Semi-Obligatory End-of-class Pseudo-Cathartic Post

     I have had an absolute blast in Journalism 65, and have appreciated the voice that it has given me and the learning experience as far as what to do and what not to do with it. Thank you everybody that was in my class and I wish we could have all met in real life. If any of you are ever in a pinch let me know and I’ll do what I can because I respect the content that you are putting into the world.

Most of you are really trying to do the right thing as opposed to living on autopilot like most people. Stay thinking critically and testifying and refusing to accept the standardized narrative.

The ten things that I learned as a result of taking this class:

1. In order to network on the internet (much like in real life), you must suck up to powerful people, which is not easy if you are knocking the actions of those in power left and right in your actual content. Subtlety is key. Most people hate the system with all of their hearts, but not everybody has the privilege of speaking on it.

2. The main difference between the internet and real life is that on the internet there is more time to think that which you say through, and even revise it in some cases.

3. If somebody shows interest in your personal life on the internet, it is likely that they consider you useful for their personal gain.

4. If the political left is going to get anywhere, it needs to be drawing support from the working class, and not more ivory-tower elitist armchair bureaucrats.

5. One language per blog. People like to know what language their going to be reading in and don’t want to see little half-assed bids at online community unification sprinkled in.

6. Never trust a public compliment.

7. It’s not a game. What we put into the world is real and has a real effect and we must be able to stand 100% behind the things we bring into the world because what we create, if anything at all, defines us.

8. Globalization is equal parts positive and negative, is not inextricably linked with capitalism and could be used to the benefit of the oppressed majority if put into their own hands.

9. I can no longer judge the online actions of others with such contempt now that I see the pressure associated with familial ties to “do well”, even at the unfortunate expense of others.

10. LinkedIn sucks.

  The future of journalism will most certainly involve the internet. How could it not? All major news companies now use the internet and have done so for years. It will also not use the internet in that there will always be people on this planet that rely on word-of-mouth, weather patterns and more ancient methods for obtaining information. The mainstream media will continue to corrupt journalism through corporate interests and the public will generally continue to view the more blatant lies with vague and ambivalent  skepticism. Such is life.

    As for social media… it will live on as long as the human race continues to… so maybe another twenty years or so. We are too simultaneously self-absorbed and interdependent to cast it off, but it will evolve to frightening proportions until there is no way to tell where woman ends and machine begins (man, too).

The course will affect my future in that it has made me much more adept at both using the internet and in finding work, and I really couldn’t ask for more than that. These are two very important survival skills that have likely added another half-decade or so to my projected lifetime (20 more years, like all of you doomed people). But really, I appreciate your readership and your life whoever you are reading this blog that I created for my journalism 65 class. I will be back to blogging before you know it, but I have decided to do so anonymously, so you won’t know it’s me. I wonder what anonymous me blogs about?

Anyway, as a parting gift, for your delight, here are some pigeons.

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Revolution Without a Time Machine

Any radical that tells you that their particular flavor of utopia would have been possible had it been created a few decades ago… is copping out. It is useless to base one’s political beliefs on a parallel universe that does not exist to us.

Those of us that see the future as doomed are making a prediction, which has nothing to do with offering the best possible solution that will provide the best life for the most people (utilitarian thought), allow for the most personal freedom (libertarian thought), disperse remaining resources equally (communist thought) or make sure they and their family survive as long as possible (selfish bastard thought). These are not all mutually exclusive and may merge and change over time (over the course of two minutes in some cases).

Those of us that do not see Peak Oil/The Apocolypse/End of the Long Count Calendar/World War 3 (This time w/nuclear bombs! Stay tuned, folks!)/The Robot Holocaust/The Age of Aquarius killing us in the coming decade or two are split in terms of priority between the future and the present, themselves and others,  the advancement of technology and its destruction in favor of a simpler lifestyle, and the completion of total world Globalization or its swift dismantlement.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines globalization as:

The act or process of globalizing : the state of being globalized; especially : the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets

Globalization is a term that means different things in different contexts. Culturally, it is the “It’s a Small World” phenomenon in which ideas, families and individuals interact and merge. People are able to pick and choose what their values and lifestyles will be from a larger pool of options.

In the economic sense, it is the removal of national and regional boundaries to trade and labor markets… it is the reason that your clothes are from China, your coffee is from Colombia and that telemarketer you’re talking to is calling from India. American business owners take one look at the minimum wage laws over here and take their business elsewhere… leaving us to create jobs that are largely unnecessary for our own growing, ever-poorer working class.

There are some leftist theorists that see opportunity here where others see defeat. A fellow WordPress blogger who I admire greatly has posted on this in vast detail and I would like to share a quote from them:

“The american economy is weak.  the middle class is shrinking.  class inequality is greater now than ever before in the 20th century.  most importantly, american capitalism has recently implemented a campaign of globalization, joining the world’s economies into one megaeconomy without borders.  this I believe to be a potential death knell of modern capitalism.  perhaps not in my lifetime, but eventually, if globalization continues to unite the world’s economies, it will lay out a foundation for global revolution like the world has never before been afforded.”

I personally, for what it’s worth, am of the opinion that the human race has had a good run and is not likely to live much longer, but that our priority nevertheless must be its survival and quality of life (These do not always have to be contradictory ideals battling each other… a doctor, for example, indeed prioritizes both). That might sound racist (In the sense that I care more about the human race than all others), but trust me, your dog feels the same way about you. We also need to take care of the ecosystem and all of the plants and animals that are a part of it to insure our own survival, so really this arrangement benefits everyone.

I read a very interesting article on Al Jazeera the other day called The Globalization of Revolution. It explores the recent actions that have taken place in the Middle East, as well as past revolutions and the role of global support networks. An important issue that it brought up was the seemingly insurmountable challenge of trying to maintain an anti-capitalist economy within a globalized capitalist economy.

“It is no joke that revolutionaries face their greatest challenges after the revolution, and usually fail to meet them with sufficient humanity. Having broken from the international order in their struggles for freedom, revolutionary countries have proved unable to negotiate a re-entry into that order on terms that allow them to flourish, while remaining true to their principles.”

So do not despair, or develop the political schizophrenia common amongst many of our peers that causes one to act, dress and talk like it’s the dawn of the industrial revolution once again and we can wish it all away. We are an inflated population of superconsumers living on borrowed energy and therefore borrowed time and that will not go away no matter how cool your beard is.

What are you going to do about it?

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An Interview with Juan from Wisconsin

I met Juan Esteban Ruiz the young activist, journalist and artist when he was passing through Berkeley. He had come to understand the political and cultural climate of California and bring back what he had learned to his home state Wisconsin. Unfortunately, among some positive strategies, he also learned that the cops here have serious issues. Here is a video in which Juan gets a less than warm reception playing the drums at a protest. He returned to his home state with no idea to what extent it was about to go down over there… but go down it did, and soon he was participating in the biggest labor fight in his state’s history. So big that we in California have actually heard about it, which is a big deal considering how labor battles are more often than not swept under the rug completely.  Today, I present to you an interview with Juan on these issues and more. Here goes it:

L: Thank you for letting me interview you. To start out, could you please speak on who you are, how you came into activist journalism and what your current projects are?

J: Hey, my name is Juan Esteban Ruiz and I was born in Buenaventura, Colombia. My family moved from Colombia to Madison WI, when I was four. As far as how I can into Activist Journalism is pretty much answered by how I developed in my teens and early adulthood. I went to four different high schools and the the fourth school is named after Malcom Shabazz, or Malcom X. It was an alternative high school that really turned on a light inside of myself for a thirst for knowledge in Politics and Current Events. I started volunteering at local business’s in Madison for school credit, and Radio Journalism turned out to be one of them. When I was 19, I had just graduated high school and enjoyed a beautiful summer in Madison. Then hurricane Katrina hit, I worked hard with several other activists as a Relief volunteer in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. I made a radio documentary about what was happening on the ground in New Orleans and several other locations in the southern struck regions of the US. I won a Wisconsin Public Broadcasting Award for best independent documentary. It was my first radio documentary.  I just put a story together for WORT 89.9 fm on the protests at the Capitol building in Madison. I interviewed Amy Goodman at a local event that she spoke at. I also interviewed our newly elected mayor, Paul Soglin, a veteran of the Civil Rights era, I’ve been focusing my attention on people who have made an impact in our community here in Madison. Both from my generation, older activists, and the youth, because that’s how I got into it.
L: What was your role in the recent labor conflict in Wisconsin that had been receiving a lot of press in the last few months? Could you explain briefly what the conflict was to a layperson that isn’t up on their union lingo?
J:  As far as the recent protests in Madison, my role has been that of support. I need to get harder into the grit, but good thing there’s a lot left to the fight, there’s not much we can do to repeal the change in the law that bans Collective Bargaining Rights for Union members right now, right now. I say that meaning in the short term. But as far as the long term is considered, there needs to be a collective movement un-electing the current state senate that has a Republican Majority. And of course, the Recall effort of Scott Walker. Basically our newly elected Governor Scott Walker wrote a very Draconian bill that cuts funding for a lot of social programs, cuts collective bargaining rights for Unions, like teachers and garbage men. He’s trying to make abortion and clinics like Planned Parenthood lose their federal and state funding. He says all this under the guise of reform and balancing the budget. But yet he’s not increasing taxes on the top earners in the state, he’s increasing taxes on the middle class and below.

L: One could arguably say that the battle in Madison has been lost, in that governor Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill that banned most collective bargaining was passed and that media attention has now been focused away from the efforts and on to other things such as the death of Osama Bin Laden and Bristol Palin’s new face. Many of the activists and journalists that had been fighting the cause had to give up in order to keep themselves afloat financially. Would you say that this movement in Wisconsin has been a complete failure? (And if not, why not?)

J: I don’t think its been a failure, I think it will be a travesty is
he is reelected, or even if doesn’t get recalled. Around November is when we can actually start the recall process of the Governor… So we need to get the petition to sign the petition going strong this summer. Then in November we can start canvassing all of Wisconsin, especially the Madison and Milwaukee area, and we can hopefully make state history and recall a very fascist Governor Walker. I guess we need 540,000 signatures? I don’t think it will be that hard considering we broke 100,000 people at the capitol for a month straight! As far as the media goes… Well they haven’t covered much of this story since, and that’s what happens in main stream media, they play the shit out of a story, then they drop it, and move on to the next story. I’m not offended, I’m just glad they gave us the attention they did! The first wave may be over, but there is a lot more left in this war…

L: Here in California, and all over the United States, the quality of life for the working class is diminishing ever faster as a result of these “budget balancing acts”. Were you the governor, president, or other miscellaneous dictator guy, how would you go about balancing the budget in your state and the whole country? Can the budget be balanced in a civilized way (Meaning, in a way that will improve or at least not reduce the quality of life for America’s poor without relying on imperialism?)

J: If I were head of the World Bank, well even farther than that. If I
was the heir to the throne of the Richest family in the world… like
the Waltons, or the Medicci, I would do so much for the world… At
least I think so. If I had the money that Bill Gates does, and the
influence over people like Obama. First thing I would do is create a
sustainable agriculture program. Start reallocating corporate farmland into smaller sustainable farming communities. So we can create jobs, whilst feeding ourselves. Along with sustainable agriculture, I would enact sustainable energy programs. Because if we trained more people how to create there own energy, we could tax that energy into a collective pot, and use that to power things like hospitals and airports at lower cost. I want to create jobs… The way we do that is through technology and education. If we could create hydrogen powered energy plants, that created energy, and had a by product of drinkable water… Than you could solve a lot of issues that will be a factor in the future. Cities are getting way too over populated, we need to terraform desert into sustainable communities, but keep a careful balance with human encroachment on the animal kingdoms. I would start
composting plants, so we could create soil out of organic waste
material, I would totally reform all basic utilities to become more
green and sustainable. I would also start gardening and botanical
projects for children in schools. Making it mandatory education to
learn how to grow your own food. With the facts of pollinating bee’s
dying on mass in the United States, and the erosion of the the top
soil in America’s heartland, huge Corporate farms and there waste
product of fertilizers and pesticides, pretty soon there won’t be
enough usable soil to feed our population. So we need to start
teaching people how to grow there own food first, because I’m not
trying to rely on Monsanto to feed me when the shit hits the fan!
There’s a lot I would do if I were in power… But even the powerful
have safe guards against anyone of there own going rogue and actually helping the people. Honestly I know Obama would’ve done more political moves like Kennedy if only he wouldn’t get shot in the head for them. When you dive down the rabbit hole in activism, it can get really scary at times. If you simply read the history of social movements, and what the rich and powerful do to those of there opposition, then you will learn that you cannot trust any government official. You cannot trust any corporate suit, and you might not even be able to trust your own wife! Meaning anyone can be corrupted, and intimidated. Or anyone person can be an informant. Sadly you have to realize those facts in activism, and persevere… I think honestly the Government knows whats its been doing is wrong, its just about the money, really, so when money doesn’t become the main issue, then maybe actually healing and preserving our world will take presidence over that. I guess the best thing that could be done, if for all the owners of the Fortune 500 companies, the leaders of Governments and States around
the world, got together and chose to help… Really its that easy,
they can just choose to help. I guess that’s all I want really, is just
some compassion and love towards a stranger ya know?

L: How can we here in the Bay Area support our allies in Wisconsin and the greater community?

J: How can the Bay help Wisco? Well I’ve always wanted to setup a connection of fundraisers, I would love to setup a tour of different groups from the Bay coming to Madison and Milwaukee. Music is such a huge way of bringing people together… The Bay has mad culture, that’s something they can export to the Midwest, because there are some ignant folks here in Wisco. But here in Madison, its a lot like Berkeley, its the Wisconsin countryside that would use the culture of the Bay the best. There’s a lot that can be done between both regions, but were like 2000 miles apart, that makes it kinda hard to be there in person, even when your there in spirit! We need more recognition for the hard work people have been doing here in Wisconsin. And there’s a battle to be fought in Cali as well, I guess who knows what the future holds, I just know that if we wanna see our dreams come true, we gotta work at it… Basically, it don’t come easy, and it don’t come cheap, change has a cost, but those who persevere always get ahead, that’s just what I truly believe…

Thank you, Juan Ruiz.

Show your solidarity with Wisconsin. Click here!

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America Needs a New Bad Guy… Could it Be You?

The way that the death of Osama Bin Laden has been sensationalized and turned into a VH1 Behind the Music special is enough to turn anybody with half a brain into the internet equivalent of a suicide bomber. What is it about somebody dying that makes their life and times exponentially more fascinating to the drooling public?

Although I am ready to move on from this subject, I would like to draw some deserved attention towards the news sources that have attempted to give this story some honest perspective.

This article by the UK Guardian is a breath of fresh air amidst all of the patriotism and shallow detail-dwelling that has taken hold of this story in the media. It speaks of the polarization of good versus evil that has been a cultural and political norm in this country since its creation.

The horrific thing about Osama bin Laden was that he helped to kill thousands of innocent people throughout the world. But he was also in a strange way a godsend to the west. He simplified the world. When communism collapsed in 1989, the big story that had been hardwired into citizens of western countries – that of the global battle against a distant dark and evil force – came to an abrupt end. Understanding the world became much more complicated until, amid the confusion of a global economic crisis in 1998 and the hysterical spectacle of the Monica Lewinsky affair, Bin Laden emerged as the mastermind behind the bombings of embassies in east Africa.

This article provides some much-needed historical context and cause-and-effect that is lacking from the discourse. It speaks about the very real necessity of an absolute villain, and also discusses the meaning of “Al Qaeda” and attempts to provide a true account of the movements taking place in the Middle East.

Another important question that many patriots fail to ask themselves is- how did Osama Bin Laden become the powerful, scary terrorist guy that we have all come to know and love to hate? This article gives a little bit of background for those of you who believe that Mr. Bin Laden’s first diaper was an American flag. It turns out, little Osama was an enemy of the old hammer and sickle long before the starts and stripes.

In 1979, bin Laden, who inherited a personal $300 million fortune from his father (a construction boss billionaire), decided to abandon his former life of luxury and dedicate himself to fight communism. When the Soviet army entered Afghanistan to support a pro-Moscow government there, bin Laden was recruited by the CIA to become the financier of the anti-Soviet “holy war.” In 1986, William Casey, CIA chief under Reagan-Bush Sr., approved an old proposal by the Pakistani intelligence services to recruit Islamic fundamentalists worldwide to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.”

See, it’s best to think of American foreign policy like a never ending game of “Rock, Paper Scissors”. .. or musical chairs. They set up future boogeymen by arming and training dictators and then arming and training more dictators to get rid of them.

It’s silly, isn’t it? Like, if there weren’t millions of people dying and suffering at the hands of these wealthy playboys (and token playgirls) with no connections to this dying and suffering that are running the planet…. it would be hilarious.

Anyway, in Pakistan they’re doing this right now:

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Where Was I? Where Were You? Where’s the Remote?

For  most People that were alive for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the assassination of JFK, the destruction of the Berlin Wall and any other of these “biggies” in the accepted narrative of history as told through an American perspective generally know where they were and what they were doing there when these events took place. The two that I remember the most clearly, mainly for the reactions of the adults around me which had at the time seemed completely illogical, were the death of the Princess Diana and the September 11th attacks in 2001. For the former, I was at my grandmother’s house having lunch when suddenly everybody started crying and causing a fuss. For the latter, I was actually sleeping in my bed and my mother woke me up to watch the news with her and that same grandmother who happened to be visiting us at the time, which she has only done a handful of times since we came to the country. (I just figured out that my grandmother is cursed and causes sensationalist news events.)
No, I do not mean to say that a bombing in which 3,000 civilians died is not terrible, I am just saying that it happens all the time, all over the world, and a life is a life. Ideally, a person would be just as upset about every time innocent people were bombed, no matter what language they speak or weird religions that they have.
When I found out that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, I was working. Actually, I was doing my friend’s homework for her for trade. Her mom came into the room and said: “Osama Bin Laden got shot”. We literally both said something along the lines of “Oh, ok”, and got back to the math problems. Nobody texted me or e-mailed me about it, not even any of my weird lefty organizations that send me ten e-mails a day about this and that. The only deaths that have ever impacted me emotionally have been of people that I actually knew and cared about. I then read and listened to the news from my collection of sources until I was satisfied that I had the closest overall story to the truth that one can get as a political outsider. Yep, Bin Laden is dead. The most interesting part of all this for me has actually been studying the reactions of people here in Internet World… but more on that in my next post.

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Shoot, Coward, you are Only Going to Kill a Man

Last words of the original Angry White Boy, Che Guevara. I’m quoting this guy because like Osama Bin Laden, Che was the “face” of a movement that was killed by opposing forces as an attempt to end that movement, or at least in the eyes of the ignorant masses (thus ending it for real if the movement is largely comprised of said ignorant masses).

Che was repping communism, his version of which has long since been corrupted by the T-shirt industry. Mr. Bin Laden was repping Jihad, which has yet to be made frivolous and anachronistic by history. In other words, communism is Myspace and Jihad is Facebook. You follow?

Also like Che, Osama was neither the creator, nor the omnipotent ruler of his respective movement. A movement is greater than the sum of its parts (the individuals that it is composed of). They were both just rich boys who used their privilege to enter a seat of power.

It’s funny. When I had already written my preliminary version of this post, I googled “Guevara Bin Laden” to see if I was beaten to the punch with this comparison. Of course I was. This article from the Miami Herald compared the graveless burial of Guevara with that of Bin Laden and spoke of the difficulty of disposing of the corpses of enemy leaders in general without spawning conspiracy theories that they actually survived.  And here’s a BBC news article that wonders if history might remember Bin Laden as Guevara was remembered by today’s suburban youth.

The mainstream news media speaks about killing Bin Laden like the war in Afghanistan is now over, Al Qaeda has been dismantled and we can now all go for ice-cream. The truth is that Bin Laden was not a master strategist. He was part of a huge network and he paid people to help him make decisions. The Jihad movement has not so much lost their greatest mind so much as just their mascot. Al Qaeda will live on… with one more martyr to avenge.

Anyway, in good foresight I’ve gone ahead and edited a photo of Bin Laden with plenty of contrast for maximum T-shirt exploitability. Get ready to see your kids wearing this image in 20 years:

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The Gaga Course Media Feast and Some Sociology

(For those of you that didn’t know who she is, I have included an image of Lady Gaga and a link to her Wikipedia page. You’re welcome.)

The best thing about social sciences is that for every monolithic media story about social phenomenon there is the potential for analysis of what this story’s popular presentation and prioritization means for the society as a whole.

You might remember hearing in the news at the end of last year that a school called the University of South Carolina (which I was already familiar with due to a family member studying there for a year and ending up in a cult) offering a sociology course in Lady Gaga taught by one Mathieu Deflem, whose other academic specialties involve international policing and counterterrorism.

Although I have mixed feelings about Lady Gaga, (See: I have a big shrine of her in my bathtub made of bits of her hair bought off e-bay) due to her being an advertising tool and probably a succubus, I found myself at first in the “Oh hell no” camp.

When I read the curriculum, I thought the whole thing was likely to be a joke, ( until I confirmed that this really was the university website, and read up some more on the issue.) Perhaps as a “hats-off” to Gaga’s utilization of social media to build her fanbase, the course has a blog which allows people from all over the world to more or less audit the class online if they so wish. Many of the students in the class have also started blogs on the subject so that we lesser “Little Monsters”/sociology buffs may have a taste of this unique learning opportunity.

The story was picked up by the New York Times, the Huffington Post and quickly went viral. The New York Times article gave things a bit of context that helped me to figure out whether to laugh or cry:

Mr. Deflem said he was instantly entranced with Lady Gaga when he saw her on “The Tonight Show” in January 2009. Then he went to a concert in Atlanta. That led to his traipsing after her around the world to more than 28 shows. He owns more than 300 of her records on vinyl and CD, most of which are international releases. He has started a Web site, gagafrontrow.net, a respectful and adoring fan site with pictures and audio downloads of rare Gaga songs.

Mr. Deflem has met Lady Gaga five times, which was easy in the old days (last year), but now he warns on his site: “Do not contact me about how to meet Lady Gaga. I don’t know. I met her during meet and greets that were organized at the concerts (during the Fame Ball tour and the early Monster Ball tour), and once, per chance, at an airport. I am not in touch with her nor with her management.)””

So there you have it. The guy is the biggest Little Monster of them all, apparently. He is teaching a sociology class for the love of Lady Gaga, and not vice-versa. He has literally tried to rename the university after her.

In the midst of  the feeding frenzy, there seem to be a few things missing from the general discourse:

1. Taxpayers are funding this class in a time and place where there is hunger and poverty that the tax dollars could be used to combat

2. The class material contains zero sociology. It would be much better named as “The History of Lady Gaga”.

3. I searched relentlessly for answers to why this was allowed to happen, by Googling “Gaga sociology administration why?” but to no avail. Same old scandal about a crackpot professor with no mention of all of the people that could have stopped this from happening and didn’t.

Word has it that he and his students are holding their breaths to see if Ms. Gaga will be making a visit to their class. he has hinted as much to the media as possible that it would basically justify his entire existence if she were to show up. The Gaga has neither confirmed nor denied that she intends to visit, but with finals coming up, we are in the home stretch of this agonizing suspense.

The world is watching, Lady Gaga! Also, why aren’t you answering your Facebook/Twitter/e-mail/LinkedIn/Myspace messages? Don’t you love me anymore???

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