Sep 30, 2006

Audioslave's Tom Morello Arrested at Protest

Got this from Rolling Stone this morning...

AUDIOSLAVE guitarist TOM MORELLO was among nearly four hundred protesters arrested at a march for immigrant hotel workers' rights Thursday night on the main road to Los Angeles International Airport. "These hotel workers by the airport make twenty percent less wages than hotel workers around the rest of Los Angeles," Morello told MTV News prior to the protest. "We're here to express our solidarity with them, to help them unionize and to help them close the gap between their sub-poverty wages and the millions and millions of dollars the people who own these hotels make." BEN HARPER also attended the two-thousand-strong march but avoided arrest.


Hey what can you say. He's been doing things like this for a long time. Though I definitely liked Rage Against the Machine more than Audioslave, many props to people like Tom Morello, Serj (System of a Down) and others who are getting out there with their beliefs. Hella lot better than people just talking the talk but not doing much else.

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Sep 26, 2006

Michelle Malkin's New Angle.

I just found this while trying to get caught up on the Clinton interview that is apparently big news. So I end up first seeing that Ann Coulter called Clinton gay at some point, which was mildly amusing, and right down the track from Coulter, trying desperately to cash in on her cache, I find Michelle Malkin once again.

I have to admit, I was once quite upset with Malkin for her commentary, but as I started to listen to it more closely, I realized that she really doesn't have strong analytical skills, and fits more in the vein of smear journalists from the past than a legitimate conservative threat. I think of Dinesh D'Souza as more of a threat, because his arguments have been reaching a more elite base, and have the potential, at least, to affect people of influence. Malkin feels more like a pop culture diva riding out her novelty as a neo-con, but not really bringing anything new to the table. Basically, she's a journalist who gets more play because Fox News picked her up as a political analyst.

Though this segment of Hardball made the rounds when the John Kerry swiftboat attacks were causing waves in the presidential campaign of 2004, I wasn't particularly pleased with it. It felt like Chris Mathews was beating up on a woman, and a woman of color at that, and it seemed quite unfair, and almost violent. I was offended for Malkin, even though what she was saying seemed off base. If she were a white man, she would at least have been given the respect to finish a few sentences before being proclaimed ridiculous. I don't know - I don't watch Hardball, but that was my feeling, and with whatever animus I feel towards Malkin (she's taken aim at quite a few folks that I know), I couldn't cheer that display on.

However, I just found out that she has some new venture to "balance" the video clips that are out there with her bugging out on the O'Reilly Factor, or wherever else. And I found this particular post, from last week, to be quite interesting. She's positing that liberals have hurled all kinds of race-based insults her way, and in the direction of other conservatives of color (cheers, Michelle, for moving forward in your lingo). She is asserting victim status (something that she's done before, but never to this degree) to call out the liberal establishment as racist and uniquely bigoted. It's interesting - because I feel that she has definitely gone through some image consulting - she's more confident, less obviously crazy, and possibly a better messenger for the "Democrats are biased" line than a lot of other folks in the GOP.

But I guess I would say that she should be more of a purist. After all - the Dems and the GOP aren't very far apart from one another, and it would be pretty hard to say that the Republicans really have a better image than the Dems in this issue. They just have Karl Rove, who's a bit smarter and ballsier in his ability to put together smear campaigns. But the point is - they both suck at true integration of their parties, and there's a lot of bias that remains just under the surface (if it even stays that far under, right Mr. Allen?). The GOP are well-served by the round of visible, strong candidates like Steele in MD and Blackwell in OH. They are definitely starting to show that the party isn't 100% monochromatic. But I guess my interest in her points lies in the question of whether there will ever be a point at which the Dems start to look at themselves and realize that they have to change as well. That they can't continue to just play business as usual, taking the default votes of communities of color and immigrant communities as the lesser (by little) of two evils, while just playing lip service to our real issues until their backs are against the wall and something has to be compromised in the chamber of white men (with some women and minorities thrown in for the good ol' PC/media thing) called Congress.

While the fact that politicians of color often suffer from the exaggerated expectations of co-ethnics who hope they can make something change for their communities is often spoken about (releasing those politicians from any responsibility and letting them just go with the machine and focus on building their individual careers), what about white men protecting their own? It doesn't matter whether they are Dems or Repubs... they have another representation beyond their states, their districts, and their corporate backers: they have a race that looks to them as the great hope, the circled wagons on yonder prairie trail, because the wild, wild west is coming back to get them. And while the natives regain their strength, the new pioneers are not white. But wherein lies the power, therein lies the future. And there's not been any significant, nor proportional shift in power from the white majority to the other peoples of America.

So while I could talk about Malkin's new attitude, new look, and new approach (well - new to me), I'm just curious about how we're going to get anywhere in this place as peoples who love elements of this nation, but realize that its been built in blood, and that its entire foundation depends on a particular worldview: militarism, and know-nothingness. There is no party of ideas anymore. And while Jefferson and his brethren were slave-owners, aristocrats, and white men, they were also thinkers who battled in great ideas that mature even now, more than 200 years after they explored them in the founding of this system. Our great thinkers now remain entrenched in garrisons that become more distant and more removed with each passing year... the ivory towers and halls of the academy. Our intellectuals and rebels would leave the United States as ex-patriates, writing, thinking, and living a different American reality overseas. But now - they distance themselves in theory, or in esoteric research that isn't current or relevant.

Does Malkin have a point with her "only comes from the left" angle? Well, the right doesn't care about left-leaning people of color - it's also just assumed that's where we'll all be until very recently. Plus, the outspoken folks of color in either party are countable on one hand, and most folks who are conservative don't want to be known for their group/race/ethnic affiliations because they believe in the Horatio Algers myth of the self-made man, and in individual identity at the cost of group identity. Hey - hurling the "sell-out" thing at Malkin is easy. Look, I don't know her personal story, but she's obviously trying to make a living, and she's using the intersection of gender/race that she has as a marketing tool. She's benefiting from the novelty of race in her particular rhetoric niche, but as of tonight, her post about race-baiting had only 40 views, compared to 5,000 for the Hardball segment. So... she may have to think about podcasting (she may be doing that, too).

Michelle - I hope you find some peace somehow. You don't seem happy. Pinay sister (I think), we'd welcome you to the fold again, with a little work maybe you'd even have some pride in the rich history of resistance to authoritarianism and racism that people of color, of whom you seem to count yourself a member, have waged in this country for more than 500 years. Join us. We're more fun, and at least within the more hip circles of color, we won't exoticize you, either. But maybe you like that sort of thing.

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Sep 25, 2006

The Human Reaction to Conservation.

Well, this is a funny story. I'm not surprised, but I'm still overwhelmed the brazen desire to retain man-attributed value in land, at the threat of something natural. The American spirit of land-ownership, which I have had to study (sometimes with great pain) in my intro to Property law class, distills everything into dollars and little sense. Not to be on a high horse or anything, but no wonder people have no qualms about stepping on and smashing terrain, flora, and fauna alike.

NY Times
September 24, 2006
Rare Woodpecker Sends a Town Running for Its Chain Saws

BOILING SPRING LAKES, N.C., Sept. 23 (AP) — Over the past six months, landowners here have been clear-cutting thousands of trees to keep them from becoming homes for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

The chain saws started in February, when the federal Fish and Wildlife Service put Boiling Spring Lakes on notice that rapid development threatened to squeeze out the woodpecker.

The agency issued a map marking 15 active woodpecker “clusters,” and announced it was working on a new one that could potentially designate whole neighborhoods of this town in southeastern North Carolina as protected habitat, subject to more-stringent building restrictions.

Hoping to beat the mapmakers, landowners swarmed City Hall to apply for lot-clearing permits. Treeless land, after all, would not need to be set aside for woodpeckers. Since February, the city has issued 368 logging permits, a vast majority without accompanying building permits.

The results can be seen all over town. Along the roadsides, scattered brown bark is all that is left of pine stands. Mayor Joan Kinney has watched with dismay as waterfront lots across from her home on Big Lake have been stripped down to sandy wasteland.

“It’s ruined the beauty of our city,” Ms. Kinney said. To stop the rash of cutting, city commissioners have proposed a one-year moratorium on lot-clearing permits.

The red-cockaded woodpecker was once abundant in the vast longleaf pine forests that stretched from New Jersey to Florida, but now numbers as few as 15,000. The bird is unusual among North American woodpeckers because it nests exclusively in living trees.

In a quirk of history, human activity has made this town of about 4,100 almost irresistible to the bird.

Long before there was a town, locals carved V-shaped notches in the pines, collecting the sap in buckets to make turpentine. These wounds allowed fungus to infiltrate the tree’s core, making it easier for the woodpecker to excavate its nest hole and probe for the beetles, spiders and wood-boring insects it prefers.

“And, voilĂ ! You have a perfect woodpecker habitat,” said Dan Bell, project director for the Nature Conservancy in nearby Wilmington.

The woodpecker gouges a series of holes around the tree, creating “sap runs” to discourage the egg-gobbling black snake, the bird’s chief enemy. Because it can take up to six years to excavate a single nest hole, the birds fiercely defend their territory, said Susan Miller, a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “They’re passed from generation to generation, because it’s such a major investment in time to create one cavity,” Ms. Miller said.

Like the woodpeckers, humans are also looking to defend their nest eggs.

Bonner Stiller has been holding on to two wooded half-acre lakefront lots for 23 years. He stripped both lots of longleaf pines before the government could issue its new map.

“They have finally developed a value,” said Mr. Stiller, a Republican member of the state General Assembly. “And then to have that taken away from you?”

Landowners have overreacted, says Pete Benjamin, supervisor of the federal agency’s Raleigh office.

Having a woodpecker tree on a piece of property does not necessarily mean a house cannot be built there, Mr. Benjamin said. A landowner can even get permission to cut down a cavity tree, as long as an alternative habitat can be found.

“For the most part, we’ve found ways to work with most folks,” he said.

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Sep 17, 2006

Let's go - a thousand million thoughts, not a second of time to make sense of any of it. But life is good, neither sun nor rain faze me, autumn in NY is coming, and perhaps I'll be able to travel someday to see more of the world that I don't know enough of.


I spoke with a distant cousin who has come to the States to study on the phone today for the second time, first since he landed in Mobile, AL. I've never met him face-to-face, and yet I still feel some sense of older brotherly protection that I should confer to him, especially in lieu of his own family, half a world away in Bombay. He's a good kid, studying for a graduate degree at age 22. I think he was surprised that I hadn't been "Americanized" in whatever that means to the average middle class Indian. Sometimes I think that Bollywood conspires to stereotype me more than the average redneck.

It's an old story, but the assumptions that folks make about second and third generation folks are still amazing. And I guess I have to put up the mirror and think about the assumptions I make as well. This particular conversation seemed to suggest that he thought I wouldn't "get" family, or that I'd be rude or uninterested in him. But I guess I was raised to think about family expansively, even though I still have many "yo you're crowding me" moments. There's something stable and dependable about kinship. Knowing that regardless, we're bonded by blood in a way that transcends the mutable and mercurial nature of most friendships. I don't pass along my deepest secrets to my extended family members, but we have each others' back. And they forgive me when I get too carried away in my desire to neutralize the conservatism that I feel is creeping up all around us.


But I guess that's another point that I've been thinking about. When do you make your point strongly, at risk of breaking off a conversation entirely, and when do you attempt moderation? I have a problem with the latter, especially when things get heated. I like to go for the jungular, or at least duel enough to get to the truth. But not many people are in that frame of mind, and taking up a position seems to broadcast closemindedness or immovability. But I want to have conversations that challenge me and others to question our assumptions and to go beyond regurgitating what we've been told or sold.

Truth is, there's too much ego involved in that initial challenge. If it's a real discussion and dialogue, it will come. But pushing for it might mean that I'm overconfident that my position/point of view is the right one. Not a good place at all - conquering one's ego is the only way to truly be open to learning from others even if we disagree wholeheartedly. So strength of conviction, as well as some level of thought about an issue that led to that point of view, gets in the way, particularly when it seems like the other person hasn't thought much at all about the issue in question.

And then, it appears like you have no capacity to tolerate different opinions, a dissuasive element that turns people off, far more than showcasing knowledge turns them on to your ideas. So how to share without falling into the paternalistic/condescension trap of trying to "educate" someone? How do we learn together?

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Sep 8, 2006

A Matter of Life and Death.

Finally picked up and listened to (most of) the new Maiden album, A Matter of Life and Death. I can't believe these guys are actually making better music now than 10 years ago. I'd all but lost hope for them when they put out Fear of the Dark, which was easily my least favorite album by them before the Blaze years (for anyone who is lost, you can catch up here). Brave New World was a tremendous return to form, and while I really liked some of the stuff on Dance of Death, I was getting afraid that they were slipping down the path (again) where I'd start to recognize passages and arrangements from their previous catalog. Not a good thing when a group starts to cannibalize its own past.

But this album has some freshness to it that explodes from the get-go. I guess I realize now how much I appreciated Adrian Smith's presence in the band - he brings with him a rock attitude that seems to sheer off some of the excess and yet still afford riff-heavy songs that are fun to sing along with Bruce. He's a co-author of a full half of the songs, and it's just very clear that this album is much stronger. There's something urgent about this one, which I guess is evident from how fast they were able to write, record, and put it out. They seem more fresh and ready to take risks.

Interesting, Bruce actually explores more terrain with his voice in this album than he's done in most of the past albums. While this isn't a full-on review - I'm really impressed with all that he's been able to do with his voice - it's a combination of his trademark sound with a lower register, some more melodic/non-air raid siren singing, as well as some elements that almost sound like Ray Alder of Fates Warning/Engine/Redemption (man, how many bands can that guy be the singer for anyway?). I haven't heard much of Bruce's solo work, but I'm thinking that I may want to at least check out the two albums in which he and Adrian Smith were working together.

Anyway - so let's just say that the new Maiden is an 8.5 or 9 at this early point in listening to it, the new Roots album is only a 6, and the new Dylan is so hard to map that I can't come up with a rating. A good time for new music.

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