Malcolm X: Make It Plain

August 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Malcolm X: Make It Plain is a 1994 documentary by PBS about the life of Malcolm X, or El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

Gore Vidal – American Presidency

August 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

This film presents Gore Vidal’s views on the American presidents.

Tales in a Kabul Restaurant

May 21, 2013 § 2 Comments

by Kathy Kelly

Afghan children

Twelve children killed in the Kunar province, April 2013 (Photo credit: Namatullah Karyab for The New York Times)

May 21, 2013 - Kabul–Since 2009, Voices for Creative Nonviolence has maintained a grim record we call the “The Afghan Atrocities Update” which gives the dates, locations, numbers and names of Afghan civilians killed by NATO forces.  Even with details culled from news reports, these data can’t help but merge into one large statistic, something about terrible pain that’s worth caring about but that is happening very far away.

It’s one thing to chronicle sparse details about these U.S. led NATO attacks. It’s quite another to sit across from Afghan men as they try, having broken down in tears, to regain sufficient composure to finish telling us their stories.  Last night, at a restaurant in Kabul, I and two friends from the Afghan Peace Volunteers met with five Pashtun men from Afghanistan’s northern and eastern provinces. The men had agreed to tell us about their experiences living in areas affected by regular drone attacks, aerial bombings and night raids.  Each of them noted that they also fear Taliban threats and attacks. “What can we do,” they asked, “when both sides are targeting us?”

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Clive Stafford Smith on the Guantanamo hunger strikes

April 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Clive Stafford Smith on the outrageous case of Shaker Aamer who has been detained for 12 years without charge and tortured systematically. Guantanamo, he argues, is in many ways worse than death row or Soviet gulags.

Foreign policy and Fuzzy Maths on the Scott Horton Show

April 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

I was on the Scott Horton Show yesterday to discuss my recent article on the dubious numbers that have been used to conceal the real scale of Iraq’s tragedy.


Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a sociologist and editor of Pulsemedia.org, discusses the highly contested estimated number of Iraqi deaths due to the 2003 US invasion; why Iraq Body Count (the media’s go-to source) vastly under-reports casualties; how “excess death” statistical studies work; and how low-balling the costs of war – in terms of blood and treasure – distorts the public debate.

Look at the World from Behind the Wall

March 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

by William A. Cook

Israeli soldiers use a truck to fire a water cannon containing a foul smelling substance during a protest against the controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah July 17, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Fadi Arouri/Files

“Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land” (President Barak Obama in Israel 2013).

Would that the President might take his own advice—“Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes”—he need only open his eyes beyond the wall that imprisons the Palestinians he speaks about: see how the wall blinds the Jews to the plight of the people they drove from their land, see the barren landscape on the other side rubble strewn, savaged by bulldozers and missiles, see the people caught in a maelstrom of poverty and deprivation, listen to the mothers and wives weep for their husbands and sons jailed without charge in Israel’s Gulag where escape comes by self-starvation as the only defense against indefinite torture and lives lost to family and friends, listen to the cries of the people of the world who have condemned this barbaric behavior only to run into the President’s own wall–the veto in the UN Security Council that effectively denies the justice he so righteously exalts, “Peace is also just.” How true and how easily it could be made a reality if he were to simply abstain during the vote that sought to bring this defiant state before the International Court of Justice finally after 64 years of impunity to the very justice this President mouths, as though saying it levitates him beyond criticism.

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Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky in Conversation

March 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Wonders of Youtube! A 1991 video of a conversation between the two greats surfaces.

Wealth Inequality in America

March 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

The gap between reality and perception is even greater than the reality between perception and ideal.

Saturday Night Live does the Hagel Hearings

February 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

For some reason, SNL did not broadcast this.

Archaeology of Revolutionary Knowledge

February 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

My review of Pankaj Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire which first appeared in Guernica.

As tsar Alexander III sat down for an evening’s entertainment at the St. Petersburg opera house in late 1887, he little knew that the performance would soon be upstaged by one much more dramatic. Shortly after the curtains rose, a slender, goateed man with azure eyes, dressed in robe and turban, got up from a box nearby and proclaimed loudly: “I intend to say the evening prayer—Allah-u-Akbar!” The audience sat bemused and soldiers waited impatiently as the man proceeded, unperturbed, with his evening prayers. His sole companion, the Russian-born intellectual Abdurreshid Ibrahim, squirmed in fear of his life.

Jamal ud-Din al-Afghani was determined to recruit Russian support in his campaign against the British. Having failed to secure an audience with the tsar, he had decided to use his daring as a calling card. The tsar’s curiosity was finally piqued and Afghani had his hearing.

This could be a scene out of Tolstoy or Lermontov; but so extraordinary a figure was Afghani (1838-97) that inserting him into fiction would have compromised verisimilitude. So, renowned essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra has opted for the genres of historical essay and intellectual biography to profile the lives of Afghani and other equally remarkable figures in From the Ruins of Empire: The intellectuals who remade Asia.

The book is a refreshing break from lachrymose histories of the East’s victimhood and laments about its past glories. It concerns a group of intellectuals who responded to the threat of western dominance with vigour and imagination. Together they engendered the intellectual currents that have shaped the last century of the region’s history. « Read the rest of this entry »

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