Monthly Archives: December 2009

Goodbye 2009, Hello 2010!

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Happy New Year!

I don’t have a whole lot to say about 2009 so I created a couple of lists (in no particular order besides #1 and #2):

Top Nine of 2009

1) Birth of our son

2) Making real connections via this blog

3) Honduras rejects Chavez

4) Uprising(s) in Iran

5) Iraq continues to progress

6) Visiting Storm King Art Center with wifey, son, and bro-in-law

7) Trip to Rincon, PR

8 ) Euna Lee and Laura Ling freed

9) Obama’s first year in office (only three more to go?)

Bottom Nine of 2009

1) The loss of my dog

2) The loss of Leszek Kolakowski, Irving Kristol, and Patrick McGoohan.

3) Campus temper tantrums “occupations”

4) California wildfires

5) Lockerbie terrorist freed

6) Economic decline, unemployment increases, etc.

7) Town hall madness

8)  Balloon boy and other media nonsense

9) Obama’s first year in office

Ernest Sternberg: “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For”

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[Teach your children well...]

Ernest Sternberg was kind to send me a PDF of his article, “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For,” which is in the current Orbis (Winter 2010). I think many readers will enjoy it. Here is a long excerpt:

The hope with which we entered the twenty-first century was that, whatever new specters we would have to confront, totalitarian ideologies would not be among them. Fascism, communism, and their variants would moulder in their political graveyards. Could it be that we hoped in vain? Could it be that that, from their putrefied bodies, another world transforming ideology has emerged?

There is plenty of reason to think so. We are in the midst of the worldwide rise of a non-religious chiliastic movement, which preaches global human renewal and predicts apocalypse as its alternative. Like its twentieth century predecessors, the new ideology provides an intellectual formula through which to identify the present world’s depredations, imagines a pure new world that eliminates them, and mobilizes the disaffected and alienated for the sake of radical change. Like the followers of totalitarianisms past, the new ideologues also see themselves as the vanguard for the highest humanitarian ideals. If many of us have failed to recognize the rise of this new movement, the reason may be that we are still trapped in defunct ideological categories.

The new ideology is most clearly identified by what it opposes. Its enemy is the global monolith called Empire, which exerts systemic domination over human lives, mainly from the United States. Empire does so by means of economic liberalism, militarism, multinational corporations, corporate media, and technologies of surveillance, in cahoots with, or under the thrall of, Empire’s most sinister manifestation, namely Zionism. So far there is no controversy—these points will be readily admitted by advocates as well as critics.

There is much less clarity about what the new movement is for. My task here is to describe what it is for: to make the case that the new radicalism does have a coherent vision and, in postulating both an evil past and an ideal future, does qualify as a full-fledged ideology. Put starkly, the world it envisions is pure. The earth will be protected, justice will reign, economies will be sustainable, and energy will be renewable. Diverse communities will celebrate other communities, with the only proviso that they accede to doctrine. Far purer than democracies of the past, this future regime will operate through grassroots participatory meetings in which all communities are empowered.

As old nation-state boundaries fade away, communities will coordinate with each other globally by means of rectification cadres called non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Hard as it may be to believe, these ideas are not sentimental mishmash but rather the tenets of a more or less well-ordered dogma. This outlook even contains a concept of historical change: the agents of change will be networked bunds called ‘‘social movements.’’ Millions around the world already find this dogma so persuasive that it shapes their politics. For some, this dogma functions as did the fanatical ideologies of the past, as a guide to life’s meaning and an inspiration for fanatical commitment and self-sacrifice.

A new ideology it may be, but a totalitarian one? The adherents think of themselves as exemplars of purity, as progenitors of the utmost in democracy and inter-cultural appreciation. Could it be possible that, despite their sincerest beliefs, they are the vanguard of new totalitarian regime? The movement has yet to establish a regime, so we cannot say for certain. After analyzing this ideology, the essay concludes with some of the warning signs and with the prospect of participatory absolutism.

Read it all here.

25 Years Ago Today: A Hero Stood His Ground and Fought Back

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[Bernhard Goetz escorted from court by Guardian Angel Keith Johnson, AP Photo]

On this day twenty-five years ago, Bernhard Goetz pulled the trigger on four thugs who were about to rob him. For some, this made him an outlaw, a criminal, even a “racist”. For others, a hero.

The hero of myth overcomes outrageous odds stacked against him. He takes a negative situation and turns it into something positive.  Perhaps most of all, he transforms a personal tribulation into a universal aspiration.

Unlike the heroes of antiquity, heroes in the American context do not come from the elite classes. They are not demi-gods, blessed at birth. Rather, they are common everyday folks. What makes them heroic is not the facts of their ancestry but how they respond to adversity.

NYC in the 1984 was not only a different time, it was almost a different place. Sure I realize many of my friends recall the 80s for the punk shows at CBGB’s, the squats, and the LES before it became a magnet for yuppies. They miss the rough edges of the city. But for most citizens, the 80s were a time of grime, decay, and criminality, a city that was on the brink of throwing up its hands and saying “I give up”. Yet there were some who willing to fight back. As Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) stated in Taxi Driver, “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”

Enter Bernhard Goetz. He stood up and proclaimed “Enough!” He fought back. And for that courageous act he earned the praise of many working-class New Yorkers whether white, black, Latino or Asian.

It is crazy that people fail to realize what kept Bernie from getting robbed or killed that night. It was not the cops. It was not 911. It was not the next man. It was his desire to not be a victim. That makes him a hero. Don’t ever forget that.

More here.

Snow Day Roundup

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We had our first snowstorm of the 09-10 season this weekend. Here in Brooklyn there was close to a foot of snow. I didn’t get out early enough to snap some photos before much of it was plowed. Next time…

In recognition of the seasonal change I switched over to my winter header. The photo was taken last year. I hope to get a new one up in the next few weeks.

I have not linked to my regular reads for a couple of weeks so here is an overdue roundup:

Kellie (Airforce Amazons) posts on the death of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri and the idiocy of Code Pink activists

Bob and I continue our debate on the election and other events in Honduras

Contentious Centrist makes some “Depressing Observations about the State of the World

Flesh is Grass on the UCU’s boycott of Israel

Disagreements with Martin in the Margins on Lieberman

Mod on “Sinophobia or Legitimate Political Criticism?

Snoop (Simply Jews) on Chavez and Obama

Sultan Knish on Chanukah

Michael Totten “The Eclipsing of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Wednesday News Items

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Things are getting busy around here. The end of the semester is always that way. Here a few news items to point your attention to:

It appears the Mumbai terrorists had some logistical support from a U.S. citizen. David Headley, the son of Pakistani diplomat, “changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 so he could hide his Muslim and Pakistani identity and slip more easily into his American businessman cover story while scoping out targets.”  He also served as a DEA informant after getting busted for importing two kilograms of heroin from Pakistan. Read more here, here and here.

Continuing on the counter-terrorism theme, a senior al-Qaeda leader was killed in Pakistan by a Predator drone strike. Abdirizaq Abdi Saleh aka Saleh al-Somali was the number three leader of al-Qaeda after Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Nice shooting!

In other South Asian news, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is in turmoil due to recent decision by the national government to allow part of the territory to secede and form the new state of Telangana.

In Cuba, a U.S. contractor who was “distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications devices”  has been detained by the authorities. Sylvia Longmire reports, “[t] uunidentified contractor works for Development Alternatives Inc., a development group based in Bethesda, Maryland.” Who, or what, is Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI)? According to their website:

DAI has worked in 150 developing and transition countries, providing comprehensive development solutions in areas including crisis mitigation and recovery, democratic governance and public sector management, agriculture and agribusiness, private sector development and financial services, economics and trade, HIV/AIDS, avian influenza control, and water and natural resources management. Clients include international development agencies, international lending institutions, private corporations and philanthropies, and host-country governments.

More updates will be provided as more information is available.

Moving to the United States, district judge Nina Gershon has decided in favor of poverty pimps community organization, ACORN, by ruling the Congress acted in an unconstitutional manner in singling out the group. I’m not an expert in Constitutional Law, but I know it is the function of the legislative branch, not the judiciary, to decide how our tax dollars are spent. More here and here.

My last item is from NYC where our resident Nehru suited infantile leftist Charles Barron has struck again. This time at a City University of New York groundbreaking he was not invited to (h/t Gothamist):

After getting into a public squabble with a CUNY trustee at a groundbreaking event on Tuesday, City Councilman Charles Barron wants him out. According to the Daily News, the controversial Council member told an audience at Medgar Evers College (a CUNY school), “The Board of Trustees has to change… This is a racist, rednecked right-winger who’s sitting on the Board of Trustees. Make sure you write a letter and say he must be removed.”

This fool wants to be president of the NYC city council.

Happy Chanukah!

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I will be away for the next few days for Chanukah.

In honor of the holiday I posted Sounds of Raj over at Roland’s newish music blog, Some Lost, Some Found. If you have not been checking it out, there is a lot of material available for your listening pleasure.  Our tastes are pretty diverse covering everything from new wave to jazz, metal, punk, even some alt-country. In addition to Sounds of Raj, I posted Stalag 13, RKL (Rich Kids on LSD), Anthrax (UK)Rudimentary Peni, The Accused, JFA (Jody Foster’s Army) and Tank.

I added a few new blogs (at least new to me) to my blogroll:

In the Service of Clio: Essays on Career Management in the Historical Profession

Ray Cook: On Zionism, Anti-Semitism, etc. (h/t CC)

Records Junkie: A blog about the world of archives and archivists

I changed the “Visual” blog category on the right side of my page to “Visual and Audio” and added Some Lost, Some Found and these other music blogs:

True Punk and Metal

Orgy in Rhythm

Never Enough Rhodes

My Jazz World

Good Bad Music

Remember Pearl Harbor

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68 years later, we still remember…

Here is a collection of images from the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

Posters from the National Archives.

FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech

After the Day of Infamy: “Man on the Street” Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor (via the Library of Congress)

Also from the Library of Congress, Pearl Harbor Oral Histories

Sunday Rants (12/06/09)

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It’s been a hectic week at home. My son has been keeping us up at night. On Wednesday he slept from 6:30pm-8:00pm and then my wife tried to calm him down for about a half and hour. He fell asleep in her arms but when she went to put him in his crib he woke right up. Then I tried for a half and hour or so and the same thing happened to me. This went on for most of the night until he finally fell asleep from 1am-6am. Needless to say we were both exhausted the next morning. We have (had?) a nice routine going so that makes it tough as well. But one good piece of advice I received was parents need to recognize it’s difficult to stay consistent when your baby is constantly changing.

It’s getting more and more difficult to make it through the NYT. I used some of my increasingly worthless airline miles to purchase a subscription to the WSJ. It’s a decent paper, but I still miss my daily NY Sun. In this weekend’s NYT a couple of items caught my eye. One was an op-ed and the other was a very short piece on the New Black Panther Party (NBPP).

In the latter article, Attorney General Holder announced he is dismissing a voter intimidation lawsuit against the NBPP. The Justice Department filed the suit because members of the group, including one with a billyclub, were stationed outside of a polling place in Philadelphia:

Malik Zulu Shabazz, national chairman of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, told The Associated Press the civil lawsuit filed by the federal government had ”no merit” because the party doesn’t condone voter intimidation.

Shabazz said he was speaking publicly about the issue for the first time because he wanted to set the record straight before the party began celebrating its 20th anniversary during a national three-day summit that started Friday in Dallas.

”I want everybody to take a second look,” Shabazz said. ”I certainly would like black America and all the world to take a second look at the New Black Panther Party at this point and to understand that we’re sincerely trying to help our people.”

The op-ed concerned the lack of qualified and experienced teachers in low-income communities and our society’s need to train more people to teach. This is a highly laudable goal. But the solution advocated displays how out of touch the NYT’s is with the needs and concerns of low-income people. So what is the solution? Harvard’s new PhD program in education:

[T]he Harvard Graduate School of Education is creating a new doctoral degree to be focused on leadership in education. It’s the first new degree offered by the school in 74 years. The three-year course will be tuition-free and conducted in collaboration with faculty members from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The idea is to develop dynamic new leaders who will offer the creativity, intellectual rigor and professionalism that is needed to help transform public education in the U.S…

Students will spend the third year of the doctoral leadership program in a “field placement” at some organization or agency — say, a large urban school district or educational advocacy group — to gain practical experience. School officials likened this aspect of the program to a medical residency. Instead of doing a dissertation, the students will lead an education reform project in that third year.

The overall goal, said Ms. McCartney, is to produce a cadre of highly skilled educational leaders who are committed to reform of the profession, knowledgeable about the way children learn and well-grounded in the real world of practical management and politics.

How many of the Harvard grads will stay in the hood after their field placement? How many will even continue to teach? I suspect not many. They will move into policy positions and other places in the educational bureaucracy.

But even if these Doctor’s of Education did stay, one of the main deficiencies would still exist, the lack of teachers who have a mastery of knowledge in a specific field. In other words, the schools–especially schools in low-income communities–need educators with graduate degrees in Math, English, History and the Sciences, not in Education. I’m all for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary education and research, but these approaches require a strong background in a specific discipline as a foundation.

A slightly amusing story from the idiot activists department. A New Jersey eco-terrorist was busted for selling dope, in China. Justin Franchi Solondz was sentenced to three years in prison for manufacturing drugs:

After serving his time, Mr. Solondz, 30, who is on the F.B.I.’s wanted list, will be deported to the United States, where he faces charges stemming from what the authorities say was his role in an arson rampage that destroyed buildings in three western states as a member of a group related to the environmental extremist organization Earth Liberation Front. He was indicted in absentia in 2006…

According to his father, Paul Solondz, the Dali police said they discovered 33 pounds of marijuana buried in the courtyard of the house that the younger Mr. Solondz rented, as well as what the prosecutor described as a drug laboratory inside the house…

According to federal authorities, Mr. Solondz made incendiary devices that destroyed a horticulture center at the University of Washington in Seattle in May 2001. Prosecutors also accuse him of burning down buildings and vehicles in Oregon that same day, and linked him to a later arson attack in California. The combined loss of property totaled more than $5 million.

On the subject of environmentalists, what’s up with Climate Gate? I’m not one of those people who thinks industrial pollution does not have an impact on the environment. As someone who grew up in Los Angeles in the 1970s, I know it does. But the actions some scientists are taking to marginalize those they disagree with really rubs me the wrong way.

In other news, I’m glad that John Batchelor is back on WABC radio M-F from 9:00-midnight. He used to be on Sundays and then they increased his days to Saturday and Sunday and now he is on seven days a week. Batchelor has a sense of balance and civility uncommon to much AM talk radio. Check him out on the web if you are out of the broadcast range.

Last Sunday I tuned in and was surprised to hear Drinking with Bob on the air before Batchelor. I used to watch Bob rant on Queens Public Television back when we were living in the borough. But WABC? Bob has definitely hit the big time! I know it isn’t highbrow but I wish him plenty of success at WABC. Check out his blog here.