Noam Chomsky in Syracuse

•May 18, 2011 • 1 Comment

Noam Chomsky on US foreign policy at Nottingham High School, Syracuse NY on May 11, 2011. Chomsky spoke to a packed house in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Syracuse Peace Council.

The Bureaucrats of Empire Gain Stronger Footing in Maxwell

•March 30, 2011 • 1 Comment

The academic division that my department resides in recently announced the hiring of a new dean. The hiring process was highly contested and revealed deep divisions in this corner of the university. With the new hire, the school’s leadership has made it abundantly clear where they stand in these conflicts, and that is on the side of money, prestige, and establishment politics.

Three candidates to be the new dean were highly qualified with extensive academic and administrative backgrounds, and one candidate was a foreign policy bureaucrat in Washington, DC – what former head of the Geography department Don Mitchell would call a ‘bureaucrat of empire.’ Our university has chosen the bureaucrat. It appears as if the transition from center of higher learning to dogmatic extension of the national security/surveillance state, already well underway before this hiring process, has just been accelerated greatly.

While it is unlikely that our new dean will be here for more than three or four years – as a colleague pointed out to me, a university dean position in upstate NY is probably not this gentleman’s ultimate career goal – I still find it important to revisit Don’s comments from several years prior, when he addressed some of the future bureaucrats of empire who were then graduating from their training here. I urge you to read Don’s remarks. His ‘practical advice’ remains more important than ever not only here in the ivory tower, but in the broader realm of American politics as well.

Are Americans Ready for Democracy?

•March 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Are Americans ready for democracy?

I’m just not sure…

political cartoons by Mr. Fish






Dive House Union live at Kleinhan’s Music Hall

•March 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Dive House Union live at Kleinhan’s Music Hall on February 18, 2011. Look for a live CD release of this show soon!

I wonder…

•January 18, 2011 • 1 Comment

…what American politics would look like today if there were actually a prominent national political figure as radical and revolutionary as Dr. King?

That’s an awfully hard thing to dream up…


The Politics of Hate, Violence, and Fear… Part II

•January 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Sarah Palin has predictably responded to the criticisms leveled against her violence-laden political rhetoric in the wake of the Tucson shooting. The entire episode is not particularly surprising, nor particularly extraordinary, and I thought immediately that commentators saying that Palin’s career would be damaged were merely voicing their hopes for the future rather than accurately gauging a likely outcome. Contemporary American politics is so much about spin, of course, and the right wing media machine isn’t just going to sit idly by in the aftermath of a high profile political event.

Why is this entire episode little more than business as usual?

For starters, contemporary media is so fragmented that you don’t ever have to hear an opinion that you aren’t already pre-conceived to agree with – and if you do you can just switch the channel and/or point your web browser elsewhere. Palin’s supporters, who were already watching Glen Beck and listening to Rush Limbaugh, believed what their hero just said before she even had to say it. Fox news, to cite only the most banal example, has responded in predictable fashion. If anything, it will strengthen the resolve and support for Palin for her core followers, because it furthers the under-attack-minority identity that rich white people are putting together for themselves. The Tucson shooting is an opportunity to re-iterate a particular message and re-cite conservative identities.

Of course there will be a few sane people out there for whom this episode provides the light bulb, and they realize how much conservatives trade on fear, violence, and hate…

But for the majority of Americans, I don’t think this will be much of a blip. Republican supporters will find their support strengthened and identities re-affirmed, while  the detractors will find their dislike intensified.

The other factor here is that democrats also trade on fear, violence, and hate, though not to nearly the same degree or with the same intensity. Joe biden is a perfect example, crying ‘terrorism’ and ‘security’ all the time… That political strategy just plain works, and it will work again. As soon as a brown person does something ‘terrible’, our man from Arizona will long be forgotten.

The Politics of Hate, Violence, and Fear

•January 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I can’t say I am surprised, but I am saddened and exasperated by the state of contemporary American political discourse. The details of the Tucson shooting, which I’m sure our media will obsess over for at least a day or two, are inconsequential. What matters is the climate of hate, violence, and fear that has intensified to dismaying degrees in American politics.

In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, let’s not forget about the countless political figures, mostly on the right, who have implicitly or explicitly called for the death of Julian Assange; nor about our Democratic president, who claims the right to assassinate American citizens as his administration sees fit, completely shielded from judicial review by the so-called state secrets privilege.

Update: see this timeline of insurrectionism for more violence in American politics

Sarah Palin's 'take back the 20' campaign: join her and take a stand

Jesse Kelly's 'send a warrior to congress' campaign against Gabrielle Giffords

“System Change, Not Climate Change” and other 2010 Successes

•January 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

As we ring in the new year, I thought it would be worthwhile to link to a piece that describes 11 social movement successes for 2011, courtesy of the Vancouver Media Co-op. The news outlets most readily available to most Americans rarely highlight the tireless activism and organizing for a better world that millions of people engage in across the globe – and when such stories do appear in the mainstream media, it is nearly always through the predictable protest geographies of the kettle, which “so easily re-symbolises legitimate opposition as violent disorder.” The protest frame utilized in mainstream media is one that, through tropes of mob violence (typically provoked by police ‘containment’ in a structural fashion, but rarely reported that way), quickly deligitimizes any moral or intellectual ground held by the protesters, deflects any attention from the message advanced by the protesters, and  perhaps most importantly, completely obfuscates the hard work, passion, and commitment necessary to organize in the face of state, military, and corporate power.

But if we poke around a bit, it is impossible not to find the hard work and determination of so many people fighting for change. So here’s to continued social movement success in 2011 — happy new year!

Update: see this analysis of media coverage of ongoing uprisings in Tunisia for more on the coverage of protests

Iterations from the hills

•December 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As I have returned from el valle, the subheading of my blog has changed to reflect my new location. I type today from the territory of the Onondaga Nation: the people of the hills, one of five nations that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

At a time when American democracy seems more  eroded and corrupt than at any time in the nation’s history, laid bare by the spectacle of wikileaks (as the US government demands that it know all secrets of its citizenry, while the citizenry must know none of those in power – mocking the principle that a pillar of any democratic society is the free exchange of information), it seems fitting to symbolically and discursively invoke an  originary democratic society that inhabited this territory, the people of the hills.

The Tea Party and Other Funny Jokes

•October 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Check out this recent piece from Rolling Stone for a nice look at the hypocrisy and utter ridiculousness of the anti-government stance of the Tea Party. As the article points out, virtually all Americans are in one way or another dependent upon government programs, subsidies, contracts, payouts, etc. And it’s pretty funny to watch the Tea Partiers squirm when they get nailed!

Another one of my favorite conservative arguments is how action on climate change would hurt the American economy. The same people who extol the adaptability and seemingly magic power of free markets turn right around and tell us that any sort of climate change program would suddenly cripple said markets. Made even more ridiculous by the fact that any action on climate change that could ever possibly come out of American politics would be market-based mechanisms such as cap and trade or CO2 permits, thus putting a dollar value on things like carbon and carbon sinks. What’s the matter, your magic free markets can’t handle greater commodification of the earth’s physical systems?!? Hmmm…