Jul 05 2009
As news about Iran has faded from television and the print media in all the hub-bub about the death of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, as well as the resignation of Sarah Palin, the Washington Post‘s Op-Ed publication Thursday of yet another neo-conservative’s view about Iran has gone pretty much unnoticed. That view is nothing new. It’s bomb, bomb, bomb.
Why the Washington Post‘s editors think this perspective deserves repeating is, of course, not a difficult question to answer given who runs the editorial pages and given the alter-the-debate, pay-for-a-seat salons recently proposed by the newspaper.
This time, the bomb, bomb, bomb barker is John Bolton. One of the founding crew at the Project for a New American Century, he’s been at his noxious efforts in various government posts since the Reagan administration. He capped his career as America’s public face at the United Nations for five months in 2005 until Congress refused to extend his recess appointment from Mister Bush. One of the few times in eight years that we saw some spine from moderate Democrats in matters of foreign policy.
Give Bolton and the other PNACkers credit. They never shied away from the term “imperialism”; they embraced it as eagerly as a previous generation embraced Manifest Destiny, without shame or irony or the least modicum of restraint. And they have, as we know too well, not been shy about proposing invasions and bombings in support of the empire.
Like many of his kind – from Bill Kristol to Newt Gingrich – Bolton has been pushing to bomb Iran for years. He wanted the U.S. to bomb alleged training camps, to bomb it during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and always, always, always to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. This call for illegal pre-emptive action is made all the more disgusting in light of the neo-conservatives’ recent support for the protesters in the streets of Tehran, Isfahan and other Iranian cities. Had they gotten their way during the Cheney-Bush administration, a lot of those protesters would have been blown to bits long before the mullahs’ militias clashed with them over rigged elections.
But the prospect of a few thousand dead civilians has never before been a barrier to such proposals.
May 24 2009
Edward Sebesta and James Loewen would have increased the chances for a positive response to their Memorial Day request of President Barack Obama had they sent him their May 18 letter a few weeks earlier. The letter, also signed by 62 other historians, scholars and researchers, urges the President to break a 95-year-old tradition dating back to when the racist Woodrow Wilson first laid a commemorative wreathe on the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.
Without offering Obama a reasonable alternative to sending a wreathe, and by giving him less than a week to ponder an alternative of his own, they essentially were asking him to place himself in the role of scab-yanker on a holiday many Americans across the political spectrum view as a time of healing. Breaking this tradition can and should be done. But the proper foundation must be laid first so that white nationalists, remnant Klansmen and secession-loving neo-Confederate liars cannot turn it into a propaganda coup.
That proper foundation should include honoring Confederate dead in a cemetery where their repose is not poisoned by a monument built as shrine to the goals and ideals of the Rebel cause. Whatever side issues were included, those goals and ideals were constructed upon the “peculiar institution” of slavery, a monstrous institution maintained by violence and the threat of violence, and defended by a philosophy of racism epitomized by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens in his infamous Cornerstone Speech of 1861:
Jan 30 2009
Smell that fresh air? A new breeze is blowing.
Ever since the Wagner Act legalizing unionization passed 74 years ago, right wingers have been trying to gut it. Corporations at first ignored it altogether until forced by the Supreme Court to surrender their opposition. With a post-Roosevelt Republican majority embedded in Congress, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 was the first official move to make unionization tougher.
There have been a few bright moments in the decades since then, as when occupational safety and health laws were passed in the 1970s. But mostly, whether it was The Great Communicator delivering a nose-thumbing message to striking air traffic controllers, George Bush issuing executive orders favoring employers over workers, sophisticated covert union-busting efforts devised by well-paid professionals, or relentless Chamber of Commerce-promoted propaganda, the labor movement in the United States has been under constant attack.
Over the years, these attacks – together with the changing demographics of the workplace and, ironically, the movement into the middle class of more and more Americans that union activity made possible – have greatly weakened unions. Only 8% of private sector workers are now unionized. One effect of this lack of clout was made clear during the Cheney-Bush years when the Department of Labor that is supposed to protect workers shrugged off its duty. In fact, in 2006, the average penalty assessed employers for violations that “pose a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm” was $881.
Nov 22 2008
I’ve again been entreated by numerous people to post the Thanksgiving Diary that I’ve put up here the past four years. I’m reposting a slightly edited version of last year’s entry. For those of you who’ve read it before, I apologize. I also urge you to read my friend Winter Rabbit’s The Massacre For Which Thanksgiving Is Named.
• • •
I forced myself to watch the History Channel’s Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower last weekend. I don’t feel as if I totally wasted my time. Including performances and interviews of some Wampanoags, descendants of the indigenes who saw the Pilgrims make landfall 388 years ago, made the program a good deal more palatable than it might have been.
I would have preferred a bit more about how one reason the Pilgrims were “persecuted” in England and Holland was because of their efforts to get everyone to comply with their own crabbed view of religion. Something they and the Puritans who followed them also did here in America. Not dissimilar from what some modern day others would like to do now. But what an improvement the program was over past efforts.
Nov 06 2008
I first encountered the work of the radical intellectual Manning Marable in the mid-1970s when he was sending out his self-syndicated newspaper column (for free) to alternative newspaper editors and publishers. Those columns were always deep, thought-provoking and erudite. Marable is now Professor of Public Affairs, History and African-American Studies at Columbia University, is writing a book about Malcolm X and is chair of the Movement for a Democratic Society, the non-profit arm of the revivified Students for a Democratic Society, having always combined activism with his prolific scholarship. I’ve always admired him for his calm but principled approach to progressive politics, an approach that analyzes without blinders. My favorite book of his is W.E.B. Du Bois: Black Radical Democrat.
He endorsed Barack Obama in January. Like many of us left-progressives, he is glad of Obama’s victory and cautiously optimistic about the chances that his administration will truly transform politics in America. But he is clear-eyed about it and knows full well the many pitfalls that lie ahead. Today he was a guest on Democracy Now. Here are some excerpts from his interview:
Nov 05 2008
It was a Friday in August 1974. Richard Nixon had boarded a helicopter on the White House lawn, flashed a “victory” sign and fled to avoid conviction on impeachment charges in the Senate.
At the local Liquor Mart, a warehouse-sized booze outlet, the aisles became so crowded by 9:30 a.m. that city police had to be called to monitor the line, which snaked out the door, around the building and down the block. They allowed more people into the store only as equal numbers came out, their arms or carts loaded with cases or kegs of beer and all other manner of alcohol. The aroma of cannabis wafted about here and there but did not spur the cops to arrest anyone as joints were passed along the line.
By 10:30 a.m., the shelves were going bare, and only the more expensive stuff was left, which seemed not to deter anyone.
After that, it was an all-weekend party. “Wasted” scarcely describes our drunkenness. Our partying was replicated around the country. In a way, that weekend marked the end of the ’60s, the era, not the decade.
Afterward came the letdown. Gerald Ford assumed the Presidency, and within a month, he had pardoned Nixon.
Oct 19 2008
Before they were washed up, I “palled around with some terrorists,” including Weather Underground leader David Gilbert, a close friend and comrade of Bernadine Dorhn and Bill Ayers, whose limited association with Barack Obama has been unsuccessfully used for an election-tipping cudgel for months.
So close a friend was Gilbert, in fact, that Ayers and Dorhn raised his son after he and the boy’s mother, Kathy Boudin, were imprisoned for the robbery of a Brinks armored truck and the killing of a security guard and two policemen in Nanuet and Nyack, New York, on October 20, 1981. Before he chose the general course of action that landed him permanently in the slam, I lived with Gilbert in Denver for more than a year. I’ll get to back that.
Oct 11 2008
The spy novelist John Le Carre invented a word perfectly suited for Richard Bruce Cheney and George W. Bush — “politopath,” a merger of “politician” and you-know-what.
In a few hours, we’ll reach the beginning of the end of the Cheney-Bush regime, the final hundred days. It ought to be a milestone marked by glee, yes? But knowing how soon we won’t have this pair of politopaths to kick around anymore places me somewhere between an aneurysm and a sigh. Because the puppet master and his perpetually adolescent companion will get to abandon their posts, unpunished for hundreds of lies told, hundreds of people tortured, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians killed, hundreds of billions of dollars squandered, trillions of dollars of debt incurred.
Unimpeached, much less tried, they will get to emerge from their eight years of assault on the Constitution and display of royal prerogative with their pensions intact and most of their rap sheets classified. No orange jumpsuits for them, no isolation units where guards videotape their every trip to the shitter, no hard labor, no electronic shackles. Two aging war criminals will soon clean out their desks, torch their hard drives, say farewell to the pleasures of the unitary executive and pal around forever with the feral plutocrats whose vaults they so prodigiously filled during two terms of plunder and rapine.
Like the reckless CEOs who’ve walked away from the wreckage of their companies with tens of millions in salaries, options and bonuses, the ruthless Mister Bush and Bunker Dick seem destined to roam free. Starting on that January afternoon of a hundred days from now, even the suggestion that they – and others on their team – should pay for their misdeeds will be shouted down in wwwLand and elsewhere. Old news, the megamedia will declare. Vendettas erect obstacles to bipartisanship, Democratic Party leaders will proclaim. Too many crucial matters other than justice to worry about, the so-called pragmatists will say. Just as they have said since I wrote A Thousand %$#@#&!!%$# Days 900 days ago.
Oct 01 2008
In Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times, eco-contrarians Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger have weighed in again with an essay that deserves a lot of attention. The two first stepped into the limelight four years ago this month with the publication of their paper The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World. The flak started bursting before the ink was dry. Bill McKibben labeled them “the bad boys of American environmentalism,” and there were hot critiques by green notables and both alternative and mainstream media. Then, too, quite a lot of praise, both from the left and right.
Three years ago this month, they published the book version of their heretical paper, Breakthrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. If it could be synopsized into a single sentence, that might be: Though their hearts are in the right place, much of what eco-advocates are doing is wrong and, for everybody’s sake, they need to develop a new paradigm that will create a new, green economy that will ultimately do more to protect the environment that what they’re doing now.
Naturally, some environmentalists had a problem with that argument. But many also agreed with it, or half-agreed. And the debate has been going on ever since. Nordhaus and Shellenberger didn’t just talk, they co-founded the Apollo Alliance in 2003, a union-backed coalition with green-minded people put together with the idea that the right energy plan combined with the right attack on global warming could make for a lot of good things, including a rejuvenation of the well-paying manufacturing sector that continues to bleed jobs overseas. That same year they started the Breakthrough Institute, where the motto is “The Era of Small Thinking is Over.”
Sep 29 2008
Eighteen months ago, when the Department of Interior began talking about removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list, and leaving control of its population to the states, eco-advocates sent out a warning: if this goes forward, wolves will be eradicated. They were sneered at, called alarmists and ignored. Six months ago, on March 28, the wolf was removed from the endangered list in the northern Rockies,
The critics judged right. Nobody who knows the history of the wolf in the United States should be surprised. The government’s decision to delist might as well have included transportation to wolf country and free ammo for a few street gangs. The operative word for what occurred: slaughter. So the feds stepped back in last week.
You don’t have to be an animal rights activist to have your blood boiled by what Julie Cart writes about that slaughter in today’s Los Angeles Times. “Sportsmen” on snowmobiles rampaged through the area. They bragged that they’d shot a wolf. Some had them stuffed:
Jul 29 2008
A kind of political air freshener seems to have dulled the nostrils of some progressives. Either that or for them the aroma of the festering lesion anchored in the executive branch and fed by tendrils deep in the muck of Congress on both sides of the aisle has abated. The odor of Constitution-dismantling legislation and executive orders, the rendition and detention and torture and murder associated with the “war on terror,” the spying on citizens, and the all-round knavery magically seems to have transformed itself into a bowl of pot pourri.
Made insensate by this, some progressives say that, come January, if the man behind the desk in the Oval Office is Barack Obama, we should forget about eight years’ of doings by George W. Bush, Richard Bruce Cheney, Condoleeza Rice and their cabal. Establish a committee along the lines of the 1975-76 Frank Church Committee as the ACLU and others have suggested? Nah. Waste of time. Just like impeachment. A diversion of attention from crucial issues when our nation is hurting and there is so much important stuff to accomplish: energy, health care, getting out of Iraq.
In the interest, therefore, of moving forward on what’s essential, their reasoning goes: “Let bygones be bygones.”
What’s the point of talking about investigating next year anyway since Mister Bush will probably pardon these guys five minutes before he leaves office? Just be glad they’ll be out of our hair even if that means they’re off the hook. Leave them to their conspicuous consumption and other plutocratic games. The future is what matters. Move on.
Jul 26 2008
By Your Correspondent
WACO, Texas (SNRK News Int’l) – For the second time in a week, an internationally sought-after fugitive has been captured. Osama bin Laden, atop the FBI’s Most Wanted list since 1998, was arrested earlier today in Crawford, Texas, a small town near the city of Waco. Serbian Bosnian Radovan Karadži?, wanted for war crimes in the Bosnian war of 1992-95, was captured Monday in Belgrade.
Bin Laden was whisked away in a convoy of big black SUVs. His whereabouts at this time are unknown. Government sources, who refused to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the press, said the 51-year-old bin Laden has been living under the alias of Sam Benjamin Jr. A quick Googling revealed that, in 2005, Benjamin won the Dallas-Ft. Worth-Waco-Austin Realtor of the Year Award for exceptional sales volume at his company, Alkiyder Homes and Condos.
Nobody at the White House, FBI, CIA, Transportation Security Administration, National Security Administration, Secret Service, Pentagon, Homeland Security, National Reconnaissance Office, National Counterterrorism Center, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Dick Cheney’s Cabal, Defense Intelligence Agency or Crawford Police Department would speak to your correspondent on the record about the capture. At the State Department, however, a Miss Condoleeza Rice answered the phone and firmly told us, “There was no way we could have known bin Laden would change his name and move to Texas.”
Exactly when bin Laden arrived is as yet unknown. But exclusive interviews with neighbors and co-workers reveal that he moved into his modest Crawford house in October 2002.
“He’s the perfect tenant,” said Amanda Beauregard-Simpson, the owner of the house that the man she knew as Sam rented. “Never late with a payment, always cash. Always polite, too, genuinely friendly. Kind of sad, though. He doesn’t talk much about his family, but I gather they are estranged for some reason. I don’t like to pry, y’know? Who did you say he is again?”
At right, ‘Sam Benjamin Jr.’ at the Alkiyder Homes & Condos Web site