One day several years ago, I was killing time -- and trying to cool my nerves -- before a job interview. I was wandering in a bookstore, leafing idly through this book and that, when I came across a slim volume called "Responsibility to Awe." It was poetry by someone named Rebecca Elson. I read a few of the poems, and liked them. Then I looked at the back and saw that she had died not long before, at 39, of lymphoma. This had special resonance to me, for personal reasons, but other parts of her biography were striking as well. She had been an astronomer, born in Canada and ending her career at Cambridge. She studied "dark matter," the invisible, mysterious substance -- known only by inference from its effects on other matter -- which is believed to make up the bulk of the universe, holding it together. And, as the book bio said, her work "also focused on globular clusters, teasing out the history of stellar birth, life and death."I bought the book, which also contained a long section from her journals, and poems in manuscript, and other fragments. Not long after, this song came to me. I recorded the very rough sketch here in a back room a couple of years ago; one of these days, I'll do it up right maybe, and do her more justice.
Hugh Roberts' new article in the London Review of Books is the best story I have yet read about the war of regime change in Libya. It is meticulously detailed, rich in context -- historical, cultural, political -- carefully measured and soberly expressed.
Update, November 5: Many thanks to everyone for your condolences. It was very kind of you all, and I really appreciate it. Chris.
I had the honor of talking with Cindy Sheehan tonight, recording an interview for her radio show, which I believe will air on Sunday. She made mention of the "police riot" -- as she aptly phrased it -- in Oakland Tuesday night, as a Democratic administration moved in with gas and other weapons of war to clear the streets of American citizens taking part in the Occupy movement.Ms. Sheehan also noted the fact that the Occupy movement's terminology about "the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent elite" is not entirely accurate; far too many of the 99 percent are serving as willing tools of the 1 percent -- in the police forces, in the media, even in the general public, where you can always find plenty of people eagerly genuflecting to the high and mighty, even as they and their own families and communities sink deeper into the mire.The Oakland debacle is a prime example of this, as cops -- putative public servants whose pay scales put them deep into the 99 percent -- waded into the Occupy citizens, breaking heads and driving away the very people trying to stand up for their interests.The New York Times reports on one victim of these first strike-backs by our panicky overlords. And he is a most telling victim indeed: a military veteran, who had served two tours in the imperial war of aggression in Iraq, then turned against the War Machine and joined that stalwart band of humanity's patriots, the Iraq Veterans Against the War: (See original for links and video.)
Barack Obama has announced that all American troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year. This was presented as America honorably adhering to the agreement signed years ago by the Bush Administration. At the same time, White House and Pentagon spinners were planting stories to make clear that the United States had fully intended to continue its military presence in Iraq past the deadline, but was thwarted by the Iraqis' unconscionable refusal to allow American forces to commit crimes with impunity -- and immunity -- on Iraqi soil.These backroom "process" stories -- filled, as always, with unnamed insiders providing savvy "nuance" -- were detailed, laying out a long series of negotiations, ending in what was clearly the Americans' chief goal: a military presence of 3,000-5,000 troops, placed strategically around the country, with a main focus in Baghdad. These negotiations failed; hence Obama's announcement that he was being forced to honor the existing agreement on withdrawal.At the same time, however, we are also told that the State Department will maintain "at least" 5,000 armed "security personnel" -- mercenaries of various stripes. These 5,000 militarized (if not officially military) troops will be stationed in strategic locations around the country, where the United States will establish mini-fortress "consulates" in Iraqi cities, with a main focus in Baghdad.So the Americans had a baseline goal of 3,000 armed personnel remaining in Iraq; they will now...
Greece is the canary in the coal mine of modern hyper-capitalism. Throughout the "developed" world, elites and political leaders are following the same path, using a self-created financial crisis to institute a radical destruction of free societies and create an authoritarian "managed democracy" in their places. But the extremist measures being imposed on Greece are producing a furious reaction -- and a recasting of old political realities in new forms -- that could also prove to be a harbinger of the future.
The ACLU has just released documentation of the rampant sexual abuse of female immigration detainees at the hands of our enlightened guardians. The latter include the Corrections Corporation of America, the private prison company that has parlayed its insider poitical connections to become one of the nation's largest profiteers of human suffering.
It is not enough for the Peace Laureate to murder American citizens without charges, without trial and without warning; he must also murder their children too -- in the same cowardly, cold-blooded fashion.Last week, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki -- an American teenager -- was ripped to shreds by an American drone missile in Yemen. The boy, like his father, Anwar al-Awlaki -- had not been charged with any crime whatsoever, much less convicted and sentenced. So what was his offense? He missed his father -- who had been in hiding from the Peace Laureate's publicly stated intention to assassinate him -- and he went off to find him. His search took him into one of the areas of Yemen where there are groups opposed to the murderous regime now controlling the country and slaughtering its own citizens in cold blood -- with American weapons, American money, and the full support of the Peace Laureate and his peace-loving administration of peaceful peaceniks. People in such regions -- not only in Yemen but all over the world -- are of course subject to instant, agonizing death from the Peace Laureate's brave, bold robot drones, guided by noble warriors nestled in cushioned chairs behind fortress walls thousands of miles away. And so a button was pushed, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman -- and his 17-year-old cousin -- were turned into steaming lumps of coagulate gore by the drones of the Peace Laureate. The Laureate's minions and satraps then spread the story that the child was actually a grown...
I have to say, I honestly don't understand why so many 'dissidents' want the OWS crowd to either a) overturn the government tomorrow morning, or b) be mowed down by the cops as soon as possible. These seem to be two of the strongest reactions to the Occupy movement from lots of people who have spent years railing against the Empire and its many depredations.I mean, it seems obvious to me that this particular instance of protest in Wall Street is going to "fail" -- i.e., at some point, they will be removed, peaceably or otherwise, from the sacred precincts of Mammon. But so what? I mean really, pardon my French and all, but so fucking what already? Who out there actually expects OWS will overturn the empire? Do you think the protestors themselves think that? If it's not all wrapped up neatly at the end of a 30-minute sitcom episode with parades and ponies and peace on earth, does that mean it's all meaningless? No conglomeration of human beings has ever produced anything that even remotely approximates perfection, or has ever failed to exhibit the common human frailties and failings we all are heir to. Again, I say, so what? Does this fact render pointless even the slightest attempt to try to find different paths that just might possibly be better than the one we're on now? It seems to me that the whole point of the Occupy movement, in its multiplicity of forms, is to MAKE A START. To not simply bow the head and bend the knee, and give up and say, Oh Lordy, the Man is too...
While other matters keep me from my appointed rounds in these precincts for the nonce, Chris Hedges has a few pertinent things to say:
Bob Dylan, when a young man, knew the enemy: the "masters of war," the profiteers and bureaucrats of death and domination, who wring money and power from bloodshed, torment and fear. He knew too that these wretches of lamed humanity were not confined to a single country or culture or political structure or time.
Simon Jenkins fires a powerful salvo of scorn and spleen to mark the 10th anniversary of the imperial quagmire in Afghanistan. Among the glories and triumphs of this magnificent adventure, Jenkins notes the fact that international agencies are now calling for emergency aid to combat the imminent threat of mass starvation in the liberated land. This is what 10 years, thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars worth of "nation-building" have produced: a broken, brutalized, bankrupt society on the verge of murderous famine.