Pop the cork, blow your noisemaker and kiss a stranger because it's a celebration; congratulations are in order for Guantanamo Bay for finally expanding! Even when faced with condemnation from Amnesty International, which called it "the gulag of our time" and with two Supreme Court decisions, the first determining those imprisoned at Gitmo must be presented with a list of charges against them (Rasul v. Bush) and the second ruling calling tribunal courts unconstitutional (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld), the administration has found the courage to add a new facility dubbed Camp 6. Even Bush himself flaccidly stated he'd like to see the Cuban enclave discontinued. Now they can carry on the proud tradition of suspending prisoners' writ of habeas corpus - the cornerstone of Western justice - and detaining them indefinately. Here's to plenty more years of human rights violations. Cheers.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Noam Chomsky, on the heals of his new book "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy," spoke to West Point, the military academy, of all places back in April for Book TV. Noam doesn't disappoint and pulls no punches. The lecture is just under an hour long and is well worth your time.
Proportionality seems to be the neocons' new four-letter word when it comes to the recent military action in Lebanon. The grounds for this incessant shrieking is that Israel has a right to defense and only through a swift, decisive military campaign will the Israelis be able to regain the fear of surrounding Arab States and avoid conflict of this size in the future.
That kind of talk is designed to sound pretty but to arrive at the truth of the situation some number-crunching is in order: 500,000 civilians are currently displaced in Lebanon, on the Israeli side 27 have been killed by Hezbollah seven of which were soldiers with 300 civilians and 60 soldiers wounded, on the other side Israel killed at least 271 and wounded 711 Lebanese civilians. And now Israel is amassing troops on the Lebanese border, aided by a fresh parcel of bombs from the U.S.
Let's for a second use one of the right's favorite analogies and compare Hezbollah, Hamas and their ilk to a disease. Doctors try and prescribe the least evasive treatment possible to their patients, flushing the virus from the body and sparing the immune system. What good can come from amputating a leg to rid the body of an infected toe?
As for the use of "overwhelming force" this isn't anything Israel hasn't already tried. But what if Israel, a nation more heavily armed than all of Europe, defended herself to the point of extinguishing Hezbollah. I'll do you one better, what if Israel eviscerates Hamas, the PLO and every other Palestinian aggressor out there? This would make little difference. There will be new terror groups to take their places, coiled and ready. If defense was truly her chiefest worry then she would attempt to quell the hatred that dwells in the majority of Arabs toward her, and a good place to start is by adhering to the basic tenets of warfare, namely proportionality.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Happy Birthday, Woody.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Just caught a showing of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's "Global Warning". First of all, don't be put off by the fact that it's been labeled a glorified power point presentation, the film rises far above this gross simplification. Gore has shed his wooden public persona and emerged as somebody who's almost likeable. He even gets in some wry jabs at his detractors: "I'm Al Gore and I used to be the next President of the United States." From what I've read the science is sound, but for the uninitiated like myself the pictures speak louder than the tidal wave of facts (pun intended) that wash over the viewer.
Take for instance the dramatic melting of Mt. Kilimanjaro:
The only thing I fear is the message will reach no farther than the choir. Not only do the parishioners falling alseep in the very last pew need to hear this message but also the passerby in the street. This gospel needs to be preached and all of humanity is the congregation.
For more info check out: An Inconvenient Truth
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The original singer/songwriter of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, died on Friday, July 7. Famous for his child-like, acid-soaked lyrics about bicycles and space travel, Barrett suffered a breakdown due to excessive LSD use after recording two albums with Pink Floyd, Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) and A Saucerful of Secrets (1968). At the height of his mental instability Barrett had been known to detune his guitar, strum the same chord repeatedly and stare into the lights during concerts.
He went on to record two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs (1970) and Barrett (1970). Later, Barrett would become a hero to many underground rock preservationists, revivalists and historians, as well as an influence to such artists as Robyn Hitchcock, Blur and The Flaming Lips. Syd Barrett was 60.
Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett - "Arnold Lane"
Monday, July 10, 2006
When it comes to supporting our troops nobody does it better than our Congress. Just ask the 200,000 homeless veterans living in the US if they feel the unconditional love of hollow rhetoric. To put it in perspective, that makes approximately 1 out of every 3 homeless men a former American vet. But okay, you say, now that the problem's been identified the Federal Government is going to dish out some much needed cash lickety-split. Well, yes; but if you think the money's going to the Veterans who need it then you're sadly mistaken. On June 13, 2006 the House and Senate approved a $3,300 pay raise bringing their annual salaries to $168,500, their seventh pay raise in seven years. And with public support at record lows you could say that Congress metaphorically told all of us to bend over and grab our ankles. If you don't want to wait around for Congress to stop patting themselves on the back then you can go to Operation Dignity for more information on how to help out.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
Lately, I've been having the same nightmare. There I stand, a character in the last few scenes of a zombie flick, shotgun in hand with a meager complement of shells loaded in the chamber, the reanimated corpses of the undead inching toward my warm flesh. I take the shotgun to my shoulder and let loose a round, blowing away the head of one of the ghoulish creatures. They come nearer, now there are hundreds of them, a phalanx of grey, expressionless bodies shuffling toward me. One grabs my forearm, another my ankle. I kick, I thrash, I scream, yet nothing I do shakes them free. I look down at my arm as one is about to take a sizeable portion of it away with him, then I wake up. I wanted to see what FreakyDreams.com had to say about my nightmare. Their analysis suggests there is some part of my "greater self" (zombies) that threatens my "strength" and "direction" (hands and ankles).
Now, I contend - much as Native American religions do - that dreams are man's internal wormhole, allowing us to take a peak at the eternal - be it poetic or literal, I'm not sure. And even if you deny dreams bare any significance on a person's life you can't dispute sleep's ability to provide clarity. That is because throughout the day the brain is constantly being damaged little by little by the body's metabolism, it is only at night during sleep the brain can stitch itself back together. This is why we feel refreshed in the morning (or late afternoon on days off) when we wake up.
Sometimes the aesthetics of dreams can spill over into the world of art. Take the story of a budding young director who went to the great Orson Welles with a problem. The director just received a crew from his studio that didn't want to deviate from the script for a specific scene even at the young director's insistance. Welles said the best way to surmount the crew's orthodoxy is to tell them they are filming a dream sequence. Dubious of Welles' advice the young director nonetheless went to his crew and told them this white lie. Immediately the crew felt liberated, they did as the director instructed at times offering their own suggestions on how to make the scene better. The director went back to Welles and asked him why this worked. As Welles put it, we all have a rigid sense of what's real but in a dream there are no rules and we are free to do as we please, those restraints that reality imposes can be cast aside. This is the supreme example of how dreams can effect our lives. Here, through art, dreams and reality touch.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Several years back I used to go to spiritual revival weekends through my church's youth group. During these cermonies I remember experiencing a swell of joy, I would raise my hand and sway my arm with everyone around me, I would repeat the prayers the pastor said and I would sing the praise and worship songs with the rest of the crowd. Never did I collapse from being "slain in the spirit" like some others who approached the alter, but I always felt my hair stand on end and I gained a sense of weightlessness by the end of the service. I left there a changed man. That was until a few years passed and I became aware that this was not unique to Pentecostal Christianity. Examples of the same feelings and behaviors can be found in other religions including Hinduism and Voodoo.
This is when I learned about the subtle techniques not only Preachers, but Politicians, the Military and even Opera Singers implement. Not too many know of these tricks or why they work, so, here's an extensive list of them.
Some of my favorites are:
- The "Voice Roll" Technique: used by hypnotists, this is a rhythmic speech pattern - a favorite of lawyers during closing arguments - which lulls an audience into a trance. The rate the words are usually delivered is between 45 to 60 beats per minute and sounds monotonous, almost as though the speaker is talking in time to a metronome.
- Embedded Commands: watch politicans use this one. They will emphasize certain words or phrases by motioning with their left hand because it has been proven the left hand appeals to the right brain, the hemisphere of the brain more sucseptible to subliminal suggestion.
- Interspersal Technique: with this trick a combination of verbal emphasis and forced visualization is employed. Take this phrase - "Senator Johnson is assisting local authorities to clear up the stupid mistakes of companies contributing to the nuclear waste problems." Although the sentence may be factual when the right words are stressed Senator Johnson can be made to look idiotic.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Monday, July 03, 2006
Let's keep track of all the things Ann Coulter is, ready? She is a: chauvanist, racist, defamer, dogmatist, reactionary, hypocrite and blowhard. Now, here's a new title to add to that list - plagarist. As it turns out, not only did Ms. Coulter fail to pass a simple once over by a digital iThenticate program, used by high school teachers and college professors to catch cheaters, but several of her columns aren't completely legit either. In her new book three whole passages are lifted word-for-word from other sources. Guess it's like they say, the only thing worse than a right-wing demagogue is an uninspired right-wing demagogue.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
They know when you're sleeping, they know when you're awake, they know if you've been bad or good...yes, I'm talking about Wal-Mart. From a New York Times business article, Wal-Mart has been amassing an enormous amount of information on their customers. And when I say enormous I mean unfathomable. Try 460 terabytes worth, over two times the amount of data contained on the internet. What that means for you is if you've ever shopped at a Wal-Mart they've got what you bought, where you bought it, when you bought it and even your credit card or banking information. All this is under pad lock and key, they are ferociously private about the data they collect. But with all this secrecy protecting the information they accrue and analyze about their customers are we really to believe they're just the benevolent giant they claim to be?