Today, Sharon Collins lives in San Francisco. About 10 years ago she visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and found herself drawn to a particular photo — the same photo Jack Kerouac wrote about.
"I stood in front of this particular photograph for probably a full five minutes, not knowing why I was staring at it," she says. "And then it really dawned on me that the girl in the picture was me."
The iconic shot shows a young girl, pressing an elevator button, looking up with an unreadable expression.
At the time, her name was Sharon Goldstein, growing up in Miami Beach. At fifteen, she got a summer job as an elevator girl at the Sherry Frontenac Hotel. She says the hotel was always full of tourists, and many of them had cameras. Although she wishes she remembers this particular tourist, she doesn't. But she pieced together what happened by looking at Frank's contact sheet.
"Robert Frank took about four photos of me without a flash in the elevator. I didn't know he was taking them. And then when the elevator emptied of its 'blurred demons,'" she says, "he asked me to turn around and smile at the camera. And I flashed a smile, put my hands on my hips. I hammed it up for about eight or ten frames."
But from the single image that was chosen for The Americans, Kerouac guessed she was lonely. Collins thinks he was pretty close.
"He saw in me something that most people didn't see. I have a big smile and a big laugh, and I'm usually pretty funny. So people see one thing in me. And I suspect Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac saw something that was deeper. That only people who were really close to me can see. It's not necessarily loneliness, it's ... dreaminess."
LA PAZ – The president of the United Nations General Assembly, Rev. Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, on Saturday declared Bolivian President Evo Morales as “World Hero of Mother Earth” in a ceremony at the presidential palace in this capital.
With a medal and a parchment scroll, the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization named Morales “the maximum exponent and paradigm of love for Mother Earth” in the resolution for his decoration that was read during the ceremony.
The document added that the decision was taken “after extensive consultation” among representatives of the General Assembly’s member countries.
D’Escoto recalled that Morales “was the one who most helped” the United Nations declare last April 22 as International Mother Earth Day, or “Pachamama” as Mother Earth is said in Bolivia’s Aymara Indian tongue.
For his part, the president said that the honor is not for Evo Morales, “but for our ancestors and the native peoples” that “have always defended Mother Earth.”
He added that he will continue trying to get the international community to acknowledge the rights of Mother Earth.
Besides Morales, the former Cuban head of state Fidel Castro has been named “World Hero of Solidarity” and the late ex-president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, will be honored as “World Hero of Social Justice.”
“What we want to do is present these three people to the world and say that they embody virtues and values worth emulation by all of us,” said D’Escoto, who like the socialist Morales is a staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.
D’Escoto was elected president of the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly on June 4, 2008, and was Nigaraguan foreign minister during the first Sandinista government from 1979 to 1990.
"In the cozy den of the large but modest house in Omaha where he has lived since he started on his first billion, Warren Buffett watched the horrors of Hurricane Katrina unfold on television in early September 2005. . . . On the fourth day, he beheld in disbelief the paralysis of local, state, and federal authorities unable to commence basic operations of rescue and sustenance, not just in New Orleans, but in towns and villages all along the Gulf Coast. . . He knew exactly what he had to do. . ."
So begins the vivid fictional account by political activist and bestselling author Ralph Nader that answers the question, "What if?" What if a cadre of superrich individuals tried to become a driving force in America to organize and institutionalize the interests of the citizens of this troubled nation? What if some of America's most powerful individuals decided it was time to fix our government and return the power to the people? What if they focused their power on unionizing Wal-Mart? What if a national political party were formed with the sole purpose of advancing clean elections? What if these seventeen superrich individuals decided to galvanize a movement for alternative forms of energy that will effectively clean up the environment? What if together they took on corporate goliaths and Congress to provide the necessities of life and advance the solutions so long left on the shelf by an avaricious oligarchy? What could happen?
This extraordinary story, written by the author who knows the most about citizen action, returns us to the literature of American social movements—to Edward Bellamy, to Upton Sinclair, to John Steinbeck, to Stephen Crane—reminding us in the process that changing the body politic of America starts with imagination.
As inspirited a work of the political imagination as Tom Paine's Common Sense. Nader casts his best hopes for America in the form of a Utopian dream, imparts his idealism to a quorum of
enlightened billionaires, among them Warren Buffet, Yoko Ono and Barry Diller, who organize a "revolt of the rich" that overthrows the country's corporate oligarchy and rescues its citizens from the sloughs of despond and the pit of despair. The book is a joy to read.
Since the Progressive era, Ralph Nader has done more than anyone else to protect American consumers. With this utopian fantasy, he shows us how good he thinks things could be. -Warren Beatty
A high-spirited visionary romp melding the wisdom, humor and imagination of Ralph Nader. May it inspire action. -Patti Smith
In this eye-opening and mind-expanding work of "practical utopia," Ralph Nader conjures up a world in which our richest and most powerful citizens deploy their wealth, fame, and brains on behalf
of the powerless billions—and change the world in the process. For more than four decades, Ralph Nader has used his unrivaled talents as a lawyer, organizer, and teacher to make our cars safer, our environment cleaner, and our democracy stronger. Now he uses his unrivaled imagination to show all of us what a difference a few of us can make.
-William C. Taylor, Founding Editor of Fast Company
Ralph Nader turning to the "super-rich" for salvation? The answer is a resounding "Yes," and Mr. Nader has produced a wonderful piece of fiction that I'd love to see become non-fiction! -Tom Peters
"With heart, passion, wit and humor, Ralph Nader's stunning masterpiece provides both a sharp critique and measured remedy for our current world, in which ethically bankrupt financial leaders
can devastate our economy, yet extort trillions of dollars of federal bailouts to keep destroying it. The characters in Nader's brilliant opus are at once recognizable, sympathetic and endowed with more influence than they realize, which he calls to action. . . "Only theSuper-Rich Can Save Us" is THE book for our times."
-Nomi Prins, author of "It Takes a Pillage"
Ralph Nader's "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us" is a breakthrough book that sparks the imagination and inspires us to think about the political economy our country deserves. Using
the story-telling conceit of leadership from the "Super-Rich," Nader shows the power that we hold collectively, if we organize ourselves to demand and create a more equitable and just society.
-Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses' Association & the National Nurses Organizing Committee
Ralph Nader is an exemplary citizen and prophetic leader who tells the truth at great cost to himself on behalf of everyday people. This tale has a moral substance and political content that is quite relevant for our time! -Cornel West, Princeton University
I wrote this blog a while back but have been too busy to post it. Yet today, Luke and Coqueto both wrote blogs about abstaining vs. giving into sexual desires, so I figured while the topic is hot, why not post it?This blog is not about casual sex, but it IS about sexual freedom. I want to open a discussion about sexual freedom. And by sexual freedom I don't mean "I went got drunk and kissed a girl." I mean really letting go and letting yourself tap into that deep dark place that is taboo and makes you blush to even think about.I have a friend that I call the "Fantasy Fulfiller." He has helped many women live out their deepest, darkest fantasies, the ones that most men would run scared from. Yet he fulfills them to the letter, no matter how twisted the request, without any sort of judgment or hesitation. He has the absolute ability to separate the sexual needs of a person from the actual person themselves. I happen to think it is absolutely amazing, and practically salivate at the thought of having that kind of freedom. Just the idea of being able to name anything I want, anything at all, and know that I can have it without any kind of judgment is so completely fulfilling that it is practically indescribable. It's like standing at the counter of a sexual fast food joint and having endless amounts of money to spend with a menu that wraps around 10 Empire State buildings. Absolutely limitless. Why is it so taboo to act on something just because others are too scared to do so? The majority of people on this Earth live their entire lives according to what other people deem acceptable. Why is this any way to live? To constantly suppress ourselves in order to fit into a pre-determined mold that others have for us is so stifling. Why must we conform to the standards of the majority of the population just to feel good about ourselves? Is it a matter of pleasing others or pleasing our own egos? Are we just too proud to rise above all that bullshit and say fuck it? Why not break free from that and actually LIVE rather than just going through the motions?How exhilarating and fulfilling do you think it is to actually be able to act out those dark twisted things that you secretly fantasize about without any fear of judgment from the other party? To be sexually free, I mean TRULY 100% free, to be able to look at your partner and say exactly what you want without any kind of hesitation whatsoever, how amazing must that feel? Think about it...think about how fucking great it must be to have that kind of freedom.Everyone fantasizes. Everyone. And everyone has twisted fantasies whether they realize it or not. If you take your small, slightly risque fantasies and really dig down past the surface of them, you'd be surprised at what you'll find. How many woman want to be slammed against the wall the way it happens in the movies? The couple is kissing in the hall, the next thing you know they are just inside the door and he slams her into the wall and "takes" her. Now take the feeling behind that, the emotion at the base of that scenario, and strip away everything else. It's aggression. Male aggression makes women feel alive, it gets their blood pumping and their heads light and their skin hot. To know that a man wants you bad enough that he absolutely cannot hold back is extremely erotic. (I know, I wrote a blog about it and had 8 pages of women enthusiastically agreeing with me.) Now take that aggression and let your mind run with it. Think about other ways that a man could be aggressive to you sexually, but forget about your mother, your sister, your church, your children, your job, your entire life. Let it all go, and really let your mind wander and see where it goes. Let's say that this little experiment leads you to a scene where you are running through the woods being chased by a man, who eventually "catches" you and aggressively fucks you. Let's say that it turns you on to think about it. Now let's say you willingly allow someone to do that to you in order to live out your fantasy. Does you think that it would make you more healthy sexually or less? Do you think that you would feel relieved afterwards? Do you think that it would be a phenomenal release for you? Do you think that the endorphins of such a complete release from life as you know it would be stimulating? Just imagine the decreased stress level of people if they truly let themselves go like that! Imagine how relaxed and content you would feel after successfully participating in something that goes against everything that has been drilled into your head since birth. Just imagine the satisfaction you would feel, the absolute control over your own life, more so than you have ever experienced before, with no regard for anyone else's opinion. How do you think you can reach the point of allowing yourself to get there psychologically? What would it take to be able to actually act, rather than imagine? Why not do it anyway, despite those circumstances? What's really holding you back?twitter.com/eekamax
"Dark eyes are dearer far
Than those that mock the hyacinthine bell."
Blue! 'Tis the life of heaven,—the domain
Of Cynthia,—the wide palace of the sun,—
The tent of Hesperus, and all his train,—
The bosomer of clouds, gold, gray, and dun.
Blue! 'Tis the life of waters:—Ocean
And all its vassal streams, pools numberless,
May rage, and foam, and fret, but never can
Subside, if not to dark-blue nativeness.
Blue! gentle cousin of the forest-green,
Married to green in all the sweetest flowers—
Forget-me-not,—the blue-bell,—and, that queen
Of secrecy, the violet: what strange powers
Hast thou, as a mere shadow! But how great,
When in an Eye thou art alive with fate!
Inspired by turn of the century flipbooks, Jake La Botz's Hard to Love What You Kill was captured one frame at a time on a still camera and then animated to create a motion picture. A film by Henry Crum... in 1381 photographs.
From: http://lifehacker.comBy Jason FitzpatrickWith everything from our cellphones to laptops to keychain trinkets coming sporting video cameras these days, more and more people are capturing and sharing digital video. The following video sites make sharing your video missives easy.
Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite video sharing web site and tell us what made it your favorite. We've read over your comments, tallied the votes, and now we're back to share the most popular video sharing sites.
Blip.tv is a video-sharing service aimed at people producing web shows. The site isn't designed for or marketed to people uploading single videos or viral-video content. The site is strongly oriented towards users producing continuous videos and includes revenue sharing to help independent producers make money—50% of the ad revenue from your content is shared with you. Both the basic and the professional account are limited to file sizes of 1GB, but one of the benefits of the professional account is that you get priority conversion and additional conversion time per episode, which allows you to use higher quality video. The professional service is really only necessary if you're consistently uploading large amounts of long videos and want priority conversion, so the free service should cover the needs of nearly everyone besides people producing full out web-based television series.
YouTube has reached a level of ubiquity in the video-sharing market that for millions of internet users, YouTube is not only how they were introduced to video sharing—it's also the only video sharing site they're even aware of. Videos uploaded to YouTube have to be smaller than 2GB, and they must be 10 minutes or shorter in length if you're using a basic account. YouTube places no restriction on the number of videos you can upload as long as they follow the 2GB/10min rule. You can't edit your videos once you've uploaded them to YouTube, but you can annotate them with additional information and links. YouTube lets you embed and customize the player, again, for free.
Vimeo is a video sharing service with a heavy emphasis on community and creativity. You can't host commercial content on Vimeo; instead, all uploaded content must be original and non-commercial. Vimeo accounts come in two flavors. The basic account is free and includes 500MB per week of uploaded video, including one HD video per week. You get three albums, one group, and one channel with basic accounts. Basic accounts also let you embed and share your work as well as set basic privacy restrictions. Upgrading to the Plus account kicks your upload cap to 5GB, removes the restriction on HD movies, lets you embed HD movies, and gives you unlimited album, group, and channel creation. A Plus account also expands your privacy control and allows you to customize the embedded player.
If you're put off by the length restrictions of some video-sharing sites, Viddler has no limit on length. As long as your file is 500MB or less in size, you can make it as long as you like. (500MB holds a lot of web-cam quality video.) In addition to the 500MB limit, you're restricted to 2GB of storage and bandwidth per month. If you sign up for a partnership account, instead of a personal account, your videos are overlaid with advertisements but the storage and bandwidth restrictions are removed. Both the personal and the partnership accounts are free.
Dailymotion offers two different accounts for content sharers. The basic account allows you to upload videos up to 1GB in size. If you're sharing original content, you can sign up for a Motionmaker account. Motionmaker accounts are intended for the distribution of Creative Commons videos and allow you to upload HD content. Original content by Motionmakers is more aggressively promoted on the front page and through search results.
The technical information on the various video-sharing sites is usually buried in help files and not particularly clear in most instances. If you're basing your selection on a very specific aspect of the service like whether or not you can upload .mov files without converting them or whether or not the site supports 256kb audio, we'd highly recommend checking out this extensive set of charts on Wikipedia to see if the site meets your needs.
From: ilibrarianA new project from the MIT Media Lab called Personas will create a data portrait of your online identity. You simply enter your name and it searches the Web for information and context and computes a visual representation of how the Internet sees you.
I happened upon this the other day and bookmarked it. If you (like me) have a jones for the early Floyd, with a serious appreciation for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, then I just made your day and/or week. Alright, off to watch it again.
I hadn’t seen her in years and if it were up to me, it would have stayed that way. Fate, however, had other plans.
Of all the clubs, in all the cities, in all the world, she walked into mine. I saw her as soon as she sauntered through the door, wearing those damn red heels I love and a form-fitting black dress that stuck to her hourglass shape like a label.
“Who the hell invited her,” I thought to myself.
Truthfully, it didn’t matter. She was here now and there was nothing I could do about it.
Her name was Remy. She and I had an on and off relationship for a few years. We always had a good time together but she was bad for me. Real bad.
When Remy got in my system, wasn’t no telling what kind of trouble we’d get into. I always found myself doing things out of my character when in her presence but the sex was amazing and kept me coming back. She was my addiction and I finally kicked the habit.
She was out of my life and I was better for it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss her.
Remy was a big part of my life. Back when I was hitting any and every party, she was always by my side. We’d club hop until the wee hours of the night and ravage each other’s bodies before we even got home.
I can only imagine how many cabbies witnessed her sucking me off in the backseat of their cab or listened to her moan while I finger fucked her. This became our ritual. Remy stopped wearing panties altogether so nothing could impede my curious fingers from exploring her throbbing clit as we crossed the bridge back into Brooklyn.
All these memories flooded my mind as soon as I saw her.
She looked good. Real good.
But I knew she was bad. Real bad.
Still, I indulged her.
Our eyes had locked across the room a while ago, and she finally made her way through the sea of people towards me.
Keep your cool, man, keep your cool.
She arrived at my section and I extended my arms to welcome her into my embrace.
She smelled amazing.
I didn’t stand a chance.
We exchanged pleasantries and kept things PC, but then came the million-dollar question: “So, what are you drinking?”
“Just pineapple and orange juice,” I replied.
“And…,” she asked, inquisitively.
“Nothing, I’m keeping it light tonight.”
Remy had other ideas.
She ordered round after round and it wasn’t long before we hit the dance floor. We slow grinded to “Murder She Wrote” and she had me hooked.
I palmed her ass in a darkened corner of the club and she liked it.
I pulled on her hair in front of the bathroom and she wanted more.
She kissed me and I dropped my drink on the floor. I didn’t even care, I was all into Remy.
We danced as if we had the club to ourselves. My hands found a familiar place at the small of her back and worked their way down to her ass. I quickly discovered that some things never change.
She wasn’t wearing panties.
Remy looked up at me with this seductive gaze, before leaning up to my ear and whispering, “Do you miss me?”
The question alone made me hard, but I wanted to be good. I wanted to say no, but Remy discreetly grabbed my dick and had her answer.
She kissed me again. Deeply. Passionately. Intently.
I did miss her, but right now I wanted her.
It wasn’t long before we were exiting the club and hailing a cab back to my place.
It was just like old times. My rock hard dick was Remy’s plaything. She sucked me off from the Chelsea to Crown Heights, while our audience of one listened intently from the front seat. When we arrived at our destination and I tossed the cabbie $40 for his troubles.
Remy and I clawed at each other’s clothes all the way up the front steps. By time I got the key into the lock I could barely contain myself and pressed her against my hallway wall. I hiked up her dress and dropped down to my knees so I could taste her love.
She was sweet.
Although every part of my being knew this was a mistake, I was too weak to resist Remy so I fucked her.
I fucked her for old times sake. I fucked her because she looked good. I fucked her because she wanted me to. I fucked her because I wanted to. I fucked her because I could.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized how fucked up I was as I woke up alone with an empty bottle of Remy by my side.
Have you ever had a lover you knew was wrong for you but you just couldn’t resist? Have you ever made out in a crowded club or room full of people? If so, did the audience turn you on? Would you take an old lover up on their offer for one last night together with no strings attached? Why or why not? Do you think sex is better or worse when you’re drunk?
Publisher of Hustler magazine and free speech advocateAugust 20, 2009
The American government -- which we once called our government -- has been taken over by Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich. They are the ones who decide our fate. It is this group of powerful elites, the people President Franklin D. Roosevelt called "economic royalists," who choose our elected officials -- indeed, our very form of government. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of their corporate masters. In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government.
This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars. So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment's hesitation, they took our money -- yours and mine -- to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame. They don't care what you and I think about them. Henry Kissinger refers to us as "useless eaters."
But, you say, we have elected a candidate of change. To which I respond: Do these words of President Obama sound like change?
"A culture of irresponsibility took root, from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street."
There it is. Right there. We are Main Street. We must, according to our president, share the blame. He went on to say: "And a regulatory regime basically crafted in the wake of a 20th-century economic crisis -- the Great Depression -- was overwhelmed by the speed, scope and sophistication of a 21st-century global economy."
This is nonsense.
The reason Wall Street was able to game the system the way it did -- knowing that they would become rich at the expense of the American people (oh, yes, they most certainly knew that) -- was because the financial elite had bribed our legislators to roll back the protections enacted after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
Congress gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial lending banks from investment banks, and passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which allowed for self-regulation with no oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently revised its rules to allow for even less oversight -- and we've all seen how well that worked out. To date, no serious legislation has been offered by the Obama administration to correct these problems.
Instead, Obama wants to increase the oversight power of the Federal Reserve. Never mind that it already had significant oversight power before our most recent economic meltdown, yet failed to take action. Never mind that the Fed is not a government agency but a cartel of private bankers that cannot be held accountable by Washington. Whatever the Fed does with these supposed new oversight powers will be behind closed doors.
Obama's failure to act sends one message loud and clear: He cannot stand up to the powerful Wall Street interests that supplied the bulk of his campaign money for the 2008 election. Nor, for that matter, can Congress, for much the same reason.
Consider what multibillionaire banker David Rockefeller wrote in his 2002 memoirs:
"Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as 'internationalists' and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure -- one world, if you will. If that's the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it."
Read Rockefeller's words again. He actually admits to working against the "best interests of the United States."
Need more? Here's what Rockefeller said in 1994 at a U.N. dinner: "We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis, and the nations will accept the New World Order." They're gaming us. Our country has been stolen from us.
Journalist Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone, notes that esteemed economist John Kenneth Galbraith laid the 1929 crash at the feet of banking giant Goldman Sachs. Taibbi goes on to say that Goldman Sachs has been behind every other economic downturn as well, including the most recent one. As if that wasn't enough, Goldman Sachs even had a hand in pushing gas prices up to $4 a gallon.
The problem with bankers is longstanding. Here's what one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, had to say about them:
"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation, and then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their father's conquered."
We all know that the first American Revolution officially began in 1776, with the Declaration of Independence. Less well known is that the single strongest motivating factor for revolution was the colonists' attempt to free themselves from the Bank of England. But how many of you know about the second revolution, referred to by historians as Shays' Rebellion? It took place in 1786-87, and once again the banks were the cause. This time they were putting the screws to America's farmers.
Daniel Shays was a farmer in western Massachusetts. Like many other farmers of the day, he was being driven into bankruptcy by the banks' predatory lending practices. (Sound familiar?) Rallying other farmers to his side, Shays led his rebels in an attack on the courts and the local armory. The rebellion itself failed, but a message had been sent: The bankers (and the politicians who supported them) ultimately backed off. As Thomas Jefferson famously quipped in regard to the insurrection: "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Perhaps it's time to consider that option once again.
I'm calling for a national strike, one designed to close the country down for a day. The intent? Real campaign-finance reform and strong restrictions on lobbying. Because nothing will change until we take corporate money out of politics. Nothing will improve until our politicians are once again answerable to their constituents, not the rich and powerful.
Let's set a date. No one goes to work. No one buys anything. And if that isn't effective -- if the politicians ignore us -- we do it again. And again. And again.
The real war is not between the left and the right. It is between the average American and the ruling class. If we come together on this single issue, everything else will resolve itself. It's time we took back our government from those who would make us their slaves.
A new documentary by Robert Stone, traces the history of the modern environmental movement through the lives of nine pioneering Americans. Titled Earth Days, the film reaches as far back as the post-war America of the 1950s, the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, and the first ever Earth Day marked in 1970. With vintage footage and stunning visual panoramas, Earth Days follows the vision and fate of people like one-time Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, futurist Steward Brand, former Congressman Pete McCloskey, non-profit leader Hunter Lovins. It highlights the successes but also the failures of the movement. The New York Times reviewed Earth Days, calling it a “beautifully composed tribute to visionary thinking and political ingenuity, a timeline of peaks and valleys stretching from the early initiatives of the 1950s to the legislative successes of the ’70s.”
GUEST: Robert Stone, writer, producer, and director of Earth Days, film credits include Oswald’s Ghost, and Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst
Hey Mr. Senior Anonymous Source, YES the Left is digging in on Health Care and the Public Option and you would be wise to take notice. Even that President BO guy, after all, said that HCR must contain the PO or we will all be SOL PDQ!
In addition, I would like to give you a bit of a refresher course on the sagacity and veracity of The Left of The Left in the (no doubt vain) hope that you will actually stop IGNORING The Left of The Left and start listening to them. For one simple, non-politically calculating reason.....The Left of The Left are almost always right!
It is okay, you and the rest of the Moderates, Centrists, and DLC/Establishment Dems don't have to acknowledge or even associate with The Left of The Left and get Left of The Left cooties all over you shiny suit. We know you despise us and treat us like the rented mule of the Democratic Party....beating us mercilessly while we do the hard work on the ground and make up the donations you don't get from your Very Serious Corporate Buddies. (You know, all those small donations that got Obama elected and stuff) We don't need to be wined and dined. We just want you to LISTEN.
And we don't need credit either (though it would be nice!) we are used to you stealing our ideas and claiming them for your own.
buhdydharma :: The Left of The Left is Right!
But please do remember, as you make your capitulatory concessions to your enemies on the Right while ignoring and reviling your FRIENDS on The Left of The Left, that The Left of The Left were the ones that came up with virtually the entire Democratic Agenda!!!!
In fact you could say (but you won't!) that The Left of The Left came up with modern democracy itself!
Some of what follows may be stretching a bit....but I hereby present for your consideration the following items:
First of all, to get the ball rolling, Jesus was a Hippie. He was The Left of The Left. He preached Peace and Love and fed the poor, healed the sick.... and believed in Single Payer! (Monotheism joke, sorry!) Since our whole society is (allegedly) based on his values, you might wanna think about that!
Second, The Left of The Left brought us The Enlightenment and the scientific method....the OTHER foundation of our society, iirc.
Next The Left of The Left, natural born rebels that we are, brought us the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights (Check Google, you will find reference to these things I speak of there.)
Then came Abolition, a definitely Left of The Left idea, what with that whole justice equality and love for your fellow man no matter what color he is deal. People as property? That is the Republican (and don't give me that Lincoln was a Republican crap, he would roll over in his grave!) wet dream!
Next, The Labor Movement came from The Left of The Left. As the bumper sticker says, sorta...If you enjoy weekends, thank The Left of The Left. If you are against Child Labor, thank The Left of The Left. Yeah, they were called Commies and Socialists too, remember? Oh wait that;s RIGHT, they WERE Commies and Socialists, before the Repubs made those into BAD things.
Women's Suffrage? Yup...The Left of The Left.
The New Deal? You betcha, wink! They are STILL calling FDR a Socialist Commie too. Even though he 'stole' (was smart enough to steal!) all of the ideas of the New deal from The Left of The Left, even though he was an entrenched Ruling Class dude. But when the shit hit the fan he was smart enough to know that the ideas of The Left of The Left were the way to go.
I believe The New Deal is on teh Google too, look it up. Study it. It works. And it came from The Left of The Left.
The Left of The Left ended the McCarthy and HUAC witch hunts.
The Left of The Left brought us the ideas of the Great Society too. Not to mention the Civil Rights Movement, that worked so well that we now have an African American President. Who has studiously ignored The Left of The Left on your advice Mr. Senior Anonymous Source. Well until the Centrist post partisan approach to HCR is getting trounced by the Right Wing Noise Machine....NOW he is starting to reach out to us....against your advice I am sure, Mr. Senior Anonymous Source. So let me try to bypass you here...
Hey Barack! Remember us, The Left of The Left? WE were the ones in the streets fighting for your right to become President!!!
The Left of The Left KNEW that the Imperialism of the Vietnam War was Just. Plain. Wrong. and was instrumental in ending that debacle that killed over two million people.
As we, The Left of The Left, tried to stop the tragedy of the Iraq War....and were ignored by the Moderates, Centrists, and DLC/Establishment Dems. Good job guys! Don't you EVER get tired of being wrong???
Affirmative Action? The Left of The Left.
Consumer Protection against stuff like putting lead in paint and toys and brought you life saving seat belts and stuff? Yeah that horrible The Left of The Left villain Ralph Nader.
Women's Liberation? The Left of The Left.
LGBT equality? The Left of The Left.
The Environmental Movement that had the foresight to start trying to save our planet for your children back in the 70's? The Left of The Left.
And those are just the highlights of what the Dirty Fucking Hippies of The Left of The Left have contributed to the world we live in today.
The Left of The Left are the Keepers of Democratic and Progressive Values and Principles, Mr. Senior Anonymous Source, and all you Moderates, Centrists, and DLC/Establishment Dems.
We are your conscience.
We are where your ideals and ideas come from.
We are also your political foot soldiers, without whom you would NOT win elections. We are your base. Not the Corporations that fund your campaigns....us.
And YOU work for US.
For now. 2010 is right around the corner.
YOU GUYS and your advice to the President to be wishy washy on the Public Option to appease your sworn enemies on the Right and ignore your base have lost The Pres 10 points in the polls and THIRTY points on the generic Public Option Polling. YOU GUYS, you capitulating calculating Centrist hacks, fucked that up but good, again.
YOU GUYS are wrong....and The Left of the Left is, once again, right.
Because even though in the quest for some imaginary deal with your enemies (which was, if I may say so, Fucking Stupid, Mr. Senior Anonymous Source) you are willing to, once again, sell out your base...The People, once again, agree with The Left of the Left:
After Tom Daschle was selected to be Barack Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services and chief health care adviser, Matt Taibbi wrote: "In Washington there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle." One could easily have added: "And then there's Lanny Davis." Davis frequently injects himself into political disputes, masquerading as a "political analyst" and Democratic media pundit, yet is unmoored from any discernible political beliefs other than: "I agree with whoever pays me." It's genuinely difficult to recall any instance where he publicly defended someone who hadn't, at some point, hired and shuffled money to him. Yesterday, he published a new piece simultaneously in The Hill and Politico -- solemnly warning that extremists on the Far Left and Far Right are jointly destroying democracy with their conduct in the health care debate and urging "the vast center-left and center-right of this country to speak up and call them out equally" -- that vividly illustrates the limitless whoring behavior which shapes Washington generally and specifically drives virtually every word out of Lanny Davis' mouth.
Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, all the while touting himself as a "pro-labor liberal."
Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist of the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late 90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and de facto president General Perez Musharraf.
Most recently, Davis has aggressively attacked progressive critics of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey after Mackey, whose company targets progressive consumers, published a Wall St. Journal Op-Ed opposing health care reform. Needless to say, Davis had been hired by Whole Foods, serving as its lawyer in a protracted and expensive (i.e. profitable for Davis) antitrust battle with the Federal Trade Commission.
If Lanny Davis were just another Beltway lobbyist/lawyer piggishly feeding off our political system by serving whatever corporate interests happen to rent him, all of this would be too common to bother noting. But Davis parades around as -- and is treated by media organizations as being -- some sort of political pundit as well. He's presented by numerous media outlets as an independent analyst who opines on the news of the day -- yet does so almost exclusively in order to promote the interests of those who are paying him, relationships which are often undisclosed. Here's how he describes himself to clients and potential clients on his bio page at the firm, Orrick, where he's a partner:
He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and other national publications.
In other words, if you pay Davis to shill for you, he's able to exploit those media platforms to advocate for your interests while pretending to be an "analyst." When the Israel Project issued a Press Release announcing his hiring in the middle of the Israel-Gaza war, they pointedly touted that he "is Available Immediately for Interviews on Israel/Gaza and More." Though his service to the Israel Project was volunteer work, that's how it works in general: you drop coins in the slot in Davis' back and he dutifully goes forth on television and in newspapers and recites what you feed him. In their Press Release, they proudly noted:
Now a Washington, D.C. attorney, Mr. Davis is also a weekly columnist and frequent political analyst on major broadcast and TV cable shows, including NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox News Channel, and is and op-ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and leading blog sites such as The Huffington Post, TheHill.com and FoxNews.com.
Davis' new piece in The Hill and Politico demonstrates how this works. Presenting himself as the Responsible Liberal-Centrist, he warns of what he calls "The Dangerous Joining of the Far Right and Far Left." He argues that "the extreme left and extreme right share more in common than those on their own side of the ideological divide when it comes to the issue of health care." In order to defeat the extremists on both sides "who threaten our democratic traditions and institutions," he pompously assumes the voice of Thomas Paine and issues this call to action: "When the far left and the far right join in the Politics of Hate and Demonization, it is time for the vast center-left and center-right of this country to speak up and call them out equally. Silence is no longer acceptable by responsible liberals towards the reckless far left or by responsible conservatives towards the reckless far right. Silence is complicity."
As for the monsters of the Right, Davis lists "the shouters shouting down other people who wish to speak at town meetings, whacko 'birthers,' and liars inventing 'death panels' and obscenely and recklessly mentioning Adolph Hitler and Nazi symbols to scare people." And who are the equivalents on the Left? The people who do this:
on the far left -- including the most vicious posters on the so-called liberal blogosphere, threatening businesses with one or more executives who offer personal ideas for achieving national health care reform different from the Administration's or Democratic congressional leaders' versions (full disclosure: I support all of President Obama's core principles for national health care legislation, though I still have many unanswered questions); hateful e-mails, phone calls, blogs, and personal attacks, distorting alternative ideas different from the Administration's approach and attacking the motives of those airing them; and intolerance for anyone who disagrees, including personal invective and demonization of those with different views.
Plainly, this whole rant has no purpose other than to argue that "the Left" is as bad as the screaming, gun-wielding right-wing townhall Limbaugh followers. Why? Because some progressives, in the wake of Mackey's anti-health-care-reform Op-Ed, organized a boycott of Whole Foods, Davis' client (that's all Davis means when he complains of "threatening businesses with one or more executives who offer personal ideas for achieving national health care reform different from the Administration's or Democratic congressional leaders' versions": they're harming the business interests of my paid client).
But there's no disclosure whatsoever that Davis here is doing nothing more than spewing outrage on behalf of a corporation that pays him (even as he deceitfully inserts the phrase "full disclosure" into the middle of his rant-- and then proceeds to "disclose" nothing other than his allegedly pro-Obama bona fides in order to make his attacks on "the Left" seem more credible). All Davis is doing here -- as usual -- is fulfilling his whore duty: Whole Foods dropped coins in his back slot and therefore he defends them by demonizing critics of its CEO. But readers of The Hill and Politico have absolutely no idea of Davis' real motives or his relationship to the corporation he's defending because both he and those magazines conceal that relationship. Instead, readers are misled into believing that he's an independent analyst who -- though a "liberal" himself -- just so happens to object to progressive campaigns against health care opponents because he's such a sincere, objective and responsible-centrist advocate for civility and fairness.
The overlap between -- and deliberate blurring of -- political power, media opinion-making, and large corporate largesse is unlimited now. The aforementioned Tom Daschle just spent an hour this past Sunday on Meet the Press ostensibly to analyze the health care reform debate despite the fact that, as Time's Michael Scherer documented, Daschle currently works for numerous health insurance industry interests, relationships completely undisclosed during the entire one-hour health care program. Between Richard Wolffe, the Pentagon's military analysts, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Daschle, and Davis, one wonders if NBC News ever presents any "political analysts" who are free of undisclosed conflicts of interest.
What makes all of this particularly notable is that the centerpiece of Barack Obama's presidential campaign was putting an end to this type of corporate influence over our political debates -- particularly when those influences are concealed. Just marvel at how clear Obama promised to conduct health care negotiations out in the open in order to ensure that undisclosed pharmaceutical and insurance industry interests did not drive the process:
Obviously, as David Corn recently complained, none of that has even come close to happening. There is substantial debate over the role the Obama White House played in the apparent death of the "public option" -- did it happen against their wishes or with their blessing? -- but all one can do is guess at that question because, contrary to his crystal clear and oft-stated campaign pledge, the negotiations that lead to that collapse were completely secret. What one does know is that the pharmaceutical industry is so delighted with what they think will be the ultimate plan that they are spending vast sums of money to advocate for it, preceded by a secret White House deal with that same industry to ensure there are no government negotiations for better prices (a result that, when combined with mandates to buy health insurance, would vastly increase the profits of these industries). Indeed, it's difficult to recall a single piece of major legislation recently enacted over the objections of the large corporate interests that control and own the American political process.
Lanny Davis is just a face that reflects the grime and sleaze that lies at the core of our political culture. But it's a rather vivid face for what is typically meant by Centrism (i.e., it's shrill and irresponsible to suggest there's anything fundamentally wrong with our political culture); Civility (it's rude and disrespectful to highlight the oozing conflicts of interests and paid whoredom which animate our leading political luminaries); and Bipartisanship (the same narrow set of corporate forces always prevail no matter which party is in "control" by constantly paying those who control those parties). As unpleasant as it is, that's why there's value in casting one's eyes on how Lanny Davis functions.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.
Stones Throw just released a new video for Mayer's “Maybe So, Maybe No” cover. Nice little summer party toward the end of the video. A couple of shout-outs to the King of Pop are mixed in the video, too.Also, on Stones Throw's Jukebox you can hear “Your Easy Lovin (Ain't Pleasin Nothin)” from his upcoming album. He definitely shows his Detroit roots with this nice little Motown Sound backbeat. With the mini-break coming out of that first hook, I always think The Supremes are going to jump in with “No love, love... don't come easy.” Of course they don't, but that's okay. That infectious hook and the way he stretches out “blue” right before the chorus as well as that sax solo are more than enough to put a nod in my head and a smile on my face.Best believe this album is one to buy come September 8/9. Hold off on just one Beatles reissue for this album. You won't be disappointed.
In any case, this is America, and as such there was never any doubt that Vick would be reinstated and that some team would pay millions to sign him. If Saddam Hussein had been able to break down a defense and get to the rim he wouldn’t be in Hell right now, he’d be in the NBA. So the controversy, such as it is, has nothing to do with anybody being surprised that Vick would find his way back onto the field.
Nonetheless, the argument is raging, and not just in Philadelphia. As I’ve read what people on “both” sides of the question have to say, as I’ve listened to the takes from local and national various sports commentators, as I’ve heard callers to sports talk stations offering their humble (and utterly meaningless) opinions, I have to admit that I’ve gotten a little tired of some of the memes being trotted out to defend Vick, the Eagles and the league. No matter how self-evidently inaccurate or utterly silly a particular idea may be, once it reaches the point of cliché the chances of somebody not repeating it are about the same as a crack addict not honking on the pipe every chance he gets. It’s true that much of what I’m complaining about comes from a noble place and it’s also true that many of those who are getting on my nerves are in fact good people espousing worthy ideals. Still, we have to understand that good intentions don’t guarantee positive results, and sometimes the pursuit of even the best ideals can effect unanticipated and undesired outcomes.
Here are some examples.
Everybody deserves a second chance…
Really? Everybody? Let’s test this. How about Charles Manson? Does he deserve a second chance? If so, can he stay at your hosue when we release him? Did Ted Bundy deserve a second chance, and if so, would you have let him escort your daughter to the prom? How about TIm McVeigh, or Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold or Pol Pot or Stalin or Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer?
Okay, okay. What Vick did wasn’t as bad as those guys. I get that. But two things to remember. First, the meme says everybody, not almost everybody, and this ain’t no straw man – I’m quoting lots and lots and lots of people that I’ve heard with my own in ears in just the past month. If we agree, as I suspect we do, that it’s not really everybody, then what we’re literally saying is that not everybody deserves a second chance.
Second, let’s try a scenario involving nobody famous. Say you’re a parent and you have a brother named Fred. And one day you catch Fred molesting your five year-old daughter. Assuming you’re even vaguely human, Fred’s ass is off to jail (assuming you can keep yourself from killing him on the spot).
So one day Fred gets out of jail. Do you let him babysit your daughter? If not, why not? After all, everybody deserves a second chance.
Give me a few minutes and I think I can convince just about anybody out there, even the most charitably minded person alive, that some people don’t deserve a second chance. Once we get to that point, the only thing left is to decide where to draw the line. At a minimum, though, we’ve demonstrated the ridiculousness of ever saying those words again.
He’s paid his debt to society…
We’re a nation of laws and we must, at some level, invest a measure of faith in the collective justice of our system if we’re to live civilly. Otherwise there’s a lynch mob on every corner, a vigilante lurking in every dark alley, and that’s a prescription for chaos. Who will watch the watchers, right?
That said, it’s hard for an intelligent and moral citizen to take the system at its word, to assume that justice is done in each individual case. If a man breaks into a home, rapes and murders a woman, and winds up pleading to a misdemeanor because the prosecutors can’t cobble together enough evidence to get a felony conviction, has the perpetrator paid his debt to society? Has OJ Simpson paid his debt to society? (Remember, he was found liable for the deaths of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman in a civil case.) Or has he merely paid a fraction of the debt he should have incurred?
The “paid his debt” meme forces us to assume and to assert that the system is always right, and I’ve never yet met anyone who believes that, I don’t think. Yes, the system has run its course, but it’s not hard to find cases where offenses are punished too heavily or too lightly and every day the guilty walk free (and the innocent are sometimes convicted, as well). We do have an obligation to accept the results of the justice system, writ large, though, so while I’m mad as hell that Michael Vick only served a fraction of what I think his crimes merited, I’m not campaigning to throw him back into prison. Given a chance I’ll certainly support much stiffer penalties for dogfighting, but that’s about the future, not the past.
That said, what should I think of people who spout these kinds of clichés when they clearly have no idea of the implications of them? Further, what do we do with those who seem to think that the framers of the Constitution meant that multi-million dollar sports contracts were an inalienable right?
Don’t get me wrong – forgiveness is a wonderful thing, taken in moderation. People make mistakes and it wouldn’t be much of a world if we couldn’t forgive the simple fact of human failing. For my part, I’ve made massive mistakes in my life and am the (hopefully worthwhile) person I am today because I’ve been afforded the chance to learn from those errors. By the same token, I have been the victim of the mistakes of others, and have tried to be as generous with my own spirit of forgiveness as possible.
That said, we Americans have some problems where forgiveness is concerned. For starters, not all mistakes are created equal. I do not believe that all things deserve forgiveness (refer to my comments above on Tim McVeigh and your Uncle Fred) and even if I did, I think it would need to be earned by a regimen of penance that was proportional to the offense. Despite what 90% of Americans are required by their religions to say they believe, I don’t think that if we all felt free to voice what we really believe that I’d be in the minority at all.
For example, if you’ve been around long enough you’ve probably had the misfortune to be involved with some form of marital or relationship infidelity. Maybe he/she cheated on you, or maybe you were the cheater. Or both. Or maybe you’ve been lucky enough not to be involved, but you know people who have. In any case, tell me if you have heard some variation of this: “I forgave him/her, but I can’t ever forget.” My guess is that most of us know of a case where person A forgave person B, but nonetheless exiled person B from his/her life forever. Well, is that really forgiveness? If so, then what is the functional difference between forgiveness and can’t-forgiveness? The practical results are the same in both cases – the only distinction is that in one case you repeat the words that you’ve been taught you have to repeat when issuing mandatory forgiveness.
An ever bigger issue has to do with the hypocrisy of forgiveness – in short, the ways we use the certainty of forgiveness to enable all manner of bad behavior. We get a lot of this from those in the ministry, it seems. Jim Bakker. Jimmy Swaggart. Ted Haggard. Henry Lyons. If it isn’t a preacher it’s somebody famous in the news all the time. Right now the happy guys in the spotlight are Louisville hoops coach Rick Pitino and former Senator and presidential hopeful John Edwards. (One wonders if “Catholics in Louisville” would be less forgiving of a coach who knocked up a stranger in public restroom and then paid for her abortion if said coach’s record was in the .500 range.)
The problem here has to do with the concept of intent. It’s one thing to forgive someone who acted improperly in a time of crisis, or who made the wrong choice when the choices were ambiguous, or someone who hurt us accidentally through some form of negligence.
But what about those people who intentionally did that which they knew or believed to be wrong with clear planning and/or forethought? Jim Bakker didn’t realize that he shouldn’t cheat on his wife? Really? All those Catholic priests didn’t know that molesting little boys was bad? Really? Ted Haggard can’t say hello without railing against the abomination of sodomy but he thought it was okay to buy a male hooker for himself? Really? In these kinds of cases there’s a good degree of arrogance associated with even asking for forgiveness, because the regret very clearly isn’t about the action, it’s about getting caught.
To this point, can you actually argue that Michael Vick didn’t realize dogfighting was wrong? If so, then why did he take such effort to conceal it?
We’re not just talking about famous people and preachers here, of course. The certainty of forgiveness plays a big part in the way some of us plan our lives. For instance:
Monday-Friday: go to work
Friday night: get loaded, get into a fight
Saturday night: pick up a hooker
Sunday: go to confession
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. How many times do you suppose that the aforementioned legion of priests confessed for buggering altar boys? What do you think is the world record for number of consecutive weeks confessing to buggering altar boys?
At some point, we’re not talking about genuine forgiveness, we’re talking about enabling.
The purpose of prison – or at least one of the purposes – is rehabilitation. We send people who do bad things to prison so they won’t do them anymore. Studies indicating national recidivism rates of better than two-thirds tell us what we need to know about the rehabilitating effects of incarceration. Still, it’s a nice idea.
But even in the absence of this data, we’re assuming that all things can be fixed. In truth, an extremely detailed study would probably conclude that some kinds of anti-social behaviors are more easily addressed than others. For instance, a small-time mugger who encounters a strong vocational training program in jail is a very different case from a pedophile. A few experts seem to think that pedophilia can be treated, but I don’t believe this is anywhere near a majority opinion.
So if we’re going to talk about rehabilitating Mike Vick, it’s fair to ask about the nature of the crime and its amenability to treatment.
And here’s my biggest problem: what Michael Vick did was simply sub-human. I don’t mean that word in a pejorative, insulting way. Instead, I’m referring to a clear deficit in human empathy. One of our greatest writers, Philip K Dick, in one of his greatest books, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, confronted a world of increasingly human-seeming androids and posed the question: what quality makes us essentially human?
The answer: empathy. In the narrative (upon which the film Blade Runner was based), humans worked hard to cultivate their empathy (which was central to the society’s dominant religious ideology) through the stewardship of animals. A citizen who didn’t have an animal to care for lived a deficient, hollow life, and few sins were more damning than the failure to properly care for one’s animal. In one of the central moments of the novel, one of the replicants kills an animal – something no human could have even contemplated. The lesson is undeniable: only something inhuman could harm an animal.
Dick’s depiction of a strange science fiction near-future was brilliant in its grasp of the fundamental character of our actual humanity, here in the real and now. Empathy makes us human, and there are few measures of empathy that are more revealing than our treatment of animals. Why animals? Because they are helpless. They rely on us.
There’s no absolution here for Michael Vick
We all have our own means of evaluating other people and the moral codes that govern our lives, but for me no bell has ever rung more clearly than the one PK Dick sounds in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? From where I stand, there is no more meaningful and reliable measure of human character than how one treats the innocent and those who cannot take care of themselves. Animals are one case, and a good one. So are children. And if you’re a man, especially a strong one, I know all I need to know about you if you abuse women. You are sub-human.
I have no forgiveness for that, and I’ve never really understand people who do.
So here’s how I see it from the context that I’ve described here. The NFL has said that sub-human behavior doesn’t disqualify you from membership in their highly paid club, and the Philadelphia Eagles have gone a step further and said they’re willing to subsidize those who exhibit sub-human behavior.
You do what your conscience tells you is right. For my part, though, I won’t be spending a penny on the NFL this year. Further, I’ll be paying attention to who advertises with them and making sure I don’t patronize their businesses, either. It’s not much, I know. I don’t have a lot of money and the NFL doesn’t care what people like me think. But my principles must matter to me and I won’t apologize for having a code that isn’t subject to compromise on something as essential as the default qualities of humanity.
Meanwhile, it’s a shame that Rae Carruth isn’t up for parole anytime soon. I’d like to see if the league would at least put its foot down when the victims are human.
So a new survey has found that most of what goes on in the Twittersphere is “pointless babble.”
The study by Pear Analytics – of 2,000 random tweets over a 10-day period this month – broke all twitterings into six categories: news (anything you’d see on the news); spam (plain old junk); self-promotion (tweets pushing products, services or other “Twitter only” offers); pointless babble (”Man, I hate the Yankees“); conversational (instant message-type tweets, back and forth dialogues, questions prompting responses); and pass-along value (any tweet with an RT in it).
The study also presented some Twitter demographics, care of Quantcast.com:
55 percent of users are female
43 percent are between 18 and 34
78 percent are white
1 percent of users contribute 35 percent of the visits
72 percent are passersby; 27 percent are regulars
If you’re feeling beaten down by all the babble, first, be aware that, given the statistics above, you yourself are probably part of the problem. Second, there may be help in the form of a filter called Philtro, now in beta-testing: “If you’ve got a truly unruly Twitter feed, we’ve got your back.”
You thumb-up or thumb-down the tweets you like or don’t like, and the “type” you don’t like gets filtered out accordingly.
BTW: If anyone wants to follow my pointless babble, I’m @eniedowski.
The most striking aspect of the prolonged and deepening world recession/depression is the relative and absolute passivity of the working and middle class in the face of massive job losses, big cuts in wages, health care and pension payments and mounting housing foreclosures. Never in the history of the 20-21st Century has an economic crisis caused so much loss to so many workers, employees, small businesses, farmers and professionals with so little large-scale public protest.
To explore some tentative hypotheses of why there is little organized protest, we need to examine the historical-structural antecedents to the world economic depression. More specifically, we will focus on the social and political organizations and leadership of the working class, the transformation of the structure of labor and its relationship to the state and market. These social changes have to be located in the context of the successful ruling class socio-political struggles from the 1980’s, the destruction of the Communist welfare state, and the subsequent uncontested penetration of imperial capital in the former Communist countries. The conversion of Western Social Democratic parties to neo-liberalism, and the subordination of the trade unions to the neo-liberal state are seen as powerful contributing factors in diminishing working class representation and influence.
We will proceed by outlining the decline of labor organization, class struggle and class ideology in the context of the larger political-economic defeat and co-optation of anti-capitalist alternatives. The period of capitalist boom and bust leading up to the current world depression sets the stage for identifying the strategic structural and subjective determinants of working class passivity and impotence. The final section will bring into sharp focus the depth and scope of the problem of trade union and social movement weakness and their political consequences.
History of Economic Depression and Worker Revolts: US, Europe, Asia and Latin America
The social history of the 20th and early 21st Century’s economic crises and breakdowns is written large with working class and popular revolts, from the left and right. During the 1930’s the combined effects of the world depression and imperialist-colonial wars set in motion major uprisings in Spain (the Civil War), France (general strikes, Popular Front government), the US (factory occupations, industrial unionization), El Salvador, Mexico and Chile (insurrections, national-popular regimes) and in China (communist/nationalist, anti-colonial armed movements). Numerous other mass and armed uprising took place in response to the Depression in a great number of countries, far beyond the scope of this paper to cover.
The post-World War II period witnessed major working class and anti-colonial movements in the aftermath of the breakdown of European empires and in response to the great human and national sacrifices caused by the imperial wars. Throughout Europe, social upheavals, mass direct actions and resounding electoral advances of working class parties were the norm in the face of a ‘broken’ capitalist system. In Asia, mass socialist revolutions in China, Indo-China and North Korea ousted colonial powers and defeated their collaborators in a period of hyper-inflation and mass unemployment.
The cycle of recessions from the 1960’s to the early 1980’s witnessed a large number of major successful working class and popular struggles for greater control over the work place and higher living standards and against employer-led counter-offensives.
Economic Crises and Social Revolts in Latin America
Latin America experienced similar patterns of crises and revolts as the rest of the world during the World Economic Depression and the Second World War. During the 1930-40’s, aborted revolutionary upheavals and revolts took place in Cuba, El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia. At the same time ‘popular front’ alliances of Communists, Socialists and Radicals governed in Chile and populist-nationalist regimes took power in Brazil (Vargas), Argentina (Peron) and Mexico (Cardenas).
As in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America also witnessed the rise of mass right-wing movements in opposition to the center-left and populist regimes in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and elsewhere – a recurrent phenomenon overlooked by most students of ‘social movements’.
The phenomenon of ‘crisis’ in Latin America is chronic, punctuated by ‘boom and bust’ cycles typical of volatile agro-mineral export economies and by long periods of chronic stagnation. Following the end of the Korean War and Washington’s launch of its global empire building project (mistakenly called ‘The Cold War’), the US engaged in a series of ‘hot wars’, (Korea- 1950-1953 and Indo-China- 1955-1975) and overt and clandestine coups d’etat (Iran and Guatemala – both in 1954); and military invasions (Dominican Republic, Panama, Grenada and Cuba); all the while backing a series of brutal military dictatorships in Cuba (Batista), Dominican Republic (Trujillo), Haiti (Duvalier),Venezuela (Perez-Jimenez), Peru (Odria) among others.
Under the combined impact of dictatorial rule, blatant US intervention, chronic stagnation, deepening inequalities, mass poverty and the pillage of the public treasury, a series of popular uprisings, guerrilla revolts and general strikes toppled several US-backed dictatorships culminating in the victory of the social revolution in Cuba. In Brazil (1962-64), Bolivia (1952), Peru (1968-74), Nicaragua(1979-89) and elsewhere, nationalist presidents took power nationalizing strategic economic sectors, re-distributing land and challenging US dominance. Parallel guerrilla, peasant and workers movements spread throughout the continent from the 1960’s to the early1970’s. The high point of this ‘revolt against economic stagnation, imperialism, militarism and social exploitation/exclusion’ was the victory of the socialist government in Chile (1970-73).
The advance of the popular movements and the electoral gains however did not lead to a definitive victory (the taking of state power) except in Cuba, Grenada and Nicaragua nor did it resolve the crisis of capitalism (the key problem of chronic economic stagnation and dependence). Key economic levers remained in the hands of the domestic and foreign economic elites and the US retained decisive control over Latin America’s military and intelligence agencies.
The US backed military coups (1964/1971-76),US military invasions(Dominican Republic 1965 ,Grenada1983,Panama 1990,Haiti 1994,2005),surrogate mercenaries Nicaragua 1980-89 and right-wing civilian regimes (1982-2000/2005), reversed the advances of the social movements, overthrew nationalist/populist and socialist regimes and restored the predominance of the oligarchic troika: agro-mineral elite, the ‘Generals’ and the multinational corporations. US corporate dominance, oligarchic political successes and pervasive private pillage of national wealth accelerated and deepened the boom and bust process. However the savage repression, which accompanied the US-led counter-revolution and restoration of oligarch rule ensured that few large-scale popular revolts would occur, between the mid 1970’s to the beginning of the 1990’s – with the notable exception of Central America.
Civilian Rule, Neo-liberalism, Economic Stagnation and the New Social Movements
Prolonged stagnation, popular struggles and the willingness of conservative civilian politicians to conserve the reactionary structural changes implanted by the dictatorships, hastened the retreat of the military rulers. The advent of civilian rulers in Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina in the late 1980’s was accompanied by the rapid intensification of neo-liberal policies. This was spelled out in the ‘Washington Consensus’ and was integral to the President George H.W. Bush’s New World Order. While the new neo-liberal order failed to end stagnation it did facilitate the pillage of thousands of public enterprises, their privatization and de-nationalization. At the same time the massive outflow of profits, interest payments and royalties and the growing exploitation and impoverishment of the working people led to the growth of ‘new social movements’ throughout the 1990’s.
During the ascendancy of the military dictatorships and continuing under the neo-liberal regimes, while social movements and trade unions were suppressed, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) flourished. Billions of dollars flowed into the accounts of the NGOs from ‘private’ foundations. Later the World Bank and US and EU overseas agencies viewed the NGOs as integral to their counter-insurgency strategy.
The theorists embedded in the NGO-funded feminist, ecology, self-help groups and micro-industry organizations eschewed the question of structural changes, class and anti-imperialist struggles in favor of collaboration with existing state power structures. The NGO operatives referred to their organizations as the ‘new social movements’, which, in practice, worked hard to undermine the emerging class-based movements of anti-imperialists, Indians, peasants, landless workers and unemployed workers. These class-based mass movements had emerged in response to the imperial pillage of their natural resources and naked land grabs by powerful elites in the agro-mineral-export sectors with the full support of voracious neo-liberal regimes.
Toward the end of the 1990’s, neo-liberal pillage throughout Latin American had reached its paroxysm: Tens of billions of dollars were literally siphoned off and transferred, especially out of Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina, to overseas banks. Over five thousand lucrative, successful state-owned enterprises were ‘privatized’ by the corrupt regimes at prices set far below their real value and into the hands of select private US and EU corporations and local regime cronies. The predictable economic collapse and crisis following the blatant looting of the major economies in Latin America provoked a wave of popular uprisings, which overthrew incumbent elected neo-liberal officials and administrations in Ecuador (three times), Argentina (three successful times) and Bolivia (twice). In addition, a mass popular uprising, in alliance with a constitutionalist sector of the military, restored President Chavez to power. During this period mass movements flourished and numerous center-left politicians, who claimed allegiance to these movements and denounced ‘neo-liberalism’, were elected president.
The deep economic crisis and repudiation of neo-liberalism marked the emergence of the social movements as major players in shaping the contours of Latin American politics. The principal emerging movements included a series of new social actors and the declining influence of the trade unions as the leading protagonist of structural change.
The Crisis of 1999-2003: Major Social Movements at the ‘End of Neo-liberalism’
Major social movements emerged in most of Latin America in response to the economic crisis of the 1990’s and early 2000’s and challenged neo-liberal ruling class control. The most successful were found in Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina and Bolivia.
Brazil: The Rural Landless Workers Movement (MST), with over 300,000 active members and over 350,000 peasant families settled in co-operatives throughout the country, represented the biggest and best organized social movement in Latin America. The MST built a broad network of supporters and allies in other social movements, like the urban Homeless Movement, the Catholic Pastoral Rural (Rural Pastoral Agency) and sectors of the trade union movement (CUT), as well as the left-wing of the Workers Party (PT) and progressive academic faculty and students. The MST succeeded through ‘direct action’ tactics, such as organizing mass ‘land occupations’, which settled hundreds of thousands of landless rural workers and their families on the fallow lands of giant latifundistas. They successfully put agrarian reform on the national agenda and contributed to the electoral victory of the putative center-left Workers Party presidential candidate Ignacio ‘Lula’ Da Silva in the 2002 elections.
Ecuador: The National Confederation of Indian and Nationalities in Ecuador (CONAIE) played a central role in the overthrow of two neo-liberal Presidents, Abdala Bucaram in 1997 and Jamil Mahuad in January 2000, implicated in massive fraud and responsible for Ecuador’s economic crisis of the 1990’s. In fact, during the January 2000 uprising, the leaders of CONAIE briefly occupied the Presidential Palace. Beginning in the late 1990’s CONAIE had resolved to form an electoral party ‘Pachacuti’, which would act as the ‘political arm’ of the movement. Pachacuti, in alliance with the rightist populist former military officer Lucio Gutierrez in the 2002 elections, briefly held several cabinet posts, including Foreign Relations and Agriculture. CONAIE’s and Pachacuti’s short-lived experience as a government movement and party was a political disaster. By the end of the first year, the Gutierrez regime allied with multi-national oil companies, the US State Department and the big agro-business firms, promoted a virulent form of neo-liberalism and forced the resignation of most CONAIE-backed officials. By the end of 2003, widespread discontent and internal divisions were exacerbated by an army of US and EU-funded NGOs, which infiltrated the Indian communities.
Venezuela: Major popular revolts in 1989 and 1992 culminated in the election of Hugo Chavez in 1999. Chavez proceeded to encourage mass popular mobilizations in support of referendums for constitutional reform. A US-backed alliance between the oligarchy and sectors of the military mounted a palace coup in April 2002, which lasted only 48 hours before being reversed by a spontaneous outpouring of over a million Venezuelans supported by constitutionalist soldiers in the armed forces. Subsequently, between December 2002 and February 2003, a ‘bosses’ lockout’ of the petroleum industry, designed to cripple the national economy, supported by the Venezuelan elite and led by senior officials in the PDVSA (state oil company), was defeated by the combined efforts of the rank and file oil workers with support from the urban popular classes. The failed US-backed assaults on Venezuelan democracy and President-elect Chavez radicalized the process of structural changes: Mass community-based organizations, new class-based trade union confederations and national peasant movements sprang up and the million-member Venezuelan Socialist Party was formed. Social movement activity and membership flourished, as the government extended its social welfare programs to include free universal public health programs via thousands of clinics, state-sponsored food markets selling essential food at subsidized prices in poor neighborhoods and the development of universal free public education including higher education. At the same time numerous enterprises in strategic economic sectors, such as steel, telecommunications, petroleum, food processing and landed estates, were nationalized.
While the ruling class continues to control certain key economic sectors and highly-paid officials in the state sector retain powerful levers over the economy, the Chavez government and the mass popular movements have maintained the initiative in advancing the struggle throughout the decade from the late 1990’s into the first decade of the new millennium.
The Venezuelan social movements retain their vigor in part because of the encouragement of Chavez’ leadership, but the movements are also held back by powerful reformist currents in the regime, which seek to convert the movements into transmission belts of state policy. The movement-state relationship is fluid and reflects the ebb and flow of the conflict and the threats emanating from the US-backed rightist organizations.
The regime-movement relationship deepened during the crisis period of 1999-2003 and was further strengthened by the rise in oil prices during the world commodity boom of 2003-2008. With the unfolding of the world economic crisis in late 2008-2009, the positive relationship between the state and the movements will be tested.
Bolivia: Bolivia has the highest density of militant social movements of any country in Latin America, including high levels of mine and factory worker participation, community and informal market vender organizations, Indian and peasant movements and public employee unions. The long years of military repression from the early 1970’s to the mid 1980’s weakened the trade unions and was followed by intense application of neo-liberal policies.
By the end of the 1990’s, new large-scale social movements emerged but the locus of activity shifted from the historically militant mining districts and factories to the ‘sub-proletariat’ or ‘popular classes’ engaged in informal, ‘marginal’ occupations, especially in cities like ‘El Alto’. ‘El Alto’, located on the outskirts of La Paz, is densely populated by recent migrants, displaced miners and impoverished Indians and peasants, and received few public services. The new nexus for direct action challenging the neo-liberal regimes emerged from the coca farmers and Indian communities in response to the brutal implementation of US-mandated programs suppressing coca cultivation and the displacement of small farmers in favor of large-scale, agro-business plantations. In the cities, public sector employees, led by teachers, students and factory health worker unions fought neo-liberal measures privatizing services, like water, and cutting the public budgets for education and health care.
The economic crises of the late 1990-2000’s led to major public confrontation in January 2003, followed by a popular revolt in October and insurrection centered in ‘El Alto’ and spread to La Paz and throughout the country. Before being driven from power, the Sanchez de Losada regime murdered nearly seventy community activists and leaders. Hundreds of thousands of impoverished Bolivians stormed the capital, La Paz, threatening to take state power. Only the intervention of the coca farmer leader and presidential hopeful, Evo Morales, prevented the mass seizure of the Presidential palace. Morales brokered a ‘compromise’ in which the neo-liberal Vice President Carlos Mesa was allowed to succeed to the Presidency in exchange for a vaguely agreed promise to discontinue the hated neo-liberal policies of his predecessor, Sanchez de Losada. The tenuous agreement between the social movements and the ‘new’ neo-liberal President survived for two years due to the moderating influence of Evo Morales.
In May-June 2005, a new wave of mass demonstrations filled the streets of La Paz with workers, peasants, Indians and miners forcing Carlos Mesa to resign. Once again, Evo Morales intervened and signed a pact with the Congress calling for national elections in December 2005 in exchange for calling off the protests and appointing a senior Supreme Court judge (Rodriguez) to act as interim President.
Morales diverted the mass social movements into his party’s campaign machinery, undercutting the autonomous direct action strategies, which had been so effective in overthrowing the two previous neo-liberal regimes. This resulted in his election as President in December 2005.
While the economic crisis abated with the boom in commodity prices, President Evo Morales’ social-liberal policies did little to reduce the gross income inequalities, the vast concentration of fertile land in a handful of plantation elite and the dispossession of a majority of Indian communities from their lands. Morales’ policies of forming joint ventures with foreign multinational gas, oil and mining companies did little to end the massive transfer of profits from Bolivia’s natural resources back to the ‘home offices’ of the MNCs. Nevertheless the Morales’ tepid ‘nationalist gestures led to a ‘political-economic’ confrontation with the US-backed Bolivian oligarchy, which was funded by their enormous private profits gained during the ‘commodity boom’.
Argentina: The strongest relationship between a severe economic crisis and a mass popular rebellion took place in Argentina in December 19-20, 2001 and continued throughout 2002.
The conditions for the economic collapse were building up in the 1990s during the two terms of President Carlos Menem. His neo-liberal regime was marked by the corrupt ‘bargain basement’ sale of the most lucrative and strategic public enterprises in all sectors of the economy. The entire financial sector of Argentina was de-regulated, de-nationalized, dollarized and opened up to the worst speculative abuses. The national economic edifice, weakened by the massive privatization policies, was further undermined by rampant corruption and gross pillage of the public treasury. Menem’s policies continued under his successor, President De la Rua, who presided over the banking crisis and the subsequent collapse of the entire national economy, the loss of billions of dollars of private savings and pension funds, a thirty percent unemployment rate and the most rapid descent into profound poverty among the working and middle classes in Argentine history.
In December 2001, the people of Buenos Aires staged a massive popular uprising in front of the Presidential palace with the demonstrators taking over the Congress. They ousted President De la Rua and subsequently three of his would-be presidential successors in a matter of weeks. Hundreds of thousands of organized, unemployed workers blocked the highways and formed community-based councils. Impoverished, downwardly mobile middle class employees and bankrupt shopkeepers, professionals and pensioners formed a vast array of neighborhood assemblies and communal councils to debate proposals and tactics. Banks throughout the country were stormed by millions of irate depositors demanding the restitution of their savings. Over 200 factories, which had been shut down by their owners, were taken over by their workers and returned to production. The entire political class was discredited and the popular slogan throughout the country was: ‘!Que se vayan todos!’ (‘Out with all politicians!’). While the popular classes controlled the street in semi-spontaneous movements, the fragmented radical-left organizations were unable to coalesce to formulate a coherent organization and strategy for state power.
After two years of mass mobilizations and confrontation, the movements, facing an impasse in resolving the crisis, turned toward electoral politics and elected center-left Peronist Kirchner in the 2003 Presidential campaign.
Low Intensity Social Movements: Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Central America, Haiti and Mexico
The entire Latin American continent and the neighboring regions witnessed the significant growth of social movement activity of greater or lesser scope. What differentiated these movements from their counterparts in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela was the absence of political challenges and regime change and the limited scope of their social action.
Nevertheless significant outbreaks of mass popular movements raised fundamental challenges to the reigning neo-liberal hegemony.
In Haiti, a mass popular rebellion to reinstate the democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who had been taken hostage and flown into exile by a joint US-EU-Canadian military operation, was brutally repressed by a multinational mercenary force led by a Brazilian general. Subsequent massacres in crowded slums by the occupying troops aborted the resurgence of the popular ‘Lavelas’ movement protesting the foreign imposition of neo-liberal ‘privatization’ and austerity measures.
Mexico witnessed a series of localized rebellions and mass uprisings against the neo-liberal regimes dominating Mexico. In 1994, the Zapatista National Liberal Army (EZLN), based in the Indian communities of rural Chiapas, rose and temporarily succeeded in gaining control of several towns and cities. With the entry of many thousands of Mexican Federal troops, and in the absence of a wider network of support, the Zapatistas withdrew to their jungle and mountain bases. An unstable truce was declared, frequently violated by the government, in which an isolated EZLN continued to exist confined to a remote area in the state of Chiapas. In Oaxaca, an urban rebellion, backed by trade unions, teachers and popular classes in the capital city and surrounding countryside, organized a popular assembly (comuna) and briefly created a situation of ‘dual power’ before being suppressed by the reactionary neo-liberal governor of the state using ‘death squads’ and Mexican troops. Faced with the repressive power of the state, the insurgent popular movements shifted toward the electoral process and succeeded in electing center-left Andres Manual Lopez Obrador in 2006 in the midst of the neo-liberal economic debacle. Their victory was short-lived, with the election results, overturned through massive fraud in the final tally of the votes. Subsequent peaceful protests involving millions of Mexicans eventually lost steam and the movement dissipated.
In Colombia, mass peasant, trade union and Indian protests challenged the neo-liberal Pastrana regime (1998-2002) while the major guerrilla movements (FARC/ELN) advanced toward the capital city. Fruitless peace negotiations, broken off under US pressure and a $5 billion dollar US counter-insurgency program, dubbed ‘Plan Colombia’, heightened political polarization and intensified paramilitary death-squad activity. With the election of Alvaro Uribe, the Colombian regime decimated peasant, trade union and human rights movements as it advanced its neo-liberal policies.
The political effects of the economic crisis at the end of the 1990’s, which had precipitated social movement activity throughout the hemisphere, led to brutal repression in Haiti, Mexico and Colombia in order for the neo-liberal regimes to continue their policies.
In several other Latin American countries, namely Peru and Paraguay, as well as in Central America, powerful rural-based peasant and Indian movements engaged in rural road blockages and land occupations against their governments’ neo-liberal ‘free trade’ agreements with the US. Since these rural movements lacked nation-wide support, especially from the urban centers, their struggles failed to make a significant impact even as their economies crumbled under neo-liberal policies.
Social Movements in the Time of the Commodity Boom
The sharp rise of agricultural and mineral commodity prices between 2003-2008, along with the election of center-left politicians, had a major impact on the most active and dynamic social movements.
In Brazil the election of Lula De Silva (2002-2006) from the putatively center-left Workers Party was backed by all the major social movements, including the MST (Landless Rural Workers Movement) under the mistaken assumption that he would accelerate progressive structural changes like land re-distribution. Instead, Da Silva embraced the entire neo-liberal agenda of his predecessor, President Cardoso, including widespread privatization and tight fiscal policies, which, with the rise of agro-mineral prices, led to a narrowly focused agro-mineral export strategy centered exclusively on large agro-business and mineral extractive elites to the detriment of small businesses and rural producers. The MST’s efforts to influence Da Silva over the past decade(2003-2009) were futile – as state, local and federal governments criminalized the movement’s direct action tactics of land occupation. Lula’s policy of granting subsistence federal food allowances to the extremely poor and his success at co-opting movement leaders, especially from the huge trade union federations, neutralized the landless peasants and organized workers’ capacity to protest and strike. Lula’s policies isolated the MST from its ‘natural’ urban allies in the labor movement.
Lula’s right-turn and the vast increase in export revenues from high commodity prices led to increased social expenditures and reduced the level of activity and support for the MST in its struggle for agrarian reform. While retaining its mass base and continuing its land occupations, the MST no longer had a strategic political ally in its quest for social transformation. Subsequently it pursued more moderate reforms to avoid confrontation with the Lula regime, to which it still offered ‘critical support’.
In Argentina, the massive wave of direct action social movements subsided with the election of Kirchner (2003-2008) and the 7% economic growth rate stimulated by the commodity boom and the recovery from the dramatic economic melt-down of 2001-2002. With the recovery of employment and the return of their savings, the middle class assemblies rapidly disappeared. Kirchner offered subsidies to the unemployed and co-opted their leaders, which led to a sharp reduction of road blockages and membership in the militant unemployed workers organizations. Kirchner won over part of the human rights movement with his policies, which included his public purge of some of the more notorious military and police officials and the granting of subsidies to certain sectors of the human rights movement, including the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. With the decline of the radicalized movements of 1999-2002, the economic recovery of 2003-2008 led to a partial recovery of trade union activism, whose demands were mostly economic, focusing on the recovery of the workers’ wages and benefits lost during the systemic crisis.
In Bolivia, the economic boom, which began under the neo-liberal regime of Carlos Mesa continued under ‘leftist’ populist Evo Morales. He quickly moderated movement demands as he moved to the center-left. As an alternative to the social movement platform calling for the nationalization of the principal resource sectors exploited by multi-national corporations, Morales promoted ‘joint ventures’ which he demagogically claimed were ‘nationalization without expropriation’. Likewise he answered peasant and Indian demands for agrarian reform by opening up mostly uncultivatable public lands in the Amazon to the landless peasants. By the same token, he protected the most fertile land in the largest privately owned plantations from expropriation by exempting private land, which was classified as performing a ‘social function’. Avoiding structural change, Morales was able to use the windfall of state revenues from the high prices of Bolivian minerals and gas to co-opt movement leaders, provide incremental increases in the minimum wage, finance subsidies to Indian communities, encourage legal, political rights and recognize indigenous jurisdiction over their local communities.
Morales retained his leadership of the coca farmers union and, through his Movement to Socialist Party (MAS), exercised hegemony over the major community-based movements. His close ties with Presidents Castro in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela set him in radical opposition to Washington’s interventionist policies and its supporters among the five rightist-controlled provinces centered in Santa Cruz. The extreme right gained ascendancy in the latter region and launched a violent racist frontal assault on the Morales government, polarizing the countryside while guaranteeing Morales the continued mass support among the popular classes and movements throughout the country.
In Ecuador, the powerful Indian movement (CONAIE) and its allies in the trade unions supported the neo-liberal regime of Lucio Gutierrez and suffered a severe decline in their power, support and organizational cohesion. The recovery has been slow, hindered by interventions of numerous US/EU funded NGOs.
With the demise of the established social movements, a new urban-based ‘citizens’ movement’ led by Rafael Correa overthrew the venal, corrupt, neo-liberal Gutierrez regime and led the electorate to vote Correa into power in both 2006 and 2009. Correa adapted center-left political positions, financing incremental wage and salary increases and state subsidized cheap credit to small and medium size businesses. He adopted a nationalist position on foreign debt payments and the termination of US military basing rights in Manta. The boom in mining and petroleum prices and ties with oil-rich Venezuela facilitated President Correa’s capacity to fund programs to secure support among the Andean bourgeoisie and the popular classes.
In Venezuela, the economic boom, namely the tripling of world oil prices, facilitated Venezuela’s economic recovery after the crisis caused by the opposition coup and the bosses’ lockout (2002-2003). As a result, from 2004 to 2008 Venezuela grew by nearly 9% a year. The Chavez government was able to generously fund a whole series of progressive socio-economic changes that enhanced the strength and attraction of pro-government social movements. The social movements played an enormous role in defeating opposition referendums, which had called for the impeachment of the President. Peasant organizations were prominent in pressuring recalcitrant bureaucrats in the Chavez government to implement the new agrarian laws calling for land distribution. Trade union militants organized strikes and demonstrations and played a major role in the nationalization of the steel industry. Given the vast increase in state resources, the Chavez government was able to both compensate the owners of the expropriated firms and meet workers’ demands for social ownership.
The economic boom and the ascendancy of center-left governments led to incremental increases in living standards, a decline of unemployment and the co-optation of some movement leaders — resulting in the decline of radical movement activity and the revival of traditional ‘pragmatic’ trade union moderates. During the economic boom and the rise of the center-left, the only major mass mobilization took the form of right wing movements determined to destabilize the center-left governments in Bolivia and Venezuela.
A comparison of the social movements in countries where they played a major role in political and social change (Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia) and movements in countries where they were marginalized reveals several crucial differences. First of all, the differences are not found in terms of the quantity of public protests, militant direct actions or number of participants. For example, if one adds up the number of social movement protests in Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Central America, they might equal or even surpass the social actions in Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. What was different and most politically significant was the quality of the mass action. Wherever they were of marginal significance, the organizations were fragmented, dispersed and without significant national leadership or structure and without any political leverage on the institutions of national power. In contrast, influential social movements operated as national organizations, which coordinated social and political action, centralized and capable of reaching the nerve centers of political power – the capital cities (La Paz, Buenos Aires, Quito and to a lesser degree Sao Paolo). To one degree or another, the high impact social movements combined rural and urban movements, had political allies in the party system and bridged cultural barriers (linking indigenous and mestizo popular classes).
World Economic Crisis and Social Movements – 2008 Onward
Beginning in late 2008 and continuing in 2009 the world economic crisis spread across Latin America. The crisis came later to Latin America and with less initial severity than in the US or EU. Because it is an ongoing process, the full socio-political implications and economic impact is still far from clear. What we can observe is that, at least initially, the current crisis has not provoked anything like the mass upheavals and the surge of radical social movements that we witnessed during the crisis beginning in 2001.
Gross Domestic Product
($ Millions of dollars, constant 2000 prices)
Annual growth rates
Sub-total Latin America
Latin American and the Caribbean
If anything, we have seen a surge of right-wing movements and electoral organizations in countries, like Argentina, and a US-backed right-wing military coup backed by the rightist business associations in Honduras, and the continued ‘pragmatic’ behavior of mass social movements in Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador.
The only exception is in Peru where the organized Indian communities in the Amazonian region have engaged in armed mass confrontations with the US-backed, right-wing regime of Alan Garcia. The Amazonian Indians responded to a series of Government decrees, which handed mineral and gas exploitation rights on Indian lands to foreign mining and energy corporations. From a historical perspective, the struggle was ‘conservative’, in so far as it pitted indigenous communities defending traditional use and ownership of lands and resources against the modern economic predators and the the neo-liberal state.
The Lumpen-Bourgeoisie: The Triple Alliance of the Neo-Liberal State, Narco-traffickers and the Unemployed Poor
The least studied, but most dynamic, and, possibly best organized social movement in Latin America today is the right-wing drug trafficking movement. Headed by a powerful narco-bourgeoisie, with strong ties to the military and neo-liberal state apparatus and with armed lumpen-cadres drawn from the urban unemployed and landless peasantry, the ‘Lumpen’ Movement has created a powerful geographic and social presence in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and elsewhere.
It was the agrarian neo-liberal policies that prepared the ground for the ‘mass base’ of the rightist narco-movement. The promotion of mechanized agro-export agriculture in Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Central America uprooted millions. State terror and paramilitary death squads drove millions of peasant families from the land and into urban slums. The large-scale importation of cheap, subsidized agricultural produce from the US wiped out many thousands of small-scale family farms. The stagnant of manufacturing sector was unable to absorb the migrants into labor-intensive work. This created massive numbers of young rural unemployed landless and urban workers, who could be either recruits for progressive social movements or recruits for the narco-industry. Cultivating coca and opium, refining and smuggling the drugs and soldiering for the drug lords provided a livelihood for these desperate young men and women. The deep economic crisis and stagnation of the 1990’s and early 2000’s created a large mass of young unemployed and under-employed workers in the cities ripe for employment by the narco-gangs who paid a living wage for an often deadly occupation.
The links between right-wing political parties, banking, business and landowner associations has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout Latin America. In Colombia, drug traffickers have become large landowners after their death squads devastated peasant communities suspected of supporting leftists or progressive organizations. ‘Sicarios’ or ‘hit-men’ are mostly young men from working or peasant class background who ‘work’ for business leaders and multi-national corporations as assassins. They have killed hundreds of trade union and peasant and Indian leaders each year in Colombia alone. Over a third of the members of the Colombian Congress, the principle backers of President Uribe, have been financed by the drug cartels. Uribe has long-term ties with prominent narco-traffickers and death-squad militia leaders.
In Mexico, drug traffickers have recruited widely among the impoverished peasants. In many Mexican states the narcos have purchased the services of thousands of government officials from top to bottom. In the absence of employment and a social safety-net, many of the poor find work in the narco-trade. Narco-traffickers have established alliances and business associations with upper class financial groups engaging in joint ‘philanthropic’ activities, such as handing out cash and delivering needed services to the poor. Narco-traffickers eventually wash their illegal earnings through major banks in the US, Canada and Europe and then invest in real estate, tourist complexes and landed properties.
Narco-trafficker organizations and death squads have worked closely with rightwing movements in Sta. Cruz (Bolivia), with rightist political parties in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, as well as in Mexico and Colombia.
The ‘lumpenization’ process operates via two routes: In some cases, young unemployed males are directly recruited via neighborhood organizations; in other cases the dispossessed, bankrupt and downwardly mobile farmers and long-term unemployed workers are gradually forced into the ‘illegal’ labor market.
The long-term, large-scale process of stagnation, despite the periods of export growth, marginalize the rural poor and accelerate their impoverishment without generating compensatory stable, urban employment paying a living wages. The ‘lumpenization’ of these displaced, marginalized peasants and workers, produced by the crisis and class polarization, is accompanied by the rise of a ‘lumpen culture’ with its own hierarchical structures, where the few at the ‘top’ develop ties to the economic and state elite and the masses at the ‘bottom’ aspire to a degenerate kind of middle-class consumerist life-style.
By the first decade of the new millennium, the rightist lumpen-narco movement far exceeded the progressive popular movements in terms of power and influence in Mexico, Colombia, Central America and some countries in the Caribbean, like Jamaica. The relationship between the ‘legal’ rightist and the ‘narco’ rightist movements is one of collaboration and conflict: They join forces to oppose powerful rural and trade union movements and progressive electoral regimes. The lumpen-narcos provide the ‘shock troops’ to assassinate progressive leaders, including elected officials and to terrorize supporters among the peasantry and urban poor. On the other hand, violent conflict between the rightists can break out at any time, especially when the lumpen-elite encroach on the state prerogatives, business interests, ties with imperial drug enforcement agencies and raise questions about the legitimacy of the bourgeois class.
Latin America’s Social Movements and the Economic Recession/Depression
Economic crises have multiple and diverse impacts on the popular classes and social movements.
The profound economic crisis of the 1990’s and first years of 2000 radicalized the popular classes and led to widespread ‘high impact’ protests and national rebellions, which overthrew incumbent neo-liberal regimes and replaced them with ‘center-left’ regimes. At the same time the social changes, implicit in the neo-liberal crisis, led to a downwardly mobile urban and rural sector. This formed the basis for the growth of dynamic leftist social movement led by popular mass-based leaders and rightist movements led by lumpen-narco chiefs and supported by the economic elites. The conservative, far-right confronted popular social movements from positions in the state and through the military and para-military death squads.
The commodity boom and the ascendancy of the ‘center-left’ regimes led to the ‘moderation’ of demands from below in the face of cooptation from above. Large-scale job creation and poverty programs, cheap credit and incremental wage and salary increases all contributed to moderating mass politics. The trade unions re-emerged as central actors and collective bargaining replaced mass direct action. Rural movements engaged in militant struggle were relatively isolated. The key political factor in this period was the demobilization of the popular classes, the decline of the direct action movements and the restoration of the power of the business, land-owning and mining elite based on their strengthened economic position. The rejuvenated Right took the lead in directing their own ‘direct action’ movements in Bolivia, Argentina and Central America.
As the crisis of 2008-2009 unfolded, the progressive movements were slow to respond, having been ‘under the tent’ of the center-left electoral regimes. Since these regimes were now being held responsible for the fallout of the commodity crash, the left social movements were in a weak position and unable to pose any radical alternatives.
It is important to remember that the world economic crisis had hit the ‘North’ (US/EU) earlier and harder than in Latin America. In Latin American, the social impact was weaker – at first. Unemployment grew mainly during the last months of 2008. The gradual unfolding of the crisis contrasted with the system-wide crash of the late 1990’s-2002, which precipitated mass rebellions. In addition, as a consequence of the earlier crisis, capital and finance controls had been imposed that limited the spread of the toxic assets and financial crisis from the US to Latin America.
Moreover, Latin American countries are diversifying their trade, especially toward Asia including China, which continues to grow at 8% a year. Diversification and financial controls limited the impact of the US financial melt-down on the Latin American economies. In addition, the early ‘stimulus’ measures, taken in response to the first signs of the crisis, had the effect of temporarily ameliorating the impact of the global recession/depression on Latin America.
Nevertheless as the depression deepens in the North, Latin America’s trade has plunged, and the region has fallen into negative growth. As a result, unemployment is growing in both the export sectors as well as in production for the domestic economy. In response, the right-wing parties and leaders blame the center-left regimes. Moves are underway in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador to oust these regimes through elections or through coups, backed by US President Obama’s ‘rollback’ global strategy. The July 2009 coup in Honduras, covertly backed from the strategic US military base in the country, is the first sign that Washington is moving its military client to overthrow the new independent ‘center-left’ regimes in the region. This is particularly true among the Central American and Caribbean countries linked with Venezuela in the new integration programs, such as ALBA and PetroCaribe.
The first manifestations of progressive mass popular protests in the current economic recession are not directly related to the economic decline. In Peru, the indigenous Amazonian communities organized militant road blockages and confrontations with the military resulting in over one hundred dead and wounded. This mass movement developed in response to the Peruvian government’s granting concessions of mining exploitation rights to foreign multi-nationals, an infringement of the rights of the indigenous people to their lands in the Amazonian region. Demonstrations in solidarity with the Amazonian Indians occurred in most cities, including Lima. The Congress, fearing a mass uprising, temporarily canceled the concessions. This was a major victory for the indigenous communities. Moreover, the success of the Amazonian Indian communities has detonated widespread sustained strikes and protests in most of the major cities of Peru, in response to economic decline resulting from falling commodity prices.
The sustained popular struggle in Honduras is in response to the military coup overthrowing President Zelaya, a moderate reformer pursuing an independent foreign policy. Led by the urban public sector trade unions and peasant movements, the struggle has combined democratic, nationalist and populist demands.
Apart from these two mass popular movements, the economic crisis has yet to evoke mass radical rebellions, like those which took place during earlier crises between 2000-2003. We can posit several possible explanations or hypotheses for the contrasting responses of the mass movements to economic crises.
1. The full impact of the world crisis has yet to hit the popular classes – it began late in
2008 and only began to register increased unemployment in the first quarter of 2009.
2. The current crisis, at first, did not hit the lower middle classes, public employees and skilled workers. It has been highly segmented, thus weakening cross class solidarity and alliances present in earlier crises.
3. Unlike the previous period, the crisis takes place in many countries, which are ruled by ‘center left’ regimes with an organized social base backed by the social movements. These regime-movement linkages neutralize mass protests, out of fear of a return to the hard right.
4. The mass movements on the left have responded to the crisis with relative passivity – in part because the governments have intervened with economic stimulus measures and some social ameliorative policies. The continuation and deepening of the crisis and the inadequate coverage of moderate public interventions could eventually lead to the resurgence of mass struggles.
5. The increasing economic vulnerability of the incumbent center-left regimes and the relative passivity of the progressive social movements has opened political space and opportunities for rightwing mass mobilizations, combining electoral and street politics to build a base for a return to power.
6. The crisis will likely accelerate the lumpenization process, as long-term unemployment sets in and if alternate movements fail to organize the chronically unemployed in consequential struggles.
7. As the bourgeoisie and its political supporters find few legitimate sources for profiteering available, they will likely serve as intermediaries and ‘protectors’ of the narco-traffickers and other criminal syndicates and rely on them to eliminate left social movement leaders and activists.
8. The rise of the ‘lumpen-Right’ may lead to a virtual ‘dual power’ situation in which legitimate and illegitimate power configurations cooperate in repressing social movements and compete for influence.
9. The relative passivity of the social movements is likely a transitory phenomenon, influenced by the convergence of circumstances. If the crisis deepens and extends over time and rightist regimes return to power, recent past historical experience strongly suggests that the massive increase in poverty and unemployment, combined with repressive rightist regimes, could lead to mass rebellions on the part of the previously ‘passive’ popular classes.
James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power (Clarity Press, 2008). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're preparing for the 2010 elections now with a special fund-raising drive. We ran a great slate of candidates in 2008. Ralph Nader raised our visibility and brought a lot of new energy into the party. We endorsed Cindy Sheehan (the Peace Mom) in her valiant race against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Party officer Marsha Feinland (9th State Senate District) got almost 30,000 votes against the established candidates. Where they ran, our candidates came in second or third, getting more votes than any other third party candidate including Greens and Libertarians. All our candidates work with budgets that are miniscule compared to those of the corrupt major parties. Please help us continue our electoral progress by contributing just 10 bucks to our 2010 election campaigns. Drop 10 on 2010! If you would like to drop $10 on us by check, please make it payable to Peace and Freedom Party and mail to: P.O. Box 24764 Oakland, California 94623 Let us know exactly what your donation is for by writing "I'm dropping $10 on 2010" in the memo of your check. Thanks!
NEW NATIONAL CHALLENGE TO DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS
Announcing its intention to challenge the Democrats and Republicans in 2010, a national organizing effort to build a new electoral party of the left has announced its interim leadership and basic unity statement.
Debra Reiger of Sacramento, who also serves as North State Organizer of the Peace and Freedom Party, is the Interim Chair of the National Organizing Continuations Committee (NOCC). The committee was empowered to coordinate the multi-state effort at the National Organizing Conference held on August 1 in San Francisco. The Interim Secretary is Georgia Williams of Fresno, who also serves as Secretary of the Peace and Freedom Party State Central Committee.
"We oppose rule by the wealthy and their corporations" says Reiger. "Their bloody wars, their exploitation of workers, their oppression of working people and dissidents at home and abroad continue no matter which big-money party holds office. We are working to build a national slate of candidates for Senate, House of Representatives, and other offices in the 2010 elections - and that's just a start."
Williams comments that "Some people claim the Democrats are socialists. This is ridiculous. It becomes clearer every day that the Democrats are capitalists who serve the corporations and their wealthy owners. The NOCC serves as an umbrella organization for people and organizations who think the working people of our country should own the goods and services they produce and run the economy."
Welcoming the participation of existing organizations, the NOCC unity statement describes the coalition as "multi-tendency" and "non-sectarian." "We are building the umbrella organization that will enable a broad range of left activists to run for office," explains Reiger.
Unity Statement, as adopted August 9, 2009 by NOCC
We agree that the Republican and Democratic parties through which the United States ruling class and its corporations exercise political power do not and cannot represent the working people of our country. The interests of working class people require that these parties be challenged from the left by an independent party based in the working class.
It is our intention to form a multi-state multi-tendency non-sectarian electoral organization committed to democracy, socialism, feminism, environmentalism and racial equality. We oppose discrimination based on sexual and gender orientation, immigration status, and all other barriers used to divide us. We oppose all U.S. wars, occupations and interventions. We seek broader ballot access for left candidates and campaigns.. We support and actively help fight for a democratic and militant union movement.
Our immediate goal is to qualify for the ballot a broad national slate of candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as other offices, in the 2010 elections. We expect this work to further the goal of bringing a left alternative to the voters nationwide, to represent the struggles of working people and all the exploited and oppressed for improved conditions and for real power over their own lives and the future of our country. We see this electoral initiative as being directly linked to organizing struggles in the workplaces, schools, and communities.
at their best, there is gentleness in Humanity.some understanding and, at times, acts ofcouragebut all in all it is a mass, a glob that doesn'thave too much.it is like a large animal deep in sleep andalmost nothing can awaken it.when activated it's best at brutality,selfishness, unjust judgments, murder.
Gaza Under Siege
by Jordan Flaherty and Lily Keber / August 15th, 2009
Gaza Under Siege features a range of people in Gaza, from government leaders to the director of the UN Relief and Works Agency, to farmers and people living in devastated neighborhoods. Shot in June 2009, this short film gives a glimpse into the harsh realities of everyday Gaza under siege.
Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans and is an editor of Left Turn magazine.
What is your Main Street like? A piece of small town America? A bustling big city business district? For our new project, "Mapping Main Street," we'll not only be taking you on a road trip to Main Streets across the country, but we'll be asking you to tell us about yours.
In the last few weeks, the current president of the United States has been striving to demonstrate that the crisis is yielding as a result of his efforts to confront the grave problem that the United States and the world inherited from his predecessor.
Nearly all economists are making reference to the economic crisis that began in October 1929. The preceding one came at the end of the 19th century. The highly generalized tendency of U.S. politicians is to believe that as soon as the banks have sufficient dollars to grease the machinery of the productive apparatus, everything will march toward an idyllic and never-dreamed of world.
The differences between the so-called economic crisis of the 30s and the current one are many, but I will confine myself to just one of the most important.
At the end of World War I, the dollar, based on the gold standard, replaced the pound sterling, due to the vast sums in gold that Britain spent on the war. The great economic crisis in the United States came barely 12 years after that war.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, from the Democratic Party, won to a good extent aided by the crisis, as did Obama in the present crisis. Following the Keynes theory, the former injected money into circulation, constructed public works such as highways, dams and others of unquestionable benefit, which increased spending, demand for products, employment and the GDP for years, but he did not obtain the funding by printing dollar bills. He obtained it from taxes and with part of the monies deposited in banks. He sold U.S. bonds with guaranteed interest, which made them attractive to buyers.
The price of gold, which stood at 20 dollars per troy ounce in 1929, was raised by Roosevelt to 35 dollars as an internal guarantee of U.S. dollar bills.
On the basis of that guarantee in physical gold, the Bretton Woods agreement emerged in 1944, giving the powerful country the privilege of printing hard currency at a time when the rest of the world was bankrupt. The United States possessed more than 80% of the world’s gold.
I do not need to recall what came afterward, from the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the 64th anniversary of that act of genocide has just passed – to the coup d’état in Honduras and the seven military bases that the government of the United States proposes to install in Colombia. The real fact is that, in 1971, under the Nixon administration, the gold standard was eliminated and the unlimited printing of dollars turned into the greatest fraud of humanity. In virtue of the Bretton Woods privilege, by unilaterally suppressing convertibility, the United States is paying with paper for the goods and services that it acquires in the world. It is true that, in exchange for dollars it also provides goods and services, but it is also a fact that, since the elimination of the gold standard, that country’s dollar bill, quoted at $35 per troy ounce, has lost almost 30 times its value and 48 times the value that it had in 1929. The rest of the countries of the world have suffered those losses, their natural resources and money have financed rearmament and, to a large extent, underwritten the empire’s wars. Suffice it to note that, according to conservative calculations, the quantity of bonds supplied to other countries are in excess of $3 trillion, and the public debt, which continues growing, is in excess of $11 trillion.
While competing amongst themselves, the empire and its capitalist allies have made people believe that the anti-crisis measures constitute formulas of redemption. But Europe, Russia, Japan, Korea, China and India are raising funds not by selling Treasury bonds or printing money, but by applying other formulas to defend their currencies and their markets, sometimes with great austerity for their populations. The overwhelming majority of the developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are the ones who are paying for the broken dishes, by supplying non-renewable natural resources, sweat and human lives.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the clearest example of what can happen to a developing country in the jaws of the wolf: in the most recent summit, Mexico was unable to obtain solutions for its immigrants in the United States, nor permission to travel to Canada without a visa.
However, under the crisis, full force is being acquired by the largest FTA [Free Trade Agreement] on a world level: the World Trade Organization, which grew under the triumphant notes of neoliberalism to the lofty heights of world finances and idyllic dreams.
On the other hand, BBC Mundo reported yesterday, August 11, that 1,000 UN officials, meeting in Bonn, Germany, announced that they are trying to prepare the way for an agreement on climate change in December of this year, but that time is running out.
Ivo de Boer, the highest-ranking UN official on climate change, stated that the summit is only 119 days away and that "we have an enormous number of divergent interests, scant time for discussion, a complicated document on the table (200 pages) and funding problems…"
"The developing nations are insisting that the greatest volume of gases producing the greenhouse effect originate in the industrialized world."
The developing world is affirming its need for financial aid to do battle with climatic effects.
Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, stated: "If urgent measures are not taken to combat climate change, they could lead to violence and mass disturbances throughout the planet."
Climate change will intensify droughts, floods and other natural disasters."
"The scarcity of water will affect hundreds of millions of people. Malnutrition is going to lay waste to a large part of the developing countries."
A New York Times article on August 9 explained that "The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in the coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.
"Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change."
"‘It gets real complicated real quickly,’ said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning."
One can deduce from The New York Times article that not everyone in the Senate is as yet convinced that it is a real problem, one that has been totally ignored by the U.S. government to date since it was approved 10 years ago in Kyoto.
Some people are saying that the economic crisis is the end of imperialism; perhaps that should be proposed if it doesn’t signify something worse for our species.
In my judgment, it will always be best to have a just cause to defend and the hope of moving forward.
Vintage Fidel: An image of Cuban revolutionary heroes, including ex-President Fidel Castro, sits on a wall at a photo exhibit in Havana on Wednesday.
Just in time for his 83rd birthday, former Cuban President Fidel Castro made his presence known once again, by signaling his displeasure with the United States’ handling of the recent financial catastrophe. He spoke out in an Op-Ed article published Thursday in Cuba’s government-run newspapers. —KA
AFP via Google News:
“The quite general tendency of US politicians is to believe that as soon as the banks free-up enough dollars to grease the machinery of the productive apparatus, everything will march on to an idyllic and not-yet- dreamed-of world,” Castro said.
“Some people talk about the economic crisis being the end of imperialism, maybe one could ask whether it does not mean something worse for our species,” he added.
This article first appeared on Shambhala SunSpace, website of Shambhala Sun magazine, in May 2009.
What do the American civil rights movement, an exiled monk's return visit to Vietnam, and a community of people trying to save an urban farm in L.A. have in common? According to Canadian documentary film-maker Velcrow Ripper, they are all examples of what he calls spiritual activism, and they are just a few of the inspiring stories featured in his latest film, Fierce Light. (See trailer here.)
"Spiritual activism," Ripper explains in a recent phone interview from his Toronto home, "comes from the heart. It's beyond polarity. It's coming from a place of compassion, of hope. It's based on what we are for, rather than what we are against. It's what Ghandi called soul force, and what Martin Luther King called love in action."
He says, "I wanted to find that hope in the world, to interview the people that were doing that work -- activism with a spiritual basis, a sense of interconnectedness."
Fierce Light includes interviews with former civil rights movement leader John Lewis, exiled Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn, Dalit lawyer/activist Leela Kumari, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, eco-philosopher and Buddhism scholar Joanna Macy, and actor/eco-activist Daryl Hannah, among others.
The film also documents several political actions in progress, such as the movement to save the largest urban farm in North America from impending demolition, the yearly protest at the controversial U.S. military training institution once known as the School of the Americas, and the efforts of a group of two thousand Hyderabad Dalits to resist violence and oppression, as well as Thich Nhat Hahn's second return visit to Vietnam after 40 years of exile.
I first heard about Fierce Light during the Vancouver International Film Festival in October, and decided to attend the world premiere. The film went on to garner the National Film Board's Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award and a Special Mention for the Nonfiction Feature Film Award at the festival, and has now been screened at several international film festivals. It will be released to theatres in May.
Ripper feels that in making the film he was tapping into a zeitgeist. In fact, he says that spiritual activism has been called the largest political movement in history. During his research for the film, he interviewed Paul Hawkins, author of Blessed Unrest, a book that examines hope within the worldwide movement for social and environmental change. Hawkins calls spiritual activism "the movement of movements" and describes it as "humanity's immune response to a world in crisis." He has compiled a list of organizations engaged in some form of spiritual activism, and his total is now well over a million.
Ripper is no newcomer to documentary film-making or to world travel. He has directed or done sound work for 28 other films, and made his first documentary, Iran: the Crisis, in 1979 at the age of 16. His recent films are characterized by a narrative style and by his deeply personal approach -- engaging with a question that concerns him, and seeking the answer.
Beginning in the late ‘90s, he spent five years traveling the globe, searching for stories of hope in places that had been devastated by political or ecological crises -- Cambodia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Bhopal, India, to name a few. His travels were spurred by his own sense of fear and unease about the state of the world at that point in time. The film that emerged from these stories, Scared Sacred, won nine major awards, including the 2005 Genie award for Best Documentary. The journey renewed Ripper's sense of belief in the positive potential of the human spirit.
His optimism faltered, however, in 2006, when his good friend, fellow media activist and documentarian Brad Will was shot to death while filming a protest in Oaxaca, Mexico. The tragedy caused Ripper to question the effectiveness of peaceful protest and whether or not spirituality has a role to play in a world in crisis. This questioning led him to wonder about merging activism with spirituality, and to look for examples of people who were doing it. And so began the filming of Fierce Light.
"The term ‘fierce light'," he explains, "plays with the collision between seeming opposites. The same was true for Scared Sacred. The making of each film was in fact a search to find out what the title really meant. The title is like a Zen koan that I slowly unpack. Where is the sacred, within the scared? Where is the fierceness, within the light?"
Ripper used to describe himself as a Sufi-Buddhist-Bahai-punk-rocker, but says he'll never belong to one particular tradition. However, his most consistent teacher is Zen Buddhist Roshi Enkyo O'Hara, based in New York city, and he says his life is deeply informed by Buddhism.
I ask him if Buddhist principles such as non-harm and compassion are common characteristics of the movements profiled in Fierce Light. While he describes the film as "inter-spiritual" in scope, he acknowledges that compassion and non-violence are clearly at the heart of the political actions in the film.
"The American civil rights movement is a profound example of this -- standing up with love in your heart, and protesting violence with non-violence. The powers that be didn't know how to deal with this. The idea of responding to love and non-violence with violence was very unsettling.
"Another central concept," he says, "is the idea of interconnection -- interbeing --which is similar to the Ubuntu theology that Desmond Tutu speaks about."
Tutu, a Nobel Laureate and a former leader in South Africa's struggle against Apartheid, says that Ubuntu means that one person's humanness is intertwined with another person's humanness. "What dehumanizes you," he explains in the film, "inexorably dehumanizes me. And what elevates you, elevates me."
Ripper also traveled with Thich Nhat Hahn and members of his sangha on their second return-trip to Vietnam. Their intent was to conduct a series of ceremonies to heal the wounds of war and to offer teachings and retreats. I'm curious about the effect this experience had on Ripper.
"Thich Nhat Hahn is such an embodiment of fierce light," he says. "He is the most peaceful and gentle man you'll ever meet. And yet he is fierce -- he has a sword that will cut through ignorance and illusion, and that's what he's here to do. His style of Buddhism is completely connected to humanity and the earth; it's not about transcendence. He's the person who really coined the term ‘engaged Buddhism.'"
Ripper also notes that this experience influenced his style of filming. He says that, for him, cinematography always involves being in the moment, trying to connect to the beauty that's around him, and trying to pass that on to others through the film itself. But when he was filming the monks and nuns, he says, he was especially aware of being focused on the present and on walking mindfully, for example, rather than rushing from shot to shot.
"There's actually a quality of documentary film-making that requires stepping into the present," he says, "and letting go of preconceptions -- allowing images to unfold, without clinging or grasping. It's very much like a Buddhist approach."
When I saw Fierce Light, I was particularly struck by a motif that recurs throughout the film: a person with their eyes closed, as if in meditation, opens their eyes and smiles widely. When I ask Ripper about the intention behind this, he explains, "All over the world, almost everywhere I went, I asked people -- strangers -- to close their eyes, and when they opened them to look straight at the camera and imagine that they were looking at the most beautiful thing they could ever imagine. These people, in the film, they're looking out at the audience with this love in their eyes." His intention, he says, was for the audience to feel they were being looked upon with love.
"But this action, of the eyes opening, can be interpreted differently by each person who sees the film," he admits. He says it could be interpreted as a call to action -- to get up off the meditation cushion and put your beliefs into practice. It could also be felt as the opposite -- to take some time out from your activism and sit down on the cushion.
"We need that deep inner knowing," he explains. "We need that meditative centre. That's what gives us the strength and the soul to deal with the world in crisis. But we also need to be active and get out in the world and make the change."
He says he hopes the film itself can provide an experience of awakening for people. "I hope that it breaks people's hearts open, but in a way that opens us to change, a way that gives us a sense of hope, possibility and inspiration, as well as a sense of urgency."
Ripper's current favourite quote is "Hope and sincerity are the new punk." That's from Antony Haggard, lead singer of New York City band Antony and the Johnsons.
"It's not so uncool anymore to be sincere and hopeful," says Ripper. "The days of post-modern irony - the snark effect of the 90s - that's withering."
He adds, "This is going to be more than a movement. I think it's the leading edge of a global shift in consciousness."
Fierce Light was released to theatres this June and will be available on DVD in September. For more information, see www.fiercelight.org.
Elena Johnson is a journalist and poet based in Vancouver, Canada.
I searched all over the newspapers and TV transcripts and no one asked the President what is probably the most important question of what passes for debate on the issue of health care reform: $80 billion of WHAT?
On June 22, President Obama said he'd reached agreement with big drug companies to cut the price of medicine by $80 billion. He extended his gratitude to Big Pharma for the deal that would, "reduce the punishing inflation in health care costs."
Hey, in my neighborhood, people think $80 billion is a lot of money. But is it?
I checked out the government's health stats (at HHS.gov), put fresh batteries in my calculator and toted up US spending on prescription drugs projected by the government for the next ten years. It added up to $3.6 trillion.
In other words, Obama's big deal with Big Pharma saves $80 billion out of a total $3.6 trillion. That's 2%.
Hey thanks, Barack! You really stuck it to the big boys. You saved America from these drug lords robbing us blind. Two percent. Cool!
For perspective: Imagine you are in a Wal-Mart and there's a sign over a flat screen TV, “BIG SAVINGS!” So, you break every promise you made never to buy from that union-busting big box - and snatch up the $500 television. And when you're caught by your spouse, you say, "But, honey, look at the deal I got! It was TWO-PERCENT OFF! I saved us $10!"
But 2% is better than nothing, I suppose. Or is it?
The Big Pharma kingpins did not actually agree to cut their prices. Their promise with Obama is something a little oilier: they apparently promised that, over ten years, they will reduce the amount at which they would otherwise raise drug prices. Got that? In other words, the Obama deal locks in a doubling of drug costs, projected to rise over the period of "savings" from a quarter trillion dollars a year to half a trillion dollars a year. Minus that 2%.
We'll still get the shaft from Big Pharma, but Obama will have circumcised the increase.
And what did Obama give up in return for $80 billion? Chief drug lobbyist Billy Tauzin crowed that Obama agreed to dump his campaign pledge to bargain down prices for Medicare purchases. Furthermore, Obama’s promise that we could buy cheap drugs from Canada simply went pffft!
What did that cost us? The New England Journal of Medicine notes that 13 European nations successfully regulate the price of drugs, reducing the average cost of name-brand prescription medicines by 35% to 55%. Obama gave that up for his 2%.
The Veterans Administration is able to push down the price it pays for patent medicine by 40% through bargaining power. George Bush stopped Medicare from bargaining for similar discounts, an insane ban that Obama said he’d overturn. But, once within Tauzin’s hypnotic gaze, Obama agreed to lock in Bush’s crazy and costly no-bargaining ban for the next decade.
What else went down in Obama's drug deal? To find out, I called C-SPAN to get a copy of the videotape of the meeting with the drug companies. I was surprised to find they didn't have such a tape despite the President's campaign promise, right there on CNN in January 2008, "These negotiations will be on C-SPAN."
This puzzled me. When Dick Cheney was caught having secret meetings with oil companies to discuss Bush's Energy Bill, we denounced the hugger-muggers as a case of foxes in the henhouse.
Cheney's secret meetings with lobbyists and industry bigshots were creepy and nasty and evil.
But the Obama crew's secret meetings with lobbyists and industry bigshots were, the President assures us, in the public interest.
We know Cheney's secret confabs were shady and corrupt because Cheney scowled out the side of his mouth.
Obama grins in your face.
See the difference?
The difference is 2%.
Palast studied healthcare economics at the Center for Hospital Administration Studies at the University of Chicago.
Greg Palast's investigative reports can be seen on BBC Television's Newsnight and, in print, at www.GregPalast.com.
Editor’s note: A few months ago, Truthdig hosted a panel called “Media Meltdown in a Time of Crisis,” with Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer. The guests discussed the present and future of media with the global economic crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the health care debate raging on. Here is the first installment of that event, with more to come in the next few days.
Videography by Mansoor Sabbagh and Jeanne Kyle, Editing by Chloe Zuanich
Clip 1: Goodman says independent media draw strength from the failings of the mass media, which “acted as a conveyor belt for the lies” before the Iraq war.
Clip 2: “Where are these voices?” Goodman critiques the media’s coverage of war and health care. “What do I think of the mainstream media? I think it would be a good idea,” she says.
Clip 3: Beyond blogs: Goodman and Scheer talk about the future of journalism.
Alex Passapera "Conception of the Forest"
The pen and ink drawings of Alex Passapera are thrilling to behold. Each image flows into another like some sort of visceral phantasmagoria. You can check out the work in person via his show "Feral" at White Rabbit in NYC...
*Do the five day drag once more,Know of nothing else that bugs meMore than working for the rich man,Hey I'll change that scene one day,Today I might be mad,Tomorrow I'll be glad,I've got Friday on my mind
Pee-wee Herman returns to the stage!“The Pee-wee Herman Show” LIVE ONSTAGE IN HOLLYWOOD08.10.2009 – Limited Engagement – 17 Performances Only Begins November 8 – Press Opening November 19 The Music Box @ Fonda Tickets go on sale Tuesday, August 11 at 8 am At all Ticketmaster Outlets, ticketmaster.com, and by phone at (800)745-3000 August 10, 2009 - The SECRET WORD is FUN! Live onstage in Hollywood, “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” starring Paul Reubens, will have a limited engagement beginning November 8, 2009, at The Music Box @ Fonda. Press opening is Thursday, November 19, 2009. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, August 11 at 8 am at all Ticketmaster outlets, ticketmaster.com and by phone at 800-745-3000. “It’s time,” said Reubens. “My Pee-wee suit and red bow tie are at the ready - and this is proof that white shoes are cool past Labor Day.” To the generation that grew up with his groundbreaking Saturday morning television show, Pee-wee Herman is an icon. Revered by media theorists and studied in colleges, his enormous cultural influence continues to reverberate in fashion, film and television. When asked to comment, Herman himself simply said, “I know you are, but what am I?!” This new version of “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” still about a wish, includes Miss Yvonne, Mailman Mike, Cowboy Curtis and Jambi the Genie, as well as Pee-wee’s talking chair, Chairry, Pterri the pterodactyl, robot Conky, Magic Screen, Randy, and many more. Many of the show’s original artists, both on stage and behind the scenes are involved in this re-imagined production. Pee-wee Herman – Background Information The original “The Pee-wee Herman Show” debuted at The Groundlings Theatre in 1981, then moved to the Roxy Theatre on Sunset Strip for five sold out months. Taped as part of HBO’s On Location series, the show catapulted Pee-wee into the national consciousness. It lead to Pee-wee’s many appearances on “Late Night With David Letterman,” followed by a 22 city tour that included Carnegie Hall. In 1985, Warner Brothers brought Pee-wee to the big screen with “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” Tim Burton’s feature film debut. Co-written by Reubens, it featured Danny Elfman’s first original film score. The CBS television series “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” premiered in 1986. During its five seasons, the show garnered 22 Emmy Awards. Pee-wee’s second film, “Big Top Pee-wee” was released in 1988. While “The Pee-wee Herman Show”, and “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” were an homage to an earlier generation’s television classics -- “Howdy Doody,” “The Mickey Mouse Club,” “Captain Kangaroo,” “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie,” and “The Shari Lewis Show” –- Pee-wee himself became one of the most original and beloved stars in all of television history and late-century American culture. By the late 90s, even fashion was not immune to the style of Pee-wee as fashion designers like Christopher Bailey, Ennio Capasa, Miuccia Prada, Viktor & Rolf, and Thom Browne imitated the high armholes, short inseams, and tight cut suits that Pee-wee made as his trademark. In 2007, Nike created a version of the Nike SB sneaker loosely inspired by Pee-wee. When Cartoon Network aired the series in 2006, 1.5 million viewers watched every night; the next year TV Guide named the “Playhouse” among the top 10 cult classics of all time. All of the episodes of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” have been issued on DVD (and iTunes) and are consistently best sellers. And as Pee-wee was influenced by the television classics that came before him, it is hard to imagine that “Blue’s Clues” or “SpongeBob Square Pants” would be quite the same without him. Media Commentary The New York Times wrote in 2007, “To a public that remembers him with intense affection, Pee-wee is indelible.” Joyce Millman, writing for salon.com about the DVD box-set launch, said that “Pee-wee is still a wonder to behold. ‘Pee-wee's Playhouse’ is utterly timeless. When Pee-wee starts cutting up to the calliope bounce of the theme song, you know in an instant that innocence lost is often just misplaced and despite everything, you can go home again.” Robert Osborne, in the Hollywood Reporter, on the original production of “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” “Anyone who deliberately avoids the pleasure of seeing ‘The Pee-wee Herman Show’ would probably be willing to go through life without Christmas, cornbread, Häagen-Dazs and puppies.” Producers “The Pee-wee Herman Show” is produced by Jared Geller and David J. Foster. Jared Geller recent LA productions include: “Slava’s Snowshow” at Royce Hall, “Rufus Wainwright sings Judy Garland at the Hollywood Bowl.” Geller’s credits on and off Broadway include “Slava’s Snowshow” (2009 Tony Award Nomination), “Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway” (2007 Tony Award Nomination), “C’est Duckie,” “Slava’s Snowshow” (2005 Drama Desk Award), “Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching!” Recent productions at Carnegie Hall include: “Family Guy Sings!,” “Jerry Springer The Opera,” “Kiki & Herb: The Second Coming,” “Wainwright Christmas Hour,” “Rufus Wainwright Sings Judy Garland” (2009 Grammy nomination), among others He also produced the tours of “Rufus Wainwright Sings Judy Garland” (London Palladium, Paris Olympia), “Slava’s Snowshow” (USA, Mexico, Australia), “Kiki & Herb” (North America; Steppenwolf, ACT). David J Foster. Foster Entertainment is ranked on Pollstar’s “Top 100 Worldwide Promoters”, and produces Broadway, Off Broadway, concerts and tours. Highlights include: Broadway: “Slava’s Snowshow” (2009 Tony nomination), “Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway” (2007 Tony nomination); Carnegie Hall: “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” “Rufus Wainwright Sings Judy Garland” (plus London Palladium, Paris Olympia, Hollywood Bowl, 2009 Grammy nomination), “Family Guy Sings!,” “Kiki & Herb are Dead.” Off Broadway: “Slava’s Snowshow,” “The JAP Show,” “Puppetry of the Penis,” “21 Dog Years,” “Sing-a-Long Sound of Music.” Current tours: “Slava’s Snowshow” (Australia & New Zealand), “Puppetry of the Penis” (Canada, USA), and a constant stream of comedy concert tours in Australia, and internationally. # # # Calendar listing “The Pee-wee Herman Show” Venue: The Music Box @ Fonda, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028 Tickets: $38.50 - $68.50 In Person - all Ticketmaster Outlets Online - www.ticketmaster.com Phone - Ticketmaster Phone Charge: 800-745-3000. More Info:www.peewee.com *** Performance Schedule *** Previews: Sun 11/8 at 8pm; Wed 11/11 at 8pm; Thurs 11/12 at 8pm; Sat 11/14 at 7pm & 10pm; Wed 11/18 at 8pm Opening:Thursday, November 19 at 8pm Post-opening: Week ending 11/22 -- Fri 11/20 at 8pm; Sun 11/22 at 5 pm & 8pm; Week ending 11/29 -- Wed 11/25 at 8pm; Fri 11/27 at 7pm & 10pm; Sat 11/28 at 7pm & 10pm; Sun 11/29 at 5pm & 8pm The Pee-wee Herman Show press contacts Davidson & Choy Publicity Tim Choy 323-954-7510 T.Choy@dcpublicity.com Laura Shane 323-954-7510 L.Shane@dcpublicity.com
The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or “extraordinary rendition,” restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems.
The sad reality is that all the well-meaning groups and individuals who challenge our permanent war economy and the doctrine of pre-emptive war, who care about sustainable energy, fight for civil liberties and want corporate malfeasance to end, were once again suckered by the Democratic Party. They were had. It is not a new story. The Democrats have been doing this to us since Bill Clinton. It is the same old merry-go-round, only with Obama branding. And if we have not learned by now that the system is broken, that as citizens we do not matter to our political elite, that we live in a corporate state where our welfare and our interests are irrelevant, we are in serious trouble. Our last hope is to step outside of the two-party system and build movements that defy the Democrats and the Republicans. If we fail to do this we will continue to undergo a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion that will end in feudalism.
We owe Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party an apology. They were right. If a few million of us had had the temerity to stand behind our ideals rather than our illusions and the empty slogans peddled by the Obama campaign we would have a platform. We forgot that social reform never comes from accommodating the power structure but from frightening it. The Liberty Party, which fought slavery, the suffragists who battled for women’s rights, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement knew that the question was not how do we get good people to rule—those attracted to power tend to be venal mediocrities—but how do we limit the damage the powerful do to us. These mass movements were the engines for social reform, the correctives to our democracy and the true protectors of the rights of citizens. We have surrendered this power. It is vital to reclaim it. Where is the foreclosure movement? Where is the robust universal health care or anti-war movement? Where is the militant movement for sustainable energy?
“Something is broken,” Nader said when I reached him at his family home in Connecticut. “We are not at the Bangladesh level in terms of passivity, but we are getting there. No one sees anything changing. There is no new political party to give people a choice. The progressive forces have no hammer. When they abandoned our campaign they told the Democrats we have nowhere to go and will take whatever you give us. The Democrats are under no heat in the electoral arena from the left.
“There comes a point when the public imbibes the ultimatum of the plutocracy,” Nader said when asked about public apathy. “They have bought into the belief that if it protests it will be brutalized by the police. If they have Muslim names they will be subjected to Patriot Act treatment. This has scared the hell out of the underclass. They will be called terrorists.
“This is the third television generation,” Nader said. “They have grown up watching screens. They have not gone to rallies. Those are history now. They hear their parents and grandparents talk about marches and rallies. They have little toys and gizmos that they hold in their hands. They have no idea of any public protest or activity. It is a tapestry of passivity.
“They have been broken,” Nader said of the working class. “How many times have their employers threatened them with going abroad? How many times have they threatened the workers with outsourcing? The polls on job insecurity are record-high by those who have employment. And the liberal intelligentsia have failed them. They [the intellectuals] have bought into carping and making lecture fees as the senior fellow at the institute of so-and-so. Look at the top 50 intelligentsia—not one of them supported our campaign, not one of them has urged for street action and marches.”
Our task is to build movements that can act as a counterweight to the corporate rape of America. We must opt out of the mainstream. We must articulate and stand behind a viable and uncompromising socialism, one that is firmly and unequivocally on the side of working men and women. We must give up the self-delusion that we can influence the power elite from the inside. We must become as militant as those who are seeking our enslavement. If we remain passive as we undergo the largest transference of wealth upward in American history, our open society will die. The working class is being plunged into desperation that will soon rival the misery endured by the working class in China and India. And the Democratic Party, including Obama, is a willing accomplice.
“Obama is squandering his positive response around the world,” Nader said. “In terms of foreign and military policy it is a distinct continuity with Bush. Iraq, Afghanistan, the militarization of foreign policy, the continued expansion of the Pentagon budget and pursuing more globalized trade agreements are the same.”
This is an assessment that neoconservatives now gleefully share. Eliot A. Cohen, writing in The Wall Street Journal, made the same pronouncement.
“Mostly, though, the underlying structure of the policy remains the same,” Cohen wrote in an Aug. 2 opinion piece titled “What’s Different About the Obama Foreign Policy.” “Nor should this surprise us: The United States has interests dictated by its physical location, its economy, its alliances, and above all, its values. Naive realists, a large tribe, fail to understand that ideals will inevitably guide American foreign policy, even if they do not always determine it. Moreover, because the Obama foreign and defense policy senior team consists of centrist experts from the Democratic Party, it is unlikely to make radically different judgments about the world, and about American interests in it, than its predecessors.”
Nader said that Obama should gradually steer the country away from imperial and corporate tyranny.
“You don’t just put out policy statements of congeniality but statements of gradual redirection,” Nader said. “You incorporate in that statement not just demilitarization, not just ascension of smart diplomacy, but the enlargement of the U.S. as a humanitarian superpower, and cut out these Soviet-era weapons systems and start rapid response for disaster like earthquakes and tsunamis. You expand infectious disease programs which the U.N. Developmental Commission says can be done for $50 billion a year in Third World countries on nutrition, minimal health care and minimal shelter.”
Obama has expanded the assistance to our class of Wall Street extortionists through subsidies, loan guarantees and backup declarations to banks such as Citigroup. His stimulus package does not address the crisis in our public works infrastructure; instead it doles out funds to Medicaid and unemployment compensation. There will be no huge public works program to remodel the country. The president refuses to acknowledge the obvious—we can no longer afford our empire.
“Obama could raise a call to come home, America, from the military budget abroad,” Nader suggested. “He could create a new constituency that does not exist because everything is so fragmented, scattered, haphazard and slapdash with the stimulus. He could get the local labor unions, the local Chambers of Commerce and the mayors to say the more we cut the military budget the more you get in terms of public works.”
“They [administration leaders] don’t see the distinction between public power and corporate power,” Nader said. “This is their time in history to reassert public values represented by workers, consumers, taxpayers and communities. They are creating a jobless recovery, the worst of the worst, with the clear specter of inflation on the horizon. We are heading for deep water.”
The massive borrowing acts as an anesthetic. It prevents us from facing the new limitations we must learn to cope with domestically and abroad. It allows us to live in the illusion that we are not in a state of irrevocable crisis, that our decline is not real and that catastrophe has been averted. But running the national debt can work only so long.
“No one can predict the future,” Nader added hopefully. “No one knows the variables. No one predicted the move on tobacco. No one predicted gay rights. No one predicted the Berkeley student rebellion. The students were supine. You never know what will light the fire. You have to keep the pressure on. I know only one thing for sure, the whole liberal-progressive constituency is going nowhere.”
President Abbas Re-Elected Chairman of Fateh's Central Committee“Resistance Is a Legitimate Right”09/08/2009Secretary General of the Presidency, Tayyeb Abdul Rahim, announced, Saturday (yesterday), the re-election of President Abbas chairman of the Central Committee of Fateh movement.President Abbas, on his side, confirmed in a speech he pronounced before Fateh’s Sixth Conference, held in Bethlehem, that, “the conference will pay off despite Hamas.” He added, “there are issues to address. We must give space to filling gaps,” clarifying that they met for long days to look into every obstacle, WAFA news agency reported.The president added that four of the central committee’s members will be nominated, later on, in addition to 18 members who will be elected.He confirmed that differences normally exist but the priority remains the best interest for the conference and the people.Fatah Conference: “Resistance Is a Legitimate Right”In related news, Fatah general conference adopted a position paper pointing out Fatah's identity to the Palestinian people:1-Fatah commits to being a national liberating movement aiming to end the occupation and seeking the independence of the Palestinian people, it is part of the Arab liberation movement and the International Power Front which seeks freedom and independence of peoples.2-Fatah's mainly contradicts with the Israeli occupation and any other contradictions are considered minor ones which can be resolved by communication and dialogue , it reserves the right in using all the available means in defense of the national unity, the Palestinian legitimacy and the independent Palestinian decision.3-Fatah will always remain loyal to the martyrs and their sacrifices and will struggle for their freedom, it clings to the national constants of the Palestinian people including the liberation of Jerusalem and the Palestinian land, the return of refugees and removing settlements.4-Despite clinging to comprehensive fair peace, we will not give up any of our options, we believe that resistance is a legitimate right for all peoples under occupation in encountering the occupiers.5-This announcement is an integral part of the political program of the Sixth General Conference of the Palestinian Liberation Movement "Fatah".
It’s been a busy and interesting week regarding developments in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the U.S.
First, there was the report in the Mexican media on July 29 that an investigation by officials from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police into the murder of U.S. independent journalist Brad Will affirmed the conclusions drawn by the Mexican Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) regarding his death. The PGR, contrary to all available evidence, claims Will, shot in Oaxaca in 2006, was killed at close range by a anti-government protester. The media reports raised more questions than they answered. For example, why was the RCMP investigating this, and why, as evident from the reports, did they carry out such a clearly laughable investigation?
These questions and more were answered when Brad Will’s family released a statement soundly debunking the so-called RCMP report. As it turns out, there was no official RCMP investigation. It was merely three retired RCMP officers who did an “investigation” which the Mexican government then presented to the media as an official RCMP report. Today, Physicians for Human Rights – a group that actually did investigate Brad’s murder – issued a press release that similarly called into question the veracity of the ex-RCMPers report. James Stephen, Phil Ziegler and Gary Buerk certainly have some serious rebutting to do if they don’t want to be tarnished as integrity-free hacks-for-hire. Although I’m sure there’s always a market for those types.
The conclusions of another “investigation” regarding Oaxaca were released Tuesday by Mexico’s Supreme Court. They took it upon themselves to investigate the actions of the state and federal governments who brutally repressed the 2006 uprising. Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court found the use of force – which left 27 dead and hundreds injured, arrested and tortured – to be legitimate. This is the same court which found the murders and mass rapes by police that occurred in Atenco in 2006 to be unworthy of investigating either.
But one question remains – why all these reports stating how the Mexican state is not at fault for the atrocities of 2006 in Oaxaca? The answer can be found in Plan Mexico, aka the Merida Initiative. The three-year, $1.4 billion aid (mostly military) package to Mexico and Central America has a human rights requirement for Mexico. Yearly, the U.S. State Department must certify Mexico’s respect for human rights and the Congress must approve that certification. If that doesn’t happen, then Mexico loses 15% of the Plan Mexico funds. Of course, Mexico gets the other 85% no matter how many people it tortures and kills, but it could do it much more effectively if it got 100% of the funds.
Also, later this month both Clinton and Obama are to visit Mexico to see how the U.S.’s hegemonic efforts under the tutelage of Felipe Calderon are holding up. The family of Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno – the Oaxacan social activist being framed by Mexico for the murder of Brad Will – is requesting an audience with Obama in Mexico City. The Mexican government would of course rather avoid this and any other scrutiny of its human rights record, while at the same time receiving all the Plan Mexico funds. So the timing of the non-RCMP and Supreme Court reports saying that everything is fine in Oaxaca is no surprise.
However, it appears that their efforts have all been for naught. For while Clinton’s State Dept. dutifully certified Mexico’s human rights record this week, even though human rights complaints have risen 600% under Calderon’s regime, Senator Leahy on Wednesday blocked the certification from being voted upon in the Senate, basically saying he doesn’t believe the State Dept. Maybe Amnesty International got to him. This means that, at least for the time being, the Mexican government will only have 85% of the Plan Mexico funds at its disposal to deploy against the social movements demanding justice and an end to impunity. Which, given that Plan Mexico shouldn’t exist at all, is still appallingly too much.
As the casualty figures climb in Afghanistan and dip in Iraq and support for those wars plummets, the question of troop resistance remains on the table. According to US military estimates, desertion and AWOL rates have climbed since the resistance in Iraq began its armed campaign against the US occupation. In addition, recruitment numbers dropped drastically, although they have began to climb since the economy began its collapse in Fall 2008. Soldiers and Marines have been stop-lossed and their tours of duty in the combat zones were extended. In addition, many troops serve not one, but two or three consecutive tours with as little as one month stateside between tours. All of these phenomena have created increased levels of stress and depression among the troops, leading to one of the highest known suicide rates among veterans and active duty troops ever.
Many readers know at least one man or woman who has done time in Iraq or Afghanistan. Although most vets seem to adjust to civilian life once they are through with their military duty, many others do not. indeed, even those who appear to be adjusting just fine often cause concern among their friends and relatives because of changes in their behavior. The Veteran’s Administration (VA) is notoriously inept and callous in its treatment of vets, despite the best efforts of some individuals within the organization that struggle against the overwhelming bureaucratic odds and inadequate funding endemic in the agency. Newspapers run stories regularly about veterans lacking care, lashing out at family members or others, and most tragically of all, killing themselves. Yet, the Pentagon continues to push for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan while carrying on what appears to be a heated debate over whether or not to withdraw from Iraq.
Meanwhile, the US antiwar movement founders in the wake of a substantial part of its membership giving their collective soul to the Democratic Party. Since November 2008, it’s as if the bloodshed perpetrated by US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan is okay because Barack Obama is leading the charge instead of George Bush. Besides the National Assembly’s call for local and regional protests against the Iraq occupation and Afghan war in October, there has been barely a peep from other national antiwar organizations. This is despite the fact that Congress and Obama have approved several more billion dollars for the wars and the size of the US force in Afghanistan has nearly doubled while the promised withdrawal of US forces in Iraq has not even begun.
It is the opinion of many anti-warriors that veterans have a key role to play in any organized resistance. After all, it was their presence in the movement against the Vietnam war that shook the conscience of the US public in that war’s later years. However, as Dahr Jamail and his subjects point out again and again, the strength in numbers and the political power of the GI movement against the war in Vietnam was directly related to the strength of the greater antiwar movement. So, despite the commitment of today’s GI and veteran resisters profiled in Jamail’s book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, that commitment is limited by the weakness of the antiwar movement as a whole.
Jamail highlights the various organizations organizing GI resistance, from the Iraq Veterans Against the War to the group Courage to Resist. He also commits a chapter to each of the primary forms of resistance and reasons for that resistance. He describes instances of individual resistance and the refusal of entire units to carry out missions. He also explores the nature of the sexist culture of the military and the immorality of the wars themselves. One of the most interesting chapters in The Will to Resist is titled “Quarters of Resistance.” It describes the mission and interior of a house in Washington, DC run by a couple veterans. The purpose of the house is to operate as a sort of clearinghouse for the GI resistance movement. At times, the house has provided shelter for veterans and GIs attending antiwar activities in DC. It is also a place that the founder of the house, Geoffrey Millard, calls a “training ground for resistance.” In addition to these quarters, Jamail discusses the beginnings of a coffeehouse movement slowly developing outside major US military bases.
Jamal’s book is also about his learning to understand and appreciate the humanity of the US soldier. Originally inclined to consider them all killers without conscience, his conversations and other interactions with the young men and women who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan to kill in America’s name have led him to understand that many of these folks struggle with their souls on a daily basis. With this growing understanding of folks who are essentially his contemporaries, The Will to Resist becomes more than just another collective biography of troops who discover their conscience under the duress of war.
If the current commander of US troops in Afghanistan has his way, there will be more than 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan by the end of the summer in 2010. Already, Barack Obama has approved adding 20,000 more active duty troops to the 1,473,900 already on duty. Without public protest, the escalation of the war in Afghanistan is certain to continue. In addition, General Odierno in Iraq insists that US troops remain in that country, as well. Furthermore, the likelihood of combat against other foes chosen by Washington increases. Resistance is never easy, as the men and women in The Will to Resist can tell us. However, if the people who poured into the streets to protest Bush’s war are truly opposed to war, then they should also make an appearance in those same streets now that the war is Obama’s.
Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. His most recent novel Short Order Frame Up is published by Mainstay Press.
Scientists have recently discovered that living things including human beings actually emit a light that is 1,000 times less concentrated than the form of light the naked eye is able to view. Japanese scientists used an extra sensitive camera to pick up these miniscule light rays that are able to detect single photons. In the study, young men were placed bare-chested in front of cameras in total darkness “for 20 minutes every three hours from 10 am to 10 pm for three days.” The amount of emitted light appeared to rise and fall throughout the day, reaching its lowest point at 10 am, peaking at 4 pm and then steadily dropping after that. Furthermore, faces seemed to glow the most, due to their exposure to sunlight. Researcher Hitoshi Okamura thinks that, since the emission of this light is linked to our metabolism, this new discovery could be used to detect certain medical conditions.
Image: "glowing-hands"courtesy geekologie.com via creativecommons.org.
*From: Peace and FreedomPeace and Freedom PartyDate: Aug 5, 2009 11:46 AMSubject: Help!Body: We can’t seem to shake this two-party system!www.peaceandfreedom.org*LMFAO...The Noam Show"...truth-like properties"*Beck invites a bunch of his musician friends over to jam for a day covering an album track-by-track, then releases the results piecemealBeck - Waiting for the Manhttp://aquariumdrunkard.org/songs/Beck%20-%20Im%20Waiting%20For%20The%20Man.mp3Beck - Venus in Furshttp://aquariumdrunkard.org/songs/Beck%20-%20Venus%20in%20Furs.mp3’60s Choice Collection of Scarcest Garage Recordshttp://www.aquariumdrunkard.com/2009/08/04/60s-choice-collection-of-scarcest-garage-records-2/* "Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave." --Indira Gandhi*Sex, Abundance and Sustainability, by Marnia RobinsonIf you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.This is because the mind is the governing aspect of a human life.Eliminate mental muddiness and obscurity; keep your mind crystal clear.Quiet your emotions and abide in serenity.--Hua Hu Ching (collection of Daoist wisdom)*Musicka Mystica Maxima, and could not be more excited. What is Musicka Mystica Maxima you ask? Why I'll tell you! It is a 2 night music festival taking place on September 21st and 22nd here in NYC at Santos Party House, which will feature music and ceremonies of the magical-with-a-k variety. Or, as per their site: "Two nights of musick made by practicing magicians or practicing musicians whose work celebrates the magical lifestyle, as well a public performance of ceremonial magic ritual."*Open Letter to the Commander, US Sixth Fleet - Plea for Armed Escort to Gaza*You Gotta Know These Hindu Deities and Heroes
Books of The TimesFrom: New York Times...Moses and Jacobs clashed during the 1950s and ’60s over three of the huge public works projects Moses tried to force on Manhattan. It is hard even to list them now without cringing — or nearly weeping with gratitude that they never came to pass.There was his plan to build a four-lane highway through the middle of Washington Square Park. Another project would have razed 14 blocks in the heart of Greenwich Village under the guise of urban renewal. There was also a plan to plunge a 10-lane elevated superhighway, to be called the Lower Manhattan Expressway, through SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown and the Lower East Side.Each of these projects is, from today’s vantage point, clearly insane; each would have had cataclysmic effects on the quality of life in Manhattan. But their flaws were less obvious to many at the time. It took an accidental activist, Jacobs, and her ability to marshal popular support and political will, to stop them. The battles over all three projects form the spine of “Wrestling With Moses.”Robert Moses (1888-1981) and Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) were almost perfect antagonists. He grew up wealthy on East 46th Street in Manhattan, attended Yale and Oxford and, after becoming a close aid to Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York in the 1920s, held a series of appointed positions that allowed him to become, for more than four decades, the driving and nearly omnipotent force behind the rapidly changing physical environment of New York. ...Mr. Flint neatly summarizes all three battles between Jacobs and her forces and Moses and his. He captures Mr. Moses’s pique at being stymied. “There is nobody against this,” he sputtered about the Washington Square Park plan. “Nobody, nobody, nobody but a bunch of, a bunch of mothers.”Mr. Flint describes how “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” came to be written, and puts it in context amid the classics of dissent in the early 1960s, books that included “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan, “The Other America” by Michael Harrington and “Unsafe at Any Speed” by Ralph Nader.Jacobs became famous (she was photographed by Diane Arbus for Esquire), but she ultimately grew tired of the spotlight and of public battles; she wanted to spend more time writing books. She and her family moved in 1968 to Toronto, partly for the peace and quiet (though she was dragged into urban planning issues there) and partly so her sons would not be drafted to fight in Vietnam.About her years on the barricades, she later told one interviewer: “I hate the government for making my life absurd.”http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/books/05garner.html?_r=1&hpw
The topic of my essay is the current weakness of the US left, by which I mean those of us who want a democratic and egalitarian society, a demilitarized world, and a respectful relationship between humans, other creatures, and the natural environment, those of us who are convinced that this will require a massive redistribution of power and wealth, within the US and internationally. This is hardly the only possible definition of the left. Some on the right use the term in a way that includes all Democratic office holders, and anyone who votes for them. Some use the term to include anyone who favors a firmer challenge to corporate interests than the Obama administration is willing to countenance. Those who fit this description might be called left liberals, or progressives, and they are like leftists in many ways: they support changes that leftists also support, and collectively, like the left, they are fragmented, disorganized, and have less impact than their numbers would warrant. The difference is that they tend not to see the need for fundamental, structural social change. My essay is concerned with those of us who do see such a need.
I believe that as long as capitalism holds sway our ability to achieve the social order described above will be at best partial and tenuous. The profit motive is not a basis for a society that could be counted on to promote peace, demoracy, equality, or a viable relationship between humans and the rest of the planet. The neo-liberal form of capitalism is more destructive of human society, other species, and the environment than any previous form of capitalism. It would be difficult to consider anyone who is not critical of capitalism part of the left. But hardly anyone, even among those of us who consider ourselves socialists, thinks that socialism can be achieved any time soon. If we were to pose the quest for socialism as the most urgent aim of the left, or, worse, to pose it against reforms short of socialism, we would find ourselves ignored, by progressives as well as the mainstream and the right. Probably the best we can hope for, for the foreseeable future, is a form of democratic socialism in which capitalism is severely regulated, and some redistribution of wealth and power is achieved through regulation of corporations, the expansion of state spending on social programs, and a dramatic increase in popular participation in politics. If such a shift could be achieved, it would alter the balance of power between the corporate elite and the rest of us, and would constitute a step toward socialism. But making socialism the most immediate issue on our agenda would be self-defeating.
Another reason not to make socialism our central issue is that there is a large sector of the left that rejects capitalism but is at least ambivalent about socialism. Anarchism is the dominant orientation among young radical activists, and while the vast majority is anti-capitalist, many look forward to a decentralized and stateless society that they would not describe as socialist. While I can't see how a society can function without some governing structure, the question of what form that might take in a post-capitalist society seems to me a legitimate question. One legacy of the lerft's past that I think we need to avoid is readiness to define those whom one disagrees with out of the left. I envision a left that includes anarchists, Marxists, and everyone in between, or perhaps approaching the left with a different vocabulary altogether. There remain ethical boundaries: Stalinism should have been rejected in the past, and support for repressive and authoritarian movements, or states, remains alien to a democratic left. But it seems to me that there should be room for debate about the relationship of the left to the state.
The problem with debating the fine points of a left vision is that, in the US, we barely have a left. The first question, it seems to me, is, why is the left so weak, and what can we do about it? The movements of the sixties had a great impact on American society, shifting many people to the left, and leaving a legacy that has shaped the views of large numbers of young people. But most of the left organizations of the sixties collapsed as the movements that they had sustained lost their impetus. The central ideas of those movements were social equality at home and an end to US wars of aggression and the aim of US world domination that lies behind them. These ideas drew a large sector of a generation into political activity; they were, and remain, enormously compelling. But they came to be intertwined with other ideas that were considerably less persuasive, most of them connected with the illusion, widespread among left activists of the late sixties and early seventies, that revolution was around the corner. Though hardly anyone on the left still thinks that revolution is imminent, many of the ideas that arose in connection with this view continue to plague the left, and to narrow its appeal. Perhaps these ideas hung on in part because the mass participation organizations of the movements of the sixties disappeared, and with them any arena for collective reconsideration of which of the ideas of the movements of the sixties were valid and should be carried forward, and which had done damage and should be abandoned.
The left organizations of the sixties and early seventies were, on the whole, not designed to last. This was partly because the movements of the time were youth movements, and thought of themselves as such. Very little thought was put into the question of what the left would look like when we ceased to be young. For many of us, our left politics and our youth were so intertwined that we avoided confronting the possibility that one day we would no longer be young. For some left activity may have been a youthful fling, to be abandoned, ultimately, with a certain relief. The Communist Party, and other organizations of the Old Left, were founded on the view that social change was a lifetime commitment. The movements of the sixties for the most part did not address this issue.
The Old Left was built on the assumption that strong organizations were the foundation for a strong and effective left, and in the early years of the New Left the same assumption held. Members of SNCC, SDS, and other organizations of the Civil Rights movement and the northern student movement were dedicated to building and strengthening those organizations. But there was also a widespread view, especially in the northern student movement, that the enemy was "the system" and the bureaucracy entailed in it, that the movement represented spontaneity against structure. In many of the organizations of the early sixties there was enough internal agreement and willingness to compromise that a spirit of spontaneity was more a strength than a weakness. In the latter part of the sixties spontaneity remained a strength: the "let a hundred flowers bloom" mentality created room for the young people, pouring into the movement, to express their rage at the war and at the system as a whole in myriad ways.
Spontaneity and the suspicion of organization also became a weakness for the movements of the sixties. These principles were taken to extremes, as in cases of radical feminist groups in which those who took on leadership roles might be attacked simply for occupying those roles. It was also a factor in the collapse of organizations that held the movement together and that might have provided the basis for a continuation of the left beyond the end of the war. In the last years of the sixties the leadership of SDS became consumed by bitter conflicts among several ideological tendencies, each arguing on behalf of a particular path toward the revolution. SDS was by this time very large: it had hundreds of chapters and perhaps 100,000 members. But most chapters functioned largely autonomously and paid little attention to the debates taking place in leading circles. When the battle among the sectarian groupings at the center tore the organization apart, there was no one to point out that keeping the organization alive was more important. In some parts of the US, as in the Bay Area, for the most part organizations of the left didn't even take hold. In Berkeley each new crisis prompted the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee, consisting of self-appointed leaders, which would call demonstrations and issue statements. Between crises movement activity would subside. Many, perhaps most of those who considered themselves part of the movement belonged to no ongoing organizations, except perhaps households consisting of movement supporters. As long as the war lasted, and especially as long as the draft was in effect, the movement remained strong. But once the war was over the movement dissipated, with few structures remaining to sustain left influence in a different period.
Suspicion of organization was not universal in the movements of the late sixties. The Marxist-Leninist/Maoist/New Communist current, often called the party building movement, took the opposite approach and constructed hierarchical, tightly disciplined organizations modelled on revolutionary organizations in China and elsewhere in the Third World, intended as vanguard parties that would lead the revolution. The Black Panther Party and some other radical organizations of people of color adopted similar organizational styles. This sector of the movement had considerable influence on the thinking of activists throughout the movement, but more for their confidence that the revolution was imminent, their focus on anti-imperialism, and their identification with Third World movements, than for the structure of their organizations, which were hierarchical and often authoritarian, were at odds with the spirit of the movement and appealed to only a minority of activists. But Maoism, the dominant ideological current in the party-building movement, had a profound impact on the movement as a whole. Maoism introduced a theory of anti-imperialism that made sense in the context of the war in Vietnam: that the "main contradiction" was no longer capitalism versus socialism, but US imperialism versus the anti-imperialist movement. The view that a revolution could take place, soon, in the US, was also promoted by Maoism, along with the idea that the prospects for revolution had more to do with the discipline and dedication of a revolutionary movement than with conditions external to the movement. Maoism encouraged the view that "Third World people" in the US would lead the revolution. And it encouraged a dismissive view of democracy and human rights.
The movements of the late sixties and the early seventies undermined themselves not only through their ambivalence toward organization but also by adopting perspectives that were not very credible at the time (and, to the extent that these perspectives have persisted, they are considerably less credible now). In the late sixties and early seventies it was widely assumed, among radical activists, that the revolution was around the corder. The word "revolution" meant different things in different sectors of the movement: to those in the radical core of the anti-war movement, who generally identified with one or another version of Marxism, it meant the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism; to radical feminists it meant a restructuring of gender relations; to many activists of color it meant an end to racism and whatever changes in the social order might be necessary to bring that about. To virtually everyone who adopted it, the idea of revolution was intoxicating, and few looked closely into what it meant or how it would come about. In fact there was no basis for revolution. Only a very small sector of young activists was committed to revolution. A much larger number used the word, but more to indicate the depth of their anger than out of any intention of overthrowing either the state or the capitalist system. Very few outside the radical youth movement had any interest in revolution.
The belief that revolution was possible took hold partly due to the example of Third World revolutions and revolutionary movements, and partly because the approach of "working within the system," trying to induce the government to adhere to the espoused liberal, democratic values of the US, was not working. Democrats in power were at best reluctant allies of the Civil Rights movement, unwilling to confront the violent backlash against it. Self-proclaimed liberals were running the War in Vietnam, and shutting the anti-war movement out of the political arena. First in the Civil Rights movement and then in the anti-war movement, many activists came to the conclusion that it was time to turn to revolution, leading to a debate over what sector of the population would lead the revolution. Some argued that it would be the "new working class," students and professional and technical workers. Many students were at least becoming open to the possibility of revolution, but professional and technical workers were not following suit, so this proposal was abandoned. A few argued that women, not just individuals but massive movements of women, would lead the revolution, but this idea did not take hold in the left as a whole, and in fact, while very large numbers of women were turning toward feminism, they were not necessarily adopting the cause of revolution. Some looked to the working class, and dropped out of school to take factory jobs in the hope of promoting radical activity among workers. This produced little in the way of results.
By the late sixties the dominant view on the left was that blacks or more generally "Third World people" would be the agents of revolution, due to their special oppression, and also their support for revolutions in the Third World. It was true that significant numbers of young blacks, some young Chicanos and Native Americans, and a much smaller number of young Asians, were turning toward revolution. But in none of these cases did the turn toward revolution include large numbers of adults, or for that matter more than a small minority of the youth. Very large numbers of blacks, especially young blacks, were angry about the persistence of racism and especially the War in Vietnam and the disproportionate numbers of black recruits and black casualties. Movement activists' tendency to equate anger and militancy with revolution made it possible to mistake widespread black anger over racism and the war for revolutionary sentiment. By the late sixties and early seventies the American public as a whole was turning against the war. Young radicals, at the center of that movement, similarly tended to mistake popular support for their opposition to the war for revolutionary potential.
Revolution, in the late sixties and early seventies, was intertwined with anti-imperialism, due to the centrality of the war in Vietnam to radical activism, and to the solidarity of anti-war radicals with anti-imperialist movements and states in the Third World. On the one hand such solidarity was an enormous achievement. Few American young people had even heard of Vietnam before the Gulf of Tonkin made it headline news; few knew much of anything about China or even Cuba before the struggle against the war, and US imperialism, brought the Third World into the movement's line of vision. Over the course of the war large numbers of American young people came to see the war as imperialist. Ohers understood the war as a mistake, but nevertheless aligned themselves with the Vietnamese people rather than with their own government. Neither anti-imperialism nor solidarity with a foreign people had ever before taken hold, in a US movement, to this extent. But the conceptions of anti-imperialism and of international solidarity that spread through the movement were simplistic. Many radical activists regarded the world as divided between US imperialism and its allies, on the one hand, and the forces of anti-imperialism on the other. According to this way of thinking, everything bad that happened in the world was the result of US influence, and anti-imperialist movements were inherently and necessarily progressive. Solidarity, it was thought, meant uncritical support for the movement one was in solidarity with, and imitating the strategy and organizational form of that movement in the US.
Finally, in the movements of the late sixties and early seventies it was widely assumed that radicalism and separatism were linked. The radical wing of the black movement was the first to adopt separatism, the radical wing of the women's movement followed suit. There were good reasons for blacks, women, and others to form separate organization, or to meet in their own caucuses in general organizations. But separatism, and the fragmentation of the movement, came to be equated with militancy and revolutionary sentiment. The pursuit of unity, or even of a common purpose, became suspect.
Many of the ideological problems of the left in the late sixties and early seventies were particularly linked to the influence of Maoism, though also supported by other currents in the movement (the disappointment with and hostility to liberalism of a broad spectrum of activists) and by events (the War in Vietnam, the Sino-Soviet split and the upsurge of revolutionary movements in the Third World aligned with China). Maoism promoted the view that revolution could take place in the US, that its prospects depended more on the dedication and discipline of revolutionary activists than on conditions external to the movement. It supported the view that "Third World" people in the US would lead the revolution, that the revolution would be tied to revolutions in the Third World, and that they would follow patterns established by those movements, in those societies. It encouraged the view that the "main contradiction" in the world was the conflict between US imperialism and anti-imperialist movements, led by the Third World, and that democracy and human rights were secondary concerns, tainted by their association with the West.
Hardly anyone on the left still thinks that revolution is around the corner. But many of the ideas that accompanied this conviction, in the movements of the late sixties and seventies, persist in the contemporary left. It is widely assumed that the more oppressed or marginalized a group is, the more strongly it will support the agenda of the left. The US left has a very mixed history in regard to issues of race and homosexuality, and these, as well as issues having to do with gender, need to be continually addressed if the left is to be a vehicle for a shift toward a more egalitarian society. Efforts need to be made to include more people of color, women and gays (and for that matter, working class people) in the left. In recent years anti-Semitism has also become an issue in certain sectors of the left. But vigilance in regard to these issues should not be confused with an expectation that any sector of the population can is the constituency of the left. The view that the most oppressed will be the strongest and most effective agents of social change almost always turns out to be wrong. Under most circumstances people need a degree of stability and security in their lives in order to consistently engage in social action. Furthermore neither oppression nor marginality necessarily leads to left politics.
The term US imperialism has come to be widely used though with a somewhat different meaning than in the sixties. Many people, not only in the left, recognize that the US has sought to impose its will on the rest of the world, and that this is not good for those whom the US seeks to dominate or for the US itself. But it has become glaringly obvious that movements and states that oppose the US are as likely to be reactionary as progressive. Those who twist themselves into knots trying to find reasons to support Ahmadinejad, or Al Queda, only discredit themselves and the left. It has also become obvious that the world is too complex to fit into a simple opposition between the US, or the West generally, and everyone else. There are dictatorships that are opposed to the US, and there are liberation movements that identify with the West. The US continues to do a great deal of damage in the world, as in the case of the US occupation of Iraq. But as the ability of the US to determine world events declines, it becomes less and less convincing to portray US imperialism as the source of all evil.
Separatism as a principle of left organization made more sense in the sixties than it does now. As an occasional organizing tool it still makes sense: sometimes people of color, or women, or members of other groups, need to organize by themselves. But this does not have to mean a fragmented left. Without a sense of common purpose, the left is weak, and all the fragments suffer. In the eighties and nineties fragmentation was promoted by the sector of the academic left that was conducting a campaign against grand narratives, for reasons that had more to do with gaining ascendancey within academia than with advancing left politics. A shrill version of identity politics was sustained longer than it might otherwise have been in this context, and was a major pillar of a left culture in which many people hesitated to speak for fear of being denounced for sins ranging from racism through anti-Semitism. Sometimes these problems have been real, but the atmosphere of denunciation has done little to build the left. This culture has thankfully dissipated, but while it was at its height it made the left, especially left academia, unpleasant and often disfunctional, and undermined support for the left.
The membership organizations that formed the basis of the left in the sixties and early seventies have disappeared or shrivelled and have not been replaced. In the late seventies and eighties there were efforts to build new movements of the left on the same basis (the anti-nuclear movement, the movement against the arms race, the solidarity movement) but these did not take hold on anything like the scale of the movements of the sixties/early seventies. By the eighties, many left activists had abandoned the idea of forming membership organizations and were instead becoming part of the non-profit sector, forming small, staff-run organizations that focused on particular issues and sent newsletters and appeals for money to supporters. Meanwhile the right had decided to emulate the practice that the left was abandoning, organizing large membership organizations. The success of the right in this effort demonstrated that such organizations could still be built. They had ceased to exist, on the left, either because left activists had decided to focus their efforts elsewhere, or because the constituencies supporting the left had lost interest in joining organizations, or some combination of the two.
We now have a very large number of non-profits concerned with progressive issues, several left journals and several annual conferences explicitly associated with the left. There is a strong left presence in academia, in publishing, and in a number of professions (health care, for instance). In many cities there are particular neighborhoods where left influence is concentrated and there are small cities that lean strongly to the left (Berkeley, Amherst, Santa Cruz). In many such places left, or at least progressive, events take place fairly regularly. For those living in these communities, it is easy to forget how isolated and lacking in influence the left is nationally. There are no large organizations of the left, capable of giving it a voice in the public arena. For most people, being on the left means participating in an arena of opinion: voting for the Democratic candidate furthest to the left, reading The Nation or other left journals, associating with people who think similarly, writing checks to progressive non-profits and occasionally attending a demonstration.
There is a much more activist, anarchist-leaning youth movement. Its members were instrumental in organizing the Seattle 1999 protests against the WTO and subsequent protests against neo-liberalism, in mobilizing protest against the War in Iraq. Since then many have turned to anti-racist and other social justice campaigns. But this movement has failed to spread widely. It requires a high level of involvement; many of its members sustain this by holding jobs in the non-profit sector, allowing for an overlap between work and political activity. There are few organizations, on the left, designed for people who hold ordinary jobs. On the whole those involved in political activity are students or recently out of school, those who hold jobs on the left, retired people, and those with independent incomes. For others who might want to participate in political activity, there is often no place to go.
The lessons that I draw from this history are:
1) We need organizations. First, we need an organization, or perhaps organizations, of the left. A sense of common purpose and an atmosphere of comradeship should create an arena in which differences of perspective can be discussed in a friendly way, and in which differences of time commitment can be accomodated. It should be possible for people with jobs to be active members of left organizations. People on the left should organize progressive organizations: we need those as well.
2) Left organizations should uphold a set of principles that might be described as socialist-humanist (with the meaning of "humanism" expanded to include other living creatures and the environment). We should avoid focusing on the socialist component of this diad in a way that would narrow or marginalize the left.
3) We should judge our political positions against our core principles: social equality, substantive, participatory democracy, anti-militarism, human and animal rights, environmental balance and sustainability. We should reject positions that conflict with these principles, or with evidence, logic and common sense. Any position that would be laughed at by anyone other than a confirmed leftist should at least be reconsidered.
*With thanks to John Sanbonmatsu for helpful criticisms and suggestions.
The internet needs to get itself some more information about Pieter Schoolwerth. His work plays with dimension and perspective in endlessly surprising ways. I love his how cram-packed his paintings are with iconography and weird little sub-vignettes. Get a load of that baby-faced flower in a jar, for instance.
ELIAS: “I am aware that all of you would choose, in your common terms, in your perceptions, to generate what you would term to be the perfect world. In actuality, it is already perfect in the manner it is expressed. But your idea of the perfect world would be Utopia, one of continuous harmony, or at least one in which there is not severe violence and one in which you are not generating such severity in extremes in opposition. But masses are comprised of individuals; there can be no mass without individuals. Therefore, it is the energy of the individuals that create the mass and the energy of the individuals that ripple throughout consciousness that create opposition or cooperation.
“As you perceive extreme situations and extreme expressions occurring within your reality, what type of energy are you projecting and which are you contributing to? Opposition or cooperation? Do you cooperate or do you oppose in your interactions with the individuals within your environment? Are you cooperating or opposing with yourselves? What type of actions and interactions are you yourselves generating? For that is not merely confined to your individual environment. Consciousness is consciousness, and it is all interconnected. Whatever you express is connected to all other expressions of consciousness and is generating a contribution.
“What you do not like within your world presently and what you do not agree with presently you can express cooperation with and generate alterations. But if you are opposing in equal measure to what you oppose, you merely perpetuate that type of energy being expressed within your reality. If you express similar energy in opposition to the actions of other individuals as has motivated them, you are expressing no differently in your energy.” [session 1799, July, 2005]
A video grab shows pro-Chavez activists with tear gas storming the Globovision building [AFP]
Members of a Venezuelan party that supports Hugo Chavez, the country's president, have stormed the head office of an opposition television station.
Activists with the Venezuelan People's Union (UPV) on Monday fired tear gas as they pushed into the Globovision headquarters in the capital Caracas, images broadcast by the station showed.
Chavez's government condemned the storming of Globovision, a small news organisation that has been critical of the president's policies.
"In the name of the Bolivarian government we firstly want to condemn this attack energetically and reject this type of violent action against Globovision," Tareck El Aissami, the interior minister, said on the state television channel VTV.
"We don't accept that violence be the instrument to solve our differences," he said.
But the owners of Globovision said they had suspicions that Chavez knew in advance of the UPV's plan to force their way into the channel's headquarters.
"I can only think it was an order from Miraflores," Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Globovision, said, referring to the presidential palace.
Al Jazeera's Dima Khatib, reporting from Caracas, said the attack comes at a very critical time in Venezuela with lots of debate over media ethics and the government's measures against private media.
"Globovision is more than just a television channel here; it mobilises opposition and almost acts like a political party," she said.
Globovision workers said that the attackers waved guns as they pushed into the compound. A police officer on guard was hurt in the incident, the organisation added.
The Venezuelan government has in recent weeks launched a series of measures against private media companies.
Thirty-four radio stations were shut down over the weekend on the Chavez administration's orders and 120 more are under examination for alleged irregularities.
Critics say Chavez is trying to muzzle criticism of his rule.
Globovision was last month fined $2m for back taxes and officials have twice raided Zuloaga's property, alleging that he illegally resold cars and kept stuffed wild animals.
The Venezuelan government has said that it is monitoring Globovision, with a view to imposing punitive measures against the channel.
RCTV, a popular channel critical of the Chavez government, went off the terrestrial airwaves in Venezuela in 2007 after the government refused to renew its free-to-air licence, although it is still available via satellite, cable and online.
From: http://www.nerve.comHaving studied sexual fetishes for twenty years (which is itself a kind of fetish), I'm long past the investigation of shoes, pain, vomit and rubbing up against people on the subway. My first real job out of college was working as the circulation manager for the Spectator, a Bay Area adult-entertainment publication, which was fueled by classified advertising — often for very distinctive "services" and interests. While there, I became acquainted with a number of memorable characters: Peg Leg, a one-legged call girl with a very full dance ticket (and some remarkable prosthetic attachments); The Coach (gym shorts, silver whistle, clipboard); and a sexually ambiguous individual who just called him/herself "The Sneezer." (I'll let you use your imagination there.)
I'd been given a peek into a secret world, which eventually inspired a full-fledged research effort into fetishes. Having collected so many delightful anomalies over the years, I'd feel almost cruel not to share them. Here are my ten favorites.
Catoptrophilia — Unusual titillation in the presence of mirrors
At first glance, this may seem to be one of the most widespread: take mirrors on bedroom ceilings, or the ever-increasing number of sex tapes made by both celebs and amateurs. But catroptrophilia is quite a bit stranger. I've spoken at length with four catroptophiles, and despite divergent backgrounds, their remarks have some eerie similarities. What they're excited by is the perception of a kind of Other — a psychic double or doppelganger. "I'm haunted," one man told me, "by this idea that I had a twin brother who died at birth — or worse, was adopted out. In the mirror I catch a glimpse of him again." Although exclusively heterosexual in his physical relations, his greatest fantasy — and the essence of his fetish — was imagined sex with his phantom twin. (Think of Woody Allen's famous quip about masturbation: "Don't laugh, it's sex with someone I love.") A female interviewee put it very succinctly: "She knows what I like."
Macrophilia — The attraction to giants, especially domination by giant women
Remember those 1950s horror films about colossal women? For those who love to be afraid of very big women, the Museum of Sex in New York has a fabulous exhibit on this fetish. More mundanely, we see hints of it in all those odd couples: little, reedy men and large, "ample" women. I met one couple where the size difference was so profound, the husband was referred to intimately as "The Dildo" — his whole body was seen as a sexual organ relative to his massive partner's bulk and stature.
Pogonophilia — The fixation on bearded men
Once, interviewing a woman with this fetish, I showed her four pictures of naked men: a well-endowed eighteen-year-old model, an extremely thin bearded man in his early thirties, a heavily muscled former professional athlete in his late forties, and Peter North, the porn star. Asked to choose the most "virile and masculine" of the group, she selected the bearded man instantly. What I didn't tell her was that the bearded man had terminal cancer and was quite seriously ill. Her selection directly defies the view that our choices of "attractiveness" are driven by an instinctual appraisal of health and reproductive capacity. When I presented a Photoshop-modified picture of the man without his beard, she no longer recognized him. In fact, she was repelled.
Asked to choose the most "virile and masculine" of the group, she selected the bearded man instantly.
Chremastistophilia — Excitement at being robbed or held up
I've met several chremastistophiles, all of whom had been arrested on petty charges at some point in their lives — drug possession, minor theft, etc. All expressed a strong libido, but also a climax dysfunction. They got aroused, they just didn't get off easily.
What magical thing finally provided that long-awaited release? The experience of being taken advantage of — which is different from out-and-out assault. It's a variation on biastophilia, the perverse attraction to being raped, but the key distinction seems to lie in the impending threat itself. "Give me your wallet and nobody gets hurt" — that kind of thing.
One British gentleman proudly displayed the scar he received from a knife wound in the course of a mugging — an event which he said led to a spontaneous ejaculation, the most powerful and substantial he'd ever experienced. (While the sight of the knife wound continues to unhinge me.)
Agalmatophilia — The arousal by statues, mannequins, dolls and effigies
With so many animatronic characters in our midst, we're really not that far from artificial sex partners. Japanese robotics innovators are already on the case. Wouldn't sex robots solve many problems associated with prostitution: moral, social, hygienic? In any case, this fetish casts a rather ominous light on seemingly harmless activities like doll collecting, and even ventriloquism — after all, a ventriloquist's job is to merge with the immobilized puppet in question. One Oakland woman I met derived acute arousal from being treated like a doll or mannequin by her female partner, whether she was being stripped, posed, redressed into clothes again, or restrained. The process of manipulation, the loss of all will and direction, brought her a kind of release that she said (tellingly), "left orgasms for dead."
Acrotomophilia/Apotemnophilia — Attraction to amputees and the fascination with being an amputee
Perhaps because of the emotions stirred up, there's now quite a bit of literature about these intertwined subjects. Much of the focus has been on the self-mutilation aspect — masochism, gross misperceptions of body image. In my view there should be more emphasis on teratophilia (which literally means the love of monsters, but should be understood to mean attraction to physically unusual people) or abasiophilia, the attraction to the disabled. In both of these latter cases, the prevailing attitude isn't one of condescension or humiliation as some might expect — it's more like worship.
I myself once had a sexual affair with a female dwarf, or "little person," and while there was an ultimate sadness to the social side of the relationship (a phenomenon the woman was keenly familiar with and very forgiving about), the sex itself did have a hypernatural intensity. She was ten years older as well, and I often think of her, wondering if her grace and dignity was a mask for inner anguish or the mark of someone who understood many things I didn't.
The one-legged call girl I met long ago in the Bay Area got her popularity directly from this fetish, and she was very quick to correct my first impression that she had turned to prostitution because of her disability. She was quite proud of her vocation and was treated with great respect by her devotees.
The same thing can't be said of those who fantasize about being an amputee themselves. This does seem to enter a frightening realm of mental instability. On the other hand, I did meet one man who had taken up knitting as a hobby, and had made himself a series of knitted body suits designed to create the illusion of being an amputee. Who doesn't admire a man who knits?
Formicophilia — Any guesses?
I once wrote this word on a blackboard and someone honestly believed it had something to do with Formica. (How that would work I'm not sure.) Actually, it's the obsession with very small creatures — like insects, for example. In this case, ants. I'm not going to say anymore; this one is too squirmy even for me.
Arachibutyrophilia — You won't believe me when I tell you
I have to include this one for two reasons. One, people always think I'm pulling their leg. (Which is another fetish entirely.) And two, this was the askew fixation that first got me thinking about the whole subject in a really personal way. It actually isn't anywhere near as out there as the others — it's simply a highly specialized niche in the world of mess and food fixations. The object of excessive interest — the medium if you will — is peanut butter. Good old PB. But lots of it.
They'd invited another couple to join them, and the other female had a severe — and undiagnosed — allergy to peanut butter.
I discovered this when the couple that lived beneath me got into a bit of trouble. They'd invited another couple to join them, and the other female had a severe — and undiagnosed — allergy to peanut butter. Moments after they'd smeared her with the chunky goo, her breathing stepped up toward hyperventilation, and even when scrubbed down with wet towels, her skin took on the bloated, bubbled texture of a salted cane toad. (And I feel professionally obliged to report that while concerned, her partner nonetheless showed unmistakable signs of arousal.) Within fifteen minutes, she resembled a giant tongue, and would never be able to tolerate even the whiff of peanut butter again.
Melophilia — The erotic worship of music
I spoke with a man in Chicago who was open enough to demonstrate to me his melophilia. When listening to Yo-Yo Ma's haunting cello on the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack, he became stimulated to the point of an explosive orgasm. He had an exceptionally long penis, which he admitted never became fully erect without the aid of music. A woman in Portland demonstrated a similar reaction (like a petit mal seizure) to James Brown. (I don't blame her.) Elements of this fetish are be deeply ingrained in our culture and perhaps even our biology. Think of the dance frenzies, the religious convulsions and holy rolling. Perhaps as the effects of music become better understood, we will open whole new channels of sexual gratification.
Eremophilia — The exceptional arousal within deserted places
I don't think it would be honest or professional to write about fetishes and not admit to one myself. Whether it's the husk of a lost highway gas station or a vine-choked shell of old motel down in the Everglades, derelicts are intensely erotic to me. Some of the hottest sex I've ever had was in the ruins of a mining village in Australia, pounding my girlfriend in the sunlit stillness. I think she knew the urge was irresistible. Being in a remote, abandoned place produces an almost painfully hard erection in me — a deeper hunger, almost like a drug craving. Freud said we owe ourselves some discretion, so I'll leave it at that.
Right-Wing Magazine Backs Down over Misleading Readers on Venezuela
by Francisco Domínguez / August 3rd, 2009
In its July 18, 2009 edition, The Economist article on Bolivia (”Bolivia’s divisive president. The Permanent Campaign,” July 18) asserted, “Venezuelan troops helped quell a rebellion centred on the airport at Santa Cruz in the east in 2007.” The article did not bother to substantiate such a serious charge against Venezuela and is buried as one of several unjustified and unsubstantiated allegations against the president and government of Bolivia,
The piece “Bolivia’s divisive president. The Permanent Campaign” does not even pretend to be ‘even-handed’ or ‘balanced.’ Some of the statements in it are simply unalloyed anti-Morales propaganda. Putting the blame squarely on Evo Morales, for example, for the diplomatic difficulties Bolivia has been having with the US (without informing the readers that Bush unilaterally had ended Bolivia’s export preferential treatment on some exports or that Bolivia expelled US ambassador Mr Phillip Goldberg because he had been actively supporting secessionist efforts in Santa Cruz), and with Peru (without telling readers that Peru gave asylum to Bolivian Cabinet minister indicted for civilian deaths resulting from military repression of protests six years ago during the government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada), but explaining them as a deliberate Morales drive to isolate Bolivia because, according to The Economist, “Many in the government dream of an economic autarky, powered by gas.” The article goes even further by quoting government’s opponents in Santa Cruz, who describe Morales as an “indigenous fascist” with The Economist accepting such a highly inflammatory label with no qualification whatsoever. And, if there was any doubt as to where The Economist stands on the Morales government, the piece ends by sympathetically paraphrasing one pundit who says “Bolivia is suffering a classic bout of Latin American populism: personalised politics, mild paranoia, bad economic policy and a weak opposition.” No journalistic objectivity or even the pretension of it.
Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, HE Samuel Moncada, responded to the allegation regarding the participation of Venezuelan troops in the suppression of a rebellion in Santa Cruz in 2007, with letter to Michael Reid, The Economist’s Latin American editor, in which he stated that “Unfortunately, dangerous and negative consequences in the region may arise due to this blunder published in your magazine. I would therefore demand a correction of such fallacy”. (The Ambassador’s letter can be found in full here).
Subsequently Ambassador Moncada wrote again to Michael Reid who had responded to the first letter by saying that The Economist stood by their story. In his second letter Ambassador Moncada wrote: “As we believe that the videos in your possession are absolutely false, this matter can only be settled with evidence. Therefore, either you publish your data in order to prove your point, or our request in the first letter stands. Then, you will have no choice but to correct the statement in your article issued on the 18th of July.”
A campaign of letter writing to Michael Reid was initiated so that he published the video material in his possession and proved his story or correct the false statement made about Venezuelan troops having participated in quelling a rebellion in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Clarification: Bolivia and Venezuela
Jul 30th 2009
From The Economist print edition
In our recent story on Bolivia (“The permanent campaign”, July 18th), we stated that “Venezuelan troops helped quell a rebellion centred on the airport at Santa Cruz in the east in 2007”. Both the Venezuelan and Bolivian governments deny this (see Letters), and Venezuela’s government has publicly asked us to retract this assertion. We based our statement on television footage aired at the time which shows a Venezuelan air force plane and uniformed Venezuelan personnel at Santa Cruz airport shortly after it had been seized by the Bolivian government from the local authorities. No official explanation has been given for their presence. However, we are happy to clarify that this footage does not prove Venezuelan troops played an active role in quelling the rebellion. We have placed the television footage on our website.
The explanation, “we are happy to clarify that this footage does not prove Venezuelan troops played an active role in quelling the rebellion”, not only TOTALLY contradicts the assertion made in the July 18 story — defended by Latin American editor, Michael Reid in correspondence with Venezuela’s ambassador — but also shows the type of bias The Economist tends engage in when it comes to covering developments in Venezuela in particular but also in Latin America in general.
The fact is that the assertion “Venezuelan troops helped quell a rebellion centred on the airport at Santa Cruz in the east in 2007” was based on the flimsiest of ‘evidences’ which no serious editor should use to make such a grave assertion. Furthermore, the facts themselves, as presented by The Economist ‘correction’ speak for themselves. The footage which Latin American editor Michael Reid was forced to made public NOWHERE shows anything of any kind whatsoever that could be construed as “Venezuelan troops [having] helped quell a rebellion” in Bolivia in 2007 as affirmed in the July 18 article.
The footage comes from a TV channel which is clearly opposed to President Evo Morales, at a time when the Bolivian government faced a serious destabilisation threat from a radical opposition to the Bolivian government whose epicentre was/is the Department of Santa Cruz and the capital city of the same name. The Half Moon ‘autonomist’ movement in Bolivia has strenuously tried to demonstrate in its propaganda that Morales is a puppet of Hugo Chavez and falsely claim that it is Venezuelan ‘domination’ they have been fighting against.
The Economist ‘explanation’ as to why it had asserted that there had been Venezuelan military participation in the quelling of an anti-government rebellion at the Santa Cruz airport is that the TV “footage aired at the time [...] shows a Venezuelan air force plane and uniformed Venezuelan personnel at Santa Cruz airport shortly after it had been seized by the Bolivian government from the local authorities,” adding, “No official explanation has been given for their presence.” None was asked. Mr Reid, as the Latin American editor, ought to have corroborated the story by requesting confirmation or otherwise from the Bolivian and Venezuelan authorities as to the alleged participation of Venezuelan troops in repressive activities against Bolivian citizens on Bolivian soil. It is just incredible that such grave assertion could have been made on the bases of the video footage published in The Economist and without this elementary safeguard of sound journalism.
Francisco Domínguez is a member of Executive Committee, Venezuela Information Centre.
The Russian Navy recently declassified and released UFO records for the first time. One of the more interesting details is that fifty percent of the UFO encounters reported occurred near large bodies of water, including many in the Bermuda Triangle. Also, Lake Baikal in Russia, the deepest body of fresh water on the planet, has been the location for numerous sightings of UFOs entering and leaving the water itself, as reported by fisherman. Some of the witnesses are high-ranking Navy officials, including an admiral. One of the most fascinating encounters involved Russian military divers encountering humanoid beings in silver suits fifty meters under Lake Baikal.
What it takes on this planet,
to make love to each other in peace.
Everyone pries under your sheets,
everyone interferes with your loving.
They say terrible things about a man and a woman,
who after much milling about,
all sorts of compunctions,
do something unique,
they both lie with each other in one bed.
I ask myself whether frogs are so furtive,
or sneeze as they please.
Whether they whisper to each other in swamps about illegitimate frogs,
or the joys of amphibious living.
I ask myself if birds single out enemy birds,
or bulls gossip with bullocks before they go out in public with cows.
Even the roads have eyes and the parks their police.
spy on their guests,
windows name names,
canons and squadrons debark on missions to liquidate love.
All those ears and those jaws working incessantly,
till a man and his girl
have to raise their climax,
on a bicycle.
Oliver Sacks, the famous neurologist and author of Musicophilia, a study that looks at the human brain and music, speaks in Harpers about the landscape altering iPod:
As Daniel Levitin has pointed out, passive listening has largely replaced active music-making. Now that we can listen to anything we like on our iPods, we have less motivation to go to concerts or churches or synagogues, less occasion to sing together. This is unfortunate, because music-making engages much more of our brains than simply listening. Partly for this reason, to celebrate my 75th birthday last year, I started taking piano lessons (after a gap of more than sixty years). I still have my iPod (it contains the complete works of Bach), but I also need to make music.
When the first Pastors for Peace Friendship Caravan departed in 1992, it was initiated to defy the U.S. travel and trade embargo on Cuba that has been in place since 1962. The most difficult challenges to the Friendship Caravan were during the later years of the Bush administration when buses and humanitarian cargoes were detained or confiscated by U.S. Customs agents at the Mexican border under the most severe enforcements of the blockade. A test of the Obama administration’s intentions came when the twentieth Friendship Caravan crossed the U.S.-México border at McAllen, Texas on July 21, 2009. After undergoing inspection of its cargoes, all vehicles, material aid, and 130 caravanistas were allowed to leave the United States. This alone is uncommon because most departures by road from the United States into Mexico are not even stopped or inspected. Nevertheless, the change in enforcement is a significant departure from previous years. The U.S. embargo on Cuba is crumbling.
A previous Pastors for Peace Caravan school bus in Vedado, Havana: defying the U.S. blockade for eighteen years.
Ahead of the Organization of American States summit in April 2009, President Barack Obama announced that visits by Americans to Cuba will be allowed once annually instead of once every three years, and the $300 per quarter limit on remittances will be lifted – but only if they have relatives on the island nation. Restrictions on investment in Cuba will also be eased – but only in telecommunications. Obama has signalled his willingness to ease the 47-year-old U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, but not yet for the rest of us. While still couched in the language of regime change, Obama’s overtures represent a ray of hope for breaking down the barriers that have separated Americans and Cubans and prevented them from learning from each other.
Meanwhile, the effects of the U.S. embargo (Cuba calls it a blockade) are much more intrusive than the mere absence of American goods. Patient monitors and CT scanners from Europe and Japan that have seen only a few years of use are often idled by the inability to procure assemblies or accessories that contain U.S. parts. Despite these difficulties, the Cuban health system guarantees every resident access to care, resulting in a life expectancy (78 years) equal to that of the United States. There are no denials of claims here, no patients turned away for lack of insurance.
Thousands of Cuban doctors and medical personnel continue to serve in countries ranging from Bolivia to Pakistan to South Africa. Meanwhile, Cuba brings in hundreds of new foreign students for medical school from poor countries and the United States alike, completely free of charge. And Cuba’s biotechnology industry is a leading-edge exporter of both genetically-engineered and low-cost generic drugs.
Yes, the dug-up roads are decaying. The crumbling houses are discolored with mildew. The sputtering cars are American antiques of the 1940s and 1950s, frozen in time, but kept running through miraculous Cuban ingenuity. That is the tunnel image most Americans have of Havana. The images are there along the fabled seaside Malecón, in Habana Centro, and in Habana Viejo, where most of the historical tourist attractions are located. But outlying suburbs like Miramar, smaller cities like Santa Clara or Sancti Spiritus, and even rural villages have houses and shops that are more modern and well kept, roads that are nicely paved, and newer motor vehicles from Europe, Canada, Japan, and China. It is just the inverse of unequal development in most other Latin American countries. Cuba has chosen to focus its finite resources on ensuring that everybody has housing first, and only afterwards renovating existing buildings for the eyes of foreign visitors. There are no foreclosures here, no tent cities of the homeless.
The U.S. notion that the embargo is needed to pressure Cuba to embrace “democracy” and ultimately expedite “regime change” is based on the assumption that the Cuban people have no say in the affairs of their country. In fact, people routinely chose representatives to municipal assemblies, which in turn elect members of the provincial assemblies, and in turn elect the 614 members of the Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular (National Assembly of People’s Power). The constitution calls for the National Assembly to elect the State Council, and the State Council to elect the president. So while Cuban citizens do not directly elect the president and members of the National Assembly, they do so through a tiered pyramidal democratic structure that ensures greater accountability of each of each layer of representation to the layer below it because electors at each level are actually able to get to personally know those whom they are electing.
The Cuban electoral system is in effectively a one-party democracy in which candidates for elected office are pre-screened by a participatory nominating process. The U.S. electoral system is in essence a two-party dictatorship in which the two major parties and the media collude to systematically deny credibility and electability to any candidates of third parties, or even candidates within the two dominant parties who are outside of the “mainstream.” It is far from clear that one system is really more politically democratic or dictatorial than the other. While both systems are flawed (they both perpetuate incumbency and state power), it would be a gross misstatement to call one an unqualified “dictatorship” and the other an unconditional “democracy.”
On freedom of the press, Cuba is not a place where one can buy a foreign newspaper or magazine on the streets. But then neither is Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, readily available on the streets because it is largely distributed through the vast array of political, economic, and social organizations through which every Cuban citizen is engaged in one way or another. Freedom of the press is one area in which Cuba would do well to lift restrictions. Having survived the extraordinary stresses of the Special Period in the 1990s, Cuba can rest assured that allowing independent Cuban media and opening up to responsible news sources from Latin America and the world will not degrade, but rather invigorate, the public intellectual discourse, the perceived quality of life, and Cuba’s strength as a nation.
The distorted view most Americans have of Cuba is molded by their inability to visit Cuba to see for themselves. People in the United States and Cuba have much to learn from each other. In April 2009 a Congressional delegation, led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, visited Cuba to review policies on trade and cultural and academic exchanges. The same opportunity needs to be afforded to all Americans in order to formulate a rational national policy towards Cuba based on realism and mutual respect.
The international community of nations has spoken out against the U.S. embargo on trade and travel to Cuba through 17 consecutive years of resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly. With each passing year the United States government has become more and more politically isolated on this issue. The last vote on October 29, 2008 was 185 to 3 against the U.S. blockade, with 2 abstentions. Those opposed were the United States, Israel, and Palau. Palau, along with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia which abstained, are all former U.S. colonies that remain highly dependent on the U.S. economic and military umbrella. Palau, incidentally, is so dependent on the United States that when no other country on the planet would agree to take 17 Chinese Uighurs held in Guantánamo Bay as so-called “enemy combatants,” because no country wanted to legitimize the systematic U.S. denial of protections guaranteed to prisoners of war under international law, Palau agreed in June 2009 to take them after intense U.S. pressure. Only afterward did Albania, in no less desperate economic situation itself, ultimately relent to taking four of the 17 Uighurs.
Even the Cuban-American exile community, which has traditionally backed the U.S. embargo because their families lost properties in the 1959 Revolution, has been gradually shifting in preference to selectively lifting the embargo and travel restrictions to ease family visits and for the younger generation to rediscover the land of their parents. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba has not posed any conceivable threat to the security of the United States.
On the contrary, the United States is harboring a Cuban-born Venezuelan man – Luis Posada Carriles – who has been convicted in absentia for various terrorist attacks and conspiracies in Latin America, including the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455 that killed all 73 people on board. Detained in 2005-2007 for illegal presence in the United States, Carriles is now free. If President Obama is truly concerned about security and thwarting future terrorist attacks, he would move to extradite Carriles to Venezuela or Cuba, both of which have demanded that he face trial in their courts.
On the other hand, the Cuban Five (Los Cinco) – Fernando González, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino – were arrested in 1998 for activities related to gathering intelligence on a number of militant Cuban-American exile groups, including Brothers to the Rescue, that have been accused of organizing illegal and often violent activities inside Cuba. The Five were convicted in 2001 on all 26 counts by a Federal District Court in Miami, where they could not possibly have received a fair trial. So far, the Obama administration has refused to reconsider the case, and, in fact, successfully pressured the Supreme Court to deny a review. If President Obama is truly interested in justice, he should reopen the case against the Cuban Five for independent review, and allow visits by family members from Cuba. If The Five’s only crime was thwarting terrorism, then they must be freed.
A parallel opportunity for rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba is arising out of acknowledgements by both the Bush and Obama administrations that harsh interrogation methods and torture were used at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, and President Obama’s announced intention of closing the prison within a year of taking office. In fact, the prison itself appears to violate the very terms of the lease agreement of February 23, 1903 that grants “the premises for use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose.” One aspect of putting this dark period in U.S. human rights history behind us is to terminate the lease and return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba once the prison is closed. This will be another substantive gesture that the U.S. and Cuba can live together with mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty.
Having lifted the embargo just a little and let the Pastors for Peace Friendship Caravan through, President Obama needs to carry through on his promise of change by ending the U.S. embargo once and for all.
Sharat G. Lin writes on migrant labor, global political economy, the Middle East, India, public health, and the environment.