31 August 2011

NYT Editorial - The New Resentment of the Poor

This article (as you might guess) is from the New York Times.

Just a quick post here before I leave the office (many thanks to MD for the link) that lays out the utter idiocy of the income tax rhetoric being used by the current Republican candidates for president.

Or... I guess the rhetoric is fine, since they're not getting called on it by the public. The utter idiocy of the stance they're taking?

No... since the purpose of the stance is to get elected, and they seem to be doing okay on that front. The bizarre relation that their stance has to verifiable facts?

There we go (hold your global warming jokes, please).

Quick quote:

First, the facts: a vast majority of Americans have skin in the tax game. Even if they earn too little to qualify for the income tax, they pay payroll taxes (which Republicans want to raise), gasoline excise taxes and state and local taxes. Only 14 percent of households pay neither income nor payroll taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution. The poorest fifth paid an average of 16.3 percent of income in taxes in 2010.

Whether you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, or (as I do) a disaffected, unrepresented pawn in a game being played by people (and we can count corporations as such, these days!) with much more money and power than you, it's got to be good to see political candidates getting called out when they take a stance that is obviously, factually wrong.

Right?

Dahlia Lithwick - Getting Away with Torture

This article is from Slate.

So... Dick Cheney's got a book coming out, apparently. Once we accept that, it becomes unsurprising that much of said book is dedicated to justifying his actions within the Bush administration. Dahlia Lithwick, here (and, off-topic, I must note that "Dahlia" is both a lovely and an under-utilized name), suggests some of the dangers that those justifications pose.

It's currently fashionable to believe that political and ideological battles are "real," and it is the law that is empty symbolism. But Cheney stands as an illustration of the real-life, practical value of the law. Torture really did become legal after 9/11, and even after it was repudiated—again and again—it will always be legal with regard to Dick Cheney and the others who perpetrated it without consequence. The law wasn't a hollow symbol after 9/11. It was the only fixed system we had. We can go on pretending that torture is no longer permissible in this country or under international law, but until there are legal consequences for those who order or engage in torture, we will only be pretending. Cheney is the beneficiary of that artifice.

That paragraph is kind of the heart of the article, but the entire thing (it's a quick read, not more than a couple of minutes) is worth a readthrough.

29 August 2011

/ (Reflections on the VMAs)



In keeping with the Alex Morris article from a little while ago, here's some more gender stuff. This is maybe more personal, less academic - the way I experienced the show last night. Don't expect too much coherence.

"When she cums, it's like she covers her face, because she doesn't want me to see, like she can't stand to have one, honest, moment where nobody's watching! I want her to be real. But she says, Jo, I'm not real, I'm theater. And you and I? This is just rehearsal."

That monologue is absolutely fucking brilliant.

"Hey! My name is Jo, Calderone, and I was an asshole. Gaga? Yeah, her! Lady Gaga? She left me! She said it always starts out good, and then the guys, meaning me, I'm one of the guys, we get crazy. I did, I got crazy. But she's fucking crazy too, right? I mean, she's fucking crazy!"

Is it weird that I find Gaga-as-Calderone hotter than Gaga in her other (feminine) costumes? This greasy-haired, cigarette-smoking, beer-throwing, t-shirt-wearing, piano-falling-off persona has a vibe to him that I dig the hell out of. Maybe it's a West Side Story flashback (I always did kind of have a thing for Rif).

Clearly, everything is costume. More clearly with Gaga than with most other folks, probably because she makes a point of the performativity of selfhood. Everything's an act, a character, an image.

"But she says, Jo, I'm not real, I'm theater. And, you and I, this is just rehearsal."

This happens with everybody, though. I shave my head, bury my accent, wear black, wear boots, swagger a little bit to make myself look more masculine, less fuckwithable. Some folks put on makeup. Warpaint. Low-cut shirts. Thick black glasses. More on him later. It's all theater, right? We all figure out what we want people to think about us - and, yes, "I don't care what people think about me" is an image, too - and dress, walk, talk, move, gesture, think so as to make it happen.



Like these guys aren't performing gender? Look at the way Kanye's walking when he comes out - it's barely human, and certainly not sustainable for more than a few minutes at a time. That's not even getting started on the class dimensions - Ye's denim, Jay-Z's work boots and plain white t-shirt (an uncanny echo of Calderone's costume) - or the flag tucked in Mr. West's back pocket. Or the fact that they walk out from a giant flaming vagina and perform on an inverted swoosh...

Anyways.

27 August 2011

Bruce Barcott - Totally Psyched for the Full-Rip Nine

This article is from Outside, and it should be required reading for anybody looking to move to the Pacific Northwest.

As much as it sounds like some kind of gun reference, "full-rip nine" here refers to the impending Cascadian Megaquake... one for which we're already a few decades overdue, according to the numbers given in Barcott's article.

This piece takes the form of some introductory data (a crash course in plate tectonics, a portrait of the Lone Scientist Nobody Believes), and then a timeline of what would happen in the scenario of a 9.1 quake off the Oregon coast.

The story Barcott tells isn't what you might call a pretty one. It is, though, an absolutely riveting - and potentially very important - read. All y'all enjoy.

24 August 2011

Edward Docx - Postmodernism is Dead

...long live postmodernism?

Today's article is from Prospect, whose other articles I'll be taking a look through shortly - it's a publication I haven't seen before, but it seems to have some interesting materials.

This particular piece, by British novelist Edward Docx, is a bit of a eulogy for pomo, but it's also a good overview of the movement (insofar as one can call it a movement) itself, and a useful primer for folks who maybe aren't that familiar with it.

Beyond that, the article offers a look at what might be The Next Big Thing - a suggestion that I couldn't help but, begrudgingly, tie into the Rise of Hipsterdom - the emphasis on the handmade, the individual. There's something a little bit different, there, though, in that Docx is suggesting authenticity, rather than irony, as the guiding sentiment of the new movement:

We can identify it in the way brands are trying to hold on to, or take up, an interest in ethics, or in a particular ethos. A culture of care is advertised and celebrated and cherished. Values are important once more: the values that the artist puts into the making of an object as well as the values that the consumer takes out of the object. And all of these striven-for values are separate to the naked commercial value.

Have a read if you're interested.

19 August 2011

Maria Hampton - Generation F*cked: How Britain is Eating Its Young

This article is from Adbusters.

Gonna throw a music link in here that I think is a nice intro:

Frank Turner - Thatcher Fucked the Kids


The key lyrics here are those from the first part of the chorus:

We're all wondering how we ended up so scared;
We spent ten long years teaching our kids not to care
And that "there's no such thing as society" anyway,
And all the rich folks act surprised
When all sense of community dies

I think that's a nice lead-in to what is an unsurprising, but still heartbreaking (there's a balance for you to walk), set of findings:

According to the Unicef report, which measured 40 indicators of quality of life – including the strength of relationships with friends and family, educational achievements and personal aspirations, and exposure to drinking, drug taking and other risky behavior – British children have the most miserable upbringing in the developed world. American children come next, second from the bottom.

Yep, that's right. Out of the entire first world, British kids have the worst childhoods, followed closely by their American counterparts. Why is this? There are any number of possible explanations, and Hampton's article does a solid job of walking through several of them - a decline in morality, an adverse reaction to market pressures, parents in the workplace rather than at home, a result of a neoliberal ideology that Britain and the US share - but I find the most telling response towards the end of the piece:

But what if the behavior of broken British children is less a violent reaction to their inadequate pasts than calculated defiance against their hopeless futures? Looking ahead, demographers and sociologists have begun to map out the downward trajectory on the bell curve called “progress.” They’ve spotted trouble – the kind of trouble that may already be written in the faces of today’s teens’ older siblings.

I like that phrase - "calculated defiance against their hopeless futures." Calculated defiance, that is, against a branded, corporate-dominated, ideology which presents a stark and depressing picture (and a picture only) to every person of my generation:

[...] as Conservative MP David Willetts, put it: “A young person could be forgiven for believing that the way in which economic and social policy is now conducted is little less than a conspiracy by the middle-aged against the young.”

While, myself, I don't go that far - I view it rather as the perfect realization of an ideology of capitalist individualism which will, naturally, favor those who have the capital to assert their wills - I take the point that Willetts is making there, and the point that Hampton's article pretty clearly demonstrates: when you've got an entire generation that's getting (and I use the term advisedly here) fucked by their parents, if even a small, small percentage of them realize it, you're going to have a big, big problem.

Then again... maybe this big, big problem - the riots in London serving as a beautiful starting point, though clearly nothing more than that as long as the media persist in calling them "shameful" rather than symptomatic - is the only way out...?

Alex Morris - The Prettiest Boy in the World

Today's article is from NY Magazine.

What is beauty? How do we define it? Is it like porn (do we know it when we see it)?

I'd say Andrej Pejic is beautiful. He, she, it, pronouns are so annoying to try to keep track of.


How essential is gender, these days, really? Think of Storm Stocker.

Sorry if I'm rambling today - I've been reading on other subjects all morning. This article is definitely worth a read, though. Have a great day!

18 August 2011

George Packer - Dead Certain: The Presidential Memoirs of George W. Bush

This article is from The New Yorker.

This article is a few months old (it came out in November of last year), but is still worth a read if you haven't seen it (or Bush's book) before now. I hadn't, and, thus, found Packer's review interesting.

The key question this article raises for me: how does one review a memoir? Packer has chosen to mix a few different approaches together into a unified picture of, perhaps the book, but more generally the person (GWB) who (we think) wrote it.

On the book's style:

Its prose aims for tough-minded simplicity but keeps landing on simpleminded sententiousness.

On the insights offered by the memoir:

The rare moments of candor come at other people’s expense.

On the book's subject, that is, Bush himself:

There are hardly any decision points at all. The path to each decision is so short and irresistible, more like an electric pulse than like a weighing of options, that the reader is hard-pressed to explain what happened. Suddenly, it’s over, and there’s no looking back. The decision to go to war “was an accretion,” Richard Haass, the director of policy-planning at the State Department until the invasion of Iraq, told me. “A decision was not made—a decision happened, and you can’t say when or how.”
What the review portrays, and brilliantly, is an author who is not simple-minded, not dumb, but, rather, so invested in the rightness of his own perspective on the world that he can't understand why that perspective is not universal:

One of the voices in the President’s ear was Elie Wiesel’s, speaking of “a moral obligation to act against evil.” The words were bound to move a man like Bush. “Many of those who demonstrated against military action in Iraq were devoted advocates of human rights,” he says. “I understood why people might disagree on the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. But I didn’t see how anyone could deny that liberating Iraq advanced the cause of human rights.” Some of Bush’s critics found this argument specious and hypocritical; they failed to grasp the President’s profound need to be on the side of the redeeming angels. (The chapter on AIDS in Africa shows Bush at his best. His desire to display American caring led directly to a generous policy.)

Definitely worth a read. I'm probably not going to pick up Decision Points, at least for a while - I'm currently buried under a stack of other books that I need to work my way through first (hurrah for exam reading... and, yes, I'll eventually start posting some of my notes on here for y'all to peruse), but Packer's review is, as (to my mind) a good review should be, worth looking at as a document in its own right.

Matt Taibbi - Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?

Today's article is from Rolling Stone.

The always excellent Matt Taibbi gives us an excellent article on some of the ways that the SEC is not just failing in its regulatory duties but actually working with the corporations it's supposed to be monitoring.

In at least one case, according to Flynn, investigators at the SEC found their desire to bring a case against an influential bank thwarted by senior officials in the enforcement division – whose director turned around and accepted a lucrative job from the very same bank they had been prevented from investigating. In another case, the agency farmed out its inquiry to a private law firm – one hired by the company under investigation. The outside firm, unsurprisingly, concluded that no further investigation of its client was necessary. To complete the bureaucratic laundering process, Flynn says, the SEC dropped the case and destroyed the files.

Yup. Worth reading.

12 August 2011

Tim Dickinson - Rupert Murdoch's American Scandals

Today's article is from Rolling Stone.

This article is a pretty straightforward mapping-out of the ways in which the News Corp hacking, pandering, bribery, and general corruption aren't limited to just a few rogue elements in the UK, but are indicative of a larger, company-wide trend that has been going on for decades and is a part of the company's culture, as embodied by the company's leader, Rupert Murdoch.

"There's a broader culture within the company," Col Allan, editor of Murdoch's New York Post, crowed in 2007. "We like being pirates." Whatever veneer of integrity News Corp. may have accrued after its purchase of The Wall Street Journal the very same year masks an ingrained corporate ethos that believes integrity is for suckers. The attitude passed down from the top, says one veteran of Murdoch's tabloids, is aggressive and straightforward: "Anything we do is OK. We're News Corp. — so fuck you and fuck your mother."
Hard to say it better than that. Article is worth a read.

11 August 2011

Forrest Wilder - Rick Perry's Army of God

Today's article is from the Texas Observer.

If they simply professed unusual beliefs, movement leaders wouldn’t be remarkable. But what makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government. The new prophets and apostles believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take “dominion” over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the “Seven Mountains” of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world. They believe they’re intended to lord over it all. As a first step, they’re leading an “army of God” to commandeer civilian government.

That's an excerpt from an article that came out a couple of weeks ago. It's worth taking a look at, if only because of what it suggests about the folks with whom Texas governor Rick Perry is aligning himself.

The funny thing about this article is that, to me, none of this stuff sounds that far out of line with what I hear from mainstream evangelicals all the time. I wonder where our cultural index of "crazy" is floating around these days - how much woo are we willing to accept in the name of "defending the kingdom of God" or whatever other term gets applied to it these days?

The emphasis from the New Apostolic Reformation folks on, especially, infiltrating culture and politics, really resonated with me in terms of stuff I've heard from King's College and what I grew up hearing from Focus on the Family, the CCM movement, and so on - my point being that even the stuff Wilder is pointing at as craziness here isn't exactly foreign to the far right in this country (a far right which has a troubling dom/sub relationship with evangelical Christianity).

Read the article, is my point. I'm less shocked or surprised than the author seems to be, but it's still worth a looksee.

10 August 2011

Chris Jones and Jonah Keri - In Which Two Canadians Fight About A Sport That Is Not Hockey

Today's article is from Grantland.

Today's article, as you might guess from the title, is more fun than it is anything else. It's coming to us from Grantland, the "how you play the Game" themed sportswriting site helmed by Bill Simmons in conjunction with Dave Eggers, Malcolm Gladwell, and others.

This particular article is a brief exchange on the nature of baseball-centered human-interest pieces in the era of sabermetrics. Is it possible to write a relatable article when you have advanced statistics to deal with? Do the new ways of looking at the game (okay, so they're not so new anymore, but they're still new to a lot of fans) kill the "romance" of the game?

Sample passage, from the Hon. Mr. Jones:

Sooner than I might have expected, we’ve reached that point in our discussion when we find our hero — that’s me — backed into the Corner of Impossibility: You're asking me to defend art with science, and I can’t. It’s why science always wins. Art can’t overcome the burden of proof, and I concede that point, absolutely, which is why I’d never claim that statistics are stupid. I understand their importance and their value. But that doesn’t mean I have to love them.
Worth taking a look at if you're into sportswriting.

09 August 2011

Natasha Vargas-Cooper - The Great Wisconsin Solidarity Experiment

Today's article is from Slake.

In this article, Natasha Vargas-Cooper does an excellent job of portraying a handful of experiences from the Wisconsin conflict earlier this year.

If you're on the extreme political Right, or number yourself among those who favor the Republican Party's union-busting agenda (same thing, but some folks don't realize that), you won't like this article. Fair warning. You should read it anyway. Why? It portrays, in exacting detail, the visceral sense of betrayal that said agenda, and the tactics its followers employed, created. I'm going to copy and paste a fairly extended section from the article. Read it.
What nobody bargains for is that the desperation setting in among Republicans will not lead to a capitulation, but rather to a shocking political blitzkrieg. On Wednesday, March 9, with only three hours’ notice and the fourteen Democratic senators still in exile, the Senate Republicans announce that a vote will be held on the budget-repair bill, with or without a quorum.

In a meeting room, packed with witnesses, local media, staffers, and anxious Democratic legislators who’ve remained in Madison, the nineteen Republican senators take their seats at a conference table. Thousands of protesters gather outside and chants of “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!” penetrate the chamber room.

As the roll call begins, the typically mild-mannered Democratic Assemblyman Peter Barca, who has been furiously taking notes during the session, interrupts and begins to read a memo from the attorney general that states meetings of this sort must have at least twenty-four hours’ public notice.

The Republicans ignore Barca, refusing to even glance at him. The “yes” votes are called out one by one, with Barca on his feet pointing to the memo pleading with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to stop the vote: “Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law! This is not just a rule, this is law.”

The rest of the action takes less than ten seconds. Fitzgerald slaps the gavel on the table and the Senate Republicans vote eighteen-to-one to strip unionized public employees of their rights to collective bargaining. Boom, just like that it’s all over.

The only dissenting vote is Republican Senator Dale Schultz from Reedsburg. The absent fourteen Democrats are recorded simply as “not present.” The Republicans quickly scurry out of the Senate chamber and witnesses to the vote start to loudly chant in dismay, with one spectator crying out, “What have you done?”

More broadly speaking, I have mixed feelings about solidarity. As portrayed here, and in most other images I've seen, it's a way of expanding political pressure on an issue by doing the bare minimum possible. It puts faith in the political process.

From the article:
It’s not impossible that Democrats will win back a legislative majority and expunge the anti-union bill. And an incumbent Republican-backed Supreme Court Justice, who had been ahead by thirty points two months previous, narrowly defeated an obscure union-backed challenger only after 14,000 “misplaced” votes were mysteriously produced by a Republican county official days after the voting.

If you don't trust that democracy exists, where's the good of solidarity?

Still, my cynicism aside, this is a well-written and well-thought-out article, and definitely worth a read.

08 August 2011

Mark Bowden - A Crime of Shadows

Today's article is from Vanity Fair.

Question: what, exactly, constitutes entrapment? At what point does law enforcement cross the line from catching people who are attempting to commit crimes to creating opportunities for people to commit crimes to creating crimes and tricking people into committing them? Sorry if that was hard to parse. Maybe Mark Bowden's words will be a bit more clear:

[...] Justice Byron White wrote: “In their zeal to enforce the law ... Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.” The justices did not address either the subjective or objective tests directly, but they made it clear that predisposition alone did not mean guilt, particularly if the crime was suggested by police to begin with.
So there's the line, theoretically. But what does that mean in practice? Say, in the case of cops luring potential child predators online? That's the case that Bowden is looking at here. Yes, it's a loaded issue, and it's one that tends to elicit strong emotional reactions. Which is what makes it such a good test case here. Bowden does a good job with this article (which is a couple of years old, but I just found it yesterday) of breaking down the way that the Online Child Predator has become a cultural icon, and the way that the image of the predator gets used to justify what I would characterize as abuses of police authority.

In any case: this is a good, solid, thought-provoking article, and it's worth reading.

05 August 2011

Eli Lake - All Over the Map

Today's article is from The New Republic.

Nothing flashy for y'all today - just a sober, incisive breakdown (term chosen deliberately) of the foreign policy views of several of the leading Republican candidates for president. Special emphasis is paid, as it unfortunately must be, to their views on "radical" vs. "moderate" Islam.

Worth keeping track of, and something that stands out to me, is a brief aside about the need for certainty or assuredness on seemingly every topic, even on complicated or yet-to-be-resolved issues:
But, while such open-mindedness is an admirable thing, people also want to know that presidential candidates have strong convictions on the most important issues. And, with Romney and Iraq, it wasn’t always clear whether he did. His camp in 2007 was divided. One of Romney’s top foreign policy advisers, Mitchell Reiss—a longtime American diplomat who served as the head of policy planning at the State Department in the second half of Powell’s tenure—was a surge skeptic. But Dan Senor—an unofficial member of Romney’s inner circle who had served as a senior adviser and spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq—was a surge supporter, according to sources familiar with the 2008 Romney campaign. In the end, the surge forces won, and Romney never publicly questioned the policy. And, beyond the surge, Romney seemed content to take pages from Bush’s playbook on transforming the Muslim world. The neocons, after all, were the establishment—and Romney was the establishment candidate.

But, sometimes, it was possible to catch a public glimpse from Romney of what sounded like hesitation about the neoconservative worldview. At a debate in September 2007, Romney was asked about Iraq. He gave a rather measured answer in which he said that the surge was “apparently working”—two words that quickly drew a response from McCain. “Governor, the surge is working,” McCain admonished. “The surge is working, sir. It is working.” “That’s just what I said,” Romney replied. But McCain would have none of it. “No, not apparently,” McCain continued. “It’s working.”
Anyways... read this. It's worth looking at.

04 August 2011

Out for the day

Hello to all of you (and a special hello to the two of you from the UAE who visited yesterday) -

I'm traveling today, so I probably won't be able to post (sadly, not a lot of time to read before I take off. I'll try to be back up and running again tomorrow.

Much love.

03 August 2011

Alex Ross - Deceptive Picture: How Oscar Wilde Painted Over "Dorian Gray."

Today's article is from The New Yorker.

Lovely piece today from Alex Ross, to be published in the upcoming New Yorker.

Ross, here, has done some rather wonderful research, especially in his reading and writeup of the changes between manuscript and published versions of the story (which, after all, is the titular concept of the article).
At the same time, Wilde’s revisions to the opening dialogue between Basil and Lord Henry betray a rising anxiety, an urge to lower the emotional temperature. Exclamations over Dorian’s beauty give way to more reserved remarks about his “good looks” and “personality.” “Passion” becomes “feeling,” “pain” becomes “perplexity.”
This article is pretty intense at some points, or at least as intense as an article on the literature of a rich, dead white guy can reasonably be.

Question: what is a thing about? What is the nature of a thing? The topic? The focus? This is a question that comes up for me sometimes when I'm reading stories or scholarly articles. Is Dorian Gray about homosexuality? About art? Just a good story? Whatever the answer, Ross has done some excellent work here, and his article (yes, I checked his gender on the New Yorker website before I wrote this) is most assuredly worth a read.

02 August 2011

Keith Olbermann - The Four Great Hypocrisies of the Debt Deal

One, watch this video because Olbermann is a brilliant rhetorician and speechmaker.

Two, watch it because the things he's saying are important.

John Sullivan - True Enough: The Second Age of PR

Today's article is from the Columbia Journalism Review.

Heck of a title, isn't it? Gets you right to the point of what the article's about, grabs your attention - it's almost like the author is "a former reporter for The New York Times and The Providence Journal." Ah.

Yes, this is, to a certain extent, an article on media bias. I'm sorry. But I think it's a productive one in that, instead of trying to prove bias in one direction or another, Sullivan here tries to map out one of the reasons why bias occurs even when journalists are making a good-faith effort to get everything right.

Sullivan suggests that journalists are fighting a losing battle: their resources are shrinking even as corporations and political groups have realized the importance of context control and begun pouring money towards that purpose.

A quote:
“There is the overwhelming sense that the void that is created by the collapse of traditional journalism is not being filled by new media, but by public relations,” said John Nichols, a Nation correspondent and McChesney’s co-author. Nichols said reporters usually make some calls and check facts. But the ability of government or private public relations to generate stories grows as reporters have less time to seek out stories on their own. That gives outside groups more power to set the agenda.
Definitely worth a read.

01 August 2011

Robert F. Worth - Yemen on the Brink of Hell

Today's article is from the New York Times.

This is rather a stunning piece of reporting. Early on, I felt like I was beginning another celebration of the transformative power of nonviolent protest; Worth starts by describing and talking to Bushra al-Maqtari, one of the leading figures in the peaceful sitdowns that keep happening in Yemen's second-largest (and most Western) city of Taiz.

This thread continues throughout Worth's article; a portrait of Abdullah bin Haddar, a tribesman from Marib who has joined the protesters, is particularly compelling, and I'll quote a full paragraph from that portrait here:
Haddar brought the zeal of a convert to his new role as a protester. “I had never imagined this would be possible, giving up violence,” he said, staring at me with large, earnest eyes. “It is something heavenly, not earthly.” Within days, he had been beaten up badly in a street confrontation with plainclothes government thugs. He wore his new badge proudly, and Al Jazeera broadcast footage showing his bare back covered with scars. Members of his tribe in Marib saw it, and one of them called him right away. “They said we are coming to take revenge,” he told me. “They were heavily armed. I refused. I said if anyone wants to join me, he must leave aside all weapons, and not even carry a dagger. I told them, even if I am killed, they must not retaliate.” This was a violation of one of the fundamental tenets of tribal life. Haddar’s fellow tribesmen, baffled and wondering about his mental health, sent a delegation to see him and explore the sit-in. There were about 25 of them, he said, and on the first day in the city, a group of government thugs recognized Haddar and attacked him. “The tribesmen tried to protect me, but I said: ‘No! Each one protect himself.’ ”
Thankfully, though - if only because it transforms the article into something more complicated, more difficult, and, possibly, more powerful - Worth refuses this easy narrative in favor of a more fragmented one that points out the multiple sides to what is going on: a government that is fundamentally hostile towards the cities because of cultural differences; armed conflict between tribes in the North; a functional government cession of power in the South to jihadis (or, as Worth says the population calls them, 'musulaheen,' or 'armed men,') along with a population that is embracing those same jihadis because of their relative lack of corruption and because they're often perceived (no joke) as affiliated with the government that the US is paying billions of dollars to wipe them out.

One more quote:
Later that day, Saleh told me, he saw the jihadis open the vault at Zinjibar’s central bank. Saleh watched in amazement as they tossed piles of piles of currency into the air, urging local people to help themselves as the notes fluttered earthward. “They did not steal anything,” Saleh said. “They were the opposite of the Army, which always steals.”
If you're at all interested in what is an underreported and underrepresented aspect of the "Arab Spring," you owe it to yourself to check out this article. Do it. Do it now.