Category: Politics

Oct 01

Iraq: an interview with Dr. Stephen Zunes

Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco. He has written extensively on a range of foreign policy issues, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, non-violent struggle and nuclear proliferation. He is the author of 2003’s acclaimed Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism, is a regular contributor to Tikkun magazine and the Common Dreams website, among other places. He serves as Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy in Focus think-tank and as an associate editor of Peace Review. His articles can be viewed here, and information about his books is available here.

I asked Dr. Zunes a few questions about the current ‘Iran crisis’, the situation in Iraq and the Israel/Palestine conflict. The second part of the interview, dealing with Iraq, is published below. The third and final part will be published shortly.

Sep 30

Plots, Characters, Novel Writing and Politics

Novels tell a story lived by characters. These characters? They pull us into their worlds. They show us what their worlds from the inside.

Some fictional characters stick with us for a variety of reasons. Characters like the Wife of Bath, Captain Ahab, the white whale, Alice, Holden Caufield, Gandalf, Jay Gatsby, Celia Garth, Beowulf, Hamlet, and so many others inspire us to ask questions about the worlds that exist both within and around us. Some, like Rosencrantz and Guilderstern offer us bits of humor amidst the darkness and tragedy. Others, like Peter Pan, Charlotte, and D’Artagnan, offer us insight into our better angels while still others–Voldemort, Big Brother, Cardinal Richelieu remind us of the darker shadows that surround us.

Sep 30

A Complement to Armando’s….

The Importance of Not Discussing What We Have Faith In

The following essay is re-posted to Docudharma from July 22, 2007 posting on my own blog.

Is the One Required of the Other?

I am intrigued by the gulf between God and religion.

Can anyone doubt that a superior intelligence must have created the sun, the stars, the planets, the entire universe, life …the forms notwithstanding?  But what is the origin, the source of the intelligence powerful enough to create the Creator?  This is a mystery much greater than the sequence within the chicken or egg controversy.  Maybe in the terms of that great warlord, Donald Rumsfeld, the answer to that mystery is unknowable.

Sep 30

The Importance of Not Discussing What We Have Faith In

In discussing John McCain’s outrageous statement that he won’t vote for Muslims, Atrios makes a good point:

We’re at this absurd spot in our political discourse where “faith” somehow matters but the specifics of that faith do not. And even this obscures the fact that what this really means is Christian faith matters. If religious beliefs matter, then surely it’s the substance of those beliefs which matter and not simply some meaningless nod to “the importance of faith.”

I wrote something along those lines last December:

While Bill O’Reilly celebrates and defends the secular American Christmas holiday from imagined attack, he and the evangelicals we see on Meet the Press, you know the ones, they are the folks Barack Obama is courting, NEVER actually discuss what it is they supposedly have faith in. It is relatively insignificant politically, but illuminating intellectually. The reality is the intersection of religion and the State never REALLY happens – radical social conservatives are NOT acting based on any true religious beliefs – on abortion, sexual orientation or anything else. It is a conceit that we grant extremists for no good reason frankly. But there it is.

If “faith” is going to be an issue in politics now, then let’s debate it. What is Christianity? What is Mormonism? What is Rudy’s standing in the Catholic Church? Otherwise, keep religiion and “faith” in churches, homes and in the decisions and actions of individiuals.

Sep 28

Writing in the Raw

pfiore8 asked me to take her place this week for Writing in the Raw.  So here are some of my thoughts on poetry and a few suggestions for writing quick sketches followed by poems when I tried the exercises.

I was listening to the new American Poet Laureate, Charles Simic, last night on The News Hour as he was interviewed by Jeffery Brown and he had some interesting commentary on poetry and the writers of such.  I like to collect some of the better quotes of poets trying to explain their craft and what it means to them and society in general.  No one quote ever fits all possibilities of poetry, but there are several that resonate with me:

Poetry is just the evidence of life.  If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.  ~Leonard Cohen

Poetry is what gets lost in translation.  ~Robert Frost

Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.  ~Carl Sandburg

The poem is the point at which our strength gave out.  ~Richard Rosen

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.  ~Novalis

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.  ~Carl Sandburg

Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.  ~Thomas Gray

Sep 27

Comedian Limbaugh Attacks The Troops

Jon Soltz of Vote Vets responds to Rush Limbuagh's attack on US soldiers who served in Iraq who oppose continuing the Debacle:

Rush Limbaugh, on his show said that those troops who come home and want to get America out of the middle of the religious civil war in Iraq are “phony soldiers.” I'd love for you, Rush, to have me on your show and tell that to me to my face.

First, in what universe is a guy who never served even close to being qualified to judge those who have worn the uniform? Rush Limbaugh has never worn a uniform in his life – not even one at Mickey D's – and somehow he's got the moral standing to pass judgment on the men and women who risked their lives for this nation, and his right to blather smears on the airwaves? . . .

Time for a Congressional resolution condemning Limbaugh. Yes, I am serious. This is how the game of politics has to be played.

[UPDATE] Dems firing hard at Limbaugh.

Sep 23

Why I am a Radical

It’s simple really.  Radical problems require radical solutions.


1. of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference.
2. thoroughgoing or extreme, esp. as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company.
3. favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms: radical ideas; radical and anarchistic ideologues.

The other night I was telling my 84-year-old father (21 years career Army) about the march in Washington.  I told him that we are going to have to rise up against our government oppressors if we have any hope at all of taking our government back.

“As long as you do it with the ballot box,” he said.  Of course he’s been taught this all his life…and so have I.  Be patient.  Work within the system.

Sep 21

writing in the raw: now

Turn it up a little louder… because here i am

i’m not going to explain anything to you … why explain it???

i’ll seduce you with wanting to know more… and let you figure it out on your own

Sep 14

writing in the raw: the touch

I’m listening to a musician, new to me. Sam Prekop… heard his music playing as i passed by a small shop. i walked in and asked… who is that. Sam Prekop. Oh.

So now i’m listening to Who’s Your New Professor. I love it. I love the acoustic guitar. And the acoustic piano. The tone… the depth of the music. And listening, i hear the electric elements there too. but it is the acoustic parts that are warmest, most intimate.

Sep 13

Pragmatists and Idealists: A Word About John Kerry

The nomination of John Kerry in 2004 was an act of “pragmatism” (to be sure, misguided pragmatism, I mean, seriously, a Massachusetts Senator as the pragmatic choice?) by the Democratic electorate. While most Democrats liked Kerry on the issues (except the big one Iraq, of course) voting for John Kerry was largely a collective act of pragmatism imo.

It’s interesting that Kerry was the pragmatic choice for the Democratic electorate as he behaved as a “pragmatic” politician in the run up to the 2004 campaign, and for too long in the general election campaign. It was a mistake for the Democratic electorate and a mistake for Kerry.

Of course after he lost, John Kerry became a brave politician. And credit to him for that. I will always have great respect for John Kerry now for one reason especially, his willingness to lead a filibuster fight against Sam Alito. Kerry and the many “idealists” at Daily Kos shamed me into joining what remains, in my estimation, the Netroots’ finest moment – leadership from the bottom up that led to a principled and WISE fight against Sam Alito’s confirmation. The interesting result of that fight, in the face of predictions of political doom, was an invigorated Democratic base and a Democratic Establishment that learned in 2006 that the sky would not fall if they ignored the DC Establishment and stood for something.

Does this have lessons for us as Democrats and activists? I think it does. I’ll explain on the flip.

Sep 12

Surreal America

Read some of the live blogging here at DocuDharma and at Daily Kos.  As I told her, 73rd Virgin won the prize with her characterization of Petraeus as a “shiny, shiny hero!”  That ought to be our new catchphrase, I think.

But it doesn’t matter to me, the hearings, what the shiny, shiny hero said.  Nor does it matter to me what our elected Democratic representatives in the House and Senate said.  It’s all too surreal for me, all too surreal.

I think I’ve gotten to the point where rhetoric has become meaningless to me, be it in the media or from our government.  All I focus on now is what they do — what they say is so predictable as to be … well … surreal.

Mister Bush and his gang of crooks are utterly predictable.  We all know what they are going to do — try to continue the War in Iraq as long as they can, make it so the next President has a mess on his/her hands.  They can’t change their ways any more and they wouldn’t even if they could.

And from our own side we’ll hear about the investigations, find more and more muck to rake, hear more and more speeches, some so good they’ll be plastered all over the blogosphere in print or video, some so bad they’ll be plastered all over the blogosphere in print or video (plus snarky insults and outraged insults).

Sep 08

A Tribute to God’s Own Outlaw Journalist – Hunter S. Thompson

I have recently had more than one occasion to quote from the inimitable Hunter S. Thompson, a favorite writer from back in the day who is recently deceased from a lethal overdose of harsh reality. 

I was just a sprout when I read Hell’s Angels, Thompson’s first major commercial success.  I found the writing extremely entertaining, the author’s skill with language uncanny.  I had no idea that he was just getting warmed up for what would become a phenomenal gale of journalistic and literary hyper-excellence the likes of which the world had never seen.  By the sheer power of his writing he lifted himself into a whole new category in which he remains the sole member.  We’ll not likely see another like him.


Load more