Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Revolutionary Pledges to Take the Horowitz Mob Down

A fanatical battle is brewing.

This week's issue of the Revolutionary Communist Party's paper, Revolution, publishes a call to take down David Horowitz's upcoming “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” a wave of fanatical campus consciousness raising that will hit the country October 22-26.

The event's student guide reads that the week purports to expose two "Big Lies" of the political and academic left: "that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat." Of course this is a ham-fisted assertion taking aim at a body of people so large and diverse that logic deems such unity on the two matters far too improbable--which seems to deny the event any intelligent thrust and make it all hard to take seriously. Last week, Revolution seemed to get a lukewarm response from its readership. Some thought to let the wackos have their days in the sun while parts of the world go on getting wrecked by war and famine.

But we can't ignore it, says Toby O'Ryan of the Revolution. After all, there's something Gestapo about the activities: for one, students are encouraged walk around presenting Muslim students and administrators with a "petition denouncing Islamo-Fascist violence against women, gays, Christians, Jews and non-religious people." A refusal to sign, it seems, means being the enemy of America and enabler for the Islamic terrorist movement against women, gays, Christians, Jews and all other rational and free-thinking peoples.

O'Ryan sees a crucial victory for the Horowitzian nutcases if the revolutionaries ignore the events. What to do? "The only way to make people feel compelled to examine those assumptions is by effectively challenging them with the truth—with hard-hitting and documented facts to back it up," he writes. "That means taking on and tearing to shreds Horowitz’s arguments and bringing forward the truth in opposition to that."

Finally, he engages the proverbial Alamo routine, drawing a line in the sand: "There can be no bystanders; the question is whether the right side of this argument will speak up with all the power and sweep that it can muster and not only prevent a worsening polarization on campus, but start to change things for the better."

So, what side are you on--the Right's, or the right's?

Photo: The eminent racist David Horowitz.

Terrorism - Cool Again?

Our adventure in Iraq has started an explosive trend.

The war was supposed to rid the world of Al-Qaida and its alleged state sponsor, Saddam Hussein. But Al-Qaida has not only regrouped, to be stronger than before, according to findings in this summer’s National Intelligence Estimate. The terrorist movement is growing.

Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni group from Iraq, is slaughtering sheiks and military officers that support reconciliation between Sunnis and Shias.

This summer, Fatah al-Islam, a new terrorist militia supported by Syria, mobilized in a Palestinian refugee camp and waged war on the Lebanese army, in the name of Al-Qaida’s fanatical Wahhabism. Lebanon's National police commander, Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, described the group as “imitation al-Qaida. A ‘Made-in-Syria’ one.”

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, a group that grew up in Algeria in the 1990s and for many years called itself the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, has changed its name and piloted a new wave of bombings against North Africans over the past year. GSPC’s founder, Hassan Hattab, recently turned himself in to the Algerian police. But he said that the renamed group wanted to make Algeria “a second Iraq.”

On top of that, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, terrorist bombs have erupted across the Middle East, in Indonesia, Spain, Scotland and England. Police have foiled plots in the U.K., Germany and the United States.

Al-Qaida has an American P.R. guy named Adam Gadahn. He grew up listening to death metal, and then he got rid of his collection and converted to Islam. Recently, Osama bin Laden encouraged other Americans to convert to Islam on a propaganda video, presumably so we join the fight. Meanwhile, Al-Qaida media centers in Iraq keep turning up. USA Today recently reported that the U.S. military raided six Al-Qaida media houses in Iraq. The houses were flush with equipment: one house in Samarra was stocked with 12 computers, 65 hard drives and a filming studio. These spots are used to film and distribute videos of suicide bombings, attacks on Americans, interviews of militants for news outlets and recruiting videos for would-be terrorists.

According to a National Intelligence Council report from 2005, Iraq has become even more popular a destination for terrorist recruits than Afghanistan, where the C.I.A. and Pakistan’s intelligence service once funded, armed and trained a volunteer force of Arab mujihadeen to take on the Soviet invasion, only to see these holy warriors form the Taliban and Al-Qaida.

In part, Iraq is so alluring a destination for terrorists because over two million Iraqis have escaped their country. Many of them are middle-class professionals—-doctors, scientists, engineers, and archaeologists, precisely the type of people a country needs to remain stable and democratic.

That means the country, along with 170,000 families who have been internally displaced, is being torn apart by warring Shia militias and Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, which has assassinated numerous advocates of reconciliation there.

The recent “surge” strategy has staved off attacks, somewhat. The military has fostered an alliance with local Sunni sheiks against the group. But ours is a quixotic fight: to ensure that deserted houses, apartment buildings, neighborhoods and entire towns will not remain safe houses, weapons caches and torture chambers for years to come, we will need a prolonged American presence with hundreds of thousands of troops. Few Americans are so devoted to securing a safe future for Iraq. Others seem to want to institutionalize the ethnic divide.

Hence, Iraq has become a training ground for militants. It is dangerous, but you can travel to Iraq for an education in various techniques: clandestinely raising funds, shooting an AK-47, building a remote-controlled bomb with bags of fertilizer and a cellular telephone. This is on-the-job training, because there is always a time to put your newfound skills into practice.

In the NIC report, intelligence experts expected that foreign terrorists will eventually filter out of the country and return to their own, presumably to take up jihad. “There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries,” David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, told the Washington Post on Jan. 14, 2005.

The report, a year’s effort complied from research by over 1,000 foreign and American experts, does not anticipate a slump in the popularity of terrorism. It estimates that by 2020, Al-Qaida will have splintered into a variety of offshoots and local terrorist cells. With the aid of the Internet, they will be infinitely more mobile. “Training materials, targeting guidance, weapons know-how, and fund-raising will become virtual (i.e. online),” the report says.

In a way, the United States has become its own worst enemy. Thanks to the war in Iraq, terrorism is getting more popular every day.

Blackwater - Our Worst Enemy

"At the center's original lodge, [Erik Prince] proudly pointed out a stuffed bobcat, a wild turkey and a beaver that he recalled killing. The lobby of the Blackwater headquarters resembles a ski lodge with a twist: The front doors feature barrels from .50-caliber machine guns. Inside, a glass showcase displays replicas of guns used to assassinate presidents."

Read this. A loose cannon contracting company that specializes in building weapons and private armies gains a foothold the American government. So does that sow the seeds of civil war?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bad Dancers: Abroad Shall We Turn?

This article runs in the October 15 issue of The New School Free Press.

White Americans can rock, but unlike illustrious Bollywood stars, white people suck at dancing. Overindulgent intake of stale electro and disco derivatives, even derivatives of derivates (Bloc Party), can do that to a person. Don't fret. All hope is not lost for those with spirit. Let's take a look overseas to make those dancing legs twitter.

Ethiopia: "Ethiopiques, Vol. 3" (Buda Musiqe, 1975)

Seductive auxiliary police brass bands, swinging saxophone quartets, dramatic crooners like Mahmoud Ahmed and Hirut Bèqèlè, playing to the revolutionary backdrop of the 1970s, as Emperor Haile Selassie's empire fell—that's soul. See also Ethiopiques volumes 1 through 22.

"Nightmares From Rotterdam" (Moonshine Music, 1999)

Netherlanders are beguiling, known for their relaxed demeanors and close proximity to snow, and renowned for their gabber. Gabber consists of a heavily distorted kick on a drum machine, an extremely abrasive synth line, and some claps or cymbal crashes to punctuate the headache. Neophyte, DJ Paul, The Headbanger and the other brutal masters induce in their audience a frenetic, air-punching mania. Hits like DJ Rob and MC Joe's "Beat is Flown 1999" reveal a love for corny techno, too.

Algeria: "Algerian Raï" (ARC Music, 2005)

Raï—a musical genre from North Africa that means "opinion", "advise" or "point of view" in Arabic—is more punk than The Clash. It burst into world popularity in the 1990s as a violent Islamic terrorist movement tore Algeria apart. The offensive "category" called "world music" may actually apply with raï, which brings together Arabic folksong, hip-hop, ska, house and trance in Arabic, French, even Spanish. "Algerian Raï" is full of dramatic old-school electronic pop hits and synth-led balladry, with rich, microtonal vocals by artist the likes of Cheb Hasni. Also see Khaled, the King of Raï.

India: "The Bombay Connection, Vol. 1: Funk From Bollywood Action Thrillers 1977-1984" (Bombay Connection, 2007)

Hit songs and instrumentals from India's obscure spy flicks, like "Bond 303" and "Kashish," tear through tabla breaks, sexy funk lines, screaming horn licks, high-pitched women vocals and wild violin solos. "The Bombay Connection," compiling works by the prolific two-person composing teams Kalyanji-Anandji, Sonik-Omi, Lxmikant-Pyarelal and more, brings to mind a Hindi-speaking James Bond on an acid trip. This kind of music sends a powerful message: it's time to shirk the West's confusing dating rules, gather up a couple dozen friends and engage that mysterious love-prospect in an epic dance routine.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cool Blue

Blues are rife on rainy days.

Monday, October 8, 2007

MacBook: Repeat Offender

Steve Jobs, you are on my shit list. The next time you flap your gums on national television about how cool and hip and user-friendly the Mac is, make sure that these products actually work, unlike the piece of shit you sold me. I just paid twenty bucks for The Bombay Connection today. Again, again, the dumpy laptop your company designed has rejected another fucking classic.

For the record, Jobs, I will never, ever, ever purchase your low-quality AAC files from the iTunes Store. Fuck the iTunes Store. When everyone's MacBook laptops inevitably crash, they will lose thousands of dollars in music they bought and they won't be able to re-download it for free. Once mine crashes, which I suspect will be sooner than I think, all of my CDs and records will live on.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

High Toxicity at Newtown Creek Nature Walk

The Morning Rowing Team. Photos by Rob Buchanan

"East River" is something of a misnomer. The slice of water that divides Queens and Brooklyn from Manhattan is actually a tidal strait, the cord that links the Long Island Sound up north with salty Ocean water. Depending on the time of day, the tide presses either north or south at a steady speed--in some parts even at 5 knots. Rowing downstrait in a 25-foot long vessel called a Whitehall Gig, the tide can either be a blessing or a curse. "It's like walking down an escalator versus walking up an escalator," Eric, a classmate in the class Lang on the Hudson, said.

Eleven of us, adventurer and professor Rob Buchanan included, began at 10:10 in the morning last Friday on 96th Street, pushing two Gigs across a busy intersection underneath an overpass, to the banks of the East River. Assisted by Mary Nell of the organization East River CREW, we hooked each boat up to the davit on the bank, a metal crane with a revolving arm. We cranked them slowly into the water. Then we cruised south, through Roosevelt Island's east channel, passing a nice park on the island, an immense power plant, Matthew Barney's black tug-boat of a thing and the lush green bluffs of Hunter's Point. Finally, we turned into Newtown Creek, the most polluted landscape in all of New York City.

Here, it smells of rank crude oil. Large buildings and rusty old equipment flanked us as we rowed into a vortex of industrial infrastructure. The water here is at some of the lowest Federal standards, polluted with bacteria, chemicals, oil-spills from the likes of ExxonMobil and the other industrial plants and factories that weed out this waterfront. The area seems remote, a place where the mob might hold executions. But there were signs of life: The Raven spraypainted on a wall, a small motor-boat suspended over the water on two davits, an old man talking on a phone outside the back door of a large warehouse.

"That's The Raven's fixer," I told Brett, the other rower in our boat.


"That's The Raven's fixer," I repeated. "He hooks him up."

We passed the Pulaski Bridge and Eric, from the afternoon class, waved down. Brett, a poet in baggy dress pants, a wife beater and a ripped up, brown bandana to mop up his long brown hair, and wearing violet sunglasses, offered the middle finger. He probably didn't recognize him.

We landed at a long concrete wall past 30 or so yards from a staircase leading into the water, beside the Newtown Creek Wastewater Control Plant, which churns up and treats 240 million gallons of polluted water a day. Laura and Mike Hofmann, volunteers from the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee, watched us row by and tie the boats up. We entered a long, wide walkway different shades of concrete, a tranquil space indeed, and milled over to the water fountain along the wall. Looking out to the water, we watched a rusty claw grab up a totalled car and drop it onto a barge filled with two big trash heaps.

For the past five or six years, a few local organizations--the Monitoring Committee, the Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper--have been working with the City Councilmember in charge of the waterfront, David Yasky, to develop the area into an educational and serene public grounds. Here was one product of the $3.7 billion venture, paid for by homeowners in Greenpoint: the "Nature Walk." The space was designed by George Trackus, and Mike said it was fashioned like the shape of a boat. We headed down another passageway with high, curved walls, made a 90 degree turn at a juncture which looked like a gun turret, then gasped at how this narrow, curved, concrete walkway perfectly framed the Empire State Building.

We headed back to the giant steps, walking through the gravel strewn concrete walkway and passing some foliage, echinachea, currant, rosehip (high in Vitamin C and good for tea, apparently), even what we thought were blueberries. "You gotta squeeze em!" said Samson, an afternoon classer who joined us. If they were white inside, these were blueberries, he explained. But if they were red, then they weren't. Another classmate squeezed a berry between his thumb and index. It was a red purplish color.

Christie Holowacz, the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee liaison, joined us around a concrete table with a design of the East tidal strait's many arms and fingers in the New York area. A few minutes ago, Bill Shuck, a member of the Newtown Creek Alliance, rowed up on a little boat and joined us. We drank water and asked some questions about the area. This all started when RiverKeeper would patrol the area. Once, a factory took a huge load of broken pallates, wood things used for shipping, and dropped them in the water. Some patrolmen came up to a pallate, took a picture of its bar code and issued the factory a legal letter stating that their actions had broken the city's environmental laws.

It started small, Bill said, but refurbishing the watefront has built into a movement--development efforts are surfacing at the Bronx River, Gowanus Canal and more. At Newtown Creek, the sewage treatment plant is the largest in the city, hosting four, giant, silver domes, which to Rob looked like Eastern Orthodox Churches. "They work like a stomach," Christine said. Water comes in, methane gas chews it up and eats it and swirls it around. Voila! The domes and ambient noise of trash compacting aside, projects are springing up around here, like a tall office building under construction.

The students were tired from a day of rowing, but the sights were a visceral reminder of reality. Maybe it was far away from home, maybe this place isn't yet the kind of tranquil environment we would turn to in the studying hour. But when our waterfronts are scarred by pollution and decrepit infrastructure, clearly we have to do something about it--and thankfully, a small contingent of folks care. Here's how Bill sums the projects up: "People taking back what's really a resource, not an eyesore."