by fantasy…[that] teaches us more about innocence, fanaticism, and stupidity of the time than the wisest of treatises.” Yet, the lessons of the collapse of the Inca empire—whose armies gave up “as if manacled by a magical force” when the emperor was captured, tell us more than the obvious about the hazards of religious terror in the seventeenth century Americas; they speak to the vulnerability of totalitarian systems of servile dependence on central authority of all ages.

When the axis around which Inca society was organized was captured, says Llosa, “no one knew how to act.” Stultified by the confusion and loss of leadership, the Indians were incapable of taking individual initiative and acting according to the changing circumstances; the Inca state religion of absolute power had made them docile servants supervised in every aspect of life by government administrators.

In Llosa’s view, “Such a civilization was not capable of facing the unexpected who assaulted the Tahuantinsuyo, transgressing all patterns known to them.” Unpracticed and uninstructed in either independent thought or initiative, illiterate, and essentially incapable of articulate communication, says the rather bigoted Llosa, the Inca system fell into a “monumental state of confusion and cosmic deviation.” And because among the Inca, “the individual could not morally question the social organism of the state,” servile obedience transferred automatically to the new masters.

While this condition of unquestioning servitude contrasts in many respects with our modern American confusion, our social paralysis in facing the disintegration of our system of checks and balances, constitution, and other aspects of our religion of democracy -- as we ourselves confront unfamiliar patterns of aggression -- is perhaps not so different from that of the Inca of four hundred years ago. As Llosa observes, our countries are in a deep sense more a fiction than a reality…"an artificial gathering of men from different languages, customs, and traditions whose only common denominator was having been condemned by history to live together without knowing or loving each other.”

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Dewey Beard Part Two

Surviving Wounded Knee


A Good Death

In his masterpiece novels House Made of Dawn and The Ancient Child, N. Scott Momaday writes about the Plains Culture of the Kiowa during their glorious century of hunting buffalo and fighting on horseback from Wyoming to Oklahoma. In describing the essential character of this robust and self-assured people at the peak of their spiritual power and influence, Momaday uses terms like noble, courageous, honorable, and dignified. He portrays their way of life as delightful and full of joy and wonder and awe.

Momaday also uses the term deicide in conveying how the loss of the buffalo and the Sun Dance broke the spirit of these magnificent horsemen and allies of the Comanche and Crow. Using the metaphors of sight on the endless plains, he speaks of incomparable visions, a good life culminating in the achievement of perspective.

He tells us of how his warrior ancestors failed to comprehend the mechanical aggression of the U.S. Cavalry—utterly devoid of the values the Kiowa deemed most sacred—and their subsequent bewilderment and horror in the face of such inhumanity.

The Plains Culture, as a way of life in its totality, of course, no longer exists, but the underlying values are still possible if challenging to embrace. An opportunity to accomplish a good death.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Truly Something

"For a people who had been for many thousands of years nomadic hunters, to be on horseback in this landscape must have been the realization of their most ancient and daring dreams....The moment had come and gone, but it had been. The great glory had been achieved; that is what mattered. For a moment in the history of the world, the Great Plains of North America shone as the center of highest human experience."

--from The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday


Words Fail

The siege of Leningrad lasted 900 days and hardly any food went in or out. In two months alone, January and February 1942, over 200,000 people died.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Confections of Apartheid

The promulgation of new and expanded inventories of "what works," no matter the enthusiasm with which they're elaborated, is not going to change this. The use of hortatory slogans chanted by the students in our segregated schools is not going to change this. Desperate historical revisionism that romanticizes the segregation of an older order (this is a common theme of many separatists today) is not going to change this. Skinnerian instructional approaches, which decapitate a child's capability for critical reflection, are not going to change this. Posters about "global competition" will certainly not change this. Turning six-year-olds into examination soldiers and denying eight-year-olds their time for play at recess will not change this.

--from Still Separate, Still Unequal by Jonathan Kozol


Refuge From Militarism

From 1965-1973 more than 50,000 draft-age Americans made their way to Canada, refusing to participate in the Vietnam War, an immoral war. At the time, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said: "Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism."



Slam it Shut

"The days after 9/11 constituted a tremendous national opening, as if a door had been unlocked. The aftermath of disaster is often peculiarly hopeful, and in the rupture of the ordinary, real change often emerges. But this means that disaster threatens not only bodies, buildings, and property but also the status quo. Disaster recovery is not just a rescue of the needy but also a scramble for power and legitimacy, one that the status quo usually-but not always-wins.

The Bush Administration's response after 9/11 was a desperate and extreme version of this race to extinguish too vital a civil society and reestablish the authority that claims it alone can do what civil society has just done-and, alas, an extremely successful one. For the administration, the crisis wasn't primarily one of death and destruction but one of power. The door had been opened and an anxious administration hastened to slam it shut."

--from The Uses of Disaster by Rebecca Solnit


Don Arbusto

Today's announcement by NASA to go to the moon again by 2020 has me wondering if the great broken record of our universe has skipped another beat--as in the leap of desperate fanaticism from the fourteenth century to the present--or is merely mocking credulous Americans. I mean, what next, a reenactment of the Emancipation Proclamation?

But then, in the age of image in what Guy DeBord called the society of the spectacle, perhaps we won't actually have to send astronauts up in rockets, but rather just have them pose in their outfits by a launch pad in Florida one week, then after playing clips from Appollo 11 on FOX News for a few days, show the heroes standing on an aircraft carrier with the President.

The Congressional budget item for the mission can then be recycled into numerous heroic film productions or into the offshore bank accounts of GOP operatives, providing us with a continuous (and inspirational) feedback loop of never-ending American triumphs forever thwarting disbelievers in the inevitable progress of the American entrepreneurial spirit.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Out of Mind

Everything is different, and you don't know how to get used to it. You see the way it is, how everything is going on without you, and you start to worry about it. You wonder how you can get yourself into the swing of it, you know? And you don't know how, but you've got to do it because there's nothing else...You can see what it's like, but you don't know how to get into it; there's too much of it and it's all around you and you can't get hold of it because it's going on too fast. You have to get used to it first, and it's hard. You've got to be left alone. You've got to put a lot of things out of your mind, or you're going to get all mixed up.

--from House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

Friday, September 16, 2005


Guaranteed to Fail

"This is, of course, a crazy way to run a $2.5 trillion enterprise -- unless your idea of administrative excellence is the old Soviet central planning monster, Gosplan. But it's a very good way to take political control of decisions that are supposed to be made through the regulatory process, whether that's approving the "morning after pill" at the FDA, updating fuel economy standards at NHTSA, or issuing ergonomic safety rules at OSHA.

In a sense, what the Rovians have created is a parallel government, in which the real channels of power run through the party apparatus, not the organizational charts of the various departments and agencies. This, says Schmitt, is the real story -- not the creative resume writing skills of guys like Mike Brown:
That's why it's so important to . . . focus some attention on the system that made it all possible -- a radical, unprecedented system of centralized, politicized control that is guaranteed to fail."

--from Whiskey Bar

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Dewey Beard

Part one, the story of a remarkable Lakota warrior who fought at the Little Bighorn, survived the Wounded Knee massacre, and continued fighting for his people until his death in the age of television.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Ways and Means

Scandal-plagued Halliburton -- the oil services company once headed by Vice President Cheney -- sold an Iranian oil development company key components for a nuclear reactor, say Halliburton sources with intimate knowledge into both companies' business dealings.Halliburton was secretly working at the time with one of Iran 's top nuclear program officials on natural gas related projects and sold the components in April to the official's oil development company, the sources said.

Just last week, a National Security Council report said Iran was a decade away from acquiring a nuclear bomb. That time frame could arguably have been significantly longer if Halliburton, whose miltary unit just reported a 284 percent increase in its second quarter profits due to its Iraq reconstruction contracts, was not actively providing the Iranian government with the means to build a nuclear weapon.

--from Singularity


Unembraceable Shadow

Because for no other reason than raw political gain – for EXACTLY the same political reason that George Wallace said “no one will ever out-nigger me again” after he lost in his first run for Governor -- the GOP hung out a shingle that said, “Klansmen Welcome: We Hate Coons Too!.” But I would argue that their default position isn’t hatred: their default position is Fuck Everyone But Me, that ramps right up into burning hatred at blinding speed whenever The Government tries to force them – through shame or taxes or busing or civil rights or the abolition of slavery or the overturning of Loving v. Virginia or whatever – into giving a shit about people they despise.

The Republican Party is the ugly consequence of Democracy itself. The unembraceable shadow. It is the moral rot that is left behind when we believe that we are Exceptional by virtue of genetics or economics or God. When we stop requiring an informed electorate, and begin breeding idiots who take their sustenance at the diseased teats of Hate Radio and Old Time Gospel Hour.

It is the sharp, bright line that separates an often foolish and weak fixer-upper Democratic Party from an unambiguously depraved Republican Party. Democrats believe that racism, hateful hillbilly superstition fobbing itself off as theology and simple, down-home pig-ignorance are, y’know, BAD things that should be educated into extinction.Republicans, on the other hand, cultivate that barbaric sewage as if it were prize-winning teacup roses. They coddle and cuddle and actively encourage it because without a steady stream of bigoted morons and self-righteous inbreds, lets face it, there would be no Republican Party.

--from Driftglass

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Running on Empty

In my September 2 post The Curtain Rises, I pointed to a weblog established for the purpose of documenting the saga of a theater arts professor battling retribution for his exposure of embezzling by his department chair and other improprieties that hinder student learning and faculty development on the campus of Western Washington University where I once attended long ago. Since posting my commentary, many additional documents and comments have been added that ensure that when the whole story is told--sometime after the trial beginning in US District Court finally runs its course--commonly held perceptions of institutions of higher learning as bastions of free speech and scholarship should be thoroughly ravaged.

Perhaps, though, I am sadly mistaken in my assessment, and most consumers of university credentials seek not knowledge or growth as human beings but merely meal tickets and a license to steal. But for those who do value ideas and the education of our country's children in the arts and sciences of maintaining an open society for instance, the widespread institutional resistance to non-conformity--indeed to integrity--amply illustrated by the forthcoming reports and anecdotes surrounding the Professor Mills saga, signals an alarming situation with no remedy in sight.

Having gone about my higher education in fits and starts with little direction until completing my graduate studies thirty years after attending my first class in community college, I must say things on campus have gotten worse. But short of citing surveys on the topic, I can only relate my most recent experience.

Due to my extensive and lengthy involvement in public affairs, as well as my non-traditional, non-career track approach to my education, I chose to enroll in a private college in a humanities and leadership program where I might fully explore and express my interests in political science curriculum development oriented toward safeguarding communities from the malign neglect of the state and market. With a scholarship recognizing my exemplary community service, and a work/study job in the college library, I was able to write and publish two books, outline a graduate level course in activism and social change, as well as produce a portfolio of my experiential learning.

And because the raison d'tere of the college I attended is the "creation of a more just, sacred and sustainable world," I offered my unqualified assistance in bringing the new graduate program to fruition. But, alas, I was mistaken in taking this noble institutional posture for the real thing, and in the end I was ostracized for both my constructive criticism and my concern for the well-being of other students who were being dangerously misled by the celebrated performers of moral theatrics chosen to fill the new teaching positions. After all was said and done, this collegial enclave where I had managed to thrive--despite the sycophantic culture--snatched my ideas and ran, leaving me with a largely useless advanced degree and a mountain of student debt.


The Other 9/11

Chris Clarke at Creek Running North has posted a nice short story at

Monday, September 12, 2005


Hit Men

[from Singularity]

New Orleans - Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Some of the mercenaries say they have been "deputized" by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms. They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.

"This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States)," a heavily armed Blackwater mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. "We're much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq." Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences. Their presence on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as 2 weeks ago.

Friday, September 09, 2005



"For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.

We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of "subjects"; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spellbinder, we have the impudence to be astonished."

--from Dorothy L. Sayers' The Lost Tools of Learning


Not One Whit

No Direction Home
By Chris Floyd

"Let's be clear about one thing. Nothing that happened last week -- the mass destruction in the Mississippi Delta, the obliteration of the city of New Orleans, the murderous abandonment of thousands of people to death, chaos and disease -- will change the Bush Administration or American politics at all. Not one whit. President George W. Bush will not reverse his brutal policies; his Congressional rubber-stamps will not revolt against the White House; the Democrats will not suddenly grow a spine. There will be no real change, and the bitter corrosion of injustice, indifference and inhumanity that is consuming American society will go on as before...

There is no political crisis whatsoever, if by that phrase you mean something that will cause Bush to alter his policies. The war in Iraq will go on. The war against the poor will go on. The slow destruction of middle-class security and stability will go on. The long and ferocious right-wing campaign against the very idea of a "common good" will go on, unabated ...

If the Bush Factionists could be touched by suffering and injustice, by death and destruction, by corruption and incompetence, then they would not be where they are today. If there was a viable opposition in the American Establishment to Bush's policies, it would have stood up long ago. Like the people left behind in New Orleans, we're all on our own -- "with no direction home."

[from Global Eye, Moscow Times]


New Slave Market

"If it wasn't bad enough that Halliburton has been given a nice fat no-accountability contract for Gulf states cleanup, President George W. Fuck the Poor Bush has given Halliburton execs another way to stuff their pockets with federal money.

From overcharging military personnel for meals in Kuwait to inflating the price of fuel it provide to Iraq to $6.3 million in kickbacks that Halliburton employees took from a Kuwaiti contractor to cost-plus contracts, Halliburton has been gouging the American taxpayer ever since the Bush Administration came into office and opened the treasury doors to Cheney's company, saying "Take what you want."

Now he's issued an executive order allowing Halliburton and other companies the government may hire to do the cleanup and reconstruction to pay below the prevailing wage to the grunts who are actually going to have to do the work, allowing executives and retirees (like Cheney) to keep more of the money."

--from Brilliant at Breakfast

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Stubborn Holdouts

Yup, that's the new GOP-FOX term for the NOLA survivors still trying to hang on. Must be reminiscent for Native American recipients of US federal largesse.


Walkin' from New Orleans

"But the most vivid episode is what happened when the stranded paramedics (accompanied by a thousand or so desperate human beings from the New Orleans Convention Center) tried to walk across the Mississippi River bridge to the predominately white, largely intact community of Gretna -- where they had been told buses were waiting to evacuate them:

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans."

--from Whiskey Bar

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Aiding and Abetting

Tobias Seamon, writing in today's The Morning News, observes that, "While it’s refreshing to see the American media show some guts for the first time in ages, it would have been nice to see similar vigor during the 2000 election when Jim Crow tactics repeatedly turned blacks away from voting booths and GOP operatives bashed down the doors in Florida and physically halted the recount process."

But to answer his rhetorical question, "How can this [Katrina calamity] be happening in America?,” one has to go back twenty years to a time when the Democratic party still held a majority in the US Congress, and made a conscious choice not to impeach Reagan and Bush Senior, and thus precipitated the pardoning of the plethora of felons now aiding and abetting Bush Junior.

As Seamon notes, "New Orleans will be ripe for a wave of carpetbaggers unseen since the Civil War, when Union General Benjamin Butler set up shop in the Big Easy and made an underground fortune in illicit cotton sales." Only this time, the carpetbaggers will be flying in on Air Force One.


Criminally Insane

As Juli Meanwhile continues to dog the dastardly disaster opportunism by Cheneyburton , two things become glaringly obvious: 1. Like 9-11, the tragic loss of American lives--from predictable and forewarned disaster--is viewed first and foremost by CheneyBush as an occasion to loot the US treasury for themselves and their friends, and 2. By exacerbating public fear and insecurity surrounding these critical incidents, they are able to acquire significant new--even dictatorial--political powers.

Reading through the past week's documentation of Homeland Security and FEMA misconduct and deliberate obstruction of both evacuation and relief efforts, it becomes clear that there is nothing--no matter how criminal or inhumane--that the present administration in the White House will not do in it's mad and malicious pursuit of mammon.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005



Juli Meanwhile has an important post up about the psychological violence done to the New Orleans survivors by the US government throughout their ordeal--violence that continues during their exile. Compounded on the base violence of being second class citizens that Feral Scholar wrote so eloquently about in the post I referenced yesterday, it should surprise no one that the stress disorders many of them are likely to exhibit in the coming months and years will create a whole new industry for social workers and family counselors.

It all reminds me of a young Pacific Northwest Salish Indian man who broke down crying when telling a story at a benefit musical concert I attended. His grandparents had lost their home on their tribal reservation when the white Indian Health Service physician wrongly told them they were not entitled to medical care, and would have to sign over title to their land in order to receive services. The sorrow he expressed in his story and the music of his woeful violin composition for the loss of his heritage and the anguish his ancestors endured while trying in vain to bequeath him and his parents a place to belong is almost indescribable. Listening to the dispossessed of New Orleans, one can imagine what I mean.

So go read Juli at

Monday, September 05, 2005


An Open Wound

"Those who claim there is no direct line from slavery to the present are not only wrong, they are trying to jump over Jim Crow. Slavery ended in 1863. It took Jim Crow another 100 years to reach its legal end, and it has been reimposed through economic warfare since then...

There is a relationship between the hostile occupation of Iraq that caused a disaster, and the disaster in New Orleans that now looks more and more like a hostile occupation. There is a relationship between the prison at Angola and the prison at Abu Ghraib. There is a relationship between the soldier sent to do Bush’s dirty work in Iraq with scrap metal for armor on his humvee and the FEMA bureaucrat put between the people and the administration to take the flak after the administration gutted their budget...

It’s all out in the open now, exposed like an open wound. The Gulf of Mexico meets the Persian Gulf… meets the gulf between Black and white, between poor and rich. The misery of Katrina’s refugees is just the culmination of the violence and misery of poverty, of being a colonized nation… and exclamation point to punctuate the system."

--from Feral Scholar

Saturday, September 03, 2005



As the elderly black housemaid in the movie Being There remarked, upon seeing the idiot son of a rich white man she'd catered to all his life on TV as an advisor to the President of the US, "It's sho'nuff a white man's world."

Scanning through the photos of the week, from the descendents of slaves hanging on to the sides of rescue boats in Louisiana to the idiot son in the sky looking out his port hole on Air Force One, it's hard to avoid imagining a national ID system with three choices: Amistad, Mayflower, Other.

Friday, September 02, 2005


The Curtain Rises

Sometimes, seemingly inconsequential acts by ordinary people have a way of illuminating larger societal problems: Rosa Parks, Cindy Sheehan, Lois Gibbs.
And now along comes Perry Mills, a crusty professor of drama and cinema at a backwater university in America's forgotten fourth corner.

He'll probably rake me over the coals for my abuse of the English language in attempting to dramatize his ordeal, but fair enough--he's the professor.

Professor Mills, for all his alleged shortcomings in the social graces, is--in his own words--fighting Western Washington University's "sycophantic culture" that led to his suspension in October 2004. And this, I contend, is important, not because of Professor Mills' political beliefs--as when Ward Churchill confronted Second Lady Lynn Cheney's prurient pugilists a year ago--but rather, because when all the dust has settled around the belated charges and trumped up allegations of misconduct, Professor Mills is being punished for his long history of academic integrity, which led him to become a whistle-blower against the embezzling of students' fees--what I suspect is a widespread practice, well beyond the bounds of WWU.

Because this lowly, tenured professor of theater arts, in the backwater known as Bellingham, Washington, will soon be taking his case before the U.S. District Court in Seattle, we all might possibly learn something about how ivy-covered state institutions of higher learning in these United States both perpetuate our compliant corporate culture, and corrupt cooperative creativity. (I realize that's a redundant phrase, but the good professor needs something to correct.) And that, as is in our myriad of once venerable institutions, is a tragedy that cries out for remedy.

The drama of Professor Mills is only beginning to unfold, but as the curtain rises on this sordid affair, a light begins to shed in a weblog constructed by a former and grateful student, and it is there I direct your attention for what promises to be a most entertaining and provocative production.


Speak That Truth

[from Van Jones, writing in the Huffington Post]

We are witnessing a monumental leadership failure in the Bush White House, on top of five years of foolish policies that set the city of New Orleans up for this disaster in the first place.We must not be afraid to speak that truth. Some will say that this is no time for playing the "blame game." No time for engaging in "divisive politics."

Pardon me. To the contrary: this is exactly the time to draw a clear line of distinction between those of us who have always fought to invest in this country -- and those who happily squandered the national treasure on give-aways and imperial adventures. Between those of us who have long fought to protect the most vulnerable among us, and those who have worked feverishly to undo those protections.

This is no time for progressives to be hemmed in by some false "unity" with a President whose policies are largely to blame for this disaster. Too much is at stake, going forward. In the short term, we must exert maximum pressure on the federal government to pull out all stops to rescue people and re-establish peace and good order. And in the weeks to come, we must demand an immediate repeal of the tax cuts -- to enable a massive investment for rebuilding New Orleans and repairing the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

Also, any Louisiana and Mississippi guardsmen who want to return home from Iraq to aid their statesmen should be allowed to do so. The truth is that the poor people of Louisiana were deliberately left behind -- and not just over the weekend. Our political leaders as a class -- and George W. Bush, in particular -- left them behind a long time ago. In the aftermath of this wholly avoidable catastrophe, let us do all we can to rescue those who have been abandoned. And then let us rescue the U.S. government from those who engineered that abandonment. And let us recognize our sacred duty in completing BOTH acts.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Off His Meds

(regarding the Gulf Coast disaster)

"I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law," Bush said, 'Whether it's looting or price-gouging or insurance fraud."

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