Subscribe via RSS Feed

El Salvador Torturers, Trained by the U.S., Protected by the U.S.

[ 109 ] June 15, 2014 |

In the 1980s, under the presidency of the cartoonishly evil Ronald Reagan, the U.S. not only trained and openly supported an El Salvador military that tortured and killed people with impunity, but then gave these psychopaths a free passage to the U.S. when their murderous ways were finally defeated by the Salvadoran people. It is only in the last couple of years that these military leaders have had to undergo deportation proceedings. But they remain in the U.S. and probably will never be deported. Unfortunately, even if they are kicked out, nothing will happen to them in El Salvador.

The U.S. has never come clean about its horrible history in Central America and probably never will.


[ 38 ] June 15, 2014 |

bspencero’s stare touches her visitors with peace, silence and awkwardness. Amazing transformations happen, and many find new power, vitality and a zest for dinosaur erotica resulting from their experience. bspencero does not teach, talk or diagnose to give treatments—she simply stares in unsettling silence and offers her gift to visitors—independent from religion, ideology, race, color and common sense.

It has recently come to our attention that somebody created a bspencero Facebook Page, pretending to be bspencero herself and contacted people. Please know that bspencero never personally contacts people or communicates with people directly as she is too busy sitting on her ass and staring. She does not give any interviews and she does not speak in public. It’s a pretty sweet gig. 

Not bspencero

Please note for ALL GAZING EVENTS: Must be 18 years of age or over to attend and men with enlarged prostates are not allowed to attend  due to the intensity of the experience for some. People with illnesses are advised to follow the recommendation of their doctor before and after attending a staring session because that makes it sound as if  this experience is something more than some loon staring loonily at you.

Subtle Campaign Tactics In History

[ 47 ] June 15, 2014 |

Something I learned while reading Bruce Allen Murphy’s new Scalia bio: Hubert Humphrey’s main campaign song in the 1960 primaries was “Give Me That Old Time Religion.” Whatever could have motivated that choice…


[ 133 ] June 14, 2014 |

This is an interesting article on rewilding declining agricultural spaces in rural Europe. As much of the farmland of Spain, Romania, Portugal, and other nations suffer severe population declines (as they have in part of the U.S.), some environmentalists are attempting to “rewild” them by bringing back rare species, usually large mammals. Some go so far as to want these spaces for wildlife not native to these areas, like elephants. Rewilding is a curious concept, although one I am basically fine with exploring. The first question is always “rewilding to what?” As these efforts are often led by rich landowners, it tends to be whatever animals they and their enormous egos like. In the U.S., Ted Turner has led the path here. Because Turner likes bison, there are now bison on his ranches in southwestern New Mexico, even though that is not native bison territory. These efforts tend to leave out the smaller creatures and plants that don’t excite rich people.

But whatever. The planet is so inexorably transformed by humans at this point that it’s hard for me to get too bent out of shape by the inconsistencies involved in these efforts. Respecting ecosystems is important, but those ecosystems are undergoing radical transformation because of climate change anyway. Maybe the more valuable principle is open space and preserving biodiversity, however we define it. I don’t think I can really get behind importing disappearing African megafauna to western Kansas, and the experience of the oryx on the White Sands Missile Range does suggest the kind of grassland degradation introduced big species can cause, but if there were a few elephants running around out there, I guess it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s probably a bad idea for the ecosystem, but so is everything else humans do.

Climate Change and World War II Graves

[ 59 ] June 14, 2014 |

Of course, climate change is washing lots of dead people from their graves, but World War II veterans will be the lever that gets some attention:

Rising sea levels have washed the remains of at least 26 Japanese World War Two soldiers from their graves on a low-lying Pacific archipelago, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands said on Friday.

“There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves. It’s that serious,” Tony de Brum told reporters on the sidelines of U.N. climate change talks in Germany.

Putting the blame on climate change, which threatens the existence of the islands that are only 2 meters (6 ft) above sea level at their highest, de Brum said: “Even the dead are affected.”

Twenty-six skeletons have been found on Santo Island after high tides battered the archipelago from February to April, he said, adding that more may be found.

I’m going to assume no one is shallow enough to say it doesn’t matter because they are Japanese. But I’m sure the trolls will be.

Also, Happy Flag Day. I’m remembering the flags of all the nations the U.S. has unjustly invaded or used the CIA to overthrow leaders over the years. Cuba. Guatemala. Honduras. Nicaragua. Dominican Republic. Haiti. Panama. Grenada. Chile. Iran. Vietnam. Laos. Cambodia. Iraq. Those flags.


[ 63 ] June 14, 2014 |

P.S. I am not a crank.

Has anyone ever published a book of cranky complaints about football where people get upset about its name or any change to the game? If not, it should end with Nick Saban and Bret Bielema whining that Oregon runs too many plays and therefore there should be mandated slowdowns.

You Kids Get Off My Lawn: Old Activist Edition

[ 90 ] June 14, 2014 |

Amy Merrick wrote a piece in The New Yorker about the terrible conditions in the sweatshops that make clothing for Forever 21, a department store focusing on low cost clothing for college-aged women. She wonders why the kids aren’t protesting Forever 21, suggesting the decline in labor unions and their own economic instability as reasons. I’ll get back to this in a minute because it’s problematic, but it then led to a more unfortunate Lindy West piece entitled “Why Don’t College Students Give a Shit About Sweatshops Anymore” that does little but compare today’s students unfavorably to her own activism in college.

But somehow, in the late ’90s, the anti-sweatshop movement managed to get a real brand going. “Not wearing clothes made by slave labor” was the “normcore” of 1999.

I wasn’t even a particularly consistent or well-informed young revolutionary, but for years I had a kneejerk aversion to anything too cheap to be true. Someone was paying a price for those clothes, somewhere. So I thrifted a lot, I avoided the big-name no-nos like GAP and Old Navy and Nike and Walmart, and I justified my few mainstream purchases with a combination of selective ignorance (I don’t know for sure that a child made these $30 jeans) and shruggy pragmatism (I can’t just not wear pants).

It was literally the least I could do; given my level of privilege, it was almost nothing at all. I was lucky to be able to choose where I shopped (plus, it wasn’t like GAP made clothes in my size anyway). I didn’t have a family to support or significant consequences if I exceeded my budget.

But my point is that I’m impressed, in retrospect, by how effective the messaging was in that moment. “Pay attention to where your clothes come from” somehow got through to me and every other dumb kid I knew. And, according to labor activists in 2014, that’s no longer the case.

These articles are not helpful for a number of reasons. First, they are another edition of “Why Don’t You Kids Fight the Power in the Exact Same Way I Did in College,” a line of lecturing pioneering by ex-60s radicals at least by the 1980s and something that many of you have probably run into at some point.

This reeks of romanticizing the past actions through a carefully remembered history that excludes the second problem with these articles. In 1999, there were some college aged students that cared about sweatshop labor. The majority of college students did not care. In 2014, there are some college aged students that care about sweatshop labor. The majority of college students do not care. Now, there were probably a few more students caring in 1999, but not only are college students working today on other issues that students weren’t fifteen years ago, but there are lots of students still fighting sweatshop labor. If anything, this has increased in the past year since the Rana Plaza collapse and sweatshop conditions have again returned to the nation’s attention. Plus let’s not forget why students turned away from this as a key issue–9/11 and the Iraq War turned their attention to American imperialism. Can’t just handwave this away. Students didn’t stop caring about sweatshops. They started caring about a horrible war.

Again, the third problem here, particularly with West’s piece (at least Merrick mentions it), is that there are actually a lot of great stuff going on in the anti-sweatshop movement. United Students Against Sweatshops is a vibrant organization with activists on a lot of campuses doing great work. I talked a bit about actions at USC this spring and other campuses are involved in a wide range of activities against sweatshop labor and exploitation. Sure, there should be more students involved–but it was the same in 1999.

The fourth problem here is that some of the strategies of 1999 West talks about favorably actually aren’t helpful. Telling people to buy second-hand clothing so they don’t support sweatshops does absolutely nothing to help workers. Plus it’s not scalable. Bangladeshi sweatshop labor activist Kalpona Akter has urged developed world activists not to boycott these factories because it just hurts the workers who need jobs. Cheap and easy feel-good activism does not solve problems, nor build solidarity with those fighting for a better life for themselves.

The fifth problem, and West at least nods at this, is that why are we demanding college students go protest for us? Do it yourself! We (including myself) can all do more to fight the terrible labor conditions in the products that we consume. A woman named Liz Parker started her own protest in front of the British chain Matalan because it wouldn’t sign onto a plant to compensate the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse. Everyone can do these things. Quit blaming college kids and go start your own protest.

Sixth, and most important for those who are serious about thinking about how to create actual change as opposed to vague protests, is that the articles ignore why students focused on the creation of apparel for their own institutions and not random department stores–because they have leverage to do so. As students, college administrators have to at least pretend to listen to them and potentially respond. The students have a clear and targeted objective–getting their schools to agree to responsible sourcing. The implementation is always tricky, but the point is that it’s an achievable, clearly defined goal with an endpoint and a group of people in power who have to be at least somewhat accountable to them. It’s a strategic choice that makes sense.

If you want to go protest Forever 21, print off some flyers, stand in front of their stores, and pass them out until you get escorted off the premises. Call the media and let them know what you are going to do. Have a friend take pictures and put them on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t tell college students to do it. Do it yourself.

“Raise Your Hand If I Should Care About Your Opinion About Iraq. No, Put Your Hand Down Right Now, Senator McCain.”

[ 234 ] June 14, 2014 |

The people who promised us democracy! whiskey! sexy! protection from Saddam’s balsa wood drones of nuclear terror! cheap! from the Iraq War should never be listened to again:

But there are few people who understand Iraq less than the Republican politicians and pundits who are being sought out for their comments on the current situation.

As you watch the debate on this issue, you should remind yourself that the most prominent voices being heard are the very ones who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who promised that everything was simple and the only question was whether we’d be “strong” and “decisive” enough — the same thing they’re saying today. They’re the ones who swore that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, that he had a terrifying arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, that the war would be quick, easy and cheap, that since Iraq was a largely secular country we wouldn’t have to worry about sectarian conflict, and that democracy would spread throughout the region in short order, bringing peace and prosperity along with it.

We can start with the man on every TV producer and print reporter’s speed dial, John McCain. McCain does provide something important to journalists: whatever the issue of the moment is, he can be counted on to offer angry, bitter criticism of the Obama administration, giving the “balance” every story needs. The fact that he has never demonstrated the slightest bit of understanding of Iraq is no bar at all to being the most quoted person on the topic.

For context, here’s a nice roundup of some of the things McCain said when he was pushing to invade Iraq in the first place. When asked if Iraqis were going to greet us as liberators, he answered, “Absolutely.” He said, “Post-Saddam Hussein Iraq is going to be paid for by the Iraqis” with their oil wealth (the war ended up costing the American taxpayer upwards of $2 trillion). And my favorite: “There is not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias, so I think they can probably get along.”

In a world with properly functioning public discourse, these people would be too ashamed to show their faces in public; instead, they remain Respected Leaders.

Fortunately, warbloggers seem far less influential, but remain hilarious.  The man who gave us the internet’s equivalent of the Mission Accomplished speech is, for some reason, still saying things about Iraq:

OH, YEAH: Obama Talked About Iraq Today. We’ll do something, as soon as we decide what to do, but whatever it is it won’t be anything decisive. And this is all the Iraqis’ fault, and probably Bush’s.

Well, what do you know — through the use of sarcasm Reynolds has inadvertently said something true about Iraq, or at least attributed a true statement to Obama. Meanwhile, Reynolds’s ongoing preference for action that is “decisive” (with implicitly only killing people counting as “decisive”) to action that is wise shows that he, like most hack Iraq warmongers, has learned less than nothing. (Note: this post is even funnier when you remember Reynolds’s belief that people are skeptical about American claims about WMDs because of Barack Obama. I’ll never forgive him for giving that farcical speech to the UN in 2003!)

Satoko Fujii New Trio

[ 7 ] June 13, 2014 |

I was lucky enough to see my college roommate play bass in the Satoko Fujii New Trio +1 tonight at Firehouse 12 in New Haven. If you are fans of jazz and noise and are in New York, Washington, the Bay Area, Seattle, or Vancouver, you should definitely check them out in the coming week or two on this North American tour. They are playing the Vision Festival tomorrow in New York, which is where I would be if I were in New York regardless of having a friend in the band. Here is a clip of the Trio without tonight’s speical guest. It includes the drummer beating on a chair.

Satoko Fujii, piano
Todd Nicholson, bass
Takashi Itani, drums, chair hitting.

Game 5

[ 83 ] June 13, 2014 |

At this point, this classic deserves an open thread.  If there’s a World Cup game remotely as exciting as this one, I promise to spend 3 hours watching Marty St. Louis’s Game 6 double OT winner in the 2004 finals on a constant loop for 24 hours.  (Note: I am the exclusive judge of this competition.)

Far be it from me to disagree with the wisdom of FIFA, the IOC, and Gary Bettman as applied to the regular season, but I’m going to continue to claim that it would not be better if this game was suddenly ended to have a penalty shot contest to determine the winner.

…congrats to the Kings; great team.  (What odds could you have gotten on them when they were down 3-0 against San Jose?) Is Darryl Sutter a HOF coach?  He’s certainly close.

Katie Surrence: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

[ 27 ] June 13, 2014 |

We’re pleased to offer this post from longtime friend of LGM Katie Surrence. I have been impressed by her views of the legitimate thee-yater since she saw through the ludicrously overrated Spring Awakening, and she writes interestingly about many other topics as well. Give her a a nice LGM welcome and hopefully we will see her work again! –SL

Hello all!

I’d like to introduce myself: I’m a friend of Scott L.’s from past blogging-related program activities. He reads my informal Facebook accounts of the plays I see in NYC, where I live, and he invited me to write some guest posts for LGM about theater, and possibly other things that occur to me (I work in psychology/neuroscience and might be tempted to cover that beat). I was both flattered and nervous—I don’t have the kind of formal education that would qualify me to write about theater the way SEK does for film and television. But I was also excited about the opportunity to explore my values about what makes good theater, and when I see a show I love, to be able to have a small part in promoting it. Some warnings: I obviously can’t cover theater around the country! But even if you don’t live in NYC, I hope it might be interesting to read about shows that might have touring productions or what you might want to see if you visit. I’m going to have a strong bias toward musicals, because that’s what I best love to go see. I won’t be able to be opening-night timely; I’m a time- and cash-poor student/researcher and sometimes don’t see shows till far into their run.

I at least have a news hook for my first review! Hedwig and the Angry Inch just won a bunch of Tonys, and Neil Patrick Harris took home Best Actor in a Musical. I never saw the original Hedwig on stage, but I’m a fan of the movie, and in many ways it was hard to avoid having a good time. I saw a 10 pm Saturday show, dressed up in a very short poofy pink dress and very tall pink heels and mouthed all the words with a crowd that also eating it up just as much. Someone—I guess John Cameron Mitchell? He has the only credit for the book—wrote updated patter for Hedwig that in my abundant goodwill for the show I laughed at even as I recognized how cheap it was (Hedwig is playing at the Belasco Theater after the close of the ill-fated run of Hurt Locker: The Musical). I wished many times that we were at a concert instead of a theater performance so I could move around, dance, even sometimes sing along.

But the fact that I would really rather have been dancing around and interacting more with the people around me rather than watching the show very closely is also a sign of what was wrong with the show. I’m a dissenter on the merits of Neil Patrick Harris’s performance. John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig shows you how she’s suffered. He plays depressed convincingly, sympathetically, and charismatically even while singing an uptempo rock song like “Wig in a Box”. And he gives her intelligence and irony, warmth and creative spark that she wouldn’t let be trapped behind the wall of sadness—you can see it breaking out over the course of the song. NPH’s Hedwig doesn’t let you see that she’s suffered at all. It’s a common remark about the Hedwig revival that it was originally a cabaret show, and it’s better designed for small venues, but I don’t think that was the only problem. A great stage performer should be able to make a huge theater into an intimate space. But NPH doesn’t give the audience pain or soul. His Hedwig is cold underneath a heavy mask of makeup. She’s funny and campy, but she never seems vulnerable. Hedwig abuses her bandmate and husband, Yitzhak (played in the revival by Lena Hall), and in the absence of a sense of her vulnerability, she just comes off as a bully. JCM is sexy as Hedwig, partly as a result of that intelligence and vulnerability, partly physical grace, and partly delicate oddball beauty. NPH didn’t have any real heat; his glam femme was a little stiff and awkward. I wondered if that was a deliberate choice, but if so I don’t think I liked it. I like Hedwig as brilliant in her role. He even looked wrong. He’s too cut to play Hedwig, who was presumably was not spending hours in the gym during her supermarket checkout/rocker-in-training years. That let him climb and leap impressively about the stage, but it was also yet another way he couldn’t bring vulnerability to the character. Lena Hall was a bright spot in the show, and in spite of having 10% of NPH’s time in the spotlight, she had more charisma and feeling. I did get a little piece of feeling from him at the very end, when he strips to his underwear, sheds his wig, and walks downstage, no longer stomping about, now supple in his movements, bending his body like a reed, singing, “You’re shining/Like the brightest star/A transmission/On the midnight radio.” But it wasn’t one of those shows that sneaks up on you at the end. It wasn’t enough for me to make her a character I cared about.

This video of NPH performing “Sugar Daddy” at the Tonys illustrates all the problems I saw. Of course this particular example is a little unfair: “Sugar Daddy” is supposed to be a big, silly, sexy number, but it’s what there is in video, and I still think it’s telling that even with the intimacy of close-ups, NPH is basically expressionless, athletic but awkward, pushing himself a little robotically through a routine: I must give lapdance … to Sting! The casting of Andrew Rannells has just been announced for the extended run. Maybe he’ll bring some heart back to the role.

Last Hired, First Fired

[ 21 ] June 13, 2014 |

Not surprising in the least that economic hardship exacerbates racial bias. Good to gain greater understanding of how this occurs.

Page 31 of 1,838« First...10202930313233405060...Last »
  • Switch to our mobile site