February 27, 2007

Be cool, stay in school--Army of One.

The Ad Council has teamed up with the United Negro College Fund, United Way, Adopt Us Kids, and the U.S. Army. One of these things is not like the others.

Boostup.org is the offspring of an Ad Council/Army partnership to develop "a public service advertising campaign to motivate kids and demonstrate the importance of staying in school and obtaining a high school diploma."

You're saying the Army suddenly has humanitarian goals? It wants teens to graduate and not enlist? And they have no ulterior motive behind donating 100,000 branded tissue packets to at risk teens in 50 NYC high schools?

Seems suspicious, to say the least, given active recruitment on campuses across the country and the Pentagon's database on potential recruits ages 16-18.

This is totally unrelated, I'm sure:
Army tops recruit goal by lowering standards -
Lower test scores allowed, but high school diploma still required

Also, found this in the Ad Council's "About" section, under U.S. Army:

Today, more than 270,000 soldiers stand guard in defense of freedom in over 120 countries.
This is nothing new or shocking, but for some reason seeing U.S. military presence represented numerically this way--120/193 countries in the world--evokes the vast reach of empire decried by Chalmers Johnson. The Army advertises to sustain that presence (See "Why We Fight").

Side note--don't forget the folks at the Ad Council brought you this gem--

Message--if you smoke marijuana, your girlfriend will leave you for an alien.

As Cooper pointed out--the person that made this HAD to be high. Just like you'd have to be totally out of touch with reality to believe that the U.S. Army would be so altruistic as to spend money on a campaign to ensure teens have options after high school beyond joining their ranks.

February 23, 2007

Friedman at his finest

O.K., boys, party’s over: we’re leaving by Dec. 1. From now on, everyone pays retail for their politics. We will no longer play host to a war where we’re everyone’s protector and target. If you Sunnis want to go on resisting, we’ll leave you to the tender mercies of the Shiites, who vastly outnumber you. You Shiites, if you want to run Iraq without compromising with Sunnis, fine, but you’ll have to fight them alone and then risk having to live under the thumb of Iran.

You Saudis and other Arabs, if you don’t use your influence to delegitimize Sunni suicide bombers and press Iraq’s Sunnis to cut a deal, we won’t protect you from the consequences. And Iran, you win — yes, if we leave, you win the right to try to manage Iraq’s Shiites. Have a nice day.
Mature foreign policy strategy--play vindictive martyr, blame the victim, collectively address all Arabs as children. He's right about a timetable and withdrawl--as a means for diplomatically leveraging support from regional powers. Unilateralism failed. By no means should withdrawal be used as a punitive measure against an already broken country.

February 22, 2007

What clash?

A global majority rebuffs Samuel P. Huntington's theory of an inevitable "clash of civilizations" along religious and cultural fault lines.

A poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries has found most believe political and economic interests - not religious and cultural diversity - are the underlying cause of violent conflict in the world today.

The Harvard academic's thesis struck a chord with Westerners looking for an easy explanation of global violence in the 21st century. The appeal of Huntington's dubious clash lies in its invocation of history, how it adds apparent depth to lazy pundritry analysis, and how it maps easily into simplistic, essentialist notions of the unfamiliar "other."

Economist Amartya Sen countered the civilizational approach, arguing that Huntington incorrectly assumes that people only identify with one civilizational system, that civilizations are monolithic, based mostly on religion, and that they will always clash. His theory rejects diversity, and is grossly confrontational. Edward Said called it "the clash of ignorance."

Akbar S. Ahmed, former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, critiqued Huntington in the Spring 2003 issue of The Hedgehog Review:

Islam was singled out as a potential enemy civilization in an argument that was as deterministic as it was simplistic. Huntington's thesis dervied from established Orientalist thinking: "We are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of cilizations," wrote Beranard Lewis in 1990. "Islam has bloody borders," concluded Huntington.

Bernard Lewis, Huntington's predecessor, originally coined the term. During a career spanning many decades of U.S. foreign policy blunders in the Middle East, Lewis fed (and, with a recent inflammatory WSJ editorial on Iran, continues to feed) the neoconservative movement a wealth of revisionist history that conveniently rationalizes their expansionist endeavors. Cheney commended Lewis as a scholar--"...in this new century, his wisdom is sought daily by policymakers, diplomats, fellow academics, and the news media." His aggressive ideology for governing the Islamic world is enshrined by the "Lewis Doctrine," which consists of "a Westernized polity, reconstituted and imposed from above...that is to become a bulwark of security for America and a model for the region." "Freedom" from without acts as a thin veil for securing strategic interests.

In a White House lunch honoring the historian, Cheney beamed,
Bernard Lewis knows the greatness of Islamic civilization -- its tradition of learning and its towering cultural achievements. He refuses to condescend to the people that produced those achievements, and who have lately suffered such great torment at the hands of dictators.

But Lewis' selective reading of history betrays his Orientalist ideological prejudice:

Lewis' presentation of his narrative of Middle Eastern decline without any context is a ploy. His objective is to whittle down world history, to reduce it to a primordial contest between two historical adversaries, the West and Islam. This is historiography in the crusading mode, one that purports to resume the Crusades-interrupted in the thirteenth century-and carry them to their unfinished conclusion, the triumph of the West or, conversely, the humiliation and defeat of Middle Eastern Islam. Once this framework has been established, with its exclusive focus on a failing Islamic civilization, it is quite easy to cast the narrative of this decay as a uniquely Islamic phenomenon, which must then be explained in terms of specifically Islamic failures.

The conflict is not evidence of cultural superiority, the result of a fundamental clash of identity or ingrained values, but a byproduct of Western expansion and the quest for resources and capital:

Once Western Europe began to make the transition from a feudal-agrarian to a capitalist-industrial society, starting in the sixteenth century, the millennial balance of power among the world's major civilizations shifted inexorably in favor of Western Europe. A society that was shifting to a capitalist-industrial base, capable of cumulative growth, commanded greater social power than slow-growing societies still operating on feudal-agrarian foundations. Under the circumstances, it was unlikely that non-Western societies could simultaneously alter the foundations of their societies while also fending off attacks from Western states whose social power was expanding at an ever-increasing rate. Even as these feudal-agrarian societies sought to reorganize their economies and institutions, Western onslaughts against them deepened, and this made their reorganization increasingly difficult. It is scarcely surprising that the growing asymmetry between the two sides eventually led to the eclipse, decline, or subjugation of nearly all non-Western societies.

It's a relief to see that most of the world can see global conflict within the proper historical and political context, refusing to fall for reckless explanations that inflame polarizing tensions.

February 16, 2007

No business as usual.

On the anniversary of the largest anti-war protest in history, UC Santa Barbara joined thousands of students across the country in striking against the war in Iraq.

From Democracy Now!

College and high school students across the nation walked out class Thursday in a national student strike against the Iraq war. In California, an estimated 1,000 students at UC-Santa Barbara blocked traffic on a freeway. Up to 3,000 students turned out for an anti-war rally at UC - Berkeley. And at least four hundred rallied at Columbia University here in New York. More than a dozen other schools took part around the country.
by Matt Simpson

KSBY Channel 6 News reported on it, with KEYT, and KTVU has video.

Jake definitely had the best, most impassioned reporting on the demonstration--his diary was recommended on DKos yesterday, assuring half a million viewers that the student anti-war movement is alive and kicking.

One very legit complaint many of the SB Antiwar organizers have is how some media coverage of the protest has given far too much weight to the Revolutionary Communist Party affiliate World Can't Wait for organizing what was in reality an entirely student initiated demonstration. Papers blindly followed a misleading WCW press release that claimed credit for being "instrumental" in spreading UCSB's message and "putting out a call for national action." The Chronicle reported (almost verbatim) that "The rallies were in a response to a call by the protest group World Can't Wait to Drive Out the Bush Regime for a national student strike Feb. 15." Organizer (and friend) Darwin BondGraham called them out for trying to appropriate the protests--

You all were very helpful in making yesterday bigger than it would have been and I have to thank you for your brilliant energy, but the RCP seems intent on claiming this student led movement as their own. You people are great organizers, but I don't want the RCP taking credit for my political actions. And I definitely don't want RCP
trying to speak for me. I am not a communist and I have zero interest in Bob Avakian's political program. I am a student, a feminist, an antiracist and a little d democrat, and when I organize an action I want to speak about it and I want to represent it.

It wouldn't be the first time WCW has pulled that move. RCP and WCW are very effective at turn-out, but their ideology leaves them and the folks whose protests they try to horn in on open to marginalization.

The difficult part will always be creating that initial spark--convincing people to participate, explaining why the strike is an effective means of protest (if last May 1st wasn't proof enough). Darwin responded to skeptics:

Ask yourself this; if the entire nation went on strike tomorrow – didn’t go to work or school and didn’t buy anything – how much longer do you think Bush’s war could last? I’d give it 24 hours or less. Striking alone here at UCSB might not mean much, but the world is watching. News of our strike is spreading across other campuses and cities. We will not be acting alone on the 15th. And if the 15th is empowering, perhaps there can be a real movement beyond this, a shift toward a larger national peace movement that joins us in withdrawing consent and shaking the foundations of power. The more of us that act together, the more hope there is that we can end the war.

It began with a handful of people. Then a university. Then 5. Then 27. But before there's that kind of momentum, it's challenging to rise above the apathy and convince cynics and natural allies that it's worth their time. But once it starts snowballing, there's no stopping it. If people felt empowered by yesterday's action (and even the most seasoned activists I've talked to felt it was a truly remarkable day), then maybe they'll be motivated to stay involved.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean,
and each day
you mean one more.

February 15, 2007

Like Johnson & Nixon, Bush could still be constrained

Congress has historically been loath to cut funding for a war waged by the executive for fear of being blamed for its failure. The Vietnam funding cutoff passed only after peace accords were signed and troops withdrawn. But despite timid non-binding resolutions against escalation from Congress, Bush could finally be feeling the heat. His own party is beginning to hold his feet to the fire in a way Dems couldn't. Republicans are beginning to think they'll be more likely to lose a re-election bid for clinging to Bush's sinking ship than for supporting a watered down resolution against that failed policy and running the risk of appearing decisive.

Bush has two years left in office and enormous -- though not unlimited -- power to continue the war. He does not face re-election. Republicans in Congress do, however, and could brake Bush if they abandon him in large numbers.

And away they go--11 Republican House members speak against Bush troop boost.

"Obviously the president still has a lot of muscle and is still doing what he wants, but the evidence is that this administration is starting to feel a bit checked," said Julian Zelizer, a Boston University historian who outlines congressional resistance during the Vietnam War in the March issue of the American Prospect.

An effective system of checks and balances. Go figure.

Of course Congress would not be taking action were it not for grassroots actions like today's student initiated strike at universities across the country working to build a movement capable of generating the political will to challenge Bush's war. Go UCSB!! Wish I could be there.

February 13, 2007

Scientist at UC managed Los Alamos speaks out against new nukes

Joseph Martz, leader of a team designing a new generation of warheads at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in a series of interviews last week that he is troubled by how the debate on nuclear weapons policy in Washington is focused narrowly on the number of weapons needed for the future, and how they would be built, rather than on how to eradicate them entirely.


Two widely-read opinion pieces published in the Wall Street Journal last month argued for total disarmament.

The essays -- the first by former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, and the second by the former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev -- urged aggressive steps toward this long ignored goal.

"Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America's moral heritage," the former U.S. officials wrote in their essay.

Some of the most effective champions for disarmament are the scientists themselves.

In 1944, Einstein wrote to physicist Niels Bohr:

“When the war is over, then there will be in all countries a pursuit of secret war preparations with technological means which will lead inevitably to preventative wars and to destruction even more terrible than the present destruction of life.”

February 12, 2007

One man's terrorist...

This administration, like many before it, has manipulated all-encompassing and ill-defined buzz words for use as propaganda to forward a militant agenda. Critics have exhausted the subject (See/hear "War Made Easy" by Norman Solomon), though still not to the point where the American public immediately recognizes the spin. The drum-beating against Iran must not be another case in point.

I won't belabor the point or make any Orwell references. But I just find it an interesting anecdote that even Thesaurus.com can demonstrate the dangerous ambiguity of the word "terrorist."

Main Entry: anarchist
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: insurgent
Synonyms: agitator, insurgent, insurrectionist, malcontent, mutineer, nihilist, rebel, revolter, revolutionary, terrorist
Antonyms: loyalist
Demonized and misunderstood (Chomsky identifies as an anarchist). Also interesting that "revolutionary" is a synonym. The Founders would be terrorists by this definition.

Main Entry: dictator
Part of Speech:
Definition: ruler
absolutist, adviser, autocrat, baron, boss, caesar, caliph, chief, commander, czar, despot, disciplinarian, duce, emir, fascist, kaiser, lama, leader, lord, magnate, martinet, master, mogul, oligarch, oppressor, overlord, rajah, ringleader, sachem, shah, sheik, slave driver, strongman, sultan, taskmaster, terrorist, tycoon, tyrant, usurper

Suprisingly suggests the suppressed notion of state directed terrorism.

Main Entry: enemy
Part of Speech:
Definition: foe
Synonyms: adversary, agent, antagonist, archenemy, asperser, assailant, assassin, attacker, backbiter, bad guy, bandit, betrayer, calumniator, competitor, contender, criminal, crip, defamer, defiler, detractor, disputant, emulator, falsifier, fifth column*, foe, guerrilla, informer, inquisitor, invader, meat, murderer, opponent, opposition, other side*, prosecutor, rebel, revolutionary, rival, saboteur, seditionist, slanderer, spy, terrorist, traducer, traitor, vilifier, villain
ally, benefactor, friend, supporter

The broadest possible definition, and the one we know all too well--you're with us, or you're against us.

Bill Moyers eloquently expressed indignation over this language appropriation:

Day after day, the egalitarian creed of our Declaration of Independence is trampled underfoot by hired experts and sloganeers, who speak of the "death tax," "the ownership society," "the culture of life," "the liberal assault on God and family," "compassionate conservatism," "weak on terrorism," "the end of history," "the clash of civilizations," "no child left behind." They have even managed to turn the escalation of a failed war into a "surge," as if it were a current of electricity through a wire, instead of blood spurting from the ruptured vein of a soldier.

Soj's DKos diary takes us through a 200 year history of "terrorism."

My point here is obviously that at one time or another all of these things occurred and were (or still are) supported by people using the rhetoric that anyone who opposes it is aiding the enemy or being unpatriotic.

I used the word "terrorist" because that's the current name for the "bad guys". At various other times in history the "bad guys" were known as "Communists", "Socialists", "labor agitators", "Japanese Americans", "German Americans", "British", "Indians", "traitors" and a variety of other terms.

February 05, 2007

Cingular--formerly AT&T, now the new AT&T

I've been doing research on 18 telecom carriers for a consumer privacy report card, and I thought AT&T's purchase of Bell South and its rebranding of Cingular would consolidate a few of the policies I'm evaluating and simplify my job. But I'm finding that explaining the convoluted history of mergers and acquisitions predating this latest chapter in the annals of media ownership concentration is making the task much more complex. The story is so absurd that (not surprisingly) parodies manage to present a more accurate representation of the monopolistic history than any official press release explanation. Here's Colbert's take:

Engadget tried to make sense of it all in 2005, before AT&T's purchase was approved and the Cingular shenanigans:

1984 - For years there was one phone company: AT&T. Then in 1984 the Justice Department forces AT&T to split up into a bunch of different companies. Seven of those become the regional Baby Bells (the regional Bell operating companies, or RBOCs), while what was left of AT&T handles long-distance.

The late 1990s - One of those regional local phone companies, Texas-based Southwestern Bell Corp, spends the late Nineties scooping up its fellow local phone companies, buying Pacific Telesis Group (PacBell) in 1997, Southern New England Telecommunications in 1998, and Ameritech in 1999. In 2002, SBC Communications, as it is now known, decides to ditch all the regional brand names and call the entire company simply "SBC" in order to "unify its image." SBC combines their cellphone operation with that of BellSouth in a joint venture known as Cingular Wireless. SBC owns 60% of Cingular. BellSouth owns the other 40%.

2001 - As part of a restructuring plan, AT&T decides to spin off their wireless division, known as AT&T Wireless, as a separate company.
at&T wireless logo

2004 - Cingular decides to acquire AT&T Wireless. Cost: $41 billion. AT&T, AT&T Wireless's former parent, retains rights to the AT&T Wireless brand name as part of 2001's spin-off agreement. They announce plans to launch a new wireless service under the AT&T Wireless brand name after Cingular completes its acquisition.

2005 - SBC, which you'll recall is an amalgam of regional Baby Bells spun off from AT&T, reaches an agreement to buy its former parent for $16 billion, $25 billion less than Cingular pays for AT&T Wireless. So SBC owns 60% of Cingular, which bought AT&T Wireless; assuming the Feds okay the deal, SBC will eventually own AT&T, too. Make sense?

Update: merger is approved in November, and SBC once again rebrands to AT&T. AT&T, which still has the rights to the AT&T Wireless name will begin using it in select markets, perhaps as a Cingular-based MVNO.

2006 - AT&T (formerly SBC) announces purchase of BellSouth for 67 billion dollars. Probably just to annoy us. We'll have to wait and see if the SEC approves.

February 02, 2007

"Her next bold move"

A CampusProgress tribute to Ani, celebrating the birth of her daughter on January 20th.