Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sometimes It's Not What You Expect

Above is the scene up in Margaretville, New York, on Sunday in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. This was shot from the second floor of a commercial property owned by dear friends of mine. The building in the background is apparently now close to collapse...it housed a number of shops, a pub, and several floors of apartments. Margaretville is hundreds of miles away from me: I'm five long blocks from New York Harbor, and Margaretville is nestled safely up in the Catskill Mountains.

After the freak earthquake earlier in the week, we dutifully prepared to face nature's wrath this weekend. I stocked up on supplies, filled pots with water, shut windows and stayed indoors. Cut off from my boyfriend and others by the shutdown of the city's transit system, I waited out the storm. I listened to the mayor on the radio every once in a while sternly telling people to prepare for the worst.

In the middle of Saturday night I woke up and peered out the front door to a bizarrely apocalyptic sight: in the heavy rain water was flowing over the front sidewalk in a sheet as the trees shook and rustled in the furious wind. But shortly after I woke up in the morning the sun came out, the rain gone, the air calm. While the wind returned in the afternoon, there was no residual flood, and no trees had crashed onto our house. The feral cats out back didn't even seem to be wet.

The storm crashed into shore not far from here, and yet everything in the city had a pro forma feel to it. It took a day for the subway to be switched back on. I saw a neighbor airing out a wet basement. A friend photographed a tree that had split in two. But it was anticlimactic, a lot of wind and rain but it sure didn't feel like what we thought a hurricane would feel like. But in upstate New York, and neighboring Vermont, catastrophe.

Check out the Watershed Post website: amidst the heartbreaking photos is a live blog and a spreadsheet being used to locate survivors stranded by the wild uproar of the mountain rivers and streams. It's all broken roads and bridges and collapsed homes amidst brown water. I go up there once or twice a year to share the green tranquility of my friends' vacation homes: I recognize these familiar sights in disbelief. And the Metro North train line to my godfather's house in the Catskill foothills may be out for months, the trainbed washed completely away in many places.

The authorities had tried to protect something, whether the city or even merely their own reputations. We prepared for the worst, but the worst went elsewhere. We fool ourselves when we think someone other than Nature Herself is in control: by Her merest whim we survive. She moves on without looking back. Until next time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Another Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

Head over to Mondoweiss to find a free PDF download of a massive and thorough report by the Center for American Progress called "Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in the U.S." Running 130+ pages (which I'm still digesting), the report documents the network of right-wing pseudo experts orchestrating the wave of Islamophobia responsible for everything from bizarre legislation against Muslim Sharia law in the Midwest to bloodthirsty racist protests against the proposed downtown Manhattan Muslim community center.

In the aftermath of the right-wing terror incident in Norway which revealed many of the leading lights of Islamophobia to be influences and even correspondents to its perpetrator, the report paints a compelling picture of a vast international and well-funded web with a laser-focused agenda on demonizing Muslims. There's a great chart in the report showing the multi-million dollar funders at the root of this network, the misinformation think-tank experts who pull the paychecks, and the "Islamophobia Echo Chamber" who do the dirty work of "mislead[ing] the public [by] amplifying the fear and misinformation" that they are supplied. Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is prominent among the "echo chamber" players. It's heavily footnoted, and absolutely chilling.

The report warns, "As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the Islamophobia network will be working overtime. The anniversary could be manipulated to ratchet up the non- existent threat of Sharia and warn of apocalyptic dangers stemming from Muslims living in America."

While the report is chock-full of detailed information, I'm finding it a little weak on analysis: while it correctly labels much of the Islamophobia as "racist," it fails to delve too deeply into the "why." While painting an exhaustive picture of craven and cynical opportunism, it doesn't take too deep a look at how central the American relationship to Israel is to creating the petrie dish where this infection has bred. That said, this is an indispensible document that names plenty of names.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hallelujah One Day

Above is a beautiful version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" from Steven Page, (former?) lead singer of Barenaked Ladies, at today's state funeral for Jack Layton, the late leader of Canada's New Democratic Party, its viable socialist opposition party.

From Jack Layton's last letter to Canadians:

"There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. ... My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."

If only here down here below Canada we had the ability to vote for such brave, committed and truly progressive candidates who are also not just symbolic protest votes but real possibilities for real change.

In personal news, I'm safely hunkered down on my hill in Brooklyn awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irene. It's been quiet and peaceful today with intermittent rain; the bus that runs along my street was halted along with the rest of the NYC transit system. It's supposed to get interesting after midnight. Hopefully not too interesting.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can You Handle Candy's Sweet Scandal?

I'm excited to present the latest video from my super-talented drag queen friend Candy Samples. It's for her just-released new single (available on iTunes!) "Sweet Scandal," and the song was co-written by Candy with two of her frequent collaborators including my boyfriend. I've got cameos in this video as well as all her previous ones.

This daring new video is filled with more gun-pointing attitude than Miranda Richardson shows off in "The Crying Game," as Candy takes what she wants with no apologies. It was fun being a part of her video cast again, and I'm always amazed at the talent and creativity of Candy's whole production team. The special effects in this one (including a crucifixion scene!) are really fun and over the top. She is super wigged out!

It's become a yearly tradition for Candy to produce a new song and video for her appearance down at the Southern Decadence gay street party in New Orleans each Labor Day; we're willing to share her but we're glad this is her home town. The video was filmed on location in Astoria, Queens.

I can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is That All There Is?

Two great American songwriters left this world this week: the great Nickolas Ashford, first of Motown songwriting fame and later of the duet Ashford & Simpson with his wife Valerie; and Jerry Leiber of the Leiber and Stoller songwriting team responsible for many classic early rock and pop hits. I have to say that while I've long thought Ashford & Simpson incapable of writing anything other than a masterpiece, most Leiber & Stoller songs are not really to my taste. With one important exception: the song made into a hit in 1969 by the great Miss Peggy Lee, "Is That All There Is."

Unlike much of their other work such as "Hound Dog," "Kansas City," or "Stand by Me," Leiber & Stoller's "Is That All There Is" is not a swing-your-hips, tap-along stormer of a tune. It's a deeply cynical, existentially world-weary expression of disillusionment and disappointment. Performed by Peggy Lee to utter perfection long after her own girlish romantic optimism had transformed itself to an almost stiff aloofness and detachment, the song is better served with a shot of whiskey than a champagne toast. I remember hearing it the first time as a young boy on the radio and being transfixed by its daring lyricism: I was amazed somebody was celebrating such a message of hopelessness. It still provokes a dark chuckle every time I listen to it. It was probably the first time I ever heard the interpretive genius of Peggy Lee as well. I read this week that the song had been first offered to Marlene Dietrich who turned it down. Lee's knowing delivery is an absolute triumph, transforming the work of pop ditty songwriters into that of high cabaret artistes.

It makes me surprised that Leiber & Stoller didn't go on to write musical theater. But after a song like this, well, maybe that's just all there needs to be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Anti-American Art: Bab al-Azizya

I figured I better feature this rather iconic statue before it's gone. Earlier in my series of Anti-American art images I featured a Libyan stamp showing a similar illustration, but here's the real thing, the statue erected by the Libyan dictator Qaddafi at the site of the American assassination attempt/bombing raid back in 1986 that took the life of his adopted daughter. Showing a hand crushing an American jet, it's located in his expansive Bab al-Azizya compound in Tripoli, and was, as seen below, just overrun by the NATO-backed rebels of the Libyan Transitional National Council.

A particularly noxious NY Times video already makes the not completely off-base comparison between this statue and the ones of Saddam Hussein pulled down by American invaders, so it seems likely that these NATO revolutionaries will shortly pull this iconic symbol of defiance down so as not to offend their new overlords.

It seems likely that Qaddafi's quixotic faux egalitarian faux anti-imperialist regime is now a thing of the past, though the TNC is rife with his former allies. It's also far from clear in any case that the war is at all over or that Libya's future is resolved.

Although before the US/NATO intervention I was all in favor of a real Libyan people's revolution, I have my doubts that this now beholden-to-NATO hitchup of former bureaucrats will bring anything resembling actual democracy to the Libyan people. Beware of NATO bombers bearing gifts. It ought to give all freedom-loving people pause to think that the rebels are now in effect celebrating the high-tech rain of death from the skies that this statue challenges. No doubt the world's future hindsight will be 20-20.

(PS: That earthquake today! Unnerving and momentarily terrifying...but no damage done here in the home of The Cahokian. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nafissatou Diallo: Raped Twice, First by DSK Now by the "Law"

The New York Times recounts today's meeting between prosecutors from the New York City DA's office and rape victim Nafissatou Diallo and her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson:

'Mr. Thompson said that he and Ms. Diallo entered a conference room where the three main prosecutors on the case, Artie McConnell, Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and Ann Prunty, sat.

According to Mr. Thompson, when he and Ms. Diallo sat down, Ms. Illuzzi-Orbon said something to the effect of: “Nafi, we’re going to dismiss the case. You have lied to us repeatedly We can’t win the case.”

Mr. Thompson said he asked Ms. Illuzzi-Orbon what she was talking about and that Ms. Diallo asked how she lied. As Ms. Diallo was trying to ask questions, Mr. Thompson said, the three prosecutors stood up and walked out of the room without answering.

“The meeting lasted no more than 30 seconds; it was probably 20 seconds,” Mr. Thompson said. “It was disrespectful, it was absolutely disrespectful. They didn’t have the common courtesy to answer one question that the victim posed.” '

And so the vile rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the rich white international business executive, gets off, and the African maid who was bruised and assaulted, gets accused of being a liar and a criminal. The American Justice system does what it does best, serving the interest of the rich, white and powerful.

Ms. Diallo was found to have severe bruising on her genitalia. Semen from her mouth, clothes, and the wall of the hotel room in which she was assaulted matched Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Numerous other women have come forward to document Mr. Strauss-Kahn's lecherous, predatory and rapine behavior: he clearly believes his power and privilege gives him the right to do to women whatever he pleases, whenever he chooses. And yet Cyrus Vance Jr., an alleged liberal from a respected political family, has chosen to let Strauss-Kahn get off scot-free, because of Diallo's alleged history of lying during the difficult process of her immigration to the United States.

Cyrus Vance Jr. is now guilty of rape along with DSK: in choosing to let drop the prosecution of a case he has said to all women that if there are any mistakes in your past, any wealthy or powerful man has the right to rape you, to damage and bruise your genitalia, to cover you with his personal filth, with total and absolute impunity from the law.

For a demoralizing exercise in the disgusting racism and misogyny in American society, read the comments on the cited New York Times story. Readers compare Ms. Diallo to Tawana Brawley, notorious nearly thirty years ago for making improbable claims of rape in a completely different case under completely different circumstances, related perhaps in the eyes of white racists for the shared color of their skin. They call for Ms. Diallo's deportation, prosecution, virtually for her very lynching. The anger against Diallo is disturbing: her vilification is near complete while a man of utterly dubious reputation goes free, back to his mansions and his millions and his wife who has learned to look the other way at his hobby of molesting women.

Despite the facts and evidence of the case, which are related to Ms. Diallo's past actions not one iota, Cyrus Vance's office have punted.

This is not only an injustice but an outrage. Cyrus Vance must be forced to resign, and a special prosecutor should not only continue the prosecution against Strauss-Kahn but investigate the DA's office for corruption.

Once again, New York's City says "fuck you" to its weakest and most vulnerable.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Something Not Funny About Michele Bachmann

It's easy to laugh about Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. Just this week she's been busy promising $2 a gallon gasoline, fretting over the rise of the Soviet Union and wishing the late Elvis Presley a happy birthday on the anniversary of his death. Perhaps it's too easy sometimes: I know I wonder if laughter is the right response, given how inappropriate it is to make fun of those suffering from mental illness, as Ms. Bachmann so clearly is.

But setting aside Ms. Bachmann's ignorance, demogoguery, dishonesty, and overactive imagination for the moment, she's not entirely a laughing matter. It seems unlikely to me that she will end up being the Republican presidential nominee, and perhaps she'll end up nothing more than a convenient foil for more moderate Republicans seeking leverage in the campaign to unseat Obama. But it turns out that it's not only her views that are problematic.

The Atlantic Magazine has published a disturbing exposé on one of Ms. Bachmann's top staffers, one Peter E. Waldron. Waldron helped Bachmann win the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa: he is also a Christian organizer who spent prison time in Uganda in 2006, accused of terrorism and jailed for possession of assault weapons.

Waldron is also a close friend and colleague of the Ugandan politician who has been — so far unsucessfully — trying to pass a law in Uganda making homosexuality a death-penalty offense. Far from distancing themselves from Mr. Waldon, the Atlantic reports that the Bachmann campaign is enthusiastically standing behind him: "Asked about Waldron's role and background, Alice Stewart, the press secretary for the Bachmann for President campaign, replied in an email: "Michele's faith is an important part of her life and Peter did a tremendous job with our faith outreach in Iowa. We are fortunate to have him on our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several states."

It was bad enough that President Obama spent time cozying up to the Christian evangelical movement that has been running amok in Africa pushing a right-wing political agenda. At least when the proposed Ugandan law became public the Obama administration condemned it, and shamed people like Rick Warren into distancing themselves from their former protegees. But what does it mean that a Republican candidate is so closely and enthusiastically tied to a man and movement that stands in effect for a holocaust against African gay people?

We know that Bachmann has a family business, via her quack of a husband Marcus "Ladybird" Bachmann, that involves "counseling" gay people into going straight: actually an unscientific and abusive form of mental torture. And we know that despite her advocacy against social welfare spending that her family has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds. But do we know that Bachmann's actual agenda for gay people in Uganda, the US or anywhere is other than criminalization and murder? In truth, no. And that's not funny at all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rick Perry, Man of Peace?

I'm quite horrified that Texas's secessionist-minded governor Rick Perry is now being presented as the powerhouse Republican who will end the clown-car chaos of the Republican presidential primaries and emerge as the candidate capable of unseating President Obama. He may call himself "Texas's Jobs Governor," but he's a rabid right-wing social conservative, a Taliban-style Christianist, and those Texas jobs are un-unionized, un-insured, minimum-waged burger flipping jobs. There's a great analysis of the politics of narcissistic white resentment behind fans of Perry and Bachmann over at Hullabaloo. Strongly recommended.

Perry seems to believe threatening to kill people is the way to build support for his campaign. First, he bizarrely threatened violence against "treasonous" (Republican appointee) Ben Bernanke for printing up money. Then, he suggested using predator drones along the American border to solve the immigration problem by tidily killing undocumented immigrants via remote control.

Sadly, Perry is not joking about any of this. As Texas governor he has presided over the executions of hundreds of condemned prisoners, included disabled individuals and people widely believed to have been convicted in error. Disgustingly, his support of the death penalty is seen by his supporters of evidence of his balls. And Perry is completely against government regulation of industry, which means you or your child's death from pollution-caused disease or poisoned food or faulty machinery? Not his problem.

(Photo of Rick Perry as a cadet in 1972 snagged from the excellent Rag Blog.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Images of Bermuda

Here's a few random images from my vacation. Above, lush vegetation with a glimpse of the ocean on the path to Horseshoe Bay beach. I remember before I ever saw water that beautiful shade of turquoise I assumed it was always faked in a photo studio. Water that color still makes me giddy every time I see it.

Bermuda's towns are impossibly tidy. The occasional challenge to the nearly immaculate and unchallenged sense of order was a shirtless Rastafarian: here one guy dozes in a hollow tree, displaying a series of complicated shrine-like works of art. Click on the photo to see the one at left with black-and-white Barbie dolls. Elsewhere I saw an apparently homeless dreadlocked man dive into a shady spot on a lush green lawn outside the early 19th-century Historical Society building as though it were a featherbed; it was oddly sensual, an unselfconscious expression of necessity in a place where a lot of money seems to be spent on keeping things just so.

I found the palette of color used by Bermudians on their houses deeply affecting: I wish I had more time to study and photograph them. Not just pale pastel colors but rich blues, turqoises, pinks, yellows, lime greens: the colors of water, of nature, of the sky, of the sun. Here's a completely inadequate sampling.

We visited a beautiful and thought-provoking show in the corner of the Bermuda Society of Arts gallery, entitled "Black Apartheid" by the local artist Manuel Palacio. It was a head-on confrontation of racism and racial attitudes in Bermuda, and a scathing critique of Bermuda's government. In addition to the piece above entitled "I Hate White People" (read the names of the streets on its map-like display), there was a biting attack on Bermuda's (black) parliamentarians done up like an Al Pacino "Scarface" poster and Warhol-esque paintings of those parliamentarians in whiteface. When you're a tourist you don't usually get much insight into the three-dimensional realities of life behind the pretty colors; it was rewarding to get a peek into them via this artwork.

Photos by me except for the artwork at bottom from the Bermuda Society of the Arts. Click on the images to see them larger.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Anti-Americana: Vietnam Was a Victory

It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? If you're on the side of peace and justice, the correct side won. There's a lesson in there. Here's a (North) Vietnamese poster dating from the time of that American war of aggression, showing a sandal clad foot tromping an American tank.

For more anti-American propaganda art images, see The Cahokian's archive here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welcome Back to Amerikkka

I'm back from vacation. My boyfriend's parents invited him on a cruise to celebrate his father's 70th birthday; I got invited along as the significant other. It was a lovely, relaxing time chugging off to the floating suburb of Bermuda: a tiny, beautiful, interesting country apparently even more expensive than my own New York City, without the social tolerance. It was nice to enjoy some beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, tasty food, and pleasant company.

But how strange to be at arm's length from the world for a week, and then at the mercy of somebody else's spoon-fed perspective: we got New York Times headlines, and a choice of CNN or Faux News satellite TV, and a quick daily peek at the internet pro-rated at 75 cents a minute. The economy seems as rocky as the waves on the trip out; rioting in the U.K. seems to have brought out an orgy of racist commentary; and political news is dominated by the Iowan rise of mentally-ill fantasist/liar Michele Bachmann (that's her above) and the entry into the Republican presidential race of creepy secessionist/Christianist Texas governor Rick Perry, both heavily invested in an attempt to deprive gay Americans of their rights. Perry wants very much to inflict his union-free, minimum-wage, death-penalty friendly vision onto the whole country; his version of multi-culturalism means welcoming all kinds of people...to praise Jesus and pray for rain.

I was struck by how clear the class perspective of the media is: in the case of both the UK riots and the local Verizon workers' strike, the media voice adhered closely to the narrative of bosses and property owners. I turned off the cabin's TV this morning as some idiot (white, upper-classed) talking head was blaming the British violence not on the austerity policies of the Tory government but on the "nihilism" of hip-hop culture. Nevermind that British hip-hop is among the most socially progressive and conscious musics in the world.

I guess I'm back in that world now. Time to unpack.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Gone Swimmin'

I'm off on a well-deserved vacation. I'm pretty sure I won't have much internet access for a week. Regular posting resumes when I get back!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Budget Cuts Force Obama Administration to Recycle Tired Old Li(n)es

A few years ago the headline "Rumsfield Hypes Al Qaeda to Ward Off More Defense Cuts" would have surprised no one. And yet there it is today: "Leon Panetta Hypes Al Qaeda to Ward Off More Defense Cuts." Note the difference: Leon Panetta, Obama's new Democratic Secretary of Defense. Yes, Panetta is complaining that the debt ceiling deal threatens the military budget, according to the Times: "Mr. Panetta warned that if a Congressional panel could not reach agreement on cuts to the nation’s deficit, “it could trigger a round of dangerous across-the-board defense cuts that would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our ability to protect the nation.” At a follow-up news conference, an unnameable Pentagon official said "“I would expect them to focus on entitlements and taxes,” the official said. He added that although “they have the right to focus on whatever they want,” more than $400 billion in budget cuts to the Pentagon would “go from the hard and manageable to the not-so-manageable.” In other words, the Bush, er, OBAMA, administration is arguing that cuts should be made to social programs instead of defense spending.

And yes, this was just days after Panetta was declaring that Al Qaeda was "almost defeated." More news from the Malabar Front, no doubt! Mission accomplished!

Oh yeah and how is that war in Afghanistan going? Have you noticed how whenever anything bad happens there now it's "NATO" this or "NATO" that? The American media is in shameful collaboration with the U.S. government attempting to divert attention from the fact that America owns the war in Afghanistan just as the Soviet Union once did. Here's the good news: It's only civilian deaths! "Although the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan has steadily risen in the past year, with a 15 percent increase in the first half of 2011 over the same period last year, NATO deaths had been declining — decreasing nearly 20 percent in the first six months of 2011 compared with 2010." Well, that was until the Taliban shot down a "NATO" (American) helicopter killing thirty "NATO" (American) soldiers. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end!

When Panetta was confirmed to replace outgoing Secretary (and Bush appointee) Robert Gates, the first thing he did was rush off to Iraq and begin to rattle tired, worn sabres against Iran. He also has begun to twist the arms of the dysfunctional Iraqi government to get them to "request" that American forces stay behind after the scheduled departure to deal with the Iranian "threat." All of a sudden the administration is recycling the years-old Bush trademark claims that Iraqi IEDs originate in Iran and that Iranian leaders are now cooperating with Al Qaeda. It's just so pathetically transparent. Did the disgusting Panetta find a bunch of undated memos in his new desk and just decide they would make him sound like a tough guy?

Then there's this fascinating article in the NY Times today, "Moral Flip-Flop? Defining a War." It's about a top State Department legal adviser going through hoops to suggest the President has the right to do whatever he wants in fighting a war. The subject of the article is one of those Bush lawyers like John Yoo? Not even close: alleged liberal icon Harold Koh, the architect apparently of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's policy of not consulting congress before attacking the sovereign nation of Libya.

So much for the victorious anti-war candidate.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Crimes Against Humanity

When reminded of today's grim anniversary, I thought I had something to add on the topic. I re-read my entry last year, and realize the same exact thing needs to be said again. We as Americans have this strange idealized image of ourselves: ever quick with a qualification or an excuse for the actions of our nation and its politicians that conflicts with our imaginary view of ourselves, I think we'd be happier if we'd go with our first gut impulse. Killing hundreds of thousands of people in an instant is just wrong. Start from there and work backwards. There's no rationalization for atomic weapons that holds up, if you're honest with yourself and any reasonable sense of morality. When you start to make an excuse, work forward again to the incineration of thousands of innocent children and find your way back. From last year:

One nation has actually used the ultimate weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons. That nation is the United States of America.

Sixty-five years ago today, the United States bombed the city of Hiroshima in southern Japan. Nearly a hundred thousand lives--mostly civilians--were instantly snuffed out as the city itself was flattened. Tens and tens of thousands of others had their lives cut short, condemned to dealing with painful burns and other injuries and to the slow but equally fatal poisonous effects of lethal radiation exposure.

The big lie of Hiroshima (and Nagasaki, bombed three days later) is that the United States had no choice: it traded the lives of two cities worth of Japanese civilians for the shortening of the war. But for the four years of the war the American government and its loyal cultural institutions had churned out massive amounts of dehumanizing racist anti-Japanese propaganda like the poster at left. Loyal American citizens of Japanese ancestry had been sent to internment camps. It is not surprising that the American military and scientific establishment would use the last days of a war obviously almost over to experiment on a civilian population it had already deemed subhuman. The United States made its deadly mathematical calculation because it believed that dropping the bomb on Japanese civilians would be like crushing so many cockroaches. Many -- though certainly not all -- scholars believe that the Japanese government was ready to surrender, especially anticipating the obviously imminent entry of the Soviet Union into the war. The Japanese imperialists had a record of military cruelty to civilians dating back to the attack on Shanghai in 1937; that's undeniable. But with the nuclear attacks on Japan, the United States became fully committed to that same club.

From the story of survivor Setsuko Thurlow:

"I turned around and saw the outside world. Although it was morning, it looked like twilight because of the dust and smoke in the air. People at a distance saw the mushroom cloud and heard a thunderous roar. But I did not see the cloud because I was in it. I did not hear the roar, just the deadly silence broken only by the groans of the injured. Streams of stunned people were slowly shuffling from the city centre toward nearby hills. They were naked or tattered, burned, blackened and swollen. Eyes were swollen shut and some had eyeballs hanging out of their sockets. They were bleeding, ghostly figures like a slow-motion image from an old silent movie. Many held their hands above the level of their hearts to lessen the throbbing pain of their burns. Strips of skin and flesh hung like ribbons from their bones. Often these ghostly figures would collapse in heaps never to rise again. With a few surviving classmates I joined the procession carefully stepping over the dead and dying.

At the foot of the hill was an army training ground about the size of two football fields. Literally every bit of it was covered with injured and dying who were desperately begging, often in fain whispers, “Water, water, please give me water”. But we had no containers to carry water. We went to a nearby stream to wash the blood and dirt from our bodies. Then we tore off parts of our clothes, soaked them with water and hurried back to hold them to the mouths of the dying who desperately sucked the moisture. We kept busy at this task of giving some comfort to the dying all day. There were no medical supplies of any kind and we did not see any doctor or nurse. When darkness fell, we sat on the hillside, numbed by the massive scale of death and suffering we had witnessed, watching the entire city burn. In the background were the low rhythmic whispers from the swollen lips of the ghostly figures, still begging for water."

More survivor testimony can be read at Voices of Hibakusha.

Remember this: when the U.S. campaigns against weapons of mass destruction, when it marches into Iraq, threatens Iran and North Korea, raises the spectre of rogue nukes, this is not because it believes WMD are wrong, it's because it wants exclusive use of these monstrosities for itself and its allies.

WW2 poster snagged from Maximum Advantage in Pictures blog.

Friday, August 05, 2011

New York City Gay Center Update

Below is the text of a open letter to the NY LGBT Center from the right-wing rabidly Zionist pornographer Michael Lucas, who has successfully bullied the Center into expelling any pro-Palestinian gay activists from scheduling meetings at the center. Despite the official ban, the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid has continued to hold unapproved meetings in the lobby of the Center as political actions. Apparently these sit-ins have outraged Lucas. Here is his latest, and disturbingly bullying, missive, addressed to two Center staffers:

"Glennda and Mario-

This is an open letter to you and I am copying it to others. It came to my attention that you, yet again, allowed a group of anti-Semites to meet on your premises, in the lobby of your Center.

This time, the size of the group was larger and consisted of several anti-Israeli groups. As I said before, the Center has become a magnet for anti-Semitism. The difference between previous meetings and the meetings that took place on June 8th and July 5th is that these times the meetings were more visible, instead of meetings and anti-Israeli fundraising campaigns behind closed doors. Meetings have now moved into a public space in the Center's lobby for everyone to see.

Again, you have publicly lied by saying that you would put a moratorium on these meetings, since the keep happening on larger scales.

I, as others have, made up my mind long ago that you are vigorously anti-Semitic. Let me state that nobody cares if you have Jews on board, if there are self-loathing Jews taking part in anti-Semitic meetings that you host, or if there are self-hating Jews supporting you. If you think that you bought insurance by having a handful of Jews on your side, then you are mistaken. Don't think you are fooling anyone.

The American Jewish body overwhelmingly opposes your actions and is disgusted by them.

As you know, there is a new meeting scheduled in your lobby for August 10th. If this meeting goes on, then I do hope that you will be forced to resign, since the Center deserves better leadership."

Lucas's lying dismissal of anyone who even acknowledges the existence of Palestinians or pro-Palestine organizations as "anti-Semites" reveals his true bigotry and hatred. The Center leadership has indeed showed themselves to be ill-equipped to handle controversy and to be poor stewards of the open community meeting place the Center once was. But to think that these leaders are actually cowed as they have been so far by being addressed in such a vile, bullying way, makes it sadder still.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Down So Low

My my. Thank goodness our political leaders solved the economic crisis on Monday because otherwise Thursday's news might be, um, really bad.

Here's a lovely song from the great Tracy Nelson to take our minds off our problems. The lyrics aren't so relevant but the title sure is.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

'More than machinery we need humanity"

I was reminded of this brilliant speech by one of my favorite left-wing sites. It's the climax of Charlie Chaplin's 1940 film "The Great Dictator," a must-see on anyone's list. This is a stirring, heartfelt speech made by Chaplain himself playing a Jewish barber who has found himself masquerading as Adenoid Hynkel, the film's bumbling parody of Adolf Hitler.

The times we live in are very different than the world of 1940: the Hitlers of the world today are at worst very little Hitlers indeed. But it's not necessary to exaggerate the state of the world or fling over-reaching hyperbole about to find in Chaplin's emotional call for a new and better world ideas that retain currency even when jack-booted thugs are for the moment mostly dormant.

Fighting hatred, intolerance and militarism is always a good idea: and in a world that does seem like it's spinning about on a precipice of horrible possibilities, I find a poignancy in the relevance of this short and stirring testament. Some people seem in an awful hurry to repeat some really horrible chapters of the past: perhaps by listening to this cry from the past we can remember to keep our gaze pointed at a better future.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

New Stamps from Gaza Challenge the Blockade

Late last year I wrote about the decision of the Palestinian government in Gaza to issue postage stamps that challenged existing postal agreements between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel. The PA has been allowed to issue its own stamps since the 1990s, however Israel reserves the right to veto the design or subject of these stamps; Now for another year the Hamas-led wing of the PA in Gaza has refused to play by these rules.

Three new sets of stamps were just issued in Gaza: a series marking the anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, the expulsion of Palestinians from Palestine at the time of the establishment of Israel; the "Freedom Fleet's Martyrs," the eight Turkish and Turkish-American activists killed last year aboard the Mavi Marmara when Israeli pirates attacked the Gaza-bound freedom flotilla; and, not shown, "Year of Youth 2011."

It's not clear that these stamps will serve anything more than a propaganda purpose given the Israeli blockade and its harsh Apartheid-style rules governing internal Palestinian Authority matters, but the designs sure are compelling.

(Photos courtesy of Magan Stamps. Click on the images to see them a little larger.)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Neville Chamberlain Announces Bipartisan Deal on Peace

Here's the video footage of the quote I posted the other day. Below, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler modestly notes his commitment to compromise.

Oh wait, is that the right photo? No matter, same difference. And this shameful appeasement of teabagger extremists will have the same result on preserving the economy of American working people as Neville Chamberlain's appeasement had on peace. Have you ever seen jowls McConnell smile like that before?

Fascinatingly, only half of the Democratic members of the House voted for this travesty today: the bill belongs to the President and his new Republican allies.