Friday, January 27, 2006

Mayoral Forum Available Online

The forum for Mankato's mayoral candidates can be heard online here. The forum included all eight candidates.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mankato Mayoral Forum on KMSU

At 1 pm on Wednesday, January 25th, 89.7 KMSU will broadcast a forum with six of the eight candidates running for Mayor of Mankato. Tune in to find out where they stand on the issues.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Learning and Playing Well With Others

Reuters is reporting that the Bruin Alumni Association, "a conservative alumni group dedicated to 'exposing the most radical professors' at the University of California at Los Angeles is offering to pay students $100 to record classroom lectures of suspect faculty." The group is creating profiles of these faculty members activities and writings.

Between this new development, this story, this story, and this story, it would seem that academic freedom may be in trouble. A former professor of mine has some ideas on the subject.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Monday, January 16, 2006

Where Have the Leaders Gone?

In a Democracy Now! interview promoting his documentary Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore commented, “There are so many people out there, so many millions of people, who believe in all these things that we talk about . . . It’s just that they’re not organized, it’s just that there is no place for them to go, there is no leadership . . . there’s just no place to turn . . . And [the American people] are just desperate for some place to go.” In the years since this interview, very little has changed. And on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day that is precisely what concerns me.

Contemporary Americans who are dissatisfied with their culture or their government have little to comfort them, despite representing at least half of the population, possibly more now that George W. Bush’s popularity continues to sink. The dissenters have nowhere to turn; the Democratic Party has proven ineffective since Bill Clinton left office and third party groups such as the Green Party are not politically viable on the national level. Despite the growth of groups like moveon.org, there is overall sense of isolation and defeat, even though the last two presidential elections were some of the closest in American history.

It would seem that that the reason for this isolation, which is the ultimate demoralizer, is the lack of a cohesive leader. All political movements need someone who can galvanize them, something that sums up the movement. This occurs verbally and visually in catchphrases and symbols but most importantly there must be a physical person who functions as the mouthpiece of the movement. It has been said that if the Jews did not exist it would be necessary for the Nazi’s to invent them; likewise, if Hitler did not exist, it would have been necessary for Joseph Goebbels to create him. During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. filled this function. There were other figures, of course, such as Malcolm X and Rosa Parks, but King became the chief image of the movement, in part because of his martyrdom. In life, and especially in death, King bridged the myths of American culture and the goals of the Civil Rights Movement and became a contemporary messiah figure.

Although few serious politicians or political scientists would consider Bush a brilliant politician, those he surrounds himself with, namely Karl Rove, have been able to create the illusion of leadership with clever and well planned public displays that conjure images of strength, solidarity, and traditional American virtues. As such, Bush was able to bridge the neoconservative agenda with mainstream American culture.

This is the key that the disenfranchised in the United States need the most: a figurehead to lead them out of the desert. Unfortunately none have appeared on the horizon. I once thought it might be Michael Moore, but with the reelection of Bush, Moore has lost a lot of his political capital. Cindy Sheehan seemed on her way but in recent months she has faded into obscurity. Howard Dean might be able to reinvigorate the Democrats but at present the party contains no figures that inspire and capture the public’s imagination.

Martin Luther King once said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Ignorance about the effectiveness and necessity of propaganda and the methods for mobilization of the public may be the greatest obstacles to be overcome by those in positions of power. If a new figure for our time cannot be found, he or she may need to be created.

"Beyond Vietnam" by Martin Luther King Jr.

Today there will be lots of press about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, this article brings up a very interesting point about the portrayal of King's activism:

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn't take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.

Why?

It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" — including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

* * * *
By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 — a year to the day before he was murdered — King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about "capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries."

You haven't heard the "Beyond Vietnam" speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 — and loudly denounced it. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post patronized that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People's Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington — engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be — until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."

You can read and listen to King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech here. I found this particular paragraph very relevent today:

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality...and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Military Blogs

Here is a USAToday article about the advent of military blogs by Americans in the service. An excerpt:

The number of Internet Web logs — or "blogs," as online diaries are known — by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is soaring, giving people everywhere unprecedented windows into servicemembers' lives.
* * * *
"Look at the run-up to the Iraqi elections," says Jason Van Steenwyk, a captain in the Florida National Guard who writes the blog Countercolumn. He served in Iraq from May 2003 to February 2004.

Before the Iraqi elections, Van Steenwyk believes, TV networks and newspapers focused on the potential for violence and low turnout. "But the soldier blogs," Van Steenwyk says, "were pretty optimistic. The people who weren't surprised when the elections went off as well as they did were the soldiers and the Iraqi people."

Many of the military bloggers are using their own laptops to write their stories. At the larger bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has set up Internet cafes. Typically, a blogger will write on his laptop, transfer the file to one of the cafe's computers and then post it.

Commanding officers may order them to stop blogging, or as with Buzzell, require them to submit their work for review, if there's concern that they could put troops at risk. There are only a few reports of bloggers running into such trouble.[Emphasis addded.]

Now a more recent article claims:

Nowadays, milbloggers "get shut down almost as fast as they're set up," said New York Army National Guard Spc. Jason Christopher Hartley, 31, of upstate New Paltz, who believes something is lost as the grunt's-eye take on Tikrit or Kabul is silenced or sanitized.

Hartley last January was among the first active-duty combat troops demoted and fined for security violations on his blog, justanothersoldier.com.

Throughout last year, the Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy tightened control on bloggers by requiring them to register through the chain of command and by creating special security squads to monitor milblogs.

"The ones that stay up are completely patriotic and innocuous, and they're fine if you want to read the flag-waving and how everything's peachy keen in Iraq," said Hartley, who is back in New Paltz after two years stationed in Iraq.

The action by the military is understandable; the military exists to preserve democracy, not to practice it. But this is also another example of how the government has attempted to control and manipulate the image of the war.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sharkey's Run for Governor

From The Star-Tribune:

'Impaler' Sinks His Teeth Into Governor's Race
Self-styled "vampyre" Jonathon Sharkey is running for governor on a platform that includes impaling terrorists.

Dane Smith, Star Tribune

Looking for something really, really different in a political candidate this year?

Take a gander at Jonathon (The Impaler) Sharkey, who will launch his gubernatorial campaign in Princeton, Minn., on Friday the 13th as a "satanic dark priest" and the leader of the "Vampyres, Witches and Pagans Party."

Since there's nothing but a $300 filing fee to stop anyone from running for statewide office, campaigns in Minnesota typically attract colorful and eccentric characters looking for attention. And of course, former Gov. Jesse Ventura broke the mold and got elected. But Minnesota may never have seen a more outside-the-box politician than the Impaler, also a former pro wrestler.

For starters, he describes himself as a "sanguinary vampyre ... just like you see in the movies and TV, I sink my fangs into the neck of my donor (at this time in my life, it is my wife, Julie), and drink their blood," he said in an e-mail.

The 13-point platform on his extensive website

offers a number of conventional policy initiatives, including emphasis on education, tax breaks for farmers and better benefits for veterans.

Quite some distance from the mainstream, however, is his pledge to execute -- by impalement in front of the State Capitol -- terrorists, rapists, drug dealers, child abusers, repeat drunken drivers and anybody who preys on the elderly.

"I'm going to be totally open and honest," he said. "Unlike other candidates, I'm not going to hide my evil side."

Sharkey's religious convictions also might be described as well removed from the middle of the road. Call it compassionate Satanism. "On a whole, those who worship Lucifer are no more evil than those who worship other gods," he says on his website.
Although he calls the "Christian God the Father" his "mortal enemy," Sharkey said he has nothing against Jesus Christ or his followers. But he thinks God the Father was a poor parent for allowing his son to be crucified.

Sharkey, 41, is receiving veterans' disability benefits because of a severe injury in the Army in 1982. On a high-altitude jump while training as a paratrooper, he says, his main parachute failed and the reserve chute opened just before he hit the ground "like a ton of bricks."

He has registered as a 2008 presidential candidate with the Federal Election Commission and says he soon will register with state campaign officials as a gubernatorial candidate.

Read more about Sharkey here.

Art by Matt Wuerker


This and other images are featured at Matt Wuerker's website.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Fundamentalists Read From the Same Cue Cards

While I do not have a fond place in my heart for Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, I found two comments about his ailing condition rather complimentary.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying, "Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final."

The same day, American televangelist Pat Robertson claimed that Sharon's stroke was divine intervention for Sharon's West Bank policies. "God considers this land [Israel] to be his" . . . "You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.'" Robertson's comments are rather ironic with a little bit of historical perspective.

I have said it before; Robertson and his ilk are no better than their Muslim counterparts. The War on Fundamentalism begins at home.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2006: The Year of the Beast

When I titled this blog “Valhalla’s War Room,” it was not simply to sound impressive. Vallhalla, for those of you who do not know, is a location in Norse mythology where the elite, chosen warriors go after they have been slain. There they wait for the final battle at Ragnarok, which ultimately results in the apocalypse. After the destruction of old world and all of its contents, a new, idyllic world is born.

I have been thinking about this idea and the meaning of the word apocalypse itself. Although usually denoting the ending, the word also means enlightenment. Through these last few years I have been waiting for enlightenment both for myself and for the culture at large.

It is largely believed that this country and its culture possess two competing ideas and that these ideas are split down the middle between conservatives and liberals. That is not the case. These words are used by those in power to control the language of the argument and ultimately maintain the status quo. Conservatives and liberals, as they are currently defined, represent the same argument, just different approaches to it

In the last few years I have observed a presidential administration that has a complete disregard for competence or accountability and makes its decisions based on ancient fairy tales and misguided ideas about freedom. While the administration has done a great disservice, it is only a public face for a larger body of believers. When the particular faces of the administration leave the positions of influence and power, the structures and the ideas behind them remain.

I have watched with defeatist horror as the American public has gotten behind this administration and elected it to a second term. This administration and its politic have been emboldened by their popular support. With equal disdain, I have listened to so-called liberal humanists talk about themselves as elitist and anti-establishment, but their rhetoric of nonviolence, equality, political correctness, politeness, and anti-sexuality serves those in power. The false humanists have betrayed us even more than those they rally against. These false activists may illuminate the problems, but they have been castrated by their dependence on the dominant ideology and bound to inaction by the chains of the prevailing binary.

Between these two choices it feels as though there is nowhere to go. One leads us down a path guided by idiotic and even dangerous principles. The other leads to nothingness and nihilism.

But now a new year is upon us. With the new beginning new revelations are upon us. I believe 2006 can be the Year of the Beast.

The distant and recent past and reveal several role models of what The Year of the Beast is all about.

The Marquis de Sade
Marquis de Sade, sometimes referred to as “The Old Beast,” may be the patron saint of contemporary literature. In life and on the page, he broke nearly every barrier of aesthetics and social propriety and his influence can still be felt in writers as diverse as Bret Easton Ellis, Dorothy Allison, and Ken Kesey. In addition to his work in prose fiction and playwriting, Sade also wrote a number of important philosophical works such as Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man. The Marquis was locked away as a political prisoner but never softened his attack on those things that are poisonous to society. Sade is an example of the versatility needed by writers and artists in the Year of the Beast; we must not fear the didactic and must rush to the subject matter that is really at the heart of the human condition.

Vlad III Dracula – The Impaler
His father, Vlad II The Dracul, was nicknamed “The Dragon” for his membership in The Order of the Dragon. Vlad III maintained his father’s title as Dracula, meaning “Son of the Dragon” and in his time on the throne of Wallachia, he left one of the bloodiest legacies of European history. Some scholars now suggest is that Machiavelli’s The Prince was largely based on Vlad Dracula’s life. Vlad was a gifted tactician and politician. He also demonstrated ruthlessness that that so many in our contemporary age lack. This Machiavellian ruthlessness is not to be shunned; it is to be admired. Vlad represents the kind of political mindset needed in the Year of the Beast and beyond if the restraints of the past or to be truly broken.

Anton LaVey
Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, is distinct among the occult figures of recent history or of all history. He presented a rational but uncompromising approach to understanding human nature, codified it into a religion, and was able to present it in an appropriate and accessible format through books like The Satanic Bible. His interviews and other content relay this passionate but reasoned approach to rhetoric. He also avoided many of the personal pitfalls that befell many other occult figures like Aleister Crowley, whose drug use and uncontrolled indulgence destroyed any promise he had as a leader. Anton LaVey is the kind of public face the Year of the Beast requires.

The Baphomet
And, at last, the baphomet, pictured here as drawn by Eliphas Levi. This symbol represents everything, the light and the dark, the masculine and the feminine, and represents the Christian image of Satan fused with the pagan concepts of old. All movements need an image that sums them up, something that instantly characterizes their tone. Levi’s illustration captures that tone.


The time has come. In Valhalla, the battle plans are being drawn. Only through a cultual apocalyse can we finally enter into paradise. Join me in making 2006 the Year of the Beast.