Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blog Carnival #3 - Text Only

Welcome to the Carnival of Conflict's 3rd Edition - Text Only

Most of the conflicts that submitters write about this month are domestic. And I think that leads to an interesting idea about the times we live in. The conflicts around us today tend to be pretty clearly political ones, in which the line between domestic and international is grey. Take one common topic for this Carnival, the war in Iraq. The fighting is completely real, but who still believes it will be resolved through force alone?

Its comforting to believe in non-political contests between rivals' brute strength. For Americans, it is a narrative structure that has served us well in the past, because it makes political questions, questions of identity and culture, much easier. If its us doing it, its right. Maybe its a tactic societies have always used. Probably binary systems of one society coherently struggling against another have never existed, despite the myth. This month's posts seem to confirm that there are not issues that only pertain to "us", an "other", or a clear conflict between these two. When Hakim Abdullah asks, Is Islam Compatible with Democracy? the answer matters to societies on every continent. When Grey Swan asks Are we too tolerant? the answer is important in inner cities as well as in the prison cells of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The politics of fear, Ian Welsh's topic in Ok, Once More: No Existential Threat , are useful to cast individuals into playing their parts in the old two-sided story. But as Muse points out in How about... Rebuild Sderot Underground? there is no national bunker to seal one society off from the rest of the world. No nation is an island (even those that-technically-are islands), and conflicts between nations are also domestic conflicts as well.

An old poem gives a lesson. In the Iliad , Achilles is the symbol of physical strength and there is no man, not even mighty Hector that can stand against him. But religion, embodied by the fractious greek pantheon, brings him down. It is Odysseus, the most cunning politician of the Argives that finally defeats strong-walled Ilium by tricking them into creating their own defeat. Even all those centuries ago, a poet tells us that conflict is shaped not by arms, but by thought.

I hope you enjoy the Carnival, and please join the discussion!


Is censorship right? by Pooj.

Hakim Abdullah asks, Is Islam Compatible with Democracy?

Close Guantanamo demands Anja Merret. There is no excuse, she argues, for the mistreatment of those in American custody in Cuba.


Undercover Black Man shares Songs of Negro patriotism , exploring the relationship between race, power and war.

In Is Politics Reducible to Rhetoric?" Ashok tries to untangle politics and rhetoric with help from Machiavelli, the sophists of Greece, and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
When the media hurts by Alfa King deals with freedom of the press.

Ian Welsh speaks out against the politics of fear in the United States in Ok, Once More: No Existential Threat

Muse offers a solution to calm fears of terrorism: make everyone live in and underground bunker. The article is How about... Rebuild Sderot Underground?

Partisanship in Congress and divisions caused by the immigration reform bill are Troy Stouffer's subject in Republican Backstabbing and Political Suicide .

Mad Kane targets Mr. Giuliani for parody in The GOP's in for a Rudy Awakening

Hell's Handmaiden finds what she shares in common with a soldier in Me and the Guy in the Army

Are we too tolerant? by Grey Swan discusses how society should respond to memorials to victims (who were sometimes perpetrators) of violent crimes in inner cities.

Lucinda Riley writes about executive privilege and the Bush Administration in This is shocking .

William Dvorak makes a case for anarchism in The Political Norm of Centuries .

eHarmony complaint proves once again that lawsuits are a great way to generate serious publicity for extremist silliness by Steven Silvers is about the press' response to a lawsuit about sexual orientation descrimination.

The legacy of 'Macaca' is alive and well for The Richmond Democrat in this post on YouTube politics and George Allen.

Freethought community still united by vjack


Chris finds totalitarian and Maoist tendencies in behavior on the web in Wushu and the Second Cultural Revolution

How to complain and get a good result by Paul Michael

A poem from a dead boy by Ken Nubo offers wisdom on living life in the moment.

Male v. Female Spirituality by Brandon Peele examines how people relate to spirituality and philosophy.

Sheppard Salter identifies More Scams that Sabotage the Simple Life

Thanks for coming to the carnival, and I look forward to your responses.
Find out about submitting your work to the carnival here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Read Ehrenreich's Article

Her article in The Nation is a fun read as well as an important one. Her point in a nutshell is that the staggeringly vast inequality of America's economy is bad for our economy and our society.

Its no surprise that the ridiculous class differences in the US are bad for democracy, but Ehrenreich also points out that it is bad for the economy too. We talk about sustainability a lot these days, (see Fora.tv for more on this topic) and an economy that concentrates wealth and power in an increasingly small group at an accelerating rate is not a sustainable economy.

My favorite quote from the article: "As the Times puts it: "It's as if every household in that bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent."

But what to do about it? Is it enough to just increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans? There are plenty or corporate jobs that people just wouldn't do if they couldn't make scads of money doing it...is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Are there other strategies that should be used instead/as well? Could there be changes to legal codes governing corporations?

The article is a good read, and a good thought-provoker, too.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Farming co-op?

I'd like to write more about this idea later, but I'd just like to throw it out there tonight to see if anybody knows any resources I should look at...

What if we started in the county a farming cooperative? Howard County, like many counties, is hemorrhaging farmland, and none, I suspect, is safe from the endless thirst of housing developers to build mcMansions. What if instead the County acquired farmland for community farming?

People would sign up to perform tasks associated with the farm, from working the land to administrative tasks, etc. They would be paid in credits, which would be cashed in for a proportional share of the farm's produce.

This could be a terrific pedagogical tool, allowing students to participate in a project that gets them outside, working on a project with real tangible results and tangible applications of the chemistry, biology, math and other lessons they learn in school. And working side by side with other community members, the farm would help get kids and other community members reconnected to each other.

Also, since work would be by the credit system, and the farm would be open to all who cared to register, people could be very flexible about their schedules, and work as little as they like.

It sounds like a very challenging project to organize, logistically and legally...but I think the potential benefits are pretty substantial. Has something like this already been put into practice?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Art for sale"

A new picture I made today:

"Art for sale" is the name. I'm not actually trying to sell anything.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Habermas article about free press

Jurgen Habermas, one of the foremost theorists of civil society today, argues in How to save the quality press? for state support of the free press.

The core of his argument is that markets, which once supported the independence of the press and its role in a healthy public sphere, now threaten the independence of the press and its role in democracy. When media outlets must be as profitable as possible in order to survive, they will cease to provoke, to introduce new ideas to the public sphere (or the state agenda). They will simply be mirrors that reflect and then reinforce the preconceptions of an increasingly uncritical public.

Habermas states his argument very well, and we can see around us examples of what he fears. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show continuously levels criticism at CNN and other major news outlets for selling news as a consumer commodity and not as a public good. Flash, fear-baiting and celebrity chasing are all tactics media outlets chasing dollars must turn to for survival.

Anderson Cooper said it well during his interview on the Daily Show. Stewart criticized the glitz of CNN television with its 3-D animations, scary-voiced announcers and melodramatic reporting. Cooper replied that you have to play the game. When your ability to report - your ability to communicate with the public - depends on the money you can bring to the station, the winner is going to be the one who feeds news consumers what they want.

Habermas' proposed solution is state support of the media to protect its ability to report honestly. And after reading the article, I'm inclined to agree.

Carnival of Maryland, 8th Edition

Though she is but small, she is fierce

says Helena about Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream. This edition of the Carnival of Maryland shows that the Old Line state is likewise small but home to many fiercly dedicated to a wide variety of pursuits, from nature to politics and from gaming to graduation.

Which highlights a classic connundrum of our age. How are we to celebrate and promote diversity of perspectives and then draw particular lessons from what we have experienced? Each of us, after seeing these posts, understands "Maryland" a little differently. For me, I feel a little closer now to the state's urban life - its baseball, its bookstores, and to its local government. How do the posts of this edition influence your perception of Maryland?

Derek theorizes about Blizzard's Next Move: The Future After Starcraft II

Images of one of Maryland's best known migratory bird species at Geese in the summer by The Ridger.

Stan Modjesky considers contemporary literary culture from a book-seller's perspective in Book-burning in Kansas City.

A 50 year plan: Social Security by Michael Swartz provides an analysis of social security.

Alwitt Xu provides a list of CSS resources for web design at CSS Tools Collection.

Soccer Dad expresses sympathy for the travails of Orioles' manager, Sam Perlezzo in Embattled.

Exhasperated with overcrowded schools and irresponsible development, John Harris proposes, Wicomico County should enact a building moratorium.

John Harris also shares his perspective on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in Let us finish our mission.

Commencement by therapydoc explores the author's complicated relationship to graduations. We love them, we dread them, we anticipate them eagerly, and they bore us silly. Why, in the end, do we do it?

Joyce Dowling writes about events in Prince George's County including a Juneteenth even on Creating a Jubilee County: Price George's Co., MD.

Joining the celebration of Rachel Carson's centenary, Pinenut writes about Carson, her connection to Silver Spring, and the events commemorating her life today in Rachel Carson's Silver Spring.


I hope you have enjoyed the Carnival of Maryland, and I hope you will consider submitting your work to the next edition. Find out how here.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Anti-Globalisation Protest in Germany

The BBC runs a story today about a large protest rally in Germany to protest the upcoming G-8 meeting there. These protests happen fairly regularly, and the question on the minds of many is: does it work?

Or perhaps more accurately, most have decided their answer to that question, and far too many have decided, NO, protest rallies are not effective at changing policy.

But its not too difficult to see that demonstrations are more effective than they get credit for being. It seems to me they serve three primary purposes.

1) Expose policies as contested: Many CEOs and right-wing think tanks would have people around the world believe that laissez-faire economic policies are generally accepted by the peoples of the developed world as the right way to run international economics. But these policies are not clear cut and there is not consensus about them. A protest demonstrates to undecideds that there is a debate to be had on a subject, and that their participation in the debate is important.

2) Build connections and solidarity within a movement: When thousands of individuals participate in a single rally together, they are likely to strengthen the ties of ideology that bind them. At the rally they may make new contacts with other activists, learn and develop new ideas for further action, and deepen the cultural appeal and strength of the movement. Consider the prevalence of different kinds of political theater during rallies: giant puppets, people in costumes, etc. These are designed to look good in the media, but also to strengthen the social bonds among protesters. Then when marchers go home, they are full of new ideas and energy for carrying the movement forward.

3) Support elites' efforts to change policy: Perhaps the best example of this was the famous Battle in Seattle , when protests helped create an atmosphere in which negotiators from developing countries were more able to resist the pressure of concession-hungry G-8 negotiators. Maybe protests are unlikely to change the minds of those dead-set to oppose them. But they can certainly shape the opinions of those in and out of power who have yet to take an active role in a debate.

So will the rally in Germany be effective in these respects? Tens of thousands of people think so strongly enough to go there. For now, at least, I'm willing to take their word for it.