|Progressive Calendar 08.29.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|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. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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