Hold It All

Category: Journalists

Countering Chaos

Alexander Cockburn, A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip through Political Scandal, Corruption, and American Culture
Verso, 2013

Daisy Cockburn: When I was a teenager my father used to suggest I read the dictionary when I had a spare minute, or if I was feeling a bit down. His own father Claud had recommended a dip into Marx if darkness descended. The point being made was a reminder not to collapse, to find meaning, counter chaos with spirited punches—get to the root of things and then improvise, blow your trumpet from there. 571

These words by Alex Cockburn’s daughter are at the end of the magnificent volume of his writings from 1995 to 2012. Rereading him in the time of descending darkness during COVID-19, I return to the following passages to find meaning and counter chaos for purposes of necessary improvising….

Boyd had that rare talent: relentless intellectual focus on the task at hand. To hear him dissect tactics employed at the battle of Leuctra, when the Thebans beat the Spartans in 371 BC, was as overwhelming as to hear him discuss the relevance of Gödel, Heisenberg and the Second Law of thermodynamics to human behavior. Beyond all that, Boyd was an honest, modest, populist who never lost his humanity amid a life devoted to the consideration of war. 80

Like Greece, the strength of the Occupy Wall Street movement lies in the simplicity and truth of its basic message: the few are rich, the many are poor. In terms of its pretensions the capitalist system has failed. Nearly six million manufacturing jobs in the United States have disappeared since 2000, and more than 40,000 factories have closed. African-Americans have endured what has been described as the greatest loss of collective assets in their history. Hispanics have seen their net worth drop by two-thirds. Millions of whites have been pitchforked into penury and desperation. 515 Read the rest of this entry »

Hope’s Beautiful Daughters: A Spring & Summer Class

 

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.
— Saint Augustine

Why repeat the facts—they cover up our feelings. The development of these feelings, the spilling of these feelings past the  facts, is what fascinates me. I try to find them, collect them, protect them.
—Svetlana Alexievich

The truth is that I simply did not understand why anyone would want to violate the rights of others or to ruin the environment. Why would someone destroy the only forest left in the city and give it to friends and political supporters to build expensive houses and golf courses?
—Wangari Maathai

Our strategy should be not only to confront Empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer recklessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.
—Arundhati Roy

Writing is essential to my life, like breathing. I can live without a husband but I cannot live without writing. By writing I become one with the world and with myself.
—Nawal El Saadawi

In this class we will get (re)acquainted with some of the world’s great writers, activists, dissidents, Nobel Laureates, investigators, critics, chroniclers, and healers of our time. We will meet twice a month on Wednesdays via Zoom over six months, reading and reflecting on one book each month. Among the themes we will explore are reverence for life, compassion/accompaniment, questioning authority, dangerous memory, structural violence, and deep listening.

Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Václav Havel I Think of Gideon Levy

Glucksman says the role of the intellectual is to warn, to predict horrors, to be a Cassandra who tell us  what is going on outside the walls of the city.  I share this notion….I too think the intellectual should constantly disturb, should bear witness to the misery of the world, should be provocative by being independent, should rebel against all hidden and open pressure and manipulations, should be the chief doubter of systems, of power and its incantations, should be a witness to their mendacity.  For this very reason, an intellectual cannot fit into any role that might be assigned to him, nor can he ever be made to fit into any of the histories written by the victors.  An intellectual essentially doesn’t belong anywhere; he stands out as an irritant wherever he is; he does not fit into any pigeonhole completely. –Havel, Disturbing the Peace

 

 

The Goal Is Justice, the Method Is Transparency

For those who would like to know a little more about  the issues surrounding Julian Assange and Wikileaks, please take two minutes to read and ponder the following passages from Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler’s new book, In Defense of Julian Assange (OR Books, 2019).

Providing information to the citizens of this world has become a dangerous act, but it cannot be stopped, as every authoritarian regime understands. The courageous people who provide this information must be protected.  —Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler, xxvii 

I posed the question of what the most positive trajectory for the future would look like. Self-knowledge, diversity, and networks of self-determination.  A highly educated global population—I do not mean formal education, but highly educated in their understanding of how human civilization works at the political, industrial, scientific and psychological levels—as a result of the free exchange of communication, also stimulating vibrant new cultures and the maximal diversification of individual thought, increased regional self-determination, and the self-determination of interest groups that are able to network quickly and exchange value rapidly over geographic boundaries. —Julian Assange,  212

[Julian] Assange’s agenda is infinitely more noble and infinitely more reviled by the servants of power: to upset the status quo that demands war, corruption, and oppression in order to exist.—Caitlin Johnstone, 195 

As founder and editor of WikiLeaks, [Assange’s] crime has been to make sense of dark times. WikiLeaks has an impeccable record of accuracy and authenticity which no newspaper, no TV channel, no radio station, no BBC, no New York Times, no Washington Post, no Guardian can equal. Indeed, it shames them. That explains why he is being punished.—John Pilger  151 Read the rest of this entry »

For So They Treated the Prophets…

Here’s Noam Chomsky–True prophets like Amos — “dissident intellectuals,” in modern terminology — offered both elevated moral lessons, which the people in power weren’t fond of, and geopolitical analyses that usually turned out to be pretty accurate, which the people in power were even less fond of. Naturally, the true prophets were despised, imprisoned, driven into the desert. The public also hated the true prophets — they didn’t want to hear the truth either. Not because they were bad people, but for all the usual reasons — short-term interest, manipulation, dependence on power.

Julian Assange has been despised, imprisoned, driven into extreme isolation; according to Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: ‘we all came to the conclusion that he showed all the symptoms that are typical for a person that has been exposed to psychological torture over an extended period of time.’

One of the reasons he and Wikileaks are so hated by the devotees of the war-making state is the release of such material as this on Collateral Murder.

 

 

Share the Wealth with Andrew Wimmer and Mark Chmiel: Making Use of Wikileaks

According to Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, “[Wikileaks] functions almost like a group of historians of the present. Its institutional mission is to reveal the secret activities of political leaders and, in the process, show the public how states actually function and what they actually do.”

In this Share the Wealth, we will examine one example of what the U.S. government wanted to remain secret but which Wikileaks made available. In so doing, we will consider the nature of civic responsibility and its costs.

Join us
Sunday 24 November
Potluck begins at 6:00
Andrew and I begin sharing at 6:45
At the home of Andrew 4400 Arco Avenue
Forest Park Southeast
Point your GPS to 1077 S. Newstead, 63110
Park on Newstead
House is on SW corner of Newstead and Arco
Enter front door at 4400 Arco

Free Julian!

As founder and editor of WikiLeaks, his crime has been to make sense of dark times. WikiLeaks has an impeccable record of accuracy and authenticity which no newspaper, no TV channel, no radio station, no BBC, no New York Times, no Washington Post, no Guardian can equal. Indeed, it shames them. That explains why he is being punished.

—John Pilger, from Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler, editors, In Defense of Julian Assange

Remembering Alexander Cockburn

Dear Andrew,

You and I make frequent reference these delirious days to Alexander Cockburn, who published us in his Counterpunch website back during both the Bush and Obama administrations. A while ago I reread his glorious book, The Golden Age Is in Us: Journeys & Encounters 1987-1994, and I am happy to share with you several passages that reveal the man. He is missed.

Take a Look!

Mark

So the Golden Age is subversive and it’s fun, which means that for us on the left, it should be our goal and sales pitch. People love utopias that make sense….There is abundance, if we arrange things differently. The world can be turned upside down; that is, the right way up. The Golden Age is in us, if we know where to look, and what to think.

It would take the pen of Swift to evoke the nauseating scenes of hypocrisy, bad faith and self-delusion on the White House lawn on September 13, crammed as it was with people who for long years were complicit in the butchery and torture of Palestinians and the denial of their rights, now applauding the “symbolic handshake” that in fact ratified further abnegation of those same rights…. In the shadow of an American President with the poise and verbiage of the manager of a McDonald’s franchise, Arafat produced oratory so meager it made Rabin sound like Cicero. To think that long years of struggle and U.N. resolutions acknowledging Palestinian claims should end with this pathetic fellow shouting thank you to his suzerains.

The wars in Korea and Vietnam were not byproducts of superpower rivalry. In both instances the United States wanted to crush indigenous revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Avis Meyer: Seeing the World

Avis Meyer, professor emeritus, taught journalism, literature, editing, writing, and film classes at SLU, from 1974-2016. He was also the adviser to the school’s weekly student newspaper, The University News, during the same period. He worked at the Post-Dispatch, 1982-2005, as a copy editor and occasional writer of travel articles (20 or so). (His early encounters with Twain’s Innocents Abroad*** and Orwell’s Burmese Days** are, at least, partially to blame/credit for his custom of poking around in unfamiliar places and bumping into exotic people.)

He and his wife of 53 years (as of July 23), Anna Marie, have visited some 50-plus countries and all 50 states. Their primary junkets abroad began with their first, seven-month sabbatical (their favorite noun in the English language) in 1987, based in Germany and England, as was their second, in 1996, and the third, in 2005. A score, or so, of random voyages have intermittently punctuated the “big three,” from 1989-2019, as funds were excruciatingly secured.


***Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Murdered Journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s “A Russian Diary” Only Relevant to Russians?

Anna Politkovskaya, A Russian Diary:
A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin’s Russia

Random House, 2007

… the Russian people gave its consent. Nobody stood up. There were no demonstrations, mass protests, acts of civil disobedience. The electorate took it lying down and agreed to live, not only without Yavlinsky, but without democracy. 16

Our society is sick. Most people are suffering from the disease of paternalism, which is why Putin gets away with everything, why he is possible in Russia. 71

The Russia tradition is one of an inability to plan and see through the sheer hard work of systematic opposition. If we are going to do anything, it has to be something we can do on the spot, here and now, after which life will be sorted. As that isn’t the way things work, life doesn’t get sorted. 121-122

This whole system of thieving judges, rigged elections, presidents who have only contempt for the needs of their people, can operate only if nobody protests. That is the Kremlin’s secret weapon and the most striking feature of life in Russia today. … We have emerged from socialism, as thoroughly self-centered people. 124-125 Read the rest of this entry »