Saturday, December 22, 2007

As I've mentioned before, Empire is a popular topic these days in Amerikkka.

At some point I will review some of the seminal books on this important topic. A few that I would highly recommend now are:

Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy.

John Hobson's Imperialism is regarded as a classic on the topic, even though it is now over a century old. If you go to that link, you'll find the entire book archived online, which is great, since it's hard to find, and expensive if you do.

Speaking of centennials. I have it on good word that Multinational Monitor is about to serialize excerpts from the great forgotten classic, Sin and Society by the great sociological historian, Edward Alsworth Ross. (The tip for doing this came from Morton Mintz, the former Washington Post reporter/editor who wrote America, Inc.)

Having read some excerpts, I must say, I am thoroughly entertained by Ross' book. There has to be a name (genre) for this type of essay. Social criticism doesn't quite cut it. It's much more biting, and it's too serious to be satire.

Reminds me of Mencken, Philip Wylie (Generation of Vipers). Closest we have now, I suppose are some bloggers. Don't ask me who.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we've helped launch a new web site called CROCODYL (short for "Collaborative Research on Corporations") -- a kind of activist wiki of dirt on your favorite corporate targets. If it grows, that site will be the go-to repository of basic information on any company. Pretty cool.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Like Graphic Novels? Check out Anthony Lappe's (GNN) Shooting War (all online!).
These days, fiction rarely gets ahead of reality, but R.J. Hillhouse's Outsourced has stirred up enough controversy that she was also invited to write a related op-ed for the Washington Post.

Hillhouse (who also runs the spy who billed me blog) was interviewed by Democracy Now, where she explained:

"I found that there were things that could only be written about in fiction. It’s amazing for someone who has lived in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to find that in this country we’re in a similar place. In the repressive regimes, literature has often played the role of bringing things to light that could not otherwise be discussed. And I found that there are some things that are going on in the intelligence community or things that are going on with our government with relationships between corporate and government that it was only safe to discuss under the guise of fiction. So it’s an unusual transformation that a novelist would actually be ahead of media in this. I mean, it is the norm for me to be contacted each week by people from New York Times, Washington Post and others to try to learn about what’s going on in outsourcing. So it’s very strange as a novelist that I actually have moved ahead of that.

And I’ve not only been at the center of controversy in the intelligence community, I’ve also been in the center of controversy in the literary world, because I believe that and I’ve been very public about it, that thriller writers, that novelists, have failed us today. They haven't helped us understand the darker truths of what’s going on in the war on terror, the ambiguities, the changes that have occurred in how we’re fighting the war on terror and what that shows us about ourselves. Unfortunately, thriller writers have failed us. As you know, it’s mainly -- and I’ll call it for what it is -- beach reach that we see, that we don't see literature playing this larger role in society, but rather, the novels become a race of, we have to stop the terrorists from, what would be in a jargon, a, b, or c weapons -- atomic, biological or [chemical] weapons -- and it just -- it underscores the narrative of our time, which is, be afraid, be very afraid, and only a hero who will violate the Geneva Conventions, only a hero who will violate the Constitution will save us. So I tried to do something very different with Outsourced."

Look for a non-fiction book on this topic by Tim Shorrock, who wrote this piece for The Nation and this piece for Salon.
Some great speeches and interviews with activists and investigators:

First, be sure to check out the various presentations at Ralph Nader's recent conference,
Taming the Giant Corporation

Other Activist Presentations:

Lectures from the Democracy Schools:
Thomas Linzey (of CELDF)
Richard Grossman

The Carnegie Institute's (DC) mission is to promote popular education in science. They sponsor a series of lectures each year. Check out the archives (one I recommend is David Goodstein's lecture on the End of the Age of Oil from 4/2006.

If all of this gets too grim, then go to this interview with Bill Hicks
or this speech by "President Bush" for a change of pace.

Also, for intelligent diversion, try Doug Henwood's radio show,
the archives of which are here.
Some interesting links that I've come across in the past few months:

This UK site, the Dossier, has a ton of videos, interviews, documentaries, news, etc.
E.g. I just watched this doc on the Iraq oil law.

Oil Phreak: Radical Polytics

History is a Weapon

Guerrilla News Network: links page has tons of interesting stuff

The Armchair Subversive

I've been reading (I admit it, for the first time) The Man in the High Castle. P.K. Dick fans might like this Wikipedia page: Ideas in Science Fiction

Chomsky on audio and video

Mark Crispin Miller's blog

Rikesh tunes.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Agony of Mammon: The Imperial Global Economy Explains Itself to the Membership in Davos, Switzerland byLewis Lapham (Verso, 75 pages)

The annual World Economic Forum was just held again at an exclusive ski resort in Switzerland. If you've ever wanted a short peek at what these meetings are like, I highly recommend this book, by the Harper's editor who Molly Ivins once called the "most incisive essayist of our time." A mantle that few could challenge him for. The essay is written in a very high-minded style that conveys just the right kind of satiric regard for a gathering of the elite, without distancing you from its participants. As a Boston Brahmin Lapham is a practiced appreciator of the good things in life who sees through all the flash and glitter (without getting too distracted by all the business buzzwigs and pseudosophs) to all the economic buncom that lies beneath, without having to relay a kind of combative resentfullness that a populist like, say Jim Hightower or Michael Moore might resort to at this resort. (Molly Ivins, I'm guessing would have much more tact, even if her rapier wit would eviscerate the plutogogues and castrate the beau sabreurs much later.)

But don't deduce from all this wordplay that Lapham himself resorts to sesquipedalianism to make his point. He's too fluid and certain in his observations to have to resort to that. It's a fine read, and now that it's a few years old, quite cheap if you look it up on ABE books.

(As for me, well you can probably tell that I've also been dipping into David Grambs' wonderful book, Dimboxes, Epopts, and Other Quidams: Words to Describe Life's Indescribable People to find some of those wonderful words.)
Here are the chants I created for today's anti-war march:

"Stop the War before it wrecks us
Send the Loonies back to Texas."

"People are dead, injured, tired and sick--
It's time to impeach George and Dick."

"No more blood for gasoline...
Bring them home to build Nawleens"

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Just re-read The Great Gatsby for the first time in -- what, 25 years? Obious conclusion: The great American tragedy is the vain attempt to attain the unreachable, a theme that is so deeply rooted in many of the great American novels (e.g. Moby Dick, On the Road?), as much as the tragic aspirations toward Empire (another story) are in our history.

At the risk of launching into a disposition that might be cribbed from Cliff Notes (I confess that back when I first read the book, my sloppy reading habits led me to consult those yellow and black pamphlets far too often for my own good, once even getting me into trouble with Mrs. Todd, our Freshman English teacher, who confronted me after class to ask who wrote my paper on -- what was it, A Tale of Two Cities? -- too ebarrassed to admit I'd used the Cliff notes, I said my brother had helped me), now the novel seems less a novel than a long short story (a la Chekov) with a lot of florid writing wrapping that essential, very simple motif, expertly woven together in the plot, the characters, just about everything (the novel ending as summer ends, the violence peaking on the hottest day of summer). Gatsby asserting to Nick Carraway that he could turn the clock back five years (i.e. to before Daisy's marriage to Tom), Tom's vain (in the real sense) need to hang onto his athletic prowess in affair after affair, even Myrtle's desperate attempt to stop the car that ran her over under the imposing gaze of Dr. Eckleburg's all-knowing gaze. Lord what fools these mortals be. The impossibility of escaping from the Valley of Ashes. The unattainable green light on the edge of the pier across the Sound. (Money as elusive happiness?) The book lends itself to easy speculation. No wonder it's on all the high school reading lists.