Gulags are a’coming

Check this out: Bush has just signed into law a bill (HR 5122) that gives him the right to order military forces into any state that he deems necessary. You can read the pertinent section of the bill below, and I also suggest you check out Frank Morales’ story, “Bush Moves toward Martial Law” on the Toward Freedom website.

The Third Reich did not take over the German government in one night. The Nazis consolidated power in increments, until their power was complete enough to use blatent violence and repression. While the Bush goverment is distinctly different from the Nazis, power accrues in similar ways, no matter who is taking it. So as long as we let them, they will take more and more, positioning themselves to have far more power and control that the leaders of a democracy should ever be allowed.

When it all comes to a head and the Constitution is shredded along with our freedoms, nobody will have the right to say “we didn’t know it would happen.” It’s happening now. Voting next week will help, but it will not solve our problems. There is a fundamental cancer at the heart of our democracy as the cells of money and power have metastasized into a tumor that will destroy us all unless each of us starts taking responsibility for our society, for our politics and for our government. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that for myself, but I know I have to start, otherwise I will be culpable.

Call your Representatives and Senators to let them know you are concerned and that they should work to repeal the power that this bill has given the President. Tell as many people as you can about this outrage, especially those Republicans and conservatives who are concerned about where this President and his cronies have led the country. MAKE NOISE about this. Write letters to editors. But first, read the following and help me figure out how we have let this happen:

‚??‚???? 333. Major public emergencies; interference with State and
Federal law
‚??‚??(a) USE OF ARMED FORCES IN MAJOR PUBLIC EMERGENCIES.‚??
(1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the
National Guard in Federal service, to‚??


‚??‚??(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United
States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or
other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or
incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the
United States, the President determines that‚??
‚??‚??(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent
that the constituted authorities of the State or possession
are incapable of maintaining public order; and
‚??‚??(ii) such violence results in a condition described in
paragraph (2); or
‚??‚??(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic
violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection,
violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition
described in paragraph (2).


‚??‚??(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition
that‚??

‚??‚??(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or
possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that
State or possession, that any part or class of its people is
deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named
in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted
authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse
to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that
protection; or
H. R. 5122‚??323
‚??‚??(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the
United States or impedes the course of justice under those
laws.


‚??‚??(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State
shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the
laws secured by the Constitution.
‚??‚??(b) NOTICE TO CONGRESS.‚??The President shall notify Congress
of the determination to exercise the authority in subsection (a)(1)(A)
as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days
thereafter during the duration of the exercise of that authority.‚??‚??


(2) PROCLAMATION TO DISPERSE.‚??Section 334 of such title
is amended by inserting ‚??‚??or those obstructing the enforcement
of the laws‚??‚?? after ‚??‚??insurgents‚??‚??.
(3) HEADING AMENDMENT.‚??The heading of chapter 15 of
such title is amended to read as follows:
‚??‚??CHAPTER 15‚??ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAWS TO
RESTORE PUBLIC ORDER‚??‚??.

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Recommendations

Jo Cose has a wonderfully written description of his quest for a fish tank spread over several posts, beginning with “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish”. His account is keenly observational with a hint of wit and a touch of the sardonic. Additionally, he writes with a lightness of touch that LtL admires and is sometimes a bit jealous of.

Eric Lichtblau has a good article on the US Goverment’s tracking and documentation of anti-war protests over at Common Dream: “Documents Reveal Scope of US Database on Antiwar Protests”

He is on my links list, but The Playgoer provides consistently excellent coverage and analysis of the theatre world and I highly recommend checking out his site.

Marx – Part 1

I have been reading The Marx-Engels Reader and have just finished the first section which presents a number of Marx’s early writings. I am amazed at how relevant and important his work remains. Beyond the purely academic use of Marx in Academic circles– a use that is often filtered through Louis Althusser and other post-Marx “Marxists rather than the study of Marx’s actual writings and thought–Marx’s work remains incredibly important for understanding how economic forces operate. Obviously, we live in a world far different from the one that Marx lived in. Far different, indeed, than he could ever imagine. I will also grant that he is easy to dismiss in today’s postmodern, hyper-capitalist world and in light of the seeming triumph of capitalism over communism. This series will in no way be a full-fledged defense of Marxism, but I do feel it is important and–hopefully–interesting to point out some of his core concepts and relevant thoughts in hopes of sparking conversation.

The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion to the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity . . . 1

Look at how Wal-mart treats its employees and you will see that Marx’s assessment of the worker as commodity is tragically correct. Here is a company that makes so much money (over 240 billion is sales per year and over 10 billion in profit) that is has no rival, indeed, there is no other company that is even in the same league, and yet the more powerful the company becomes, the more vast wealth it makes for a few at the top of its corporate ladder. Tula Connell, writing for the AFL-CIO states that:

Four members of the Waltons, the family behind Wal-Mart, last month were ranked by Forbes as among the nation’s 10 wealthiest people in the nation, with a combined net worth of more than $72 billion. Less than two weeks after the Walton Four saw their mugs highlighted on the Forbes website, reports emerged that Wal-Mart plans to cap wages, use more part-time workers and schedule more workers on nights and weekends‚ all to save money for a company with gross annual sales of more than $250 billion and an annual profit of more than $10 billion.2

I mean, come on, a company with an annual profit of over $10 billion dollars and they can’t afford decent health care for their employees? A company that paid out $172 million because they refused to allow workers legally mandated lunch breaks and yet Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott’s “2005 salary, bonuses and stock options totaled $27.2 million‚ 871 times the hourly earnings of a full-time US Wal-Mart employee and 50,000 times the wage of a Chinese worker for a Wal-Mart supplier.”3 The growing and seemingly inexorable gap between the rich and the poor is not mysterious. It is not something that “just happens.” It is not even just a matter of education, but rather a fundamental property of capitalism. When even Alan Greenspan recognizes that the growing gap between the rich and the poor is a problem, you know that we are in trouble.4 Greenspan suggests that the root cause of this growing disparity is education. Make kids smarter and they will get better jobs. Greenspan is ignoring, because it is necessary for people like Greenspan to ignore, the messy fact that capitalist economic structures depend upon inequities in the system. Capitalism simply doesn’t work if there aren’t workers to exploit and who are forced to sell their labor power to those who control the means of production. Sure, the more education a person has, the more he/she will be able to make. Individuals can certainly rise up from the status of wage laborer and claw their way up and into a different class. That doesn’t negate the fact that as a system, capitalism requires a working class–indeed, a working class with as few life options as possible in order to keep a large group of people (preferably non-unionized) at the disposal of the wealthy.

One of the things that Marx is good for, is the reminder that nothing social is natural or innocent. Disparity between the rich few and the poor many is not “just how it is” but a product of economic relationships. The failure of education is not something that has “just happened” but is, also, a product of economic relationships. Capitalism creates certain necessary and specific relationships between people, objects, commodities, and wealth. While you might disagree with Marx’s judgement that these relationships are inherently bad for people, his descriptions of these relationships still bear considerable intellectual and philosophical weight.

  1. “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,” 71

  2. http://blog.aflcio.org/2006/10/06/newt-gingrich-cheerleading-for-wal-mart/

  3. Ibid.

  4. http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0614/p01s03-usec.html

Other reading:

“The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know”

Karl Marx Studies – a side dedicated to the work of Laurence Baronovitch, focusing on Marx’s early works.

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Why you should watch Battlestar Galactica

I would challenge anyone to name a more complex television series. Ever. Perhaps it is an unfair comparison because we live in an increasingly complex world. One where, try as we might, no relevant answers or solutions are simple and BG is committed to grappling with some of the most topical themes and issues of our day.

Terrorism becomes the tool of an oppressed human race, replete with suicide bombs and innocent deaths. Yet the Cylons are supposed to be the bad guys. And they are, no doubt about it. Summary executions, torture, a masked police force of co opted humans . . . nobody will mistake the Cylons for heroes. This is rough stuff and there is no firm ground upon which to stand. Characters you like can say and do things that turn your stomach, characters who are “bad” can say and do things with startling gentleness. What the producers and writers of BG do best is raise issues of violence and democracy for the characters and the viewers to grapple with, and never provide easy answers. The possibility to do evil lies within each person–be they human or Cylon. As does the possibility of grace and compassion. Individuals make choices, day by day, moment by moment. It is those choices that define us, the actions we take.

The importance of those actions on the individual characters is presented with a seriousness and subtlety that is rare on television. We are shown, in brief troubled glances, in the tiredness of the actor’s bodies, in a casual touch or a laughter verging on tears, just how difficult choices between right and wrong can be. A moral and upright woman steals a democratic election, a Cylon betrays her race, love happens in a myriad of forms and textures. Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell share one of the most adult and real relationships on television. Their friendship and admiration for each other has grown over the past two seasons in ways that touch the viewer deeply and without the typical trappings of romance that too often seems the only way we can represent love between men and women.

BG demonstrates a consistent and refreshing concern with the terms of, and problems with, democracy as a process. When President Bush bandies about the term democracy what does he actually mean? Democracy is often framed as a noun when it is most usefully framed as a verb, an process that requires continual action and vigilance. Democracy is tiring. Democracy is demanding. BG consistently asks its viewers to consider questions of democracy and the sacrifices required of and by a free society.

If we become the enemy to defeat the enemy, have we won or lost? If our morality and ethics demand that we face a more perilous future, should we sacrifice them in order to have a bit more security, a chance at safety? Where are the lines between right and wrong drawn? Battlestar Galactica redraws the lines every week, forcing the viewer to approach her own ethical choices with a deeper understanding of the complexity of action in a world of violence and fear, joy and laughter.

Besides, the show has some very hot characters (of both sexes), great pacing, intense action sequences, genuine parity between the men and the women, wonderful characterizations and Dean Stockwell as a Cylon “priest.” I mean, what more could you want?

If you haven’t been watching, don’t bother jumping in. Take the time to rent the dvds or download the mini-series and past two seasons and watch from the beginning. Even if you are not a big science fiction fan, the show will impress and challenge you.

Battlestar Galactica (2003 Miniseries)Battlestar Galactica - Season One (2004)Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.0 (Episodes 1-10)Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.5 (Episodes 11-20)

Home Page

For a while now, I’ve been looking around for a start page that I like as well as an rss reader that works for me. Google and Live.com both offer personalized start pages that I have used, but they never really did it for me. I’ve downloaded RSS Bandit and while it works ok, I’m not a fan of the old folder based visual structure. Recently I came across a site called Netvibes – and have started (as of yesterday) using it as my home page on my browsers at home and the site I keep open in the background while I’m at work.

Here’s a screenshot of my “home” tab on Netvibes:

netvibes-screenshot

Each section can be dragged to another part of the page if you want to rearrange the order. You can change how many items each feed displays (from 1 – 25), when you mouse over an item, a box displays more of the story (I believe it’s an Ajax thing). With multiple tabs, I can seperate out the sites I want to keep track of and quickly scan like-minded sites for current news.

There’s a bunch of other functions that I haven’t really explored yet. Including an Ebay module, Alexa traffic and a MySpace module. What I have added is the video search that allows you to play YouTube videos right from within the Netvibes page. The design for how YouTube displays right on the page is excellent.

While the overall look is nothing spectacular, it is decent and clean–no messy crowding of the screen or extraneous baubles. I like the flexibility and the ease of organization. I may very well get bored with it, but for now it’s a compact and useful start page on my browsers.

I would love to know what you think or if you have any other suggestions for start pages. Lifehacker has a number of suggestions if you want to learn about other start page sites.

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Sunday Sessions on Hiatus

Just a quick note to let you know that LtL is taking a break from the Sunday Sessions schedule for a week or two.

Thanks to all those who have been checking in and if you haven’t read any of my poetry, fiction, screenplays or stage plays, feel free to head over to the corresponding pages and for some non-music creativity. Comments, as always, are more than welcome!

Reading the Fine Print

So I thought that I would get an account with Associated Content – a website that claims to be “The People’s Media Company.” I figured I could sell some of my articles, try to get some wider exposure. So I signed up and then read the “INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR/LICENSE AGREEMENT.”

I don’t think I will be submitting anything to this so-called “people’s media company,” because for a couple of bucks, you get to sign away pretty much any rights to your work. To whit:

(d) License Grant. Upon any Rights Grant, Content Producer hereby irrevocably (i) grants to Company a worldwide, perpetual, fully-paid up, royalty-free, transferable right and license, with right to sublicense, to reproduce, publicly display, distribute, and perform, transmit, edit, modify, create derivatives works of, publish, sell, exploit, use, and dispose of such Work for any purpose and in all forms and all media whether now known or to become known in the future, the right to retain all revenue and income derived therefrom, and any and all other related rights of whatever kind or nature; and (ii) waives and agrees never to assert any and all Moral Rights Content Producer may have in or with respect to any such Work in connection with Company’s use thereof, even after termination of this Agreement (hereinafter, the grants described in subsections (i) and (ii) above are referred to as the “License”). The License shall be either (A) exclusive, or (B) non-exclusive, as designated and identified in the Application submitted by Content Producer in connection with such Work. (https://adm.associatedcontent.com/cms_step2.cfm)

Umm . . . I don’t think so.

Do you read end-user/license agreements for web services or computer software?

  • Occassionally. (50%)
    Occassionally. -/> 50% (1 Votes)
  • What is this thing you speak of, Sirrah? (50%)
    What is this thing you speak of, Sirrah? -/> 50% (1 Votes)
  • Always (0%)
    Always -/> 0% (0 Votes)
  • Never. (0%)
    Never. -/> 0% (0 Votes)

Total Votes: 2

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