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Saturday, May 03, 2003

KFC Announces New Animal-Welfare Standards

"You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is
concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life, 1860

I read this story and cringe.

In this corner, we have a huge corporation that slaughters 736 million "broiler" chickens per year to give people relatively-expensive, non-nutritious food. The chickens are from day-one in their life submitted to what would constitute torture if they were given "person" status under the law, and after a series of tortures in which their bodies are bred for meat harvesting, they die (often more slowly than imagined) by the corporation's hired hands.

In the other corner, we have the rogue-activist celebrity of PETA -- which reactionaries and uninformed citizens are often quick to connote with "terrorism," but which does not involve itself in anything of the kind. In this case, the treatment of broiler chickens is so hugely bad, that PETA's own vegetarian/vegan ideology has been reduced to simply fighting for "humane slaughter." This round appears to go to PETA, as KFC begins to parry by announcing new "humane" standards for slaughter by gas. But as the rest of the birds' lives are untouched by these new standards (which do not mean standards actually practiced or monitored for affect, we might add), PETA battles onward and the fight continues.

As we look towards Round 12 on this pressing issue, however, we might ask ourselves the following questions: How does one "humanely" raise for slaughter 736 million lives per annum anyway? What would this even look like in reality? Could it possibly be done under the current mass-production systems required to crank out 736 million pieces of meat every 12 months? What does 736 million dead chickens really look like anyway? Again, with these things in mind, I read the following article (in which KFC attempts to spin itself as a progressive food chain) and experience something along the lines of existential nausea:
KFC, the world's largest chicken restaurant chain, announced new standards Thursday meant to guarantee humane treatment for its birds from hatchery to slaughterhouse.

The fast-food giant also asked the government to review a possible change in how processors slaughter its birds. KFC wants to know if gassing the birds with blasts of carbon dioxide would be safe for consumers and slaughterhouse workers. Its suppliers now stun the birds, then slit their throats.

KFC and its parent, Yum! Brands Inc., said the changes were not spurred by protests from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"We believe this is the right thing to do," said Jonathan Blum, Yum's senior vice president of public affairs.

PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said the new standards don't deal with the worst abuses of chickens, which include drugging birds, breeding them to grow so quickly they collapse under their own weight, or sending some birds to slaughter while still conscious. Friedrich said PETA would continue protests against KFC.

The group claims KFC's birds spend their short existence crammed into in poorly ventilated and barren sheds. The group has demanded that KFC suppliers add more living space and areas for perching.

PETA claims that at slaughter, some chickens aren't knocked out by the electric stun bath and are conscious when their throats are slit and even when dumped into tanks of scalding water to remove feathers.

The new poultry standards adopted by KFC apply to the birds' housing, nutrition, and how they are caught and transported to the slaughterhouse. KFC does not own or operate any poultry farms or processing plants. It purchases chickens from 18 suppliers around the country.

Under the new standards, birds must be able to move about and have access to food and water in shelters that are clean and well-ventilated. Suppliers must properly train employees on how to handle the chickens to avoid injuries to the birds.

KFC has more than 11,000 restaurants worldwide and serves about 8 million customers daily. The new standards were developed at the request of the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the Food Marketing Institute.

By Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press

Posted by Richard
5/03/2003 08:54:46 AM | PermaLink

Navy Leaves a Battered Island, and Puerto Ricans Cheer

The bright side is that such a victory is an important reminder that the global community can bond together in solidarity to overcome the might of the American military complex -- note: it requires time, commitment, energy, jail terms, and politicos. The down side is that the Navy leaves a toxic wastefield behind with no guarantee for its restoration. The Department of the Interior is not exactly racing to clean superfund sites around the U.S. these days...Further, as the end of the article notes, the great challenge for the self-determination of Viéques will be to see that it doesn't simply get turned into another developed Caribbean island now that the military have left. For, ironically, the Navy's presence there also shielded the island from the sorts of ravaging that only non-military human populations are capable of providing. There is now a moment for transition: but Viéques should be watched closely to make sure that a May Day victory for the under-classes and Nature generally doesn't get turned into a Club Med Euro/American-style nightmare:
For most of the more than 9,000 people of Viéques, the official end today of Navy bombing exercises after more than 60 years was cause for an islandwide celebration of the conclusion of a painful era and the hope for a new beginning...the Navy used a 900-acre firing range on the eastern tip of the tiny island for bombing exercises. For decades it insisted that the exercises could not take place elsewhere, because the area offered a unique opportunity to conduct ship-to-shore gunnery practice and aerial bombings...Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental group, spent a month in jail in 2001 for trespassing during a protest on the island. Mr. Kennedy said the Navy's withdrawal was a mixed blessing. "The problem is they're leaving the poison behind," he said. "There are tens of thousands of unexploded bombs," Mr. Kennedy said. "Fish are contaminated, crabs are contaminated, seagrass is contaminated. The soils are contaminated with toxins. The fact that they're leaving the island would be great, if they would clean up."

Read the entire article by Dana Canedy, NY Times

Posted by Richard
5/03/2003 07:46:29 AM | PermaLink

Friday, May 02, 2003

Advance Could Undermine Notions of Parenthood: "Designer" Eggs Produced in Lab

For those who still doubt that we are living through a time in which revolutionary shifts in understanding, technology, and values are occuring, the following article sent in by Steve Best should be sure to alleviate that misunderstanding. Steve also alerted me that Doug Kellner and he have a new updated version of their essay "Biotechnology, Ethics, and the Politics of Cloning" up on the web:

Scientists in Pennsylvania yesterday said they had turned ordinary mouse embryo cells into egg cells in laboratory dishes — an advance that opens the door to creating “designer” eggs from scratch and, if repeated with human cells, could blur the biological line between fathers and mothers.

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post

Read the whole article.

Posted by Richard
5/02/2003 11:09:36 AM | PermaLink

Green Party 2004?

This from Walt Sheasby on the status of various potential candidates being considered by the Green Presidential Exploratory Committee:

The following individuals have responded that they have interest in continuing to explore the possibility of a Green 2004 Presidential candidacy:

David Cobb - I am definitely interested in a dialogue regarding this opportunity.

Paul Glover - What is the next step?

Ralph Nader - interested in continuing to be considered for GP 2004 Presidential nomination

The following individuals have indicated interest in a Vice-Presidential candidacy only:

Kevin Danaher

Annie Goeke

John Rensenbrink - only if the presidential candidate were a homegrown Green.

The following individuals have indicated that they are willing to hold discussions with us:

Jello Biafra - If I had to make a decision right now I would probably decline. [Greens welcome to table at appearances; see]

Cynthia McKinney - willing to meet

Carol Miller

Cornel West - currently focused on the Al Sharpton primary campaign

The following individuals are currently in communication with the PEC:

David Bonior, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dennis Kucinich

Sixteen individuals have not yet responded to PEC attempts to contact. Contact efforts are continuing.

The following individuals have indicated that they definitely have no interest in a Green 2004 candidacy for President or VP:

Medea Benjamin – does not care to run

Robert Bowman

Peter Camejo - I wish to continue to focus in California on building the Green Party.

Noam Chomsky - I'm completely the wrong person.

Angela Davis - regrets that due to her overcommitted schedule, she is unable to consider a candidacy for President… Keep up the fine work.

Russell deforest - Will continue to work at the state level…

Barbara Ehrenreich - no, but thanks

Lani Guinier - no, but thanks

David Korten - I do not, however, believe that this is the role in which I can best serve our shared cause.

Manning Marable - I must decline the opportunity, given my current commitments and interests...  I think that it is vitally important for the Green Party to play a major role in the 2004 debate over the future of the nation.

Robert B. Reich

Kim Stanley Robinson - I do not want to be any party's presidential candidate...I would like to help you in any way I can, from here in Davis.

Jesse Ventura - Because Governor Ventura's views differ substantially from those of the Green Party on a number of important issues he has no interest in any further discussions.

Posted by Richard
5/02/2003 08:25:10 AM | PermaLink

A Movement to Grant Legal Protections to Animals is Gathering Force

This is a good summary of some of the major trajectories at work right now in the AR movement. Of course, this article doesn't come close to capturing what a rich and complex movement this actually is -- perhaps something like Animal Rights 2003 does that? But what the following does center in on importantly is the debate as to whether the goal here is radical transformation of the world (legal, cultural, epistemological, spiritual) or a more humane reform of the current social structure (to bring laws and social behavior up to the knowledge of the times and out of the 19th century).

My own position is that the question is not either/or. To my mind, a careful study of movements for social change that have worked in modern times reveals that there are always a number of levels and wings to what gets portrayed as a singular entity (Black Power, Feminism, Socialism) and that part of their eventual success depends upon more reform-minded groups being able to translate the energy and radical requirements of the more revolutionary-minded sects into a coherent plan for the larger mass of people to understand. Yes, from the standpoint of the revolutionaries this is a "domestication" of the agenda; but from the standpoint of the greater mass of people affected by the movement, it is a potentially life-altering change in values and practice. The radical educator Peter McLaren has figured these two poles at work in a recent book as the militant love of Che Guevara and the charitable historical patience of Paulo Freire -- a sort of pedagogy in which everything is risked in the name of "what's right" and even the smallest of changes actualized by this risk is perceived as a hopeful and positive realization of the revolutionary's historical action.

My own position as someone interested in both the arcane theoretical philosophy behind the human-animal question and the immediate moral practice of seeing that question realized in an emancipatory fashion -- the dialectical praxis of animal rights if you will -- is that I demand the impossible at this time of philosophy and its various handmaidens.

My work, against many within the animal rights movement, is to deconstruct and historicize our understanding of what it means to be "human" and hence "humane." This is primarily achieved in my thinking at this time by juxtaposing that history against the sub-dominant theme of the history of what it means to be "animal" or "beastly." Involved in this is the analysis of how human culture comes to be built on top of an animal nature, as a form of "second nature" that is purified and more divine than the first. The history of Education, as my work so far reveals, illuminates that the various institutions of Western educational practice have for millenia had it as either their conscious or unconscious project to create this "human being" -- a sort of imperial magistrate over the space it inhabits. With this in mind, theoretically speaking, I am unconvinced that the philosophic language of "rights" which falls out of a history of the "humane" has shed enough of its contradictory character to live up to its task at can go further, right now, and should. Philosophy should analyze the conceptual language and push it to the furthest limits of its realizeable logic. This has its trickle-down throughout the more conservative members of the academy -- and in some cases, as with postmodernism, such even can be the professional fad for a decade or more!

So too with activists the immediate radicalism of the mysterious ALFers seems hard to compare with the suit-laden NGO liberals of the Nature Conservancy. But, in truth, the successes of the one may put political pressure on the other not to comply. In a similar sense now, for instance, while one might argue that the global anti-war demonstrations of the last months were technically "a failure," they may in truth have been a success in as much as they strengthened the global national forces to combat neoliberal unilateralism even as they emboldened a rather pulseless Democratic party to reignite its passion for the people and move out from the middle towards a more combative left position.

In the end, my own activist politics are pragmatic and not absolutist qua my philosophy. This is not because it is easy to achieve the absolute in the "ideal" realm of theory but difficult when that theory enters the complex realm of the "actual." This is the mistake activists too often make in labelling theory as irrelevant or secondary. No, it is damned near as hard to be an effective and thorough-going radical in theoretical circles as it is in activist circles. The forces are immense in either venue. For me, it comes down to a question of gift and perhaps temperment. My gift -- on better days -- is to have a razor-sharp logic and a compendious intellect. By temperment I am quiet and still and not prone to yelling unless it be in the manner of song. My niche in the struggle, then, belongs to the scholarly -- a part that I might play that others on the ground would not be suited for in the same way that I may not be for their work. My work then is to find the ways in which contemporary theory can link up with the entire host of activist struggles and create a larger dialogue therein...which is not the same as to say, with Emerson, "Where are your essays Richard?" Theoretical work can open possibilities for activist engagement and transform institutional structures, while activist practice can expose limitations in theory and represent conservative social hegemony as "unnormal." All activism involves theory, and all theory is a form of practice. Closing the divide between these two camps, even as we each take up our own positionality on the spectrum, is the major goal that has come over the horizon for animal rights as I see it.
Does a pig packed into a tiny factory cage waiting to be killed have any rights in the United States? Should it have?

And what about the chimpanzee, who shares 99 percent of its active DNA with humans? Should anyone be allowed to "own" an animal with so many of our own attributes, including the ability to reason, use tools, and respond to language? Isn't that like slavery?

The fight to give animals legal rights barely registers on the environmental agenda, but perhaps it should. This isn't simply an endless philosophical debate but a gathering global force with broad implications for our planet's future, including how we use our natural resources. If animals had rights, we probably couldn't continue to eat them, experiment on them with impunity, or wear their skins on our backs. Our fundamental relationship would change.

But precisely because our way of life depends on exploiting them, animals don't really have any significant "rights" in America, although Congress passed the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (which requires simply that animals be "rendered insensitive to pain" before being killed) in 1958 and the Animal Welfare Act (which sets limited standards for humane care but exempts small laboratory animals) in 1966. All states afford animals some small measure of protection through anticruelty laws. These laws have nothing to say, however, about an animal's "right" not to be slaughtered or used for any number of human purposes.

In 2003, however, a new movement is gathering force that is trying to afford some genuine legal rights for animals. Buoyed by a growing awareness about animal intelligence and capacities, the courts, state governments, and the general public (in statewide referenda) are enacting and enforcing new legislation.

Read the whole article.

By Jim Motavalli, E/The Environmental Magazine

Posted by Richard
5/02/2003 08:10:12 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Kerry's Equity Plan May Boost Environment Credentials in Primaries

While many still consider him little more than a well-to-do Bostonian boob, environmental justice activists are intrigued by the Senator's recent Earth Day speech and plan to move quickly on the social justice aspects of environmentalism:
Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) Earth Day announcement aimed at boosting environmental justice issues may give the Democratic presidental candidate the leading edge with uncommitted environmentalists in the party's closely contested nominating race.

Kerry announced a broad initiative to address environmental hazards that disproportionately affect minority communities. He called for the creation of "environmental empowerment zones" in which local officials and a federal task force led by the EPA administrator would ensure environmental justice is considered in development decisions; the elevation of EPA's Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) -- currently housed in the agency's enforcement office -- to the sub-cabinet level, as well as increasing its budget and authority; and creating a national comprehensive health tracking system to monitor illnesses linked to environmental causes. The whole article and Kerry's speech is available on

Posted by Richard
5/01/2003 10:57:05 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Mass Media and Ecosocialism

Samuel Day Fassbinder, who does the Ecosocialism blog, has been posting our unfolding discussion concerning critical media literacy and ecosocialist futures.

It began with this post by SDF. Followed by this post and then this one.

My most recent answer is located here.

Posted by Richard
4/30/2003 09:33:42 AM | PermaLink

U.N. Urges a Quick Environmental Probe of Iraq

The United Nations must be allowed into Iraq right away to assess environmental threats posed by weapons packed with toxic chemicals or depleted uranium, a senior U.N. official said on Sunday.

The health of Iraqis could be at risk from tank-busting shells containing depleted uranium used in the 1991 Gulf War and the war that toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, U.N. Environmental Programme (UNEP) head Klaus Toepfer said. Chemical weapons used in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war may have poisoned farmland, he added.

A UNEP report said about 290 tons of depleted uranium arms were fired in the 1991 war and an unknown quantity in the war that began on March 20, threatening Iraq's water supply and creating potentially dangerous radioactive dust.

Previous UNEP studies have highlighted risk of depleted uranium — a toxic and weakly radioactive substance which can attack the kidneys if ingested or cause lung cancer if inhaled — finding its way into the water supply.

"The main signal of this study is that we have to go as soon as possible into the field," Toepfer told a news conference. "There is a field mission ready to go as soon as we have the chance. We recommend a solid assessment," he said, citing the precedent of previous UNEP weapons-risk studies in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory.

Toepfer made the call after presenting the 98-page UNEP report on the issue to environment ministers from the Group of Eight countries, the world's traditional economic powers as well as Russia.


UNEP's hopes of entering Iraq depend on the United States, which swiftly seized power in Iraq and has opposed any quick return of the U.N. arms inspectors whose pre-war work Washington considered ineffective.

Christine Todd Whitman, head of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, did not attend the final joint press conference, saying she had to catch a plane home.

British Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said London welcomed the UNEP study but declined to comment further, as she had only just seen the document. Britain sent some 40,000 troops to fight in Iraq.

Toepfer was keen to stress that the U.N. body, which gets a large share of its funding from the United States, did not have a political agenda, and its main goal was humanitarian.

"Our group is absolutely unbiased. We are going not with any political topic," he said. The possible dispatch of a UNEP team to Iraq would be raised at the United Nations during a meeting on Monday in New York.

"But our (U.S. and British) colleagues are very, very open towards our work. Needless to say we are trying to do what ever is possible to try and contact the coalition," Toepfer said.

As well as the effects of depleted uranium munitions, experts would study chemical and other hazardous waste, the torching of oil-filled trenches, and the damage to sewage systems in the latest war. UNEP teams would also investigate the impact of chemical weapons used during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, which Toepfer said could have "very severe repercussions for agriculture."

By Jon Boyle, Reuters

Posted by Richard
4/30/2003 07:33:36 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Animal Liberation in the Academy

For my work for the Center of Animal Liberation Affairs (CALA) I have begun to put together a databank of syllabi concerning and/or involving animal liberation philosophy as a major theme in their coursework.

If you have access to such a syllabus, or know of a link that might be included, please feel free to contact me so that I can add it to the list.

I would also be interested in being contacted as regards any academic conferences on this matter, and/or university or college related news items. Thanks.

Posted by Richard
4/29/2003 09:12:40 AM | PermaLink

Re: Animal Testing Necessary for Some Research

UPDATE (x5): A member of the Students for Animal Liberation has written to the UCLA Daily Bruin and asked for equal time to counter the attacks and smears the paper has conducted against the character of both herself and her peers. This request has resulted in a blacklisting from the paper. Read her statement and find out what you can do to support the fight to stop animal experimentation at UCLA and other campuses.

UPDATE (x4): The Daily Bruin continues their war for animal experimentation on campus by presenting 5 student opinions (note: these are fair, informed, and representative; not) on the matter. Ridiculous.

UPDATE to the UPDATE to the UPDATE (5/1/2003): The managing editor of the Daily Bruin agreed that a superior would call me at home to talk over this one ever called. Instead, the paper's Viewpoint section provided the two neurobiologists in question with a large forum to repeat their charges against protesting students and now PETA also! Whereas before the paper had allow the researchers to simply intimate terrorism against them, now the paper went so far as to print this claim directly. This is very dangerous and irresponsible journalism.

UPDATE to the UPDATE (3:00 PM): I have just arrived at school to find that the Bruin has run as its lead story (clearly unknown to me) a piece intimating vandalism against the house of two university neurobiologists by those protesting the experimentation upon animals at UCLA. I have gone to the Bruin office and screamed at a junior editor for printing my Letter to the Editor in connection with this story and without my knowledge or consent. Considering the climes, and the intimated charges being made against the protestors in this lead story, I am stunned that the campus paper would provide an end result issue that might lead people to believe that I was (or my fellow students were) either involved in vandalism and intimidation against faculty, or condoned such practices. The attacks being made against students by the Daily Bruin have no basis in evidence and are purely speculative. Thus, let me speculate back for a moment: could it be that the masked individuals who terrorized the home of two UCLA researchers are "agent provacateurs" whose main mission was to set up the peaceful and law-abiding student protestors?

FOR THE RECORD: I absolutely in no way condone any such violence or intimidation against faculty in this or any other matter. Further, do to scheduling conflicts, I was not at this protest or (in fact) any of the protests last week and I wrote my letter to the editor(s) of the Daily Bruin based solely upon the philosophical and moral outrage of what I know to be an unjust practice and my solidarity with a group like the Students for Animal Liberation, who I know to be a balanced and respectable campus organization. This said, I repeat, my weapons are my words and I am deeply troubled by an irresponsible staff that would implicate me in any fashion with community crimes.

So far, the junior editor at the Bruin that I met with has apologized and explained that the error has resulted from the lack of coordination between separate Bruin offices -- the headline office doesn't speak with the op ed office, etc. Great excuse for trashing people's reputation and slandering their names...

UPDATE: The Bruin today published my Letter to the Editor, taking out my argument for why primates (for arguments sake I had left it there) are "persons." For those interested in seeing why you can't always take the published version of an author's work as definitive, here's an example. One slightly vivisected thumb up to the Bruin for at least publishing two letters protesting their own published stance... (4/30/03)
The UCLA Daily Bruin has taken it upon itself to editorially denounce last week's action against animal experimentation and vivisection on campus.

My reply:
To: Daily Bruin Viewpoint

I am writing to express my extreme disgust that the editors of the Daily Bruin would use their forum to support animal experimentation on campus. You charge the protestors with resorting to slogans instead of rational discourse, but you miss the point here on two accounts. One, such protest only occurs because the forums for broader debate on these issues are often empty or unavailable on this campus and so inflammatory protest is a valid attempt to catalyze exactly the type of academic dialogue you suggest the protesters denied by their actions. Look, it has successfully forced the Daily Bruin into a position statement. Secondly, and more importantly, on this particular issue it is within the debate proper that the testing upon "persons" -- for primate subjects have been demonstrated to have exactly that quality (see books by either Steven Wise or Joel Feinberg) -- is not only unethical but immoral. As such, while testing upon animals may have tacit university support, it is exactly this form of support which demands an impassioned response by those it claims to educate. To react calmly, with reasons for why the torture and murder of persons is unacceptable behavior, strikes those informed on the issue as not only cruel but inhuman. In the few words allotted me here I can not take up your every point with the detail each deserves, so I constrain myself only to question your framing the argument of research upon primates as utilitarian when it is not. To speak thus of a greater good provided only by unhappily necessary murder, I needn't remind you, smacks of many of the great acts of political atrocity committed in modern times. Some of which are indeed occurring right now in the name of freedom generally.

Richard Kahn

Posted by Richard
4/29/2003 08:30:32 AM | PermaLink

Monday, April 28, 2003

How the West Was One: The Role of the American Frontier in the Global Internet Imaginary by Richard Kahn

A "whole-earth" discourse stresses the globe's organic unity and matters of life, dwelling, and rootedness. It emphasizes the fragility and vulnerability of a corporeal earth and responsibility for its care. It can generate apocalyptic anxiety about the end of life on this planet or warm sentiments of association, community and attachment. Such a discourse has to confront the globe's islandness in the oxymoron of global localism. A "one-world" discourse, by contrast, concentrates on the global surface, on circulation, connectivity, and communication. It is a universalist, progressive, and mobile discourse in which the image of the globe signifies the potential, if not actual, equality of all locations networked across frictionless space. Consistently associated with technological advance, it yields an implicitly imperial spatiality, connecting the ends of the earth to privileged hubs and centers of control.
-- Denis Cosgrove, Apollo's Eye[1]

Though the American frontier was declared "closed" by the U.S. Census over a century ago in 1890, in many respects it remains startlingly "open" -- meaning that the frontier qua imaginary appears to have a vital and constitutive role in the geopolitical and cultural discourse that is at work during the beginning of the 21st century. From the exportation of the U.S. War on Terror to the emergence of a global (and trans-global) information and communication technology infrastructure, the frontier -- as the dynamic divide between known and the unknown, the civilized and the barbarous, or the good and the evil, continues to figure meaningfully as a sort of globalizing space in which ideological and material terrains unite.[2] The common root appears to be a reliance upon a sort of discursive metaphor of "progress," particularly American progress, which directly involves projects of territorial expansion and control; and so the contemporary globalizing Pax Americana is in part a social construction involving the interpretive categories and propagandistic language of the frontier imaginary. That is to say, the role of this imaginary in contemporary globalization involves both ideological, poetic/tropic dimensions, and material dimensions. Or, in Henri Lefebvre's language, we might assert that the frontier is a produced space involving spatial practices, representations, and representational spaces themselves.[3] The entirety of this ongoing production is what I am here referring to as an "imaginary" (i.e.; the deep semiotic space that is both produced and produces).

Insights concerning the endurance of the frontier imaginary and its connection to globalization provide for a better understanding of how George W. Bush, the son of a former American president and CIA Director -- a wealthy, international business tycoon by all accounts prior to his assignation to Chief of State status by the Supreme Court -- has cemented his role as the leader of an ongoing War on Terror by casting himself as a populist Texan of the Old West.[4] Thus, Bush's use of frontier parlance -- his talk of "smoking" terrorists "out of their holes" in Afghanistan, of "bringing them in 'dead or alive'," or his tough-talking "48 hours" to get out of Dodge speech issued to Saddam Hussein -- all directed via prime-time media to a global audience -- can be best analyzed as an attempt by the Bush administration to re-cast a knowing corporate imperialist as a simple, honest son of American progress.

The rise of such planetary media, like the Internet -- a vast system of planetary telecommunications, electrical networks, peripheral industries, international mining and shipping businesses, and post-planetary satellite operations -- are themselves productions that owe much to the progressive post-WWII rise of American techno-science and its integration into the world economy. Wrapped in a rhetoric of newness and development, as well as the utopian discourse of "one-world" and global village, contemporary cultural manifestations like the Internet re-invoke the frontier imaginary along global lines. Again, such lines are clearly imperial, creating "digital divides" between the haves and have-nots, between the networked and the not, and it is exactly these sorts of divides that imply a frontier zone in which otherness retreats before an irrepressible line of "developing progress."

But this root metaphor of progress at work in the machination of American geopolitical hegemony, and the frontier imaginary that clothes and informs it, is itself a sort of historical myth that can be traced to the legacy and work of Fredrick Jackson Turner. Turner's idea that the dynamic construction of the frontier and the United States' move ever-Westward evolved the citizenry, the culture, and the very democracy of the country, articulated an imperialist vision of history even as it sought to legitimate the rise of 20th century American science and industry as the true heirs of frontier Americanism. Of course, there are degrees of truth to the Turner thesis and the move Westward no doubt did develop modern America in important ways by providing natural resources, military security, new socio-cultural spaces and future possibilities for development to name a few. But Turner's particular emphasis upon the latter, upon possibility, as he conflated it with territorial expansion, cultural evolution and democracy served to construct (or transform) the frontier imaginary in a more significant way than the frontier that he himself claimed to describe objectively. The new global American frontier, then, has less to do with any particular cattle puncher, or alfalfa grower, west of the Missouri river, than it does with Turner's revisionist imagining of the same, and the continued re-imagining of Turner's claim in the name of a continuing American progressive interest.

In this paper, I would like to take up this connection between the Turner thesis, the construction of a frontier imaginary, and its connection to contemporary American practices as evidenced by the global exportation of advanced Western science and technologies (e.g.; the Internet) throughout the globe. I underline "Western" here to point out that such technologies are inextricably historically and culturally Western. Thus, following Denis Cosgrove, I want to suggest that while the construction of a planetary communications network might indeed point to the fulfillment of a political ideal in which rhizomes of co-construction come to displace the center/periphery strategies of empire, the present case needs to be analyzed as more complex indeed.[5]

Emerging from empire, and furthering its own case as a colonizing technology, the Internet appears to have centers and peripheries yet. That the dissemination of this Western cultural product to southern and eastern cultures is now a major global strategy by planners, and that this is occurring via the language and conceptual strokes of the American West points toward the needed recognition that Al Gore's Global Information Infrastructure, as "a metaphor for democracy itself," is also the metaphoric evocation of Turner's democracy and thus imperial progressivism.[6] It also points out that the "western" directionality of one-world imperialism is now extending itself over the whole earth -- in every direction -- in the name of a pervading global localism.

Read the whole essay at:

Posted by Richard
4/28/2003 09:04:17 AM | PermaLink

Lettuce Eat Rocket Fuel

Vegan Porn alerted me to a SF Gate story in which the Oakland Environmental Working Group has found that high-levels of the toxic salt perchlorate have been found by them in winter lettuce they tested. Perchlorate, while also naturally occuring, is a major environmental hazard as culturally-produced fall out from spent rocket fuel.

But how did it get into the lettuce? As the crops are irrigated w/ water drawn from the Colorado river, downstream run-off is suspected. Vegan Porn goes on to note that Imperial country -- home of the contaminated greens -- is also home to a giant feed cattle and lamb industry fed on the same water. Gives a new meaning to cow jumped over the moon...

Here's what the EPA has to say about perchlorate.

Posted by Richard
4/28/2003 08:23:58 AM | PermaLink

Rainforest Action Network Forces Citibank to the Table

Glen Barry of Earth Blog has a nice post w/ external link on this story. He also demonstrates the personal integrity to announce that his own criticism of RAN for moving off of rainforests directly to concentrate on the financial interests behind forest destruction appears misguided. Let's not say "completely" yet -- there is a 90 day truce in effect for dialogue and diplomacy...we still need to see the final contract. But it looks good -- and chalk one up for another positive example of ecosocialist-oriented activism in the world.

Read Citibank's letter to its shareholders.

Posted by Richard
4/28/2003 07:57:36 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Alternative Views: Power & Profits vs. the Earth

Throughout the 1970's to the 1990's Frank Morrow and Doug Kellner were associated with an experiment in the progressive use of cable television as a critical public access media. The show Alternative Views ran nationally, on a weekly basis, presenting critique and context of stories by alternative sources (sort of like a blog on cable), along with video footage and in-depth interviews that went unaired by the major networks. Further information about this experiment in radical media can be found in the article: Public Access Television: Alternative Views.

The Alternative Views show: Power & Profits vs. the Earth is now available as a streaming video for Quicktime 56k modem and DSL broadband connections:

This is a June 1992 interview with environmental activist and writer Lanny Sinkin in which topics such as the Earth Summit, the growing ecological catastrophe, ozone depletion, global warming, and destruction of the rain forests are examined in connection with the programs of action by powerful and profiteering government and corporate institutions. An important historical document of one of the key moments in recent ecological history, this episode sadly shows us how (amidst a few positive signs!) the anti-Earth forces at work then remain, and indeed -- with the recent moves by the Bush administration, are more regressive than ever.

The Quicktime player should already be installed on any Apple system, but it is freely available for a simple self-install to all users (PC and Apple) at the following url: The latest version is Quicktime 6. Choose Standalone installer if you would like to install without an active internet connection.

Posted by Richard
4/27/2003 09:14:31 AM | PermaLink

D.A. Took On Loggers and Ran Into a Buzz Saw

Barely three months in office, Dist. Atty. Paul V. Gallegos faces a recall campaign, threats of lawsuits and court sanctions -- all after he brought civil fraud charges against a powerful timber company that has become a symbol of a beleaguered way of life.

An emigre from Southern California, Gallegos is a political neophyte in a north coast county that, since the mid-1980s, has been a battleground over logging practices that imperil some of California's last giant redwoods.

Although he doesn't view himself as an environmentalist and was elected last year with broad support, he now finds himself undercut by a local establishment that links him to the anti-logging counterculture.

"Mr. Gallegos is stirring up trouble," said Robin Arkley Sr., a former timber mill owner who pledged $5,000 to launch the recall campaign. "He's threatening our way of life."

Arkley, 78, said he and other "good ol' boys" are fed up with Gallegos and his kind. "It's us against them," he said. "We're going to take back the county from the ardent environmentalists, the college community and the hippies."

Lawyers for the timber company, Pacific Lumber Co., known here as "Palco," say the D.A.'s suit has no merit and have threatened to countersue if he doesn't drop it. Officials of the two state agencies responsible for overseeing logging practices also have questioned the merits of the suit.

Gallegos said he thought he was doing what he had been elected to do when he charged Pacific Lumber Co. in a civil action with deceiving the California Department of Forestry by failing to disclose that its timber-cutting plans could cause landslides.

Having concealed that information, Gallegos contended, Pacific Lumber was allowed to cut 100,000 giant redwoods, profiting handsomely at the expense of wildlife and downstream neighbors who have suffered from mud flows, flooding streams and other damaging effects of stripping redwoods off steep, unstable slopes.

In leveling such accusations, Gallegos has stepped into a long-running fight in this community and taken on a formidable adversary. Pacific Lumber has been engaged in a herculean struggle to log as it sees fit on its own land -- 211,000 acres that are home to the largest stands of ancient redwood trees that are not in parks or preserves.

Read the entire article.

By Kenneth R. Weiss, LA Times

Posted by Richard
4/27/2003 07:33:53 AM | PermaLink