Friday, December 31, 2010

a note on sickness

In Samuel Butler's satirical novel EREWHON (1872), the main character, Higgs, finds his way to a civilization where the understanding of moral behavior and physical sickness is reversed. For example, when people forge a check or rob someone with violence, they are taken to the hospital where they are said to be suffering from a "severe fit of immorality." Friends will come and visit solemnly and hope for a quick recovery. Physical sickness of any sort, on the other hand, is often hidden by those infected as it's looked on as a weakness of character, and those afflicted are punished with stints in prison (which, of course, often makes them worse).

George W. Bush also seems to inhabit a moral universe where many things are reversed, and I thought of the world of Erewhon recently when I heard him say in an interview that he once woke up with "the remorses."

More than just being a jab meant to mock George W. Bush's verbal ineptitude, what I mean to say is that, for George W. Bush and his ilk, "remorse" is a malediction, a disease of the mind to be snuffed out or cured. (Remorse often stems from compassion.) And more than that, in W.'s political world there was no remorse because there were no mistakes.

eureka roeg hauer erewhon
hauer reading erewhon eureka
Rutger Hauer reading Erewhon in Nicolas Roeg's Eureka (1983)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hope & Despair: a Valedictorian Speech and a Commencement Address

Here is a video of a speech Erica Goldson gave at her Coxsackie-Athens High School (the best high school graduation speech ever given?). She was the valedictorian. The speech is uncommonly insightful for someone in her position but it also made me wonder when exactly she had these realizations -- obviously it's unfitting to have carried on as she did throughout high school knowing what she knows.

The recording starts a little after the speech has begun. The following text is what's missing from the video, with the line in bold noting where the video picks up.

"There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take me to find Zen?" The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years." The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast – How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student."

The speech can be read HERE.

In an interview given at a later date, Goldson mentioned how the thought of never having a "B" on her report card caused her to wonder why she cared so much about her grades and why she tried so hard in school. Unfortunately she left it at that, with no hint as to what her conclusion was. From what I've been able to gather from another video, it seems like most of her thoughts only began to crystallize once she sat down to write the speech. Determined to express something she truly felt rather than bull-shitting her way through a standard type of meaningless, cliche ridden valedictorian speech, her unformed feelings finally congealed into words and made their way into her notebook. (The cliche ridden model is the very type of speech she gave her principal to read over for approval.)

Though Goldson quotes John Taylor Gatto in the speech, I came to find out that she didn't even know who he was until her favorite teacher, Donna Bryan (whom she has remained close to since the tenth-grade), recommended him to her after reading her first draft. (Bryan, who Goldson mentions by name in the speech, has subsequently been removed from teaching tenth grade honors. Aside from that, however, it sounds as though she is doing quite well.)

* * *

The following video is a commencement speech Chris Hedges gave at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois. It's from 2003, and history has shown Hedges' remarks to be spot on. That's the audience's problem, of course. Hedges is trying to drag their heads through the veil of feel-good fantasy that permeates American culture, and many of them simply aren't having it! (4 parts, 5 minutes each)

"Hedges' microphone was cut twice and two young men rushed the stage to try to prevent him from speaking. Hedges had to cut short his address and was escorted off campus by security officials before the ceremony was over. An editorial in The Wall Street Journal denounced Hedges for his anti-war stance on May 24. His employer, The New York Times, criticized his statements and issued him a written reprimand for "public remarks that could undermine public trust in the paper's impartiality." Shortly after the incident, Hedges left The New York Times..."

The patriots demonstrated all one needs to knows about how they truly feel about freedom of speech that day, and a certain prank by Sacha Baron Cohen immediately came to mind while I watched the whole fiasco unfold.

Many people have already seen the following video, but, for those who haven't, it relates to the Hedges video in that it shows how a certain American audience reacted when confronted with a performer whose content and ideas were truly ridiculous and reprehensible. But then again, it is a catchy tune!

The juxtaposition of the two events seems very appropriate to me: a truth-teller ridiculed and a prankster applauded.

"The masses have never thirsted after truth... Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim." --Gustave Le Bon

Friday, December 10, 2010

(wikileaks) terror, terrorism, and terrorists: part 1

note: this isn't meant as a stand alone post, but due to its length i've reordered it a little and broken it in two.

* * *

"Assange is an active enemy combatant who is engaged in information warfare against the United States. What he is doing is going to have incalculable damage to this country. It is going to have a number of innocent people killed, a number of our allies killed. It is going to put Americans at risk... This is an act of war against the United States." —Newt Gingrich [X]

"This guy's a traitor, he's treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. And I'm not for the death penalty, so... there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch." —Bob Beckel, Democratic Fox News analyst [X]

"Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty." —Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas [X]

"Strange how most right wingers and others such as Joe LIEberman and Bob Beckel are using the same tactics that Islamic extremists used against Salman Rushdie when he criticized their religion." —MeritisDE (youtube comment)

* * *

"WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain's The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.

Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes. I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the US for me to be "taken out" by US special forces. Sarah Palin says I should be "hunted down like Osama bin Laden", a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared a "transnational threat" and disposed of accordingly. An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister's office has called on national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed for no other reason than to get at me." —Julian Assange [X]

"Prosecutors have used the Espionage Act to convict officials who leaked classified information. They have never successfully convicted any leak recipient who then passed the information along, however, and the Justice Department has never tried to prosecute a journalist — which Mr. Assange portrays himself as being — under either a Republican or a Democratic administration." —New York Times [X]

"I certainly believe that WikiLleaks has violated the Espionage Act, but then what about the news organizations — including The Times — that accepted it and distributed it? To me, The New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, and whether they have committed a crime, I think that bears a very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department." —Joe Lieberman, US senator [X]

"I don't want to get into specifics here, but people would have a misimpression if the only statute you think that we are looking at is the Espionage Act," Mr. Holder said Monday at a news conference. "That is certainly something that might play a role, but there are other statutes, other tools that we have at our disposal."


Meanwhile, according to another government official familiar with the investigation, Justice Department officials have also examined whether Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks could be charged with trafficking in stolen government property.

But scholars say there might be legal difficulties with that approach, too, because the leaked documents are reproductions of files the government still possesses, not physical objects missing from its file cabinets. That means they are covered by intellectual property law, not ordinary property law.


Intellectual property law is not well designed to prosecute what WikiLeaks is doing, cautioned James Boyle, a Duke University law professor who specializes in intellectual property and public-domain issues.

"The reason people are upset about this is not about commercial theft or misusing the fabulous original expressions of U.S. diplomats," Mr. Boyle said. "I think it is the wrong tool. You go after Al Capone for tax evasion rather than bootlegging — fine. But this is a bridge too far." —New York Times [X]

* * *

"The U.S. State Department has imposed an order barring employees from reading the leaked WikiLeaks cables. State Department staffers have been told not to read cables because they were classified and subject to security clearances. The State Department’s WikiLeaks censorship has even been extended to university students." [X]

From: Office of Career Services []

Date: Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Subject: Wikileaks – Advice from an alum

Hi students,

We received a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department. He asked us to pass along the following information to anyone who will be applying for jobs in the federal government, since all would require a background investigation and in some instances a security clearance.

The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. He recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.


Office of Career Services

* * *

Rep. Peter King, the ranking Republican member of the House Homeland Security Committee, wants to designate WikiLeaks as a "foreign terrorist organization."

"They are engaged in terrorist activity. What they're doing is clearly aiding and abetting terrorist groups," King told Fox News. "Either we're serious about this or we're not." [X]

* * *

"After providing 24-hour notification, American owned EveryDNS dropped WikiLeaks from its entries on 2 December 2010, citing DDoS attacks that "threatened the stability of its infrastructure". The site's 'info' DNS lookup remained operational at alternative addresses for direct access respectively to the Wikileaks and Cablegate websites. On the same day, severed its ties with WikiLeaks, to which it was providing infrastructure services, after an intervention by an aide of US Senator Joe Lieberman. Amazon denied acting under political pressure citing a violation of its terms of service." —wikipedia [X]

"PayPal Admits State Department Pressure Caused It To Block WikiLeaks" [X]

* * *

"In an online interview with Agence France-Presse, the hackers vowed to stage cyber assaults against anyone with an "anti-WikiLeaks agenda."

The group has also claimed credit for taking down the sites of PayPal, the Swiss Post Office bank, and other entities that have begun shutting off the WikiLeaks money spigot.

Sarah Palin told ABC News that she too had been hacked.

"No wonder others are keeping silent about Assange's antics," Palin emailed. "This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts." —NY Daily News [X]

"Our primary objective is to protect sharing of digital information and culture, so everybody can access to it, so that implies defending freedom of speech," three of the hackers attacking the Swiss Bank told me in a collaborative online discussion on Monday. (When asked to whom that statement should be attributed, the answer came back: "We are nothing without each other. We all act as one.")

"We will fire at anyone or anything that tries to censor WikiLeaks. The major shitstorm has begun."

"[The] Internet is the only place left where we can communicate freely without any censorship... until now," they said." [X]

* * *

"Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: "You'll risk lives! National security! You'll endanger troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can't be both. Which is it?

It is neither. WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US, with Australian government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months alone.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn't find a single person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by anything we have published." —Julian Assange [X]

"Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they've never been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. And yet, look at what has happened to them. They've been essentially removed from the internet, not just through a denial of service attacks that are very sophisticated, but through political pressure applied to numerous countries. Their funds have been frozen, including funds donated by people around the world for his—for Julian Assange's defense fund and for WikiLeaks's defense fund. They've had their access to all kinds of accounts cut off. Leading politicians and media figures have called for their assassination, their murder, to be labeled a terrorist organization. What's really going on here is a war over control of the internet and whether or not the internet can actually serve what a lot of people hoped its ultimate purpose was, which was to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world's most powerful factions. That's what this really is about. It's why you see Western government, totally lawlessly, waging what can only be described as a war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange outside the bounds of any constraints, because that's what really is at stake here. If they want to prosecute them, they should go to court and do it through legal means. But this extralegal persecution ought to be very alarming to every citizen in every one of these countries, because it essentially is pure authoritarianism and is designed to prevent the internet from being used as its ultimate promise, which is providing a check on unconstrained political power." —Glenn Greenwald, constitutional attorney [X]

* * *

"The state's reaction to the RAF set off a number of anti-democratic developments in the Federal Republic of Germany: the curtailing of civil rights and extensive anti-terror legislation and other laws were passed ostensibly in defense of the constitution. In fact, it was all part of the RAF's strategy to force the hand of the state to expose openly its latent fascist tendencies." —Karin Bauer, In Search of Ulrike Meinhof

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

split affinities (2)

jj cord cutter's way
the fat all the little animals
J.J. Cord (Cutter's Way, 1981) and "The Fat" (All the Little Animals, 1999)

There is a war between the rich and poor,
a war between the man and the woman.
There is a war between the ones who say there is a war
and the ones who say that there isn't.

Why don't you come on back to the war, that's right, get in it.
Why don't you come on back to the war, it's just beginning.

--"There Is a War", Leonard Cohen (1974)

putin sunglasses
cheney sunglasses
Vladimir Putin and Dick Cheney

cutter's way
Cutter's Way (Ivan Passer, 1981)

Friday, December 03, 2010

split affinities

fellini satyricon wall

Fellini Satyricon (1969)

basquiat untitled 1987

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1987)

samo graffiti basquiat diaz

"SAMO" graffiti (1977-1980) - Jean-Michel Basquiat & Al Diaz

beat street graffiti

"RAMO" graffiti (1984) - from Stan Lathan's Beat Street