". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bush Authoritarianism: Blackwater+Amway=GOP

This is a series that's been running in Daily Kos, of which four parts have appeared so far, apparently with more to come.

There are numerous hyperlinks in the original. The author rejects the term "fascism," preferring the clumsy "bush authoritarianism." Vaquero says it's got to be "bushismo", which says the same thing, but comes more trippingly from the tongue and with fewer keystrokes.

What is most interesting in some ways that comes out of this series is how it links blackwater with amway. yes.

The series really doesn't hit its stride until part 3, getting to the "prosperity gospel" -- god wants you to be rich . . . that is muchly part of blackwater prince's doctrine.

From part 1:

[ ...the essence of fascist states, the binding characteristic that existed in all fascist system, was that the state was supreme, or at least had primacy over all other institutions. A company like Blackwater, which takes money from federal tax revenues and provides military services for profit would most likely not exist in a fascist system. Instead, Blackwater represents the extension of a highly authoritarian force that’s an extension of the government, but it exists to turn a profit, and is ultimately not accountable to the federal government. Thus, there’s a form of plunder in which the state exists not to embody a national essence or nationalist strivings, not as a product of laws, but as a means of transferring wealth from the citizens to corporations and individuals largely free of the oversight to which citizens and elected officials are supposed to be able to exercise over government employees and the agencies of the federal government.

I will name this new system Bush Authoritarianism, although George W. Bush is not it’s originator and probably could not describe it with much coherence. In fact, it’s not a coherent ideology as much as a hodge-podge of ideas and movements that have been grafted together, mostly out of political expedience (primarily the need to secure financial and electoral support), greed, and zealotry. Most of these trends pre-date the ascension to the Presidency of George W. Bush. Some of these characteristics explain how the Bush administration came about, and others are an extension of the Bush coalition and the administration’s practice of governance. ]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

If You're In NYC November 27 - "Listen Again" NYU Roundtable

This is a function connected to the Experience Music Project, the annual conference held in Seattle every spring. There's going to be food and drink and lots of opportunity to meet, greet and schmooze. Was invited to forward this invitation, so I'm not being indiscreet.

"Listen Again" NYU Roundtable Event Nov 27 @ 7:30 pm

The Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University cordially invites you to attend LISTEN AGAIN

A Roundtable Event on Pop Music, Past and Present with Today's Top Music Critics, Journalists and Scholars celebrating the new Duke University Press release Listen Again: a Momentary History of Pop Music, edited by Eric Weisbard.


  • David Brackett

  • Franklin Bruno

  • Daphne Carr

  • Henry Chalfant

  • Holly George-Warren

  • Jason King

  • W.T. Lhamon, Jr.

  • Greil Marcus

  • Benjamin Melendez

  • Mark Anthony Neal

  • Ned Sublette

  • Steve Waksman

  • Eric Weisbard

WHEN: TUESDAY NOVEMBER 27, 7:30-9:30 pm

WHERE: Studio 914, The Kimmel Center for University Life, New York University, 60 Washington Square South at LaGuardia Place and the South end of Washington Square Park

Admission is free, but RSVP is required.


Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Venue is wheelchair-accessible, with a wheelchair-accessible bathroom.

Picture ID is required for entrance to the building.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sometimes Your Heart Will Break

At the library this young man appeared, bewildered and puzzled. He wanted something but didn't have the communication skills to explain what it was. He was sent to the reference librarian, which today wasn't me, but as I was probably the oldest person around he assumed it was me.

He might have been 20. He wanted to know something about the Dominican Republic, but it took a while to figure out what it was. This was the story, as I finally got it:

He'd been in a taxi over the weekend and the driver had mentioned something that evidently hit the guy's curiosity organ hard. The driver had said something like the DR had the oldest medical school in this part of the world. He wanted to find out more information about that. For some reason this excited him deeply, though he's not a Dominican himself.

I just happened to know something on this order, because Vaquero shot a music video there for his "Cowboy Rumba" album, in the ruins of what was the first hospital in Santo Domingo's Old Town that contains the Western Hemisphere's first cathedral, first monastery, first hospital, first university, and its first court of law. "In declaring the city a world heritage site, UNESCO recognized Santo Domingo as the cradle of European civilization in the New World." I told him that Columbus's son had been charge there, while Columbus would go back to Europe looking for more money to fund further explorations (for pillage and rapine, nevermind).

This was the most difficult reference question I've ever answered because the guy's education had been so deficient. He hardly knew who Columbus was. His sense of geography nearly non-existant. A computer isn't the most helpful when it comes to maps for explaining these things, so we found an atlas in a book to assist spatial orientation. He had no idea what to do in a library.

But -- something had excited him, something about which he wanted to know more, and it brought him to a library! I hope in my attempts to figure out what it was he was looking for I didn't ruin that excitement. Finding a history around here that would focus on the Dominican Republic and its early years with the Columbus family isn't easy, whether in Spanish or English. His reading skills are low too. I looked for online things instead, and magazines like the National Geographic, that have lots of photos. Fortunately the library has the CD-ROM National Geographic. Over the years the magazine's done a fair amount on Santo Domingo (the capital of the DR). And he does know how to use CDs etc. So I think I left him with the means to look for whatever it was he was looking for. I don't know if I made him happier. But I hope his experience in the library was unthreatening and pleasant enough to have him come back again, and allow himself to get excited about more things that he does not at this time even know exist.

I just can't help but think of how differently this very young man has been raised from how my 14-year-old friend, the son of our friends. It makes me cry. Because, you know, I don't think my young friend is intrinsically more intelligent, curious than this young man. It's that his opportunities have been so very, very, very great and so very much encouraged in every way, by EVERYONE he interacts with, from his parents, his other relatives, his teachers, and even the friends of his parents. It's just so DAMNED UNFAIR. Every kid should have these opportunities to learn and be enabled to follow her - his curiosity wherever it leads him - her. That this is not so in this country is a crime.

Who Is President?

From Digby

[ I don't know if anyone's noticed, but George W. Bush is being disappeared from the presidential campaign and everyone's running against incumbent Hillary Clinton. Subtly, but relentlessly, the public psyche is being prepared to deny Junior ever existed. And it could work. For many different reasons, most Americans want nothing more than to forget George W. Bush was ever president. So, we see a very odd subliminal narrative taking shape in which the blame for the nation's failures of the last seven years is being shifted to Clinton (and the "do-nothing" Democratic congress) as if the Codpiece hasn't been running things since 2000. (Not that the radical wingnuts haven't always blamed the Clintons for everything, but the disappearing of Bush is a new element.)

I certainly don't blame the Republicans for trying to do it. It makes sense, since their boy is an epic failure and the original Clinton is still very present in people's minds. It will be quite a trick to pull off, but I can see the press already helping them do it. (Naturally.)

It's an interesting phenomenon and one for which I hope the Democratic strategists are prepared. Their underlying theme seems to be, "If you want change, vote Republican!" ]

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Legislation of the week: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

With little media attention, this bill passed the house of representatives by roll call vote on October 23. 404 ayes (219 D, 185 R), 6 nays (3 D, 3 R) , 22 no-shows. It was drafted by a democrat, rep. jane harman (D-CA). It now goes to the senate.

Does this mean you might be arrested for playing the Rolling Stones' "Street Fightin' Man?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

State Dept Fall Guy Resigns Over Private Contractors

i.e. over princeblackwatermercforces.

To be expected, the story doesn't say that.

That's o.k. though.

Because plenty of other stories DO say that.

We canNOT have mercenary military forces located within our national borders.

We canNOT.

[ NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. security contractor Blackwater said on Wednesday it supports recommendations by a State Department panel to boost oversight of contractors in Iraq. ]

Do you believe this for one second?

dems and all the rest of us really need to go after this over and over and over. It is an achilles heel that just about everybody understands.

If they don't just give 'em some of those grade b toga and sandal movies to watch.

She says.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Not From The Onion

Check out the website of this government agency that since 2003 has been called "u.s. customs and border protection."

U.S. Government Partners with Disney to Welcome International Visitors

Multimedia ‘Portraits of America’ to be Featured in International Arrivals Areas, U.S. Embassies and Other Venues to Welcome Visitors to the United States.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Travels With Herodotus

The meditation memoir on Herodotus the man and the historian and the traveler, of noted Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski. Herodotus's Histories was his companion on his first travels outside of Poland as a very young journalist, during the era of Stalin. Herodotus went with him on many other of his assignments as well, including Africa. His reports from Africa, particularly the war(s) in Angola against the apartheid South Africa and the other U.S. backed forces may be what he's most well-known for.

This comes from close the end of this, his final book, pp. 245-246. These are thoughts he was having while staying on the Isle of Goree, one of the most infamous of the African Atlantic coast slave castles, from which so many Africans were transported on the Middle Passage to death in the New World.

[ How often do we consider the fact that the treasures and riches of the world were created from time immemorial by slaves? From the irrigation systems of Mesopotamia, the Great Wall(s) of China, the pyramids of Egypt, and acropolis of Athens, to the plantations of sugar on Cuba and of cotton in Louisiana and Arkansas, the coal mines of Kolyma and Germany's highways? And wars! From the dawn of history they were waged in order to capture slaves. Seize them, chain them, whip them, rape them, feel satisfaction at having another human being as one's property. The acquisition of slaves was an important, and frequently sole cause of wars, their powerful and even undisguised prime motivation.

Those who managed to survive the transatlantic journey (it was said that theships carried 'black cargo') brought with them their own Afro-Egyptian culture, the same one that had fascinated Herodotus and which he had described so tirelessly ion his book long before that culture reached the Western hemisphere.

And what of Herodotus himself, what sort of slaves did he have? How many? How did he treat them? .... What happened to them after Herodotus's death? Were they put up for sale in the marketplace? .... ]

I finished the Kapuscinski volume a few days ago. Currently I am reading a most painful work of history on the Reconstruction. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War by Nicholas Lemann, has just been published. It is another account of that period about which hardly anyone knows anything these days, and counters with real history that little which is "known," which is almost entirely lies. Though Lemann is not the first to write this, and indeed, during the period it was well known for what it was -- the Civil War was not finished with surrender by the Confederacy. The war continued, but this time directly against the former slaves, in order to have what Kapuscinski stated above:

[ "And wars! From the dawn of history they were waged in order to capture slaves. Seize them, chain them, whip them, rape them, feel satisfaction at having another human being as one's property. The acquisition of slaves was an important, and frequently sole cause of wars, their powerful and even undisguised prime motivation." ]

There is no disguising that this next movement of the Civil War was motivated by this -- that the Civil War was about this and nothing else. The accounts from the archives and collections that Lemann brings forth proves this without doubt. It was also a further war against the Union. Which backs up our sense here that this nation is NOT a nation, which came into bold conviction post the failure of the levees, which the North and Grant, in the more consuming interests of the vast plutocratic fortunes being made, and the federal government -- bolstered with many a legislator returned by foul means from the South (sound familiar?) allowed this to happen.

The nearest we ever came to being a united nation was with the New Deal and WWII -- when government worked! After that the same reactionary forces that came to the fore prior, during and post the Civil War, have waged relentless warfare upon the government, to make it not work, to make it be the enemy, just as it was perceived all along by the states that became the confederacy.

This is a terrible book. I sometimes skip entire pages because of they are contemporary newspaper reports of the terrorism the southern gentlemen carried out on the bodies of the former slaves: men, women and children. Holocaust of torture, burnings, rape and murder against entire communities, relentless and continual.

As for the stories of the carpetbaggers? Propaganda, lies, created by the sons of the confederacy, deliberately. They were helping set up schools and banks and advising the former slaves on how to build their own farms. Since such evil was being carried out against black people who cared ultimately, once the "carpetbaggers" were forced out by terror and torture and murder?

The slavers won.

What we've got today is the consequence.

Something Good

An invitation -- to a Whitney reception next month, "celebrating" Kara Walker's show.

Which, weirdly, is a co-reception "celebration" for the Whitney's retrospective of another of our favorite living artists, a founder of the Conceptual Art movement, Lawrence Weiner. He also happens to be a long-time friend, with whom Vaquero has done a few projects over the years.

This is going to be so much fun, since there are going to be people there we know -- unlike the Guggenheim Richard Prince dinner for his retrospective we attended last month. (Not that we didn't enjoy ourselves anyway, with such high quality champagne and food, and the human comedy.)

For more information on Lawrence you can go here. And here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Black Ops Ambitions

Include what we are not seeing reported much, except locally, where he is planning to set up Blackwater West, on an enormous chunk of land outside of San Diego. Predictably, Democracy Now has been all up on it. NPR did a sort of a story on it.

Here's what the locals feel.

The land is a chicken ranch, near Potrero, a tiny rural town east of San Diego.

Chris Dodd, A Hero

Chris Dodd prevents passing of the telecommunications immunity bill

He's sending a letter to House Majority Leader Harry Ried saying this:

[ The Military Commissions Act. Warrantless wiretapping. Shredding of Habeas Corpus. Torture. Extraordinary Rendition. Secret Prisons.

No more.

I have decided to place a "hold" on the latest FISA bill that would have included amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President's assault on the Constitution by illegally providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.

I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have. ]

Did anybody else just get a chill up their spines?

Go to and sign the petition, and spread this around, okay? He just threw a much-needed gauntlet down in the faces of all the party hacks out there. Someone I know just spoke to his office in Washington, and they're being overwhelmed by the phone calls. Keep 'em coming; we have a guy with real potential here. 202-737-3633

Give him a call yourself if you're so inclined. The phone person my friend (a veteran of this Iraq war) talked to sounded giddy, she says.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kara Walker

Kara Walker is one of our favorite living artists -- we fantasized having a cover by her on The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square. We didn't think it could happen, and it didn't. But she was very gracious in her rejection of the gig -- Too Busy, preparing for a show.

And now the show is up, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.A tremendo review of the show ran in today's NY Times Art section.

The problem I had with the review is that it could only see the issues of slavery and race in her work. Equally so, the issue she tackles is that of women, and their special place in slavery, and the reviewer seems to have missed that.

This a dense and complex, gothic and spooky artist. Her work is a most appropriate national expression of Halloween, not least because so much of it is created in the 18th and 19th century medium of the silhouette cut-out. Her work says so much about those racists who are currently placing nooses as warnings to African Americans.

[ And then there is the theme: race. It dominates everything, yet within it Ms. Walker finds a chaos of contradictory ideas and emotions. She is single-minded in seeing racism as a reality, but of many minds about exactly how that reality plays out in the present and the past. For her the reliable old dualities — white versus black , strong versus weak, victim versus predator — are volatile and shifting. And she uses her art — mocking, shaming, startlingly poignant, excruciatingly personal — to keep them this way.

Nothing about her very early life would seem to have predestined her for this task. Born in 1969, she grew up in an integrated California suburb, part of a generation for whom the uplift and fervor of the civil rights movement and the want-it-now anger of Black Power were yesterday’s news.

When she was 13, her family moved to Atlanta, and her life changed. There, she discovered, integration had not been fully internalized. As she stumbled her way through the mortifications of adolescence, she was constantly reminded, in large and small ways, that she was black, and she was made to hurt for that. ]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Frontier Brutality 5: SF Scenario For Real - Corporate Warlordism

Part 2 of the Cusack-Klein discussion-interview. We really should be reading both parts, and her book.

The Real Blackwater Scandal: Build a Frontier, You Get Cowboys, Part II

[ Cusack: You've written a lot about what you call "the moveable green zone", which has extended the reach of these companies way beyond the war...

Klein: Well the first place where we all saw this happen was in New Orleans after the flood. Within weeks, the Gulf Coast became a domestic laboratory for the same kind of government-run-by-contractors that was pioneered in Iraq. And the whole Green Zone gang was there: Halliburton, Blackwater, Parsons, Fluor, Shaw, Bechtel, CH2M Hill.

But again, this is way more than just a story about shoddy work by contractors. These private companies were actually taking over state functions instead of rebuilding the public sphere. And in New Orleans, the supreme irony was that it was the very frail public sphere that caused the disaster in the first place when the levees broke and the public transit system couldn't handle the evacuation and FEMA was nowhere to be found.

This is the opposite of the New Deal, when public works created good jobs and strengthened society. In today's disasters, public money floods into corporate coffers and those corporations replace the public sphere. Look at New Orleans today: public schools have been converted into charter schools, public housing remains boarded up as condo developers circle, the levee system remains inadequate, and the city's largest public hospital -- Charity Hospital -- is still closed. Meanwhile, contractors are driving down wages and working conditions, with African-Americans virtually locked out of reconstruction jobs, and migrant Latino workers locked in, telling horror stories of modern day indentured servitude. This is what I mean when I say that disasters are dress rehearsals for a sci-fi vision of corporate rule -- it's not just that disaster response is being privatized, it's that in places like Baghdad and New Orleans, the public sphere is disappearing completely and there is no plan to bring it back. This is the warfare state you send up so brilliantly in War Inc [see the trailer here and a preview clip here] -- with the same company selling the bombs and the prosthetic limbs for the victims of those bombs. It's crazy, but we are really not that far off from your twisted imagination! ]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hangman's Noose -- The Meme This Nation Does NOT Need

Jena, the university in North Carolina, and now Columbia University.

Outrage At Columbia Over Noose On Black Professor's Door

This professor, by the way, also happens to be a woman.There have been other recent noose events, though you probably haven't heard about them, such as [ "A noose was also found recently dangling in the locker room of the headquarters of the Hempstead Police Department on Long Island." ]

Who says that racism (and sexism) is over and done with in this country?

Slavery and racism and torture and mercenary militias -- we've rolled back the Enlightenment all the way, never mind The Great Society, and FDR's New Deal.

Frontier Brutality 4: Frontier as Gold Rush

Naomi Klein lays it out starkly, succinctly, why frontiers are spaces of unconstrained brutality, dripping gore from tooth and claw:

[ Give a bunch of contractors billions of dollars with no accountability, while simultaneously eviscerating the Iraqi state (de-Baathification, laying off the army, flinging open the economy with no regulation) and they'll gorge. Give a bunch of Heritage Foundation interns control of an economy with no oversight and they'll try to privatize everything in sight. The entire disaster in Iraq was utterly predictable. But what I argue in the book is that not only was this predictable, it was the plan. The plan wasn't to destroy Iraq; it was to create a market frontier. And the reason you build a frontier is always the same: nothing is more profitable. Adam Smith wrote about it in The Wealth of Nations: on the colonial frontier, land can be grabbed, taxes are few, and capitalism can exist in its purest, most profitable form. That's why the Wall Street Journal has been comparing Iraq to a "gold rush" from the very first reconstruction conferences in 2003 -- any frontier is a gold rush. ]

Additionally, John Cusack prefaced the above from his interview with NK, with this:

[ What Naomi does so well is put the corruption scandals into a broader context, unveiling and meticulously documenting how the scandals of the Bush regime -- from the invasion of Iraq to the inability of FEMA to locate the Superdome for days after Katrina hit -- are actually part of a new emerging economy, what she calls the Disaster Capitalism Complex, which itself is the culmination of a 35 year ideological campaign of radical privatization and de-regulation. It is not a conspiracy in any sense, but a very open, fundamentalist ideological war against the New Deal in America and Keynesian economics around the globe. Francis Fukuyama called the supposed peak of this movement "the End of History." But what may actually be ending is the illusion that this campaign has done anything but great damage to people around the globe. Blackwater is a perfect case in point. ]

Once again it is stated what I came to believe about 3 years ago that what the media and so many others perceived as unbelievable mis-management, mistakes, incompetence, idiocy was in reality The Plan -- it was deliberate, in order to wreck our nation's federal government -- see Katrina and all the countless cockups nationally. What frontiers resist and fear most of all is oversight, governance and order.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

NOBODIES - Slavery in Contemporary America

[ Many Americans complain of feeling overworked and underpaid, but few realize that serious labor abuses and even outright slavery can still be found in the United States. Journalist John Bowe visited sites in Florida, Oklahoma and the U.S.-owned Pacific island of Saipan to record employees' appalling first-hand accounts in Nobodies, an eye-opening look at the most exploited workers in contemporary America. ]

John Bowe was on The Lenny Lopate Show this a.m. You can find the link here.

He made very clear the economic relationship there is between roll back of democracy and the pay for labor. The more slavery, the less democracy, the less work, and the less well-paid work for everyone else. No business that pays even minimum wage can compete with the owner who works with slave labor.

He is convinced as well that sexual slavery has always been with us, and that it is the labor slavery that is the real threat to democracy and -- 'our way of life.' Not sure I agree with him, but then I'm a woman and Bowe probably has never had to seriously, personally, consider sexual slavery from that perspective.

He also made clear why this nation has such a hard time understanding that slave labor is here, and growing in leaps and bounds. It doesn't look quite like it did in the antebellum times -- it's undocumented immigrants whose papers have been stolen and who aren't seen by the community -- locked up where they work.

There's another enormous difference between antebellum slavery that I never see anyone address: the added insult that most of the new slaves have actually PAID, and their families have PAID, to have them delivered into slavery. They have PAID to be made slaves! This is the perfect end to capitalism isn't it?

Friday, October 5, 2007

John Stewart Apologizes to Jeremy Scahill

[ Last night on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart apologized to independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill for a critical interview earlier this year on Scahill’s book “Blackwater: The Rise of The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” [includes rush transcript] ]

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mellencamp - Jena 6

Mellencamp sings of Jena 6 case

[ The man who sang "Small Town" is now using his Americana rock sound to weigh in on the "Jena Six" case.

"Oh oh oh Jena, take your nooses down."

Those are the words repeated over and over in the chorus of John Mellencamp's newest song, "Jena," according to his official Web site,

Mellencamp has been working with producer T-Bone Burnett on a "very exciting and intriguing new album" and already has filmed a video for "Jena," according to a release on the site.
The video -- shot in black and white with red writing on the screen throughout -- has been posted on his Web site, on Mellencamp's page and on

It features images of the civil rights movement, people being lynched by nooses, images from Jena, La., and recent news clippings from the Jena Six case, in which six black high school students were charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white student. Civil rights leaders organized a rally last month that drew 20,000 or more to Jena.

Reaction to the video has been mixed. Some have commented on Web pages that they will never again listen to or support Mellencamp. Others have said they think he is bringing light to a much-needed issue. ]

Vaquero got e-mail that says Mellencamp is going to join T-Bone tomorrow afternoon at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in SF. This is something they just now decided to do! (Vaquero takes off tomorrow for the festival, with guitar, laptop and cowboy hat; he's performing Sunday, at the Porch stage, 3:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Black Ops

BW has a vested interest in keeping Iraq and everywhere else in turmoil forever -- the longer the war the more money they make -- and the more we pay them for it.

Here's a good list of 'connect the dots' provided by a blackwaterwatcher:

Blackwater . Halliburton . Enron . The Carlyle Group . Bush . USIS . Gen. Petraeus .

Additionally, a list of individual political contributions of Blackwater executives:

Erik Prince, Founder and CEO

Joseph Schmitz, COO & General Counsel

J. Cofer (flies across their eyeballs) Black, Vice Chairman
No records (must be the covert experience gained at CIA).

Rob Richer, Vice President for Intelligence
No records.

Individual contributions of the prominent Blackwater defenders:

Fred Fielding

Ken Starr