Thursday, June 29, 2006

Exiled to the End Zone

"Of all the aspects of exile, silence pleased me least. Other things were not so displeasing. Exile compensates the banished by offering certain opportunities. Each day, for example, I spent some time in meditation. This never failed to be a lovely interlude, for there was nothing to meditate on. Each day I added a new word to my vocabulary, wrote a letter to someone I loved, and memorized the name of one more president of the United States and the years of his term in office. Simplicity, repetition, solitude, starkness, discipline upon discipline. There were profits here, things that could be used to make me stronger; the small fanatical monk who clung to my liver would thrive on such ascetic scraps. And then there was geography. We were in the middle of the middle of nowhere, that terrain so flat and bare, suggestive of the end of recorded time, a splendid sense of remoteness firing my soul. It was easy to feel that back up there, where men spoke the name civilization in wistful tones, I was wanted for some terrible crime.

Exile in a real place. a place of few bodies and many stones, is just an extension (a packaging) of the other exile, the state of being separated from whatever is left of the center of one's own private history."

--Don DeLillo from the novel End Zone, 1972.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

In the End Zone

"Let me ask. What's the strangest thing about this country? It's that when I wake up tomorrow morning, any morning, the first bit of fear I have doesn't concern our national enemies, our traditional cold-war or whatever-kind-of-war enemies. I'm not afraid of those people at all. So then who am I afraid of because I'm definitely of somebody. Listen and I'll tell you. I'm afraid of my own country. I'm afraid of the United States of America. It's ridiculous, isn't it? But look. Take the Pentagon. If anybody kills us on a grand scale, it'll be the Pentagon. On a small scale, watch out for your local police. Look at you looking at me that way, some of you. Question. Will two polite college-educated-of-course friendly agents of the brainwash squad knock on my door at three in the morning? You see my winning infectious smile and you know I'm not worried. This is America. We say what we want. I could talk all day, citing chapter and verse. But when the true test comes, I'll probably go running to a beauty shop, if you can find one in this neck of the world, and I'll get my hair dyed blond so everybody will think I'm one of those small blondie boys with the faraway look in their eyes who used to be so big on the Himmelplatz three or four decades ago. . . . I have a deep thought for you. Science fiction is just beginning to catch up with the Old Testament. See artificial nitrates run off into the rivers and oceans. See carbon dioxide melt the polar ice caps. See the world's mineral reserves dwindle. See war, famine and plague. See barbaric hordes defile the temple of the virgins. See wild stallions mount prarie dogs. I said science fiction but I guess I meant science. Anyway there's some kind of mythical and/or historic circle-thing being completed here. But I keep smiling. I keep telling myself there's nothing to worry about as long as the youth of America knows what's going on. Brains, brawn, good teeth, tallness. I look at your faces and I have to let out a controversial little grin. Some of you in nifty blue uniforms here to learn about outer space and how to police it. Uniforms, flags, battle hymns. I offer you my only quotable remark of the entire fall semester. A nation is never more ridiculous than in its patriotic manifestations. Why should I be afraid of my own government? There's something wrong here. But I'm not worried. Fortunately I'm good at ducking. I can bob and weave with the best of them. It takes a lot to stop a little man."

--Don DeLillo from the novel End Zone, 1972.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Whitman & Wittman & Sons

Trippers and askers surround me,

People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
--Walt Whitman Song of Myself, section 4. Bold phrases are used as chapter titles of a novel by Maxine Hong Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey. Another chapter is titled after the poem below also by Whitman:
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

A Song for Occupations
In the labor of engines and trades and the labor of fields I find the developments,
And find the eternal meanings.

Workmen and Workwomen!
Were all educations practical and ornamental well display'd out of me, what would it amount to?
Were I as the head teacher, charitable proprietor, wise statesman,what would it amount to?
Were I to you as the boss employing and paying you, would that satisfy you?

The learn'd, virtuous, benevolent, and the usual terms,
A man like me and never the usual terms.

Neither a servant nor a master I,
I take no sooner a large price than a small price, I will have my own whoever enjoys me,
I will be even with you and you shall be even with me.

If you stand at work in a shop I stand as nigh as the nighest in the same shop,
If you bestow gifts on your brother or dearest friend I demand as good as your brother or dearest friend,
If your lover, husband, wife, is welcome by day or night, I must be personally as welcome,
If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your sake,
If you remember your foolish and outlaw'd deeds, do you think I cannot remember my own foolish and outlaw'd deeds?
If you carouse at the table I carouse at the opposite side of the table,
If you meet some stranger in the streets and love him or her, why I often meet strangers in the street and love them.

Why what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than you?
Or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?

(Because you are greasy or pimpled, or were once drunk, or a thief, Or that you are diseas'd, or rheumatic, or a prostitute,
Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no scholar and never saw your name in print,
Do you give in that you are any less immortal?)

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
{continues for 5 more sections...}

Saturday, June 17, 2006

iPod Chinese sweatshop

Cost to buy an iPod = US $299.
Cost to buy an iPod Nano = US $149.
Chinese worker paid per hour to build iPods = 15 cents. (US $ 0.15).

Apple profit rose 41% and in the first half of fiscal 2006, Apple generated more than $10 billion in revenue.

Sweatshop Conditions at iPod Factory Reported

By Mike Musgrove
The Washington Post

Apple Computer Inc. is having an iPod-related public relations headache this week, following a report by a British newspaper on working conditions at Chinese factories where the popular music player is built.

The Mail on Sunday reported that a Chinese factory that manufactures iPods employs 200,000 workers who live in dormitories where visitors are not permitted. Workers toil for 15-hour days for as little as $50 per month, according to the article.

As Mac fan sites buzzed with debate over the report, Apple issued a statement saying it is investigating the matter.

"Apple is committed to ensuring that working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible," the company statement said.

Apple said it is "investigating the allegations regarding working conditions in the iPod manufacturing plant in China." It added, "We do not tolerate any violations of our supplier code of conduct."
[See update as of July 18, 2006 at:]

IPod factory workers are employed by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known by the brand Foxconn Electronics Inc. The relationship between Apple and Hon Hai is typical in the electronics industry, where manufacturing is frequently handled by contract builders.

The working conditions, as described in the British newspaper article, aren't unusual, said Karin Mak, a project coordinator at a nonprofit watchdog organization called Sweatshop Watch.

"It's very common," she said. "These types of conditions are very typical, unfortunately."

The Taiwan company, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, has a market value of about $23.7 billion, and registered "Foxconn" as its trademark. It now has more than 12 branch offices around the world, marketing Foxconn products.

We're calling for a boycott and for Apple to put the precision squeeze on Hon Hai Precision and their foxy con.

See update as of July 18, 2006 at:

Friday, June 16, 2006


June 16 is the annual BLOOMSDAY.


James Joyce called Dublin the "center of paralysis," and complained in a letter:

"How sick, sick, sick I am of Dublin! It is the city of failure, of rancor and of unhappiness. I long to be out of it." (22 August 1909)

He spent the last thirty years of his life in exile, settling for periods in Trieste, Rome, Zurich, Paris -- anywhere but Dublin.

It is a much remarked-upon irony that his masterpiece Ulysses is not only set in Dublin, but never allows us to forget it. The novel recounts the hour-by-hour events of one day in Dublin -- June 16, 1904 -- as an ordinary Dubliner, Leopold Bloom, wends his way through the urban landscape, the odyssey of a modern-day Ulysses. . . .

{continues about Bloomsday round the world at link above}

Thursday, June 15, 2006

History is a weapon.

. . . and that weapon can be used against you, or for you . . .

History Is A Weapon

--Thanks to C.B. for the lead on this one.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Caught in Falluja Fire

Falluja DVD on sale to aid Iraqi civilians in need because of the Iraq War. Mark Manning is an independent journalist filming in Fallujah, Irak during the war.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Unreported: The Zarqawi Invitation

Link above to an expose by Greg Palast that cuts through all the smoke and mirrors. It reminds the forgetful why there is an insurgency and a civil war in Iraq, reviews the 101 page American Plan to rip off Iraq's economy, reminds us who halted elections and democracy there, why Garner was replaced by Bremer, and how this led to Zarqawi and his crew and the complete betrayal of the Iraqi people who had so far cooperated with the US occupation. Contains a key insider interview also.

It's sort of "Iraq Quagmire for Idiots" and handy if you haven't yet figured out what's what and who's who.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

William Gibson Interview

Recently put a webpage with my summary of a video interview with cyberpunk author, William Gibson. Not wanting to post the whole thing on this blog, but instead just a pointer and link:

Notes from No Maps for These Territories

Class War Brutality in 2005


Brussels - 115 trade unionists were murdered for defending workers' rights in 2005, while more than 1,600 were subjected to violent assaults and some 9,000 arrested, according to the ICFTU's Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights violations, published today. Nearly 10,000 workers were sacked for their trade union involvement, and almost 1,700 detained.

Latin America remained the most perilous region for trade union activity, with Colombia once again topping the list for killings, intimidation and death threats. 70 Colombian unionists paid the ultimate price for standing up for fundamental rights at work. Other countries under the spotlight for violence and repression against unionists include Iraq, Iran, El Salvador, Djibouti, China, Cambodia, Guatemala, Zimbabwe and Burma. Some Arabian Gulf countries continue to ban trade unions altogether, while in several other countries including North Korea, government-controlled "official trade unions" are the order of the day. In Australia, the government rushed through new laws depriving the country's workforce of the most fundamental protections.

"This year's report reveals deeply disturbing trends, especially for women, migrant workers and those who work in the public sector", said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder. "The death toll was slightly lower in 2005 than the previous year, but we are nevertheless witnessing increasingly severe violence and hostility against working people who stand up for their rights," he added. . . .

{full report continues at link above}

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the stolen election

Was the 2004 Election Stolen?
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Rolling Stone

Thursday 01 June 2006

Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted - enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.

The complete article, with Web-only exclusive documents, sources, charts and commentary, is at the link above.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Remembering the Fallen

Today is the anniversary of the 1989 massacre of student pro-democracy protests in China. Merely 17 years ago, and yet Chinese students in Beijing University today reply that they are not sure what it was, and that they have never seen the iconic images from those events that the rest of the world recognizes immediately. Censorship of history is effective in keeping people ignorant and confined.

Students in Taiwan have indeed heard about this history, although they remain vaguely unaware of what it implies about their own lives in the 21st century. None of my students has ever seen a video or photo of those momentous events. The link below downloads a BBC video shot live during the massacre. It plays with the free RealPlayer software.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

2 Options for the Post-Carbon Age

Preparing for the Post-Carbon Age
by Doris "Granny D" Haddock

. . . .
The question for environmental activists is this: can the planet be saved even if many of the people do not understand the problem or, despite the ready facts, are insistent upon staying the course of self-destruction because it profits them in the short term? Will the rising stormy seas, the spreading deserts and droughts, only prompt them to dig their heels deeper into the mud of the melting levees?

And as a species, are we not waddling toward the cliff? Why has no great leader stood upon a rock with sufficient persuasion to halt the march and save the day? Are the forces now too great against mere words? Are the zombie masses, holding the hands of their children, on a Jonestown-like death march we cannot fathom or halt? Is it evolution itself we are watching, with our species automatically pre-wired for extinction when there are, say, by God's count, more Washington lobbyists than tree frogs - and with stickier fingers?

. . . .
Strategically, I can imagine two possible outcomes for this battle. One is dark and one is bright.

Here is the dark one. Global catastrophe builds upon global catastrophe. Democracies become dictatorships as the masses reach for leadership and rescue from storm, pestilence and famine. Shooting wars break out between those who follow and those who oppose. A time of violence and suffering falls upon the planet. The resources that could have been spent to repair the ecosystem are needed for police security and mass imprisonment or worse. The weakened species, as a whole, finds itself in no position to survive when agricultural systems collapse and anarchy overwhelms all authority. I cannot see much past that, though there is probably much to see.

Here is the bright one. Global catastrophe builds upon global catastrophe. (Yes, I know it starts out badly.) More and more people opt out of the carbon economy to join a rising society of people and communities who have moved rapidly toward an ethic of responsibility and sustainability. These communities produce the best leaders, more and more of whom are elected to national positions. Many existing national leaders begin to move toward the ethic of these communities and of sustainability. More and more towns and cities, led by goal-setting organizations dominated by young people, accept sustainable goals. The first President of the United States from such a community is elected in the same year that similar leaders are chosen in Europe, India and several other regions. The Untied Nations is rapidly reorganized around its own Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a post-carbon age economic model. Multi-national corporations are outlawed, as corporations must now be overseen by the communities that grant their limited, public purpose charters.

Now, which one of these visions, among the millions we could dream up, is the more likely? Or will the future be something in-between, where there are solar cells on every roof, but every roof is a detention facility?

What shall it be? Must we find caves in the far woods and set our booby traps against the storm troopers of the Empire who might come for us, or shall we get some responsible communities moving forward?
. . . .
["Granny D" continues this address with recommendations for success at the link above. . .]