- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
Report from the Brooklyn trenches
Mitchell Cohen From Bensonhurst
All it takes is dragging myself to one local Democratic Party
meeting, even one hosted by a progressive and Green-friendly State
Assembly member like Bill Colton (47 A.D. - Bensonhurst), to make me
again realize two things:
1) How important regular local meetings are for congealing a "force"
to accomplish *anything* ; and,
2) Why, despite all of our problems, I am a Green and not a Democrat.
I've just returned from a "breakfast" at my NY State Assembly
representative Bill Colton's clubhouse. There were around 120 people
there, crammed into a bagel-and-cream-cheese fluorescent brunch at
$25 a pop.
Also present, every NY Democratic Party politician and his .... I was
going to say "mother", but the 12 on the stage were all men, and all
White men until City Council member John Liu joined the dais.
The ostensible purpose was to hear NY State Comptroller Thomas
DiNapoli speak. THIS, I thought I'd be interested in. I have some
very pointed questions about the way NY under Governor Patterson and
Mayor Bloomberg is smashing working class people in order to pay off
the interest on the debt to the banks.
But no questions were allowed -- at least not while I was there.
I left, needing to throw up after Senator Schumer spoke. Didn't hear
our new Congressional rep McCann, nor Boro President Marty Markowitz,
nor any of the other bevy of liars and thieves.
It was only out of respect for Bill Colton and the fine work he is
doing on every level with our community that I didn't shout out my
questions or comments.
But one fellow did. He was in his 90s, stood up and interrupted
Schumer's speech. Schumer is a consummate schmoozer -- man, is he
good at it! You'd never know from his talk about his parents in
Florida, his youth in East New York where his father was an
exterminator (!), how billionaire-banker-friendly his actual voting
As Schumer was peakocking around the stage bragging about how they'd
convinced three moderate Republican Senators (2 from Maine, and 1
from Pennsylvania) to join the Democrats in passing the so-
called "stimulus" package, otherwise known as "bail out the
billionaires", a 90-year-old grizzled Brooklynite got to his feet and
shouted out, "Kill all the Republicans."
Schumer tried to regain the floor by saying, "Well, I wouldn't go
that far," but the elder man said, "I was a kid in 1929 at the Great
Depression, and the Republicans did then what the are doing now. I
say 'kill them all'."
Schumer regained the floor with some witty remark, and went on. I was
tempted to shout out, a few minutes later, "Kill the Democrats," but
thought better of it, berated myself for copping out, and left as
State Sen. Carl Krueger was about to begin.
Had we been allowed to ask questions, I would have asked:
1) What are you doing about CitiBank's unilaterally raising its
Credit Card rates to 21 percent last week? Here they're getting
billions of working class funds in the bailout pushed by the
Democrats, and they accelerate their soaking of working people and
those on fixed income and making it HARDER to get credit -- exactly
the opposite of what the Stimulus package is supposedly designed to
2) The transit fare is slated to go up to $3 a ride, to raise $1.2
billion claimed by the MTA as its deficit. Meanwhile, the interest on
the MTA's capital expenditures (NOT operations) -- that is, the
building of the 2nd Ave. subway, etc. -- is $1.5 billion for this
year. So the transit fare is being increased to pay the INTEREST to
the banks on loans the MTA had taken. At the same time, we're giving
the same banks tens of billions of dollars. Why haven't the Democrats
earmarked the funds they're paying for bailing out the billionaire
shareholders to paying off the bank loans, so that no fare increases
and no layoffs would be needed?
3) Why doesn't the City impose a 5 cents transfer tax on every stock
transaction? There are tens of billions of shares traded every day. A
puny 5 cent tax would pay off the entire City debt in a month, and
add tens of billions of dollars to the City's coffers, which could be
used to make mass transit FREE, AND hire more teachers to reduce
class size, AND clean up the environment, AND hire more Parks Dept.
workers to remove the artificial turf and restore and maintain
natural grass to the City's parks.
Those are what I was prepared to ask.
I would have also asked something about where NY State invests its
pension funds under DiNapoli's control, but it was just too last
minute and it would have been too convoluted.
Feel free to add more to this list, it would help us out the next
I'm glad things went so well for Bill Colton and for local Democratic
Party chair Mark Treyger (who was my mom's student years ago in
second grade). Maybe they can serve some organic vegetables, fruit
and free-trade coffee the next time, and invite local activists like
me -- and hopefully some women -- onto the panels in the future.
Whew, what a welcome moment it was to rush out into the 60 degrees
sunlight, breathe deep the glorious Brooklyn air, and remember why
I'm a Green and not a Democrat!
US Media Bias, Human Rights, and the Hamas Government in Gaza
By Janeen Rashmawi, Nelson Calderon, Sarah Maddox, Christina Long,
Andrew Hobbs, and Peter Phillips
The words "Palestinians" or "Hamas" are translated into "terrorists"
and "violence" in the minds of many people in the United States. This
translation did not simply appear on its own. US television news
media continuously reinforce a mindset in the American people that
dehumanizes Palestinians. This dehumanization allows for a
democratically elected government, such as Hamas, to be labeled
endlessly as a terrorist organization. Palestine is seen as a
breeding ground for violence and terror. American mass media portrays
an image of Palestinians as victimizers rather then victims of an
oppressive military occupation. Even when it is clear that
Palestinians are the victims of the Israeli military, American
television has a way of twisting the story and blaming Palestinians
for the violence.
Full Study Available at:
Top 6 Most Bad-Ass Patrick Swayze Roles
December 3, 2008
Back in March, Hollywood star Patrick Swayze was given only 5 weeks
to live due to a nasty bout with pancreatic cancer. But one life
lesson you must learn is that although he's down, you must never,
ever, count Swayze out.
Because of his role as a prancing, dancing fairy in Dirty Dancing
many assume that Swayze is a effeminate wuss - but that is not the
case. In fact, he's one of the most bad-ass superstars in all of
Hollywood and here are 6 definitive reasons why.
6. "Vida Boheme" in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar
Patrick Swayze. In drag. Dancing and kicking ass. If you haven't seen
To Wong Foo, that's ok - you should never see it, unless watching
Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo sass it up is your idea of
entertainment. On second thought, this SHOULD be your idea of
entertainment. "I'm am hereby stripping you of all your Princess
5. SNL - Chippendale Dancer w/ Chris Farley
In this classic SNL skit Swayze proves that he's a good sport and can
make fun of himself, unlike all those other pompous Hollywood stars.
4. "Darrel `Darry' Curtis" in The Outsiders
In The Outsiders Swayze plays Darrel, leader of "the Greasers," a
gang of poor kids who have an all-out turf war in Tulsa, Oklahoma
with their pretty boy rivals, "the Socs." If you don't know what any
of that means, rent the damn movie.
3. "Jed" in Red Dawn
Red Dawn is a mid 80's movie about a bunch of high school kids in a
small town. When Russia invades the US and takes over their town
Swayze leads his buddies into the mountains to hide out, ultimately
fighting the Russians with deer rifles. Do they win? Of course they
do - but not before Swayze drinks a whole bunch of deer blood and
yelling "wolverines" every time he pops a commie.
2. "James Dalton" in Road House
Swayze comes to the rescue of a seedy Missouri bar, the Double Deuce,
as its top bouncer, to save the venue (and the entire town) from evil
businessman Brad Wesley - and the awesome doesn't stop until the end
credits roll. The whole thing is pretty much a giant bar fight, along
with some great T&A, some explosions, a monster truck and an
unreasonable number of knife fights. (Seriously, why does only one
person in the whole town have a gun?) If there's a bad part to this
movie, we're yet to see it.
1. "Bodhi" in Point Break
Swayze plays a professional surfer who, in the off season, is a
member of the "ex-presidents," a crew of mask-wearing bank robbers -
but you already knew this. From befriending his worst enemy, Special
Agent Utah (Keanu Reeves), just to lead him on a wild goose chase,
Bodhi is 100% pure adrenaline. Thank God Point BreakBack Mountain
isn't the truth.
Grammy windfall: Robert Plant chooses creativity over Led Zeppelin
February 9, 2009
Robert Plant could have been doing something other than winning
five Grammys on Sunday with Alison Krauss. He could've been out
making mega-millions of dollars on tour with the surviving members of
his old band, Led Zeppelin.
The opportunity was there for the taking when Plant, Jimmy Page
and John Paul Jones were joined by Jason Bonham, son of the late Zep
drummer, John Bonham, for a one-off London reunion gig in 2007.
That same year, Plant collaborated on "Raising Sand," a
relatively low-key yet highly adventurous album with country-pop
singer Krauss. It was a risky little effort, with both Plant and
Krauss working outside their comfort zones. On Sunday, it brought
home a mini-avalanche of five Grammy Awards, including album of the
year, topping heavy competition such as Coldplay, Radiohead and Lil
But that kind of success couldn't have been foreseen when the
album was released. A Led Zeppelin reunion, on the other hand,
would've been a sure thing.
Veteran artists with successful brand names (Rolling Stones,
Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd) can make lots of money on the nostalgia
circuit. No new music is required. It's play the hits, and go
straight to the bank. Tour promoters have been salivating for decades
about the prospects of a Zeppelin reunion; many predict it would be
the highest-earning rock tour of all time. But Plant has adamantly
refused to go along. He has instead continued to pursue a solo
career, defined by its adventurous spirit.
It is not a career arch followed by many of Plant's peers.
Presented with the option of making easy money or creating new music,
most choose the money. And who can really blame them? It's the rock-
star equivalent of early retirement.
That's why Plant's determination to go his own way, to choose
creative impulse over financial expedience, is one of the new year's
most inspiring music stories.
Plant is 60 years old. He no longer needs to prove anything to
anyone, having changed the course of rock history once with Zeppelin
in the `60s and `70s. Krauss, 37, has had a successful career as the
violin-playing singer in Union Station, a first-rate bluegrass band
that has had some crossover hits in pop and country. But "Raising
Sand" finds them both breaking ground and making music that doesn't
sound quite like anything else.
Picking up where the acoustic side of the 1970 album "Led
Zeppelin III" left off, "Raising Sand" burrows into the mystical side
of folk and country music. Burnett proposed the project, picked the
songs and assembled the band, which put an eerie 21st Century spin on
20th Century roots music.
Plant had never sung vocal harmonies before. He had always been
the golden-god front man, his voice clearly the lead instrument. But
on "Raising Sand," he and Krauss blend with understatement and
empathy. Plant's wordless harmonies on "Sister Rosetta Goes Before
Us" give Krauss and the song exactly what they need, and it's a
goosebump-inducing epiphany. From the shake-rattle-and-shimmy of
Allen Toussant's "Fortune Teller" to the hymn-like heartbreak of Gene
Clark's "Polly Come Home," the performances reward close attention
and rank with the best work either of these artists has done.
Rounder Records, a venerable independent label based in the
Northeast, released "Raising Sand" and it has become one of its
biggest hits. Its multiple nominations were old hat for Krauss, who
before Sunday has already won 21 Grammy awards. But none were for a
project quite this adventurous.
"We ostensibly come from such different places on the musical
map," Plant said in a media conference backstage Sunday. "Alison
showed me so much I never been exposed to."
That Plant is still learning new tricks is a testament to his
artistry. That he's not touring with a reunited Led Zeppelin is a
sign of enduring integrity. That's a lot of money to be passing up,
even if "Raising Sand" did win five Grammys.
But Plant was having none of it. The singer again was confronted
with the inevitable question Sunday about his future involvement in
any Zeppelin tour.
"How old are you, man?" Plant responded. "Because you look older
than me. You try to do 'Communication Breakdown' in these pants."
Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it)
by Joe Nicolosi
Mon, Jan 12, 2009
My friend Amanda had never seen a whole Star Wars film. When I asked
her if she wanted to watch the original trilogy she said that she
would, but that she already knew what happens. So I took out my voice
recorder and asked her to start from the top.
I then created some very basic animation in Final Cut to go along
with her narration.
Mohammad Khatami to run in Iran's presidential election
After weeks of rumors, the former president, considered a moderate,
made the formal announcement that he will run against incumbent
By Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim
February 9, 2009
Reporting from Tehran -- Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, a
moderate, announced Sunday that he would run against incumbent
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a critical election in June that is shaping up
as a referendum on the performance of the current conservative
After months of whispers about a possible run, Khatami's move is sure
to bolster turnout in a contest that most analysts see as coming at a
crucial juncture for the Islamic Republic and its relations with the
"I strongly announce my candidacy in the election," the cleric, 65,
told reporters at the launch of a website for his political group,
the Combatant Clergy Assn. "I had no hesitation from the very
Iran's political system combines elements of a theocracy and
democratic republic. The country holds regular elections for
parliament and the presidency, but all candidates are vetted for
loyalty by a powerful committee of jurists and clerics, and ultimate
power over military and security matters rests with a cleric, Iran's
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But it is the president who appoints ministers of interior,
intelligence and foreign affairs and can heavily influence Iran's
domestic and international policies.
Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli rhetoric has made him toxic to the West.
The Obama administration has indicated that it is willing to hold
discussions with Iran, on issues that include suspicions about the
nation's nuclear program. But the administration might prefer to
negotiate with a less polarizing figure after the Jun. 12 elections.
Khatami's calls for a "Dialogue Among Civilizations" and attempts to
normalize Tehran's relations with the West have won accolades abroad.
He was twice elected president on platforms of increased social
freedoms and moderate policies that attracted young and female
voters. He was constitutionally barred from seeking a third
Economic stagnation and political infighting overshadowed his
presidency, which lasted from 1997 to 2005. Critics also viewed
Khatami as either too weak or beholden to the political status quo to
bring about meaningful change.
Still, on bread-and-butter issues Iran has fared even worse under his
successor, Ahmadinejad, despite record international oil prices
through much of his tenure. Unemployment and inflation are worse now
than under Khatami.
"If it's a totally free and fair election, Khatami stands a very good
chance," said Karim Sadjadpour, Iran analyst at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace. "When Iranian voters go to the
polls, economics is on their mind," he said.
Many Khatami supporters became disillusioned after he failed to make
good on his promises for concrete change and buckled under pressure
from religious hard-liners, who held up his proposals in legal limbo
and used courts to jail his most effective allies.
Khatami on Sunday downplayed his candidacy. Instead of making an
inspirational speech or announcing new political initiatives, he said
he thought his candidacy would encourage voters to participate in the
election, regardless of who wins.
"I hope my presence and the presence of others can contribute to high
turnout and the result, whatever it is, will be a blessing," he said.
Other than his own political weaknesses, Khatami faces several
possible stumbling blocks in his path to regain the presidency. The
Council of Guardians must approve his candidacy. In 2004
parliamentary elections, the council barred dozens of reformist
candidates who had run successfully for office four years earlier.
Khatami also faces the prospect of competing against another
reformist candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament
who has also entered the race. Khatami and Karroubi could split the
moderate vote, though most analysts say that the two probably will
Khatami and his supporters have expressed concern that electoral
shenanigans could stack the deck against him. The Interior Ministry,
which oversees elections, is firmly under the control of Ahmadinejad,
whose supporters in 2005 rallied military officials and hard-line
militiamen to vote en masse in what was criticized by some as a
misuse of official power.
Persuading supporters to turn out for the vote will also be a major
challenge. In 1997 and 2001, Khatami's calls for dramatic change
brought more highly educated urban voters out in droves.
"The dynamic is that the Tehran voters aren't going to the polls and
the voters in the provinces are voting in much higher numbers,"
Sadjadpour said. "Those voters Ahmadinejad considers his
Meg Whitman off and running
February 09 2009
We told you more than a year ago that former eBay CEO Meg Whitman was
eyeing a 2010 run at the GOP nomination for governor. Now she's made
it official, announcing she has formed an exploratory committee. Now
look for the battle royale to begin between her and Insurance
Commissioner Steve Poizner, who has been working this turf for more
than a year.
Here's her press release this morning:
SACRAMENTO -- Republican Meg Whitman, former President and CEO of
eBay, today announced the formation of an Exploratory Committee to
seek the nomination for Governor in 2010. Former California Governor
Pete Wilson will serve as Campaign Chairman, joining Exploratory
Committee Co-Chairs House Chief Deputy Republican Whip Congressman
Kevin McCarthy, Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, State Senator Tony
Strickland, Assembly Republican Whip Nathan Fletcher and former State
Assemblywoman Sharon Runner. In the coming weeks, through speeches in
Silicon Valley, Orange County and at the California Republican Party
Convention in Sacramento, Whitman will offer a vision for the Golden
''After careful consideration and with tremendous loyalty to our
Golden State, I have formed an Exploratory Committee, the first step
in the process of running for Governor in 2010,'' Whitman
said. ''California faces challenges unlike any other time in its
history -- a weak and faltering economy, massive job losses, and an
exploding state budget deficit. California is better than this, and I
refuse to stand by and watch it fail. Now is the time for people
across the state to join in a cause for change, excellence and a new
Whitman, 52, retired from eBay in March 2008 following a decade with
the company. Under her leadership, eBay grew from a startup with 30
employees, $4.7 million in revenues, and 300,000 users to a global e-
commerce leader with operations in 38 countries, more than 15,000
employees, almost $8 billion in revenues, and more than 300 million
registered users. There are more than 12 million eBay users in
Jeff Randle, president and CEO of Randle Communications, is Whitman's
senior adviser and has worked with her since 2007. Randle joins Henry
Gomez, one of Whitman's closest advisers during her tenure at eBay.
Together, Randle and Gomez are developing a campaign organization
that includes some of America's most respected campaign professionals.
''Meg Whitman is a tremendous leader and team-builder,'' Randle
said. ''California today has serious problems, but Meg is committed
to working to restore the state's greatness. With new leadership and
a new direction, Meg will forge a new California, which will once
again be the number one state in economic growth, job creation and
quality of life.''