“That was a “totally different” situation, Inhofe told MSNBC, arguing that the Sandy aid was filled with pork. There were “things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there and putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C.” “Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place,” he said. “That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”—Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.): Tornado aid ‘totally different’ from Hurricane Sandy aid
"We're The Kominas. Hi."
By Torie Rose DeGhett, who writes freelance about politics and music, and is a contributing arts writer at Aslan Media. (And is also one of Somersault’s two editors.)
“Sharia laaaawwww…” The opening track on The Kominas’ debut album Wild Nights in Guantánamo Bay hits hard at anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, a surreal flash of satire that pounds through your ears. The Kominas pull off being both alienating and alluring at the same time. They have incredible musical talent and lyrics that are harsh and gleeful, but well-chosen. ”Sharia Law in the U.S.A” mocks and ridicules profiling and institutional Islamophobia, jabbing at the radicalizing nature of security measures:
Cops chased me out of my mother’s womb
My crib was in state pen before age two
The cops had bugged my red toy phone
So I devised a plan for heads to roll…
Being Muslim in the US in the twenty-first century has meant an unrelenting scrutiny, a patchwork of stereotype and profiling including the ignorance of public assumption and the direct attack of authorities.
Challenging Islamophobia is a core tenet of the band’s musical purpose. They aim to overturn assumptions about Muslims, and impugn the legitimacy of institutional anti-Muslim sentiment in the US. Guitarist Sunny Ali says “We used the media’s Islamophobia to get attention the same way they used us and continue to use Islam for their headlines. We are also tapping into people’s stereotypes and turning it around on them for our own benefit. Turning a minus into a plus.”
Addressing the world’s myriad minuses with a punchy, invasive musical style has been a theme of theirs since the band’s beginning. (It should be noted that the current membership of the band has undergone lots of shifts since The Kominas started playing.) Among the songs on Wild Nights, their first full-length album, is “Rumi Was a Homo (But Wahhaj is a Fag),” written in response to homophobic comments by Imam Siraj Wahhaj. The logic of using such a slur to hit back at someone for being homophobic is an obvious question, but The Kominas (whose name roughly translates as “the bastards” or “the scumbags”) often make their way on insults and contrarian juxtapositions. This is the same band that sings “I want a handjob” in virtually the same breath as “Subhanallah (Glorious is Allah).” The lyrics from “Rumi Was a Homo,” “Conventional opinion is the ruin of souls/Bhai-jaan it’s my prose I can’t control,” feels like one of the best descriptions of the band itself and its members, using their witty, sarcastic lyrics to escape the ruination of conventionality.
The punk-meets-bhangra mix of sound that The Kominas produce is a jumble, each song shifting up the pace and the tone. Soundwise, they have a great deal of unpredictability. The changes from album to album might come from the membership changes the band has gone through since they first got in people’s faces by calling Rumi a homo, but from song to song they shift up, varying sounds and styles from jarring to smooth. When reached by email, Sunny Ali says that their musical influences are many and ever-changing, starting with a foundational mix of punk, hip-hop and Bollywood and moving on to the “endless crate” that is YouTube, which offers up everything from reggae to psychedelic African rock. It’s the lyrics that make a song one by The Kominas. Sunny Ali notes that in the process of writing, “the lyrics are usually what turns it into an actual song.”
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The power to go to war
What are the implications of the US president having the authority to use military force without congressional approval?
“States vote to take away my marriage rights, and even though I don't want to get married, it tends to hurt my feelings. I guess what bugs me is that it was put to a vote in the first place. If you don't want to marry a homosexual, then don't. But what gives you the right to weigh in on your neighbor's options? It's like voting whether or not redheads should be allowed to celebrate Christmas.”—David Sedaris
“The Obama administration should terminate any practice, such as the reported signature strikes, that does not comply with principles of international humanitarian and human rights law. It must also introduce transparency to the drone program, including its governing rules, how targets are selected and how civilian damage is weighed.”—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Drones: Myths and Reality in Pakistan
Global Capital and the Nation State
As global capital becomes ever more powerful, giant corporations are holding governments and citizens up for ransom — eliciting subsidies and tax breaks from countries concerned about their nation’s “competitiveness” — while sheltering their profits in the lowest-tax jurisdictions they can find. Major advanced countries — and their citizens — need a comprehensive tax agreement that won’t allow global corporations to get away with this.
Google, Amazon, Starbucks, every other major corporation, and every big Wall Street bank, are sheltering as much of their U.S. profits abroad as they can, while telling Washington that lower corporate taxes are necessary in order to keep the U.S. “competitive.”
Baloney. The fact is, global corporations have no allegiance to any country; their only objective is to make as much money as possible — and play off one country against another to keep their taxes down and subsidies up, thereby shifting more of the tax burden to ordinary people whose wages are already shrinking because companies are playing workers off against each other.
I’m in London for a few days, and all the talk here is about how Goldman Sachs just negotiated a sweetheart deal to settle a tax dispute with the British government; Google is manipulating its British sales to pay almost no taxes here by using its low-tax Ireland subsidiary (the chair of the Parliamentary committee investigating this has just called the do-no-evil firm “devious, calculating, and unethical”); Amazon has been found to route its British sales through a subsidiary in low-tax Luxembourg, and now receives more in subsidies from the British government than it pays here in taxes; Starbucks’ tax-avoidance strategy was so blatant British consumers began boycotting the firm until it reversed course.
Meanwhile, At a time when you’d expect nations to band together to gain bargaining power against global capital, the opposite is occurring: Xenophobia is breaking out all over.
Here in Britain, the UK Independence Party — which wants to get out of the European Union — is rapidly gaining ground, becoming the third most popular party in the country, according to a new poll for The Independent on Sunday. Almost one in five people plan to vote for it in the next general election. Ukip’s overall ratings have risen four points to 19 per cent in the past month, despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to wrest back control of the crucial debate over Britain’s relationship with the European Union.
Right-wing nationalist parties are gaining ground elsewhere in Europe as well. In the U.S., not only are Republicans sounding more nationalistic of late (anti-immigrant, anti-trade), but they continue to push “states rights” — as states increasingly battle against one another to give global companies ever larger tax breaks and subsidies.
Nothing could strengthen the hand of global capital more than such breakups.
Libertarian Link Roundup
Some interesting reading I’ve come across while sitting on a chair in the sky…
- Lew Rockwell’s manifesto of peace.
- Aeon Skoble’s thoughtful contributions to the subject of libertarianism and war.
- Glenn Greenwald on the endless war on terror.
- Has the Left made peace with the warfare state?
- John Whitehead on the war on terror and the surveillance state.
- Jeffrey Tucker on the dangerous “witchcraft” of central banking.
- Hunter Lewis on the essence of Keynesianism.
- Walter Williams notes that taxes destroy transactions and thus jobs.
- The Minimum Wage: An Unfair Advantage for Employers
- The Minimum Wage Harms the Most Vulnerable
- “Economics isn’t rocket science; it’s a lot harder. We should admit as much and when asked to measure things we cannot measure, we should admit our ignorance.”
- Richard Ebeling: The Federal Reserve’s “Exit Strategy” is just more monetary manipulation
- George Smith defends the non-aggression principle: “Libertarianism is a political theory that deals with the concept of justice. It does not deal per se with establishing what is and is not “morally permissible.” That is the realm of ethics, or moral theory, which is a much broader discipline than political theory.”
- Tom Woods on progressive confusion of “society.”
- David Friedman on democracy, partisanship, rational ignorance, and why he believes things.
- Jonah Goldberg admits that the president probably didn’t ask the IRS to target political opponents - but they were an agency after his own heart.
- Tim Lynch and George Will offer some “empirical evidence” on IRS political manipulation.
- Doug Ross compiles a timeline on the IRS scandal and concludes: “1. Steve Miller lied to Congress, 2. Lois Lerner lied to Congress, 3. Barack Obama lied to the American people”
- Audit reveals disturbing new information on IRS abuse scandal.
- The IRS has a long history of political abuse.
- Obama apologetics in full force: New Republic blames the Tea Party for the IRS Scandal, NY Times claims that IRS targeting of Tea Party only proves Republicans are desperate, Nancy Pelosi thinks people are making a big deal about this because “the president is such a great president.”
- Mike Riggs shares the Drug Policy Aliiance’s “An Exit Strategy for the failed War on Drugs”, noting 75 ways in which to make the Drug War less awful (of course, there solution is much more simple: end prohibition of all peaceful activity. Period.).
- Shikha Dalmia on the Myth of the Scientific Liberal: “The core trait of a scientific mind is that when its commitments clash with evidence, evidence rules. On that count, what grade do liberals deserve? Fail, given their reaction to the latest evidence on universal health care, global warming, and universal preschool.”
- “[C]ollege students run up big bills to pay for educations unlikely to deliver payoffs to match the money invested. It’s no surprise that delinquency rates on those student loans are soaring. So, what’s the federal government’s response [included in Obama’s budget next year]? [I]t plans to expand a program that encourages students to take on debt with promises that taxpayers will assume the burden.”
- Americans who favor gun control incorrectly believe gun crime has increased.
- The case for legalizing horse meat.
- How zoning kills affordable housing.
- Read this if you still think teachers’ unions and educrats care about kids.
- Missouri Legislature Nullifies All Federal Gun Control Measures by a Veto-Proof Majority
- John Stossel notes: “Forty-three million Americans moved from one state to another between 1995 and 2010 — about one-seventh of Americans. … [They] have moved away from high-taxed, heavily regulated states to lower-taxed, less-regulated states. Most don’t think of it as a political decision. They just go where opportunities are, and that usually means where there’s less government.”
- How big business depends on big government.
“The missile hits, and after the smoke clears there's a crater there and you can see body parts from the people. [A] guy that was running from the rear to front, his left leg had been taken off above the knee, and I watched him bleed out. These guys had no hostile intent. In Montana, everyone has a gun. These guys could have been local people that had to protect themselves. I think we jumped the gun.”—
Former drone operator Brandon Bryant, on his first drone strike.
Bryant quit the drone program after realizing its disregard for life and how numb strikes made him feel, saying he “couldn’t do it anymore.”