Saturday, July 31, 2004
Global Economics 201.1: Three Recent Things Everyone Should Know About the WTO, Neoliberalism, and "Free Trade"
The following is intended as an excessively rushed follow-up to my research projects Global Economics 101 and Global Economics 201. It will be truncated due to the fact that I'm due to canvass for Sen. Russ Feingold in about an hour, so I'll need to rush though everything I have to say. Apologies for any resulting lack of clarity; comments are appreciated, and I will attempt to explain further anything necessary in future posts. I chose not to delay this post due to the extremely timely nature of current events.
I am surprised and saddened to see a near-total absence of discussion -- even among news mainstays like Common Dreams and ZNet -- about the current WTO talks being held in Geneva, Switzerland. ABCNews has nothing; CNN -- even its Money section -- has next to nothing. Yet the discussions -- as I shall show -- have far-reaching consequences for millions (billions, it's fair to speculate) of people around the world.
Suffice to say that too many of us have no idea what's going on in these talks, and the ridiculously surface-level coverage they do get in the US press makes us naturally less inclined to study the issues. It's my hope that I can shed some light or help break it all down for my readers.
1. The WTO's Crisis
For a variety of reasons, the World Trade Organization is facing a fundamental test of its structure and capabilities, where its very existence may be on the line. After crushing blows in Seattle and Cancun (see item #3), the WTO is quite nervous about its relevance in the modern world stage, and with international condemnation of US unilateral action in Iraq and elsewhere, WTO acquiescence to first-world supremacy won't be easily tolerated. As Kevin Watkins of the International Herald Tribune puts it:
Success in these talks, known as the Doha round, would be an ambitious move toward making globalization a more powerful force for poverty reduction. Failure will sound the death knell for this round. More important, a breakdown would inflict irreparable damage on the WTO and the rules-based multilateral trading system it represents. . . .In many ways, this recent turmoil is a replay of the late 90s cataclysmic train wreck known as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which was more or less abolished after massive global outrage -- aided by European demands of varying types -- caused a breakdown in talks. Whether or not the WTO will suffer the same defeat remains to be seen, and given the relatively immense levels of time and resources invested in the WTO (versus the smaller investment made to the MAI), it seems less likely.
What is not in dispute, however, is that -- now, more than ever before -- fundamental questions of who controls world trade and how are being posed to the world financial community. Its willingness to account for them in an honest and fair manner is not very visible at all.
Case in point: The United States and other wealthy nations are insisting that poor countries drop "trade barriers," which would raise the prices of goods brought into their nations. These barrriers include import tarriffs and subsidies to producers and farmers in their home nations. (Right now, cotton is a supreme issue.) However, the US refuses to drop its own subsidies to farmers, insisting that such subsidies are essential for it to remain competitive. As the BBC explains:
Even many Western countries agree that their farmers' gain is poor-country farmers' loss. Western farmers over-produce for their own markets. The excess is "dumped" on poor countries at knock-down prices, against which local farmers cannot compete. Moreover, when the poor farmers try to export to the West, they are vying against subsidised agro-businesses.I would point out that I smell a false choice between supporting farmers in the US and supporting farmers in developing countries. My guess is that most US subsidies go not to family farms or smaller producers who need help in this country, but rather to large corporate producers with well-paid lobbyists and large PR budgets. But insofar as I can't find any documentation to this effect, I shall leave it at the level of speculation.
2. The Central America Free Trade Agreement
Because its talks in Buenos Aries failed in April of this year, the Free Trade Area of the Americas -- a sort of hemispheric attempt to spread NAFTA over 34 countries -- is in jeopardy of missing its 2005 deadline for ratification. As Public Citizen points out: "Ten years of NAFTA’s negative real-life effects have made it politically impossible for most countries to sign up for an FTAA-NAFTA expansion."
Meanwhile, however, smaller versions of the same effort are being rushed through on the undemocratic "Fast Track," wherein Congress must simply vote yes or no on huge trade bills, without the possibility of amendment or disputation.
One example is the Central America Free Trade Agreement [CAFTA], which seeks to apply NAFTA's regimen of "free trade" to Central America. NAFTA's effects have been clear and overwhelmingly negative for workers in both the US and Mexico, bringing with it a new set of rules for international trade, whereby corporations can sue governments and workers' rights and environmental protections are relegated to the laughable status of "commitments," unenforced and largely ignored.
A vote on CAFTA in the US Congress -- necessary before it can become law -- won't happen until after the 2004 elections. Therefore, activists are scrambling to use the extra time to inform the public about the possible consequences of such an "agreement" -- a questionable term, insofar as poverty-stricken nations to the south often must choose between Cuba-style isolationism and almost total acquiescence to US trade demands.
Rather than enumerate the various reasons why US citizens should oppose CAFTA, I will merely point to the Stop CAFTA website and move along.
3. The Power of Seattle and Cancun
Many corporate lobbyists, mainstream news analysts, and US pundits prefer to think of the 1999 Seattle protests -- and the resultant breakdown of talks, led by internal protests by poor nations of the world -- as a minor blip on the radar screen of international economics and politics. The nuts on the street, we were told, were just breaking windows for the hell of it; meanwhile, sane people inside were working their best so that everyone could prosper in the modern globalized structure. The protests were counterproductive, they said. What's needed is calm dialogue and compromise, not rigidity and outrage.
The same rhetoric was cooked up after the talks in Cancun collapsed last year. The protestors in the street were painted as lunatics bent on mindless property violence (and self-aggrandizing self-injury), and ultimately there were just some nuts 'n' bolts things that couldn't be worked out.
But as my man Chuck D. said, don't believe the hype. The street protests of Seattle and Cancun provided an urgent, critical space for the negotiators from poor countries to make their concerns heard inside the meetings. The level of calm on the streets can often be reflected in the level of calm inside these meetings. Just as we workers in the US are being urged to go back to sleep -- since there's nothing we can do to struggle for better trade conditions for ourselves -- so too are the negotiators from poor nations being urged to go with the flow of US/European power and sign away their economic sovereignty.
Seattle helped to change all that. Representatives from nations like Brazil made it quite clear that the turmoil outside had a significant impact inside. As the BBC points out:
For better of worse, the collapse of the world trade talks in Cancun may prove an historic turning point in the history of free trade. For nearly 50 years, the world's trading system moved towards greater trade liberalisation, largely out of the spotlight of the media. Now things are very different - with trade talks deeply enmeshed in domestic political battles.We can debate about the effectiveness of property destruction vs. state-sanctioned protest in "free speech zones"; and we can -- and should -- debate about the issues of class stratification in poor nations and just how much the trade representatives from these countries represent the poor people of those countries, and so on. But what cannot be disputed is that -- contrary to the facile image of mere troublemakers that the media tried to display of protestors in the streets -- those of us who take to the pavement are performing a critical role in widening the discussion and forcing different perspectives into the gaze of the institutions.
There are a million more things I'd like to say, but my time is, alas, up. I am, as always, massively interested to hear from people on this issue -- as it hopefully obvious, it is a great passion of mine, and something about which Americans are woefully uninformed -- and worse, misinformed.
I will close by repeating something I've said in the previous two installments of this series:
Those of us who are a part of the grassroots resistance are not confused kids with nothing better to do. We do not take to the streets to have a good time (although we often do). We raise our voices — we block traffic, we stage hunger strikes, we wear silly costumes, we hang banners on buildings, we protest, we march, we chant, we yell, and yes, sometimes we destroy property — because the policies of financial power are hurting, maiming, and killing people all over the world.
We speak out because we want to live in a world based not on greed and profit, but on human needs, equality, and economic justice. We want everyone to have food, housing, medical care, and a decent standard of living. In a world as wealthy and bountiful as ours, there is no reason for caring people to accept the suffering that exists all around us.
The struggle goes on.
Friday, July 30, 2004
At the most recent Wisconsin Film Festival, I saw a superb movie that is probably one of the most important documentaries of our time. It's called The Corporation, and it's co-directed by Mark Achbar, who was partially responsible for Manufacturing Consent.
The Corporation has a very intriguing premise: Insofar as corporations are legally defined as persons, what kind of persons are they?
To more precisely assess the “personality“ of the corporate “person,“ a checklist is employed, using actual diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization and the DSM-IV, the standard diagnostic tool of psychiatrists and psychologists. The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social “personality”: It is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. Four case studies, drawn from a universe of corporate activity, clearly demonstrate harm to workers, human health, animals and the biosphere. Concluding this point-by-point analysis, a disturbing diagnosis is delivered: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a “psychopath.”I would love to see this film get the publicity and acclaim that F9/11 is getting. (Alas, I doubt it will happen.) Meantime, I'll do my part.
This movie is coming to Madison (Hilldale Theatre) on 20 August. (Other cities listed here.) Until then, make sure you check out the trailer. (There are other clips too at Rotten Tomatoes, where the Tomatometer is at a whopping 95%.)
Political, Financial, Musical
Check out this excellent interview between Jon Stewart and Ted Koppel.
STEWART: I'm a news anchor. Remember this is bizarro world. And I say, the issue is health care and insurance, and why 40 million American kids don't have insurance -- 40 million Americans are uninsured. Is this health insurance program being debated in Congress good for the country? Let's debate it. I have with me Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan. Let's go. Donna. "I think the Democrats really have it right here. I think that this is a pain for the insurance companies and the drug companies and this is wrong for America." Bay. "Oh no, what it is..." And then she throws out her figures from the Heritage Foundation, and she throws out her figures from the Brookings Institute, and the anchor -- who should be the arbiter of the truth -- says, "Thank you both very much, that was very interesting." No it wasn't! That was Coke and Pepsi talking about beverage truth. And that game has, I think, caused people to think, "I'm not watching this."Thanks for the link, Diane.
I'm somewhat less thankful to Diane for notifying us about The Music of Senator Orrin Hatch. You've all heard John Ashcroft's atrocious Let the Eagle Soar; well, apparently he's not the only right-wing crackpot turning out mindless pablum tunes.
Meanwhile, check out this excellent article from Dollars & Sense about how our in-the-toilet economy has impacted black workers.
The tight labor market of the late 1990s was very beneficial for African Americans. The black unemployment rate fell from 18% in the 1981-82 recession, to around 13% in the early 1990s, to below 7% in 1999 and 2000, the lowest black unemployment rate on record. But the 2001 recession (and the job-loss recovery since then) has robbed African Americans of much of those gains. . . .Eat that, CEOs.
Candy Bar Watch
The other day I purchased and ate a new M&Ms candy bar, which was pretty much what it sounds like -- M&Ms stuck on a candy bar. Nothing to exceptional, except now I can't find any evidence that it exists. The M&M site has nothing. Oh well, I shouldn't be shilling for M&Ms anyway, insofar as they refuse to take a stand against worker abuses in chocolate production.
We're going to see The Manchurian Candidate tonight. I'll let you know how it is, of course. We saw the original last week. It's got some problems with race and gender, but nothing out of the ordinary for its time. An interesting story to say the least. I'm really eager to see Denzel in action again. I just hope it's not another John Q or Training Day.
Imagine (Backwards) is pretty impressive. If you're looking for a game, try Stick Avalanche. Both via ABS.
Today I'm listening to: Drum & Bass Selection 3!
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Here's my entry for this week's Tachygraphy offering.
Sometimes I have a hard time keeping my students' names straight, if they're not sitting in their usual seats. One time our school took all the 9th graders to a production of Romeo and Juliet (it was pretty bad), and I had the worst time trying to take roll based on faces alone. I'd be calling someone's name, and the students would just look at me in disbelief -- this was many months into the year -- and wondered how I could not realize the girl was sitting right in front of me. It's because so many of them look the same! Oh, it's the one with the Amercrombie & Fitch shirt, okay. That clears it up.
This is not to say, of course, that their identies are identical; far from it. I can sometimes tell whose paper is whose based on the first sentence alone. But insofar as much of teenage life is based around looking similar, I have to beg forgiveness when I can't match faces with names.
I finally got Tachygraphy up and running, and -- huzzah! -- we've already got an entry. Thanks to Rich for being first in line to participate. I've already gotten positive responses from other folks I emailed, so (wipes tear away) this looks to be the start of something special. If you've got a place to post online (if not, Blogger will hook you up for free), join us!
Now I need to pound out my own entry. After lunch.
At the DNC
Bill O'Reilly and Michael Moore faced off at the Democratic National Convention the other day. Nothing too surprising, except for the relatively civil tone. (Bill didn't say "shut up" once!) Speaking of Mr. O'Reilly, check out O'Reilly Sucks for some interesting info. And of course, FAIR has the game sewn up.
Meantime, Al Sharpton got some standing ovations for his speech at the convention.
One of many standing ovations went on for a minute after he told delegates that after the nation failed to deliver on Civil War-era promises of "40 acres and mule" to freed slaves, "we didn't get the mule so we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us."I guess the people in attendance do get sick of namby-pamby middle-of-the-roadism designed to appeal first and only to swing voters.
"Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn't gained because of our age," Sharpton said. "Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of (civil rights activists) Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us. This vote can't be bargained away. This vote can't be given away.Go Al! You can read the whole speech here.
It's kind of interesting to read the live blogging coming from TalkLeft and others, who are at the DNC. I think I'll be more intrigued by those at the RNC. (Diane, wanna guest-blog for us?)
Speaking of new blogs, we've got a few new ones in the ol' sidebar. Check out:
[PICTURE REMOVED BY REQUEST OF GUY WHO MADE IT] I hope Diane will get a kick out of Greetings from the Jersey Shore. I wanted it to be much longer.
When I realized that 5 Minute Stories had died, I went looking for a similar site. Needless to say, I didn't find one -- but there are a whole mess of lesser places, many of which are posted on The Meme List. Unfortunately, they all ready like The Book of Questions. Just glance at blogideas.com. I don't know why (especially when I've just launched a project that's more or less the same idea) but these sites bug the crud out of me. Still, I expect I may visit them for some ideas for journal topics in the coming school year.
Now, some skeptics would suggest that there's a correlation between recent US invasions of oil-rich countries (and subsequent appropriation of said oil for foreign corporate control) and ExxonMobil's glorious profit surge. But that would be cynical. Remember: The terrorists want you to oppose war and work toward nonviolent conflict resolution!
I continue to spend many hours maing the switch to Mozilla. Overall, I'm pleased; but the mail component has been a bit buggy here and there. (But I just cannot stand Apple's "Mail" program any longer.) Can't get autoscroll to work. Grrr.
Okay, time to do my entry for Tachygraphy.
MicroLife is fun for a while. Think Tamagotchi times five.
Today I'm listening to: Plug!
Well, this was going to be my first entry into 5 Minute Stories: Another project I need to waste some time on instead of writing the novel.
Then I realized that the site was last updated on 16 May. So I guess I won't be doing it every week, because apparently it doesn't exist anymore. Alas. Whatever. Here's the entry. (Pff.. I'll just start my own.)
I woke up to find my hands and shirt coated in a thick, sticky pink substance. I sniffed it lightly and -- sure, why not -- strawberry. Timidly, I tasted it. Frosting.
Why? Where had I been? My head was clear; I hadn't been drinking. I glanced around the place. Same old basement pad. Parents upstairs? Yeah, I could hear Bill O'Reilly telling someone to shut up. Dad was watching "The News". Mom doing a crossword, probably.
Frosting.. Frosting. Nope, nothing was coming to me. I got up and went to the germ-encrusted tub that passed for a sink down here. But do you just wash frosting off? And that much of it? I inadvertently smeared some on the tap nozzle. Seemed like you're supposed to eat it; lick it off, like a kid with egg beaters.
As the water rushed away, I just sorta stood there, gawking at my pink hands.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Yee-ha! Shoot that gun, Ann Coulter! If only you had the editors of evil old USAToday in yer sights! Those punks -- how dare they keep their readers from such trenchant insights:
Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, conservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do. My allies are the ones wearing crosses or American flags. . . . Also, as always, the pretty girls and cops are on my side, most of them barely able to conceal their eye-rolling.That's what the Democrats need -- more pretty girls and cops! Too many ugly, fat criminals at the DNC. Or something.
I don't know. It's all too ridiculous. Speaking of Dems, here comes Jolly Old John Kerry, sailing into harbour. Jon Stewart was right.. He's the right man to lead ARRRR! country.
Hey -- they should have Ann Coulter on the Daily Show. Wouldn't that be a great interview? If it were anything like the one he did with that woman in the Garfield movie . . .
Hey look -- not everyone agrees that Atkins is a straight-from-heaven genius. No low-cards in school lunches! No wonder our kids are getting so obese. They need Atkins-friendly items! When, oh when will the schools begin stocking Coke C2? Won't someone PLEASE think of the children!?
Did you know that Gainesville was home to a Civil War battle? It's true!
Blogger's profiles are pretty interesting. (Here's mine.) You can click on your various interests and see who else is interested in them. Lots of people like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; but not so many are into The Futurological Congress. There are some Merzbow fans about, however.
Play robot fighter japanese death game. Push the buttons (especially the arrows and Z and X and I think C also) and make the people kill the other people.
Today I'm listening to: DJ Spooky!
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Remember when that guy called me and said I was a "tool" for Hamas? Well it turns out he was holding back!
While on a conference call yesterday, I did a little ego search and came across a site called Little Green Footballs. Apparently, they (it's a community blog) were watching the Madison-Rafah vote closely, and seized upon the Capital Times article in which I appeared. It turns out the prank caller who charged me with being a "tool" was going easy on me! Check out these comments!
While most of the commentary centers on Alder Robbie Webber's unfortunate choice of words "You can call me naive. You can call me uninformed" -- check out the comments from Rayra and ballantrae -- they let me have it, too. The initial post identifies me as "a supporter of the proposal that has to win the prize for sheer cluelessness". Paranoid Brit and Cato the Elder just sorta poked fun at the hypersimplicity of my comment (it was, after all, a lone sentence from my two minute talk). Killraven, meanwhile, said:
If there are human beings left in Rafah at all, the IDF should be notified immediately so they can begin rescuing them.How nice! Kimberly had the most to say about me.
I mean, really. If you have enough intelligence to breathe and walk upright, aren't you capable of understanding just how meaningless and idiotic a statement that is? How pathetic a human being do you have to be to go home and cry over the thought that Rafah won't get to celebrate Madison as a "sister city," and how bad all those terrorists in Rafah must feel about that?Jakester chimed in with: "you got to give the l3er's credit for some really stupid, insipid comments!" (Can anyone tell me what "l3er's" are?)
I was pretty stunned to find all of this hateful rhetoric aimed at myself and (mostly) Webber, but overall I think I'm just sad. It saddens me to see that something as innocuous and humane as a sister city relationship (and I do think it's innocuous and humane) can lead to such rabid attacks on individuals. I'm also saddened by the apparent belief among many of the people on that site that there really aren't any humans in Rafah, apart from terrorists and Hamas cronies. I'm reminded of Franti's lyrics in "Language of Violence":
de-humanizing the victim makes things simplerI posted a note on the site, but so far no one has responded. My guess is that it's been buried in the mass of comments and other posts. Alas.
While looking up stuff about Israel/Palestine, I found two intriguing quotes on a ZNet background page, published by Jews for Justice in the Middle East.
The first is from Gandhi (1938):
Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French…What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. . . . If they [the Jews] must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. . . . As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regard as an unacceptable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.The second is from Albert Einstein (date unspecified):
I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State. Apart from practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state, with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain.Random
Need to send an important letter but don't want to use your own name? Send it from God! Thanks, MoFi.
Isn't that a great shirt? If anyone's trying to come up with a holiday gift idea . . .
How about that? One of my students gave me a shout out. (For those who don't prefer reading red-on-black, it says: "Also, someone who has influenced me a great deal would be Eric Piotrowski, a teacher of mine".) Awww, you like me. You really like me.
The Random Word Generator is kind of interesting. (Or should I say kind of ericiating?)
Okay, enough of this. I've got
Check out the Escher Web Sketch. It's escherying!
Today I'm listening to: Madame Mercury!
Monday, July 26, 2004
A while back I came upon a neat web-based photographic scavenger hunt called 26 Things. The organizers post a list of 26 words, and participants take pictures of those items. Just recently, I stumbled across the site again, and realized: Hey! I have a digital camera now! I can participate in the game!
So without further ado, here is my collection of 26 pictures. I ran around all day today shooting and cropping and editing and uploading. (What is this novel you keep asking about?)
WordCount is kinda intriguing.
Today I'm listening to: Groove Salad!
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Two more GI Joe Fensler remixes are up. Check out Body Massage and Soccer. Six down, nineteen to go!
Yes, I need a thousand chickens, please. You put 'em in little suits, to make 'em look nice? I don't think I can fit 'em in a taxi. You tell me you're gonna put a thousand chickens in a taxi? What's wrong with you?
Ted Rall has a blog. He's an excellent cartoonist, and also not bad as a writer. (His columns tend to be a little more sharp than his blog posts -- but for whom is that not true?)
Have some fun with the Hero Machine. It's superheriffic.
Today I'm listening to: DJ QBert!
Friday, July 23, 2004
They just keep coming. I've decided to remix all of them! Check out the latest (I swear I didn't plan this): fire and ice.
As you've probably noticed, I've given the site a redux. Mostly this was because the "recently" list at the right looked horrible under the old structure, and I couldn't find a way to fix it with the old template. (Blogger uses lots of (div) tags, and I just can't understand 'em.)
So yeah. Spiffy new look. I'm gonna dust everyday, too. With Lemon Pledge™.
I moved A Somewhat True Story -- my wiki about "Based on a true story" movies -- to a new server. I just couldn't take the editor at SeedWiki anymore. The new host requires a login, but it's quick and free. (And besides, no one's been contributing to it anyway.) So check it out and make your mark!
The most recent thing I added there was Lorenzo's Oil, pursuant to a recent BBC story.
I switched over to Firefox today. Blogger's new preview/editing functions don't work under IE, so I finally had a reason to make the move Jon Broad's been bugging me about for years. Happy now, Jon?
I actually like it pretty well. The tabs feature is pretty nice, and I definitely like the skins. It also seems to handle QuickTime better. (I don't know about Java, tho -- GoProblems.com seemed a bit buggy when I tried it earlier.)
Thanks to Mimi for the cute Nazi/kitten picture. Awww, how adorable! And genocidal!
And thanks to Jeremy Collins for linking us (again?) to TRS-80 (the band).
Hey, look -- Chomsky on C-SPAN!
Eskiv. Use your arrows. Get the box.
Today I'm listening to: Dub Beautiful Collective!
Thursday, July 22, 2004
I know most people haven't read the post from earlier today, so make sure you do that too. But I had a sudden flash of inspiration this evening when I came home from Go:
Hopefully you've all seen those excellent GI Joe Public Service Announcements with the funny new dialogue made by Fensler Films. (If not, go watch them all right now.)
Well, I suddenly realized it would be a great idea to take one of them (Computer -- number 15 on the list) and do a REMIX! (QuickTime, 5.6 MB)
I think it's a hit. I hope you like it. (Maybe I'll do more. Novel? What novel?)
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Wow -- the universe has such a wacky sense of humor! I was just about to write about how I have nothing interesting to blog about today, when I suddenly received an intriguing phone call. Here is a complete transcript:
Person: Hello, may I speak to Eric?Why would someone harangue me with such a rude, belligerent, and obscene phone call? Because I spoke out in favor of a proposed sister city relationship between Madison and Rafah, Palestine. (Check out that pro-terrorist quote of mine!)
The Madison City Council has been debating the resolution for some time, and it's become quite controversial, despite the fact that the relationship with Rafah would be fundamentally no different from our relationships with Ainaro, East Timor; Freiburg, Germany; or Managua, Nicaragua. My belief is that sister cities allow us to -- in some ways -- transcend politics, by creating people-to-people contacts, aiming at the essential human characteristics of people living around the world. That someone who read that article (or got my name from the minutes of the meeting) would be so juvenile to crank-call me (and not even in a funny way -- like the calls on RadioPrank) goes to show how interested people really are for honest, thoughtful dialogue.
I feel like I'm taking a journey . . . into madness!
Oh, Snake & Bacon -- what would we do without you? (That one's for Mimi.)
Thanks to Diane for linking us to the flowers that are also audio transmitters. These flowers go to eleven!
That Jenna Bush! She knows how to crack up those wacky reporters. Now this is news!
Check out this Olympics cartoon. An excellent production!
Today I'm listening to: Altered Beats! (Amazon lists it under "Popular Music," but I don't think it's very popular. No one else has ever heard of it.)
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
At a recent Vegas show, legendary singer Linda Ronstadt (see artist's conception at right) praised Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 9/11, calling him a "great American patriot" and "someone who is spreading the truth." According to news reports, all hell then broke loose.
Ronstadt's comments drew loud boos, and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air.However, one person who claims to have been at the party says it wasn't as chaotic as we hear.
There was mixed booing and cheering at Ronstadt's pro-Michael Moore comment, and that was about the extent of the "bedlam" that supposedly broke out. I saw no posters being torn down or cocktails being thrown in the air. . . . Frankly, my suspicion is that Timmins is way overdramatizing what happened, in order to justify giving Ronstadt the boot. It simply wasn't that big a deal.There's no question, though, that Ronstadt was fired for her incendiary comments. Now she'll have to go back to doing commercials for The Plow King.
And Now . . . The Boneheads
Dude -- piercing is so 1996. Tattoos are cool, but everyone's got em. If you really wanna stand out in a crowd, you have to dangle yourself from meat hooks. And no cheating, like using your clothes. Into the flesh! (TPCQ: "Whenever I see someone decorating his skull with a soldering iron, I think: 'There's a happy guy!'")
Or you can get naked and smear yourself with nacho cheese and run around a parking lot.
Lousy stinkin' jaywalkers! Shoot 'em! Kill 'em all!
You must see the breakdancing Transformers™. This is the best thing ever. You wanna do '80s retro fusion? Do it like this.
Today I'm listening to: Culture Failure!
Monday, July 19, 2004
. . . but that doesn't mean I won't blog today. (The title comes from an old George Carlin routine. First person to name the album gets a big prize.)
Speaking of which, the prize for the Kerry/Edwards Caption Contest is . . . Diane! Her prize will be a big smooch.
A fellow in Guinea recently found a 182-carat diamond. What a find -- that's four times as big as the Hope diamond. I'm sure it will bring him joy and well-being, like diamonds have done for the people of Sierra Leone.
Maybe Kino can offer some advice.
Make sure you see the cool new pics at Imagenary.
I guess GNN posted this a long time ago, but I never saw it: Ad-Rock (yes, the one from the Beastie Boys) remixed a speech from Nader -- then GNN added the video. Pretty cool!
Check out this parody advertising gallery. I think I like Starsucks the best. But Smuggle is pretty good too.
Today I'm listening to: Mad Professor!
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Well, Blogger isn't allowing us to see our pictures in any capacity before we publish, so I just hope this is proportioned okay! Stab in the dark and then go back and republish -- fun!
I know you've heard the Republicans constantly bashing Kerry for being "the number one most liberal person in the Senate." If you're like me, you either laugh of scratch your head and tick off all the people in the Senate who are further to the left. So where did it come from?
Speaking of explaining the inexplicable, how about some inexplicable objects? Thanks, MoFi.
And speaking of politics, check out Molly Ivins on C-SPAN's Washington Journal. Too bad they don't have John Stauber up yet! Jerkos! Hey, here's another Molly Ivins piece, about how Jesus told religious people not to preach on street corners.
Looking for something more relaxing? Try ambient sounds from around the world.
Wow, they added video to the BushSpeech machine. Wicked!
This Flash version of Tetris is slow and clunky, but it will do in a pinch.
Why anyone would want to punish themselves with a 4-D Rubik's Cube is beyond me. It's kinda cool, tho. I'm not certain if I believe that it's actually a four-dimensional object. I have trouble accepting that we could manipulate such a thing, even if it is virtual.
Check out Alien in 30 seconds, performed by cartoon bunnies.
Today I'm listening to: Groove Salad!
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Yesterday, someone named "Girl" posed this question in the comments section:
What is summer time like for teachers? Do you really think you deserve 3 months off?Yes, I really think I deserve three months off for several reasons:
Let me close by asking everyone to sign a real name to their comments (or at least a recognizable pseudonym). I don't mind challenging questions (hey, it gives me a chance to vent, right?), but I don't particularly care to be jabbed at from random people in the dark. Lemme know who you are, please. That's all I ask.
HalliBush Wars, Inc.
Well, it turns out that a bunch of people at the State Department knew that there were "dozens of factual problems" in the speech Colin Powell was scheduled to give at the UN in February 2003. Despite repeated objections by State Department experts, these bogus points were kept in. It's almost as though the Bush administration wanted to go to war, and they were cooking the intelligence in order to scare everyone else into going along with them. Nah, that's ridiculous.
Meanwhile, in Britain, a new report has "many wondering why, if the spies got it wrong, no-one was to blame."
The [report] has exposed "one of the greatest failures in British intelligence ever", said former foreign secretary Robin Cook, who resigned from Blair's government because of the decision to go to war.Boy, those Brits must hate Freedom. They must be part of the Blame America First crowd.
Seriously -- I don't understand the connection between mistakes being made and people being held responsible for those mistakes. Where is it written that just because our nations carried out a wretchedly bloody and illegal war based (supposedly) on false information, the people who provided that false information don't deserve to be punished? I know -- maybe this has nothing to do with false information! Maybe the murderers in Washington knew it was false information when they were pushing for the war in the first place. Maybe all this noise about who in the CIA messed up is beside the freaking point! Maybe Bush should have resigned and Tenet should have stayed!
I could go on, but why bother, when you can just watch Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War instead.
Does anyone else remember, once upon a time, when you typed in a faulty website address (say, for instance, using "com" instead of "org" for iraqbodycount), you'd just get an error window announcing that the server could not be found? Or, at the worst, you'd see a stupid cartoon stating "This website is under construction"? Well, no more!
Well, I was going to blame capitalism, but then I realized capitalism isn't all bad -- after all, it gives us Capitalist Chicks and The Puppy Channel. Yes, these are both real.
Speaking of excellent movies that expose the truth behind insipid right-wing attacks on American democracy -- check out the clips for OutFoxed, a new documentary that analyzes FoxNews and how it works to undermine journalism and intellectual integrity in America.
Today I finally jacked into AirAmerica Radio. A show co-hosted by Chuck D? Outtasite!
I also spent over an hour this morning slogging through the Black Athena debate. Quick capsule summary: Martin Bernal writes a book called Black Athena wherein he argues that Greece owes much of its philosophical and intellectual prominence to Egypt. Bernal -- along with many others -- spawns a movement of Afrocentric scholarship, which seeks to break out of the ancient Eurocentric paradigm of historical and "classical" research. Mary Lefkowitz retorts with Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History, which tries to debunk Bernal's work, and asserts that the Afrocentric wave of scholars are using myth and hype instead of fact and data. Dozens of books, articles, essays, and debates follow.
Particularly interesting to me were The Politics of Criticism [PDF] by Maghan Keita and an episode of NPR's Talk of the Nation from 1996, featuring Lefkowitz and Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University.
And how about a Bathroom Monkey? Jon Broad should like that one.
Check out the excellent (if old -- I'd never seen it before) video of Bush invigorating America's youth. Also make sure you read about White House attempts to accuse Letterman of doctoring the video.
Today I'm listening to: Onomatopoiea Radio, which is currently playing a superb Arabian version of Massive Attack's "Karmacoma". And before they played that groovy, trippy song -- anyone know the name or artist? -- that got overused in the Mitsubishi commercial.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Whenever I have a busy schedule, I always think to myself: "Boy, when I have some free time, I'm gonna write write write!" And then when the free time comes, I just put it off off off. So many other things to do! Play Go. Blog. Read Nelson George's new book (which is excellent, by the by). Read email. Work on Fred's Escape: Episode 3. Give Go lessons on KGS.
This guy says Bush flipped him the bird. I dunno -- doesn't sound like compassionate conservativism to me.
So a guy in Jacksonville got shot and now he wants to buy the gun company so he can destroy it. That's what I call responsible investing!
Has Fahrenheit 9/11 got you all bummed out? Do you need some reassurance that America is still a good place? Are the movies you watch not doing enough to calm you down and zombify your acquiescence to state and corporate power? Disney to the rescue! Check out America's Heart & Soul, which will set fire to your spirit and make you want to climb mountains and stuff. And pledge allegiance and go to the mall.
Diane will probably get a kick out of MorrisseyDance. I myself prefer Teeny Bopper Record Shopper.
Today I'm listening to:Autechre!
Monday, July 12, 2004
This week on The Adventures of Crazy Neighbor Lady (see artist's conception at right -- the real Crazy Neighbor Lady has no pets), watch as Kathy (not her real name) launches a new tactic for unleashing her insanity upon the world -- and especially her neighbor, Erik (not the real spelling of his name): Rapid-fire questions that make no sense and nearly defy response!
Thursday night. Pizza deliveryman knocks on Erik's door. As always when anyone knocks, Erik's dog Eislouch (not her real name) begins barking violently and will not stop until long after the following exchange. As Erik goes out to pay the man and get his pizza, Crazy Neighbor Lady opens her door and -- before it is fully opened -- begins demanding to know things.Join us tomorrow and next week and every day for at least another year as Crazy Neighbor Lady and her wacky friend Nick -- along with his male dog -- continue their fun-filled adventures!
Bubbles is kinda fun.
Today I'm listening to: Nonplace Urban Field!
Sunday, July 11, 2004
ARRGGHHH! I get so MAD when I have a blog post all ready to go, and then I go to a site to get a link and my web browser crashes and I lose the whole freakin' post and I have to do it all over again. AAARRGGH!
John and John
Thanks for being my running mate, John. Now I'm going to chew your face off!
Write your own captions in the comments box! Best entry wins a prize! (TBA)
Check out this John Ashcroft press conference culture jam. It's one of the most technically well-made bits of video tweak I've ever seen. A superb riposte to the constant fearmongering of HalliBush Wars, Inc.
And speaking of things you need to fear: Thieves and terrorists are always looking for a good laptop to steal. But if you diguise yours as a pizza, you can "reduce the risk of getting it nicked." You never know when some laptop-nicking hooligan will swipe your laptop. First it's the dustbins, then it's the mobile phones, then it's the laptops.
Li'l Johnny's Aquarium Adventure, via ABS. Quite the twisted concept.
Today I'm listening to: Laika!
Friday, July 09, 2004
The International Court of Justice has ruled -- according to a leaked set of documents -- that Israel's "separation fence" violates international law.
According to a 59-page document published on a Palestinian website, www.electronicintifada.net on Friday, the court will rule by fifteen to one that "the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law."Not surprisingly, Israel is dismissing the court's findings and smearing anyone who agrees with its decision as anti-Semitic.
In The Hague Israeli government spokesman David Saranga warned the international community that it should not allow the ICJ decision become "a tool to attack Israel".Also not shocking is speculation about how the US -- that known vanguard of international law and multilateral coalition-building -- will treat the court's decision at the UN.
If the Security Council was to vote on a resolution on the ICJ's finding, the United States is largely expected to veto it as Israel has requested.As always, Noam Chomsky has a few words worth hearing on the matter.
If the goal were security, Israel would have built the fence a few km inside its borders. It could then be a mile high, patrolled on both sides by the IDF, mined with nuclear weapons, utterly impenetrable. Perfect security.Mister Sharon, tear down this wall!
More on Moore
Tim Wise recently linked us to Robert Jensen critiquing Farenheit 9/11, calling attention to some important details. While I don't really agree that it's "a bad movie" or that "it's hard to find any coherent critique in the movie at all," I do agree with some of the points made. After recognizing "The good stuff" (ie, exposing the racism in Florida's 2000 election mess and the Congressional aftermath; showing US and Iraqi casualties), Jensen moves on to dissect the less progressive racial elements.
when he lists the countries in the so-called coalition, he uses images that have racist undertones. To depict the Republic of Palau (a small Pacific island nation), Moore chooses an image of stereotypical "native" dancers, while a man riding on an animal-drawn cart represents Costa Rica. Pictures of monkeys running are on the screen during a discussion of Morocco's apparent offer to send monkeys to clear landmines. To ridicule the Bush propaganda on this issue, Moore uses these images and an exaggerated voice-over in a fashion that says, in essence, "What kind of coalition is it that has these backward countries?"This is valid; I remember thinking the same thing when I went to the theater. (And yet, as a comment on Wise's page points out: "Chomsky calls Grenada 'the nutmeg capital of the world' and Howard Zinn after the U.S. bombed Libya used the device of degrading the U.S. action by saying that the U.S. had attacked 'a fourth rate country.'") Moving on, Jensen addresses what is probably more urgent: who gets repressed and who is shown being repressed.
. . . in the segment about law-enforcement infiltration of peace groups, the camera pans the almost exclusively white faces (I noticed one Asian man in the scene) in the group Peace Fresno and asks how anyone could imagine these folks could be terrorists. There is no consideration of the fact that Arab and Muslim groups that are equally dedicated to peace have to endure routine harassment and constantly prove that they weren't terrorists, precisely because they weren't white.Also an important point. I do wish Moore had spent less time on the Bush/Saudi connections (more on them below) and more time on the fallout of the Patriot Act; the consequences for Arab- and Muslim-Americans; and dissecting the lies that led to the Iraq war. Getting to the question of war itself, Jensen's main point is also his strongest:
But it is a serious mistake to believe that these wars [in Afghanistan and Iraq] can be explained by focusing so exclusively on the Bush administration and ignoring clear trends in U.S. foreign and military policy. In short, these wars are not a sharp departure from the past but instead should be seen as an intensification of longstanding policies, affected by the confluence of this particular administration's ideology and the opportunities created by the events of 9/11.This is true and essential. As I've said in this space before, Kerry is likely to be Clinton II, and Clinton didn't do much in terms of foreign policy that Americans should be proud of. Jensen makes this point, and provides this intriguing tidbit:
Ironically, Barry Reingold -- the Oakland man who was visited by the FBI -- is critical of what he sees as the main message of the film. He was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying: "I think Michael Moore's agenda is to get Bush out, but I think it (should be) about more than Bush. I think it's about the capitalist system, which is inequitable." He went on to critique Bush and Kerry: "I think both of them are bad. I think Kerry is actually worse because he gives the illusion that he's going to do a lot more. Bush has never given that illusion. People know that he's a friend of big business."I agree with most of what Jensen says, even if I still think F911 is an important, well-made, and enjoyable movie. I'm glad it's out; I waited in line for an hour to see it on opening day, and I will see it again (and buy it when it comes out for home consumption). It's a good movie, in spite of the fact that it should have been much better.
I like CounterPunch, but sometimes I think they throw out the baby with the bathwater. The book about Seattle by Cockburn, et al., Five Days that Shook the World, certainly suffers from this problem. While offering an excellent guide to what really happened; what the leadership did wrong; and why the Battle in Seattle was so important, the authors (mostly St. Clair) paint a simplistic black-and-white picture of property-destroying "real" revolutionaries vs. pathetic boot-licking collaborators and sellouts. I mean, attacking Medea Benjamin as "the diminutive head of Global Exchange"? Give me a break!
QED. I think I need to take a break from blogging about Michael Moore for a while.
The TrunkMonkey is pretty funny. Too bad it's a stinking ad.
Today I'm listening to: BassDrive!
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Now, I can't condone the wanton destruction of other peoples' property (especially individuals; I'm not sure how I feel about corporate property). But neither can I deny that phonebashing.com is one of the funniest things I've seen online since . . . well, since Trogdor. I guess I just have a soft spot for insane people dressed in giant cell phone costumes grabbing peoples' cell phones and smashing them on the street. (TPCQ: "Yeah, I just ordered. I'm having a piece of bread!")
They're all funny, but grab four is my favorite. The best part is when the woman chases after them and one of the giant cell phones shouts "Run!" and soon: "Keep running!" (TPCQ: "Quick! Let's keep escaping!")
Dancing Hazel the Hamster, via ABS. Bah! Weird Al did it first.
Today I'm listening to: The Jerky Boys!
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Recently, a pal of mine (with whom I occasionally disagree about matters political) said -- after I made a comment about neocolonialism contributing to development problems in Africa -- "People are always complaining about colonialism. It happened so long ago; get over it, already." Suffice to say I was a bit awestruck and couldn't think of a coherent reply, except something like "Easy for you to say."
This is not unlike the claim many white people make about slavery and Jim/Jane Crow and segregation in the US -- "It happened so long ago. Get over it already." Well, if you'll allow me, I'd like to set up an analogy.
Suppose you have a horrible accident, and your leg is amputated. (LIke the girl at right, one of many civilian victims of the war in Iraq.) Five years later, you and I are walking down the street, and you're walking more slowly than I am, because it's a bit tricky to walk with an artificial leg. I turn to you and say "Hurry up," to which you reply: "I can't walk so fast. My leg got amputated." Suppose I respond with: "Geez, that happened so long ago. Just get over it, already." No! That injury that happened so long ago still affects you, and currently serves as an impediment to your progress!
Now let's take it a step further. Suppose instead of an accident, your leg was amputated because your family was poor, you got bitten by a rat, couldn't afford medicine, and it got infected and required amputation. Suppose, too, that you can't afford a prosthetic leg. I, as your wealthy companion -- who could have given you the medicine for your rat bite (read: some kind of Marshall Plan for Africa) -- did not help out financially, and in fact still refuse to hook you up with the funds for an artificial limb. Now imagine I say: "Geez, that happened so long ago. Get over it, already."
Easy for the person with two legs to say.
The N Word
MAN, I wish I could get the Trio Network. Chuck D is hosting an original show there called The N Word, all about that hideous racial epithet. Check out these clips and tell me it doesn't look like a kickass show that the networks would air if they had any freaking vertebrae. Also check out this interview with Mistachuck himself.
Geez, black people are so sensitive about that word. White people haven't said it for years. Get over it, already!
Find out How Stuff Works! Ever wonder how people manage to go over Niagara Falls? Or what really happens with LASIK surgery? (TPCQ: "Sure it's great at first, but after ten years, your eyes fall out.") Or how a nautical mile is defined? Now you know!
Oh you wanna know who has the same birthday as me, ha? You wanna know a little something about that guy, ha? You wanna hear the story about how I made Jeremy Collins fall down laughing at the bowling alley, ha?
Check out The Singhsons. Pretty well done!
Today I'm listening to: The Orb!
Sunday, July 04, 2004
From a speech by Frederick Douglass on 5 July 1852 at Rochester's Corinthian Hall:
I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. . . .TimeWaster™
This animation for the Aiwa corporation comes from TokyoPlastic, who did the masterful drum machine. It's not as good as his/her/their earlier work, but it's fun.
Today I'm listening to: The Future Sound of London!
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Hip Hop News
Big ups to the National Hip-Hop Political Convention, which brought together MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, and Fred Hampton Jr. to talk about politics and hip-hop and America. (No, I will not make any "jokes" about "rap sessions" or "sitting down to rap about politics".)
Delegates were required to register 50 people to vote. Sweet.
In other hip-hop news, Kool Moe Dee has a book out (November 2003) called There's a God on the Mic, in which he ranks the 50 Greatest MCs of all time.
Mental notes from looking it over at the library: Run made it into the top 25, if I'm not mistakes, but DMC wasn't even on the list. I was pleased to see Ras Kass pretty high up in the standings, as with Redman and KRS-One (top 10). Lauryn Hill is the top-rated female, and MC Lyte is also pretty high up there.
Not surprisingly, Dee put himself at #5, but I was glad to see he had the panache to put several others above himself. I would put Prime Minister Pete Nice somewhere in the top 50, but in the afterword, Dee mentioned that he couldn't list members of groups as individual MCs, so he's planning another book of the 50 Greatest Rap Groups of All Time. We'll have to wait and make sure 3rd Bass makes that list.
Just look at these stunning photos of Saturn! Thank the gods we almost blew up the planet to launch the Cassini rocket!
Toothpaste for Dinner is a cool little comic. I especially like this one.
Thanks to Diane for linking us to The Crawford Wives.
Thanks also to Diane for linking us to The Dullest Blog in the World. Funny for a few minutes, I suppose. I can't imagine ever going to it again, tho.
Annoyed by telemarketers? Well, the real target of your ire should probably be the executives who ignore don't-call-lists and choose irritating evening hours for calls, but in any case -- why not use this script? Fun!
iSketch is iFun! Think online multiplayer Pictionary.
Today I'm listening to: Hedfunk!
MadWomen for Peace (incl. Diane)