Saturday, August 31, 2013

Maurice Ravel Le Tombeau de Couperin 3 Forlane

Monique Haas - Piano

Labor Day Weekend

Having been told that my typical post takes a bit of work to get through, I'm giving my readers Labor Day weekend off.   

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

What Is Sex Positive In A Dangerous Debasing Act of Humiliation That Can Kill You?

You should be warned that I'm going to quote a description of a disgusting, offensive and degrading sexual practice, a heterosexual practice in every description or definition I've seen of it.  Though there are practices promoted in gay porn that are at least as disgusting and degrading, it's probably been featured in gay porn though I've never seen it referred to in that.   And that is not to mention, and perhaps more important, it is also dangerously unhygienic.   And there's a pretty bad aspect of racial-ethnic stereotyping, just to add to the tantalizing transgression of it.

You may have heard or seen would-be humorous references made to "dirty Sanchez".  I had and until seeing some of those would be knee-slapping reference to it last week, I'd never bothered to look up what it meant. Here is the first description I read, I'll warn you again, it's pretty disgusting.

A Dirty Sanchez is a sexual situation where a man is laying some pipe doggy-style, and while in the midst of sex he inserts his finger in the womans starfish and then smears his finger across her upper lip, giving her a thin shit moustache. This is the Dirty Sanchez.
That bitch was so skanky, she didnt even mind that I gave her a dirty snachez!

That was the same thing that I read in several other places.  And remember, this is to be thought of as funny.

It is an act designed to be an expression of ultimate male supremacy, a demonstration of male supremacy by the use, degradation, humiliation and objectification of women.   Any woman who would want that done to her obviously has internalized her oppression or fear that overcomes any sense of her own dignity and rights.  If I knew someone did something like that to my nieces or even anyone I'd be tempted to kill them.  And I do mean that.

But it's supposed to be funny enough that references to it have left their mark on commercial movies and TV shows, here and in that bastion of non-liberating liberation, Britain.  There is supposed to be something wonderfully liberated in its mention, a sign of some kind of sophisticated transgression.   It is incredible to me that something so inherently puerile and irresponsible can be considered an emblem of sophistication but so much of sex based irresponsibility is to be taken as such.

If you don't monitor gay porn, as most gay men probably do to some extent, you might be shocked at how much in the past few years,  rimming, analingus, has gone from being a rare feature of a specialized category of porn - widely considered gross - to being pervasive, just another of the dangerous sex acts that are promoted by porn of all kinds.  Obviously, in the last several years, the porn industry has been trying to mainstream mouth to anus sex, extending what it did with anal sex in the late 60s and 70s.

A few seconds of thought should tell someone with more than vestigial intelligence that the ingestion of  even small amounts of feces IS DANGEROUS.  Especially directly from the body.   E-coli and a number of other highly dangerous microorganisms are found in abundance in feces.  And that's in the absence of specifically pathogenic organisms, HIV, hepatitis, cholera, cryptosporidium, salmonella etc. are just some of the known pathogens present in human feces.  And those are almost certainly not all known.  Before HIV was discovered and associated with anal sex, it was entirely unknown, dangerous as it was.    The same people who think there is something sophisticated and progressive about these sexual practices would blast and condemn anyone so backward and irresponsible so as to advocate decreasing public hygiene, risking disease outbreaks of disease caused by exactly some of those same pathogens,  to save money. And that is almost certainly less probable to make someone sick or kill them than direct ingestion of fecal matter.   But when it's presented as a part of sex, all of that is to be forgotten.

There is something really, really bizarre on display here.  When you introduce the word "sex" into it, when you call any practices "sex" people who consider themselves to be the embodiment of reason and rationality lose their faculty of reason, voluntarily.  There is nothing questionable about this, there is nothing that isn't obvious about it, ingesting fecal matter is dangerous and degrading.  A different and far stronger taboo takes over, forbidding the assertion that that fact should be mentioned or even can be finally dispositive in judging it.  It is forbidden to point out that these practices, even as sex, are, intolerably, a threat to health and life not to mention degrading and objectifying.

In observing this over a long period of time, since before the discovery of AIDS, in thinking about it, I've come to conclude that the desire to be cool is transcendent among large numbers of people.  And nothing defines cool more than the insouciant and public acceptance of sex acts that are supposed to shock the prudes.  The Cool Ones are a tribal group presented as being highly desirable, the membership of that highly hierarchical pecking order is the crown of modern life, it is presented as being a high aspiration to be as cool as you can be.  One of the things that will lessen your position in the tribe and which can expel you from it is expressing disapproval to acts presented as transgressive.  You can also gain status by boldly displaying your own transgression, or, in a case such as this one, by displaying your cool expression of the most appalling things without batting an eyelash.  That is a form of dare-ya to.   It is a challenge to dare you to reject the idea, to risk your status in the in-group.

If you think this is inconsequential, it is essentially the means used by the corporate media to discredit second wave feminism even as it was under attack from the religious fundamentalists.   As they were attacking feminists, they were also being attacked as anti-male prudes who were opposed to sex.  Susan Brownmiller's research into rape was attacked and distorted as well as the criticism of porn made by Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin.  On the other hand, it was held to be an offense to modernism to critisize the positive presentations of rape in Hollywood movies.   Clint Eastwood never suffered anything I'm aware of for presenting one of the most would be heroic, positive depictions of rape in a movie during the same period that saw the suppression of second wave feminism.  Clint was cool.  Officially.  At least until his senile performance at the last Republican Convention.   I didn't see much difference in the intellectual and ethical content of it from his previous career .

In the same period, beginning in venues of the cool such as the Village Voice other venues of the "alternative press" (those I know of featuring personals for kinky and commercial sex) and Penthouse Magazine what was billing itself as a new wave of feminism, "sex positive feminism"  was announced to overcome the second wave.  That those magazines and newspapers tended to be owned and controlled by men and were in the business of selling versions of the cool and making money off of commercial and transgressive sex was supposed to signify nothing, I guess.  The coersive effect on that in pressuring consent to acts that were dangerous and degrading is unmeasurable but it is certainly there. The effect on pushing expression of more extreme and more transgressive and degrading sex into mainstream culture could only be denied by someone willing to lie through their teeth that they see and hear what is right in front of them and that they have said what they have.

In the past, when pointing these things out, I've gotten a shocked reaction that a gay man, who will settle for nothing less than full equality under the law, could condemn what is held to have been a force in pushing that issue forward.  But it's because I'm gay and an observer of the history of the struggle for equality since before it is generally held to have "really" begun.  There are parallels between the forces that have lost ground in other movements, sometimes at the behest of commercial interests with goals at odds with promoting equality.  As I've pointed out here recently, the most extreme of anti-gay violence and oppression is indistingushable from what is regularly presented as gay sex in pornography.  When I first saw the images of the videotaped and posted attacks by Russian fascists on gay men, I thought it was porn-spam that had gotten through my filters.

I'm going to transgress and point out that in this issue, the cool ones are asking us to eat shit, literally.  Or asking someone to.  In order to maintain a cool attitude in this we are being required to pretend that it is anything less than degrading and dangerous, to suppress everything we should have learned about toilet training starting at about one year of age.  And, on the blogs, many of those who do that believe themselves to be champions of all that is modern and sciency.   Obviously that's not true.  There's nothing more backward than ignoring the most basic health issues in dealing with excrement.   And that is exactly what this boils down to.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Harold Shapero: Sonata No.2

Who Are We Supposed To Be Helping How in Syria?

Sometimes there is a situation in which there is no good option for action, I think an attack on the Syrian government is such a situation for the United States.   Neither side is clean, neither side is not willing to do awful things to maintain dictatorial control, outside Islamist radicals have been obviously among the side which in other civil wars would be presented as the liberators fighting against a brutal dictator and when that's the case what is likely to result isn't going to be anything like liberation.  It will be the swapping of brutal dictatorships or a protracted civil war in which the governments are just the equivalent of the punctuation in one of my longer sentences.

The fiction that the United States can enter into something like the Syrian civil war - which apparently has more than one non-government side,  and produce something like a democracy should have been destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan.   As informed a person as former Secretary of Defense Gates learned that lesson. But the American media and political classes have scant experience of what the wars it wildly supported before they grew bored and weary of them are really like.  They generally didn't ever fight in one and they rarely send their children to get killed in them.  To them the war in Syria is a political entity with business potential or just a story to yak about and fill or get air time.  They can call up the neo-cons on their portable device and have them on to give another variation of what they gave before.   Apparently two disastrous wars since the turn of the century aren't enough to discredit them.  But the media-political-corporate class never lets things like hundreds of thousands of people killed in futile wars of non-liberation sold to the American People as a war of liberation that will solve problems remove people like the Kagans and Wolfowitz from their guest lists.   I mean to their parties where these things really generate, the Sunday Morning Lie Hours are just where they need to rope the suckers in.

As unskilled a politician as Barack Obama is, he's still a politician and so vulnerable to the media and what pressure they produce.  Being an establishment kind of guy, he listens to the voices of the establishment, those who are brought to us by the corporate class and staffed by the same people who produce the neocons they present.  He must know that this war he's been pressured into is not going to do anything good for anyone.  He's a bad politician and about the worst negotiator I've ever seen in his job but he's not a fool. His response will be to do something while trying to minimize the damage to the United States and his presidency.  And the same people who are criticizing him on both sides will mock as symbolic whatever he does.  And he knows that too.  And it is likely that the same people pressuring him into this war will, once it turns into the total disaster he must know it almost certainly will, will pressure him to escalate.  That is as certain as it has been, constantly since Vietnam when the ancestors of today's media-military-industrial class pressured other Democratic presidents into entering a war in which the United States had nothing good to accomplish.

The Second World War in Europe with a clear evil in the form of Hitler and his allies and relatively good governments to support, formed the popular imagination of subsequent wars,  But it was an exception of the most decisive kind.  It's a really bad model to use to think about most wars, most wars aren't like that.   The American Civil War in which the maintaince of slavery was the motive of the war and its abolition eventually adopted as its purpose is also a bad model on which to base our imagination of civil wars.  Since Ken Burns reignited that dormant area of our popular imagination it has entered into the realm of how people imagine events today as well.

But the movies and novels and the media sell us war after war based on those models when the realities of those other wars have nothing in common with them.  Historical fiction is fiction.  It is constructed by authors, it is not a model of reality even in the best of them.  One person can't imagine up a model of war.  Even a team of Hollywood hacks can't do that.  No, ESPECIALLY a team of Hollywood hacks can't do that. Even a documentary as good as can be made is a constructed reality with a narrative imposed on it.

The extent to which the idiots who populate our media don't understand those differences is unclear, we don't know to what extent they realize how big the lies they tell to get America involved in these serial disasters are.  But they are lies and our ability to learn from the enormous loss of life, the maiming of tens and hundreds of thousands and even millions, the destruction and death - it is war, folks - remote from us doesn't seem to teach us anything.  It doesn't even teach our elites to look at what they're getting us into.   In the Syrian civil war, you're only going to find as bad a result as the present regime winning no matter who wins. And I doubt there's going to be anything so relatively benign as a winner.  It will be as bad as Iraq in which the peace just means a relative decrease in the warfare, a situation that will be going on for decades yet.

Obama will do something in Syria, that bad lot has already been cast.  Hopefully he will do the least he can, which will be called "merely symbolic" but it will not be merely symbolic to the people who get killed, the entirely innocent figuring heavily in those but who will only be mentioned in the media to the extent they want to use them to attack Obama.  He's going to get that from both sides, no matter what he does.  Our media is very good at pressuring us into these things, they've been doing it since at least the Mexican-American War of 1848.  That is a pattern of behavior which really needs to be broken if we are ever going to stop getting into wars sold on lies.  Our media is still in that pattern, as are the corporate and political classes that are in thick as the thieves they are with them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Harold Shapero Sonata No.1

Michael Boriskin  - piano

I think this is one of the "Amateur Sonatas" that Shapero wrote, sort of after Haydn.   Like Prokofiev's "Classical Symphony" based on a similar conceit, it doesn't really sound anything like Haydn while having a lot in common with some of Haydn's easier sonatas.   Whatever they are, they are attractive pieces that seem to be fitting for a day in late summer.

I'm not sure but, him being from Lynn Mass. Harold Shapero's family could be related to the family my great-aunt was the cook for.  Alas, everyone who could tell me is long gone.   Harold Shapero died in May of this year.

Arthur Berger: Serenade Concertante

From the picture you can obviously tell it's another of the scary academic serialist compositions of Arthur Berger.   To whom that terribly and coldly mathematical critic Virgil Thomson attributed a "sidwalks of New York charm".   Listen at your own peril.

Miley Cyrus Five Years Before Now

I don't follow pop culture much and what I do choose to follow doesn't extend far enough for me to watch semi-obscene videos of pathetic young folks desperate to draw attention to themselves and to act out in public.   So I didn't and have no intention of looking at Miley Cyrus's latest entry into that sad corpus of  so called"culture".  I did write about the girl five years ago in an experimental post incorporating videos from YouTube.  Unfortunately, a lot of those are no longer posted.  If you want to go try to find the ones that still work, here is where I first posted it.    Here is the end of that post,  I think it might still have some value.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

When A Persona Consumes A Life

....  Watching all three videos, the two singers and the female impersonators, brings up a lot of ideas about image and the how we portray ourselves to the world, or try to. You could contrast the high level of control the female impersonators had over their elaborately presented images, that of a lesbian who had to portray a straight woman to have a successful music career and a straight woman who had to maneuver through what would have then been explicitly considered and stated to be “a man’s world”.

You have to think about what it might tell you about how we see ourselves and the ability of an image as seen by other people can overtake our intentions. Once something is out in the public, even an experienced adult has only a limited control of how that image is seen and even used by other people. Making a mistake in presenting an image of yourself is easy to do and hard to put behind you. The audience is fickle and a show business career depends entirely on its audience. Choices aren't always made wisely or even shrewdly.

I’d heard the name Hannah Montana before this week but had assumed she was an animated character. I hadn't known there was a 15-year-old Miley Cyrus until now. You have the sick feeling the scandal of the week could be the beginning sign of a too familiar kind of trouble.

Entertainment corporations chew up and spit out young women, who take the brunt of this kind of stuff, at an incredible rate. The age of those spit out seems to get lower all the time. There are scores of lives and careers that get damaged by the insistence on girls living up to a false front, along with the follies of their promoters trying to keep them current in publicity as they grow up. Just growing up is hard enough without people three or more times your age trying to use you.

A 15-year-old girl is not a woman, she isn't an adult, as pointed out here the other day, she is a child. No one has the right to pretend they believe that she is going to have the maturity, self-confidence and experience to protect herself against the attack of celebrity. Pretending she is able to robs her of the most basic civil right of all children, to protection by adults and by society in general. I include Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair in the charge of using her recklessly. Their alibi that her parents were in on the photo-shoot doesn't suffice. Possible irresponsibility by parents doesn't make a child fair game for the media. The photographer and magazine have more experience than just about anyone in what can happen when the image they publish is an attempt to gain publicity by breaking an image of innocence, real or artificial. A tediously superficial, and rather repetitious attempt at that most commercially superficial of all modern virtues, ‘transgression’ by flirting with the conventions of soft, antique kiddie porn is what I take from the published images.

For the life of me, I don’t understand what it is some people on the left don’t get about Leibovitz and those who pay her. If she were a sleazy, cigar chomping man four times older than Miley Cyrus, taking exactly the same images, no one would have much problem deciding exactly what to make of it. But she’s Annie Leibovitz, using a girl a quarter of her age to make a splash and sell some pictures. Do these pictures tell us about reality? Can they come close to the celebrity portraits of Lotte Jacobi? No. While part of that is the depth of the subjects, she is no Jacobi.

To lay the responsibility entirely on the parents and others in the entourage of a young girl, doesn't erase a national magazine’s irresponsibility of joining in a publicity stunt that risked possible damage to a very real girl. “Journalism” isn't an excuse for using a real, live child like that. Neither is art. What might be a matter of clear cut press freedom without infringement on other peoples’ rights if no real children are used becomes a compromised image when a real child is made use of like this.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Twilight of the Slugs 2

I will be continuing my blog war with Duncan Black's, uh, "brain trust*" at my blog made for just such stuff, Crush Seth Macfarlane's Nuts. 

* I'm not making it up, someone there actually called the rump of regulars who still go there that the other day.  

Arthur Berger Quartet for Winds Listen to the Music First Ignore the Rest If You Feel So Inclined

The massively ignorant pop-music hack made an attempt at addressing music requiring more of an attention span than would fit on a 45 rpm disc again today.   I doubt he made it to the end of that sentence, it requiring that much attention.  I think he thought I'd be mightily bothered by what he so ignorantly said referring to me, only the only emotion it risked was making me feel smug.  He snarked about my late friend, the eminent American composer, critic and music professor at Brandeis University,  Arthur Berger.   The hack read some description of Berger as an "academic serialist" by someone as obviously unfamiliar with his music as the hack is.  Here's one of those thorny, difficult, impossible pieces of "academic serialism" that, of course never gets played and no one ever listens to.  Only not.

It's amazing how someone could get hired as any kind of music critic when they can't hear well enough to hear a tonal center.  But, then, Berger was a music critic on the staff of two major daily papers in New York City and for a contributor to a number of serious journals.  If he'd really tried hard, he might have managed to write what everyone else has ever said about commercial white boy pop music instead.

But any excuse to listen to Berger's music is a good excuse.

Why The Snowden-Greenwald Cult Has Me Really Worried

First things first, the living taking precedence over those long dead, I have an enormous amount of respect for the work of Michael and Robert Meeropol, especially concerning capital punishment and the survivors of those executed.  State murder is one of the greatest venues of governmental injustice wherever it's found and one of the pillars that prop up every fascist and dictatorial government in the world.  I have the greatest respect for their work on that issue.

I respect their facing the fact that their father, Julius Rosenberg, was a spy for the Soviet Union during WWII, though I'm not versed enough in the recently revealed details to know if all of their conclusions are correct or are not.   I also believe that the execution of their parents was a travesty after an abysmally illegitimate trial with both the prosecutor and judge open to political influences that should constitute some of the most serious of possible crimes. I don't know what to think of Ethel Rosenberg except that she, like her husband, should never have been executed. With what is known about the political character of their trial, their convictions would have been thrown out in any justice system that deserves to be called that.  I think Greenglass was a rat, at the very least.

That said, after it was revealed by Morton Sobell that Julius Rosenberg and he were spies and other sources corroborated that, I was enraged at the industry dedicated to maintaining the lie that the Rosenbergs were entirely innocent of the charge which has been a feature of the left for my entire life.  As with the effort to turn the "MIAs" in the Vietnam war into a vulgarly political and profit making venture,  I would imagine that some rump branch of that industry is still up and running and probably collecting money from those true believers who hold that long extinguished torch.  Trading in the dead Rosenbergs has been quite the thing. It is a big deal that "the left" got that one wrong, it discredits the points about the horrible trial, the political interference in the judicial arm of government and, most seriously,  against the death penalty.   I would like to know if having to admit that their father was the spy he was convicted of being has had a negative effect on the most important work the Meeropol brothers are involved in, it shouldn't but I would suspect it might.

I certainly don't hold people involved in their legal defense responsible for that, in so far as I know it.  It's their job to represent their clients, it is their job to protest the unjust and corrupt trial and their judicially sanctioned murder.  They have that right, their children did and do.  Other people unconnected to them and the case, not so much.


Let me break this to you, political dissidence is an inevitably disadvantaged position.  Opposing those with entrenched or even just established power is a matter of David and Goliath and David is going to need more than three pebbles and a sling to take down The Man.  Frequently, David is more likely to find himself in one than wielding one.  That is especially the case for us who are opposed to the corporate state which the mass media serves and, most discouragingly of all, in this post literate age of electronic mass media.   Electronic mass media will always serve the corporate establishment unless they are forced to serve the public interest instead.  That was what the history of the incompletely successful public service regime of the 1920s through 1970s proved.  But I talked about that last week.   One thing you can always count on with the corporate media is that they will use everything they can to destroy even their mildest of possible opponents.  You can take another example from history, the effort to destroy the Clintons while he was in office.  One scandal after another was cooked up out of the skimpiest of ingredients and when those weren't available the media made it up out of nothing on the basis of "it is being said".   I would like people to consider what Brack Obama learned from being a witness to the war against the Clintons and what that might have contributed to his aggravating political impotence and willingness to sell out his most devoted supporters.  And what that also will teach future Democratic politicians.  And what even we non-politicians must conclude from it.   What went for Bill and Hillary goes so much more for the real dissidents, the real left.

The use of the Rosenberg case by the right to paint the entire left with supporting Soviet espionage was certainly not useful to the left.  The fundraising and propaganda use of them, long dead, didn't have any beneficial effects that I'm aware of.  The rehashing of it into the past decade, when it was clear that their defense against the most serious charges was a lie, certainly didn't do us any good.  That seems to be waning as those who had an illegitimate stake in them die off.  But there are other causes célèbres that have potential to do even more damage if we hand the means of discrediting the left to a media that is already out to destroy us and our political possibilities.

Another piece of bad news I've got for you is that the majority of the American People are not true believing members of the left and they are far more than able to vote in our complete adversaries.  Or what has the past forty-five years been about, anyway.   The news isn't all bad, though.  They are with the real left on a number of issues, especially on those which have a real, practical ability to improve their lives, the lives of those close to them and, by extension their country.   But there are a number of issues on which they are anything from skeptical about to being definitely opposed to. One of the things they will be most opposed to is the favoring of a foreign government over that of the United States.  They get to vote on the government here, they don't get to elsewhere and they know in many countries no one gets a real choice in the government they get.  If they can disapprove of the choice of the American People, they can really disapprove of the "choice" in other countries.  The activities of "the left" in the past, especially such fixtures in "the left" as the Communist Party which has been discredited as a puppet of the Soviet government, will stick to us unless we specifically and effectively unstick it.   It is that sticky stuff I sense being applied in the Snowden-Greenwald cult.  And the story which is being sold by that cult is entirely more implausible than the one sold by the Rosenberg industry.   The Chinese and Russian governments whose respect for privacy and fair play we are being required to trust more than that of the Obama administration, are about as unworthy of trust as any governments which have ever existed.  They have combined the worst of one-party dictatorships with the worst of corporate despotism, they are engaged in as close to the total suppression of dissidents as any countries in the world are.  Any narrative that depends on their not squeezing the complete contents of Snowden's laptops out of him is not credible, the assertion that Snowden is not either a massive idiot or an independent espiaonage agent on the make is not sustainable.  His exposure will not take decades, the fall of the Soviet bloc and freedom of information acts being passed.   The Snowden-Greenwald narrative is not credible on its face and not many seem to be questioning it very much.

That is only why I believe this is about as dangerous a situation for the real left as we've faced in more than 60 years.  The real left is disadvantaged by those things resulting from our opposition to an entrenched, corporate establishment with a total ability to control the media.   And when I say the left is endangered by being suckered by this cult, I mean that our issues are in danger of never being made law and put into effect. One of those is the real, effective civilian control of intelligence agencies, the police and the military, for only that thing most germane to the topic of this post.  We're already failing quite sufficiently to make political change. We don't need to have a couple of libertarians and their deluded supporters loading as we are falling.

No Time To Write This Morning So a Question

Can anyone point me to an interview done with Glenn Greenwald that doesn't consist of soft ball questions, many of those with entirely predictable answers?  Because I don't recall ever seeing one of those.   I read an example of the soft ball kind of interview just now and that question came to me.  Here's what I said I'd have asked him instead of what "Truthout" did.


What a lost opportunity. Why didn't you ask him if he really believed that the Chinese government allowed Snowden to go to Russia without knowing exactly what Snowden carried there with him and that Russia didn't credibly threaten him with deportation to the United States unless he also gave them any classified information he stole from the government? Those are two questions I've never seen Greenwald asked which would be vitally important in judging his honesty and grasp of the issue he's at the center of. I would also ask him how he knows that he knows just how much and what Snowden stole and likely carried with him to China. Because he has no idea of what Snowden took and how seriously that might effect the lives of Chinese and Russian dissidents, among the first people those governments would be interested in.

I'd also ask him how he compares Brazil's treatment of journalists, civil rights and environmental activists, and even just poor folk as compared to the country he presents as the locus of all evil, the United States. Would he rather the United States follow Brazilian laws and, more importantly, practices, or those of China or Russia than those in the United States.

The civilian oversight and control of intelligence agencies, as well as the police and military, in the United States is dangerously inadequate but I see nothing in what Greenwald is doing that will remedy that. Especially when he misrepresents what he's presenting from the documents given to him by Snowden. Especially his descriptions of the programs and his exaggeration of their technical capabilities. I got the feeling from reading competent technical writers on that, that Greenwald doesn't really understand a lot of what he's presenting as reporting. In that Greenwald's quality as a journalist can be judged.

After the other day, reading Joshua Foust's list of false statements Greenwald made about him and Greenwald's refusal to retract or correct those false statements, I'm afraid I don't consider Greenwald any kind of reliable reporter of fact.


How do they expect the truth to get out from the kind of cult based stuff they've been putting out on this story?   That's a question I'd pose to Truthout.   As of now, the comment above only has one dislike at Truthout.  I wasn't asking those questions and raising those issues to be popular,  that's kiddie stuff and these are grownup issues.   I'm having a hard time not concluding that comment systems that let you "like" and "dislike" comments enables an adolescent atmosphere.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Aaron Copland Piano Sonata

David Witten - Piano

This was written eight years before I was born, how come I feel so much older than it sounds?

Laura Ingraham's Veiled Encouragement of the Murder of John Lewis

I have been doing some research into the role that hate talk radio played in the Rwandan genocide attempt, in particular reading transcripts of the hate campaign that turned into open call to commit genocide on   Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, a politically connected station that was up to the top of its transmitter in blood by the end of it the genocide.  It is an unfortunate fact that even as the genocide was going on, American officials were refusing to jam transmissions or bomb the transmitter.  "Free speech" and "Freedom of the Press" were seen as more important than preventing a call to mass murder on an epic scale..

In particular I've been reading French language transcripts of broadcasts by one Kantano Habimana, who, I'm not going to mince words, isn't much different from what you'll hear on American hate talk radio.   Perhaps I'll translate some of those, though I'm no translator and it will take a while.  Until then, you can listen to things like Laura Ingraham to get the gist of it.

Conservative radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham attacked the speakers at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, at one point using the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965. Ingraham used the speech's anniversary to race-bait about black-on-white crime statistics and hosted Pat Buchanan to bemoan the idea that minorities face any higher level of adversity in America 50 years later.

They're not even bothering to cover up their calls for murdering liberals and civil rights workers.  This is something of a natural escalation for Ingraham  from her days as one of the resident racists in Jeffrey Hart's little cell of racists at Dartmouth.  Earning a lawsuit from one of the black professors there. Unfortunately, he dropped it.   Perhaps it's time to make such incidents the business of the Secret Service, as it well could be if it were the president whose assassination was being encouraged on the radio with a wink and a nod.

The Incoherent Tribal Lore of the Pseudo-Left

After 9-11, after Sam Harris opened up the floodgates of hatred of Muslims in the leftish faction of the blogging classes, all of the sins attributed to the suicide bombers and their handlers were laid on the backs of the more than 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, especially by a faction of the mighty 1.6% of the United States population who polled as being atheists.   There were lots of those guys on the leftish blogs I frequented in those days.   It was kind of stunning for a traditional American style liberal such as myself how much they could sound like the old line bigots of the past.  Of course, since they were devotees of Sam  Harris and the wave of other atheists who jumped on the fad, Dawkins, Hitchens, they were slamming "Xians" if anything even harder, blaming everyone down to the most pacifistic members of the peace churches for enabling religious fanatics and having responsibility for violence, female genital mutilation.... there was no end to that kind of stuff.

That kind of thing reached a sort of breaking point for me on the night that Dr. George Tiller was murdered.   For those who haven't heard me talk about this before, I was on a thread at Eschaton when news of the murder broke on TV.    Having given up on TV long before, I got the news first from others on the thread and I knew that, immediately, it would lead to the knee jerk religion bashing that was guaranteed to come.  And it did.  I went to look for a real news story about it and was immediately shocked to find out that Dr. Tiller was murdered while he was ushering at his Reformed Lutheran church.   I went back to Eschaton and pointed out that according to the party line there, Dr. Tiller had to be responsible for his own murder since he, as an active member of a CHRISTIAN church, had created the milieu in which his murderer drew his sense of permission.  Needless to say it was not a welcomed point.

But, getting back to Islam and the leftish mindset,  the blanket of condemnation that covered a considerable percentage of the human population had some rather large holes in it.  When a self-appointed preacher in Florida decided to get some attention by announcing he was going to burn the Quran - setting off deadly riots on the other side of the globe - suddenly those who had been hating on the Islam were all defending it against the "Xian" in Florida.  The same thing happened when it was Peter King and Pam Geller re the Islamic center in the general vicinity of Ground Zero.   Then, the despised identity of those attacking Islam overrode the fad for hating on Islam.  Only whenever it's something like the governmental lynching of gay teenagers, the opportune blanket of blame covers even those Muslims who had nothing to do with it and likely would condemn it.

Needless to say, the pseudo-left seems to have a hard time keeping its hatreds in order.   Though, other than occasions such as pointing out that they were in the act of vicariously blaming Dr. Tiller for his own murder even as his body was still warm,  the complete lack of coherence doesn't seem to bother them.  In this they resemble nothing so much as their hated ideological opponents.

The Snowden-Greenwald cult is an especially fecund generator of such incoherence.  I've had people, seriously, say that China was a brilliant place for the champion of privacy and freedom to flee to from that land of oppression and spies, The United States.    I've had them say that Greenwald was more secure in Rio de Janeiro than he could be in the United States or his partner was in Britain.  I mean, this is Brazil, the land where nuns trying to protect the Amazon get gunned down.   Joshua Foust had some rather interesting points to make about that*, as well.  Virtually every aspect of the Snowden-Greenwald cult requires denials of the most obvious facts, pretenses that countries such as China are champions of human rights which would allow scruples about privacy keep them from forcing young Snowden to fork over his entire stash of stolen secrets.  Any "reality community" that could maintain that much incoherence must have entered a universe next to where the Raëlians went.

Consider this thought provoking article by Jean Bricmont about the leftish calls for contradicting responses to the horrible civil war in Syria.  Both wanting intervention and non-intervention in the same petition, warning about getting what you wished for, in some cases.  For the record, I could plead guilty to being among those mentioned at the beginning.

Once upon a time, in the early 1970′s, many people, including myself, thought that all the “struggles” of that period were linked: the Cultural Revolution in China, the guerillas in Latin America, the Prague Spring and the East European “dissidents”, May 68, the civil rights movement, the opposition to the Vietnam war, and the nominally socialist anti-colonial movements in Africa and Asia. We also thought that the “fascist” regimes in Spain, Portugal and Greece, by analogy with WWII, could only be overthrown through armed struggle, very likely protracted.

None of these assumptions were correct. The Cultural Revolution had nothing to do with the anti-authoritarian movements in the West, the Eastern European dissidents were, in general, pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist, and often fanatically so, the Latin American guerrillas were a pipe dream (except in Central America) and the national liberation movements were just that: they (quite rightly) aimed at national liberation and called themselves socialist or communist only because of the support offered to them by the Soviet Union or China. The southern European “fascist” regimes transformed themselves without offering a serious resistance, let alone an armed struggle. Many other authoritarian regimes followed suit: in Eastern Europe, in Latin America, in Indonesia, Africa and now in part of the Arab world. Some collapsed from inside, other crumbled after a few demonstrations.

And there is this:

The signatories of course demand the immediate departure from power of Bashar al-Assad, which is supposed to be the only “hope for a free, unified, and independent Syria”. They also characterize Russia, China and Iran as standing “in support of the slaughter of people”, although they are “allegedly friends of the Arabs”; they acknowledge that “the U.S. and its Gulf allies have intervened in support of the revolutionaries”, but blame them for “having done so with a clear cynical self-interest” and trying to “crush and subvert the uprising”. It is not clear how this squares with the next line of the text, which claims that “regional and world powers have left the Syrian people alone”.

Apparently the world is to keep hands off of Syria for which they will be blamed for, leaving "the Syrian people alone".  Not to be considered is that the very same Islamic radicals who so many of those guys also loathe and despise comprise a considerable presence in the anti-government side in the Civil war and that recent revolutions in the Islamic world haven't done so well at keeping them out of power.  No doubt the Obama Administration would be to blame if their intervention led to an Islamic regime of the kind that oppresses women and lynches gay teenagers.

I really wish it were possible to find out how many of those who, rightly, deplore the Russian and Chinese governments' stands on Syria are also presenting them as the protectors of Edward Snowden from the lawless persecution of the United States government.  I'm sure I'd find those guys on a number of blogs if I bothered to sort through enough of the personalized Disqus threads available for searching.  Of course, I'd probably be accused of violating the privacy of those people who, by signing up for Disqus accounts agreed to make that information available in that semi-convenient form.  I wonder what the reaction would be to news that the NSA had also noticed that information, at times attached to real names, was voluntarily made available online.  Only, and here's the rub, they couldn't safely collect it WITHOUT SPECIFIC AUTHORIZATION EVEN AS IT IS THERE FOR ANYONE LIKE ME TO READ.  

Of course if it were someone who bombed some place or shot up a school or somehow terrorized someone in the United States, the failure of the government to have done that would also be whined about mightily. Or at least at long length and on many a Disqus thread.

With their conceited pretenses of being the embodiment of the age of rationality and reason, you'd think that they'd have the sense to try, try to at least achieve basic coherence.   For the rest of us, we can see their example and in it find some important evidence of why the real left is such an impotent mess.

*  Here is what Foust said

While we’re on the subject of secret, undisclosed ties to the government, let’s revisit the timeline of events in Miranda’s detention at Heathrow. By his own admission, Greenwald was able to mobilize both Brazil’s foreign minister and London ambassador. Did anyone find it remarkable that a foreign journalist could marshall the senior officials of a 200 million person country on less than an hour’s notice? I did. I also found it remarkable how Greenwald — an outspoken defender of journalism, and a vocal critic of any attempt to interfere with journalism — was absolutely silent about Brazil’s massive protest movement that resulted in the rampant mistreatment (and deaths) of the journalists covering it. In fact, murdering journalists is depressingly routine in Brazil. It happens all the time.
In fact, Brazil, where Greenwald says he lives because he can be free there, is actually famous for its incredibly violent police force, especially if you happen to be poor and living in a slum of his adopted hometown of Rio de Janeiro.
I can’t fathom why Greenwald, who relies on the good graces of Brasilia to live with his partner and continue writing, would ignore such appalling government violence while shrieking at the top of his lungs about American surveillance (please, for the love of God, Glenn, don’t write about Brazil’s massive domestic surveillance apparatus, the proliferation of private militaries, or its growing use of drones to squash protests). It’s a total mystery, right?
Maybe I should add “hypocrite” to the top of this post.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sofia Gubaidulina 

Vivente -Non Vivente (1970)

Sofia Gubaidulina is one of the best living composers, unlike anyone else, audacious in her intentions and reach,  seemingly entirely unselfconscious about what she does.  Those are requirements of a real genius and she's got it.   This is one of her relatively early pieces, composed for the unique ANS synthesizer constructed in the Soviet Union.  

Interesting Article Documenting Glenn Greenwald's Lying and Pressure Tactics

I didn't read about this until I decided to get caught up with The Rude Pundit a half hour ago.  He's the one who gave the link to a piece by Joshua Foust documenting what I talked about in my first post below.  Here's just a sample of what Foust documents. 

For reasons that escape me, very few people like to grapple with the casual way Glenn Greenwald lies, almost constantly. He lied about me again, earlier this year, when he falsely accused me of supporting the wars in Libya and Mali.
Like so many of Greenwald’s lies, this one is not just wrong it is hilariously wrong, considering the tens of thousand of words I wrote in opposition to the intervention in Libya. It was completely pointless. I demanded a retraction from Greenwald, and he refused. He chose to stand by his lies.
Because he is not only a pathological liar but also a bully, very few in the public sphere ever want to stand up for him. In fact, more than one journalist has written me a private note of encouragement in standing up to Greenwald, because for them the professional consequences of fighting off his bulling followers and rebutting all of his lazy lies are simple too overwhelming. So he is allowed to continue lying and bullying people without recourse.

This is the kind of truth and justice that the Snowden-Greenwood cult depends on to maintain its mythology. Let me guess the reaction of his true believers,  Foust used to be a government contractor so everything he says is not only not credible but definitely unbelievable.   Of course, as recently as 2009 Edward Snowden was an intelligence contractor who was saying online that leakers should be shot in the balls.  Only that'll turn out to be different.  Don't ask me how I do it, sometimes I get these flashes of insight, sometimes they turn out to be true.  

Update:  The point isn't that Glenn Greenwald is a jerk, the point is that he's documented to both lie and refuse to correct himself when he lies.  Those kinds of things of don't mesh well with the profession of journalist, or at least they shouldn't.   Or what was the whole idea about why we needed an alternative to the lying, invested, self-interested corporate media?  Much as I like The Rude Pundit, his equating what Joshua Foust exposed in this article with the corporate shill Chet Huntley scolding the press for being too hard on Nixon is entirely off.   This is more like someone exposing someone for lying and conflict of interest and a refusal to correct the record that they have, themselves falsified.   This is a well known tactic of claiming a critic said something they didn't as a means of not having to deal with the criticism.   I'd have thought The Rude Pundit was above that kind of thing. 

Golden Gate Jubilee: Quartet Swing Down Chariot

As I type this my radio has the Steele Sisters on Keilor's show riffing on one of my favorite arrangements, recreation really, of the old gospel song by one of the most accomplished of the male gospel quartets.

Update:   I Was Standing At The Bedside of a Neighbor

The Price of Non-Conformity In The "Reality Community" Is To Be Cursed with Cooties

It's hard for me to stop thinking and marveling at the many obviously ridiculous and unrealistic features of the Snowden-Greenwald cult on the pseudo-leftist blogs and in the media because it offers so many insights into why we can't do anything in politics.  In a way, it sums up my seven years of blogging on the failure of the left to gain power and make change.   I'll recap the problems with the bizarre faith in those two cult figures at the end of this post but more generally, the reaction to anyone bringing those up is interesting.  A few of the major features of that reaction are the accusation of heresy, the accusation of apostasy, the accusation of questioning the agreed to narrative based almost entirely in what Snowden and Greenwald have said about their own behavior and what it means.   It is based in a will to believe some things that are quite unbelievable on the basis of the known facts.   In short, it's a secular-religious phenomenon of the fundamentalist variety.   Which is hilarious considering how many of those in this cult spend so much of their time deriding exactly those things they are doing when it is someone else doing the believing,  deriding other people, quite often, on the basis of things they don't believe and often actively oppose.

I see a lot of that as the same kind of thing we all experience in school as adolescents.   The observation that blogs frequently devolve into high school or jr. high is made often enough that it seems like a banal cliche. But it is a cliche that seems to me to be spot on.  And not only blogs but in other social and quasi-social professional milieus such as the media.   I'm seeing a lot of professional pressure being brought on those who have questioned the Snowden-Greenwald narrative, I'd guess quite a bit of that pressure in the understood danger of their readership shrinking and their market value being destroyed.   The percentage of the population who reads generally liberal to lefty journalists and opinionators is rather small to begin with, if you are declared to have cooties on a few of the more read comment threads, I'm guessing it could drive you into nearly immediate obscurity.   I look at Charlie Pierce and wonder if he feels the pressure, endangering his relatively recent explosion into the national scene after decades of being largely a New England phenomenon. The excellence of his work, the reasonableness of his skepticism over those two members of the godhead of the godless congregation of the internet, won't protect him from the anathema I was seeing declared in several rather dangerously influential places.   I don't know if his response to Jeffrey Toobin's pretty good question* is a sign of the pressure getting to him but I don't see much of a response.   You can read a quite fine exploration of that and more here.   Charlie Pierce wrote an interesting response, which is provocative in its questions and assertions, not all of them in ways that Charles Pierce intended.   And in some of those is a good outline of the problems with both the narrative gospel of the cult but, more generally, the degenerated standards of those who join onto it.

The current state of play seems to be centered on the new family fun game, How Much Of A Dick Is Glenn Greenwald Anyway? I decline to play. It is a stupid, wasteful exercise because, frankly, the vessel doesn't matter to me. The information that it carries is the only thing that matters. What has Edward Snowden, International Man Of Luggage, revealed that isn't true?

The problem with this is that almost everything other than the things based on the leaked documents depends entirely on what Snowden and Greenwald have said, and they are the ones who made themselves and their motives a major component in the story.

I don't want to hear that we all knew it already. I don't want quibbling about how the data sweeps work, and how they might not be as horrible as they're being made out to be because I don't trust the people making that argument.

Well, of course you don't because you've been a real journalist.  You never take an interested parties assertions about what they've done on faith, you never consider it to be disinterested because you can easily discern the FACT that they are as interested as could be.  That was the basis of your skeptical - actually JOURNALISTIC - treatment of what Snowden and Greenwald were saying.  You might have noticed, especially, that Snowden's travel itinerary put the lie to his assertions because there was no way to make sense of those.

I don't to hear about how the fudging of the details of David Miranda's arrest somehow lessens the credibility of what we now know. I don't want to hear how it may have inconvenienced our all-too-human-mistake-prone heroes in the NSA, who are they all, all honorable men. What do we know now because of the revelations that is not true? The fact remains that we do not know any of this without Snowden's revelations to Greenwald and, thereby, to the world.

Ah, there's a big problem with this because we only know what Snowden and Greenwald have chosen to reveal.  We don't know that we actually know the entire truth about any of it.   Greenwald doesn't because he has no idea what, if anything, Snowden kept back from him.   And Greenwald's record of accurate reporting of what was released is known to be far less than good, it's been pretty bad and obviously self-interested.   Which might or might not get him called "a dick" but it makes him a crappy reporter on issues which he is so personally invested in.   AND CHARLIE PIERCE, YOU KNOW THAT BECAUSE YOU ARE A REAL JOURNALIST.

The national conversation is not even happening. The NSA is not owning up to its all-too-human mistakes. The FISA Court isn't retroactively flexing to prove it isn't the intelligence community's poodle. The authoritarian impulse has not even been given the brief pause we currently enjoy. None of this happens without Snowden and Greenwald and, as a citizen, I could care less that people think Glenn Greenwald is full of himself. Don't invite him to dinner.

Here is the heart of the problem because the NSA was certainly known to be a danger  long, long before Snowden or Greenwald were known, and the FISA process was known to be an inadequate oversight of their activities and Cass Sunstein and his ilk is hardly a person who inspires confidence that he is even capable of understanding the dangers of the establishment to democracy.  It's fairly obvious that Barack Obama - the most nearly liberal president we've managed to elect in thirty-seven years - doesn't get that or chooses not to get that.  And once the obvious problems with the selling of the heroic Edward Snowden falls apart - Snowden, in whom Glenn Greenwald has invested his entire credibility and fame and adoration - once Snowden's myth  falls apart, which it almost certainly will, the imposition of real civilian control of intelligence will be one of the biggest casualties.  The reaction to the revelation of his defection and betrayal and the consequences are known, there will be an enormous backlash.

Why do I say that the Snowden myth will fall apart?   His own behavior, his own activities and the physical locations he and his advisors have put him in.   His choice to defect to China when there were so many other and entirely less compromising avenues available to someone working in intelligence is the most obvious of all the few objective facts in this story.

To summarize what I conclude from that and China trading him with Russia instead of the United States,   here is what I had to repeat in a blog discussion yesterday.

I am certain that the Chinese government would make absolutely certain that they had everything Snowden had with them before allowing him to go to Russia where they could be certain that Putin and Russian intelligence would be ruthless in getting hold of it. Snowden, due to his desperation to stay out of U.S. government hands gave both governments all the leverage they needed to force him to give them everything and any encryption codes to it. If that wasn't the case either government would have traded him to the U.S. government in exchange for something they wanted. The U.S. government could have made them a better offer for Snowden encryption in tact than he could offer without handing over the information.

I am absolutely certain that both governments, by now, have whatever he had with him. I assume that the American government considers everything he had access to is lost. 

If I were either a Chinese or Russian dissident in contact with people in the U.S. I'd be extremely worried about what Snowden gave them in exchange for him not being delivered to the United States government.

I strongly suspect Russia wasn't his idea but a deal worked out between China and Russia to give Russia a chance to get the information he had with him. If there's one thing I'm absolutely certain of, China would never have let him go to Russia with a huge number of classified American documents that China didn't have first. He'd either still be in China or the United States if he hadn't given China full access, China having traded him for something they wanted more than his still protected files. He really wanted to get out of Russia. I'm certain him being there means Russia has also had access to everything he's got. 

If a Chinese or Russian version of Snowden came here with a mountain of stolen intelligence do you think that the CIA, FBI, NSA etc. would not do everything they could to copy it and get its encryption? Especially if they were desperate to keep from being sent back, giving American intelligence a rather massive threat to wield against them? 

What do you think would happen to the equivalents of Greenwald, Poitras and Miranda in that scenario? I suspect one or more would die and their bodies would show odd signs of having been exposed to polonium or some such thing.

I point out that no one (including you) has said exactly what laws the NSA has violated. You reply, "If so, the law is an ass." That may be, but that's different from saying that the NSA was some kind of outlaw agency.  Jeffrey Toobin    RMJ has some excellent points to make about this story on his blog and especially at the link above.

Update:   I've been sent a few comments about this post from the vent-o-sphere, clearly not on the basis of a reading of it.   When those brats get hold of an issue, it's guaranteed to fail politically.   The effective civilian oversight of the NSA and other spy agencies is doomed until the adults take it back and discuss it unafraid of their venting.