7/20/09

Anatomy Of A Sample

The Dovers, What Am I Going To Do?

and then:
Atlas Sound ft. Noah Lennox, Walkabout

7/18/09

And That's The Way It Is


R.I.P. Walter Cronkite

7/16/09

7/15/09

Is This It? [Part 2]



The Washington Post claims that the "secret program" run out of the C.I.A. was nearing a new phase, or "a somewhat more operational phase." Whether the C.I.A. passed the program along to the Pentagon remains unanswered, however. The article also does not reveal what this program actually did, though many will infer that covert actions, namely secret assassinations in allied and hostile countries, were taking place under this program.

7/14/09

The Hurt Locker



Since seeing Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, I've more or less been at a loss for words. The film doesn't have the formalist chops to be instantly appreciated as art necessarily, but its bizarre structure, episodic and jagged, complete with wrenching set pieces at various moments of war battle, more than succeeds as an object of appreciation. In fact, The Hurt Locker, at this moment, stands alone as the first seemingly genuine film about the Iraq War to date (and quite possibly a masterpiece), which is to say not bogged down with using its characters as pawns for political purpose or portraying the war as anything but days and years of experienced existential dread.

Make no mistake, however, The Hurt Locker is deeply political, not needing to use horrendous policies like stop-loss to prove the horror of the war. Despite this, claims of the film's apolitical nature have popped up, and within reason, that point of view is understandable. To understand the purpose of Bigelow's careful and airtight politics is to askew the political discourse that preceded and proceeded the Iraq War, which itself was one of the most suffocatingly anti-intellectual moments in recent memory. Samuel Fuller, filmmaker and WWII veteran, said that "surviving is the only glory in war" and this is the essence of Bigelow's argument: the characters who do survive war are the true messengers. The dead, and there are plenty in The Hurt Locker, are the result of the lack of hubris and perhaps misunderstanding of the mission itself, which even the writers of the war couldn't get straight. A botched philosophy which can only be continued in people with survivalist tendencies and a rugged independence, divorced from the effects of war and the emotions one carries from it. Jonathan Rosenbaum hits the nail on the head:
This is a film whose most courageous character is shown to be myopic to the point of insanity when it comes to perceiving Iraqi people in his midst — or at least one Iraqi kid in particular whom he supposedly knows and has some fondness for. He’s so convinced that this kid has been killed by a terrorist that he can’t even see the kid greeting him. This kind of blindness surely implies something about American perceptions of the Iraqi people, the ones whom American soldiers have allegedly been fighting for. It even, I would argue, implies something political.
So, I hope to have more to say on this film in the coming months, but please catch it while you can.

7/13/09

Is This It? [Updated]


There are still classified unknowns about this NY Times story about former Vice President Dick Cheney's involvement in covert intelligence programs in the CIA to either detain or kill suspected al-Qaeda operatives. There's speculation that it could be this Sy Hersh statement that global black ops took place, from Yemen to South America, presumably killing suspected al-Qaeda members, bypassing procedural requirements agreed upon by the UN and embassies in each country. All of this occurred without congressional or judicial oversight.

One hates speculating in times like these, but this requires a full investigation with an independent prosecutor. Yes, it may cost the Obama administration political capital or worse, but the truth most be revealed.

[Update]: The NY Times has a new story out today stating that the program Panetta cancelled was in fact an assassination operation. Where or when the assassinations took place, or if they did at all, remains unclear. The article reaffirms Cheney's closeness to this program and hints at the CIA's distance from it.

In addition, the article linked above by Sy Hersh apparently was a program run out of the Pentagon and not the CIA. It's unclear if these were separate or the same programs.

Further reading (and perhaps greater in detail than the Times article) from The Guardian.

Send Us Money

From Felix Salmon's entry in this month's issue of The Atlantic:
If the Obama administration is serious about stimulating the economy and creating as many new jobs as possible, one choice is clear: it should announce a massive increase in federal arts funding... for every $30,000 or so spent on the arts, one more person gets a job, compared with about $1 million if you’re building a road or hospital.
And Salmon's analysis occurs just at the level of the individual artist. As mentioned in a previous post, Art with a capital A is an industry, just like Music or Entertainment. Federal money spent on art doesn't just subsidize the aesthetic investigations of the next Pollock, though that goal alone is both noble and necessary; it also creates work for art suppliers, art movers, crate builders, installation crews, gallery attendants, museum workers, security guards, art writers, bookstore employees and many more.

It's true that art often poses more than just aesthetic challenges to its viewers, the most (in)famous of which are sexual or political in nature. But politics is a part of every dollar spent anywhere. Why should we de facto subsidize only conservative groups, like banks, with our deficit spending by avoiding the arts? It doesn't add up.

7/11/09

What You Don't Know...


The New York Times is reporting that former Vice President Dick Cheney personally directed the CIA to keep a still unidentified counter-terrorism program secret from congress for 8 years. This revelation comes after the current director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, killed the program immediately after learning of it in June.

CNN quotes an anonymous source: "When a CIA unit brought this matter to Director Panetta's attention, it was with the recommendation that it be shared with Congress. That was also his view, and he took swift, decisive action to put it into effect."

The program never went operational.

7/9/09

Poll Dancing


New Live Poll Allows Pundits To Pander To Viewers In Real Time

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday has some declaring Obama's reelection prospects in 2012 dead in the water. Daily Rasmussen Reports polls show Obama's numbers slipping, all to the immense pleasure of people like Matt Drudge. So, do recent polls have any footing? Nate Silver doesn't seem so convinced. There are few pollsters really crunching these numbers as data showing true vulnerabilities for Obama. So why do Fox, CNN, and MSNBC commentators feel that not only is the honeymoon over for Obama, but he's going to return from the G8 to a nation of burning torches and pitchforks?

All of this has to do with the economy, but like the President stated when first taking office, the job numbers are the last to recover from our Great Recession. This will take time. If conservatives such as Joe Scarborough think these numbers, as well as backdoor health care bill debating shows Obama potentially facing a Republican blowout 2010, I ask: what about 2009 is like 1993 besides nothing? The debate in the MSM is built solidly along The Next Election and nothing more.

"Self-Hating Jews"



Though the claim that Bibi Netanyahu referred to Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod as "self-hating Jews" remains unconfirmed, aside from the very reliable Haaretz article, it points to a greater issue that American Jews face. It's expected, in Israel and in conservative Jewish circles, that American Jews must support Israel as it is, at all times, unconditionally. Since the Obama administration has demanded that Israel halt settlements on the West Bank, it's a dirty little secret that conservative Jews blame Obama's race for this tectonic shift in policy. However, looking at the cabinet that Obama has assembled, there are many notable Jewish members such as Emanuel, Axelrod, Larry Summers and Peter Orszag. How to explain the audacity of these Jews to challenge Israel? This is where Bibi's comment is key: you must hate yourself and heritage if you defy the ruling class conservatives in Israel.

Protestors Return to the Streetes of Iran



Live Blogging from Nico Pitney, Andrew Sullivan and The Lede.

7/8/09

Deportee (Plane Crash at Los Gatos)

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sing a song by Woody Guthrie.

7/7/09

Uighurs Rise Up Using Internet To Organize

Hundreds of Uighurs in Urumqi, China have taken to the streets in what began as non-violent protests that turned bloody after a brutal police crackdown and over a thousand arrests.

Uighurs are a muslim people that make up an ethnic minority in China, but the ethnic majority in East Turkestan--the western, desert area of the vast country. The government has long been encouraging Han Chinese, who make up the ethnic majority in China, to relocate to East Turkestan. Han Chinese now make up the majority in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang province, which is somewhat synonymous with East Turkestan. The New York Times reports, "Uighurs say that the Han tend to get the better jobs in Urumqi." And the government has long imposed oppressive restrictions on Uighurs practicing their religion.



As in Iran but a few weeks ago--in defiance of an oppressive regime and in spite of a state-run media and a communications blackout--the Uighurs have successfully used new media to organize their protests.

The New York Times reports:
Internet social platforms and chat programs appeared to have unified Uighur anger over the way Chinese officials handled [a] brawl in June, thousands of miles away in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province. There, Han workers rampaged through a Uighur dormitory, killing at least two Uighurs and injuring many others, according to the state news agency, Xinhua.

...

A call for protests spread on Web sites and QQ, the most popular instant-messaging program in China, despite government efforts to block online discussion.
The clashes, however, are not limited to Uighurs and the police; Han Chinese mobs have assaulted Uighur neighborhoods and Uighurs have responded with violence in turn. Police and paramilitary forces have fired tear-gas on both sides, reports the New York Times.

Rebiya Kadeer, head of the human-right advocacy group World Uighur Congress (and the person that the Chinese authorities blame for Sunday's protest), has written an opinion for the Wall Street Journal.
Wang Lequan, the Party Secretary of the "Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region" has blamed me for the unrest; however, years of Chinese repression of Uighurs topped by a confirmation that Chinese officials have no interest in observing the rule of law when Uighurs are concerned is the cause of the current Uighur discontent.
An excellent video summarizing the events of the past few days is available here.

7/5/09

Evidence of Torture Slated to Be Destroyed

The Guardian reports that a photo--one that could potentially verify claims of abuse made by Binyam Mohamed, a British resident detained at Guantanamo--remains classified and is slated to be destroyed.

The image, now held by the Pentagon, had been put on his cell door... because he had been beaten so badly that it was difficult for the guards to identify him.

...

Mohamed said: "The authorities have consistently denied that I have been abused, and this is physical evidence that I am telling the truth, and they are not."


7/4/09

Independence



7/3/09

Christmas In July



Alaska Governor Sarah Palin resigns. But why? One would think that if 2012 were on Palin's agenda, keeping her current position would be key to a political future, proving experience and enhancing optics. Strange, per usual. Sully and TPM speculate further.

Also, the above video is a curious thing, no?

7/1/09

Your Daily Dose of Surrealism



"Artistic imagination must remain free. It is by definition free from any fidelity to circumstances, especially to the intoxicating circumstances of history." --Andre Breton

Update: Well that didn't last long. We will repost the video if and when it reappears. Meanwhile, here and here are links to a discussion of the video.

Update II: An only slightly less surreal/offensive version has already resurfaced on YouTube user LauraVW's channel: