Friday, May 31, 2013

"Occupy Comics"

From DangerousMinds

Occupy Comics is the first issue of a new project bringing together comic pros, storytellers and artists to create a time-capsule of the Occupy protests. Each issue of the anthology will tell individual stories and explore broader themes inspired by the months of protests that began in fall of 2011.

Halo-8’s Matt Pizzolo told Wired back in 2011:

“Adbusters created a really powerful image of a ballerina atop the Wall Street bull with protesters in the background, and that was enough to set this off,” he said. “Then Anonymous brought in the Guy Fawkes masks, and U.S. Day of Rage created more art challenging the relationship between Wall Street and Washington. So this is an art-inspired movement, and that’s part of what makes it so viral. It’s not intellectual, it doesn’t need a manifesto. People are banding together around an idea, rather than an ideology.”

Occupy Comics participants include Alan Moore, Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Susie Cagle (cartoonist arrested at Occupy Oakland), Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night), Dan Goldman (Shooting War), Molly Crabapple, Amanda Palmer, Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan), Laurie Penny, Zoetica Ebb, Patrick Meany and Douglas Rushkoff.

Check out this PDF preview of Occupy Comics. You can purchase the 48 page first issue via Midtown Comics. There will be a hardback graphic novel published this Fall.

Occupy Comics was funded via the social-networking site Kickstarter and the profits were, and still are, being donated to Occupy-related groups.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gordon Willis
A Peek Into the Soul of the Great Cinematographer

By Jeff Glickman

Gordon Willis is regarded by all of his peers as one of the greatest cinematographers in the history of film, and for many as the greatest of all time, period.

Meeting with him only served to have him rise in our esteem. Without wanting to use hyperbole, between lensing “The Godfather’ trilogy, many of Woody Allen’s best films (including “Annie Hall," “Manhattan," “Stardust Memories," “Interiors” and others) and several master thrillers for Alan J. Pakula (“All the President’s Men," “Klute," “The Parallax View," “The Devil’s Own” and others), Gordon Willis practically single-handedly reinvented the craft of cinematography and the nature by which films were and are composed, lit, and executed.

He has left an indelible mark on the craft of filmmaking, and we are delighted to present him in a two-part interview here. We hope you enjoy a small window into a great man’s achievements and approach.

thanks, Insideplaya

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We're breeding the nutrition out of our food

from our friend Xeni at Boing Boing:

Image: Machiko Munakata made this "Sweet Corn" and shared the image in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool. 4.5 inches, hand-sewn, stuffed with polyfil.

In the New York Times this weekend, wild foods advocate Jo Robinson writes about how we've "been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers." Engineering crops to be sweeter, starchier, less bitter, and more calorie-packed makes them yummier, but changes their nutritional profile, and in turn our health.

The most interesting tidbit in this article: did you know that "Supersweet corn," the most popular corn strain by far, "was born in a cloud of radiation?"

Robinson's new book, "Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health," is out June 4, 2013.

Not entirely unrelated: protesters in some 400 cities throughout the world demonstrated against global food conglomerate Monsanto this weekend:

Organizers said “March Against Monsanto” protests were held in 52 countries and 436 cities, including Washington and Los Angeles, where demonstrators waved signs that read “Real Food 4 Real People” and “Label GMOs, It’s Our Right to Know.” Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified. But critics say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kafka, meet Orwell: peek behind the scenes of the modern surveillance state

from BoingBoing:
Journeyman Pictures' short documentary "Naked Citizens" is an absolutely terrifying and amazing must-see glimpse of the modern security state, and the ways in which it automatically ascribes guilt to people based on algorithmic inferences, and, having done so, conducts such far-reaching surveillance into its victims' lives that the lack of anything incriminating is treated of proof of being a criminal mastermind:
"I woke up to pounding on my door", says Andrej Holm, a sociologist from the Humboldt University. In what felt like a scene from a movie, he was taken from his Berlin home by armed men after a systematic monitoring of his academic research deemed him the probable leader of a militant group. After 30 days in solitary confinement, he was released without charges. Across Western Europe and the USA, surveillance of civilians has become a major business. With one camera for every 14 people in London and drones being used by police to track individuals, the threat of living in a Big Brother state is becoming a reality. At an annual conference of hackers, keynote speaker Jacob Appelbaum asserts, "to be free of suspicion is the most important right to be truly free". But with most people having a limited understanding of this world of cyber surveillance and how to protect ourselves, are our basic freedoms already being lost?

World - Naked Citizens

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Austerity economics only works if you make an Excel formula error

from BoingBoing:
A new paper called Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin from UMass Amherst tries and fails to replicate the classic work on austerity, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's 2010 Growth in a Time of Debt.

Reinhart-Rogoff is the main research cited in favor of cutting public services and spending in bad economic times. It's a big part of why the local library is shutting down, why they're kicking people out of public housing, shutting down arts programs, slashing education and public transit, and laying off public employees. It purports to show that countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios of 90 percent or more are a "threat to sustainable economic growth."

In the new Amherst paper, the authors reexamine Reinhart-Rogoff's original data and conclude that the numbers don't add up. They show that Reinhart-Rogoff cherry-picked which years of high-debt GDP they measure, that they put their thumbs on the scales with "unconventional weighting" and made a "coding error" that "entirely excludes five countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, and Denmark." This last error -- literally the wrong formula in a spreadsheet cell -- badly skews the outcome.

Here's the tl;dr: "the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0.1 percent as [Reinhart-Rogoff claim]."
Selective Exclusions. Reinhart-Rogoff use 1946-2009 as their period, with the main difference among countries being their starting year. In their data set, there are 110 years of data available for countries that have a debt/GDP over 90 percent, but they only use 96 of those years. The paper didn't disclose which years they excluded or why.

Herndon-Ash-Pollin find that they exclude Australia (1946-1950), New Zealand (1946-1949), and Canada (1946-1950). This has consequences, as these countries have high-debt and solid growth. Canada had debt-to-GDP over 90 percent during this period and 3 percent growth. New Zealand had a debt/GDP over 90 percent from 1946-1951. If you use the average growth rate across all those years it is 2.58 percent. If you only use the last year, as Reinhart-Rogoff does, it has a growth rate of -7.6 percent. That's a big difference, especially considering how they weigh the countries.

Unconventional Weighting. Reinhart-Rogoff divides country years into debt-to-GDP buckets. They then take the average real growth for each country within the buckets. So the growth rate of the 19 years that the U.K. is above 90 percent debt-to-GDP are averaged into one number. These country numbers are then averaged, equally by country, to calculate the average real GDP growth weight.

In case that didn't make sense, let's look at an example. The U.K. has 19 years (1946-1964) above 90 percent debt-to-GDP with an average 2.4 percent growth rate. New Zealand has one year in their sample above 90 percent debt-to-GDP with a growth rate of -7.6. These two numbers, 2.4 and -7.6 percent, are given equal weight in the final calculation, as they average the countries equally. Even though there are 19 times as many data points for the U.K.

Now maybe you don't want to give equal weighting to years (technical aside: Herndon-Ash-Pollin bring up serial correlation as a possibility). Perhaps you want to take episodes. But this weighting significantly reduces the average; if you weight by the number of years you find a higher growth rate above 90 percent. Reinhart-Rogoff don't discuss this methodology, either the fact that they are weighing this way or the justification for it, in their paper.
Researchers Finally Replicated Reinhart-Rogoff, and There Are Serious Problems. [Mike Konczal/Next New Deal]

Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff

(via Techdirt)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sign this petition


I am against the fact that every meeting in the senate and congress starts with a prayer,
I am also against that GOD is mentioned on all of our currency.
I see no reason for either of these peculiar things.

That's why I created a petition to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which says:

"Dear Senate and Congress can you please stop praying or making a blessing in public before you are called to order, and can you please remove the name and reference of God from all of our currency? It makes no sense."

Will you sign my petition? Click here to add your name:



lets see if we can gather some steam on this!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Destroy Boredom:
Punk Rock and the Situationist International

from Dangerous Minds:

On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972 is an interesting short film by Branka Bogdanov primarily documenting the work of ultra-leftist French philosopher Guy Debord, author of the influential post Marxist study of 20th capitalism Society of the Spectacle. The film explores Debord’s influence on the Paris riots of May 1968 and the nihilistic aesthetics of the punk rock era.

Interviewees include Greil Marcus, Malcolm McLaren and Sex Pistols graphic designer Jamie Reid.



Monday, May 20, 2013

Conspiratards: Reddit forum mocks Alex Jones & Ron Paul fans; maybe they’ll learn something?

from our friend Richard Metzger over at Dangerous Minds

There’s a fantastic new—at least I think it’s pretty new—sub-reddit section that’s a catchall for some of the more idiotic conspiracy theories out there. Titled ‘Conspiratards,’ for the most part, the forum consists of postings debunking the willy-nilly fever dream dot-connecting of Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, the 9-11 truthers, birthers, LaRouchites, Tea partiers, Ron Paul fanboys and David Icke. If you are so inclined, it’s a fucking laugh riot.

As you might imagine it’s also one of the most vicious and biting forums on all of reddit—which is really saying something—and many true believers have a vendetta against the forum’s very existence. There’s a disclaimer on the sidebar that directs readers to the “Controversial” tab:

Special Note: Conspiratards hate free speech and religiously down-mod good submissions here, so be sure to check out the “controversial” submissions that they don’t want you to see!

When you talk about conspiracy theories, there are, of course, REAL conspiracies and crimes—things which can be proven in a court of law and that actually happened historically (Watergate and the Iran Contra scandal come immediately to mind) and then there’s the utter lunatic bullshit that Alex Jones propagates on his radio show, the Montauk Project book series and Brice Taylor, the self-proclaimed mind-controlled sex slave of Bob Hope, the CIA and Henry Kissinger). When you get down to the “lizard people” level, I’m not sure what value these empty mental calories provide as a part of one’s intellectual diet, but from a sociological viewpoint, it’s fascinating to gawk at the loopy things that some people are willing to believe, absent any proof other than a sweaty, obnoxious fat guy shouting that it’s all a big government cover-up (A pic of Alex Jones looking suitably barking mad is the Conspiratards’ mascot).

I’ve watched as the conspiracy theory subculture degenerated from serious, yet unorthodox, inquiry and investigative journalism (the high point was the late 80s, early 90s when zine culture still flourished) to the mentally unstable jabberwocky of Jones, the Fox News reichwing propaganda machine and the smirking, immature fratboy fascists at Breitbart we have today. It’s gone from fascinating to pathetic and there’s a world of distance between the likes of a great, non-conformist mind such as Mae Brussell or her disciple Dave Emory, and a bi-polar paranoid numbskull like Alex Jones.

Because of the popularity of Disinformation, which launched in 1996 when the Internet was still a new thing to most people, I was often asked to comment on conspiracy theories on television shows and newscasts from all over the world. Out of “nowhere” these “theories” appeared to be gaining a level of acceptability in the culture, and this seemed to alarm traditional journalists and so they would have someone like me—or Jonathan Vankin, author of Conspiracies, Cover-Ups and Crimes, still the definitive book on conspiracy theorists) explain it for their listeners, viewers or readers. Both Jonathan and myself were bemused onlookers, not true believers in any way, so we tended to be the “go to” guys for that stuff back then.

I was always asked these two questions, or some variation thereof: “Have you ever investigated a conspiracy theory that you were skeptical of, only to find that you ultimately came to believe it?” (“No,” is the very short answer) and they also always wanted to know how the general public would be able to tell shit from shinola in this brave new Internet era…

This was the trickier question to answer, but to a large extent, I’d give the same answer today as I did fifteen years ago: “If it sounds like something they already believe, and it’s presented with a certain level of slickness, be it a professional TV graphics package, or good web design, then a certain segment of the population probably will believe it—fervently—and there’s not a lot that can done about it.”

I’ve had TV hosts gasp when I said that, but I wasn’t trying to imply—certainly not—that Lyndon LaRouche’s website would be on equal footing with The New York Times, but I was on the record several times back then predicting that “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” as defined by Richard Hofstadter in his famous 1964 essay of the same title, would become very popular in the coming decade as a form of entertainment.

It’s not about the John Birch Society-type ideas, or those of Glenn Beck’s idol, W. Cleon Skousen, per sethey’ve been languishing in the background for 50-60 years—but the slicker presentation of these kinds of ideas in a wide-open, low barrier to entry mediaverse that is seeing them flourish and gain traction in a way that never could have been imagined when Hofstadter wrote his essay. Today what used to be the fringe is the mainstream.

Consider the right wing “bubble” that the Mitt Romney campaign and the GOP were accused of living in during the 2012 election. If looked like Free Republic, it’s doubtful that it would carry the same weight in the minds of conservatives as the freaking New York Times, if you take the point, but to many on the right, it DOES have the same value, a fact that came out repeatedly in the election post-mortems. Breitbart? WTF?

Then there’s Fox News. Imagine how threadbare that network would appear without the slick motion graphics and the blonde newscasters? It would frankly look just like the Alex Jones podcast without the Fox-y ladies and professional art directors. Ever noticed how few live reports Fox does? Local newscasts get out of the studio more often than Fox does and many times, they’re using the same feeds as CNN, perhaps even licensing these feeds from their competitor. It looks like a news network and has all of the trappings and outer appearance of one, but is it really news that Fox offers its elderly viewers in between all of the Gold Bond powder and MedicAlert commercials?

In any case, my perception of the Conspiratards sub-reddit forum is that it represents (by its explicitly mocking name and irreverent attitude) a really, really interesting new development in conspiracy theory culture. Not merely a “get your head out of your ass, dude” place to vent, it’s actually a place where even the folks who troll it will inevitably get a dose of counter reality that will bounce off the back of their heads like a basketball of logic.

I can understand why people are Glenn Beck fans or Alex Jones diehards, but it doesn’t mean I have any respect for how their tiny minds process and evaluate information sources. Conspiratards on reddit looks to promote a modern—and necessary—form of media literacy, no more, no less. The educational system might be failing us, but take heart that we can still teach each other something.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

BLACK FLAG - w/ Dez on vocals, full set from 1981
+ Bonus Rollins/Biscuits '82

In honor of the Hard Core Super Bowl going on a down the block...
here you go kids, the real thing...

Oh, and if you're still not sure, here's a full set from LA in late 1982, w/ Henry well into it.
and Chuck Biscuits drumming... (I got some great shots from this show.)


You're welcome.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Great example of Minor Threat
In LA in 1983, I Was There!

Minor Threat Live at the Rollerworks, Los Angeles, CA. 2 April 1983

What A Great fucking show - JUST LOOK AT THIS!

I think this was the night before I brought them to skate at Kenter the next day. Great show, Suicidal was also on the bill.

I was there to have some fun, no camera ;-)

and really another, maybe even better show in Philadelphia at Love Hall:

and in DC

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cornel West: 'They say I'm un-American'

from The Guardian
The American academic and firebrand campaigner talks about Britain's deep trouble, fighting white supremacy and where Obama is going wrong

Cornel West, the firebrand of American academia for almost 30 years, is causing his hosts some problems. They are on a schedule but such things barely move him, for as he saunters down the high street there are people to talk to, and no one can leave shortchanged. Everyone, "brother" or "sister", is indeed treated like a long lost family member. And then there is the hug; a bear-like pincer movement. There's no escape. It happens in New York, where the professor/philosopher usually holds court. And now it's the same in Cambridge.
The best students accord their visitors a healthy respect, but West's week laying bare the conflicts and fissures of race and culture and activism and literature in the US and Britain yielded more than that during his short residency at King's College. There are academics who draw a crowd, but the West phenomenon at King's had rock star quality: the buzz, the poster beaming his image from doors and noticeboards; the back story – Harvard, Princeton, Yale, his seminal work Race Matters, his falling-in and falling-out with Barack Obama.
Others can teach, and at Cambridge the teaching is some of the best in the world, but standing-room-only crowds came to see West perform. He performed. Approaching 60 now, he is slow of gait. But he always performs.
"Britain is in trouble," he tells me. "Britain is in deep trouble. The privatising is out of the control, the militarising is out of control and the financialising is out of control. And what I mean from that is you have a cold-hearted, mean-spirited budget that the Queen just read; you have working and poor people under panic, you have this obsession with immigration that tends to scapegoat the most vulnerable rather than confront the most powerful. And it is not just black immigrants, but also our brothers and sisters from Poland and Bulgaria, Romania; right across the board." He isn't ranting. He doesn't rant. He smiles, he growls gently, he leans in and whispers conspiratorily. There is an upside, he says. "Britain has a rich history of bouncing back too."
They looked after him at King's, he says. Incongruous in his trademark black three–piece suit, with fob watch and old-time, grey–flecked, fly-away afro, he berthed in the understated splendour of the Rylands room in the Old Lodge. Named after Dadie Rylands, the literary scholar and theatre director educated at King's and a fellow until his death in 1999, it was where Virginia Woolf lunched with Rylands and John Maynard Keynes. West likes such evocations. "I feel her spirit," he says, leaning back on a chair.
Cornel West arrested in Harlem Activist ... Cornel West is arrested during a protest against policing methods in Harlem in 2011. Photograph: Stephanie Keith/AP

But then he is accustomed to the star treatment. A graduate of Harvard University in 1973, he received his PhD at Princeton; returning to both as professor of religion and director of the programme in African-American studies at Princeton and later professor of African-American studies at Harvard. He departed Harvard in 2002 after a bitter dispute with the then president of the university, Lawrence Summers, Bill Clinton's treasury secretary, who was later picked by President Obama to head the US National Economic Council. Some claim Summers's clash with West formed part of the spiral that led to his own departure from Harvard. West says Summers had an agenda to cut African American studies, and him, down to size. He "tangled with the wrong Negro", the professor said later. He returned to Princeton, from which he has recently retired. Now his centre of academic operations is the Union Theologiocal Seminary in New York, where he began his teaching career.
But he is multi-platform, which, critics contend, added something to the fall-out with Summers at Harvard. He is the author of 19 books and editor of another 13. A regular TV pundit. Co-star of the popular public radio show Smiley and West. Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. He even played the wise Councillor West in The Matrix Reloaded. While the right throws the socialist tag at Obama like a poisoned dart, West wears it as a badge of honour. A "non-Marxist socialist" eschewing Marxism in favour of Christianity. A complex package. Hence the enthusiasm at Cambridge's Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities to invite him over and peel the layers.
Last week West appeared three times in conversation: on race and politics, with academic Paul Gilroy – their double header had to be moved to a larger venue and ended with a standing ovation; on philosophy and the public sphere, with philosopher MM McCabe; and with Ben Okri on literature and the nation. The fact is that he'll talk indefinitely and on anything. In between Cambridge appearances, he headed to Sheffield University to unveil a memorial to a previous visitor there, "my brother Malcolm X". Also to London to an event hosted by former race chief Trevor Phillips.
Cornel West with Barack Obama in 2007 
'White supremacy is still operating in the US, even with a brilliant black face in the White House' ... West with Barack Obama in 2007. Photograph: Jemal Countess/WireImage

For his radio show in the US, he also travelled to the Ecuadorian embassy for an encounter with Julian Assange. Exhilarating, by his account. "Boy, that was a rich one," he says. "Oh my God, we went on for an hour and a half: about the militarising of the internet and the use of US imperial power. They're trying to squelch any whistleblower who wants to reveal the secrets of the dirty wars of the US empires and other governments. We talked primarily about courage. He is a very smart man and very courageous too."
They found points of contact. "He talked about Martin Luther King's courage and how he has been inspired by Martin Luther King. We talked about the 3 June case with brother Bradley Manning and the witnesses the US government has lined up. I wanted people to hear his voice and to revel in his humanity; revel in his wrestling with his situation and to see what his vision is."
He found some optimism, he says. "He has this situation with the sisters in Sweden and that's got to be resolved, and I think that's in the process of being resolved. We have to be concerned about someone accused of violating anybody, but I think for the most part that is going to be resolved, and that was probably an attempt of the powers that be. One woman has already said she is pulling back and the other one admits it was consensual, so it is not as ugly as it was projected in the press. But once that is over he has got the big one coming. He has got a behemoth coming at him; the US empire and its repressive apparatus. That is a behemoth, man."
Race matters, West famously wrote. Does race still matter? "I think race matters deeply but it is in many ways denied," he says. "The form of institutional racism and informal racism is very much there. White supremacy is very much alive in Britain. If you scratch below the surface you can still see how race matters. It is not as raw and coarse as it is in the US. You have 10,000 professors in Britain and 50 professors of colour. Ten women. This is pathetic; this is ridiculous. The 'meritocratic' brothers and sisters say: 'It's just a matter of merit and if they were doing the work you would have a higher percentage.' And you say: 'Please, get off the crack pipe.' There are brilliant black and brown people who could gain access to these professorships. Something is happening."
West in Cambridge 
He doesn't rant. He smiles, he growls gently, he leans in and whispers conspiratorially ... West in Cambridge. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Of course, concerns extend beyond teaching staff. Cambridge, with Oxford, is regularly accused of doing too little attract minorities. Both say they are trying.
But he acknowledges green shoots too. "There are the magnificent relationships between black and white and brown and Asian, and the different marriages and relationships that flower. Those are beautiful. But that doesn't mean institutional racism is not strong."
What of America? "We elected a black president and that means we are less racist now than we used to be. That's beautiful. But when you look at the prison industrial complex and the new Jim Crow: levels of massive unemployment and the decrepit unemployment system, indecent housing: white supremacy is still operating in the US, even with a brilliant black face in a high place called the White House. He is a brilliant, charismatic black brother. He's just too tied to Wall Street. And at this point he is a war criminal. You can't meet every Tuesday with a killer list and continually have drones drop bombs. You can do that once or twice and say: 'I shouldn't have done that, I've got to stop.' But when you do it month in, month out, year in, year out – that's a pattern of behaviour. I think there is a chance of a snowball in hell that he will ever be tried, but I think he should be tried and I said the same about George Bush. These are war crimes. We suffer in this age from an indifference toward criminality and a callousness to catastrophe when it comes to poor and working people."
Can you not cut the president some slack, I ask? Think of what he faced. What did you expect? "I worked to get him elected," he says, almost indignant. "And I would do it again because the alternative was so much worse. But at the same time, I have to be able to tell the truth. I thought he was going to be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal rather than a weak centrist. I thought he would actually move towards healthcare with a public option. I thought he was going to try to bail out homeowners as he bailed out banks. I thought he would try to hit the issue of poverty head-on."
He and Obama, the first-time candidate, talked. And then West attended 65 events drumming up support. "He talked about Martin Luther King over and over again as he ran. King died fighting not just against poverty but against carpet-bombing in Vietnam; the war crimes under Nixon and Kissinger. You can't just invoke Martin Luther King like that and not follow through on his priorities in some way. I knew he would have rightwing opposition, but he hasn't tried. When he came in, he brought in Wall Street-friendly people – Tim Geithner, Larry Summers – and made it clear he had no intention of bailing out homeowners, supporting trade unions. And he hasn't said a mumbling word about the institutions that have destroyed two generations of young black and brown youth, the new Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex. It's not about race. It is about commitment to justice. He should be able to say that in the last few years, with the shift from 300,000 inmates to 2.5 million today, there have been unjust polices and I intend to do all I can. Maybe he couldn't do that much. But at least tell the truth. I would rather have a white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones."
Unsurprisingly, he and team Obama no longer speak. "They say I'm un-American."
His appearances on the platform are more scholarly. Alongside Okri, he talks poetry and theatre. They reference Chekhov, Shakespeare, Pushkin, Kierkegaard, the Bible and Shelley. Dante and Toni Morrison get weaved in. As do the merits of John Coltrane set against smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G. West lauds Stephen Sondheim, and then his past collaborators in hip-hop, such as KRS1, Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco. The room is full, reviews are effusive. "His whole way of being an academic is different to Britain and different to Cambridge," says Malachi McIntosh, himself the first black fellow at King's in recent history. Critics in the US say West is too busy being a celebrity to be a top-ranked academic. McIntosh, an English lecturer, sees him differently. "The focus on the moral imperative and the lack of ego. Black students have felt catered to," he says.
Ahmad Husayni, 24, studying medicine, also detects stardust. "There's a sincerity that's missing from much of the public sphere. And then there is his way with words."
His tour ends in London, where even a man who looks like Cornel West can be anonymous if he needs to. But he didn't come to hide his light and so, after dinner at the high table at King's, he takes his encore in the studios of BBC Newsnight. Sitting with Gavin Esler, Obama's image dwarfs them both on a screen in the background. But West stands out here, as he stood out at Cambridge; as Esler frames the questions, he rocks back and forth, eyes narrowed, head nodding. One who had not seen it all before might be alarmed. But this is merely West in the zone, as sportspeople call it. Ready to go "deep". Primed for something "rich". The questions and answers are familiar to anyone who has seen him, as is the appearance: whip-sharp suit, watch and chain, the shock of steel-flecked hair; but what strikes is how he narrows the space between himself and his interlocutor. Esler becomes "my brother Gavin" and as the credits roll West grips the presenter's hand. The two chat, as if they had spent the previous hour over drinks and dinner. We don't get to see, but no doubt the encounter ended with a hug. 

Thanks Simi!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

(Black) FLAG - Tour Dates Announced

I'd say from the looks of this just released short film of one song from the first gig a few weeks ago at the infamous Moose Lodge, this is a show you will not want to miss. I know I won't.

05-27 Las Vegas, NV - Punk Rock Bowling
06-07 Pittsburgh, PA - Stage AE
06-08 Detroit, MI - Orion Music + More Festival
06-09 Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop
06-13 Buffalo, NY - Town Ballroom
06-14 Toronto, Ontario - NXNE Festival
06-15 Montebello, Quebec - Amnesia Rock Fest
08-24 Los Angeles, CA - FYF Fest
09-13 Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
09-16 Baltimore, MD - Baltimore Soundstage
09-18 Philadelphia, PA - Trocadero
09-19 New York, NY - Irving Plaza
09-20 Boston, MA - The Paradise

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How Austerity Kills

EARLY last month, a triple suicide was reported in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche, Italy. A married couple, Anna Maria Sopranzi, 68, and Romeo Dionisi, 62, had been struggling to live on her monthly pension of around 500 euros (about $650), and had fallen behind on rent.

Because the Italian government’s austerity budget had raised the retirement age, Mr. Dionisi, a former construction worker, became one of Italy’s esodati (exiled ones) — older workers plunged into poverty without a safety net. On April 5, he and his wife left a note on a neighbor’s car asking for forgiveness, then hanged themselves in a storage closet at home. When Ms. Sopranzi’s brother, Giuseppe Sopranzi, 73, heard the news, he drowned himself in the Adriatic.

The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century. People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.

In the United States, the suicide rate, which had slowly risen since 2000, jumped during and after the 2007-9 recession. In a new book, we estimate that 4,750 “excess” suicides — that is, deaths above what pre-existing trends would predict — occurred from 2007 to 2010. Rates of such suicides were significantly greater in the states that experienced the greatest job losses. Deaths from suicide overtook deaths from car crashes in 2009.

If suicides were an unavoidable consequence of economic downturns, this would just be another story about the human toll of the Great Recession. But it isn’t so. Countries that slashed health and social protection budgets, like Greece, Italy and Spain, have seen starkly worse health outcomes than nations like Germany, Iceland and Sweden, which maintained their social safety nets and opted for stimulus over austerity. (Germany preaches the virtues of austerity — for others.)

As scholars of public health and political economy, we have watched aghast as politicians endlessly debate debts and deficits with little regard for the human costs of their decisions. Over the past decade, we mined huge data sets from across the globe to understand how economic shocks — from the Great Depression to the end of the Soviet Union to the Asian financial crisis to the Great Recession — affect our health. What we’ve found is that people do not inevitably get sick or die because the economy has faltered. Fiscal policy, it turns out, can be a matter of life or death.

At one extreme is Greece, which is in the middle of a public health disaster. The national health budget has been cut by 40 percent since 2008, partly to meet deficit-reduction targets set by the so-called troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — as part of a 2010 austerity package. Some 35,000 doctors, nurses and other health workers have lost their jobs. Hospital admissions have soared after Greeks avoided getting routine and preventive treatment because of long wait times and rising drug costs. Infant mortality rose by 40 percent. New H.I.V. infections more than doubled, a result of rising intravenous drug use — as the budget for needle-exchange programs was cut. After mosquito-spraying programs were slashed in southern Greece, malaria cases were reported in significant numbers for the first time since the early 1970s.

In contrast, Iceland avoided a public health disaster even though it experienced, in 2008, the largest banking crisis in history, relative to the size of its economy. After three main commercial banks failed, total debt soared, unemployment increased ninefold, and the value of its currency, the krona, collapsed. Iceland became the first European country to seek an I.M.F. bailout since 1976. But instead of bailing out the banks and slashing budgets, as the I.M.F. demanded, Iceland’s politicians took a radical step: they put austerity to a vote. In two referendums, in 2010 and 2011, Icelanders voted overwhelmingly to pay off foreign creditors gradually, rather than all at once through austerity. Iceland’s economy has largely recovered, while Greece’s teeters on collapse. No one lost health care coverage or access to medication, even as the price of imported drugs rose. There was no significant increase in suicide. Last year, the first U.N. World Happiness Report ranked Iceland as one of the world’s happiest nations.

Skeptics will point to structural differences between Greece and Iceland. Greece’s membership in the euro zone made currency devaluation impossible, and it had less political room to reject I.M.F. calls for austerity. But the contrast supports our thesis that an economic crisis does not necessarily have to involve a public health crisis.

Somewhere between these extremes is the United States. Initially, the 2009 stimulus package shored up the safety net. But there are warning signs — beyond the higher suicide rate — that health trends are worsening. Prescriptions for antidepressants have soared. Three-quarters of a million people (particularly out-of-work young men) have turned to binge drinking. Over five million Americans lost access to health care in the recession because they lost their jobs (and either could not afford to extend their insurance under the Cobra law or exhausted their eligibility). Preventive medical visits dropped as people delayed medical care and ended up in emergency rooms. (President Obama’s health care law expands coverage, but only gradually.)

The $85 billion “sequester” that began on March 1 will cut nutrition subsidies for approximately 600,000 pregnant women, newborns and infants by year’s end. Public housing budgets will be cut by nearly $2 billion this year, even while 1.4 million homes are in foreclosure. Even the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s main defense against epidemics like last year’s fungal meningitis outbreak, is being cut, by at least $18 million.

To test our hypothesis that austerity is deadly, we’ve analyzed data from other regions and eras. After the Soviet Union dissolved, in 1991, Russia’s economy collapsed. Poverty soared and life expectancy dropped, particularly among young, working-age men. But this did not occur everywhere in the former Soviet sphere. Russia, Kazakhstan and the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) — which adopted economic “shock therapy” programs advocated by economists like Jeffrey D. Sachs and Lawrence H. Summers — experienced the worst rises in suicides, heart attacks and alcohol-related deaths.

Countries like Belarus, Poland and Slovenia took a different, gradualist approach, advocated by economists like Joseph E. Stiglitz and the former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. These countries privatized their state-controlled economies in stages and saw much better health outcomes than nearby countries that opted for mass privatizations and layoffs, which caused severe economic and social disruptions.

Like the fall of the Soviet Union, the 1997 Asian financial crisis offers case studies — in effect, a natural experiment — worth examining. Thailand and Indonesia, which submitted to harsh austerity plans imposed by the I.M.F., experienced mass hunger and sharp increases in deaths from infectious disease, while Malaysia, which resisted the I.M.F.’s advice, maintained the health of its citizens. In 2012, the I.M.F. formally apologized for its handling of the crisis, estimating that the damage from its recommendations may have been three times greater than previously assumed.

America’s experience of the Depression is also instructive. During the Depression, mortality rates in the United States fell by about 10 percent. The suicide rate actually soared between 1929, when the stock market crashed, and 1932, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president. But the increase in suicides was more than offset by the “epidemiological transition” — improvements in hygiene that reduced deaths from infectious diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza — and by a sharp drop in fatal traffic accidents, as Americans could not afford to drive. Comparing historical data across states, we estimate that every $100 in New Deal spending per capita was associated with a decline in pneumonia deaths of 18 per 100,000 people; a reduction in infant deaths of 18 per 1,000 live births; and a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people.

OUR research suggests that investing $1 in public health programs can yield as much as $3 in economic growth. Public health investment not only saves lives in a recession, but can help spur economic recovery. These findings suggest that three principles should guide responses to economic crises.

First, do no harm: if austerity were tested like a medication in a clinical trial, it would have been stopped long ago, given its deadly side effects. Each nation should establish a nonpartisan, independent Office of Health Responsibility, staffed by epidemiologists and economists, to evaluate the health effects of fiscal and monetary policies.

Second, treat joblessness like the pandemic it is. Unemployment is a leading cause of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicidal thinking. Politicians in Finland and Sweden helped prevent depression and suicides during recessions by investing in “active labor-market programs” that targeted the newly unemployed and helped them find jobs quickly, with net economic benefits.

Finally, expand investments in public health when times are bad. The cliché that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure happens to be true. It is far more expensive to control an epidemic than to prevent one. New York City spent $1 billion in the mid-1990s to control an outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The drug-resistant strain resulted from the city’s failure to ensure that low-income tuberculosis patients completed their regimen of inexpensive generic medications.

One need not be an economic ideologue — we certainly aren’t — to recognize that the price of austerity can be calculated in human lives. We are not exonerating poor policy decisions of the past or calling for universal debt forgiveness. It’s up to policy makers in America and Europe to figure out the right mix of fiscal and monetary policy. What we have found is that austerity — severe, immediate, indiscriminate cuts to social and health spending — is not only self-defeating, but fatal.

David Stuckler, a senior research leader in sociology at Oxford, and Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist in the Prevention Research Center at Stanford, are the authors of “The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Space Oddity
The Final Epic Act Of The Departing Commander
Of The International Space Station

Space Oddity for real.

A revised version of David Bowie's Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.

Behold... the Original music video for the David Bowie song Space Oddity from Bowie's promotional film, 'Love You Till Tuesday', originally released in 1969

and the more common mix from the Ziggy Stardust era of Bowie in 1972

I think I like Commander Hadfield's version the best!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Noam Chomsky - Ideas of Chomsky BBC Interview (full)

An old interview mostly on Chomsky's linguistics work, philosophy, and some remarks on political views near the end.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Anti-war ads from the 1930s

from BoingBoing

On the Vintage Ads LiveJournal, a fascinating set of anti-war ads from the 1930s protest group World Peaceways (see the full-sized version to read the text). They ran an anti-imperialist anti-war campaign that described soldiers as pawns in the corrupt games of the rich and powerful, and called on everyday people to refuse to involve America in future wars.

World Peaceways (1930s pacifist/anti-war organization) produced some of the boldest propaganda posters of that era, largely aimed at looking at what had come about in the aftermath of the First World War, including the Depression, and death on a scale the world had not seen before, as well as lasting enmity that was quickly brewing into the Second World War.

The name "World Peaceways" was used in the famous Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever" to represent the pacifist movement that Edith Keeler belonged to. The story claimed that her peace work would keep America out of the war for too long and thus lead to Germany winning and taking over the United States. Kirk HAD to let her die - because if he saved her (as he apparently had) then all of history would change.

Sunday Sampler of Anti-War Ads

Saturday, May 11, 2013

This Ad Has a Secret Anti-Abuse Message
That Only Kids Can See


In an effort to provide abused children with a safe way to reach out for help, a Spanish organization called the Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation, or ANAR for short, created an ad that displays a different message for adults and children at the same time.

The secret behind the ad's wizardry is a lenticular top layer, which shows different images at varying angles. So when an adult—or anyone taller than four feet, five inches—looks at it they only see the image of a sad child and the message: "sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it." But when a child looks at the ad, they see bruises on the boy's face and a different message: "if somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you" alongside the foundation's phone number.

The ad is designed to empower kids, particularly if their abuser happens to be standing right next to them. And while this is a great and worthwhile use of lenticular images, how long will it be before toy companies start doing to the same thing to hawk their products directly at kids?

Friday, May 10, 2013

We've Got to Find a Way to Stop the Imperial Presidency
Before It Permanently Destroys Our Great Country

By Ralph Nader on AlterNet
Killing innocent men, women and children abroad creates blowback that lasts for generations.
In watching the massive media coverage and the reaction to the brutal bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the wise poem “To A Louse…” composed in 1785 by the Scottish poet Robert Burns came to me:

“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!”

English translation:

“And would some Power the small gift give us

To see ourselves as others see us!”

What must the “others” in the Middle East theatre of the American Empire think of a great city in total lockdown from an attack by primitive explosives when Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Yemenis experience far greater casualties and terror attacks several times a week? Including what they believe are terror attacks by U.S. drones, soldiers, aircraft and artillery that have directly killed many thousands of innocent children, women and men in their homes, during funeral processions and wedding parties, or while they’re working in their fields.

Here’s what they are thinking: that America is very vulnerable and ready to shake itself upside down to rid itself and protect itself from any terror attacks. The Bush regime, after 9/11, sacrificed U.S. soldiers and millions of innocents in the broader Middle East, drained our economy, so as to ignore the necessities of saving lives and health here at home, and metastasized al-Qaeda into numerous countries, spilling havoc into Iraq and now Syria. We have paid a tremendous price in blowback, because of Mr. Bush’s rush to war.

Why is the reaction to the events in Boston viewed by some as bizarre? Our president said “We will finish the race.” Do we really think that the attackers are doing this to disrupt our pleasure in foot racing?

The attackers, be they suicide bombers over there or domestic bombers here, are motivated by their hatred of our invasions, our daily bombings, our occupations, our immersion in tribal preferences leading to divide-and-rule sectarian wars. Studies, such as those by the University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, and former adviser to Barack Obama and Ron Paul during the 2008 presidential campaign, conclude that entry into paradise is not the motivation for these suicide bombers. What drives them is their despair and their desire to expel the foreign invaders from their homeland.

Another “ithers’ – admittedly a smaller number – must see a giant country going berserk with media, speculation, rumors, accusations, and random mobilizations of military equipment. There are enough of these younger people who must say to themselves, maybe it is worth giving up their lives for a place in history – to make a nation be fearful because of their rulers’ staggering overreaction.

Why give these contorted young minds, frustrated by what they perceive as U.S. attacks on their religion or their ethnic group in their home countries, such incentives?

Massive overreactions by the mass media (have you seen CNN’s frenzied, nonstop quest for every bit of trivia and speculation hour after hour?) crowds out coverage of far greater preventable loss of life and safety in our country. Other commentators have covered the lesser-known yet huge explosion at the West, Texas fertilizer factory that destroyed far more property and took more human lives than the Boston Marathon assault. But, the dangerous fertilizer plant was corporate criminal negligence, or worse.

Every day in the U.S. there are preventable tragedies that receive no media coverage because they aren’t part of the “war on terror”, which has been crowding out stories that would have led to corrective actions to leave this country safer from the corporate predators within its borders.

Individually, many Americans intuitively understand the consequences of neglecting problems in our own country to engage in lawless wars and military adventures. Unfortunately, Americans collectively sing the song “que será, será” or “whatever will be, will be” because the big boys in Washington and Wall Street will always make the decisions. Be assured that they will often be stupidly harmful in the long-run to our country, and not just to millions of defenseless people abroad who have become victims of the collective punishment or random ravages of our massive push-buttonweapon systems.

In an impressive collection of excerpts titled Against the Beast, a Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire [3] edited by John Nichols; the eminent historian Chalmers Johnson had this to say:

“. . .where U.S.-supported repression has created hopeless conditions, to U.S.-supported economic policies that have led to unimaginable misery, blowback reintroduces us to a world of cause and effect.”

At a first-ever Senate hearing earlier this week on the use of armed drones away from battlefields, initiated by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and arrogantly boycotted by the imperial Obama Administration, Farea al-Muslimi, a young Yemeni from a village just attacked by a U.S. drone strike, gave witness.

Al-Muslimi said, “When they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time. What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.”

As President Obama told the Israelis about the Palestinians, “Put yourselves in their shoes.”

In country after country, the terrifying whine of 24/7 hovering drones and the knowledge that special U.S. killing teams can drop from the skies at any time, creates a state of terror.

A brute-force foreign policy waging war can never effectively wage peace or sensibly engage in early conflict prevention or resolution. An illegal brute-force policy aligns itself with repressive regimes that crush their own people with American weapons and American political/diplomatic cover.

Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield [4], who has been in these countries and spoken with these villagers, says that our government has created unnecessary enemies and banked lots of revenge among these people over the past ten years. “This is going to boomerang back around to us,” he fears, adding that we’re creating “a whole new generation of enemies that have an actual grievance against us…have an actual score to settle.” Killing innocent men, women and children creates blowback that lasts for generations.

From these overseas regions, the message from the bombing at the Boston Marathon is that, until now, the high-tech buttons were only being pushed by the drone operators against them. After Boston they can see that other low-tech buttons can now be pushed inside the U.S. against defenseless gatherings of innocent people.

For our national security, the American people must recover control of our runaway, unilateral presidency that has torn itself away from constitutional accountabilities and continues to be hijacked by ideologues who ignore our Founding Fathers’ wisdom regarding the separation of powers and avoiding foreign entanglements that become costly, deadly and endless quagmires.
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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kareem: 20 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 30

When I was thirty, I was living my dream. I’d already accomplished most of what I’d set out to achieve professionally: leading scorer in the NBA, leading rebounder, leading blocker, Most Valuable Player, All-Star. But success can be as blinding as Bill Walton’s finger in the eye when battling for a rebound. I made mistakes. Plenty of them. In fact, sometimes I wish I could climb into a time machine and go back to shake some sense into that thirty-year-old me. If I could, here’s the advice I would give him:

1. Be more outgoing. My shyness and introversion from those days still haunt me. Fans felt offended, reporters insulted. That was never my intention. When you’re on the public stage every day of your life, people think that you crave attention. For me, it was the opposite. I loved to play basketball, and was tremendously gratified that so many fans appreciated my game. But when I was off the court, I felt uncomfortable with attention. I rarely partied or attended celebrity bashes. On the flights to games, I read history books. Basically, I was a secret nerd who just happened to also be good at basketball. Interacting with a lot of people was like taking someone deathly afraid of heights and dangling him over the balcony at the top of the Empire State Building. If I could, I’d tell that nerdy Kareem to suck it up, put down that book you’re using as a shield, and, in the immortal words of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (to prove my nerd cred), “Engage!”

2. Ask about family history. I wish I’d sat my parents down and asked them a lot more questions about our family history. I always thought there would be time and I kept putting it off because, at thirty, I was too involved in my own life to care that much about the past. I was so focused on making my parents proud of me that I didn’t ask them some of the basic questions, like how they met, what their first date was like, and so forth. I wish that I had.

3. Become financially literate. “Dude, where’s my money?” is the rallying cry of many ex-athletes who wonder what happened to all the big bucks they earned. Some suffer from unwise investments or crazy spending, and others from not paying close attention. I was part of the didn’t-pay-attention group. I chose my financial manager, who I later discovered had no financial training, because a number of other athletes I knew were using him. That’s typical athlete mentality in that we’re used to trusting each other as a team, so we extend that trust to those associated with teammates. Consequently, I neglected to investigate his background or what qualified him to be a financial manager. He placed us in some real estate investments that went belly up and I came close to losing some serious coin. Hey, Kareem at 30: learn about finances and stay on top of where your money is at all times. As the saying goes, “Trust, but verify.”

4. Play the piano. I took lessons as a kid but, like a lot of kids, didn’t stick with them. Maybe I felt too much pressure. After all, my father had gone to the Julliard School of Music and regularly jammed with some great jazz musicians. Looking back, I think playing piano would have given me a closer connection with my dad as well as given me another artistic outlet to better express myself. In 2002, I finally started to play and got pretty good at it. Not good enough that at parties people would chant for me to play “Piano Man,” but good enough that I could read music and feel closer to my dad.

5. Learn French. My grandparents were from Trinidad where, though it was an English-speaking country, the school system was started by the French. Whenever my grandparents wanted to say something they didn’t want me to know, they’d speak French. The language seemed so sophisticated and mysterious. Plus, you earn extra James Bond points when you can order in French in a French restaurant.

6. Get handy. I always wanted to be one of those guys who, whenever something doesn’t work, straps on a tool belt and says, “I’ll fix it.” I like the Walden-esque idea of complete self-reliance. Build my own house, clean out the carburetors, find out what carburetors are. Recently my washing machine broke and flooded my entire downstairs. I was forced to stand idly by waiting for a plumber to arrive while water rose around my ankles because I didn’t know how to shut off the water. That’s the kind of experience that makes you have your testosterone levels checked.

7. Be patient. Impatience is the official language of youth. When you’re young, you want to rush to the next thing before you even know where you are. I always think of the joke in Colors that the wiser and older cop (Robert Duvall) tells his impatient rookie partner (Sean Penn). I’m paraphrasing, but it goes something like: “There's two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: ‘Hey pop, let's say we run down there and screw one of them cows.’ The older one says: ‘No son. Let’s walk down and screw 'em all.’” Now, to counter the profane with the profound, one of my favorite quotes is from the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Talent hits the target no one else can hit; genius hits the target no one else can see.” I think the key to seeing the target no one else can see is in being patient, waiting for it to appear so you can do the right thing, not just the expedient thing. Learning to wait is one of my greatest accomplishments as I’ve gotten older.

8. Listen more than talk. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

9. Career is never as important as family. The better you are at your job, the more you’re rewarded, financially and spiritually, by doing it. You know how to solve problems for which you receive praise and money. Home life is more chaotic. Solving problems is less prescriptive and no one’s applauding or throwing money if you do it right. That’s why so many young professionals spend more time at work with the excuse, “I’m sacrificing for my family.” Bullshit. Learn to embrace the chaos of family life and enjoy the small victories. This hit me one night after we’d won an especially emotional game against the Celtics. I’d left the stadium listening to thousands of strangers chanting “Kareem! Kareem!” I felt flush with the sense of accomplishment, for me, for the Lakers, and for the fans. But when I stepped into my home and my son said, “Daddy!” the victory, the chanting, the league standings, all faded into a distant memory.

10. Being right is not always the right thing to be. Kareem, my man, learn to step away. You think being honest immunizes you from the consequences of what you say. Remember Paul Simon’s lyrics, “There’s no tenderness beneath your honesty.” So maybe it’s not that important to win an argument, even if you “know” you’re right. Sometimes it’s more important to try a little tenderness.

11. Cook more. After I got divorced I missed home cooked meals and the only person I had to rely on was the guy in the mirror. Plus, I found it impressed women if you could cook a good meal. Once, very shortly after I started cooking for myself, I had a first date with a woman I really wanted to make a good impression on. Of course, I could have done the usual celebrity thing: fancy restaurant, signing autographs, wait-staff fawning. But I wanted this to be special, so I decided to cook for her, everything from soup to dessert. Some women get a little freaked seeing a 7’2” black man with a carving knife and butcher’s apron, but she appreciated the effort. Which was good because the soup was a little salty, the steak a little overcooked, and the flan a little watery…

12. When choosing someone to date, compassion is better than passion. I’m not saying she shouldn’t be passionate. That’s a given. But look for signs that she shows genuine compassion toward others. That will keep you interested in her a lot longer.

13. Do one thing every day that helps someone else. This isn’t about charity, this is about helping one individual you know by name. Maybe it means calling your parents, helping a buddy move, or lending a favorite jazz album to Chocolate Fingers McGee.

14. Do more for the community. This is about charity, extended to people close by whose names you don’t know. You can always do more.

15. Do one thing every day that you look forward to doing. It’s easy to get caught up in the enormous responsibilities of daily life. The To Do List can swallow your day. So, I’d insist to my younger self to make sure he has one thing on that list that he looks forward to doing.

16. Don’t be so quick to judge. It’s human nature to instantly judge others. It goes back to our ancient life-or-death need to decide whether to fight or flee. But in their haste to size others up, people are often wrong—especially a thirty-year-old sports star with hordes of folks coming at him every day. We miss out on knowing some exceptional people by doing that, as I’m sure I did. I think the biggest irony of this advice is that it’s coming from someone who’s black, stratospherically tall, and an athlete: the trifecta of being pre-judged. And I have a lifetime of hurtful comments to prove it. Yet, that didn’t stop me from doing the same thing to others. You have to weigh the glee of satisfaction you get from arrogantly rejecting people with the inevitable sadness of regret you’ll eventually feel for having been such a dick. A friend of mine told me he routinely attends all of his high school reunions so he can apologize to every person he mistreated back then. He’s now on his fortieth reunion and still apologizing.

17. When breaking up with a woman, you can’t always remain friends. I have managed to stay friends with many of the women I have dated because I truly liked and respected them. But sometimes emotions run too deep and efforts to remain friends, while that might help you feel better, actually might make the other person feel worse. Take the hit and let it go.

18. Watch more TV. Yeah, you heard right, Little Kareem. It’s great that you always have your nose in history books. That’s made you more knowledgeable about your past and it has put the present in context. But pop culture is history in the making and watching some of the popular shows of each era reveals a lot about the average person, while history books often dwell on the powerful people.

19. Do more yoga. Yes, K, I know you do yoga already. That’s why you’ve been able to play so long without major injuries. But doing more isn’t just for the physical benefits, it’s for the mental benefits that will come in handy in the years ahead, when your house burns down, your jazz collection perishes, and you lose to the Pistons in a four-game sweep in your final season.

20. Everything doesn’t have to be fixed. Relax, K-Man. Some stuff can be fixed, some stuff can’t be. Deciding which is which is part of maturing.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Interview: Jello Biafra: 'Obama owes Occupy big time'

from the Guardian (UK)

Hello Jello. How's it going?

I'm all right, thank you. I hope you're ready for my lovely conversational grammar, or lack thereof …

I'm sure we'll be fine. So you have a new band, the Guantanamo School Of Medicine – your first permanent group since Dead Kennedys. What happened?

I never thought I would wait so long between bands. It happened at a Stooges show in San Francisco for Iggy's 60th birthday party in 2007. It occurred to me while I was watching the Stooges that, holy shit, I turn 50 next year! I should put something together and if it is as half as good as the Stooges then I will declare victory.

Your new album, White People And the Damage Done, seems to have more of a Dead Kennedys vibe than anything you've done in decades.

No matter what I do, my songs come out in a certain style and if that sounds like Dead Kennedys then there's probably a reason for it. Don't forget I wrote most of those songs, music and lyrics. Of course, later on the other members claimed they wrote them all, which is kind of like a secretary who types up someone's novel claiming they wrote the book. It's not fun when guys you thought would be your brothers your whole life turn out to be an entire coven of Mitt Romneys. (1)

Dead Kennedys - Moral Majority on MUZU.TV.

How do you feel about the state of punk rock in 2013?

I do fear for the generations of people who came of age thinking that pop-punk is what punk is, and that all the rebellion you need is just to stick your tongue out in the mirror every once in a while. A lot of that stuff is just the Eagles with loud guitars. But I have no patience with people who mope around saying "Punk rock died when the Sex Pistols broke up" or whatever. Come on! Put down your drugs, get out of the apartment and go see something new.

It's depressing how conservative people can be despite supposedly belonging to a supposedly alternative subculture.

Any alternative culture that inspires a lot of passion and inspiration is also in danger of being set in its ways, almost from the moment it's born. That even included the Occupy movement in some ways. It was discussed whether or not to participate in the electoral side of the system at all, which I thought was a good idea. Why not run people for offices and knock off some of the tired old corporate puppets in the primaries, like those lovely people in the Tea Party have done with the Republicans? But other people chose not to do that.

You've been involved with the Occupy movement. (2) The initial media storm around it seems to have died down …

I think that anyone who declared that Occupy was a failure was very much mistaken. I knew it would have a ripple effect, like throwing a big piece of concrete into a lake and just watching the waves ripple. In a way, Obama owes Occupy big time for saving his ass in the 2012 election. Occupy brought the issue of inequality and Grand Theft Austerity, as I call it, right to the forefront.

You've beenoutspoken when it comes to Obama. Over here he is widely regarded as a force for good …

Well part of the reason you have that view is that Obama is a fantastic public speaker. He could be another Martin Luther King or Malcolm X or much, much more, but instead the echelons of the Democratic party iare dealmakers instead of leaders. Rather than trying to really initiate something important and push for it, it's more: "Oh, what kind of buck-passing can we do here to keep our backers and puppeteers happy?"

Are you optimistic about Obama's second term?

The key to how I feel about that is a song on our Shock-U-Py EP called Barackstar O'Bummer (3), and it basically details the Obama policies versus the Obama persona. You've got to have an ego as big as Mars to want to think that you, of all people, are better than anyone else to be president of the United States. People that vain, they want their place in history and they want to be able to control how much they'll be worshipped by future generations. What is Bill Clinton going to be remembered for, besides his dick? Obama is a much more electrifying speaker than Clinton. But what is his dream? What is his light at the end of the tunnel: "Oh, I cut deals and compromise on a bunch of stuff and now I'll go play golf"?

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What is it about American culture that is so terrified of leftwing ideas?

What you're basically asking with some of these questions is "Why are Americans so fucking stupid?" Let's face it, the good side of that is that I'll never run out of things to write songs about, as long as I live. But the fear you mentioned has become more ingrained since I was a kid. It was Nixon's loudmouth vice-president Spiro Agnew who first started labelling opponents of Republicans as [sneers] "radical liberals". Somehow if you were a liberal you were radical, and being radical is automatically bad because it might make you like the Black Panthers or, worse yet, your kids might have long hair and listen to that weird music. So slowly but surely "liberal" became a dirty word. Look at how averse Americans are to paying taxes. It pisses me off too, but I realise what taxes are for and most people don't because that connection has never been made, especially not in the school system. I remember, even in kindergarten, we were taught about the Boston Tea Party, where the rebel colonists threw the tea off the ship because they didn't want to pay taxes to the British authorities. Taxes are bad! Taxes are bad! People grow up with this drilled into them so you feel emotionally violated every time you write a cheque to the IRS.

How would you change things if you were in charge?

I've spoken often about my belief that there should be a maximum wage. I still totally believe there should be. I think a far worse addiction problem in this world than meth or crack or heroin is wealth addiction. And the only way you can cure people's wealth addiction is to put them in rehab. The problem with wealth addiction is that after you've made your first million, what's the point? You're so proud of yourself for making that money that you want to play the game again and win and then play it again and win. They act like a bunch of crack addicts.

Why do you think there is still so much voter apathy, despite the current economic nightmare?

People say: "People don't get involved, they don't vote because they're apathetic!" My counter is that they don't get off their asses because they're heartbroken and they're really scared. They've seen people all around them losing their jobs and losing their homes. I'd better be metaphorically armed to the teeth in order to preserve what's mine, my home and my family, and fuck everybody else because otherwise I'm going to be eaten alive. It isn't always motivated by greed, it's motivated by fear of Grand Theft Austerity because they don't want their home to be next for the bulldozers.

Is media bias as excruciatingly bad in the US as it seems to be?

Not all of your readers will be aware that there is no mainstream American media like the Guardian whatsoever. Go ahead and toot your own horn if you want. The media debate here is generally between the rightwing and the ultra rightwing. I came over to Europe to do a spoken-word tour about five days after September 11 and even Murdoch's papers offered so many more points of view on what had just happened. I came back to America months later armed with all these insights and facts, thinking people in America knew all this shit too, and they just looked at me dumbfounded.

How has social networkingaffected your ability to get your views across to people?

So much good has been brought in with the digital age, even though I'm not that big on it myself. But I recognise its power and its importance. The power of Twitter during protests and things like that is really good. But whether it makes it harder to actually communicate things of value long-term? I haven't decided yet. It depends whether each individual person is using the tool or if the tool is using them. If they allow themselves nothing more than a Twitter-sized attention span and assume that everything they see on the internet is true, then I've died more times than the average cat! I keep looking in the shower for the blood and the bullet holes but I can't find them, but the latest internet rumour says I'm dead so it must be true!

Do you have a Facebook page?

No, I don't. There are a few fake Jello Biafras out there, though. There is a side of that social networking that doesn't strike me as networking at all. It's more like having a trophy room full of virtual friends. It used to be that living in a world of imaginary friends was considered a mental illness. What do we have now, a mass epidemic of virtual mental illness? Or is it like-minded people finally finding someone that's like them and not feeling alone? That's the other side of it, I guess.

One of your new songs, Crapture, seems to be a fantasy about being left behind when all the religious nuts fly into the sky to be with Jesus. Is it scary to live in a country where Creationism gets taken seriously?

They're building theme parks in this country now. I haven't been able to go to one, but I can hardly wait! There's a creationist museum outside of San Diego too and I haven't been to that yet. (4) I've tried to go undercover to some of these places before. I went to Focus On the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs. I borrowed my dad's clothes trying to disguise myself as a respectable citizen, but they picked me out immediately and started following me around the gift shop! But it was still worthwhile. I hated giving money to these people but I had to get the video about how Beavis and Butthead made people burn down buildings and worship the Devil!

If you didn't laugh, you'd cry, right?

Of course. You have to be able to laugh at your enemy in order to fight them. I realise some areas of my humour have offended some people but sorry, that's part of who I am! Someone puts a halo too close to the top of my head, I find a way to get it removed. Even at the spoken-word shows, I've made a joke about when the Space Shuttle burned up on re-entry to the Earth and how there were astronaut fajitas on hot tiles all over Texas, and there would always be a few audible gasps. It's my way of reminding people that this isn't just a serious political activist event, you're dealing with punk rock here, people.


(1) Dead Kennedys released five albums, including their 1980 debut Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, a top 40 hit in the UK, before splitting in 1986. In 2001, the band reformed without Biafra, who has been in a legal dispute over royalties.

(2) Biafra is no stranger to politics, running for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 (he came fourth out of a field of 10 with 3.79% of the vote) and campaigning for serial presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

(3) LOLs!

(4) The Creation and Earth History Museum, "dedicated to the biblical account of science and history", might not be as much fun as it sounds, judging by the description of new exhibit The Age of the Earth Cave (which "presents rare minerals and data with explanations defending a young Earth view while dealing with today's common dating methods such as Carbon 14, Radio Isotopes, and Helium Argon processes").