Sunday, April 29, 2007

In Which I Spend The Evening With Greg Palast!

This is the third time I've been to see Greg Palast speak and he did not disappoint. I went to see him at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, a beautiful old church that hosted him last time he was in LA. He's doing a book tour to promote the paperback edition of "Armed Madhouse", complete with updated material about the plan to steal 08 - and what we can do to steal it back!

The evening started out with a showing of his documentary about New Orleans, "Big Easy To Big Empty". Although we were in a smaller part of the church than when Armed Madhouse was first released, the place was packed - standing room only. This was the film that got Palast and his crew arrested by Homeland Security (is it just me, or does that term smack of "Der Vaterland" or "Deutschland Über Alles"?) for 'violating the anti-terror laws'. Yes - Palast and company committed the heinous, seditious offense of filming the evacuees in "Guantánamo - Platinum Edition" in their cheap little trailers surrounded by razor wire a hundred miles from New Orleans, while including the lovely, scenic backdrop of Exxon' Baton Rouge refinery, and the surrounding neighborhood affectionately known as 'Cancer Alley'. That is strictly verboten as the refinery is a CAVIP, “Critical Asset and Vulnerable Infrastructure Point.” Apparently, you can’t film a CAVIP. Tell that to Google Earth.

One of the more shocking but not surprising aspects of the New Orleans debacle was the fact that they were closing off the public housing, adjacent to that commercialized tourist mecca, the French Quarter, to the former residents, who were not even allowed back in to get their belongings - even though the buildings were not damaged by Katrina! That's right, they have decided that the land is far too valuable for poor black folk to live in, and are taking this golden opportunity to do what they've wanted to do for years - get rid of the public housing there and develop it so that rich folks could be close to the entertainment!

After the movie, he talked about the connection between the fired US attorneys and the election fraud that the Rove-bots (as he calls them) are continuing to perpetrate. He is always inspiring because, although he pulls no punches as he lays out the facts, he believes that if we take action, we can stop these thugs and take our democracy back if we choose to do so. If he didn't think that, he wouldn't be writing and speaking out.

When he signed my book, he remembered me and Hooterville from the other times I've been to see him and told me he'd send me another copy to review for the blog. The copy he signed to Hooterville I am going to give away in another "Habitat for Hooterville" Katrina relief fundraiser, so stay tuned! They still need us down there, friends! The Bush Administration sure as sh** isn't going to do anything worth talking about.

I also met Bree Walker, who introduced Greg Palast. She has a Saturday afternoon show on our progressive station KTLK. Her ex-husband is an old friend from the club my band has played at for 10 years, and he produces her show. He had talked to me about coming on the show, but I hadn't met Bree. I introduced myself, and we had a great conversation. It turns out she had come to see my old band the Scarletts, who her ex had raved about. She is amazing - really intelligent, sharp and well-informed, and just as sweet as she could be. I told her what the book was about, and she was way enthusiastic and said, "Come on the show, and let's get your book out there!"

All in all, it was a very fine evening. I'm looking forward to posting more about Greg Palast's book, and doing another "Habitat For Hooterville".

(The picture's kind of blurry, but it was taken by a kind passerby and there wasn't time to focus.)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Night Thoughts

Still not so good with keeping up the posting. So much is happening so quickly! A couple of weeks ago I went to Phoenix to the Nova M Radio anniversary party. It was a wonderful gathering, and it was great to meet so many interesting, smart progressives (Bill, if you're reading this, please e-mail me! I lost your address!). I finally got to meet Mike Malloy in person, and was able to thank him for helping me get a book contract by reading my posts on the air. He was just as nice in person as he is on radio (unless you are a member of or fellow-traveler of the Bush Crime Family, that is!). He has agreed to write a blurb for me. I also got to see Thom Hartmann, who I became aware of when I was diagnosed with ADD 7 years ago - his "A Different Perception - the Hunter/Farmer book" changed my life. He's also offered to write me a blurb!

Tomorrow night I am going to see Greg Palast speak - this will be my 3rd time seeing him. He makes me want to be an investigative journalist. I am just in awe of what he does, and the way he digs for the information and puts it together for us. I will try to get pictures, and fill you in on Greg's latest - he's always a couple of years ahead of the pack.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Cool New Blog - Check It Out!

There's a new kid in town - actually a few of them. However, they are anything but kids - they are teens and young adults who have started a fabulous new progressive blog called YOUTHinkLeft. I found out about them from a new commenter on FDL named FrecklesCassie, a very smart and well-informed teen - actually, more well-informed and smart than most of the adults I know. According to their 'about' statement, "YOUTHinkLeft is a revolutionary community of teen-young adult liberal-progressive bloggers." Their new blog is extremely well-designed and put together, but what sets them apart is the quality of the writing, their sharp analysis and the passion they have for making their voices heard.

I would urge anyone who visits here to please do yourself a favor and check out YOUTHinkLeft.

What's In A Word? The Power of Hate Speech and the Big Lie

In the process of working on my book and examining the reasons why people vote the way they do, I've been reading a lot of Dr. Bob Altemeyer, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Manitoba. He has written extensively on authoritarianism, and was a major source of material for John Dean's book Conservatives Without Conscience. In the interests of finding out as much as I can about the authoritarian personality, I bought his textbook, The Authoritarian Specter, from Harvard Press, and came across some interesting data.

Most people have heard of the Milgram experiment, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. When told to administer 'electric shocks' (which were not real - the 'victims' were in on the experiment) to people behind a one-way glass if they flubbed 'test questions', there were many subjects who, after being assured complete anonymity , administered horrific 'shocks' to the 'victims' after being given stern orders to do so by the 'experimenter'. If you haven't heard of this study, I urge you to look into it. It was one of many studies undertaken since WW II to find out if what happened in Nazi Germany could happen here.

Dr. Altemeyer, as a psychology professor, has done many, many studies on authoritarian behavior to assess people' s tendencies toward or against what he calls 'Right-Wing Authoritarian' thinking (he uses the terms 'High RWA' and 'Low RWA' instead of 'conservative' and 'liberal' to de-politicize it) and the book is fascinating reading. The chapter that I found the most disturbing, however, was one entitled "The Effects of Hate Literature". It puts forth an unsettling question about freedom of speech (which, for the record, both Dr. Altemeyer and I believe in, whether it's convenient or not.)

This chapter focused on tests of how subjects responded to questions about whether the Holocaust actually happened before and after they read an article 'debunking' the Holocaust, written by an ex-SS officer who was stationed at Auschwitz. In this article, Thiess Christopherson asserts that there were no gassings, that the prisoners there were treated kindly, fed well and were allowed to walk around freely. There were movies. There were church services and a theater group. The medical experiments were 'humane and beneficial'. Along with the article were many photographs of him and his wife strolling about the grounds of Auschwitz on a 'second honeymoon', having dinner, women inmates contentedly working in the fields. He claimed that there could not possibly have been a Holocaust because there were supposedly 'more Jews in Germany after the war than before'.

What were the results of this test, before and after reading the article? I was astounded to find that the number of people who believed that the Holocaust had occurred was cut in half after reading that article!

Cut in half.

Just stop and think about that for a minute.

One short and ridiculously fabricated article.

Not only was it cut in half, but, what's even more disturbing to me, it was cut in half in High RWAs and Low RWAs equally! This means that liberals and conservatives were equally susceptible to the Big Lie.

Next, Altemeyer chose an article containing the confession of Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz, detailing at great length the atrocities committed there. He divided the study group into three groups - one which received Hoess' confession, one which received the Christopherson denial, and one which received both. The group who received the confession remained relatively unchanged in their belief in the Holocaust. The second group, who recieved the denial piece, dropped significantly in their belief. And the third group, who received both, believed Christopherson; even having read Hoess' confession, their belief dropped only slightly less than the group who read the Christopherson account only.

Altemeyer also conducted some studies of the same type regarding attitudes toward feminism and homosexuality. Hostility toward both increased with the reading of articles attacking them. Even when coupled with a statement by the professor administering the test denouncing the articles, both High RWAs and Low RWAs were distinctly less likely to support women's and gay rights after reading these articles.

This is a frightening statement. It shows that, when confronted with two opposing ideas (one false and one true) many people will believe what they are already prone to believe or wish to believe, rather that what is factually accurate. And it's not just conservatives, either, as these studies show.

Dr. Altemeyer concludes, and I have to agree, that the Big Lie works. Even when put forth alongside the truth! I was aware, as many of us are, that a lie repeated enough times will be viewed as the truth. But I was not aware that a lie, next to the truth, can beat the truth, if people have some need to believe the lie. Whether it's fear, or greed, or a combination of both, this has been shown to have a devastating effect on our society.

So, how to combat this? For one thing, we can't let the Big Lies go unchallenged. The truth will have an effect on some people, and we cannot let these lies have the final word. For another thing, we need to examine how our students are being taught to think. Dr. Altemeyer says. at the end of this chapter (from his point of view as an educator):
"We have to do a much, much better job teaching people to think critically. If the students we have taught fall for absurd arguments, ridiculous reasoning and ersatz evidence - including even the Low RWAs - then we should have to give back part of our salaries. For we have failed worse than they. I think we have to make strenuous, positive efforts to tell the truth. if we do not, we leave the field to those who would destroy all we have struggled to accomplish, while they tell the Big Lie that they are trying to protect democracy."

Pretty sobering when you think about it - especially since this book was published in 1996, before the Kowboy Koward of Krawford and his murderous posse trampled over our democracy to lasso and hogtie our government, without a peep from the sheep.

Yee haw.

For more up-to-date work from Dr. Altemeyer, check out his new online book, The Authoritarians.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill Donohoe!

This is the second time this creepy Bill Donohoe person has intruded into my thought-space. I first heard of him when the story came out about the bloggers who were hired by John Edwards, and subsequently attacked by said Donohoe, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, for hiring bloggers who had written anti-Catholic posts on their own blogs. In doing so, there has been a legal question raised about his using his position in the Catholic League, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, to attempt to intervene in a political campaign.

From what I can tell, the Donohoe creature is a media ho extraordinaire. As Jeffrey Feldman of Frameshop has pointed out, he "has made a career by claiming that even the most trivial mention of Christianity should be treated as a violent hate crime or genocidal atrocity." In fact, he once condemned an onion-dip ad as an anti-Catholic 'atrocity'. He's a busy guy. And for some unfathomable reason, he's treated by the media as a person whose opinion carries weight. Could it be because of the other people on the board of advisors of this wing-nut organization? People like Brent Bozell III, Linda Chavez, Dinesh D’Souza, Alan Keyes, Kate O’Beirne? It's fairly clear that if you look closely at this organization, it is more like a far-right Republican political organization wearing a thin, shabby cloak of 'religion'.

So, what's the latest with Wild Bill? Apparently he's got his panties in a wad about a sculpture. Artist Cosimo Cavallaro, who often uses food as a medium, has created a work of art entitled "My Sweet Lord" - a life-sized sculpture of an anatomically-correct crucified Jesus made of milk chocolate. It was scheduled to be shown at the Lab art gallery housed in the The Roger Smith Hotel in midtown Manhattan, which decided to cancel the exhibition after Bill Donohoe and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called for a boycott. When interviewed or questioned by someone who doesn't drink the Kool-Aid, he falls back on schoolyard-bully rhetoric, at one point crowing, "I got a job, and you don't!" at Cavallero, who very ably called him on his crap.

Apparently it was the idea that Jesus could actually have a penis that has thrown these people into conniptions.

In another vein, Michelle Malkin, in an attempt to secure a spot at the top of the right-wing slag heap, has called for a fatwa against furriners - a special club for those who are itching to alert the authorities about any suspicious characters they may see who look like they might be out to 'hurt America'. To this end she has composed a Manifesto, along with a secret handshake, pinkie swear and decoder ring.

What's the connection?

The razor-sharp claws of TRex from Firedoglake have taken a swipe at the controversy, and he has started his own Kool Klub, complete with the "Chocolate Jesus Manifesto":

Dear Talibangelical Christian Terrorist/Censor/Supporter/Apologist,

You do not know me, but I am on the lookout for you. I am your enemy. And you are mine.

I am Chocolate Jesus.

I am in your homeowners' association, I am on your plane, I am writing for your magazine, I am a parent at your childrens' school, I am on your editorial board, and I am your coworker.

I am Chocolate Jesus.

I will never forget that this nation was founded on religious and personal freedom, that the United States is not a theocracy, and that we have no monolithic national faith.

I will never forget your attempts to force your religious superstitions into the public sphere. I will always remember your crusades to pollute our government with a bunch of moralistic hogwash, and the billions of dollars every year that go uncollected in taxes on corporate christianity, not to mention the thousands of legislative hours that have been wasted as you have sought to impose your Medieval prejudices on American law.

I am Chocolate Jesus.

I will never forget the humiliating defeats you have suffered in your efforts to subvert science and teach fairy tales as fact in public schools. I will fight you to see that my childrens' education is untainted by religionist dogma. I will fight your attempts to burn books, silence oppositon, and reduce the choices of every person in America.

I will never forget your murder of abortion providers, I will never forgive your gay-bashing, your race-hating, and your assaults on the reproductive freedoms of women. I will never falter in this fight. I will never make the mistake of thinking that you are rational, reasoning, or worth listening to at all. You are ideological poison, and it is my duty as a conscientious citizen to fight your brainwashing, ridicule your distortions, and counter your violent threats.

You are my country's real terrorists. You are American jihadi. You are my sworn enemies and I will fight you for my rights and for equal protection under the law until the day I die. If you want to try to silence me, then you better plan on killing me, because as long as I have a voice, I will be using it to fight you. This is my country, founded by a bunch of people who didn't want to be told how to worship God.

And we're going to keep it that way. I will resist all attempts to impose faux-Christian law in my schools, at my church, at work, on the Internet, at the public pool, and in all the areas of my town. You can do whatever you want in your church, but I will fight until my knuckles bleed to make sure your church stays at church and out of my government and for fuck's sake, out of my bedroom.

I am Chocolate Jesus.

I will not submit to your will. I will not be intimidated.





Eat me.

Sweet! Sounds good to me. I can sink my teeth into that!