Monday, June 18, 2007

More Bad News: The Demise of Punk Planet
The tiny club of independent, progressive/radical publications based here in Chicago is about to shrink yet again. I just got word that Punk Planet-- a zine that for 13 years combined service to the punk subculture with coverage of news and commentary about feminism, labor, sexual politics, race relations, the environment and a host of other issues--is going to close its doors. Here's a choice snippet from PP founder and editor Dan Sinker's letter to subscribers:
As much as it breaks our hearts to write these words, the final issue
of Punk Planet is in the post, possibly heading toward you right now.
Over the last 80 issues and 13 years, we've covered every aspect of
the financially independent, emotionally autonomous, free culture we
refer to as "the underground." In that time we've sounded many alarms
from our editorial offices: about threats of co-optation, big-media
emulation, and unseen corporate sponsorship. We've also done
everything in our power to create a support network for independent
media, experiment with revenue streams, and correct the distribution
issues that have increasingly plagued independent magazines. But now
we've come to the impossible decision to stop printing, having
sounded all the alarms and reenvisioned all the systems we can.
Benefit shows are no longer enough to make up for bad distribution
deals, disappearing advertisers, and a decreasing audience of

As to the latter two points, we could blame the Internet. It makes
editorial content—and bands—easy to find, for free. (We're sure our
fellow indie labels, those still standing, can attest to the
difficulties created in the last few years). We can blame educational
and media systems that value magazines focused on consumerism over
engaged dissent. And we can blame the popular but mistaken belief
that punk died several years ago.

But it is also true that great things end, and the best things end
far too quickly.

As to bad distribution deals, we must acknowledge that the financial
hit we took in October of 2005, when our newsstand distributor
announced that it was in dire straits, was worse than we originally
thought. As the dust began to clear from their January bankruptcy
announcement, we began to realize that the magazine was left in
significantly worse shape, distribution-wise, than they let on.

Add to that the stagnation that the independent record world is
suffering under and the effect that has had on our ad sales, not to
mention the loss of independent bookstores with a vested interest in
selling our publication, and it all adds up to a desperate situation.
This has been made far worse by the exhaustion felt from a year and a
half of fighting our own distributor. It was a situation that didn't
have an exit strategy other then, well, exiting.
Sinker goes on to explain that the PP website and book publishing imprint will continue on. Still, the world will be a vastly less interesting place without the excellent print magazine; it could always be counted on for thoughtful columns, eye opening feature articles, interviews with cutting edge bands, artists and activists, and sharp tongued reviews of music, books and media of all kinds. It sure beat the hell out of the corporate rock magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin. I'll miss it...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An important announcement from...

National Project in Defense of Dissent
and Critical Thinking in Academia

Opposition Mounts as University of Colorado President
Calls for Ward Churchill to be Dismissed

Contact:Reggie Dylan: (626) 319-1730
Matthew Abraham: (773) 682-9322

In a letter to the Board of Regents, University of Colorado President Hank
Brown has called for the dismissal of tenured Ethnic Studies Professor
Ward Churchill. His recommendation goes beyond that
of the faculty investigative committee that examined
charges of research misconduct; and of the faculty
Privilege and Tenure (P&T) committee that recently
heard Churchill’s appeal. Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado
joined Brown in calling for the firing of Churchill,
as his predecessor Bill Owens did two years earlier.
The Board of Regents is expected to make a final
decision in this case at a public hearing some time in
A growing number of scholars see CU’s
investigation of Churchill’s scholarship as completely
illegitimate and a dangerous precedent threatening
dissent and critical thinking in the universities.
The CU - Boulder chapter of the American Association
of University Professors (AAUP) has written that "we
believe that the investigation now is widely perceived
to be a pretext for firing Churchill when the real
reason for dismissal is his politics." The
investigation was launched in the wake of controversy
provoked by an essay Churchill wrote after 9/11.
Churchill noted in response to Brown’s
letter that "the University had received no formal or
written complaints about my scholarship when it
initiated this ‘investigation.’ All of the
allegations investigated were either solicited or
brought directly by University administrators." He
also noted that "The Investigative Committee charged
with conducting a ‘fact-finding, nonadversarial’
investigation was chaired by law professor Mimi
Wesson, who - in February 2005 - had compared me to
'charismatic male celebrity wrongdoers' like O.J.
Simpson, Michael Jackson and Bill Clinton, and had
already come up with the faulty 'traffic stop' analogy
the Committee used to justify its conclusions." The
committee included no American Indians or experts in
American Indian Studies, and scholars that had used
Churchill's research in their own work were removed
from the committee.
The report of the committee hearing
Churchill’s appeal found that Churchill proved by a
"preponderance of the evidence" that "but for" his
exercise of his protected first amendment rights, the
subsequent investigation of his scholarship would
never have been initiated.
In a recent open letter to colleagues
around the country Dr. Margaret LeCompte, President of
the Boulder AAUP Chapter, wrote: "What has happened at
the University of Colorado makes a mockery of both due
process and academic freedom protections, AND what
faculty believe. It is a cruel violation of the
delicate balance between faculty rights and
administrative responsibilities… The entire process
was a sham---imitating the form, but not the intent,
of due process and fair, objective, scholarly
Two faculty groups that have examined the
report of the investigative committee claim that the
report is seriously flawed. In an unprecedented
action, both have now filed formal charges of academic
misconduct against the members of the faculty
committee. The most recent group to do so, made up of
principally Indigenous scholars from around the
country and Canada, documented "many instances of
fraud, fabrication, plagiarism and/or serious
deviation from accepted scholarly practices" which
"demonstrate a consistent pattern of deliberate
misrepresentation intended to discredit Professor
Churchill’s larger body of scholarship." Eric
Cheyfitz, Ernest I. White Professor of American
Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, has
found "the Report turns what is a debate about
controversial issues of identity and genocide in
Indian studies into an indictment of one position in
that debate."
The implications of this case go beyond
the threat to Churchill's reputation and career, as
serious as those are. The attack on Churchill is seen
by many in academia as part of a much broader attack
on academic freedom and critical thinking and dissent.
Dr. LeCompte notes, "It is not limited to Colorado. In
fact, it is a test case by the US right wing to
emasculate faculty rights in US universities."
This is illustrated by the recent denial of tenure
for DePaul University political scientist Norman
Finkelstein. Though he was supported by his
department, Finkelstein was denied tenure after an
intense campaign spearheaded by Harvard Law School's
Alan M. Dershowitz, who called Finkelstein "worse than
Churchill." Many DePaul faculty and others were
alarmed at Dershowitz’s heavy-handed tactics and saw
them as an attempt to punish one side of a
controversial debate. Finkelstein said that DePaul’s
decision was based on "transparently political
grounds" and was an "egregious violation" of academic
Churchill noted in his response to Brown’s
letter that "President Brown, his new VP Michael
Poliakoff, and Regent Tom Lucero, like Bill Owens, are
key players in Lynne Cheney’s American Council of
Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). ACTA and similar
neoconservative groups have received generous funding
[from] Castle Rock (Coors), Scaife, Bradley and Olin
foundations to eliminate Ethnic, Gender and Peace
Studies Programs and to purge higher education of
those who think critically, challenge historical
orthodoxy, or otherwise threaten the status quo."
Opposition to this impending firing has
been increasing nationally, as more and more academics
recognize the stakes involved in the Churchill case.
An open letter signed by numerous prominent scholars,
including Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Derrick Bell and
Immanuel Wallerstein was published in the New York
Review of Books in April. Scores of others have
written letters of support, and there was a recent
Emergency National Forum in Boulder of academics and
supporters. The Society of American Law Teachers has
written a letter arguing against a firing.
Richard Falk, visiting Distinguished
Professor at University of California, Santa Barbara
recently wrote: "All of us who value academic freedom
should now stand in full solidarity with Ward
Churchill. The outcome of his case at the University
of Colorado is the best litmus test we have to tell
whether the right-wing’s assaults on learning and
liberty will stifle campus life in this country. Never
in my lifetime have we in America more needed the sort
of vigorous debate and creative controversy that Ward
Churchill's distinguished career epitomizes. We all
stand to lose if his principled defense fails."
# # #
Matthew Abraham - Department of English, De Paul
William Ayers - Distinguished Professor of Education
and Senior University Scholar, University of Illinois
at Chicago.
Derrick A Bell - Visiting Professor of Constitutional
Law, New York University School of Law.
Timothy Brennan - Departments of English and Cultural
Studies & Comparative Literature, University of
Renate Bridenthal - Emerita Professor of History,
Brooklyn College, The City University of New York.
Bob Buzzanco - Department of History, University of
Dana Cloud - Associate Professor of Communication
Studies at the University of Texas (Austin).
Drucilla Cornell - Professor in the Departments of Law
and Political Science at Rutgers University.
Sandi E Cooper - Professor of History, College of
Staten Island and the Graduate School, The City
University of New York.
Richard Delgado - University Distinguished Professor
of Law and Derrick Bell Fellow, University of
Richard A Falk - Albert G. Milbank Professor of
International Law and Practice at Princeton
University; Visiting Distinguished Professor (since
2002), Global Studies, University of California, Santa
Seth Kahn - Assistant Professor of English, West
Chester University of PA.
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies,
Middle East Institute, Columbia University.
Vinay Lal - Department of History, University of
California, Los Angeles.
Gary Leupp - Professor of History at Tufts University,
and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion.
Henry Silverman - Professor and Chairperson Emeritus,
Department of History, Michigan State University.
Immanuel Wallerstein - Senior Research Scholar, Yale
Tim Wise - Author of "White Like Me: Reflections on
Race from a Privileged Son," and "Affirmative Action:
Racial Preference in Black and White."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Depaul Caves in to Neo-Con Pressure and Denies Norman Finkelstein Tenure
This past Friday Norman Finkelstein-- a leading critic of the systematic U.S. and Israeli oppression of the Palestinians and a careful analyst of the way the Holocaust has been used by apologists to justify Israeli disregard for international law -- was denied tenure by DePaul University. This despite the fact that he enjoyed excellent teaching evaluations, is a prominent public intellectual with several books to his credit and had the full backing of his department. Yet his tenure bid was blocked first by his dean and then by his president. Why? As president Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider put it in his letter to Finkelstein:
reviewers at all levels, both for and against tenure, commented upon your ad hominem attacks on scholars with whom you disagree... In the opinion of those opposing tenure, your unprofessional personal attacks divert the conversation away from consideration of ideas, and polarize and simplify conversations that deserve layered and subtle consideration. As such, they believe your work not only shifts toward advocacy and away from scholarship, but also fails to meet the most basic standards governing scholarship discourse within the academic community.
A little later in the letter Holtschneider says that he cannot "in good faith conclude that you honor your obligations to 'respect and defend the free inquiry of associates,' 'show due respect for the opinions of others,' and 'strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues.'"

Having only read one of Finkelstein's older books (The Holocaust Industry) and some of his popular articles, I can't say for certain that this is a total misrepresentation of his work but the stuff of his I have read not only exceeds "basic standards governing scholarship" but is much more politically relevant, more insightful, and better written than most of the dreck cranked out by legions of other, perhaps more polite, professors in history and political science. True, Finkelstein has been engaged in an ongoing feud with the ever obstreperous Allen Dershowitz, Harvard law professor and well known apologist for Israeli militarism. But in this particular spat, it has been Dershowitz who has failed to respect the free inquiry of others and whose behavior has consistently failed to meet the standards of the academic community: instead of attempting to refute Finkelstein's criticisms of his views on Israel, he actually lobbied Governor of California Arnold Schwartzenegger in an effort to prevent the University of California Press from publishing them.

Yet even if the charges Holtschneider makes about Finkelstein are true, is that sufficient grounds for silencing a unique and courageous voice who even the president himself admits is "provocative, challenging and intellectually interesting?" One wonders whether or not any of the more famous conservative/reactionary intellectuals of past few years would be able to pass muster if the DePaul standard were uniformly enforced throughout academia. Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, cultural critic Allan Bloom, historian Paul Johnson -- to name only three such right-of-center authors -- have made entire careers out of spewing hateful polarizing rhetoric and launching vicious personal attacks; hell, Johnson's Intellectuals is nothing but one long, gossip-filled ad hominem assault on every left-wing intellectual from Rousseau to Brecht. How much did Leo Strauss-- advocate of using noble lies to manipulate the allegedly witless masses-- "respect the opinion of others"? And has Pepperdine University's Daniel Pipes-- founder of the neo-McCarthyite outfit Campus Watch-- ever once acted to "defend the free inquiry" of left-wing opponents of U.S. foreign policy?

The standard
Holtschneider invokes in his letter is ultimately so malleable as to be virtually useless in practice. The truth is that people whose views are on the receiving end of even the most rigorously argued, clearly delineated and factually based criticisms will inevitably read them as "personal attacks" (even when they are framed explicitly as "considerations of ideas"); this is doubly true if the people in question happen to be right-wing ideological hotheads like the Neo-Con crowd.

But, of course, the real reason Finkelstein got the ax had absolutely nothing to do with the "tone" of his work or his ad hominem attacks on Dershowitz or anyone else; rather, it had to do with the subversive ideas that he advocated. Since 9/11, criticism of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East-- and in particular, criticism of U.S. support of Israel-- has become the third rail of academia in this country. Touch it and your life in higher education may come to a sudden end. That is the clear message implicit in the Finkelstein tenure decision, in the firing of Ward Churchill at Colorado, in the carefully orchestrated public fervor over allegations about anti-Israeli bias at Columbia, and in the countless efforts made by college administrators and reactionary pundits like David Horowitz to punish faculty for speaking out against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a very dark day for academic freedom.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

We the People..Don't Want No War.
Meen Erhabe/Who's the terrorist?
Interesting rap video that raises a vitally important question about Israeli treatment of Palestinians and the double standard involved in the way we in the West discuss "terrorism"...