Worrying news this week from the Middle East, as Jason Ditz reports:
A few readers have been kind enough to inquire if any of the tunes occasionally featured on this site are for sale. Well, now they are. A four-song sampler EP, "Just One Plank," is now available for download right here. I'm not exactly au fait with the technology, and there seems to be a bit of delay with the cover art at the site, but the songs themselves are up there and ready to go. Check it out, if you take a notion.We'll be back to regular service here in just a bit. Thanks for your patience. (Photo from Shorpy.com; Scotts Run, West Virginia, 1935.)
No dogma, no doctrine, no parties, no political poltroonery; just one plank in this platform: I'm for the poor.
I wanted to write about Barack Obama’s recent speech announcing the alleged partial withdrawal of some of the tens of thousands of troops he has added to the decade-long American occupation of Afghanistan during his three Bush-like “surges” of that conflict. Events – and a deep reluctance to “waste my beautiful mind” on such a self-evident assemblage of murderous mendacity – stayed my hand. But this was, as it turned out, all good, as the saying goes, for now I find that Arthur Silber has, to paraphrase the Bard, named my very deed of rage. You should read the whole piece – and the links which provide historical context to the president’s long-tortured relationship with truth – but here’s a snippet to wet your whistle:
Oh my gosh! Apparently Iran is not a monolithic monster whose entire energies are united in destroy all that’s good and holy and can be sold at Wal-Mart.
Do you want to know what the future looks like? Ed Vulliamy can show you. Just follow him down to Ciudad Juarez, where the witless, heedless, heartless machinery of "market fundamentalism" (or "late capitalism," or whatever other name you'd like to give to the unrestrained greed of our elites) has come to its logical, horrific culmination.
Obviously, there was a typo in the UN resolution approving NATO’s operations in Libya. It was widely reported that the resolution authorized the establishment of a “no-fly” zone in Libya to protect civilians from being killed by military attack. However, it’s clear now that what the international body really greenlighted was a “no-life” zone, designed to, er, kill people with, er, military attacks. It’s an easy mistake to make, really, transposing the “f” and “l” like that; a UN transcriptionist probably misheard the original intention, then mentally “corrected” it with the “y” to make it read in the more accustomed manner. Happens all the time.
I wrote the lines below more than 25 years ago; but when I finally got around to putting them to music some months ago, what had seemed allusive and metaphorical – both the public overview and the personal intimations of mortality – had become all too real. It’s like the passage toward the end of Doctor Zhivago, when two survivors of revolution, famine, purge, camps and war are looking back:
Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate met with the crown prince of Bahrain and "reaffirmed" the United States' "strong commitment" to the regime of unelected autocrats. The Peace Laureate -- who in his acceptance of the Prize wrapped himself in the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi -- also "expressed strong support" for the regime's "ongoing efforts to initiate national dialogue ... [and] forge a just future for all Bahrainis."President Obama had dropped in a meeting the prince was having with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who likewise extolled the autocrats for their "national dialogue" and "important work."There is indeed "important work" going on in Bahrain these days, and the autocratic regime's "ongoing efforts to initiate dialogue" -- the campaign lauded by the Laureate -- are quite vigorous. Here, for example, The Independent details a case study of just how the crown prince and his family's regime is pursuing "national dialogue" in the manner so warmly approved by the presidential peacenik:
I watched them marching toward the border. Row upon row of them in the hot, bright sun. They marched without guns, without tanks and missiles -- although some, like the shepherd boy David, did pick up a few rocks to hurl into the impossible distance.I watched them stream down the green hill toward the heaps of dirt and wire. I saw them, old and young, walk toward the occupied land. I saw them come closer -- close enough for the heavily-armed occupying force to have them in range. From a distance -- behind the barbed wire, with the occupiers, where the cameras that showed the scene were set -- I heard the dull pops and parps of the guns as they fired. I saw the marchers kept streaming down the hill, although the first wave was now breaking in disarray. I heard the guns again. I saw some marchers fall, others scramble back, and still more coming down.Pop. Pop. Parp. The dull sounds, intermittent, careful. The bullets whizzed across the distance -- the impossible distance, which no stone could traverse. The bullets threw up clouds of dirt, they struck flesh. I saw bodies twisting and going down. The march became a rescue party. The dead and wounded were lifted onto sheets and stretchers as the bullets kept coming: dull, intermittent, careful. Pop. Pop. Parp.Finally, as many lay dead, many lay bleeding in bright, hot sun, finally, across the distance, from behind the barbed wire and hot-barrelled weapons, I watched the canisters of tear gas sailing through the air, trailing...
As always, I hate to do this, but I just wanted to put out a brief call for donations, if anyone feels moved to pitch a few coins into the hat. Regular financial support for this site has dwindled down to almost nothing; there is now only one regular subscriber, where once there had been dozens. (Was it something I said?) People do chip in from time to time, and I'm enormously grateful for that. And of course, times are hard all over, and there are needs far greater than mine. (Arthur Silber, for one; don't you dast give anything here without giving there first.) Still, the income once generated by my political writings has essentially disappeared, and one does feel that gap every now and then. So if you've got a few pennies, and you've taken care of your own needs and those of others in more need, and you take a notion, we would be mighty grateful and much beholden for anything you might toss this way.Meanwhile, pressing personal business of various sorts have kept me preoccupied of late. So in lieu of my own deathless take on various issues of the day, please take a gander at a few of these important articles which have appeared in the last few days.War Against Humanity, Part 1A new drive has been launched to end the so-called "War on Drugs." A whole raft of Establishment worthies -- conveniently out of power now, alas -- have signed their names to a new call to end what is probably the most pernicious, corrupting, and corrosively evil movement of our time. The "War on...