CATEGORY: WordsDay

Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain: War and Peace for middlebrows…

Frazier’s historical novel was a great success even though it is rather indifferent both as history and as a novel…

Rivers Parting by Shirley Barker (image courtesy Amazon)

A confessions of sorts.

I have always been something of a fan of the historical novel. My interest began probably with Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court in my early teens and has been primed occasionally over the years with the occasionally discovered tasteful or tasteless gem (many courtesy of my late and dearly missed Aunt Barbara). Through her taste for middlebrow lit I wound up reading (without parental consent, of course) Forever Amber which led me to Moll Flanders and then to A Journal of the Plague Year (I’d read Robinson Crusoe years earlier as a child).  So in a weird way, the same woman who’d schooled me in serious lit by constantly forcing me to take another volume from the Harvard Classics each time I visited her (she sometimes had me read from the works to her after I’d finished mowing her yard and was enjoying a glass of lemonade or iced tea) also, in passing along her old book club selections to my mother gave me an introduction into what Middle America found fascinating reading from the 1950s through 1970s. Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

Popular Music Scholarship IV: Pop Stars and Politics

Q: Should pop stars express their political opinions and take political action? A: Only if they’re informed, concerned citizens…

 

Bono of U2, pop star and political activist (image courtesy Wikimedia)

(For previous essays in this series, look here, herehere, and here.)

For the period covered by the book of essays I’ve been discussing over the last few weeks, The Resisting Muse: Popular Music and Protest, the “post-Classic Rock Era” we might call it, the political/protest activities of pop stars have not had the same resonance or gravitas as they did during that era of protests against segregation, the Vietnam War, and environmental pollution/destruction (the role of classic rock era stars in the women’s movement is, at best, questionable – unless those stars were women, of course).

This week, in the next to last essay in this series, we look at four essays, all in one way or another related to the idea that, to contradict one of the major singers of that classic rock era, sometimes it’s about  the singer, the song – and something else entirely .

The essay titles themselves reveal much about what their authors think of the last 35 years or so. Deena Weinstein’s “Rock protest songs: so many and so few”; Jerry Rodnitsky’s “The decline and rebirth of folk protest music”; Mark Willhardt’s “Available rebels and folk authenticities: Michelle Shocked and Billy Bragg”; and, finally, John Street’s “The pop star as politician: from Belafonte to Bono, from creativity to conscience” offer us a range of explanations for why pop or rock or folk singers have/have not gotten involved in protests against social or political injustice. Some, like Weinstein, take the long view, others, like Willhardt, look closely at a couple of artists. In all of these essays, however, much the same conclusions are reached: in one way or another protest has, too often, been subsumed or marginalized by the co-option of the protester – especially if that protester is a musical celebrity. Continue reading

Scholars and Rogues Nonfiction: The Price of Ignorance by Fred Skolnik

Americans do not know very much about the world. Historically this is partly a result of distance and isolation and partly a result of arrogance. The arrogance comes into play when Americans consider the importance or relevance of what other people are doing, since it goes without saying that Americans do everything better than everyone else. Why individual Americans find it necessary to identify with the idea of America’s greatness may be sought in their need to bolster their self-esteem in the absence of personal distinction and in their feelings of insignificance in the shadow of the American Dream. The consequence of this arrogance and the ignorance it engenders may be found in the results of America’s involvement in armed conflicts around the world. Continue reading

Open letter to the United States Department of State

Post-Citizens United, if money is speech, then where does the Hedges v Obama case lead?

And by device, I mean government.

Sent via web form this date, August 12, 2014 (san links)

Dear Sir or Madam,

As concerned citizens are prone to do, we discuss matters of world import. Occasionally we come up with ideas, sometimes even good ones. To the extent that a proposal has arisen from one of those conversations, I would like to offer it for your consideration. Pending your response, I’ll postpone contact with the office of the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, pertaining to the same proposal.

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CATEGORY: LitJournalFiction

Scholars and Rogues Nonfiction: “Exit Wounds” by Travis Slusser

The exit wound is always larger than the entrance. Well, not always- bullets don’t obey rules but in my case this isn’t a bullet we’re talking about. This is tens of thousands of bullets. This is tons of ordnance dropped from the sky and buried along roadsides waiting mute and blind and seething for a convoy to roll past. My wound is a tiny white crescent moon on the web of my right hand. The white crescent of Islam, a symbol more powerful and holy and frightening than anything I could wrap my homogenized and X-Boxed American head around. It was a hot shell casing from the breech of the man’s rifle next to me. A Major assigned to train the Afghan police; he emptied all 7 of his magazines within minutes of the engagement beginning. That’s how I came to be out of the truck and in the midst of the dust and chaos of my first firefight. The Major and our squad leader next to him had gotten trigger-happy and were now calling out for fresh mags. I grabbed a bandolier off the back of the seat in front of me and ducked out the armored door of the humvee, hustling the ammo one truck length ahead to them, “exposing myself repeatedly to intense small-arms fire” as the report would later word so eloquently. I joined these two and gave them some covering fire as they reloaded, popping off about 20 rounds. At this point the searing hot brass landed right in the web of my firing hand and I yelled and shook it violently, dislodging the cursed thing, then went back to shooting up the hillside across the narrow valley. Continue reading

CATEGORY: WarSecurity

For your consideration: Jimmy Carter on ending the war in Gaza

An article from Foreign Policy

Ending this war in Gaza begins with recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political actor

I know. Right off the bat, even the idea of recognizing Hamas rankles. Here’s the thing, though. In 2006, as a result of a thoroughly monitored election, the people put Hamas in power. That is the definition of self determination. That is the definition of legitimate political actor. The hazard of democracy, especially when it works, is that we won’t like who the people put in charge. If we can’t live with those outcomes, then we just need to accept that we really don’t care for democracy at all. Further, that what we do believe in is hegemony of one people, one culture, over others. Naturally, that would mean ours and not theirs. This, in spite of the fact that anyone would be hard pressed to seriously and legitimately make the case that we are one people, one culture, and that our chosen version of that should be the one that calls the shots.

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Old news: the more one looks at the Israel/Gaza conflict, the older the news gets.

As a part-time blogger, it can be difficult to keep up with the vast amount of news out there, especially when some events move so quickly. That doesn’t mean I don’t try. Mainly it means I open more new tabs in my browser than my computer likes, and keep them open for days until I can finally get around to reading them. Today I have two articles that leave me shaking my head in dismay, both from The Guardian.

First, we hear from Dennis Kucinich with Crimes against humanity in Gaza: is it really a ‘buffer zone’ — or a bigger plan?

Look at the region’s maps from recent history. Look at the steady erosion of Palestinian land and the acquisition of land by Israel, and you can understand that the present attack on Gaza is not about solely about Hamas. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s rockets. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s tunnels. It’s about land. It isn’t about kidnappings. It is about land. It isn’t even about meeting a housing crisis in Israel. It is about grabbing land from the Palestinians in Gaza and the natural resources that go with the land, upon the occasion of Israel’s military invasion of Gaza.

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CATEGORY: WarSecurity

How else should a people defend itself when provoked?

Time and again I hear this question, a question consistently asked by pro-Israel policy apologists. Hamas is bad. They fire rockets into Israel. What are we supposed to do? The answer, apparently, is to engage in a decidedly one-sided battle, killing indiscriminately, with the mightiest armed force in the region. Shelters are bombed, because Hamas uses human shields. Children die, because Hamas uses human shields. We just need to look back to Golda Meir to learn that there never was a Palestine, and that Israel will never forgive the Arabs for forcing Israelis to kill Arab sons.

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CATEGORY: WarSecurity

Nature versus nurture – peacenik’s child is joining the military

by ceejay

I remember so vividly the very first hint I ever had of her yet-to-be existence. I was in a store with my youngest sister and was suddenly so overwhelmed by fatigue that I was leaning over the shopping cart, unable to stop yawning, too weak to stand up on my own, afraid I would be unable to even drive us home. My sister, who already had two children and who knew that my husband and I had recently deliberately stopped using any birth control, began to laugh merrily and then dance circles around me, chanting “You’re pregnant, you’re pregnant, ha-ha, you’re pregnant….” It took three home pregnancy tests to finally confirm her suspicion.

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Since we’re just supposed to trust Israel every time they make a claim

Israel jumps to conclusions, Palestinians die

Consider this:

The Israeli military said early Sunday morning that an officer thought to have been captured by Palestinian militants during a deadly clash Friday morning, which shattered a planned 72-hour cease-fire [emphasis added], was now considered to have been killed in battle.

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Obama on torture: they were just “folks”

An Iraqi man hugs his brother in November 2005 after being freed from Abu Ghraib prison, a site where some prisoners were tied up, hooded and sexually degraded by the American military. – Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

I voted for Barack Obama twice and would do so again, given his election opponents, but man, he can annoy the hell out of me.

This time, it’s his statement Friday that after Sept. 11, the CIA “tortured some folks.” Here’s the story in The Guardian.

Let’s dispense with the small detail first: That statement is a 10 on the no-shit-ometer. Is there anybody who didn’t already believe this? We’re a long way from “breaking news” alerts from your favorite news websites. Continue reading

Obama-Nope

President Obama thinks you’re sanctimonious for insisting torturers be charged with felonies

The President of the United States still shows no signs of seeking justice against war criminals

The President of the United States, by way of giving the world a Friday heading into the weekend presser in hopes that we’ll miss it and just ignore it to death, finally leveled exactly the kind of allegations we’ve been waiting for for six years now. Then he clarified his position by saying that we shouldn’t be sanctimonious, but let’s see it in his own stammering words:

I understand why it happened. Uh, I, I think, ah, ih-, it’s important, uh, when we look back to recall how afraid people were, uh, after, uh, the tow-, twin towers, uh, fell, and, and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know, ah, whether more attacks were imminent, uh, and there was enormous pressure, uh, on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this, uh, and um, hyuh, i-, i-, i-, it’s important for us not to, uh, feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those have and a lot of those folks, uh, wuh, uh, were s-, s-, working hard, ah, under enormous pressure, and are real patriots but having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that repor-port reflects, and that’s the reason why, after, uh, I took office one of the first things I did was to ban, uh, some of the, in-, extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.

 

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What if we treated our economy like a triage scenario?

$400 billion down the hole on the F-35, and that’s just one tip of one iceberg

There’s been a horrible accident. One patient has a punctured lung. Another one has a grievous wound at the femoral artery and is bleeding out. Another has a serious spinal injury. Three others are milling about with, between them, a bruise, a splinter, and a hangnail. Quick, what do we do?

To listen to the chatter from a variety of news sources, and especially in comments sections all over the place, we should damned well be focusing on the bruise, the splinter, and the hangnail. That femoral artery guy? To hell with him.

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Iron Dome battery deployed in the field. (Photo: Israel Defense Force / Wikimedia Commons)

The contrails have it: Iron Dome is a dud

The effectiveness of missile defense can scarcely be inferred from the “sound and light show” that is Iron Dome.

Iron Dome battery deployed in the field. (Photo: Israel Defense Force / Wikimedia Commons)

Iron Dome battery deployed in the field. (Photo: Israel Defense Force / Wikimedia Commons)

Contrails, the wake of an aircraft, are usually created by water vapor in its exhaust. When you hear them mentioned these days, it’s usually an attempt to paint them as “chemtrails,” the supposed product of a secret government program for spraying chemical or biological agents on the public to various ends. But contrails happen to be key to the effectiveness — or lack thereof — of Israel’s iron dome mobile missile defense program. Continue reading

Adventures in headline writing, Gaza edition

The New York Times, a division of the Israeli Military.

So something happened in Gaza today, something horrible even by the abysmal standards of that terrible situation. Here’s the headline in The Guardian:

Israeli strike on UN school kills 15

With the following sub-lede:

UN says it was refused time to evacuate civilians before IDF shelled Gaza school, injuring 200

Then there’s The Independent: Continue reading

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to shift the blame back to Ukraine (Photo: Remy Steinegger / Flickr)

Red carpet into harm’s way rolled out for Flight MH17

Between Ukraine airline officials keeping planes flying too low and the pilot diverting his plane into the vicinity of the military transport, MH17’s fate was sealed.

Flight MH17 memorial at Amsterdam Airport. (Photo: Roman Boed / Flickr)

Flight MH17 memorial at Amsterdam Airport. (Photo: Roman Boed / Flickr)

Yesterday I posted that Russian Premier Vladimir Putin may have been making some sense when he blamed Ukraine for the destruction of MH17. Putin had said that “certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.” Apparently he was referring to flawed decisions about flight path and air traffic by Ukraine aviation officials. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Ukraine intelligence officials said they knew three days before the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that rebels in the east of the country possessed sophisticated air-defense systems capable of felling a jetliner at altitudes in excess of where the Boeing 777 was flying. Continue reading

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to shift the blame back to Ukraine (Photo: Remy Steinegger / Flickr)

Suddenly Putin blaming Ukraine for Flight 17 makes a shred of sense

The Russian prime minister may still bear much of the blame, though.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to shift the blame back to Ukraine (Photo: Remy Steinegger / Flickr)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to shift the blame back to Ukraine (Photo: Remy Steinegger / Flickr)

Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had said about the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17:

I want to note that this tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in south-east Ukraine. And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy. Continue reading

Fear mongering for sex traffick? Surely that’s not what the GOP is about, is it?

I’d like to think even the GOP has limits, but sometimes I have my doubts

Lately the right-wing fear-mongering machine has been making much of news that 16 teen members of MS-13 have been identified in an Arizona border processing center. Let’s assume for a moment that this claim is 100% true. Further, let the curious reader check the Google search results for themselves to see if this is news peculiar to one side of our partisan divide here in the U.S.

There will be bad actors in every sufficiently large crowd. In this case, that’s 3 bad actors (hell, even especially bad) per 10,000 or 0.03% if we go by the commonly reported 52,000 child immigrants between October 2013 and June (less than a year). Continue reading

Breitbart & Gawker, match of the century?

Wherein I try for a more evenhanded tone

ICYMI, Breitbart recently engaged in the kind of, how should I put it, less than rigorous journalism that many have come to expect of the source. In this case, the effects would be downright comical if not for the radical xenophobia espoused by their sources and the author. Naturally, with “border crisis” being the cause du jour, in between assaults on women’s rights and genuine religious liberty, this story involves the border and what was found there.

“That’s when I saw this thing laying around. And I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ We walked over there and I didn’t really want to pull at it not knowing what was on it. I poked a bit at it with a stick and noticed some of the Arabic writing and was just like, ‘Oh boy.’ I snapped a couple of photos and then went on our patrol.”

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Jeremy Paxman vs Richard Nixon: the alternative reality that never was (S&R Honors)

In an alternative universe Jeremy Paxman, not David Frost, interviewed Richard Nixon in 1977.

David Frost became an extremely successful comedian. His tours with Monty Python are celebrated to this day. Jeremy Paxman was newly-arrived in the US from Beirut where his explosive interview style had led to tension within the BBC.

His now infamous interrogation, in 1976, of Étienne Saqr of the Gardiens des Cèdres, whose militia massacred hundreds in Karantina in East Beirut, included 20 minutes of Paxman demanding, “Are you a genocidal maniac?” while Saqr threatened him with a machine gun. Continue reading