Friday, November 26, 2010

rising intonations: time-saver? or gender-bending?

since when did people begin using a rising intonation when talking casually, telling stories?

'so, i was at the store? and there was this crazy-looking dude over by the egg nog? and he was freaking me out, cuz one of his eyes was glowing green? . . "

i've found myself doing it occasionally. is it a replacement of the so-called 'tag question'? 'so i was in the store, right?/ya know?' if so, it seems to be a more efficient method to get the same intonation. spoken language is like water, always ready to flow toward easier, more effortless channels.

or is it an invasion by previously 'women's speech' (of some region or age group?) into general talk? if so, it is a significant breach of former gender boundaries. women, as the inferior caste, are allowed to freely borrow men's symbols of speech or dress -- but the opposite, men borrowing women's things, is highly charged with stigma. i associate it with an uncertainty common to young women. maybe that is why i still avoid it.

it is usually used in story-telling. in that context, i think it has another function: a place holder as i finish a sentence. it seems to say, 'ok, i'm not done yet, hold on, i'm telling a story.' i would love to know where

american monarchy in our midst

taken from "what to do about guantanamo?" by david cole in the new york review of books, october 14, 2010.

'even the physical design of the guantanamo courtroom is shaped by the desire to conceal our own abuses. a soundproof glass wall separates the onlookers from the trial participants, so that the only way an observer can hear what is going on is thru headphones with a 40 second delay. the reason, according to denny leboeuf, an ACLU lawyer advising on the defense of several detainees, is "the Rule: detainees are forbidden from speaking about their torture." remarkably, the US government has declared 'classified' anything that the detainees say about their torture, and has required the lawyers, as a condition of access to their clients, to keep secret all details of their clients' treatment at the hands of their interrogators. but of course, the US cannot compel the detainees themselves not to speak of the unspeakable. the only way it can keep them from telling their stories is by keeping them detained, behind bars, behind glass, silenced.'

one cannot claim to revere the founding fathers and at the same time support what has been done at guantanamo. above all else those men advocated the rule of law, a law which transcended the power of kings and princes to exercise arbitrary power. what bush accomplished in establishing guantanamo was to wield power much like the monarchs our founding fathers supposedly banished from american shores: the men interred there were to be there not based on objective evidence and legal rulings, but on the say-so of the executive branch. from the word of the king, in other words.

600 former prisoners there have been released -- without charge, without apology. what does that fact say about the judgment of our presidents-in-chief, our presumptive monarchs? supposedly, everyone put there was already judged guilty of crimes. if that is so, why were they then released? it can only be that there was no evidence against them. but there will be no apology or compensation to the innocent because that would open up the collective amnesia our power structure has decided is necessary to, in the cliche, 'move forward.' but anyone who has read history knows, there is no such thing as wiping away the past thru willful effort. it always returns.

i say, why not stick to our hundreds-year-old legal system? isn't the law smarter and fairer than bush, obama, and their lackeys? isn't the law better than any particular government? why aren't those who revere the founding fathers on the Right making these same arguments? why the silence? could it be that the founding fathers are revered merely as religious symbols, shorn of the actual legal concepts they laid down? mere decorative knick-knacks to make us feel better about our own complicity in the crimes of power?

i don't understand the contradiction of hating excessive government power ('big government') and avidly supporting the monarchical tendencies of the executive branch (guantanamo). this is an intellectual schizophrenia from which we must awaken. the sooner the better. old secrets resurface with the most pain.

so far, i have not seen encouraging signs even from so-called libertarians newly-elected. their libertarianism, apparently, is decorative in nature.

Monday, November 22, 2010

stealing other people's land -- with US help

This is a portion of an article posted on The Jerusalem Fund's website. Read it and judge for yourself whether the US can both assist this type of theft and make peace in Palestine/Israel. By the way, we should stop calling that fictitious 'process' a 'peace process.' What is needed is an 'independence process,' since Palestinian occupation is the issue here. Can you think of any other place in the world where independence of a colonized land was discussed as a 'peace process'? Did the US achieve independence by setting up a 'peace process' with one of England's good friends? Peace will come only when Israel gets off the land it stole in 1967, and makes a good-faith effort to deal with the theft committed in 1948. The phrase 'peace process' euphemizes the power imbalance between the two sides, making it seem as if the problem is just a general 'violence' between two equal groups. Wake up, America: Israel -- with our help -- is the bully, the thief, the occupier. For fair-minded people like Americans, such an immoral position (standing against the underdog) can only be maintained through large doses of deception and self-deception.

Ethnically Cleaning Silwan

Silwan is an Arab village adjacent to Jerusalem's Old City, extending along the Kidron Valley alongside the eastern slopes of Jabal al-Mukaber, another Arab community. Home to about 45,000 people, it's one of 28 Palestinian villages incorporated into East Jerusalem. For years, settler encroachment fueled controversy and conflict. So does the area's historical importance, archeology used for displacement to legitimize Jewish claims.

Excavations have already claimed large tracts of Silwan land. The militant right-wing settler group Elad, funded largely by US donors, controls them. Its web site tells its own version of history. It also conducts tours to convince visitors of its Jewish origin.

For their part, Palestinians are contesting, explaining their important history. Different versions fuel conflict, Haaretz writers Nir Hasson and Jonathan Lis, on October 12 headlining, "Life in Silwan: Unbearable for Jews and Palestinians alike," saying:

"The pattern of Jewish settlement (there) is unlike anywhere else, with some 70 Jewish families (around 500 people) in 15 locations, islands among tens of thousands of Palestinians. The resulting friction requires the presence of dozens of security guards and surveillance cameras."

Palestinians complain about their presence and heavy-handed police tactics. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel said settlers carry weapons, Jewish/Arab relations thus tense over shootings, deaths and arrests. Moreover, Palestinian homes are being demolished for planned parks, open spaces, restaurants, boutique hotels, and Jewish-only housing.

Al-Bustan is a Silwan neighborhood, across from the Jerusalem's Old City. Home to about 1,500 residents, they're threatened with displacement, the Municipality of Jerusalem claiming no permits were issued to build in areas designated for open space and a archeological park.

On February 22, 2009, they were ordered out in 72 hours to make way for expanding Israel's City of David archeological site, a Jewish heritage project involving removing Palestinians whose history goes back centuries. Residents contested their right to stay, the Al Bustan Popular Committee (BPC) working with lawyers in Israeli courts. Nonetheless, demolition orders are issued and in other city neighborhoods, part of Israel's systematic Judaization process.

Monday, November 15, 2010

the roar of money

the roar of money overwhelms reasoned voices, hijacking some for its own purposes, simply drowning out the rest.

the recent documentary film about charter schools, 'waiting for superman,' is a great example. just as with the health care industry (and health care reform) previously, the floods of money pouring into education (as a profit-making investment) seize control of the agenda and give an appearance of a groundswell of support for certain policies. it is unfortunate that the filmmaker, a man with an elite private school background, should be suckered into bashing public schools. he magnifies slivers of truth (that a small percentage of charter schools, for example, do an excellent job teaching kids) to create a perception of inevitability and reasonability around his proposed goal of taking the wrecking ball to whole swaths of the public system. and the beneficiaries: investors. the other national systems he praises in the film -- finland, for example -- did not amputate their own system, firing teachers wholesale and opening it up for profit, the measures he advocates. rather, that country strengthened the teaching force, investing in it long term.

but money is impatient; it roars with vibrant energy; lately its feeding ground, financial 'services,' has been reduced; it leaps against the remaining barriers to its wriggling movement. long term does not interest money or its elitist managers.

moneyed interests similarly took over health care reform, either emasculating strong positive measures or enshrining frankly profit-oriented measures. in one respect, GOP criticism was correct, if made in bad faith: the resulting measures do little to bring down costs. but the GOP would never agree to the one thing that would really (as opposed to incrementally, as in limiting lawsuits) bring down costs: establish a national health care system. the GOP is protecting private profits while pretending to protect the public interest. unfortunately, key democratic leaders are in the same ball game. Chuck Schumer is one.

hear the roar of money! from a little distance, through the TV playing in the other room, it almost sounds like democracy, the voice of the people! no. no, we are in a new guilded age, assisted by a pro-money supreme court and a pro-money senate. hear its deafening roar, a turbulence we'll grow accustomed to over decades to come.