Saturday, October 04, 2008

Jonathan Rabin in the London Review of Books this week published the best darn thing I've ever read about Sarah Palin and her very dubious, very swift rise to power in the Republican Party. Among other things it includes an account of Palin's reign of terror as mayor of Wasilla and an explanation of how skyrocketing oil prices swelled the Alaska government's tax coffers, thus allowing her buy popularity by sending $2000 checks to every state citizen. Below is a nice snippet that nails perfectly her (very annoying yet populist) rhetorical style:
What is most striking about her is that she seems perfectly untroubled by either curiosity or the usual processes of thought. When answering questions, both Obama and Joe Biden have an unfortunate tendency to think on their feet and thereby tie themselves in knots: Palin never thinks. Instead, she relies on a limited stock of facts, bright generalities and pokerwork maxims, all as familiar and well-worn as old pennies. Given any question, she reaches into her bag for the readymade sentence that sounds most nearly proximate to an answer, and, rather than speaking it, recites it, in the upsy-downsy voice of a middle-schooler pronouncing the letters of a word in a spelling bee. She then fixes her lips in a terminal smile.

For the whole article go here:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Human Rights Crackdown in China

Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans frontières

13 August 2008

Crackdown continues for Chinese human rights
activists, with no Olympic truce during games

The start of the Olympic Games has done nothing
to help Chinese human rights activists, who
continue to be arrested, watched or threatened.
At the same time, incidents involving foreign
journalists, including an attack today on a
British TV reporter working for ITN, shows that
the security services are still preventing the
foreign press from working freely.

To illustrate this, Reporters Without Borders
today offers the comments of a foreign reporter
about surveillance and harassment by the Chinese

"In view of the many incidents, we call on the
International Olympic Committee to intercede on
behalf of the Chinese citizens who are in danger
because of the position they have taken during
the Olympic Games," Reporters Without Borders

"It is the duty of the Olympic movement in its
entirety to ensure respect for the spirit of the
Olympic truce," the organisation added. "Since
the origins of the Olympics, tradition has
required that peace should prevail during the

The IOC website has this to say about the Olympic
truce in ancient Greece: "During the truce
period, the athletes, artists and their families,
as well as ordinary pilgrims, could travel in
total safety to participate in or attend the
Olympic Games and return afterwards to their
respective countries. (...) The International
Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to revive the
ancient concept of the Olympic Truce with the
view (...) to encourage searching for peaceful
and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around
the world."

John Ray of the British television news service
ITN was today covering a protest by several
foreign activists who unfurled a pro-Tibet banner
near Beijing's main Olympic zone, when he was
arrested by police, dragged along the ground and
forcibly restrained for about 20 minutes although
he identified himself as a journalist. "This was
an assault in my mind, I am incredibly angry
about this," Ray told Agence France Presse.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC)
says there have been five incidents since 7
August. In one of these incidents, police
arrested two Associated Press reporters in the
northwestern province of Xinjiang and erased the
photos they had taken. One of them was arrested
while watching the opening ceremony on TV. Two
Scandinavian journalists were prevented from
interviewing peasants in Hebei province about the
impact of the games on their activities.

A European journalist who has been working in
Beijing for several years has given Reporters
Without Borders a gripping description of what it
is like for her and her colleagues in Beijing,
and the risks run by Chinese who dare to speak to
the foreign press.

"They don't stop following me, filming me and
photographing me," she said. "I think twice
before interviewing Chinese about sensitive
issues for fear that they could be arrested (...)
Last week several Chinese were arrested after
giving me interviews. Firstly, people living in
the Qianmen district that is in the process of
being renovated. They included a woman in charge
of an association of evicted residents who sued
the government for not paying them enough
compensation. The trial began in July but was
postponed because of the Olympics. I interviewed
her, as other journalists did. Since then she has
been detained.

"The same thing happened with the pastor of an
unrecognised church. Finally, a British woman of
Tibetan origin was arrested and expelled after
giving me an interview. Under these
circumstances, we are all forced to censor
ourselves and to refuse to interview certain
Chinese for fear of their being immediately
arrested. We are all in this situation of
intimidation, which makes it very hard for us to
work in China, despite the overall improvements.

"What's more, the official media have not stopped
attacking us since last March's events in Tibet.
In addition to the death threats received by
dozens of foreign journalists, the Chinese media
try to undermine our credibility. And all of this
gained pace in the run-up to the games."

She is right about Chinese being arrested for
talking to the foreign media. Zhang Wei, a former
resident of the Beijing district of Qianmen, was
arrested on 9 August after filing a request for
permission to protest about her family's eviction
two years ago to make way for Olympic
construction. The Associated Press quotes her son
as saying she is to be held for a month for
"disrupting the social order." The Public
Security Bureau said it was looking at her case
and had no other comment to make.

Other Chinese are being hounded by the
authorities, who fear they could protest during
the games. There has been no news since 7 August
of Zeng Jinyan, the wife of imprisoned activist
Hu Jia, and their seven-month-old daughter. Her
mother in law said to several Chinese-language
news outlets say she may has been forced her to
leave the capital. She had been under permanent
police surveillance for several years in the
"Freedom" residential area where she lives.

Some Beijing intellectuals such as Liu Xiaobo and
Yu Jie have not been detained, but are under
police surveillance. Wan Yanhai, the head of an
NGO that cares for AIDS sufferers, chose to leave
Beijing during the games to avoid being harassed
by the police.

Hua Huiqi, the head of an unrecognised protestant
church, was arrested in Beijing on 9 August while
on his way to a church service that was attended
by US President George W. Bush. His brother -
arrested at the same time but freed a few hours
later - says he has had no news of Hua since
then. The police deny ever arresting Hua and
claim they had no role in his disappearance.
Human Rights in China meanwhile says it got a
short letter in which Hua apparently recounts his
arrest and subsequent escape.

Ji Sizun, a human rights activist form Fujian
province, was arrested on 11 August for filing a
request several days earlier for permission to
demonstrate in one for the areas designated by
the Beijing authorities for protests. Human
Rights Watch says Ji wanted to organise a rally
to protest against corruption and to call for
more citizen participation in government

According to HRW, several other Chinese have been
arrested or threatened for filing demonstration
requests. They include relatives of children
killed in the collapse of "tofu" (shoddily-built)
schools in the May earthquake in Sichuan. The
Washington Post reports that families were
prevent from boarding flights in the Sichuan
capital of Chengdu.

Several members of the outlawed China Democracy
Party were arrested in the days preceding the
games opening ceremony. According to Chinese
Human Rights Defenders, Xie Changfa of Hunan
province was arrested on 2 August, while Wang
Rongqing, 65, of Zhejiang province was arrested
on 31 July. They have been charged with inciting
subversion of state authority.

Friday, August 08, 2008

International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC)
Emergency Press Release
(August 5th, 2008)

The ILC -- responding to the appeal for solidarity launched by the Korean Trade Union Confederation (KCTU) -- calls on all trade unionists, all working class activists, all the organisations, and all men and women committed to democracy and freedom around the world to respond to this emergency call.

In its press release the KCTU wrote:

* * * * *
"In the midst of mass candlelight protests calling for renegotiations of the April 18th Protocol on importation of US beef, KCTU decided to go into general strike on July 2 to reflect food safety concerns. KCTU general strike on July 2nd was aimed at renegotiation of April 18 protocol on US beef import, stopping privatization and marketization of public services, opposition to the plan of building Korea Grand Canal, and taking appropriate measures to solve the soaring consumer prices.

"The Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) played a leading role in the general strike. The Ministry of Justice and the prosecutor concluded that KMWU's strike on July 2nd was illegal.

"The prosecutor filed for arrest warrants against and has pursued the arrest of the leadership of KCTU, KMWU and Hyundai Motor Branch on the grounds of 'obstruction of business’ provision in section 314 of the Penal Code.'

"We are calling for sending protest letters to the President Lee Myung-bak
By fax: President Lee Myung-bak +82-2-770-4735(Fax)

Or internet:

Copies should be sent to the Police authorities (Mr. Eo Cheong-soo

List of detaineees or with arrest warrants
Mr. Lee Suk-haeng, President, KCTU
Mr. Lee Yong-shik, General Secretary, KCTU
Mr. Jung Gab-deuk, President, KMWU
Mr. Nam Taek-gyu, First Vice-president, KMWU
Mr. Yoon Hae-mo, President, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Kim Tae-gon, First Vice-president, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Kim Jong-il, Vice-president, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Jung Chang-bong, Vice-president, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Joo In-koo, Vice-president, Hyundai Motor Branch
Mr. Jo Chang-min, Secretary,Hyundai Motor Branch
Ms. Jin Yeong-ok, First Vice-president, KCTU
2. Activists

Bak Won-suk, Joint Director of the Field Office of the Coalition
Han Yong-jin, Joint Director of the Field Office of the Coalition
Kim Dong-kyu, Director of the Organizational Team
Kim Kwang-il, Director of the March Team, All Together Steer Committee member
Baek Eun-jong, Vice-Representative, Anti-Lee Myung-bak Internet Café
Baek Seong-gyun, Representative,
Kwon Hae-jin, Director of Education Movement Headquarters of the Young Korean Academy
3. Detained

Ahn Jin-geol,
Yoon Hui-suk,
Hwang Sun-won,
* * * * *

The ILC calls upon the international labour movement to respond immediately to this appeal:

The KCTU and the Metal Workers Union (KMWU) have done nothing other than to carry our their mandate as trade union organisations within the framework and in application of ILO conventions 87 and 98 providing for the right to organise, the right to represent workers and the right to strike.

The ILC demands the immediate release of all those detained, the immediate lifting of all charges and the immediate withdrawal of all the arrest warrants against the trade unionists concerned.

* Respect the right to strike!

* Respect the right to organise !

* Respect ILO conventions 87 and 98!

* Free all the trade unionists detained !

* Lift all charges !

* Withdraw all arrest warrants !


Daniel Gluckstein,
International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples
Paris, France
Aug. 5, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


As anyone who reads this blog knows, since 9/11, the right has ramped up its attack on academics who dare to dissent from the U.S. occupation of Iraq and its policy in the Middle East more generally. Neo-McCarthyite groups like the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Students for Academic Freedom and the David Project have published lists of “disloyal” faculty and scurrilous reports on allegedly "anti-American" courses dealing with U.S. imperialism, Islam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Respected scholars who study and write about such subjects —such as Norman Finkelstein-- have been denied tenure solely on the basis of their politics. In similar instances, applications for tenure have been seriously threatened (Nadia Abu El-Haj: Joseph Massad) and books and their publishers have been targeted for censorship (i.e. Joel Kovel’s book “Overcoming Zionism” and University of Michigan Press). Now, the assault on academic freedom has effected yet another critical scholar: Terri Ginsberg, a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from NYU and an authority on Israeli and Palestinian film.

Last fall, Terri was hired to a one year, non-tenure track position in Film Studies at North Carolina State University (with the possibility of renewal). As part of her teaching responsibilities, she offered advanced courses on film and media treatment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and on the political aesthetics of Holocaust film (the subject of her recent book) ; she was also charged with helping to program a Middle Eastern film series.

Unfortunately, as Terri detailed in a grievance she filed with the NCSU Faculty in March 2008, the director of the film studies program and the director of the Middle East studies program at NCSU made a number of administrative decisions in the course of the past year that flagrantly violated Terri’s academic freedom.

To begin with, they limited her involvement in the film series which she had been hired to curate, and criticized the introduction she gave at a screening of the Palestinian film “Ticket to Jerusalem” as biased and overly political. Moreover, the director of the film studies program refused to purchase many of the materials Terri had requested for her Palestine/Israel film and media course and submitted her evaluation of Terri’s teaching prematurely. All of this culminate in her contract not being renewed for the upcoming academic year.

The grievance Terri filed with the NCSU Faculty alleged violations of her First Amendment and equal opportunity rights under the University Code. Despite a recommendation from the NCSU Faculty Chair that her case be given a full hearing, NCSU Chancellor James L. Oblinger summarily dismissed her petition on the grounds that it was filed “too late” and that Terri was no longer a university employee. To make matters worse, the AAUP—who had been helping Terri with her case— informed her in the wake of Oblinger’s decision that they would no longer provide her with assistance. (For more information about the facts of Terri’s case, read the following article:


In response to this outrage, people from around the world have beeninundating NCSU with letters demanding that the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees allow Terri’s grievance to go forward. An online petition has been started that requests that NCSU consider Terri’s case and asks the AAUP to give her the support she deserves.

Please take a few minutes to help support Terri in this fight. First, add your name to the petition
of support drafted by Academics for Justice (

Second, send e-mails and make phone calls to D. McQueen Campbell, chair of the Board of Trustees, and Larry Nielsen, its convener, urging that Terri’s case be heard:

D. McQueen Campbell, Chair

NCSU Board of Trustees

tele: 919-515-2195

fax: 919-831-3545

Dr. Larry A. Nielsen, NCSU Provost &

Executive Vice Chancellor

tele: 919-515-2195

fax: 919-515-5921

Friday, August 01, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey

Geographer and urban critic David Harvey's work on Marxist economic theory-- especially his magnum opus, "The Limits to Capital," and his more recent "A Brief History of Neoliberalism" -- made a convert out of me. Now, he's made available a series of videos of his lectures on Capital Vol. 1. Brilliant stuff. Check out this lecture on the commodity:

For the entire series of lectures, look here.
Mass Murder Has Been Conducted in Our Name...

This piece by Peter Phillips-- editor of the annual Project Censored list of top 25 most censored news stories-- really hits the nail on the head. Judged by any reasonable standard, U.S. forces in Iraq are guilty of serious war crimes and the leaders who gave the orders-- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, the Pentagon brass, the whole damn lot of them-- should be brought to justice.

U.S. Perpetuates Mass Killings In Iraq
By Peter Phillips

The United States is directly responsible for
over one million Iraqi deaths since the invasion
five and half years ago. In a January 2008
report, a British polling group Opinion Research
Business (ORB) reports that, "survey work
confirms our earlier estimate that over
1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result
of the conflict which started in 2003.. We now
estimate that the death toll between March 2003
and August 2007 is likely to have been of the
order of 1,033,000. If one takes into account
the margin of error associated with survey data
of this nature then the estimated range is between 946,000 and 1,120,000".

This report comes on the heels of two earlier
studies conducted by Johns Hopkins University
published in the Lancet medical journal that
confirmed the continuing numbers of mass deaths
in Iraq. A study done by Dr. Les Roberts from
January 1, 2002 to March 18 2003 put the
civilian deaths at that time at over 100,000. A
second study published in the Lancet in October
2006 documented over 650,000 civilian deaths in
Iraq since the start of the US invasion. The
2006 study confirms that US aerial bombing in
civilian neighborhoods caused over a third of
these deaths and that over half the deaths are
directly attributable to US forces.

The now estimated 1.2 million dead,
as of July 2008, includes children, parents,
grandparents, great-grandparents, cab drivers,
clerics, schoolteachers, factory workers,
policemen, poets, healthcare workers, day care
providers, construction workers, babysitters,
musicians, bakers, restaurant workers and many
more. All manner of ordinary people in Iraq
have died because the United States decided to
invade their country. These are deaths in
excess of the normal civilian death rate under the prior government.

The magnitude of these deaths is undeniable. The
continuing occupation by US forces guarantees a
mass death rate in excess of 10,000 people per
month with half that number dying at the hands
of US forces- a carnage so severe and so
concentrated at to equate it with the most
heinous mass killings in world history. This act has not gone unnoticed.

Recently, Dennis Kucinich introduced a single
impeachment article against George W. Bush for
lying to Congress and the American people about
the reasons for invading Iraq. On July 15 The
House forwarded the resolution to the Judiciary
Committee with a 238 to 180 vote. That Bush
lied about weapons of mass destruction and
Iraq's threat to the US is now beyond doubt.
Former US federal prosecutor Elizabeth De La
Vega documents the lies most thoroughly in her
book U.S. Vs Bush, and numerous other
researchers have verified Bush's untrue statements.

The American people are faced with a serious
moral dilemma. Murder and war crimes have been
conducted in our name. We have allowed the
war/occupation to continue in Iraq and offered
ourselves little choice within the top two
presidential candidates for immediate cessation
of the mass killings. McCain would undoubtedly
accept the deaths of another million Iraqi
civilians in order to save face for America, and
Obama's 18-month timetable for withdrawal would
likely result in another 250,000 civilian deaths or more.

We owe our children and ourselves a future
without the shame of mass murder on our
collective conscience. The only resolution of
this dilemma is the immediate withdrawal of all
US troops in Iraq and the prosecution and
imprisonment of those responsible. Anything less
creates a permanent original sin on the soul of
the nation for that we will forever suffer.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at
Sonoma State University and director of Project
Censored a media research group. He is the
co-editor with Dennnis Loo of the book Impeach
the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Keeping the World at Bay...

As anyone who has been keeping count knows, since 9/11, the Bush administration has barred dozens of prominent foreign nationals from entering the country on the specious grounds that they had some sort of tie to a vaguely defined "terrorism." The case of Tariq Ramadan-- an eminent European Muslim scholar who was prevented from entering the US to take a post at Notre Dame-- is perhaps the most famous. But there have been others: Adam Habib, a South African scholar and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq; Waskar Ari, a Bolivian expert on Bolivian indigeonous religious beliefs and activism; several Cuban scholars and on and on. Now it appears that peaceful, nonviolent, secular human rights activists who just happen to oppose U.S. imperialism's various client regimes are also being barred. Will it never end?

Homeland insecurity
Peter Tatchell, Wednesday July 2 2008

In another bizarre twist to Washington's often illegal, irrational "war on terror", peaceful, lawful human rights campaigners are now apparently being refused entry to the US – without any right of appeal.

Noordin Mengal, a British citizen and Baluch human rights defender, was detained and deported by US immigration when he arrived at Newark Liberty airport from Dubai last week. Read more here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pentagon Used Ex-Military Experts as Megaphones for Propaganda

A few weeks ago the New York Times reported what those of us in the anti-war movement have long suspected: that many of those ubiquitous former generals who are forever appearing on TV news shows to talk about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have been carefully coached and cultivated by the Pentagon to echo the administrations' talking points and misinformation. This is of course a violation of longstanding laws prohibiting the military -- or any branch of government-- from engaging in domestic propaganda. Add the "military analyst program" to the large and growing dossier of treasonous offenses for which Bush, Cheney and co. may some day stand trial.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I should have blogged about this long ago.

A group of former North Central College Broadcasting/Media Students-- many of whom took my first ever "Introduction to New Media" course-- have launched an exciting new site devoted to "music and culture". Check it out here.

Among other things, the site features reviews, a concert calender, interviews with up and coming bands, MP3s and a clever V-blog of album reviews (see below). Nice work guys!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The $3 Trillion Mistake

This is old news but still deserving of comment.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz recently co-authored a book (with Linda Bilmes)
, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the Iraq Conflict, which puts the real cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq to the U.S. economy at roughly $ 3 trillion. They estimate that the war has cost the rest of the world another $ 3 trillion. And they claim that war will ultimately add another $2 trillion to our already enormous $5 trillion national debt. Who has profited from this expensive debacle? The defense and oil industries, the very industries who largely bankrolled the Bush-Cheney Presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Now, I'm usually not a fan of Nobel-Prize winning economists. The Nobel Prize in Economics was created later than the original 5 Nobel Awards (Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace) at the urging of and with funding from a group of Swedish bankers. Throughout its history, it has been used to ratify and legitimate what I would call "pro-capitalist," or what some heterodox economists aptly dub "autistic", classical and neoclassical economic dogma. Indeed, a Nobel Prize in Economics is often nothing more than license to perpetuate anti-worker lies and myths under the cover of scholarly respectability. Witness the case of Milton Friedman, who won the prize in 1976 at around the time he was acting as adviser to the bloodthirsty and criminal Pinochet junta in Chile. Usually when I hear "Nobel Laureate in Economics", I prepare myself for an onslaught of reactionary ideology dressed up in the language of "rational game theory" and buttressed by an arsenal of fudged statistics. So, the fact that someone like Stiglitz -- a rather mild-mannered and moderate critic of neoclassical economics-- is taking aim at the Bush administrations' expensive folly in Iraq is noteworthy. And, yes, welcome...Read more below

The $3 trillion war in Iraq

Only two winners have emerged from the conflict: oil companies and defence contractors...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

As we approach the 5th anniversary of the illegal, catastrophic and mind-numbingly cruel U.S. invasion of Iraq, it is important to recognize what is really driving American imperialism and militarism: corporate greed, inter-imperialist rivalry and what Eisenhower famously called the military-industrial complex.It's also important to recognize that that U.S. has been an imperialist power almost since its inception and became the world's major imperialist power in the aftermath of WWII (although the USSR certainly was a close second). The American seizure of Iraq was just the latest in a very long line of "intervensions" that have overthrown governments-- often popularly elected governments-- around the globe. This is a point that is that is underscored by this clever little video:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Here's a fine video from media reform group Free Press. Enjoy.