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Holiday Santacular!

1284487009_bottom_krampusThe Stranger celebrates the holidays with four hours of radio; celebrating New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Saturnalia, and our recent triumph over Doomsday — all in one! We’ll review the past year’s current events, look forward to the progress of tomorrow, and how we might just be doomed after all. Then, we’ll finally get to hear from the fabled South Side Santa once again, to discuss FOX’s War on Christmas and other festive topics, all set to the traditional sounds of Yule.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-29: Santacular! by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PSIONIC PLAYLIST
Yuri-G – PJ Harvey
Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis
Teotihuacan -Noel Gallagher
Christmassteps -Mogwai
Sweet Leaf -Black Sabbath
The Little Drummer Boy -Jimi Hendrix
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen -Dio
He Loved Him Madly (Bill Laswell Mix) -Miles Davis
The Stars Are Projectors -Modest Mouse
Something Bells -Daedelus
Winter in America -Gil Scott-Heron
Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring -Leo Kottke
New Year’s Eve – Tom Waits

STRANGER PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Wagner
O Tannenbaum – They Might Be Giants
Saturn, Bringer of Old Age – New York Philharmonic
Historia Der Geburt Jesu Christi: Recitative: Und Er Stund Auf
Riu, Riu, Chiu
O Viergo Virginum
Winter – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Sinfonia in G (from ‘Christmas Oratorio’) – Johannes Bach
Sonata: Padouana a 5 – Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
Sinfonia – Geza Oberfrank & Hungarian Radio Choir & Failoni Chamber Orchestra
Pavane – Pierre Attaingnant
Christe Redemptor a 4 – William Byrd
Die winter ist Verganghen
Crions Noel – Alexander Agricola
A Mery Moode
Robin Hoode – Mr. Ascue
Twenty Waies Upon The Bells – Thomas Robinson
Nowell
Benedicta Es, Coelorum Regina
O vis aeternitatis – Ensemble Für Fruhe Musik Augsburg
Ave Maria – Franz Schubert
Recessional: “In Dulci Jubilo” – Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
Gloucestershire Wassail – Loreena McKennitt
What Child is This – Vince Guaraldi
I Believe in Father Christmas – Emerson Lake and Palmer
Aud Lan Syne

Our economy won’t grow forever, of course, but we shouldn’t let the maniacs fly us over a cliff of their own making, just because they’re tied to the steering wheel and gas pedal in an insane game of chicken. The bastards will take us all down with them, and the poorest of us will be the first to perish. How’s that for some seasonal tidings?

The Republicans are the worst wagers of this war, and they just don’t care what the nation thinks about them. Their party is in disarray, public opinion of them couldn’t be worse, and they’re still acting like insane, moronic children. They are unfit to govern. While some of them may be beginning to accept reality, they have by and large, “out of touch with the American people,” according to John Weaver, a senior adviser to past presidential candidates John McCain. The polling suggests as much.

And when racists like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are accepting awards from neo-confederate groups, and others are trying to leave the union, they don’t exactly paint a picture of rationality and moderation.

So people are taking matters into their own hands. Homeowners are threatening to foreclose on the banks. People are finding marijuana to be a much better substitute than risky prescription drugs for weaning themselves off of other dangerous addictions. Direct action and reasonable measures may win the day after all.

Even if the FBI spies on and oppresses progressive protest movements like Occupy. Even if that selfsame spy state tightens its grip. Even if so-called progressive leaders expand those powers and reach.

I believe the children are the future. Unfortunately, President Obama has had 178 children murdered in Pakistan and Yemen by U.S. drone strikes. He believes they are the past.

So our future is doomed. We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to take it sitting down.

It wasn’t all bad news, just look at a few of the things that progressives accomplished in 2012:

  1. Historic progress to end the war on drugs.
  2. New fuel efficiency standards.
  3. Young undocumented immigrants received deportation relief.
  4. Anti-LGBT Senate candidates lost, in large numbers.
  5. President Obama endorsed marriage equality.
  6. Voters rejected anti-choice candidates.
  7. Voter suppression lost.
  8. The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.

This wasn’t just a great year for Marijuana users, but a harrowing one for synthetic drug users who found the legal or quasi-legal stimulants like bath salts to be cheap alternatives to criminalized plants.

By 2012, amphetamine-type stimulants, including synthetic bath salt derivatives, had become more popular worldwide than either cocaine or heroin, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Then again, it was a tough year for labor, with some of the most contentious battles and anxiety-inducing headlines of the year:

  1. Hostess Blames Workers for Bankruptcy Caused by Executives
  2. Right-to-Work Laws Passed by Spiteful Conservatives
  3. Wisconsin Recall of Scott Walker Failed
  4. American Airlines Employees Rally to Protest Cuts
  5. NFL Referees Replaced by Pathetic Scabs
  6. Apple-Foxconn Factory Workers in China Committed Mass Suicide
  7. Chicago Teacher’s Union Strike
  8. Koch Brothers Funnel Billions into Right-Wing Causes and Candidates
  9. Obama Barely Mentions Labor in Debates
  10. WalMart Workers Protest
  11. Bangladesh Factory Fire Kills Workers
  12. Fast-food Workers Strike

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone announced his pick for ‘Biggest Wall Street Story of the Year’ to the massive Libor scandal.

“If it’s true that the 16 biggest banks in the world were fixing global interest rates, then it’s hard not to argue that that’s not the biggest financial corruption case in history,” Taibbi says in a web exclusive for Current TV. “I fully expect that we’ll find out in the end that American banks were involved in this scandal.”

It was also a big year for Anonymous, with their hacktivism against bad copyright laws, censorship, evil religious zealots and police brutality ending up some of the biggest tech news of 2012.

And WIRED collected their top picks for the biggest tech stories in review:

  1. Government Spybots!
  2. Bradley Manning Gets His Day in Court
  3. SOPA and PIPA
  4. Supreme Court Takes a Stand Against Warrantless GPS Tracking
  5. Megaupload Becomes Mega Headache for U.S. Government
  6. Sabu and the Crackdown on Anonymous
  7. Stuxnet and Flame Viruses
  8. Julian Assange Seeks Asylum
  9. Paula and Petraeus Affair
  10. John McAfee On the Lam!

And some of the most outrageous science fiction stories that became science fact in the news!

  1. A Cyborg Competes Against Able-Bodied Athletes at the Olympics
  2. NASA Starts to Work on a Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive
  3. Scientists Enhance the Intelligence of Primates with a Chip
  4. The Earth Experiences its First True Superstorm
  5. The World’s First Cybernetic Hate Crime Occurs at a McDonalds in France
  6. Augmented Reality Goes Mainstream
  7. Researchers Create a Robot With Legs That Can Run Faster Than any Human
  8. The First Successful Commercial Cargo Delivery to Space Goes Off Without a Hitch
  9. An Electric Car is the Year’s Best
  10. Doctors Communicate With a Man in a Coma
  11. The First Large-Scale Geoengineering Project is Detected Off Canada’s West Coast
  12. A Child Attends School By Sending a Robot in His Place
  13. A Paralyzed Woman Controls a Robotic Arm Using Only Her Mind
  14. Self-Driving Cars Become Legal in Three States
  15. Scientists Create an Artificial Retina
  16. Researchers Create the First Complete Computer Model of a Living Organism

And looking forward, here are the civil liberties cases the Supreme Court may tackle in 2013:

  1. Same-Sex Marriage
  2. Federal Voting Rights Authority
  3. Race in University Admissions
  4. Can Corporations Be Sued For Overseas Human Rights Abuses?
  5. Can For-Profit Corporations Patent Human Genes?
  6. Warrantless Drug Searches By Police
  7. Death Penalty Convicts’ Right To Attorneys
  8. Do Right-To-Know Laws Stop At State Lines?

Non-belief in religion grew to the third largest affiliation in the world, The Washington Post writes:

A new report on global religious identity shows that while Christians and Muslims make up the two largest groups, those with no religious affiliation — including atheists and agnostics — are now the third-largest “religious” group in the world.

The study, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, found that Christians make up the largest group, with 2.2 billion adherents, or 32 percent worldwide, followed by Muslims, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent. Close behind are the “nones” — those who say they have no religious affiliation or do not believe in God — at 1.1 billion, or 16 percent.

This translates to big problems for United States politicians, where around 20% of the electorate are atheist/agnostic. So if you’re religious, don’t bash or exclude those who aren’t. Stand up for separation of church and state. Stand up for marriage equality and reproductive choice. Stand up for science.

Reject the false prophets like Old Paths Baptist Church Pastor Sam Morris, Franklin Graham, Bryan Fischer of the American family Association, James Dobson who proselytize that atheism is to blame for atrocities like school shootings.

This and much worse discrimination against non-believers is prevalent around the world.

This anti-atheist discrimination is severe. It takes the form of being arrested. It takes the form of being imprisoned for years. It takes the form of being targeted by a mob screaming for your blood… and when the police who should be there to protect you show up, instead they throw you in jail in Egypt, Indonesia, Greece, India, Turkey, Tunisia…

It even takes the form of a powerful Christian majority blasting the atheist minority for waging a non-existent ‘War on Christmas.’ A ridiculous prospect anyway, since many of the holiday traditions we love have Pagan roots.

  1. Celebrating the Winter Solstice with Festivals.
  2. Candles & Lights
  3. Trees
  4. Yule Wreaths 
  5. Santa
  6. Mistletoe
  7. Holly 
  8. Feasting! 
  9. Gift Giving
  10. Hearth Fires and Yule Logs

And who is waging the real war on Christmas, when Santa is arrested for chalking good tidings on public sidewalks? He is a dirty liberal, after all. Ignoring supply-side economics to hand out ‘free stuff.’

A new Public Policy Polling survey found that 44 percent of respondents think Santa is a Democrat, while 28 percent believe he’s a Republican.”*

And to all, a good night!

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-29: Santacular! by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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The Lie of the Conservative Batman

I’ve waited a week to post this until enough people have had a chance to see the latest Dark Knight movie, but it bears mentioning: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Batman mythos runs so deep in our culture, that parallels are easy. Claims now run rampant that the latest brilliant installment of Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy is anti-Occupy, or pro-capitalist in sentiment. That it purports ‘only a billionaire’ can save us. Chris Nolan has dispelled as much, though it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the phenomenally successful series may be inexorably linked to current events, as no writer or director creates in a vacuum, and both life imitates art and art imitates life. All films reflect their times, and the Batman is no exception. The imagery itself has seeped into everyday usage, (much like the protagonist masks in V for Vendetta), the war-painted Joker has been used by protest movements to vilify seemingly every elite from Bernie Madoff to president Barack Obama. Even without the gadgetry, moral code, genius-level detective skills, martial arts, cape or cowl, many billionaires see themselves as crucial heroes, their “sacrifices” necessary for the good of the system. And yes, the probably psychopathic James Holmes seems unable or unwilling to separate reality from fiction, modeling himself after The Dark Knight‘s villainous Joker (portrayed inimitably by Heath Ledger).

But Christopher Nolan’s version of the Batman (dubbed the Nolanverse), had already established an old Gotham rife with political corruption, a recession predating our own by a few years (Batman Begins began in 2005), the excesses of the rich and inequity of their system, and the thievery of Wall Street.

The script for The Dark Knight Rises was written during 2010, with location scouting happening in December of that year. Filming ran from May to November 2011, overlapping the rise of the Occupy movement by mere months. Any similarity is purely coincidental, and furthermore seen through the lens of Fox news analysis and FBI entrapment, where Occupiers have already been condemned as criminals and terrorists. The predominant Beltway philosophy already has established the ‘infallible rich’ as a cornerstone of its power structure.

And the story of haves and have-nots is as old as time anyway, as the Dark Knight Rises draws heavily from A Tale of Two Cities and its historical Red Terror. It’s a false dichotomy (which many pundits love) that one cannot have both a healthy opposition to violent revolution and sympathetic support for a protest movement. It really reveals more about the claimants’ ideology than anything else. Charles Dickens, for one, cared deeply for the plight of the poor, but not for the brutal atrocities of the French Revolution.

We humans will ascribe our own meaning and see what we want in film and comic book escapism, no matter how earnest the telling. This trilogy simply rings true because it dissects the hard ideological differences regarding justice, evil, truth, responsibility, and just exactly who is the real psychopath, anyway. We can all too easily see the divides and overlapping philosophies of the Occupy movement, the police force, the rich elites, and the League of Shadows. And yes, both lone vigilantes and lone nuts.

But even if the movie were a direct allegory to our failed structure, it could hardly be seen as a conservative endorsement, as bloggers on both sides have contended. More likely, the chilling dystopian vision of a city torn into a No Man’s Land reads as a warning against radical demagoguery and institutional deception. And though some may not agree with the aims of the Occupy movement, it takes a willfully ignorant or forcefully disingenuous mindset to equate them with the insane philosophy of either a chaotically sadistic Joker or a frighteningly focused and cold-blooded Bane (portrayed by Tom Hardy).

Indeed, Occupy remains a leaderless movement, constantly worrying about being co-opted by self-interested parties. Bane adopts a populist message in order to peddle false hopes to the citizenry he hopes to torture, populating his army with liberated thieves and killers. Yes, and there are those whom society has forsaken. Bane’s armed revolt plays to the same paranoid fears of Fox News and the State Department, and the same rhetoric of a much less radical Anonymous; it is made up of janitors, shoe-shiners, orphans, ex-cons, sanitation and construction workers. The under-served.

Bruce Wayne’s (reprised by Christian Bale) sins are spelled out for us at the beginning of the Dark Knight Rises. Not only has he taken the fall for the crimes of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and conspired to propagate a political lie, he has turned his back on society and the world. The streets have become relatively clean without him in the eight years since he donned the cowl, but the less obvious ills of a broken system still endure as Bruce neglects the city he loves, and literally atrophies in his elegantly rebuilt mansion.

Gotham’s sins are also many, where betrayal and lies are common political practice, where war heros are expendable during peacetime, where critical-thinking police are discounted as ‘hotheads’, and where even good men like Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) get their hands filthy. The Batman himself, as the Force-ghost of Ra’s Al-Ghul (Liam Neeson) reminds us, “for years fought the decadence of Gotham with his moral authority… and the most he could achieve was a lie.” The overreaching Dent Act, based on Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne’s falsehood, has robbed the imprisoned of any chance of parole. And though it was (hurriedly) agreed that if they world knew of Harvey Dent’s crimes, the guilty would be opened up to appeal, it is this very act of conspiracy that threatens to help blow apart the system, once finally discovered. The career politicians, police bosses, day traders and rich elite are anything but sympathetic figures.

Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) is the only decent representative of the 99%. She (as well as her politics and moral code) is adaptable, values anonymity, and doesn’t seem to care much for gun control. She embodies the ‘honor among thieves’ adage, she is generous, and sees herself as somewhat of a Robin Hood, at least more than the society types she robs from, who ‘take so much and leave so little for the rest.’ However, she is equally horrified, frightened and disgusted by the madness that ensues during Bane’s “revolution.”

John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), on the other hand, is your stereotypical corporate vulture, a literal blood diamond opportunist looking for his next hostile takeover, who doesn’t have time for “save-the-world vanity projects.” In fact, Daggett doesn’t care if the world is destroyed with his help, so long as he acquires more money, and the “power it buys.” It is the likes of Daggett and the other one-dimensional capitalists who worship the status quo when it suits them, and then collude with criminals on the side. Daggett only sees Bane as ‘pure evil’ once he realizes the imminent threat to himself and his riches. Once it’s no longer himself who’s in charge. It should be noted, for the record, that there are no real-life Occupy figures who could cow a crooked billionaire by placing a hand on their shoulder like an alpha dominant.

But of course these unsympathetic crooks are surely served up as contrast to our hero: the billionaire who would save us.

And though the Batman/Bruce Wayne may be heralded as the authoritarian’s dream; willing to employ mass surveillance, extreme rendition, and solely deciding what technology the people deserve and can be trusted with, he is no societal Superman. He is not a billionaire’s billionaire, for though he has more cars than cares to count, has never answered his own door, and “doesn’t even go broke like the rest of us,” he is also easily displaced within his own boardroom, decries the egotistical hypocrisy of charity balls, and has not been watching his own money carefully. Notably, he wants to fail. He relishes the opportunity to be destroyed as the Batman, if it means saving the lives of everyone; the rich, the workers and the poor alike.

Neither, however, has he been serving his own people and city of late, trading in his once rich playboy identity for a Howard Hughes shtick. Not only is his corporation floundering, his beloved charitable foundation is practically defunct. Orphaned boys age out of Gotham’s social programs, neglected by a city with no homes of jobs available. Here they become easy prey for vaguely Middle Eastern terrorists and organized criminals, where they die in the sewers and wash away once they are used up.

The progressive responsibility of socially conscious and civic-minded billionaires, (an extremely endangered breed both in Gotham and out real world) had to be summed up by an ecoterrorist acting the part of a lovely socialite (Marion Cotillard); “You have to invest to restore balance to the world.” Bruce has been lacking in his duties, and that evil that he and Commissioner Gordon buried isn’t dead, but rising up once again.

Bane’s movement is a false one, as he tells the people of Gotham that he is not a Conquerer but a Liberator, but in actuality he is neither. Bane is the Destroyer. Spinning a hopeful message in the wake of his havoc, telling the people to “take control” of Gotham, Bane uses his “truth” to get the citizenry to “tear down a corrupt city” and reclaim what is theirs from the rich oppressors who had peddled their myth of opportunism.

And it is not just any “ordinary citizen” who holds the detonator to their destruction, but equal parts rich girl and terrorist-anarchist. These masterminds did not just create a populist movement to fulfill their diabolical plot, but infiltrated powerful corporations with their subterfuge as well. For comparison, real-world anarchists, despite practicing just another political philosophy, are readily depicted by the media as murderous terrorists. Protestors, despite exercising their constitutional right to assemble, are either beaten or made into bridge bombers by the FBI. Even those who have read the anarchist or socialist literature pale in comparison to the bloodthirsty Bane army. But the fear has been writ large in the news: if a lone nut like the joker can inspire a depraved massacre in a theatre, what would an evil warlord and his army of mercenaries inspire?

Like the Batman, authoritarians do seem to create their own enemies.

What follows once the structures fail lacks even more subtlety; in the face of such wanton violence, the government will abandon you. The good cops will attempt to salvage the status quo, and the bad cops will either desert or work against the people. Idiotically and blindly following orders, in fact, could get orphans and priests killed. Only the Batman can save us.

As even Selena realizes too late, this is not what the 99% ever wanted. Their system has swung wildly from an authoritarian, decadent state to the bloody turf of a mad warlord. It is the Dark Knight who is the hero we need, but unlike any known billionaire, he is now humiliated and humbled, fearful, responsible, accountable, and thus strengthened, empowered, respectful and focused. “Hardened by pain… not from privilege.”

It really should go without saying, by the way, that is not until Bruce Wayne loses all of his money, loses nearly everything, in fact, and is dropped into a pit to rebuild himself, that he is worthy of becoming a savior. And even those he still uses all those wonderful toys that only his privileged life could have afforded him, there can be no analogue for his virtuosity. Nobody has done as much as the fictitious Wayne family. And no playboy industrialists don a mask and fight crime.

As super-fan of the Batman, Kevin Smith, points out:

“In our world it’s not the case. The richer one gets, the less moral one seems to become. Not in all cases, but you hear about everything that just happened to our economy in the last few years… at the end of the day, Bruce Wayne/Batman [is] a moral example of a billionaire… Right then and there you should be able to divorce yourself from reality because no billionaire would waste their time helping others.”

This establishes the film’s central conceit as high fantasy. The Batman doesn’t have what we’d normally call superpowers, and we’ve seen it’s not simply the gadgets or money that keeps him going, but his rigid moral compass and drive to do good that makes him superhuman.

It isn’t just allegorical. It’s not just a cautionary tale. It’s a mad thought experiment. Fiction. Fantasy. Though some of us do have trouble separating that.

For there is no Ayn Randian perfect citizen or engine of the economy that somehow magically makes everything better. There is no Nietzschean Übermench. In the face of the very real threats of depraved elites, deadly terrorist groups and savage gunmen, there are no real superheroes.

Batman will not save us.