Archive for the ‘feature articles’ Category


The Said and the Unsaid

January 26, 2009

mail Ashley Sanders • Operation Itch Contributing Writerheader

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 “Enough, one must go on, these are things that one thinks but does not say.” –Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz

“It was their everyday duty.” –Primo Levi, on Nazi brutality

I recently read the morning paper. I shouldn’t have done that. I also recently read Survival in Auschwitz, by Primo Levi. I shouldn’t have done that either, but for different reasons: it demanded too much grief and asked too many questions. Less recently, I went to a public meeting about a new pet-coke plant that Consolidated Energy wants to put next-to-the-refinery-next-to-the-freeway-next-to-the-asthmatic’s-worst-nightmare. I also shouldn’t have done that, and not just because it involved fighting odious big business practices, but because I never feel as lonely as I do in political meetings where everyone agrees with me.

There is a connection between the shouldn’ts, but that will have to wait.

This time there were about 500 hundred people who agreed with me. They had brought signs and their kids, and also their kids covered in signs that said things like: “Don’t make me breathe dirty air.” The Department of Environmental Quality was leading the meeting, and a sad-looking man behind a microphone was trying to assure people that, not to worry, the coke plant wouldn’t exceed DEQ standards and that – even though pet-coke was the dirtiest residue of the fuel extraction process, and even though it would be shipped across the country in open-air train cars, and even though the area surrounding the refinery already was three times the limit of normal air quality levels, and even though the citizens wouldn’t even get the power that was generated, and even though we did not need another power plant, and even though the world was rife with alternatives – he was bound and obligated to approve it. The man was summarily booed, and by people who had never said boo in their lives before: booed by women with acrylic nails and tiffany heart bracelets next to a man with coveralls and a trucker hat, also booing.
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January 23, 2009

 dennis-trainor-headshotDennis Trainor, Jr • Operation Itch writer/ editor header

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Bye- Bye GITMO

Bye- Bye GITMO

Barack Obama went from becoming the first black president of the Harvard Law Review (1990) to becoming the first black president of the United States of America so quickly, that it is not a stretch to say that we have only known him as a candidate. His life, for the last eighteen years, has been one carefully modulated and expertly managed campaign. Even when he held such underachieving slacker status positions such as United States Senator, his votes, his appearances, his public statements- and even the shirtless beach photos – have all been part of the larger campaign. As a candidate, perhaps no one has ever been as good as Obama. He has been so good, in fact, expectations of his presidency are rivaled only by an Evangelical Christian’s expectation that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Like Christ, Obama is now a myth. The man will never walk in step with what we think of him, because we have projected so much onto him. Yes, it does speak well of his campaign that it was able to leverage the desperation of so many who were so horrified of our own inaction these past eight years. We needed a savior to rescue us from the shame brought on because we had, collectively speaking, done nothing after George Bush stole the 2000 election save for prop up a cottage industry that fed us a steady stream of clever anti-Bush t-shirts and bumper stickers for us to brandish on the sidelines as our President proceeded to treat the constitution as a pesky little obstacle in his way as he waged his comic book battle of good vs. evil, now let loose from the safe confines of his little village idiot of a head and leaving a trail of blood soaked deserts and unknown blowback in its wake. 

There are some who will give Obama high grades for a longer than average honeymoon period simply because the man has replaced will be remembered by history as the worst president to ever hold the office. Alfred E. Newman would have been an improvement on Bush, the subliminal thinking will go, and Obama is surely better than Alfred E. Newman. But for many, the bar is set unreasonably high. Like Christ, many praise Obama as a revolutionary. I’m more inclined to agree with Ashley Sanders, former spokesperson for the Ralph Nader campaign, who described the change that Obama has sold us as

a hazy feeling that Obama (despite all evidence to the contrary) was the peace candidate, the environmental candidate, the Black candidate, the people’s candidate. The whole production borrowed ideas that were actually dangerous to Wall Street, gutted them of danger, and resold them as ideas that were dangerous to Wall Street. It used spectacle to create the illusion that an infinity of similar options was the same thing as a meaningful choice, as real change or authenticity. It was the triumph of ideology: getting people to vote against themselves in the name of themselves.

The whole thing smacked of buying punk clothes at Hot Topic. 

As Americans, we know not where to get punk clothes but at Hot Topic, and are so entrenched in ad culture that we would not know a revolution unless it was being sold to us. Here is what is being sold to us in the first week of the Obama presidency: Obama has swept into town and takes swift action in reversing the criminal culture of torture and rendition and secret prisons by issuing an executive order to shut GITMO. This much is true.
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January 14, 2009

mail Ashley Sanders • Operation Itch Contributing Writer header

“A real revolution turns things upside down; it gets at the root of a problem or radically includes or excludes a new or old idea. What we got from Obama was not a revolution, as even a cursory study of his own centrist, American-myth-heavy rhetoric would attest. What we got from Obama was just what Adbusters (glowingly) said we got: a President who used technology to speak to us in a language we understood.”

It’s inauguration time, and you know what that means: last chance to board the bandwagon headed toward happy delusion. This time around, the Dems have even saved some space for erstwhile opponents—people who can usually keep a cool head amidst all the media hoopla. From the looks of it, Adbusters saw fit to drop their bionic anti-advertising stare and reserve a seat right next to the New York Times and a bevy of other “progressive” magazines that wanted to celebrate the reality they created.

Don’t believe me? Here is the prompt Adbusters sent out to all their meme warriors in holy expectation of the upcoming coronation (an event that, beyond being as transcendentally historical as we’ve been promised, will also usher in a whole new generation):

Meme warriors, cultural creatives and Generation O:

The outpouring of euphoria around the globe following Barack Obama’s victory has raised expectations. Like the president-elect, we (and you) have been calling for change for eight long years. On November 4th we got it, a genuine, bloodless revolution. The question now is: will it amount to anything?
Obama’s campaign benefited hugely from enlisting young voters in the cause. Obama told them that the post-baby boomer era had begun. He challenged their cynicism and spoke to them through their own media: through Facebook, through Twitter. They overwhelmingly gave him their support at the polls. And they won. They won big. Maybe now Generation O will finally drop the hipster pose and become a force to change the world.
For the next issue of Adbusters we want your thoughts and opinions on whether you think Generation O has revolutionary potential.

So I responded. (What pissed-off, media-abused leftist wouldn’t?) Here are my thoughts on the so-called Generation O.

There was something a little less than comforting about the prompt Adbusters used to solicit our thoughts on the revolutionary potential of Generation O. In their solicitation, Adbusters gave a series of givens before asking their readers to answer for the undecided: It was incontrovertible that Obama had contributed to an “outpouring of euphoria across the globe,” that he had been extending the mission of Adbusters by “calling for change,” and that his election amounted to a “genuine, bloodless revolution.” All that was decided. Agreed upon. Now the only question left was whether Generation O would “drop its hipster pose” long enough to carry the revolution forward.

I think Adbusters’ givens beg far more questions than their actual question does, and while the actual question is not whether Obama will bring change, but whether the younger generation will carry out that change, I believe the attitudes Adbusters revealed in their intro to the question are the same attitudes that will keep Generation O from possessing or exercising true revolutionary potential.
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