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THIS TIME, DEATHS DID COME IN THREES
Dec 18th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

This weekend, three major figures from world affairs left us.

  • Christopher Hitchens was an erudite and outspoken essayist/commentator on world affairs, peace/war, justice, and religion and all he felt was wrong with it (which was just about everything). But, like several of his ’60s radical-intellectual forebearers, he became seduced by the siren song of right-wing righteousness; specifically, the Bushies’ meme that there was one big “Islamofascist” conspiracy to overthrow Western society, and that the war in Iraq was a valiant counter-crusade rather than an imperial power-grab. But then, his chain-smoking and chain-drinking already proved there were limits to his wisdom.
  • Vaclav Havel was one radical-intellectual who never changed his ways, even when it was might inconvenient not to do so. The herein-linked BBC obit lauds him as having brought “free markets” to what was still Czechoslovakia, following the collapse of the Soviet empire. But that wasn’t even among Havel’s chief priorities. He was foremost a thinker and writer. He began by writing satirical plays, which were promptly banned once Soviet forces crushed the “Prague Spring” of 1968. Arrested several times, he never gave up striving for freedom, democracy, and independent culture. When the Slovaks split off into their own nation, Havel oversaw an amicable civic divorce. May we all remember his life’s motto: “Truth and love will prevail over lies and hatred.”
  • Kim Jong-Il, with his tinhorn self aggrandizement and his obsession for military ultra-precision in all public spectacles, was regularly depicted as a living joke—at least among those who didn’t have to live under North Korea’s abject poverty and repression. The best hope for the failed state he left behind is that his heirs sell it to the south, in exchange for a cushy Kim family compound in some equatorial land.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 10/8/11
Oct 7th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

from geekgirlworld.com

  • The first ever Seattle GeekGirlCon happens this weekend at Seattle Center. Why are geek girls so cool? Because they ask questions. They investigate. They seek solutions. They get things done. (Though personally, I like real-life geek girls more than the fictional action-fantasy ones.)
  • Mayor McGinn now says the city will “work with” the Occupy Seattle protesters, whatever that means. (It might not mean much.)
  • Environmental advocates want the Duwamish River cleanup to be cleaner than what the feds have claimed would be good enough. How clean? Clean enough that fish caught in the Duwamish would be safely edible.
  • Why would anybody lobby against a Tibetan-themed retail development in Kirkland? It’s not like it would be worse than what used to be on the site—a burger joint and a dry cleaners.
  • The Tri-Cities’ regional history museum might close, after the feds withdrew funding for its Hanford nuke exhibits.
  • Ex-Seattleite and professional gadfly Mike Daisey has some less-than-reverent words about Steve Jobs, in advance of the NY debut of his Jobs-themed performance piece (which already played Seattle in shakedown-cruise form).
  • It’s the end of the road for Mazda rotary engine cars.
  • In a sane world, the folks who bleat about “supporting the troops” would do more for the 1 million jobless Iraq/Afghanistan veterans. Then again, in a sane world those wars wouldn’t have been started.
  • Paul Krugman sees signs of hope from the Occupy ____ movement, and sees nothing but growth in its immediate future.
  • Annie Lowrey crunches the numbers behind the Occupiers’ claims, and finds that, indeed, the top 1 percent have gotten immensely richer while most everyone else has struggled to stay even or worse.
  • Atrios suggests an alternative to big bank bailouts:

…you could give free money to everyone else assuming some of that money would be deposited in banks and/or used to pay down debt owed to those banks.

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE IS WRITING ABOUT TODAY
Sep 11th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

scene from antiwar protest downtown, march 2003

After all the recycled bluster about the police and the firefighters and especially the troops, about the valiant politicians and the flag waving celebrities, about the need to never forget the horrible day which begat the horrible decade of the endless wars and the mass intimidation and the institutionalized fear mongering and the ugly racism and the corruption of democracy, what more is to be said?

Quite a bit.

We can remember the World Trade Center’s Seattle architect, Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986). His local works include Puget Sound Plaza, Rainier Square, the Pacific Science Center, and the IBM Building (based on his early WTC design work).

Yamasaki didn’t live to see the towers attacked. But he knew the consequences of war-inspired fear and prejudice.

It was only the intercession of an early employer, and the fact that he was working in the northeast at the time, that got him exempted from the WWII internment of western Americans of Japanese ancestry.

We can remember the opportunities for international cooperation to build a safer world. And how those opportunities were deliberately quashed by the Bush-Cheney regime.

We can remember the Patriot Act, the TSA, the “total information awareness” domestic eavesdropping scheme, the media’s ignoring of an initially strong antiwar movement, and all the big and little ways the regime waged war on its own citizens.

We can remember the Americans troops still in harm’s way in Afghanistan and, yes, in Iraq. And those who didn’t make it back. And those who are back home but seriously harmed physically and psychologically, and who have received insufficient care.

We can remember the thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis who had nothing to do with the original attacks but died in the ensuing wars and occupations.

We can remember we still need exit strategies from both occupations, strategies that will protect Iraqis and Afghanis of all sexes and ethnicities.

We can remember the terrible damage wrought on the U.S. budget by war spending, combined with the millionaires’ tax cuts and the rest of the neocon economic misadventure.

And remembering all that, we can say, yes, “never again.”

Never again will we be manipulated by fear, either by foreign civilians or by our own leaders.

Never again will we let peace and reason be treated as dirty words.

Never again will we invade first and ask questions later.

Never again will we strike against entire nations over the horrendous crimes of a few dozen individuals (most of whom had never lived in either invaded nation).

Never again will we allow fear of “Islamic” fundamentalist repression to become an excuse for “Christian” fundamentalist repression.

Never again will we sacrifice our freedoms under the excuse of protecting them.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 8/29/11
Aug 29th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

  • Those of us who were looking forward to that separatist, elitist Burning Man institution’s imminent demise are outta luck. A nonprofit is being formed to take over future annual festivals. Among other effects, it means those who go there this year for the first time will get to annoy everybody back in their hometowns in subsequent years, with sermons about how much more “pure” the festival used to be.
  • Ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held a book signing in Tacoma. Antiwar activists, including the widow of a Ft. Lewis soldier who committed suicide, tried to disrupt the proceedings and got roughed up.
  • Can something really be done to stop drug selling in Belltown? I say, it’s not likely as long as the First Avenue glamour-bar scene keeps attracting so many affluent drug buyers.
  • Ain’t them Sounders something? Well, yes they are.
  • Despite the elimination of state tax breaks for filmmakers, one production is underway on the Eastside—a horrific true-life drama.
  • As Wash. state’s government payroll gets smaller, it’s also getting whiter. Gov. Gregoire’s response: more “staff reviews” and talk about the importance of diversity.
  • Gay marriage—here next year?
  • For reasons I won’t get into, I witnessed the closure of the (high level) West Seattle Bridge late Saturday night. Sadly, it wasn’t due to road work, but to a jumper, who eventually “succeeded.”
  • Gawker’s unsupported rant that Seattle was “a very annoying place” has made Seattlest’s “Seattle stereotyping hall of shame.”
  • Qaddafi, Gadaffi, Gadhafi, however you transliterate the name—he lived the typical dictator’s opulence amid public squalor. And his son and daughter-in-law were grotesquely brutal to the household staff, in ways unimaginable outside of a Japanese gore movie.
  • Megabucks campaign financing just continues to get bigger and more corrupt. But you knew that.
  • And Republicans increasingly bind themselves around an anti-science, anti-thinking ideology. But you already knew that.
  • Ad Age lists some lessons from past recessions, for those businesses that still need to sell tangible products to U.S. consumers.
  • I keep getting asked about this, so for the record: The L.A.-based chain In-N-Out Burger is not, repeat NOT, opening in Bellevue. Not this year, not next year. It was just an Eastside food blog’s April Fool’s gag. Need proof? Just look at the link in the story for “View renderings of the new restaurant here.”
RANDOM LINKS FOR 8/7/11
Aug 6th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

from gasolinealleyantiques.com

  • Just a reminder: I’ll be reporting (perhaps even “liveblogging,” just perhaps) Sunday from the hydroplane races.
  • And another reminder: The hydroplane boats are the stars of Seafair Sunday. The Blue Angels are the intermission act, and as such are expendable.
  • Today’s sermon against the waterfront tunnel project comes from activist Cheryl dos Remedios, who implores “Seattle’s arts and heritage community” to oppose the scheme.
  • You know when the Uptown Theater closed, and I said it was too bad SIFF didn’t take it over? Guess what—SIFF’s taking it over.
  • An AIDS remembrance billboard on the Broadway light-rail station construction fence was censored, because it showed a small blurry image of a guy’s butt. It’s another example of how our civic establishment prides itself on accepting alternative sexualities, but only as long as people don’t get too, you know, sexual about it.
  • An Army vet claims he was tortured by his fellow Americans as a prisoner in Iraq. His suit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cleared a legal hurdle this week.
  • Michael Moore remembers when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. Moore calls it the start of the war on the middle class.
  • Paul Krugman asks why the heck anybody still trusts those mortgage-bubble-crisis abettors at Standard & Poor’s anyway.
  • Catch-22 of the week: Employers only hiring folks if they’re already employed somewhere else.
  • Now that you’ve read this (and perhaps the articles linked hereto), go look at something real for a few moments to reduce “computer vision syndrome.”
IS EVERY DEATH TRAGIC? ACTUALLY, YES.
May 2nd, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

Like many loyal Americans, I was watching the 14-inning Mets/Phillies game last night when the first text messages came in on cell phones around the bar, followed by the scrolling news on ESPN’s “bottom line.”

My first thought: THIS is considered big news? Hadn’t bin Laden been unofficially declared dead four or five times now?

My second thought: Even in non-sports breaking news, ESPN’s “bottom line” managers were true Disney corporate loyalists, by referring their viewers to turn to ABC for the details.

My third thought: Just what was bin Laden’s organization responsible for in recent years, besides their own survival? Afghanistan’s networks of warlords and insurgents are basically home-grown. The revolts against the Middle East’s corrupt monarchies and dictatorships are also largely home-grown, and largely intended to replace those regimes with democracy or something like it, not with Iran-esque theocracies like bin Laden wanted.

Then, once the game was over (and two of the old Big Three broadcast networks had returned to regular programming), I saw the footage on ABC and the cable news channels of the small crowds gathering in NY and DC, well after midnight Eastern Time, whooping it up and chanting “USA! USA!”

Tacky, I thought.

David Sirota, as is to be expected, has more lucid thoughts:

…We have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys. Indeed, an America that once carefully refrained from flaunting gruesome pictures of our victims for fear of engaging in ugly death euphoria now ogles pictures of Uday and Qusay’s corpses, rejoices over images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging and throws a party at news that bin Laden was shot in the head.

This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory — he has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.

A few days ago, I sent out another of my occasional desperate Facebook messages asking if anyone knew of a day job I could take. I said specifically I wasn’t looking for a writing gig (even if it didn’t pay); I was looking for a paying gig (even if it wasn’t “writing”).

As always happens when I try this, most of the responses were either in the form of snide “humor” or of “You should write about…” topic suggestions. Exactly what I didn’t want.

And, of course, one of these topic suggestions is usually that I should write murder mysteries.

I hate murder mysteries, at least of the formula genre variety. The heroic (or anti-heroic) detective. The clues as a big puzzle; the admiration at the hero’s ability to solve it. The utter lack of mourning or any other authentic emotion. The wanton destruction of human life, depicted as light entertainment. (This last attribute is also why a lot of shows on Adult Swim don’t appeal to me.)

Today we have something ickier. We have people “celebrating” the killing of a man who was best known for “celebrating,” and taking credit for, thousands of others’ deaths.

If there is anything positive to note on this day, it is the more heartfelt responsed by the likes of Sirota and, at Huffington Post, by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush:

All humans have the potential for grace, but we also all have the potential to sin and do evil. It is a tempting yet dangerous practice to look around the world for evil people and target them. That is just what Osama Bin Laden thought he was doing. We must be vigilant that we do not become what we despise. We must be careful in the way we use religion and the name of God to further our own causes or to ever manipulate people into hate or hate.

So, let us mute our celebrations. Let any satisfaction be grim and grounded in the foundation of justice for all who have suffered at bin Laden’s bloody hands. And also justice for crimes against God — for using God as an instrument of terror and and promoting distrust between peoples of different religions and nations. Let us put bin Laden’s body in the ground, and in doing so bury his disastrous and blasphemous religious legacy.

HEY BABY, IT’S THE FOURTH OF JULY!
Jul 4th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

Once again, we celebrate the anniversary of colonial business bosses’ forcible  secession from the government that had made their success possible.

And once again, the American ideology of bottom-line-above-all has us in a mess. Several messes, in fact, and huge ones at that.

We now have a national economy based on, as Intel cofounder Andy Grove puts it, “highly paid people doing high-value-added work—and masses of unemployed.”

We have wars for oil, or more precisely for geopolitical alliances based on oil.

We have massive amounts of this self-same gunk polluting a seabed of incalculable value. We now know that it’s not one company’s fault. The entire industry was spending as little money or effort as legally possible on safety and cleanup (expenses which don’t immediately contribute to profits). The particular two or three companies behind Deepwater Horizon were simply the ones that happened to lose at this very American version of Russian roulette.

And around the country, state and local governments spar over how many social safety nets they can get away with letting rot—because, after all, asking anything from Sacred Business just isn’t done. Especially not here in the state By the Upscale, Of the Upscale, and For the Upscale.

But still, there is hope.

There is always hope, so long as America’s primal contradiction continues to hold.

I speak of the contradiction between America’s ugly realities (a nation built by financiers, conquerors, slavers, and merchant middlemen) and its lofty ideals (a nation professing devotion to freedom, justice, and democracy).

We came dangerously close in the Bush era toward resolving this contradiction in the worst way possible, by junking the ideals and becoming unabashed, unshameable mega-hustlers.

It didn’t work.

Even the furthest reaches of the Far Right found they could not win even core base support for their assorted schemes without making at least nominal appeals to citizens’ more noble natures.

That’s what the professional organizers and corporate lobbyists behind the faux-populist “tea party” nonsense understand. That’s why they disguise their ultra-corporate agenda in images of patriotic kitsch.

Even the money-grubbers’ and power-grabbers’ last remaining loyal followers believe in (at least the symbols 0f) America’s higher ideals.

This is an opportunity for those of us who wish to promote a more progressive agenda.

It’s why I still believe in what this land can become.

THE LEFT-HAND PAGE
Jun 21st, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

The book industry site Publishing Perspectives wrote recently about Barry Eisler, a liberal blogger and an author of “political thriller” novels.

He’s got a new novel out called Inside Out. It’s about, among other hot topics, America’s use of torture during the previous decade.

Eisler’s plugging the book on other lefty sites and radio shows.

Publishing Perspectives‘ take on this campaign: Why haven’t the  liberal media plugged books before?

Well, they have.

Ed Schultz, Jim Hightower, and the pre-senatorial Al Franken have each put out several essay collections.

Olbermann and Maddow are always interviewing authors and recommending titles. They sometimes plug the same book on three or more consecutive cablecasts.

The Nation has had at least two book-preview issues a year for as long as I’ve been reading it.

Huffington Post and Daily Kos each have plenty of book pieces.

As for this site, we’ll get back to looks at books soon. Promise.

THE OUGHTS IN REVIEW
Dec 31st, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

The Oughts In Review:
or, I Survived the Bush Junta and All I Got Was This Lousy iPod
WE’LL WONDER HOW WE EVER DID WITHOUT:
The whole WWW thang, social networking, smart phones, Netflix, Adobe Flash, Netroots organizing, Jon & Stephen, Keith & Rachel, HBO-style serial drama, digital video, Pixar, the gay-marriage movement.
WE’LL LOOK BACK AND LAUGH AT:
‘Sexting,’ Twitter, Auto Tune, tea parties, Jon & Kate Plus Eight, Glenn Beck, CGI-enhanced superhero movies, Sarah Palin, American Idol, Botox, the first dot-com frenzy, the second dot-com (“Web 2.0”) frenzy, the real-estate frenzy, the stock-market frenzy, the war frenzy.
ALTERNATE-HISTORY FANTASISTS WILL DREAM ABOUT WHAT IF:
Gore won, 9/11 was prevented, the print-media and music industries got their heads out of their asses, the New Orleans levees had been properly built.
ALREADY FORGOTTEN:
Y2K, Napster, $4 gas, Enron, Octomom, Balloon Boy.
ALREADY MISSED:
The P-I, the Sonics, Washington Mutual (pre-“WaMu”), “big book” catalogs, Tower Records, the Bon Marché (and all the other Macyfied stores), New Yorker Films, The Rocket, Sunset and Leilani Lanes, the Ballard Mannings/Denny’s, the International Channel, Olds/Pontiac/Saturn/Plymouth, Chubby & Tubby, the Twin Teepees, McLeod Residence, Northwest Afternoon, inauguration morning, Ted Kennedy, Pluto.
GOOD RIDDANCE TO:
Bush/Cheney, all the corrupt cronies of Bush/Cheney, all the graft-happy funders of Bush/Cheney, all the apologists and hucksters for Bush/Cheney (even the ones currently still on air and in print).

or,

I Survived the Bush Junta and All I Got Was This Lousy iPod

WE’LL WONDER HOW WE EVER DID WITHOUT:

The whole WWW thang, social networking, smart phones, Netflix, Adobe Flash, Netroots organizing, Jon & Stephen, Keith & Rachel, HBO-style serial drama, digital video, Pixar, the gay-marriage movement.

WE’LL LOOK BACK AND LAUGH AT:

‘Sexting,’ Twitter, Auto Tune, tea parties, Jon & Kate Plus Eight, Glenn Beck, CGI-enhanced superhero movies, Sarah Palin, American Idol, Botox, the first dot-com frenzy, the second dot-com (“Web 2.0”) frenzy, the real-estate frenzy, the stock-market frenzy, the war frenzy.

ALTERNATE-HISTORY FANTASISTS WILL DREAM ABOUT WHAT IF:

Gore won, 9/11 was prevented, the print-media and music industries got their heads out of their asses, the New Orleans levees had been properly built.

ALREADY FORGOTTEN:

Y2K, Napster, $4 gas, Enron, Octomom, Balloon Boy.

ALREADY MISSED:

The P-I, the Sonics, Washington Mutual (pre-“WaMu”), “big book” catalogs, Tower Records, the Bon Marché (and all the other Macyfied stores), New Yorker Films, The Rocket, Sunset and Leilani Lanes, the Ballard Mannings/Denny’s, the International Channel, Olds/Pontiac/Saturn/Plymouth, Chubby & Tubby, the Twin Teepees, McLeod Residence, Northwest Afternoon, inauguration morning, Ted Kennedy, Pluto.

GOOD RIDDANCE TO:

Bush/Cheney, all the corrupt cronies of Bush/Cheney, all the graft-happy funders of Bush/Cheney, all the apologists and hucksters for Bush/Cheney (even the ones currently still on air and in print).

WHAT REALLY WORKS
Dec 30th, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

Sixties antiwar organizer Mark Rudd insists in his essay “Beyond Magical Thinking” that…

Successful political movements do not spring fully formed. They require long-term, nuts-and-bolts organizing.

In other words, protesting, no matter how big and splashy, isn’t enough.

WHEN ‘HELP’ CAN HURT
Oct 27th, 2009 by admin

Besides the geopolitical false dream that is the “war on (some) terror,” prowar advocates tell us we should send even more troops into Afghanistan so we can protect the rights of that land’s women.

But, as Ann Jones writes in the Nation, what if the government we’re propping up over there is just as anti-woman as the Taliban reactionaries we’re fighting against?

Then Jones adds a wallop of a statistic—back in the ’70s, before the Soviet invasion led to the chaos that led to the Taliban,…

…Half the country’s doctors, more than half the civil servants and three-quarters of the teachers were women—a peaceful Afghanistan advanced slowly into the modern world through the efforts of all its people.

THE ESSAY'S CALLED…
May 11th, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

Architecture and Resistance,” but Leebus Woods offers advice suited to all. Examples:

Resist whatever seems inevitable.Resist people who seem invincible.

Resist the embrace of those who have lost.

Resist the flattery of those who have won.

Resist any idea that contains the word algorithm.

Resist the hope that you’ll get that big job.

Resist getting big jobs.

Resist the suggestion that you can only read Derrida in French.

Resist taking the path of least resistance.

Resist the growing conviction that They are right.

Resist the nagging feeling that They will win.

AS IT TURNS OUT,…
Mar 3rd, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

…the forthcoming posthumous/unfinished third novel by my main man David Foster Wallace touches upon a theme with which I’d recently been obsessed.

The novel is about people who find their mindfulness by taking on ultra-routine jobs at the Internal Revenue Service.

As D.T. Max quotes in The New Yorker, Wallace’s idea was that “Bliss—a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious—lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.”

I haven’t been pursuing employment at the IRS. But I have had a sequence of temp gigs for the county that involved equally rote tasks, performed accurately and performed all day. I found a great peace in simply going somewhere, doing something, and doing it well.

It may well be that my current search for renumerative employment could lead me back into the stress-filled realm of hustling for individual bottom-feeder freelance gigs.

But I’d enjoyed the clerical equivalent of chopping wood and carrying water. I could really do it some more.

GOODBYE, DALAI!
Apr 25th, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

It’s been a few weeks now since the big Seeds of Compassion mega-conference.

What have we learned?

In terms of left-brain rational learning, not a whole lot that hasn’t been said repeatedly in three decades of new-age philosophy. You’re a child of the universe. Be honest. Be conscientious. Be empathetic. Be kind to people. Take care of one another, especially kids. Spread love and joy. People are more important than power or profits. War is horrible, but so is repression. Vengeance only begets more vengeance.

But from there, the lessons got more subtle.

I’ll just mention one lesson invoked several speakers in the cablecast events—the lesson that empathy is deeper and more personal than mere sympathy.

Tim Harris’s blog, Apesa’s Lament (apesmaslament.blogspot.com), has been an outspoken critic of the city’s current homelessness policy. Harris believes Mayor Nickels is doing too little to find homes for people, while doing too much to harass the homeless into invisibility.

Harris recently noted that, earlier this year, official city documents called Nickels’s policy “consistent and compassionate.” But more recent documents, issued after the Seeds of Compassion conference, bill the city’s homeless policy as “consistent and humane.”

As Harris comments, “The word ‘compassion’ implies a certain amount of connectedness and having something at stake.” Conversely, he describes the adjective “humane” as “more associated with children, animals, and other somewhat helpless creatures.”

This distinction goes beyond the homeless and beyond our own town.

Do we treat other people (even the others we want to help or love) as The capital-O Other, as some exotic-but-lesser life form? Or do we acknowledge that we ARE they, they ARE we?

Taking this approach further, we belong to the same human family with all the group-types we Seattle liberals love to bash. Wal-Mart shoppers. Red-staters. Suburbanites. Churchgoers. Condo owners. People who eat meat. People who watch television. People who don’t smoke pot.

Yes, even white straight males.

IN WEDNESDAY'S NOOZE
Nov 28th, 2007 by Clark Humphrey

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