Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Handy Guide To Understanding the US State Department's Position on Egypt

Like everyone else I am still reeling from the unfolding events of the January 25th Revolution in Egypt. Some people have begun writing about it beautifully but I am not quite there yet. Soon I'll publish a link round up to the great reporting being done by bloggers and alternative media journalists on the ground in Cairo, but in the mean time here is handy guide to translating US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's recent statement about the US position on Egypt. It is pure genius.

More soon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fair for Knowledge: Hair (January 30 at the Brooklyn Flea)

Fair for Knowledge: Hair

Featuring Laurel Braitman (historian of science), Barbara Cassin (philosopher and philologist), Cécile Guilbert (essayist), Justin E. H. Smith (philosopher), John Strausbaugh (author), and Sophie Wahnich (historian), seated at special tables designed by artist Gareth Long

An event organized by Cabinet and co-presented as part of Villa Gillet's "Walls and Bridges" series

Date: Sunday, 30 January 2011, 2–6 pm
Location: Brooklyn Flea, 1 Hanson Place (at Flatbush Avenue; map and directions here)
FREE. No RSVP necessary.

"Designed to encourage an informal, social, and open mode of learning, Cabinet's series of "fairs for knowledge" aims to create bridges between specialists and the general public by providing unusual venues for short one-on-one discussions between an expert and a member of the general public. In this first installment, six writers will be seated at special tables placed between the regular stalls of the Brooklyn Flea and be ready to engage the public in conversation on a topic that occupies our minds a great deal but is considered too lowly to be worthy of serious reflection—hair.

Come and brush up on “hair plucking” among anxious captive animals; Mary Magdalene’s hair as described in the Bible; fashion, hairdos, and underwear; hairlessness as a signifier of rationality in the history of philosophy; the exceptional hairstyles of rock stars; shaved women and the symbolic loss of power in the French revolution; and more!"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Right-Wing Terrorism: Murders Grow on the Far Right Four Decades After Martin Luther King Jr.

Right-Wing Terrorism: Murders Grow on the Far Right Four Decades After Martin Luther King Jr.

The American landscape is pockmarked by the wreckage left behind by angry, white male extremists.

The landscape of America is littered with bodies.

They’ve been gunned down in Tucson, shot to death at the Pentagon, and blown away at the Holocaust Museum, as well as in Wichita, Knoxville, Pittsburgh, Brockton, and Okaloosa County, Florida.

Total body count for these incidents: 19 dead, 26 wounded.

Not much, you might say, when taken in the context of about 30,000 gun-related deaths annually nationwide. As it happens, though, these murders over the past couple of years have some common threads. All involved white gunmen with ties to racist or right-wing groups or who harbored deep suspicions of “the government.” Many involved the killing of police officers.

In Pittsburgh, three police officers were shot and killed, while two were wounded in an April 2009 gun battle with Richard Poplawski, a white supremacist fearful that President Obama planned to curtail his gun rights. In Okaloosa County, Florida, two officers were slain in April 2009 in an altercation with Joshua Cartwright, whose abused wife told the police that her husband “believed that the U.S. Government was conspiring against him” and that he was “severely disturbed that Barack Obama had been elected President.”

At the Pentagon, an anti-government conspiracy theorist, John Patrick Bedell, wounded two police officers in March of last year before being shot to death. At the Holocaust Museum in 2009, James W. Von Brunn, a white supremacist, gunned down a security guard before being wounded and subdued by two other security guards.

Government officials, of course, have also been targets of the gunmen, as demonstrated so vividly by the recent shootings in Tucson, where Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others were wounded, and one of Giffords’s staff members and a federal judge were among the six dead.

Churches Are No Sanctuary from Christian Extremists

Two of these shootings took place within the sanctuary of churches. In Wichita in 2009, Dr. George Tiller was gunned down by anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder. Tiller was serving as an usher during a Sunday morning service at Reformation Lutheran Church when he was shot. The attack in Knoxville, which left two dead and six injured in July 2008, occurred at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church while 25 children were performing Annie Jr. Killer Jim David Adkisson said he hated Democrats and deemed the church part of the “liberal movement.” Adkisson opened fire with a shotgun on an audience of about 200. In Brockton, Massachusetts, in January 2009, neo-Nazi Keith Luke sought to storm a synagogue, but never made it, authorities claim. According to a prosecutor, Luke wanted to “kill as many Jews, blacks, and Hispanics as humanly possible.” In his rampage, he reportedly murdered two Hispanics and raped and wounded a third before, near the synagogue, he was wrestled to the ground by ordinary citizens.

Since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing -- initially attributed by numerous media experts to Arab terrorists but actually the work of right-wing militia-movement supporter Timothy McVeigh -- more than 25 law-enforcement officers have been killed by white supremacists, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Extremist Wreckage Pockmarks the American Landscape

Beyond the shootings -- and those enumerated above are only a sample of such incidents since 2008 -- there is a landscape of rubble and carnage. In February 2010, Joseph Stack, infuriated by the IRS and U.S. tax policy, crashed his small plane into an Austin office building housing 200 IRS workers, killing himself and two others and injuring 13. Violence, he wrote in a “manifesto,” is “the only answer” to oppressive government policies.

Sometimes the wreckage left behind from such incidents is easily overlooked, a roadside crash on a springtime day. In Nashville last March, a motorist was so enraged by an Obama bumper sticker that he rammed his SUV into the offending car, pushing it off the road and onto the sidewalk, leaving a man and his 10-year-old daughter terrified inside.

Sometimes the incidents reveal deep emotional wounds. Just before Christmas in 2008, in Belfast, Maine, an abused wife shot and killed her husband, James Cummings, a wealthy California native and Nazi devotee. Loathing Barack Obama, he was planning to join the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement at the time he was shot. Police and federal agents subsequently found radioactive materials and instructions for the making of a “dirty bomb” in his house, according to an FBI document released by WikiLeaks.

An FBI official said the materials could all be purchased legally in the United States. The police offered assurances that the public was not at risk. Amber Cummings, the abused wife who believed her husband had sexual designs on their nine-year-old daughter, was sentenced to eight years in prison for the shooting, but the judge suspended the sentence.

Sometimes the carnage is vast and events are still playing out. A bomb lab discovered in an Escondido, California, house in November proved so immense that authorities feared removing the explosives. Instead, they closed nearby Interstate 15 and set the property ablaze, sending a towering black cone of smoke skyward and filling the air with the hiss of burning chemicals and the crack-crack of exploding ammunition.

Police are still investigating the supposed architect of this explosive realm, an unemployed Serbian immigrant. As with the apparent plans to build a dirty bomb in Maine, the authorities have not yet declared these efforts in California to be associated with terrorism or possible construction of weapons of mass destruction. WikiLeaks, on the other hand, which released the FBI field report on the Maine incident, has since been termed a terrorist organization by a number of federal lawmakers and officials for bringing classified documents to public attention.

White Men Are Never Labeled Terrorists

That leads to a common thread among these murderous incidents. None has been labeled the work of terrorists by authorities or the media. All involved white men, most of whom -- like Jared Loughner in Tucson -- have been deemed troubled or disturbed by authorities and various media outlets. Even Jim David Adkisson, the unemployed truck driver who attacked the Knoxville church because he believed it was “a cult” and a haven for Democrats and secular liberals, has not been characterized as a political terrorist. Adkisson was a fan of the writings and shows of right-wing media personalities Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity, according to authorities who searched his residence after the 2008 shootings. However, his primary motivation, according to those same authorities, was the imminent loss of food stamps and inability to find a job.

Joseph Stack, who flew his plane into the Austin IRS building in an eerie echo of the 9/11 attacks, is also not a terrorist -- just a plain old suicide. The Maine dirty-bomb maker, who amassed quantities of hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide, and magnesium ribbon, a terrorist? No, just a “disturbed individual.”

Arizona, of course, has seen a lot of extremist political activity in recent years. In fact, even as Jared Loughner was gunning down 20 people inside the Safeway on North Oracle Road on January 8th, the murder trial of Shawna Forde, head of the anti-immigrant Minutemen American Defense group, was getting underway in nearby Pima County Superior Court. Forde and two associates have been charged with the shooting death of a man, the wounding of his wife, and the killing of the couple’s nine-year-old daughter during a June 2009 robbery aimed at funding her extremist political activities.

These are America’s killing fields, coast to coast, yet the commentary and debate in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting revolves around political rhetoric in Washington. Both sides need to tone it down, we’re told. There have been endless discussions on television and radio, newspaper commentary and Internet postings all focused on the issue of overheated political talk -- as if Jared Loughner somehow leaped full-grown from the forehead of Glenn Beck.

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck did not send Jared Loughner out to kill, even if their extreme lock-and-load rhetoric -- Beck, brandishing a baseball bat, has warned his viewers to watch out during the next “killing spree” -- has helped legitimate such talk. What they have certainly done is help create an inspirational environment where it is perfectly normal for Tea Party extremists to attend political rallies while packing pistols. Indeed, packing pistols is the point, isn’t it?

That said, conservative columnist David Brooks, in an astonishingly superficial argument, wrote in the New York Times that those who drag politics into public debate over the killing of political figures and government officials are leveling “vicious charges” and lack empathy for the mentally ill. Brooks gravely wagged his finger at those -- he singled out MSNBC commentator Keith Olberman, former Senator Gary Hart, and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas -- who have argued that violent rhetoric from the Tea Party and Sarah Palin set the table for the Tucson shootings. (Of course Congresswoman Giffords herself chastised Palin for putting her district in the now-infamous gun-sight crosshairs. Does Brooks include her, too, in excoriating “vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness”?)

How sugary is Brooks’ argument? Compare it to what he wrote following the shooting rampage that took place at Fort Hood in November 2009. In that murderous incident, Major Nidal Malik Hasan was ultimately charged with killing 13 and wounding over 30. Hasan, a Muslim psychiatrist, was clearly disturbed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (he was about to be deployed to the latter) and his deteriorating mental state had been a concern to officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

That was before Hasan snapped. Despite documented psychiatric worries, the issue of terrorism quickly dominated public discussion of Hasan’s act.

At the time, Brooks derided talk of Hasan’s mental state and characterized those who brought it up as casting “a shroud of political correctness” over the Hasan “narrative.”

“The conversation in the first few days after the massacre was well intentioned, but it suggested a willful flight from reality,” Brooks intoned. “It ignored the fact that the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy. It ignored the fact that this narrative can be embraced by a self-radicalizing individual in the U.S. as much as by groups in Tehran, Gaza or Kandahar.”

So much for “vicious charges” and empathy. They are apparently reserved for young white males in Tucson; Muslims need not apply.

Meanwhile, the bodies are piling up in Arizona and Tennessee, Kansas and Pennsylvania. The Homeland Security Department issued a lonely cautionary report in 2009 on the rising tide of right-wing extremism; it was loudly hooted down by right-wing radio celebrities like Rush Limbaugh and Internet pundits like Michelle Malkin. The killings and the attacks went on.

Now, we have arrived at another Martin Luther King Day, the birthday of a man gunned down by a right-wing extremist more than 40 years ago and, while we talk endlessly about rhetoric, we have done a remarkable job of ignoring the growing pile of bodies. The murderous right wing is still with us. The racists and the skinheads and the neo-Nazis are still here. Sales of Glock semi-automatic guns are skyrocketing in the wake of Tucson. The growing piles of bodies is real evidence of growing extremist activity. What could be plainer or starker?

Congressman Peter King, the New York Republican who now heads the House Homeland Security Committee, is planning to hold hearings on Muslim radicalization in America when the new Congress convenes. Muslims, he said in the wake of the Tucson killings, are recruited by "foreign" terrorists, while Loughner is just a "deranged" American, the latest in a long line of deranged Americans.

What place is this? Where are we now?

Stephan Salisbury is cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and a TomDispatch regular. His most recent book is Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland.

[Note on sources: The FBI field report on dirty bomber James Cummings can be found in .pdf file format by clicking here. The Homeland Security Department report on rising right-wing extremism can be found in .pdf format by clicking here.]

Copyright 2011 Stephan Salisbury

Friday, January 14, 2011

Woven with Her Brush: Paintings by Zohra Ben Hamida

Woven with Her Brush:
Paintings by Zohra Ben Hamida
At the Jerusalem Fund Gallery
21 January - 4 March 2011

Opening reception
Friday, 21 January 2011, 6:00 -8:00 p.m.

In her paintings at The Jerusalem Fund Gallery, color is the theme. “ The blazing sun straddling the cool shades over the desert in Saudi Arabia, memories of the bright garments adorned with gold and silver fibulae my Berber grandmother always wore with such pride; colors encountered every day, the colors of the bougainvillea and jasmine, indiscriminately lending their beauty and fragrance to modest and luxurious houses alike; a bigger than life icon inhabiting a Roman church for hundreds of years, still calling attention to itself with its dazzling gold-leaf garment, bright colors, sprinkled everywhere you look, reminding us that beauty exists around and within us, reminding us that beauty will always prevail.”

The Gallery
2425 Virginia Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20037

click here

Jan 21 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I started a Tumblr Blog.

Quote of the day.


I'll still be blogging here. My Tumblog (also called Vs. the Pomegranate) will be for shorter stuff--pictures, quotes, reblogging other Tumblog stuff I like, etc. I'll also be experimenting with cross-posting and linking to my older posts here. Broad strokes: This space will be more about words and my Tumblr will be more about pictures. This is all part of my multi-platform cross-promotional empire. Lock up your daughters America, those people are everywhere.

Stop by and lemme know what you think.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Quote of the Day, "I Can't Wait To Blow Up..."

Can't. Stop. Laughing.

... Blame Sabina for this, I stole it from her Facebook wall. Damn you Sabina! *shakes fist*

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Radiohole presents: Whatever, Heaven Allows (WHA?!)

Radiohole returns to Brooklyn to present:

Whatever, Heaven Allows (WHA?!)

at The Collapsable Hole
146 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

January 8-10 (Sat-Mon) @ 8pm
January 12-15 (Wed-Sat) @ 8pm
January 17 (Mon) Benefit Show @ 7:30pm

Tickets: $20, $15 students/seniors
Reservations: or 718-388-2251

Whatever, Heaven Allows is by Radiohole with Eric Dyer, Erin Douglass, Maggie Hoffman, Joseph Silovsky and Mark Jaynes
film & video by: Aaron Harrow & Radiohole

"Whatever, Heaven Allows is Radiohole's monster mash-up of Douglas Sirk's 1955 box office smash "All that Heaven Allows" (staring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman), and John Milton's hit 1667 poem "Paradise Lost" featuring history's most famous fallen hero, Satan.

Purchase an AD or SHOUT-OUT that runs during Whatever, Heaven Allows

Hosted by: The Amazing RUSSELLO and special guests Richard Maxwell and the NYC Players Band with Scott Shepherd on Ukulele!


Whatever, Heaven Allows (WHA!?) was commissioned by and performed at The Walker Art Center, The Andy Warhol Museum and PS122. It was also made possible with a matching grant from the National Performance Network's Creation Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affiars

Whatever, Heaven Allows is presented in association with Performance Space 122 as part of COIL - an annual winter festival of contemporary performance featuring hits from the past, present and future seasons of Performance Space 122.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tarek Halaby performance, "An attempt to understand my socio-political disposition..."

2010 New York Dance and Performance
“Bessie” Award Winning Artist
Tarek Halaby

WHAT: An attempt to understand my socio-political disposition through artistic research on personal identity in relationship to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Part One.

WHERE: at Henry St. Settlement (lower east side)
466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street) New York, NY 10002

WHEN: this Friday night Jan 7 at 7:30 and Saturday 1/8 at 1:30 pm. $15 Buy tickets here.

"'An Attempt...' is the result of a research process in which [Palestinian/American artist] Halaby looks into the varying and matching points between collective and personal stories, inside the choreographic creative processes. By presenting this piece as a "product" in process, to finish or resolve, Tarek relates the work to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 
In this solo, Halaby questions and explores the ironies and paradoxes of art works with a deliberate political content.

This solo is presented as part of American Realness, a festival of new dance and contemporary performance made for the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference; a platform for the experimental and subversive American artists who are pursuing new research and artistic production. The agenda of American Realness is to reshape the identity of contemporary American dance and performance, and an eye towards global diffusion."

"This failure full of personal vulnerability has seldom been this clever and funny" — De Morgen

Saturday, January 1, 2011

State of the Blog: Happy New Year? A Toe Story.

Yes We* Can!
(*we does not include Arabs, Muslims or Latin@s)

So thanks to about a million tweets and status updates I am now aware that it is 1/1/11, which is vaguely ominous and futuristic. Is this the year the intelligent machines take over? Will anyone notice when they do? Am I the only person in America who didn't get a Kindle for Christmas?

But despite the sci-fi subtext the year began gently-- at least for me. Dog slept late (the only trick I ever taught him he managed to learn) and peed right away in the snow. I ate a delicious breakfast to the sounds of the Honeymooners marathon and then, lost in thought about the upcoming year I smashed--and possibly broke, it isn't yet clear--my little toe. I jumped up and down like a Looney-Tunes character with a giant pulsing toe. A Looney-Tunes character that was yelling "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" (The dog, now sound asleep on my bed did not stir. Not exactly Lassie, him.) Then I sat down hard on a vintage chair, snapped one of the legs and wound up on the floor. As I sit here staring at my broken chair with a bag of organic frozen blueberries I bought five months ago as part of an antioxidant experiment slowly defrosting around my swollen toe I am struck by how quickly things can change.

I have a picture of myself from the exact moment Barack Obama won the 2008 election to become the 44th President of the United States. In it I am dumbstruck with happiness and relief. The long national nightmare of the Bush Administration was over because the American people have decided we have had enough, I thought. Obama's race was the lead story for most people, for obvious reasons. Although for me it was always secondary--since the few Arab-American politicians are extremely conservative (Darrel Issa, Jeanine Pirro) it never occurs to me to vote along ethnic lines. If an old money white guy had the right politics I wouldn't hesitate to support him over an Arab guy with the wrong ones, full stop. But the symbolic significance of Obama's ascension to the Presidency cannot be denied and I thought it represented not only a shift in the racial landscape of the US but a rejection of Bush-era conservatism.

Turns out, not so much. At least not for people like me.

It's hard to remember now given the rancorous obstruction and race-baiting of the past year and a half but there was a golden moment at the start of the Obama Presidency when his detractors weren't sure yet how to criticize him (and even many of his future enemies were still congratulating themselves for the social progress associated with his win). After dipping so low in the eyes of the world Obama's entry into our highest office seemed to signal a necessary sea- change and even conservatives seemed relieved to finally have something to celebrate.

Every American President enjoys a honeymoon period--Bush did--and how they choose to spend this political capital is instructive. Clinton, who also rode a wave of dissatisfaction with conservatism into office nearly derailed his young Presidency by trying to reform health care in 1993. (And in the process earned his wife, who'd lead the aborted effort, a reputation as an over reaching political opportunist that clings to her still). But unlike so many others I was unable to enjoy the Obama honeymoon because despite the fact that he cuts an inspiring figure I wanted to see what he was actually going to do. On the second or third day of his Presidency Obama affirmed his commitment to closing Guantanamo and I was relieved. I shouldn't have been. Not only did he not close the prison and interrogation camp at Guantanamo by his own deadline he has now--via US Press Secretary Robert Gibbs--announced that it won't close at all. At least, not anytime soon. Near the one year anniversary of the Administration's failed closure timetable--nestled conveniently in the midst of the holiday news-cycle--Gibbs said, "It's certainly not going to close in the next month [...] I think part of this depends on the Republicans' willingness to work with the administration on this.''

So this he is willing to blame the Republicans for?

Like the Obama Administration, Guantanamo is both a symbol and a functional system. It represents the corruption of US American justice and our willingness to torture and degrade our foreign "Others." (It bears remembering that the site was used to "detain" Haitians fleeing Aristide to prevent them from entering the United States as refugees under Clinton.) Functionally Guantanamo is a lawless space where the US does its dirty work and its closure would symbolize a turn of the page away from the worst excesses of the previous administration. But that did not happen so instead it signals that despite Obama's campaign promises to the contrary, the radical expansion of Executive powers engineered by Bush Administration are the new Normal for the United States. Despite a much-publicized troop withdrawal the US military presence in Iraq persists and the war in Afghanistan continues apace. So despite his campaign rhetoric Obama actually expanded US Military presence in the so-called "Muslim World." Of course he also never misses an opportunity to be made a fool of by Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, a country that would not exist without the billions of dollars we pump into it. And the so-called "peace-process" has never seemed more like a puppet show than it does under the rubric of his Presidency. It would not be much of a stretch to see Obama's repeated public humiliations at Netanyahu's hands as a rehearsal for his many embarrassing concessions to Republicans at home. And the overall message derived from these events is clear: President Obama does not care about Arabs and Muslims at home or abroad. Of course a similar list could be made by Latin@s with similarly disappointing results. The discourse linking "homeland security" with "illegal immigration" puts Arabs, Muslims and Latin@s in the same boat (pun intended) with this Administration. Even though Conservatives are the ones who have described us (All of us) as bacteria infecting the host body of the West the lack of challenge to that view put forth by the Obama Administration allows it to stand--and worse, to become an increasingly mainstream position. In sum, under President Obama Arabs, Muslims (and Latin@s) are no better off than we were under George W. Bush.

Under Bush I was angry. But under Obama I feel hopeless, the exact opposite of his promise. And as he gears up for re-election the apologists of the mainstream Left are already beginning to poo-poo the concerns of people like me and marginalize us as too radical. But is it too radical to ask that you be included among the list of concerns for your own President? To not have him sell you out to conservatives and foreign governments to earn points with the public by playing to their racism, ethnocentrism and Islamophobia?

Like my poor toe, I have been numb. But sooner or later you have to peel off the wet bag of soggy blueberries and assess the damage. Like my toe, I hope America is only bruised and not broken.

But it is too early to tell.