Animation makes everything easier

Maybe I’m just a visual learner, but animation makes ideas click so much more than long-winded abstractions and theories sometimes.  Remember that Marx for Beginners comic book?


David Harvey, renowned geographer (surprisingly one of the top 20 cited scholars in the world), has been giving lectures across the world on the economic crisis of 2008, its roots and effects (and only slightly the possibilities for resistance), which flow from his book titled The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism.

Possibly the most concise and coherent breakdown of the generalities involved in the latest crisis of c(r)apitalism are amassed in 11 minutes from Harvey’s lectures . Accessible to all AND it’s ANIMATED!



Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rooting for the Saints as I Occasionally Wish the Game Disappears

I only wish for the game of football to disappear because of the damage done to its players, both during the time they play and especially for the extremely high onset of dementia and trauma-related conditions that haunt them in middle-age, as brought together in an insightful essay by Malcolm Gladwell in a recent New Yorker.

He attempts, valiantly and provocatively, to bridge the gap between dogfighting and football (yes, a Michael Vick-related essay worth reading) by essentializing the giving or sacrificing of one’s health for the benefit of another. In the case of dogfighting, this means the dog incurs pain and injury-sometimes death-for its human owner. In football, it means the player continues or goes back to practice despite obvious signs of brain malfunction–like forgetting how to get home from a place after just driving there, or falling into walls and puking in the morning after waking up from a sober night–for the financial benefit of the owners, standing with other players and the artificial merriment of the fans. This parallel is profound and worthy of exploration, but still not fully fleshed out in this article. What are the differences between human-to-human relations in regard to self-destructive behavior versus a human-to-animal relationship? Are they even relationships or versions of ownership? One is “freely” accepted, but with money as bribe. Another not freely accepted, but accepted nonetheless with fondness and love as counterweight to pain and injury.

In the article, Gladwell interviews the top medicial scientists looking at deceased former NFL players’ brains. They have found incredible amounts of trauma tissue that contributes to a state of dementia often confused with Alzheimer’s. Often memory lapses and strange new, often destructive, behaviours emerge  in former players at rates from five to tenfold that of the average person. And often these effects are felt at a much earlier age. An 18-year-old football player who passed away showed more trauma signs in his brain than a regular person would at age 50.

However, there seems to be little in the way of field rules or regulations that could be done to stem the destruction of a football player’s brain. Limitation of full-contact practice. Shock-absorbent helmets.  Even kick-offs have been singled out as especially harmful, but even with certain modifications, the game is built on contact. Offensive and defensive lineman especially feel the brunt of this with fifty to seventy “little hits” of inadvertent helmet g-force on every play.  The hits don’t render immediate concussions, but the latest studies reveal how the build up of smaller consistent hits to the head and brain create a vulnerability to concussions that is almost unavoidable.  And if avoidable, the lack of concussions doesn’t decrease the brain ailments one could suffer not much later in life.

So, the Saints. I will be rooting for them Monday night to beat the Falcons. However, after reading this, I doubt I could ever let a child of mine play American football, but mainly the issue just needs to be open and honestly talked about. Because I feel the players aren’t “freely” making this decision to play in exchange for these lifelong post-football brain problems.  I might feel better with Drew Brees playing now if I knew that he knew he was likely sacrificing his last twenty years of life to be a revered multi-millionaire star.

Not that I have anything against that choice–let the flame burn brightly at both ends while it can burn, i say, rather than wait until it flickers out–but we should know that kind of info before making the devil’s wager.


Who DAT.


Published in: on November 1, 2009 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Accidental American in New Orleans

Tonight, at the Community Book Center in the 7th Ward, the authors of the new book The Accidental American and Danny Glover came to speak and support the work of Restaurant Opportunities Center-New Orleans. It is the local chapter of a organizing/union/advocacy group started in New York City within the last few years. One of the co-authors of the book, Fekkak Mamdouh, was a Morrocan-born waiter at a restaurant in the World Trade Center whose life was thrown into turmoil on 9/11. Mamdouh and Renku Sen, his co-author who works at the Applied Research Center, “describe how members of the largely immigrant food industry workforce managed to overcome divisions in the aftermath of 9/11 and form the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York to fight for jobs and more equitable treatment.”

Sen read from the book, Mamdouh told his personal story and the need for organizing, and special guest Danny Glover pinpointed the need “to connect the dots” between various causes so that we can support each others work. Then local ROC organizers took center stage, echoing their sentiments and agitating sympathizers to become supporters in a soon-to-be public campaign. Solidarity forever!

Published in: on March 4, 2009 at 1:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Veterans Day with the War STILL On

For most people in the United States, and perhaps the globe, the election of Barack Obama last week provided a time for celebration and a collective sigh of relief.  Among supporters, there is the anticipation of a sweeping change in our relationship to government in an ailing economic time driven by the neglect of our public infrastructure and financially withering social programs that are the bedrock of a successful republic–for me, this means support for quality and equal education and meaningful employment (with a humane healthcare system we’ve never had to allow us the pursuit of happiness…notice we are given the right to pursue, but not necessarily the right to have happiness).

We are at War and today is Veteran’s Day.  For a state holiday I don’t often take much time to revere-having the rigid sense that only hawkish people would value going to war-there is renewed purpose.  A week into the president-elect’s presidency, we ought to consider how infrequent America’s two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were talked about in the campaign, especially in the last few months of the Bailout Era.

This must be remedied.  As Aaron Glantz wrote for The Nation today, if we as a people do not learn from history and, unless we confront the consequences of war with urgency and humanity, we are doomed to repeat it.  In this case, of course, the parable is the last few years in Vietnam:

Both Barack Obama and John McCain barely mentioned the war in Iraq in their final debate. In his historic victory speech, Obama said “Iraq” only once. Some say the election results show Americans demanding a “change,” and in many ways they do. But they also show a collective desire to forget.

Most Americans want to put the war behind them, but this feeling is based not on a coherent critique but on a kind of collective exhaustion. In many ways, we as a country find ourselves in a mood like the one towards the end of the Vietnam War: we are tired and simply want to move on and forget the conflict ever happened.

Yet this feeling can come at a great cost, because it is this same dynamic that led to the betrayal of more than three million Vietnam veterans.

In a stunning statistic reiterated on today’s Democracy Now! interview with Glantz, 18 veterans commit suicide every day according to the Department of Veterans Affairs own data.

We have not come to grips with the cost of war despite the overwhelming evidence: 200,000 veterans are homeless, which is approximately one-third of the homeless population in this country; the incredible physical and mental health needs of veterans; and, perhaps most importantly, the continued myth of the effectiveness of war to solve complex problems.

This myth is possible to continue in the non-militarized section of society through the continued suppression and silencing of military veterans’ dissent and the absence of courageous individuals in power to confront the military-industrial complex (Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Rep. Tom Allen embodying two lonesome examples).   After making speeches in Chicago opposing the Second Iraq War in 2003, Obama continually hedges on the issue and makes great concessions to militarization in general, advocating for increased troop levels in Afghanistan.  Obama’s campaign narrative of “change” toward Bush’s style of militarization seems a half-hearted shadow of his earlier political maneuvering and hypocritical, especially since he is considering leaving Defense Secretary Robert Gates at his post.

Of course, since 1941 America has almost always been at war.  As documented in books such as “Killing Hope” by William Blum and “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace” by Gore Vidal, the United States has had overt and clandestine (CIA) misadventures in reaches as far and wide as Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Grenada, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq (the first time), Vietnam, Korea, Panama, East Timor…the list goes on.  This is partly due to the state’s concession to what Eisenhower warned as “the military-industrial complex,” which is explicated in the recent film “Why We Fight.”  Despite the wishes of our most respected founding father, George Washington, to have no standing army, the myth of war’s effectiveness has become ingrained in the American psyche to the point of insanity.

“This war,” expectedly, is said again to be in defense of American citizens’ freedoms and rights.

Yet, when Iraq Veterans Against the War attempted to ask both McCain and Obama questions on the U.S. war in Iraq, to “redress grievances” as they phrased it, at the final debate on Hofstra University’s campus they were met with mounted police.  Under the right to peaceably assemble and freedom of speech, 15 veterans crossed a police line outside of the debate and were attacked without cause by police on horses.  One person was trampled, suffering a broken cheekbone.  Yesterday all fifteen entered not guilty pleas in court.

After witnessing police at the DNC and reading the history of police in Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America, these actions are not shocking at all, in fact they are expected behavior for people who are essentially bribed through wages and other benefits to protect the interests of the upper classes in the name of “order.”  Many of the police are no doubt veterans themselves, considering the overlapping skillset in each profession.

In August, Iraq Veterans Against the War marched on the Pepsi Center in Denver to petition the Democratic Party and its nominee Barack Obama to fulfill its anti-war promises and agree to the veterans’ demands: return troops home immediately, healthcare and full benefits to returning veterans and reparations to the Iraqi people for U.S. destruction of their society.  There was a tense extended stand-off between police and the veterans who were in uniform and in formation just outside the gates to the Democratic National Convention.  Everyone readied for pepper spray and arrests.  Veterans made megaphone appeals to the heavily armed police, speaking to them as brothers and sisters who understood the pressures on them and how they are used as tools for the state.  But at the last moment, in a move that Machiavelli would approve of, Obama defused the situation by sending an aide to hear the veterans’ demands and carte blanche to accept whatever they were.  Obama made sure the convention remained without controversy and knew that, absent of pepperspray or mass arrests, the press’ attention would likely focus inside the Pepsi Center.

A friend of mine wrote about his experience as a media marshall, holding back those pushy aggressive photographers.  He was exhausted from four hours of marching, negotiating and fretting with the press and yet he relayed to me afterward that it was one of the most powerful events of his life:

There is a vision in my head now of seeing the once armed call for peace.  It was a dream being resurrected from my parents generation, a faint whisper of a dream sung to me at bedtime when I was a child.  It was a hope more powerful than anything Barak Obama could give us…

…Still, a day later I can find almost no press coverage of the event.  I had never seen so many reporters in my life.  Where did their stories go?  Killed at the editor’s desk no doubt. Those that I found published in national media were done so in obscure online galleries or washed of most of the meaning.  As for Barak Obama, there has been no public acknowledgment of any pledge to help the veterans.

It is in his interest to marginalize Iraq Veterans Against the War by not acknowledging his pledge publicly–it kept him in a centrist role heading into the election and will leave his options open as president.  It is obvious that he is accountable to the elite of Congress and not to those people most affected.  And this structure will remain in place until enough people in our culture and society make it known that war is an unacceptable solution that only breeds greater consequences.  Or until enough G.I.’s revolt.

Even the statements I recently found from a West Point professor–“There is no glory in war, only suffering.  No victors, only the living”–would be sage advice to the president-elect and our society at-large.  From this understanding, hopefully we can learn to divest ourselves from the myth of war as an effective strategy to bring justice, in which there are heroes and victors.

This Veterans’ Day, let us talk candidly and urgently of the consequences of war. Let us support the veterans of wars who are witnesses to its horrors and who act to oppose it.  Let us be creative and dynamic in working out alternatives and solutions to war and violence whether between nations or between friends.

Is it not a violently irresponsible government which permits 18 veterans to kill themselves each day from its own actions?  Is it not a violently irresponsible government which dismisses veterans’ right to petition and assemble by sending the police to attack them?

Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Nobody for President, Everyone for Liberation: at the Democratic National Convention – Denver

Flags. Banners. Suit-wearing delegates from fifty states. 15,000 media people (not sure I count). Mountains all around and yet 90 degrees.

I am here in Denver for the Democratic National Convention. Let’s hope that I am not here at any point during the week. Though if they would let me in with a camera…

I was also told by a close source that Denver City Council quickly passed an ordinance in the past two weeks making it illegal to carry any type of human or animal waste, whether it be piss or shit or manure or in any type of bottle or vat, since they got wind of one group’s brilliant idea to chuck said waste at delegates and/or representatives in an affable “you’re full of shit” communique.

I’ll be taking photos all week and will post the best here and more elsewhere. I’ll also be contributing to the independent media scene in Denver by posting to Colorado’s Independent Media Center. But look for a daily wrap-up/unwind.

For DNC events check: (music, free university, nonviolence trainings…) (Denver’s “alternative” weekly, kind of like Gambit in New Orleans)

Published in: on August 22, 2008 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Orleans’ Update

This is a letter I recently wrote to a friend also on the Gulf Coast as an update on the situation in New Orleans. I am a slacker and this conveniently covers much of what I was planning to write. Will add more as time and internet access permits.

New Orleans is transitioning in its political scope, looking at long-term solutions, such as the office of the inspector general and the successfully tacked on independent police monitor (which i helped do some research on and was in the council chambers today to support). Today, the city council also voted in favor of this vague Master Plan zoning, which is as of yet an unwritten but mandated plan that has to be reviewed at least every five years and no more than once a year. So it’s weird because there are so few safeguards to prevent the zoning plan from taking away individual property rights like the VA-LSU hospital plan in mid-city…you know, that old eminent domain, for the greater good thing. But the zoning plan is a positive for some folks in that it will be a city-wide comprehensive standard that would draw business and development investment into the city, something that many argue is holding back the full recovery.

These are both proposals to add to the City Charter, which can only be changed through a popular ballot vote….to be held in the fall. But it seemed the hardest part was getting them through the city council (and getting the support of the police orgs, which was somehow miraculously done).

Also, there is a burgeoning citizen participation process being developed and I’m attending the inaugural summit this weekend. I’m still ruminating on my role in this whole process, kind of trying to get advice from my landlady who should have gone but doesn’t want to. I will try to bring my full self and that’s all I can do.

Other than that, I’ve been going blueberry picking in MIssissippi several weekends and been making tasty smoothies for these ninety degree days. I was just told, not unusually, that I had something, a lot of something in my teeth–blueberry skins indeed.