Progressive Calendar 08.29.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Sat, 29 Aug 2009 02:49:06 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   08.29.09

1. Anti-war report  8.29 4pm
2. Jailed by Israel 8.29 9pm

3. BillionaireCare  8.30 2pm

4. Peace walk       8.31 6pm RiverFalls WI
5. Amnesty Intl     8.31 7pm

6. RNC class action 9.01 12:30pm
7. NWN4P vigil      9.01 4:45pm
8. RNC court watch  9.01 6pm
9. Call Gaertner    9.01

10. Joe Bageant  - Obama's fake fight for reform
11. Myles Hoenig - The one term wonder
12. Gary Corseri - The end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle
13. ed           - The hope trope  (poem)

--------1 of 13--------

From: Christine Frank <christinefrank [at] visi.com>
Subject: Anti-war report 8.29 4pm

REPORT BACK ON THE NATIONAL ANTI-WAR ASSEMBLY

SPEAKER: JOE CALLAHAN
MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL ANTI-WAR ASSEMBLY
AND A PARTICIPANT IN THE JULY CONFERENCE
IN PITTSBURGH, PA

SATURDAY, AUGUST 29, 4:00 PM
MAYDAY BOOKS
301 CEDAR AVENUE SOUTH
WEST BANK, MINNEAPOLIS

Joe Callahan will be giving a report on the discussions and decisions that
were made at the Pittsburgh conference of the National Anti-War Assembly,
which took place the weekend of July 10th.  In doing so, he will also
describe the current state of the U.S. anti-war movement and what is at
stake for activists, who are organizing opposition to the U.S. occupations
of Iraq and Afghanistan.  He will also outline plans for future anti-war
actions to bring the troops home that are scheduled for this fall.

SPONSORED BY: SOCIALIST ACTION www.socialistaction.org
<http://www.socialistaction.org/> FOR MORE INFORMATION, EMAIL:
tcsocialists [at] yahoo.com


--------2 of 13--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Jailed by Israel 8.29 9pm

Marvelous Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) viewers:

"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and
Tuesdays at 8am, after DemocracyNow!  Households with basic cable may
watch.

Sat 8/29, 9pm and Tues, 9/1, 8am
Women Activists Jailed in Israel Speak Out

MN peace activists Sarah Martin and Katrina Plotz share their recent
experience of detention in and deportation from Israel.  Meet the women
Israel deemed a "security threat" and hear their story. (8/09)


--------3 of 13--------

From: Joel Albers <joel [at] uhcan-mn.org>
Subject: BillionaireCare 8.30 2pm

Sept 6, sunday. State Fair, exact location TBA
3PM,AM Radio 950 James Mayer's State Fair Broadcast
w/ Joel albers from UHCAN-MN re: single-payer, act-up
and some analysis of current legislation.

Be there at 2PM dressed to the nines as a BillionaireCare
mogel for Wealth Care as a privilege !! Flyer, and get word out.

FFI contact Joel Albers email: joel [at] uhcan-mn.org phone: 612-384-0973


--------4 of 13--------

From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net>
Subject: Peace walk 8.31 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] comcast.net. Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022


--------5 of 13--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 8.31 7pm

Augustana Homes Seniors Group meets on Monday, August 31st, from 7:00 to
8:00 p.m. in the party room of the 1020 Building, 1020 E 17th Street,
Minneapolis. For more information contact Ardes Johnson at 612/378-1166 or
johns779 [at] tc.umn.edu.


--------6 of 13--------

From: Melissa <smilyus [at] msn.com>
Subject: RNC class action 9.01 12:30pm

PRESS CONFERENCE
September 1, 2009
12:30 P.M.

On September 1, 2009, at 12:30 p.m., a press conference will be held in
the park area near the intersection of Shepard Road and Chestnut Street in
St. Paul, Minnesota, to announce the filing of a class-action civil rights
lawsuit against the City of St. Paul and its law enforcement officials.

The plaintiffs claim that the City violated their constitutional rights
when on September 1, 2008, law enforcement officers acting under the
direction of the City ordered the mass arrest of over 200 persons at the
site of this press conference.  Police officers, using chemical irritants
and non-lethal ammunition, rounded up all citizens on Shepard Road and
corralled them into park land where they were placed under arrest.  Many
of the arrestees were taken to jail where they were held up to 72 hours;
none of the plaintiffs were convicted of crimes.

The plaintiffs charge that the City had no probable cause to arrest
everyone on Shepard Road and that the use of chemical irritants and
non-lethal ammunition was excessive.  Law enforcement officers did not
give dispersal orders.  Rather, officials ordered the arrest of all
persons on Shepard Rd. as part of a City policy to isolate and contain
political expression hostile to the Republican National Convention.

Attending the press conference will be the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and
their attorneys.  Copies of the Complaint and video footage of the mass
arrest are available upon request.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:  please call plaintiffs' attorneys Robert Kolstad
(612-721-3425), David L. Shulman (612-870-7410), or Travis Snider
(612-872-1200).


--------7 of 13--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net>
Subject: NWN4P vigil 9.01 4:45pm

NWN4P vigil every Tuesday.
Corner of Winnetka and 42nd Avenues in New Hope. 4:45 to 5:45 PM.
All welcome; bring your own or use our signs.


--------8 of 13--------

From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at] gmail.com>
Subject: RNC court watch 9.01 6pm

RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing
court information, documentation and etc.  RNC Court Watchers Meetings are
every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our
meetings.

Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the
streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately
used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to
disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The
RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this
intimidation, harassment and abuse!

Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to
find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent
people.

Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M
participate and help organize RNC court solidarity.
For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at] gmail.com
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!


--------9 of 13--------

From: info [at] rnc8.org
Subject: Call Gaertner 9.01

National Call-in to Susan Gaertner Sept. 1
One Year Later - Call-in to Susan Gaertner September 1st* 651-266-3222 |
Fax: 651-266-3010 | RCA [at] co.ramsey.mn.us

On September 1, 2008, thousands took to the streets of St. Paul to challenge
the Republican National Convention. One year later, the RNC 8 are still
facing serious legal repercussions because of their organizing.  Authorities
typically charge a few activists who take to the streets - this time, they
went after the people who fed and housed protesters in the days before.

We are asking people across the country to take a few minutes on Tuesday,
September 1 - the one-year anniversary of the RNC resistance - to contact
Ramsey County Attorney (and aspiring Democratic candidate for Governor)
Susan Gaertner and tell her to DROP THE CHARGES!  It's been a full year of
dragging community members through the mud, wasted taxpayer dollars, and
embarrassment for Susan's campaign. Enough is enough!

Tuesday Sept. 1 2009
Contact Susan Gaertner:
County Attorney's Office: 651-266-3222 | Fax: 651-266-3010 |
RCA [at] co.ramsey.mn.us
Campaign Office: 651-645-2010 | info [at] susangaertner.com
Let us know if you made a call or email by contacting us at info [at] rnc8.org

on the interwebz:
*Facebook:* http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=15561103028 |
http://www.facebook.com/susangaertner*
Flickr: *http://www.flickr.com/photos/susangaertner2010*
Twitter: *http://www.twitter.com/SusanGaertner
 Were you at the RNC? Wondering WTF this is still going on?  Make a call.
Last year Sheriff Bob Fletcher had Susan's phone ringing off the hook -
now it's our turn.

(P.S. We've raised more money than Susan's campaign for Governor; now help
us get more Twitter followers than her, too!  Sign up for our feed at
http://witter.com/defendthernc8)


--------10 of 13--------

You Don't Need a Trojan Horse When You Live in Troy
Obama's Fake Fight for Reform
By JOE BAGEANT
CounterPunch
August 28-30, 2009

Almost a year after the Great Giddy Swarming of the Obamians last
November, some of the revelers are waking up with one booger of a
hangover. And they are asking themselves, :What were we thinking when we
had that 10th drink of Democratic Party Kool-Aid?" It was a clear cut case
of seduction and date rape. The spike in the drink was of course, hope.
Poor pathetic American liberals. Forever doomed to be naive freshmen at
the senior beer bash.

We try to take comfort in that we won't have to listen to or look at John
McCain or Sarah Palin for four years, except in the American Legion
Magazine and in Palin's case, as a centerfold in the next issue of Middle
Aged Skin.  OK, we really are grateful. But could the pathetic
McCain-Palin clown act possibly have created much more havoc than what we
are seeing?

Case in point: I got up this morning to the headline: "Social Security
Checks to Shrink". Surely this makes a slew of generation Xers cackle with
glee. But some of us are trying to stay drunk on that check until our date
with a heart attack or one of those death panels the Republicans are
yammering about. Since January I've been telling my wife we could expect
Social Security to start shrinking. Ever the concerned citizen, she
replies "Can't you find another jag to get on? Eight months for god sake!"

To be honest though, I wasn't sure just how the Social Security scam would
be run on us. All I knew was that the steady stream of payments into
Social Security represents the last big hog still running the woods.
Sooner or later corporate interests would gut it.

Corporate interests? Yup. It's like this. Congress and the president hands
the public treasury to elite financial corporations, via bailouts, special
tax breaks and cash stuffed aircraft carriers bound for their fortified
French villas.   Then Congress and the administration go looking for some
new scheme to the pay for the Congressional Country Club out there in
Bethesda, MD, the White House heating bill and money to keep Air Force One
in toilet paper and armengnac marinated quail breasts.

This newest Social Security shell game is quite a bit slicker than the
previous one. The old one consisted of simply ripping the money out of the
SS fund, and replacing it with bad paper -- IOUs repayable in up to 100
years. Since our Social Security checks cannot be cut by law, the boys on
the Hill had a problem. The solution was to raise the Medicare
prescription drug premium deducted from SS payments. Now I ask you, could
the old zombie war hero and the semi-slutty Alaskan have come up with
anything like that? I doubt it. It takes a Harvard degree in
constitutional law and a devil on your shoulder named Tim Geithenr
whispering the game plays in your ear.

A poster on AlterNet named monkeywrench observed that Obama couldn't have
handed the corporate owners of this country more if he had been a Trojan
Horse candidate. So prescient was the poster that I have highjacked his
chain of thought herein. Could Obama be a Trojan horse? Maybe, but it
would be a waste of time and effort. Trojan hoses are not necessary in a
country that has only one political party anyway - Big Business. You don't
need a Trojan Horse when Troy is your home. The Republicans vs. Democrats
mock combat are mere bread and circuses for the clamoring crowd.
Personally, I have no problem with that. I fully understand I was born
under a corpocracy. But I do wish our masters grasped the importance of
free alcohol in the suspension of disbelief.

Despite the traditional honeymoon, Obama marriage to the people did not
start on a good note. The checking account and all the credit cards were
solely in the groom's name. Consequently we had the direct cash handout to
Wall Street (smootch, smootch - Married one month and already the guy has
another dame!). We howled when Bush did the same on the way out. But when
Obama did Bush one better, or actually many times better, we all prayed he
knew what he was doing in doing. Which was CPR on expiring bankers. But
who knew? Perhaps pumping money into the bloated carcass of
klepto-capitalism might revive the old trollop, eliciting those watery
coughs and glazed blinks seen in drowning victims. So imagine our surprise
when the ailing patient got up and kicked the hell out of the rescuers.
"Whadda ya mean help out mortgage victims with some of this dough? Their
job is to pay the friggin freight, stay in debt, not get out of it". Just
down the beach the stock exchange lay, also flattened by the exploding
housing bubble. Aroused by the smell of money, the market sits up for a
moment, manages a weak smile, then plops out again. Then sits up, then
buckles ... sits . buckles . sits . buckles. This is what you get for 8.5
trillion samolians?

Doc Holmes, an economics professor at our local University, a fellow much
given to driving caps and whiskey sours, tells me: "The economy will fire
up next year, we will see a recovery".

"Why?" I ask".

"At the right times there will be new kinds of stimulus money".

"So it's like squirting starter fluid into the carburetor?"

"Sort of".

"What if there isn't any gas in the tank?"

"Then it will be a limited recovery".

For this you must study eight or ten years? Now I know why I like garage
mechanics better than economists. Mechanics assume the goal is to get down
the road more than a mile or so.

Meanwhile, the much anticipated and loudly ballyhooed healthcare reform
bill is on the stretcher and suffering a definite code blue. Not only has
someone hidden the defibrillator, but packs of orchestrated brownshirts
beat on the body as it is wheeled through Town Hall. Folks like
monkeywrench are somewhat suspicious of the weak fight Obama has put up
against the brownshirts. Millions of us watching the healthcare fight from
the cheap seats have been yelling to Obama, "Punch back for christ's sake!
We know you can dance like a butterfly. Now sting like a goddamned bee!"

But we've seen our guy take a backroom dive for Big Pharma already. And he
was barely out of the arena dressing room before he ditched the public
option from his fight kit. Now he's trying to stuff it back in without
being too noticeable about it. At this point though, it doesn't look good.
And why are the GOP bookies all smiling? Dammit, they are the minority
party. Doubtlesly though, we will see "The Bill" passed, then carried
through the streets of the city on the shoulders of laurel crowned
senators. But it will be too weak to sit up and wave at the crowd.

Stepping outside the healthcare fight arena to catch a breath of fresh
air, we feel heat on the neck from our newest war, Afghanistan, which is
getting hotter by the day.  Sticklers remind me that it is an expansion of
an old war. Agreed. Old or new, it's getting bigger and hotter and
promises to be longer and more expensive than anyone mentioned when we
agreed to pay the tab. Personally, I don't remember agreeing to anything,
but Obama calls it "our" action on behalf of democracy, so I maybe I did.
I forget a lot of stuff these days. And besides, democracy, blue fingers,
Afghan women set free to wear thongs in the bazaar and watch Oprah? What
more could any freedom loving American ask? Well, some do ask for more;
Haliburton is in Afghanistan and wants a bundle for doing the same bang-up
job it did in Iraq.

Come to think of it, a lot of Americans would ask for a job. Now if
anybody thought an Obama administration would be a job creation
administration, they surely must be running down the street pulling out
their hair and screaming, "Oh prince of my days, darest thou have me drink
of this bitter betrayal?" We've seen an outright rejection of job
creation, except for a few small showcase programs for PR purposes. So
called shovel ready stuff, easily photographed and conveniently located in
blue state strongholds. But then too, the bankers needed the money more.

This morning we got a new "interrogation agency". With the FBI, the CIA
and the U.S. Army, we need one more? Apparently. This one is to be
overseen directly by the White House. Liberals had a shit fit when Bush
and Cheney did essentially the same thing. Ran a slap shop out of the
White House.  And they did so, we might add, without the expense of
creating a new agency. There they were, just two guys smoking cigars and
riding their tricycles around the Oval Office and signing off on torture
memos. Now how expensive could that be?

Also, we thought it had been established that the White House was not
supposed to be in that business. I might be prudish, but it's rather
unseemly for a president to be personally in charge of the republic's ball
shockers and the waterboards. We hung Saddam Hussein's ass for that very
thing (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2269346183614501083). The
Obama victory was supposed to be proof of our national rejection of this.

Oh, but how could I have forgotten? We will use more fully trained
"interrogators". Isn't it at least a little chilling how that term has
become so easily accepted into our daily language, or that TV series based
on interrogation are broadcast into the nation's living rooms? Spooky
damned country we've got here.

We are assured however, that these people trained in coercion, people
convinced they hold the life or death of this nation their hands, and who
are sanctioned by the President of the United States himself, would never
torture anyone. Never, never, never. Not even when left completely alone
in some unknown site with a "high-value detainee". Never, never, never,
cross their hearts and hope to die.

On a strangely hopeful note, the CIA is pissed about the new agency having
all the fun. So maybe Obama is on to something. Or maybe he's just naive.
Maybe I am. Maybe we all are. Americans are pretty famous for being
clueless. One thing I do know is this: Anyone who chooses to scare the
piss out of other people for a living, coerce people in locked chambers
while wearing military uniforms, or spend their life navigating dark
channels of lies and deceit, no matter how noble the cause is supposed to
be, is a freak. Why should we ever trust any of them?

And let's not even talk about prosecuting that venomous old toad Cheney or
his ventriloquist lap dummy, Sparky the Dry Drunk Cowboy. Sparky, tell the
people what you learned today..- Mission accomplished! Yuk, yuk, yuk!
And get your hand out of my ass Dick! Why is there no prosecution of any
of the Bush administration for all those smoldering Iraqi babies? Because
Obama says we need to go forward and not look back. Personally, I don't
feel very good about turning my back while such genocidal torturing creeps
still are at large.

The capitalist royalty's quo of capitalist remains in place, yes with a
few cosmetic changes in credit cards and mortgages, but nevertheless AFTER
both industries made off with their greatest haul in history. For the
owning class corporate elites, the so-called reforms are gnat bites,
irritating but easily overcome. Legions of Harvard MBAs are working on how
to thwart those laws as we speak.  Organizations that do the same without
friends in Congress are called racketeers.

To his everlasting credit, Obama did deliver on his main promise. Hope.
And that... sure as hell all we're left holding. Well, that and a national
debt so big we've all quit counting. The debt is like one of those PBS
Nova astronomy specials - after the first few billion you don't care how
many stars there are in the universe, you'd rather watch The Office. Which
feels a lot more like real life than the media's news reports, wherein
well coiffed blondes prattle about the consumer index and the coming
Thanksgiving shopping season. As if the country were not dead broke and
the Chinese loan sharks were not standing out there under the street
light.

The sharks had better be willing to take their due in cash. We've got
plenty of that. The presses over at the U.S. Mint are running so hot the
printers wear barbecue gloves. But the last of the real money, the real
stuff we borrowed from countries that actually produce something of value,
is gone, left the building a years ago, when it was hauled up to the 35th
floor executive lounges on Wall Street, then swapped out for Yuan and
Euros.

Unfortunately I'm stuck here in the States for a couple more months
watching the miserable set of national affairs that ensued. Since the boys
in the executive lounge cashed in. I've decided to cash in too. By going
into the umbrella business. Because it's sure to rain more crap on the
rest of us left down here in the streets.

Joe Bageant is author of the book, Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches
from America's Class War. (Random House Crown), about working class
America. He is also a contributor to Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots
Resistance from the Heartland (AK Press). A complete archive of his
on-line work, along with the thoughts of many working Americans on the
subject of class may be found on ColdType and Joe Bageant.s website,
joebageant.com.


--------11 of 13--------

The One Term Wonder
by Myles Hoenig
August 28th, 2009
Dissident Voice

It is ridiculous to predict the outcome of the 2012 Presidential
elections, but people are doing it. Many are saying that Obama has
squandered whatever goodwill he has earned with his health care fiasco and
will be a one-term president. Either the right thinks he's pushing death
panels or the left sees him as selling them out on Single Payer, let alone
a public option. Will he be challenged in the Primaries? That would be
unheard of. (Ford, being the accidental president, was challenged by
Reagan.) The Republicans are already lining up in New Hampshire and Iowa
testing the waters.

I for one am not at all upset that Obama has sold out the Left. Hell, he's
a Democrat. What person in their right mind would think that he wouldn't
be beholden to corporate interests first and foremost? Oh, 99% of
Democrats, maybe. That's why lesser evilism is the prevailing electoral
philosophy in America. Yet some say that he was/is different. He's smart.
He's a decent family man. He showed us hope. Well, he showed us hope like
Reagan showed us that it was "morning in America". In reality it was
"Mourning in America". In Baltimore during the last mayoral
administration the slogan seen all over the city was the word, "Believe"
in white letters on a black background. Like "Hope," it was an empty
slogan. "Hope" or "Believe" tell us that we're on the bottom and we can
only move in one direction.

Let's pretend that the magic crystal ball does predict a one term
president. What could he do (without being impeached) that would really
make a difference?

He could scrap his health care plan completely, start all over, and go
with Single Payer, which is supported by nearly 2/3 of all Americans. Hey,
Michael Douglas in The American President scrapped his gun control bill in
the end for a real working plan. People seemed to cheer him on for that
"bold" move, as bold a move could ever be made in Hollywood! Have a full
fledged campaign, like it was an election, equating the pharmaceutical
company and the health insurance industry to the likes of Al Qaeda. Who
would dare to take Big Pharma's and the insurance companies' side? Learn
from the right on how to mobilize your base. President Obama, the first
community organizer, seemed to have forgotten how to do it once the
election was over. Or maybe that he had no intention of disrupting the
profiteering of the largest legal extortion racket in America: the health
insurance industry.

On other issues, give up on the weasel-like pronouncements that the US
opposes the expansion of the settlements in occupied Palestine. Come out
and say that all the settlements are illegal and ought to be dismantled,
according to international law. If AIPAC hasn't hired the Aryan Nation by
this time to take him out then continue to campaign for the full
restitution of rights and the Right of Return for all Palestinians forced
into exile by the formation of the State of Israel.

End the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. The war in Iraq
has already ended in 2003 when they captured (and later on hanged
Hussein), and when Obama was still a State Senator of Illinois. Bring the
invading armies home.

Full fledged house cleaning of the military, weeding out right wing
neo-Nazis, Christian zealots, etc., who are using their military training
for a white, Christian jihad here in the states. That should include high
ranking officers, as well as the soldier in the field.

Reverse our age old policy of exploiting Latin America and welcome Chavez,
Morales, and others as equal partners. Bring back CITGO gas stations, as
we seem to be losing them to BP all over Baltimore. End the embargo on
Cuba with the stroke of a pen.

Expand Secret Service protection and then grant a full pardon and
restitution to Leonard Peltier. Watch out for pissed off FBI agents! Show
the world that political prisoners in the US is part of our history but
stops now. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now pressed President Clinton back in
2000 for a pardon but was rebuffed. Ah, President Clinton. The best
Republican president the Democrats ever had!

Nationalize the utility industry, including water. Nothing that affects
the lives of all Americans should ever be in private hands and for profit.

Demand of his Attorney General Eric Holder to hold full investigations on
every known war crime committed; including those of Bush 41, Clinton, Bush
43 and even himself, as he has already committed war crimes with illegal
detention, rendition, torture (yes, it still continues at Gitmo), etc.
Show the American public that no one really is above the law.

The irony in all of this is that many on the left hoped that some of this
would happen with an Obama administration. Too bad many have been punked
by him: The ones who thought he was anti-war even though he ran on
expanding it in Afghanistan and not ending the occupation of Iraq. Running
against the health insurance industry but then giving them sweetheart
deals to curry their support for a health care plan that omits the one
plan supported by a vast majority (Single Payer). Showing signs of
recognizing that Palestinians have been treated unfairly and then turning
a blind eye as Israel engaged in a brutal invasion of Gaza.

It's no fun being punked. Maybe we would have had a gradual Medicare
system for all, like Ralph Nader suggests, if McCain had won. Congress
would have been so enraged that such a health care system probably would
have sailed through Congress forcing McCain to threaten to veto the only
reasonable health care reform possible. With either candidate, though, the
empire would continue unabated.

But if there were to be real change, real hope, than maybe a president not
afraid of losing the next election would be so bold as to actually do
what's right.

Wait a minute. I am talking about Democrats and Republicans, aren't I? Oh,
never mind.

Myles Hoenig is a disenchanted member of PGCEA, a teachers' union in
Maryland. He also ran a Green Party gubernatorial campaign in Maryland in
2006. (Eddie Boyd. Presente!) He can be reached at:
myles.hoenig [at] gmail.com.  website.


--------12 of 13--------

The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
by Gary Corseri
August 26th, 2009
Dissident Voice

Welcome to the Tipping Point! The End Times. The Bizarro Hall of Mirrors.
The Funny Farm. The Monkey House.

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
By Chris Hedges
Hardcover: 232 pages
Publisher: Nation Books (2009)
ISBN: 9781568584379

If you're looking for one of those treacly Oprah books - The Secret, and
its variants - avoid this one. Those books nourish like potato chips and
leave most people more confused, more desperate, more thirsty for
fantasies than before. No amount of wishing, earnest yearning, visualizing
and New Age mysticism is going to get us out of the morass we're in. In
Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges takes a sober look down our hall of
distorting mirrors. The son of a minister, with a degree in theology from
Harvard, a columnist for Truthdigger.com, Hedges has worked as a foreign
correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans.
His books include War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American
Fascists. He was part of the New York Times team that won the 2002
Pulitzer Prize for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. Here are some
of the pertinent facts he contemplates:

 The top 1% of Americans now control more wealth than the bottom 90%
combined.

 World-wide porn revenues, including in-room movies at hotels, sex clubs,
and the Internet, topped $97 billion in 2006 - more than that of
Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflixs, and EarthLink
combined.

 The football coach is the University of California-Berkeley's highest
paid "employee"; he makes about $3 million a year. Nationwide, full-time
faculty positions have been disappearing, replaced by adjunct positions,
with itinerant instructors barely making living wages.

 Collapsing and overwhelmed sewage systems release more than 40,000
discharges of raw sewage into our drinking water, streams and homes each
year.

 One-third of our schools are in such a severe state of disrepair that it
interferes with the delivery of instruction.

 We spend $8.9 billion on ICBM missile defense systems that would be
useless in stopping a shipping container concealing a dirty bomb.

 A family of 4 now pays about $12,000 a year in premiums for healthcare -
up about 90 percent from 2000 to 2006. About 50 million Americans are
uninsured; another 25 million are "under-insured".

 We have 2.3 million of our citizens behind bars. With less than 5% of the
world's popultion, we have 25% of the world's prisoners (1/2 for
non-violent drug crimes).

Any wonder there's been a flight to fantasy? But, more profoundly, what's
the connection between fantasy and our decaying culture? How did we get
here? Digging beneath the statistics, we find an increasing number of
warm-blooded humans suffering like they never have before: lost in a world
of promises broken; the American Dream of endless consumption and
fulfillment - nightmarishly evinced.

"A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies,"
Hedges writes. "And we are dying now... Those who cling to fantasy in
times of despair and turmoil inevitably turn to demagogues and charlatans
to entertain and reassure them..."  As bad as things are now - the
disconnectedness, fragmentation, loneliness, im- and a-morality - we can
extrapolate, interpret the trend lines, read history, and find worse to
come. Hedges dissects "our cultural embrace of illusion and the celebrity
culture that has risen up around it" in five comprehensive chapters:

   The Illusion of Literacy
   The Illusion of Love
   The Illusion of Wisdom
   The Illusion of Happiness
   The Illusion of America

At his best, Hedges has a "true" journalist's (i.e., the careful
observer's, the truth-digger's) eye for detail, and a novelist's ear and
sense of flow. His book is a compilation of some of the best thinking on
corporate power, the Corporate State, the decline of the American empire -
deftly knitted together with wit and a lively writing style. (His chapter
on the "Illusion of Love," focusing on pornography, is both funny and
poignantly sad.)

Empire begins with spectacle. We're in a wrestling ring with jeering fans
chanting at the villainous "tycoon" actor-wrestler, John Bradshaw
Layfield: "You suck! You suck! You suck!" Layfield is pitted against the
"Heartbreak Kid," the crowd favorite, a working-class hero. "You lost your
401(k). You lost your retirement... You lost your children's education
fund," Layfield taunts the Kid and the audience. Then, he offers the Kid a
job - working for him! All the Kid has to do is leave the ring.
Humiliated, that's just what the Kid does. And in their identification
with their fallen hero, in their vicarious humiliation, the anger and
resentment of the audience is stoked against the tycoon. They hunger for
vengeance.

"The bouts are stylized rituals," Hedges writes, "public expressions of
pain and a fervent longing for revenge. The lurid and detailed sagas
behind each bout, rather than the wrestling matches themselves, are what
drive crowds to a frenzy... And the most potent story tonight, the most
potent story across North America, is one of financial ruin - and
enslavement of a frightened and abused working class". This mirroring of
the "emotional wreckage of the fans" is the "appeal of much of popular
culture, from Jerry Springer to 'reality television' to Oprah Winfrey". It
succeeds "because we ask to be fooled".

Celebrities become our "vicarious selves" who provide us with release from
anonymity and drudgery - ultimate fulfillment before death".

Given his background, its no small wonder that Hedges would spend much of
his book wrestling with the angel. "Morality is the product of a
civilization," he writes; but, in "a society that has less and less
national cohesion, a society that has broken down into warlike and
antagonistic tribes where 'winning is all that matters,' morality is seen
as 'irrelevant'".

Ours is a culture of manipulation, one of "inverted totalitaianism".
Hedges borrows the phrase from Sheldon S. Wolin's Democracy Incorporated.
"Inverted totalitarianism," Hedges writes, "unlike classical
totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic
leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the Corporate State. It
purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while
manipulating internal levers... Political candidates are elected in
popular votes by citizens, but candidates must raise staggering funds to
compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists - who author
the legislation... Corporate media control nearly everything we read, or
hear. It imposes a bland uniformity of opinion. It diverts us with trivia
and celebrity gossip... In classical totalitarian regimes... economics was
subordinate to politics". In America, economics is dominant.

"The fantasy of celebrity culture is not designed simply to entertain. It
is designed to keep us from fighting back". We need not stretch ourselves,
I imagine. The hero of The Matrix will stretch for us. So will Plastic Man
or Batman or Superman. In our culture of distractions and manipulations,
Aldous Huxley "feared that what we love will ruin us". Citing Neil
Postman, he reproduces a dialectic between the authors of 1984 and Brave
New World:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was
that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who
wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of
information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would
be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be
concealed from us. Huxley feared that the truth would be drowned in a sea
of irrelevance.

I put it this way: We need not worry that Big Brother is watching us; we
need worry about our dual fascinations with watching Big Brother - and
with being watched! In fact, we've become a nation of double voyeurs: we
watch people on "reality shows" who are being watched and monitored by the
unblinking camera recording their humdrum lives.

We are what we eat and we've been eating a lot of baloney. It comes to us
in various forms including the petrochemical-sprayed food we eat, the Big
Pharma pills we take to keep us drugged, numb and complaisant. We watch
our celebs gulping it and pitching it back at us. Our politicians sprinkle
it with mustard and daub it with relish.

Conditioning... Both those geniuses - George and Aldous - were trying to
deal with it: the whole spectrum of the Propaganda State grown up around
the theories of Edward Bernays - Freud's nephew. They both understood the
necessary concomitants of fear, repetition, tribal identity and group
conformity. They gave it different expressions, but they grounded it in
the imperative of psychological re-structuring and transformation. Orwell
with the gut-wrenching fear of our worst chimeras; Huxley with
mind-numbing lullabies to babies, easy, commitment-free sex from puberty
onward, and lots of soma.

Hedges' chapter on the "Illusion of Happiness" addresses the issue of
psychological conditioning. It would be amusing if it weren't so tragic.
It has the same tenor of pathos as his chapter on sex, in which one
enthusiast waxes eloquent about his $7500 anatomically correct silicone
dolls. (He has eight, with removeable heads, and he exults over the
simulated veins in the feet and the dorsal venous arch... really, really
cool..)

The silicone pitch in academia is "positive psychology," or what Professor
Cooperrider at Case Western Reserve University calls, ."Transformational
Positivity". According to the professor, "Institutions can be a vehicle
for bringing more courage into the world, for amplifying love in the world
... temperance and justice, and so on...

And so on it goes. Just think positive. (Remember that Indian guru who
beguiled the Beetles? "Just be happy!" ) All we need is "appreciative
inquiry" in order to "transform organizations into 'Positive
Institutions'".

Cooperrider is hardly alone. There are more than a hundred courses on
positive psychology on college campuses. The University of Pennsylvania
offers a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology, and Claremont Graduate
University offers Ph.D. and M.A. concentrations in "The Science of
Positive Psychology". Such degree programs are also available in England,
Italy and Mexico. They focus on "cultivating strengths, optimism,
gratitude, and a positive perspective". Think positively and positive
things will happen. Sound familiar? Perhaps we should call such programs,
"Becoming Oprah".

Hedges lifts his lens high enough to kindle fire here: "The purpose and
goals of the corporation are never questioned. To question them, to engage
in criticism of the goals of the collective, is to be obstructive and
negative... If we are not happy, there is something wrong with us.
Debate and criticism, especially about the goals and structure of the
corporation, are condemned as negative and 'counterproductive'". And he's
a good pitbull here:

"Positive psychology is to the corporate state what eugenics was to the
Nazis... It's a 'quack science' that 'throws a smokescreen over corporate
domination, abuse, and greed'".

So, if you're looking for treacle, look elsewhere.

My one cavil is with the ending of the book, the last part of the last
chapter. Hedges can be polemical and he does repeat himself. The last
chapter needs less polemicism and summary arguments. And I can't help but
wonder: What is the other side? Is there any way to avoid catastrophe?
Perhaps an interview with one of those heroes whose names pepper this
important book would have sharpened the quill: people like Ralph Nader,
Cynthia McKinney, Father Roy Bourgeois, Kathy Kelly, Amy Goodman, Bill
Moyers, Jim Hensen - what sustains them, keeps them going?

Also missing in action is Marshall McLuhan, whose Understanding Media of
some forty years ago established the scientific foundation of critiquing
the media - the mesmeric effect of mentally connecting pixiles; the alpha
waves generated in a half-waking, half-sleeping state.

Morris Berman and Derrick Jensen have argued that we're already past the
"tipping point". NASA scientist Jim Hensen says we should have started
yesterday to bring down C02 levels or face global cataclysm. In the last
couple of pages, Hedges seems to pull his punches for a gentle caress: "No
tyranny in history has crushed the human capacity for love,"  he writes.
"The mediocrities who mask their feelings of worthlessness and emptiness
behind the faade of power and illusion, who seek to make us serve their
perverse ideologies, fear most the power of love... Love will endure, even
if it appears darkness has swallowed us all, to triumph over the wreckage
that remains".

I don't know. I'm not sure. The power of love is cold comfort to the
corpses and the wasted lives. Love without wisdom, like freedom without
wisdom, has caused as much mischief and grief as the genuinely malignant
spirits and ideologies among us. Perhaps the overriding question now is
how best to organize collective action against the tyranny of corporatism,
the relentless pulsations of conformity. How do we return to a "literate,
print-based world, a world of complexity and nuance, a world of ideas"?

One book cannot do it all, of course. Hedges has trained a brilliant light
on our confused and murky, rather bizarre culture. In the last couple of
pages he leaves us with another powerful idea, probably as good as love.
He alludes to Rostand's Cyrano: "The ability to stand as 'an ironic point
of light,.. that 'flashes out wherever the just exchange their messages,'
is the ability to sustain a life of meaning".

Gary Corseri has had his work published at Dissident Voice and hundreds of
other venues, performed at the Carter Presidential Library, had dramas on
Atlanta-PBS and elsewhere. He has taught in prisons and universities. His
books include Holy Grail, Holy Grail, A Fine Excess, and Manifestations
(edited). He can be reached at: gary_corseri [at] comcast.net. Read other
articles by Gary.


--------13 of 13--------

 If he smiles and says
 'hope', let us hold him and wash
 out his mouth with soap.


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   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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