Saturday, January 29, 2011

Highlights from Egypt

From today's New York Times:

A bonfire of office furniture from the ruling party headquarters was burning nearby, and the carcasses of police vehicles were still smoldering. The police appeared to have retreated from large parts of the city.

On Friday, 17 police stations throughout Cairo were torched, with protesters stealing firearms and ammunition and freeing some jailed suspects. They also burned dozens of police trucks in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. On Saturday, protesters besieged a police station in the Giza neighborhood of Cairo, looted and pulled down Egyptian flags, then burned the building to the ground.

Before the army arrived, young Egyptians — some armed with truncheons grabbed off the police — created a human chain at the museum's front gate to prevent looters from making off with any of its priceless artifacts.

People taking back power, however fleetingly, makes for some crazy situations.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Helmet "cover"

A fine display of the internet enabling us to see things that never needed to be seen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Helmet

I seriously don't understand how these men kept their composure while performing this song. If I had written this song or played in the band that did, it is a fact that I would have injured myself or someone else every time I played it. So unfortunate that it gets cut off. Also, Page's voice is not in top shape. Still, brutal song and the only televised performance I can find.


So sick. The two best songs on the record. The drummer's hair rules and so do the wallet chains. Fucking 90s.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Misrepresenting King and watering down his message to an extent that approaches meaninglessness

So here we are, observing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. It seems that much of the mainstream press is discussing it in a context related to the shootings in Arizona last week, as though they are related in any way. The Associated Press published the following headline - "Ariz. rampage looms as King remembered in church." The Week offers this palliative - "Arizona shootings: How Martin Luther King's message can help America heal." Over at the Huffington Post, we hear this - "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2011: Nation Ponders King In Wake Of Arizona Shootings." Finally, the Associated Press also tells us "Martin Luther King's Peace Legacy Praised After Arizona Shootings."

Now, I'm sure that many of these people mean well, but I can't help but feel that anyone who would talk about Dr. King like this doesn't get him. To be sure, there is a lot to get, and he was a complicated man, who like most of us, changed over time in profound ways. Still, I know that he has been one of the country's favorite sanitization targets. No one talks about his antiwar speeches, he is rarely remembered in public for developing beliefs openly critical of U.S. foreign policy and we don't hear about his evolution into someone who was fighting for economic as well as what we commonly understand as civil rights.

The difference between economic and traditional civil rights is huge. When we discuss the civil rights movement, which isn't very often, we tend to remember it as something based around access to lunch counters, buses, department stores and schools, and maybe true access to the voting booth. That makes for a simple moral decision - yes, it is wrong to prohibit anyone from eating, traveling, shopping or learning somewhere based on her or his skin color; or, no, there is no problem with such practices. There's not too much nebulous space here. No one advocated allowing some black people to do these things, or having a quota of how many could do so. These are basic civil rights - equal access to facilities. Once economic rights - principally equality in employment and housing - come into the picture, it becomes a fundamentally different discussion. These issues are no more resolved than they were when King was alive. Affirmative action is frowned upon and white people still ardently fight it to the highest courts they can. Housing in this country is deeply segregated today, especially in the North. These matters make for very ugly debate, especially when we live in these "post-racial" times. After all, black people had their civil rights movement, got some laws and court decisions, and there is even a black president now. And what about Oprah? See?

Anyway, yeah, the fact is that King was pursuing an agenda that advocated for poor people's economic rights - jobs and housing. He did this in the North and the South. This is not popular among anyone but poor people and some progressives. It was easy for people throughout the country to support integrated buses, but they didn't want anyone taking a Greyhound into Cleveland and moving in next door. Largely, they still don't.

As for King's message, it was more sophisticated than shooting people is wrong. Most people already thought that then, and it hasn't changed. No one needs a sermon on that topic. There is no divide in the country splitting those for and against random mass murder.

To bring King into what happened in Arizona last week does the man a disservice. It reduces his life to a general message of peace, which is essentially meaningless, and cheapens his death. The man was cut down for a very specific reason - he advocated too strongly for freedom. Whether you believe James Earl Ray killed him or not, his assassin was not a crazed maniac. He was murdered to silence him. Dr. King had survived numerous assassination attempts. One such event touched off the Birmingham Riot in May 1963, when Klansmen bombed the motel where Dr. King had been staying and his brother's house. The FBI, with John F. Kennedy's knowledge and approval, conducted a long campaign to discredit him, which included a letter encouraging him to commit suicide.

He knew he was a marked man:

I doubt he thought he would live as long as he did. That's the price you pay when you dedicate your life to freedom. Real freedom. Not this American military George Bush patriot Tea Party crap. You put your life up for grabs.

What happened in Arizona, tragic as it may be, had nothing to do with a freedom struggle. Dr. King was not the victim of a crazed killer shooting everyone in sight. No, a coward took him from afar and fled. That man knew just what he was doing and had planned well in advance.

We do Dr. King and ourselves an incredible disservice if we conflate his death with the killings in Arizona. They bear no similarity, whatsoever, aside from the most obvious fact that a gun was involved. He deserves to be remembered for who he was, what he fought for, what he accomplished and what he believed. And for our own good, we need to remember him and what he stood for. We need to reckon with that, in a serious way. To talk about him as a man of peace is fucking pointless. Everyone's a man of peace. That's nothing new and means nothing to anyone. We don't learn anything if that's all we take away.