Friday, October 31, 2008

Moose, Mousse, and Spalinism

by Robin Morgan

October 31, 2008

Here, Robin Morgan takes aim at a few “feminists” who have taken to the blogways lately to support John McCain and Sarah Palin. Their reasoning is flawed, says Morgan, to say the least.

You might have noticed a recent media burp—gassy, though blissfully short—about a handful of faux “feminists” backing the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket. I won’t name these women out of concern that feeding their misplaced sense of self-importance may risk them bursting into shriveled balloon ribbons of overextended ego. If you’re addicted to surreal humor you can find such SP supporters (I call them Spalinists) via Google—if you lack an excuse to put off, say, cleaning the garbage pail, and if you can manage it without bladder-challenging fits of hilarity at the cognitive dissonance invoked by juxtaposing words like “feminism” and “Palin.”

But if any actual feminists are concerned about the effect on Women’s Movement institutions and energy of this clutch of “formers” (a former chapter official of a national feminist organization, a former editor of a feminist publication, former Democratic funders, former Hillary supporters, and so forth), let me reassure you. The “trust date” had already long expired on these women, who’d been voted off feminist leadership posts, or fired, or quietly asked to resign. Some are confessed consultants to the campaign whose candidates they now—surprise!—endorse. I never imagined I’d see a “feminist” mercenary. But then I never heard of rats climbing onto a sinking ship, either.

Spalinists traipse around with their candidate, grinning and applauding her, sometimes getting paraded out to take a bow at a rally. They sound off about how she’s the target of sexism. (She is. D’uh. But being a victim of misogyny does not necessarily a feminist make—or we’d never have had Liddy Dole. Or Britney Spears.)

Spalinists claim they support the GOP ticket (while conveniently ignoring McCain) because: A) Palin is secretly brilliant, B) she is a feminist who only differs with the Women’s Movement in opposing abortion; C) us “elitist” Women’s Movement types who supported HRC but disavow SP are “anti-working-class women,” and—here it comes—D) Spalinists want to “teach the Democratic Party not to take women for granted.”

Oh, as Joe the senator says, lord love ya.

A) Anyone who hazards arguing that Palin is brilliant is herselfmorethana few watts short of a bulb. Palin is calculating (you betcha’!), or McCain wouldn’t be hemorrhaging from her stab-him-when-he’s-down wounds as she hypes her 2012 campaign before his is formally pronounced dead. But any real intelligence remotely attached to Palin gleams in Tina Fey’s eye.

B) If you still need a list of all the feminist agenda items (in addition to abortion rights) supported by the vast majority of U.S. women—but opposed by Palin—see When Sisterhood Is Suicide, or check Palin’s positions vs. the to-do list on any honestly feminist website:,,,,, EqualityNow.

C) Don’t you love it when wealthy nouveau-Republican women (confusing moose with mousse?) know best what working-class women need and want—better than working-class women who are actually feminist activists? Oh please.
D) If Spalinist women wanted to waste our hard-won suffrage, and truly cared about punishing the Dems for not taking women seriously enough, why didn’t they endorse the Green Party ticket: two women, both people of color (Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente), whose candidacies, though symbolic, at least share a pro-feminist platform? (See “The Other Nominees,” by Nida Khan, on the Women’s Media Center site.) If you claim you want to drive a party toward feminism, strategically you’d pressure from the left, not the right. But “teaching the Democratic leadership a lesson” brings us to the heart of it: Since when do feminists sacrifice women’s basic survival needs in order to impress men?

Still, here’s the good news. Their 15 minutes of infamy now over, even Spalinists must know they’ve blown whatever wobbly “former” creds they might’ve once had in the Women’s Movement. Their only hope lies in becoming guests on some future tacky talk show hosted by Palin—on Fox News, no doubt.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What is Neoliberalism?

A Brief Definition for Activists
by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

"Neo-liberalism" is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

"Liberalism" can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate "liberals" -- meaning the political type -- have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

"Neo" means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an Scottish economist, published a book in 1776 called THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation's economy to develop. Such ideas were "liberal" in the sense of no controls. This application of individualism encouraged "free" enterprise," "free" competition -- which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment. These ideas had much influence on President Roosevelt's New Deal -- which did improve life for many people. The belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.

But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That's what makes it "neo" or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale.

A memorable definition of this process came from Subcomandante Marcos at the Zapatista-sponsored Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neo-liberalismo (Inter-continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism) of August 1996 in Chiapas when he said: "what the Right offers is to turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here, women there ...." and he might have added, children, immigrants, workers or even a whole country like Mexico."

The main points of neo-liberalism include:

1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating "free" enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers' rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say "an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone." It's like Reagan's "supply-side" and "trickle-down" economics -- but somehow the wealth didn't trickle down very much.

2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply -- again in the name of reducing government's role. Of course, they don't oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.

3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminsh profits, including protecting the environmentand safety on the job.

4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF "THE PUBLIC GOOD" or "COMMUNITY" and replacing it with "individual responsibility." Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves -- then blaming them, if they fail, as "lazy."

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America. The first clear example of neo-liberalism at work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000 small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar said, "Neoliberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America."

In the United States neo-liberalism is destroying welfare programs; attacking the rights of labor (including all immigrant workers); and cutbacking social programs. The Republican "Contract" on America is pure neo-liberalism. Its supporters are working hard to deny protection to children, youth, women, the planet itself -- and trying to trick us into acceptance by saying this will "get government off my back." The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world's people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last 60 years, suffering without end.

Elizabeth Martinez is a longtime civil rights activist and author of several books, including "500 Years of Chicano History in Photographs."

13101310Arnoldo Garcia is a member of the Oakland-based Comite Emiliano Zapata, affiliated to the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico.

13101310Both writers attended the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and against Neoliberalism, held July 27 - August 3,1996, in La Realidad, Chiapas.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Atlas met Wall Street and Shrugged

The Chicago School of Economics as headed by Milton Friedman and his sycophant Alan Greenspan should be rewarded with the title of the destroyers of Capitalism.

Karl Marx's Das Kapital is looking awful good these days in light of the failures of the "free market" ideology pumped forth by these idiot children of Ayn "can't write" Rand.

Only liars and ideologues would base an economic philosophy on "Atlas Shrugged" and it appears that the role model for the "free market" economics of the neo-con/neo-lib Chicago School of Economic chose John Galt over even Adam Smith.

Libertarianism of this sort is a form of anarchism for the men who would be kings. They enjoy the privileges of extreme wealth while enslaving the working class with propaganda and credit scams.

Everything in the free market economy is a post modern word game of gotcha. From deceitful advertising to contracts written in anew speak that far surpasses the much laughed about bill Clintonisms of "How do you define 'sex'? and It depends on your definition of 'is'."

Sign here, initial there. Don't bother reading this we don't have time and you wouldn't understand. The fast talk of the con artist...

Oliver Stone's mid 1980s movie summed up the credo of the Republican free market 'me generation' of yuppie scum, "Greed is good, greed works"

But smoke and mirrors are only successful illusions for a short while and houses of cards built on empty word have a way of collapsing.

Now the chickens have come home to roost and Alan Greenspan, acyolite of Ayn Rand has been exposed for the fraud he always was. And all he can say is that he was mistaken.

A slight understatement from a man who led the destruction of the world's economy. One that make one sorely miss the Chinese under Mao's treatment of economic criminals.

Although a more poetic ending for Alan would be to send him to live under a bridge clad only in rags condemned to a life of Lear like madness and begging for alms.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hope not Hate

For a while this spring when Hillary Clinton was still a candidate I was saying, "I want an actual plan not simply a slogan, Hope."

I recently saw a quote that I've decided to integrate into my life, "Optimism is a moral imperative." I was a hippie because I believed in a better world. I've been a life long radical because I believed change is possible. I believed that we were the kids other kids parents warned them about. Too red, too queer, too anti-materialistic, too anarchistic.

When others told us we couldn't do that we asked, "Why not." We questioned authority. We fought for civil rights for people of color, women, LGBT folks. We believed in the ideals of America, the ones we learned in our History classes.

We watched and listened when LBJ said that his signing the Civil Rights act, coincidentally it also included protecting the rights of women, guaranteed losing the South to the Democratic party for at least a generation.

While one of the favorite slurs of conservative has always been commie or socialist it is wise to remember that another slam has been that progressive white people are "nigger lovers". This shows the deeply divisive racism that is ubiquitous to the Republican party and other conservatives. The only difference between the KKK and say the Heritage Foundation is that the board of directors of the conservative elite think tanks wear Armani instead of sheets.

If the Nazis of the Third Reich had their Jews the modern rabid right conservative movement has its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender people. LGBT people are the scapegoats for the destruction of the planet to divert attention from the corporations where the onus would be more appropriately put.

The progressives in American and around the world have always dreamed of making the world a better, fairer more just and more equal society. I am an atheist and yet I am a humanist who believes we do not have to push the planet over the edge into an Armageddon of human manufacture.

The racist elitist conservatives believe in hate. The hate of racism, the hate off misogyny, the hate of of the poor (which is the real class war. When they accuse us of class war it is because we had the audacity to demand our share).

They claim their hate is religion and god's will then they use it to deny whole classes of people their equality.

As for me, I choose hope and not hate. Yesterday was the first day of early voting here in Dallas county, Texas. I went to the polls with my life partner "another old woman" and we cast our votes. We voted a straight Democratic ticket.

Vote for Obama and all the other Democrats. Take back the country from the haters.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

JFK Intervention???? What the Fuck?

During the debate the other night I heard Songbird McCain call the JFK assassination an intervention. I couldn't believe that was what he actually said. Now I always thought doing an intervention had a seriously different meaning.

You know like when you take a friend aside and tell her that her substance issues are clearly out of hand. Waking up face down in a pool of barf should be a sign and that you and her other friends have taken up a collection for a month long stay in re-hap.

In Republi-Nazi Orwellian new speak apparently being president and getting your brains blown out by the three mysterious dudes on the grassy knoll becomes an intervention.

Maybe G Gordo, convicted felon and advocate of vilence against federal agents taught Songbird that the three mysterious dudes considered it an intervention.

E Howard Hunt claimed to be one and said Frank Sturgis was another of those three mysterious dudes. I wonder which "Plumber" was the third?

Friday, October 17, 2008

John "Songbird" Mccain Lied about being Tortured

McCain Was Not Tortured, POW Guard Claims
By John Hooper, The Guardian
Posted on October 15, 2008, Printed on October 17, 2008

The Republican US presidential candidate John McCain was not tortured during his captivity in North Vietnam, the chief prison guard of the jail in which he was held has claimed.

In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Nguyen Tien Tran acknowledged that conditions in the prison were "tough, though not inhuman". But, he added: "We never tortured McCain. On the contrary, we saved his life, curing him with extremely valuable medicines that at times were not available to our own wounded."

McCain, who fell into enemy hands after his plane was shot down in 1967, has frequently referred to being tortured and has cited his experiences as a reason for vigorously opposing the endorsement by the Bush administration of the use of techniques such as "water-boarding" on terrorist suspects.

Shortly after his release in 1973 McCain told US News & World Report that his prison guards had beaten him "from pillar to post". After being worked over at intervals for four days, he said, he had become suicidal and agreed to sign a "confession" admitting to war crimes.

In his 1999 autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, he described how after his capture he was subjected to inhuman treatment in an effort to force him to disclose his ship's name, squadron number and the target of his final mission. He was threatened with the withdrawal of medical assistance and, while still suffering from his crash injuries, his guards "knocked me around a little".

For his service in Vietnam and his actions as a POW, McCain was awarded the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Purple Heart.

Tran, now 75, said McCain reached Hanoi with the worst injuries he had seen in a downed pilot. But he denied torturing him, saying it was his mission to ensure that McCain survived. As the son of the US naval commander in Vietnam, he offered a potential valuable propaganda weapon.

However, recommending McCain for a medal after the war, his former cellmate, the much-decorated Colonel George Day, said the admiral's son had forced his interrogators to "drug him and torture him to get any cooperation", according to a letter in the US National Archives cited earlier this year by the Washington Post. Day said McCain suffered "torturous abuse".

Tran told Corriere that McCain was sent to hospital the day after he was brought to Hanoi and stayed there for a month. "I never lost him from sight. I was frightened a doctor or nurse might do him harm."

Tran dismissed as "absolutely impossible" perhaps the most famous story from McCain's autobiography: that one Christmas, a guard traced a cross in the mud in front of him. "My men were all communists and atheists," he said.

As to why McCain, then 36, left North Vietnam with prematurely grey hair, Tran denied it was because of mistreatment. "It's that in prison you think too much."

© 2008 The Guardian All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Republican Woman Hating

Check out the McCain "air quotes" in the video of last nights debate. Since when did a woman's health and even life become worth less than that of a fetus?

Women are human beings not simply baby incubators.

The following ad aired once in the Washington DC area following the debates.

Consider this... The Republicans so hate women that they value a fetus over the life or health of a woman and if that is not enough... Women should even be forced to bear the spawn of a rapist and then deal with the emotion of putting the child of rape up for adoption or raising it for 18 or so years.

Either way the women hating Republi-Nazis and Christofascists demonstrate their core misogyny.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Real John McCain and his Scary Reich Wing Supporters

I get chastised by people who evoke Godwin's rule when I use the term Republi-Nazis to describe the Christofascist ultra right wing un-American bigots who compose the current gang of moronic thugs who call themselves conservatives. The reality is that I am anti-fascist and simply call people who are Nazi racists and bigots on their Nazism.

It is true that the neo-con/neo-lib hell we live in where the working class is reduced to slave status, working to support the rich mostly white right wing elites is closer to the Italian corporatist state model than to national socialism, but the wars of conquest waged to bleed the nations we can stick our corporations into are genocidal in nature.

The bigotry of the Christofascists regarding LGBT people rivals that seen inWeimar Germany when Hitler was reving up the blood lust to kill the Jews.

The family values of the Republi-Nazis are Confederate not American. Racist, misogynistic and homophobic through and through.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

National Coming Out Day: Why I am a Lesbian Identified Feminist

Oh by the way, I am a lesbian identified bisexual and a hard core feminist. Part of why I identify as lesbian is based in radical feminism and putting women and sexual equality first. While I might like some men I have found over the course of my life that the fact of living in a society dominated by patriarchal religious dogma precludes most equal relationships between the sexes.

I have discovered that greater opportunities for a relationship between equals can be found in same sex relationships.

There was a time in the 1960s and 70s when both men and women struggled with the questions of the imbalance of power in the relationships between the sexes. Unfortunately the rise of the neo-fascist state with its glorification of comic book masculinity and the equally stereotypical femininity has created gender role constructs based on homosocial structures that act as though men are from Mars and women from Venus. In fact both sexes are from Earth and the artificial social constructs of gender are used to separate us from the commonality of both male and female being human beings.

Yesterday Connecticut became the third real American state to recognize the equality of it LGBT citizens. Un-American Taliban Christian and other religious fanatic crypto-Nazi groups would deny LGBT people their equality as American citizens. Equality pre-visioned by the founding fathers and extended under Constitutional amendments that abolished slavery, extended the vote first to African American men (former slaves and freemen alike), and later extended the right to vote to women.

This is what the un-American Taliban Christo-fascists hate most about America. Equality. Their racism, homophobia and misogyny as well as their extremist faith based bigotry cause them to form political lynch mobs. These political lynch mobs insist they have the right to pass un-American and un-Constitutional laws that deny LGBT people the right to marriage.

These rabid right wing Christo-fascist terrorists are fond of saying, "What part of illegal do you just not get?"

My answer is: "What part of un-American and un-Constitutional do you just not get?" In my country the rights of minority groups are protected from lynch mobs no matter how big a majority or how santimonious they are. You see my rights are protected by the 14th Amendment to our beloved Constitution. It reads as follows:

Amendment 14 - Citizenship Rights. Ratified 7/9/1868. Note History

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Equality under the law. This is what the hateful Christo-fascists deny in their blood hatred of LGBT people. This sort of faith based hatred has killed more people over the course of history than Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot combined.

This is why I am a lesbian feminist, an atheist and will stand against this sort of bigotry until the day I die.

The Mask Slips

New York Times Saturday Oct. 11, 2008

The lesson for Americans suffused with anxiety and dread over the crackup of the financial markets is that the way you vote matters, that there are real-world consequences when you go into a voting booth and cast that ballot.

For the nitwits who vote for the man or woman they’d most like to have over for dinner, or hang out at a barbecue with, I suggest you take a look at how well your 401(k) is doing, or how easy it will be to meet the mortgage this month, or whether the college fund you’ve been trying to build for your kids is as robust as you’d like it to be.

Voters in the George W. Bush era gave the Republican Party nearly complete control of the federal government. Now the financial markets are in turmoil, top government and corporate leaders are on the verge of panic and scholars are dusting off treatises that analyzed the causes of the Great Depression.

Mr. Bush was never viewed as a policy or intellectual heavyweight. But he seemed like a nicer guy to a lot of voters than Al Gore.

It’s not just the economy. While the United States has been fighting a useless and irresponsible war in Iraq, Afghanistan — the home base of the terrorists who struck us on 9/11 — has been allowed to fall into a state of chaos. Osama bin Laden is still at large. New Orleans is still on its knees. And so on.

Voting has consequences.

I don’t for a moment think that the Democratic Party has been free of egregious problems. But there are two things I find remarkable about the G.O.P., and especially its more conservative wing, which is now about all there is.

The first is how wrong conservative Republicans have been on so many profoundly important matters for so many years. The second is how the G.O.P. has nevertheless been able to persuade so many voters of modest means that its wrongheaded, favor-the-rich, country-be-damned approach was not only good for working Americans, but was the patriotic way to go.

Remember voodoo economics? That was the derisive term George H.W. Bush used for Ronald Reagan’s fantasy that he could simultaneously increase defense spending, cut taxes and balance the budget. After Reagan became president (with Mr. Bush as his vice president) the budget deficit — surprise, surprise — soared.

In a moment of unusual candor, Reagan’s own chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Martin Feldstein, gave three reasons for the growth of the deficit: the president’s tax cuts, the increased defense spending and the interest on the expanding national debt.

These were the self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives who were behaving so profligately. The budget was balanced and a surplus realized under Bill Clinton, but soon the “fiscal conservatives” were back in the driver’s seat. “Deficits don’t matter,” said Dick Cheney, and the wildest, most reckless of economic rides was on.

Americans, including the Joe Sixpacks, soccer moms and hockey moms, were repeatedly told that the benefits lavished on the highfliers would trickle down to them. Someday.

Just as they were wrong about trickle down, conservative Republican politicians and their closest buddies in the commentariat have been wrong on one important national issue after another, from Social Security (conservatives opposed it from the start and have been trying to undermine it ever since) to Medicare (Ronald Reagan saw it as the first wave of socialism) to the environment, energy policy and global warming.

When the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the discoverers of the link between chlorofluorocarbons and ozone depletion, Tom DeLay, a Republican who would go on to wield enormous power as majority leader in the House, mocked the award as the “Nobel Appeasement Prize.”

Mr. Reagan, the ultimate political hero of so many Republicans, opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In response to the historic Brown v. Board of Education school-desegregation ruling, William F. Buckley, the ultimate intellectual hero of so many Republicans, asserted that whites, being superior, were well within their rights to discriminate against blacks.

“The White community is so entitled,” he wrote, “because, for the time being, it is the advanced race...” He would later repudiate that sentiment, but only after it was clear that his racist view was harmful to himself.

The G.O.P. has done a great job masking the terrible consequences of much that it has stood for over the decades. Now the mask has slipped. As we survey the wreckage of the American economy and the real-life suffering associated with the financial crackup of 2008, it would be well for voters to draw upon the lessons of history and think more seriously about the consequences of the ballots they may cast in the future.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sarah Silverman and "The Great Schlep"

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

In a Sinking Economy or WTF

Viral Videos for Obama

In case there is any doubt about my politics let me state clearly. Romantically I am an anarchist, a democratic Keynesian socialist. Pragmatically I support the Democratic Party with both my vote and my checkbook.

I first became aware of Barack Obama when he spoke here in Dallas in November 2005. He was with Joe Biden and Harry Reid. They made me proud to support the party in those dark days when there was no end in sight for the Republi-Nazi regime of Chimpy and Darth Vader.

Win we must. To further that goal I am going to be placing pro Obama Viral Videos on this blog until the election.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is Posse Comitatus Dead?

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on October 8, 2008, Printed on October 8, 2008

Amy Goodman: In a barely noticed development last week, the Army stationed an active unit inside the United States. The Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Team is back from Iraq, now training for domestic operations under the control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The unit will serve as an on-call federal response for large-scale emergencies and disasters. It's being called the Consequence Management Response Force, CCMRF, or "sea-smurf" for short.

It's the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to USNORTHCOM, which was itself formed in October 2002 to "provide command and control of Department of Defense homeland defense efforts."

An initial news report in the Army Times newspaper last month noted, in addition to emergency response, the force "may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control." The Army Times has since appended a clarification, and a September 30th press release from the Northern Command states: "This response force will not be called upon to help with law enforcement, civil disturbance or crowd control."

When Democracy Now! spoke to Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Goodpaster, a public affairs officer for NORTHCOM, she said the force would have weapons stored in containers on site, as well as access to tanks, but the decision to use weapons would be made at a far higher level, perhaps by Secretary of Defense, SECDEF.

I'm joined now by two guests. Army Colonel Michael Boatner is future operations division chief of USNORTHCOM. He joins me on the phone from Colorado Springs. We're also joined from Madison, Wisconsin by journalist and editor of The Progressive magazine, Matthew Rothschild.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Why don't we begin with Colonel Michael Boatner? Can you explain the significance, the first time, October 1st, deployment of the troops just back from Iraq?

Col. Michael Boatner: Yes, Amy. I'd be happy to. And again, there has been some concern and some misimpressions that I would like to correct. The primary purpose of this force is to provide help to people in need in the aftermath of a WMD-like event in the homeland. It's something that figures very prominently in the national planning scenarios under the National Response Framework, and that's how DoD provides support in the homeland to civil authority. This capability is tailored technical life-saving support and then further logistic support for that very specific scenario. So, we designed it for that purpose.

And really, the new development is that it's been assigned to NORTHCOM, because there's an increasingly important requirement to ensure that they have done that technical training, that they can work together as a joint service team. These capabilities come from all of our services and from a variety of installations, and that's not an ideal command and control environment. So we've been given control of these forces so that we can train them, ensure they're responsive and direct them to participate in our exercises, so that were they called to support civil authority, those governors or local state jurisdictions that might need our help, that they would be responsive and capable in the event and also would be able to survive based on the skills that they have learned, trained and focused on.

They ultimately have weapons, heavy weapons and combat vehicles and another service capability at their home station at Fort Stewart, Georgia, but they wouldn't bring that stuff with them. In fact, they're prohibited from bringing it. They would bring their individual weapons, which is the standard policy for deployments in the homeland. Those would be centralized and containerized, and they could only be issued to the soldiers with the Secretary of Defense permission.

So I think, you know, that kind of wraps up our position on this. We're proud to be able to provide this capability. It's all about saving lives, relieving suffering, mitigating great property damage to infrastructure and things like that, and frankly, restoring public confidence in the aftermath of an event like this.

AG: So the use of the weapons would only be decided by SECDEF, the Secretary of Defense. But what about the governors? The SECDEF would have -- Secretary of Defense would have -- would be able to preempt the governors in a decision whether these soldiers would use their weapons on U.S. soil?

MB: No, this basically only boils down to self-defense. Any military force has the inherent right to self-defense. And if the situation was inherently dangerous, then potentially the Secretary of Defense would allow them to carry their weapons, but it would only be for self- and unit-defense. This force has got no role in a civil disturbance or civil unrest, any of those kinds of things.

AG: Matt Rothschild, you've been writing about this in The Progressive magazine. What is your concern?

Matthew Rothschild: Well, I'm very concerned on a number of fronts about this, Amy. One, that NORTHCOM, the Northern Command, that came into being in October of 2002, when that came in, people like me were concerned that the Pentagon was going to use its forces here in the United States, and now it looks like, in fact, it is, even though on its website it says it doesn't have units of its own. Now it's getting a unit of its own.

And Colonel Boatner talked about this unit, what it's trained for. Well, let's look at what it's trained for. This is the 3rd Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat unit that has spent three of the last five years in Iraq in counterinsurgency. It's a war-fighting unit, was one of the first units to Baghdad. It was involved in the battle of Fallujah. And, you know, that's what they've been trained to do. And now they're bringing that training here?

On top of that, one of the commanders of this unit was boasting in the Army Times about this new package of non-lethal weapons that has been designed, and this unit itself is going be able to use, according to that original article. And in fact, the commander was saying he had even tasered himself and was boasting about tasering himself. So, why is a Pentagon unit that's going to be possibly patrolling the streets of the United States involved in using tasers?

AG: Colonel Boatner?

MB: Well, I'd like to address that. That involved a service mission and a service set of equipment that was issued for overseas deployment. Those soldiers do not have that on their equipment list for deploying in the homeland. And again, they have been involved in situations overseas. And having talked to commanders who have returned, those situations are largely nonviolent, non-kinetic. And when they do escalate, the soldiers have a lot of experience with seeing the indicators and understanding it. So, I would say that our soldiers are trustworthy. They can deploy in the homeland, and American citizens can be confident that there will be no abuses.

AG: Matt Rothschild?

MR: Well, you know, that doesn't really satisfy me, and I don't think it should satisfy your listeners and your audience, Amy, because, you know, our people in the field in Iraq, some of them have not behaved up to the highest standards, and a lot of police forces in the United States who have been using these tasers have used them inappropriately.

The whole question here about what the Pentagon is doing patrolling in the United States gets to the real heart of the matter, which is, do we have a democracy here? I mean, there is a law on the books called the Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act that says that the president of the United States, as commander-in-chief, cannot put the military on our streets. And this is a violation of that, it seems to me.

President Bush tried to get around this act a couple years ago in the Defense Authorization Act that he signed that got rid of some of those restrictions, and then last year, in the new Defense Authorization Act, thanks to the work of Senator Patrick Leahy and Kit Bond of Missouri, that was stripped away. And so, the President isn't supposed to be using the military in this fashion, and though the President, true to form, appended a signing statement to that saying he's not going to be governed by that. So, here we have a situation where the President of United States has been aggrandizing his power, and this gives him a whole brigade unit to use against U.S. citizens here at home.

AG: Colonel Michael Boatner, what about the Posse Comitatus Act, and where does that fit in when U.S. troops are deployed on U.S. soil?

MR: It absolutely governs in every instance. We are not allowed to help enforce the law. We don't do that. Every time we get a request -- and again, this kind of a deployment is defense support to civil authority under the National Response Framework and the Stafford Act. And we do it all the time, in response to hurricanes, floods, fires and things like that. But again, you know, if we review the requirement that comes to us from civil authority and it has any complexion of law enforcement whatsoever, it gets rejected and pushed back, because it's not lawful.

AG: Matthew Rothschild, does this satisfy you?

MR: No, it doesn't. One of the reasons it doesn't is not by what Boatner was saying right there, but what President Bush has been doing. And if we looked at National Security Presidential Directive 51, that he signed on May 9th of 2007, Amy, this gives the President enormous powers to declare a catastrophic emergency and to bypass our regular system of laws, essentially, to impose a form of martial law.

And if you look at that National Security Presidential Directive, what it says, that in any incident where there is extraordinary disruption of a whole range of things, including our economy, the President can declare a catastrophic emergency. Well, we're having these huge disturbances in our economy. President Bush could today pick up that National Security Directive 51 and say, "We're in a catastrophic emergency. I'm going to declare martial law, and I'm going to use this combat brigade to enforce it."

AG: Colonel Michael Boatner?

MB: The only exception that I know of is the Insurrection Act. It's something that is very unlikely to be invoked. In my 30-year career, it's only been used once, in the LA riots, and it was a widespread situation of lawlessness and violence. And the governor of the state requested that the President provide support. And that's a completely different situation. The forces available to do that are in every service in every part of the country, and it's completely unrelated to the -- this consequence management force that we're talking about.

AG: You mentioned governors, and I was just looking at a piece by Jeff Stein -- he is the national security editor of Congressional Quarterly -- talking about homeland security. And he said, "Safely tucked into the $526 billion defense bill, it easily crossed the goal line on the last day of September.

"The language doesn't just brush aside a liberal Democrat slated to take over the Judiciary Committee" -- this was a piece written last year -- it "runs over the backs of the governors, 22 of whom are Republicans.

"The governors had waved red flags about the measure on Aug. 1, 2007, sending letters of protest from their Washington office to the Republican chairs and ranking Democrats on the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

"No response. So they petitioned the party heads on the Hill."

The letter, signed by every member of the National Governors Association, said, "This provision was drafted without consultation or input from governors and represents an unprecedented shift in authority from governors … to the federal government."

Colonel Michael Boatner?

MB: That's in the political arena. That has nothing to do with my responsibilities or what I'm -- was asked to talk about here with regard to supporting civil authority in the homeland.

AG: Matthew Rothschild?

MR: Well, this gets to what Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont was so concerned about, that with NORTHCOM and with perhaps this unit -- and I want to call Senator Leahy's office today and ask him about this -- you have the usurpation of the governor's role, of the National Guard's role, and it's given straight to the Pentagon in some of these instances. And that's very alarming. And that was alarming to almost every governor, if not every governor, in the country, when Bush tried to do that and around about the Posse Comitatus Act. So, I think these are real concerns.

AG: Matt Rothschild, the Democratic and Republican conventions were quite amazing displays of force at every level, from the local police on to the state troopers to, well, in the Republican convention, right onto troops just back from Iraq in their Army fatigues. Did this surprise you?

MR: It did. It surprised me also that NORTHCOM itself was involved in intelligence sharing with local police officers in St. Paul. I mean, what in the world is NORTHCOM doing looking at what some of the protesters are involved in? And you had infiltration up there, too. But what we have going on in this country is we have infiltration and spying that goes on, not only at the -- well, all the way from the campus police, practically, Amy, up to the Pentagon and the National Security Agency. We're becoming a police state here.

AG: Colonel Michael Boatner, a tall order here, could you respond?

MB: Well, that's incorrect. We did not participate in any intelligence collection. We were up there in support of the U.S. Secret Service. We provided some explosive ordnance disposal support of the event. But I'd like to go back and say that, again, in terms of --

AG: Could you explain what their -- explain again what was their role there?

MB: They were just doing routine screens and scans of the area in advance of this kind of a vulnerable event. It's pretty standard support to a national special security event.

AG: And are you saying there was absolutely no intelligence sharing?

MB: That's correct. That is correct. … We're very constrained--

MR: But even that, Amy, now the Pentagon is doing sweeps of areas before, you know, a political convention? That used to be law enforcement's job. That used to be domestic civil law enforcement job. It's now being taken over by the Pentagon. That should concern us.

AG: Why is that, Colonel Michael Boatner? Why is the Pentagon doing it, not local law enforcement?

MB: That's because of the scale and the availability of support. DoD is the only force that has the kind of capability. I mean, we're talking about dozens and dozens of dog detection teams. And so, for anything on this large a scale, the Secret Service comes to DoD with a standard Economy Act request for assistance.

AG: Boatner, in the Republican Convention, these troops, just back from Fallujah -- what about issues of, for example, PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder?

MB: Well, my sense is that that's something that the services handled very well. There's a long track record of great support in the homeland. If those soldiers were National Guard soldiers, I have no visibility of that. But for the active-duty forces, citizens can be confident that if they're employed in the homeland, that they'll be reliable, accountable, and take care of their families and fellow citizens in good form.

AG: Last word, Matthew Rothschild?

MR: Well, this granting of the Pentagon a special unit to be involved in U.S. patrol is something that should alarm all of us. And it's very important to the Army.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!
© 2008 Democracy Now! All rights reserved.
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Thousands of Troops Are Deployed on U.S. Streets Ready to Carry Out "Crowd Control"

Thousands of Troops Are Deployed on U.S. Streets Ready to Carry Out "Crowd Control"
By Naomi Wolf, AlterNet
Posted on October 8, 2008, Printed on October 8, 2008

Background: the First Brigade of the Third Infantry Division, three to four thousand soldiers, has been deployed in the United States as of October 1. Their stated mission is the form of crowd control they practiced in Iraq, subduing "unruly individuals," and the management of a national emergency. I am in Seattle and heard from the brother of one of the soldiers that they are engaged in exercises now. Amy Goodman reported that an Army spokesperson confirmed that they will have access to lethal and non lethal crowd control technologies and tanks.

George Bush struck down Posse Comitatus, thus making it legal for military to patrol the U.S. He has also legally established that in the "War on Terror," the U.S. is at war around the globe and thus the whole world is a battlefield. Thus the U.S. is also a battlefield.

He also led change to the 1807 Insurrection Act to give him far broader powers in the event of a loosely defined "insurrection" or many other "conditions" he has the power to identify. The Constitution allows the suspension of habeas corpus -- habeas corpus prevents us from being seized by the state and held without trial -- in the event of an "insurrection." With his own army force now, his power to call a group of protesters or angry voters "insurgents" staging an "insurrection" is strengthened.

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman of California said to Congress, captured on C-Span and viewable on YouTube, that individual members of the House were threatened with martial law within a week if they did not pass the bailout bill:

"The only way they can pass this bill is by creating and sustaining a panic atmosphere. … Many of us were told in private conversations that if we voted against this bill on Monday that the sky would fall, the market would drop two or three thousand points the first day and a couple of thousand on the second day, and a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no."

If this is true and Rep. Sherman is not delusional, I ask you to consider that if they are willing to threaten martial law now, it is foolish to assume they will never use that threat again. It is also foolish to trust in an orderly election process to resolve this threat. And why deploy the First Brigade? One thing the deployment accomplishes is to put teeth into such a threat.

I interviewed Vietnam veteran, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and patriot David Antoon for clarification:

"If the President directed the First Brigade to arrest Congress, what could stop him?"

"Nothing. Their only recourse is to cut off funding. The Congress would be at the mercy of military leaders to go to them and ask them not to obey illegal orders."

"But these orders are now legal?'"


"If the President directs the First Brigade to arrest a bunch of voters, what would stop him?"

"Nothing. It would end up in courts but the action would have been taken."

"If the President directs the First Brigade to kill civilians, what would stop him?"


"What would prevent him from sending the First Brigade to arrest the editor of the Washington Post?"

"Nothing. He could do what he did in Iraq -- send a tank down a street in Washington and fire a shell into the Washington Post as they did into Al Jazeera, and claim they were firing at something else."

"What happens to members of the First Brigade who refuse to take up arms against U.S. citizens?"

"They'd probably be treated as deserters as in Iraq: arrested, detained and facing five years in prison. In Iraq a study by Ann Wright shows that deserters -- reservists who refused to go back to Iraq -- got longer sentences than war criminals."

"Does Congress have any military of their own?"

"No. Congress has no direct control of any military units. The Governors have the National Guard but they report to the President in an emergency that he declares."

"Who can arrest the President?"

"The Attorney General can arrest the President after he leaves or after impeachment."

[Note: Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi has asserted it is possible for District Attorneys around the country to charge President Bush with murder if they represent districts where one or more military members who have been killed in Iraq formerly resided.]

"Given the danger do you advocate impeachment?"

"Yes. President Bush struck down Posse Comitatus -- which has prevented, with a penalty of two years in prison, U.S. leaders since after the Civil War from sending military forces into our streets -- with a 'signing statement.' He should be impeached immediately in a bipartisan process to prevent the use of military forces and mercenary forces against U.S. citizens"

"Should Americans call on senior leaders in the Military to break publicly with this action and call on their own men and women to disobey these orders?"

"Every senior military officer's loyalty should ultimately be to the Constitution. Every officer should publicly break with any illegal order, even from the President."

"But if these are now legal. If they say, 'Don't obey the Commander in Chief,' what happens to the military?"

"Perhaps they would be arrested and prosecuted as those who refuse to participate in the current illegal war. That's what would be considered a coup."

"But it's a coup already."


Naomi Wolf is the author of 'The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot' (Chelsea Green, 2007).
© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Windows smashed at Dems' Denver HQ

Glass smashed at Dems' Denver HQ
Denver Post
By Kieran Nicholson

Wood panals cover areas where vandals threw bricks through windows and a doorway early Tuesday morning at the Colorado Democratic Party office at 777 Santa Fe Drive in Denver. (KathrynScott Osler)

Someone threw bricks through the glass door and a window of the Colorado Democratic Party headquarters in west Denver early this morning.

No one was inside the office at 777 Santa Fe Drive when the incident happened. Police said they received the first call about the damage at about 2 a.m.

Sherry Jackson, executive director of the Colorado Democratic Party, was the first person to arrive at work this morning and found the front door boarded up.

A Denver police officer who responded to the destruction arranged the boarding, Jackson said.

"There was no entry — nobody was able to get in," she said. "We found two bricks on the floor of the office."

The projectiles did not have any notes or messages attached to them, she said.

"We cleaned up the glass, and we didn't stop working," Jackson said. "We just kept going."

A glass company has assessed the damage, and preparations for permanent repairs are underway, Jackson said.

The office, which has been at the location for more than five years, has, like other nearby businesses, been tagged by graffiti in the past. It has not had any windows broken or other deliberate damage before, Jackson said.

The property destruction has not yet resulted in an arrest, police said, and a motive in the case isn't clear.

Kieran Nicholson: 303-954-1822 or

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

John Sidney McCain aka "Songbird" prone to mishaps as Navy pilot: report

Raw Story

US presidential hopeful John McCain was prone to mistakes during his time as a Navy pilot, and if today's standards were applied, his career may have ended in a hard landing, according to a report Monday by The Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper said that when McCain was training in his AD-6 Skyraider in Texas in 1960, he slammed into Corpus Christi Bay and sheared the skin off his plane's wings.

In his autobiography, McCain said the crash had occurred because "the engine quit," but an investigation board at the Naval Aviation Safety Center found no evidence of engine failure, the report said.

Instead investigators concluded that the 23-year-old junior lieutenant was not paying attention and erred in using "a power setting too low to maintain level flight in a turn."

The crash was one of three early in McCain's aviation career in which his flying skills and judgment were faulted or questioned by Navy officials, The Times said.

In another incident, McCain was "clowning" around in a Skyraider over southern Spain about December 1961 and flew into electrical wires, causing a blackout in the area, the paper noted.

In 1965, McCain crashed a T-2 trainer jet in Virginia, and after he was sent to Vietnam, his plane was destroyed in an explosion on the deck of an aircraft carrier in 1967, the report said.

Three months later, he was shot down during a bombing mission over Hanoi and taken prisoner.

The Times said it had interviewed men who served with McCain and located the 1960s-era accident reports and professional evaluations.

"This examination of his record revealed a pilot who early in his career was cocky, occasionally cavalier and prone to testing limits," the paper concluded.

It reminded that in today's military, a lapse in judgment that causes a crash can end a pilot's career.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Begala: McCain sat on Board of Racist Group

David Edwards and Andrew McLemore
Published: Sunday October 5, 2008
Raw Story

NBC's Tom Brokaw talked to Paul Begala about how the McCain campaign is attacking Barack Obama's association with William Ayers, who was a member of the Weather Underground.

Brokaw played a clip of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin criticizing Obama's connection to Ayers by referencing a New York Times article published on the subject.

"It turns out one of his earlier supporters is a man who, according to The New York Times, is a domestic terrorist," Palin said.

After pointing out that Obama was eight years old when Ayers' planned the attacks, Begala believes "guilt by association" attacks are dangerous territory for McCain.

Begala said, "This guilt by association path is going to be trouble ultimately for the McCain campaign. You can go back -- I have written a book about the candidate. A dozen researchers go through him. I didn't even put this in the book. John McCain sat on a baord.

"It was the U.S. Council for World Freedom. It was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub who wound up involved in the Iran Contra scandal. It was an ultra conservative right-wing group.

"The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981 when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League, the parent organization which ADL said had increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racist and anti-Semites."

This video is from NBC's Meet the Press, broadcast October 5, 2008.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Back When Democrats Weren't Afraid to Fight Dirty

In the movie "The Untouchables" Sean Connery says "Never bring a knife to a gun fight. If they hit one of yours put one of theirs in the hospital, if they wound one of yours put one of theirs in the morgue.

Lyndon Johnson, the last real New Deal Democrat, pro civil rights, pro working class real deal Democrat saw through Barry Goldwater and the slimy ultra right wing un-American values he stood for.

LBJ was a get down and fight dirty if you had to Texas political brawler. Part populist and full fledged Democrat.

He saw the risk of Goldwater and acted accordingly.

The first of these videos is the infamous Daisy Ad. The Democrats only paid to run it once. After that the aghast newsmen ran it repeatedly on the three networks that ruled the air in 1964.

The second and less remembered ad pointed out the connection of conservative Republicans to racism, which in 1964 was personified by the Klu Klux Klan.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"LIVING WITHOUT GOD" -- Ronald Aronson's important new book

Doug Ireland

I wrote the following article for the magazine New Humanist's September-October issue:

Ronald Aronson’s new book, Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided, represents a radical departure from the recent attention-grabbing anti-religion polemics from Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Michel Onfray. While Aronson (right) pays heartfelt tributeRon_aronson to all of these authors, his is a much more pragmatic proposal. He suggests that “even after reading Harris, Dennett, Dawkins or Hitchens, secularists often have difficulty discussing what it is we believe in, if not God.” And what that means, for Aronson, is that humanism needs to recouple thought with action, morality with socialism.

“To live comfortably without God today means … rethinking the secular worldview after the eclipse of modern optimism,” Aronson insists. “This can happen only by working through the secular outlook itself, in light of the disasters and disappointments of the last century, and the dangers of this one.”

Aronson, perhaps of all contemporary thinkers, is ideally situated to take on the task. He is internationally recognized as the foremost Sartre scholar in the English-speaking world. A native of Detroit, Michigan, that’s where he has chosen to stay, making his academic career at the unglamorous Wayne State University, where he has taught since 1969, and where today he is a Distinguished Professor of the History of Ideas. The grandson of immigrants, Aronson is fiercely loyal to his city, once the proud flagship of the American trade union movement, the birthplace and headquarters of the United Auto Workers, but today America’s poorest urban agglomeration now that the auto industry has collapsed and much of the well-paid white working class has fled.

Detroit is, in fact, one of the characters in Living Without God, for Aronson often invokes his city to illustrate his thesis: that we need an ethics and a morality which, without belief in a supreme being, allows us to confront the daily problems of our lived lives, from Hurricane Katrina to economic insecurity to social injustice and want to death and dying.

Sartre Aronson is a philosopher, but of a special kind. One of his most important books is titled Jean-Paul Sartre: Philosophy in the World (unfortunately out of print, but available in its entirety on Aronson’s website), and he situates himself firmly in what Oliver Wendell Holmes once called “the passion and action of our times”. His writing frequently draws on his own life. In Living Without God, for example, the chapter on confronting mortality was written while Aronson was undergoing (ultimately successful) treatment for prostate cancer.

As a scholar and writer, Aronson for the last three decades has explored and illuminated the nature of hope as reified through political commitment. And he is also today one of the handful of contemporary US public intellectuals who has the courage to openly identify himself as a socialist. Chased from the public square in the McCarthyite 1950s and given the coup de grace by the collapse of its endlessly perverted incarnation in the Soviet Union and its satellites, the idea of socialism, indeed the very word, is a taboo in modern America.

But Aronson’s radicalism is deeply rooted, and distinctly American. A student of New Left icon Herbert Marcuse, under whom he took his doctorate while at Brandeis University, Aronson was swept up in the political activism of the 1960s. He became a community organiser in the African-American neighborhood of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and an editor of the influential New Left journal Studies on the Left. In the heady spring of 1968, while completing his doctoral dissertation on “Art and Freedom in the Philosophy of Sartre”, Aronson participated in the Freedom School organised in the aftermath of the student strike at Columbia University. Unlike many who left their activism behind them once they’d moved on from student life, Aronson has continued down the path of explicit political engagement.

During the apogee of the struggle against apartheid in the late 1980s, while a guest lecturer at universities in South Africa, Aronson threw himself into the fight – a story he told in his 1990 book, Stay Out of Politics: A Philosopher Views South Africa. He was later celebrated for his activism and his writings with an honorary doctorate from the University of Natal in Durban. More recently, he has been a fierce opponent of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and as a firm believer in local activism has been an active member of the Huntington Woods (Michigan) Peace, Citizenship, and Education Project in the Detroit inner suburb where he resides.

Ever ready to take the clash of ideas out of the academy, Aronson has produced televised debates on democratic values and affirmative action that have pitted the likes of Cornel West and Barbara Ehrenreich on the left against conservative writers like David Frum and Abigail Thernstrom. And, unusually for a philosopher, he has produced two films, together with Academy Award-nominated director Judith Montell. One of them, Professional Revolutionary: The Life of Saul Wellman, explores the life of a legendary Detroit trade union radical who was once indicted and jailed by the federal government (a conviction later overturned by the Supreme Court on free speech grounds) and who much later was honoured by testimonials from both the Detroit City Council and the state legislature for his contributions to Michigan’s working class.

Wellman , a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, in later life mentored Saul_wellman many younger leftists, and played a key role in Aronson’s life in 1974 when Aronson was denied tenure at Wayne State University and lost his job because of his political activism. “I was feeling whipped,” Aronson once told me, “and I had offers elsewhere, and didn’t feel like fighting. But I told Saul about it, and he said, ‘You can’t leave, this is your home – you have to fight it. Now, who should we contact?’ And he took out his list of addresses and we started organising the movement for the reversal of my tenure decision.” Aronson won that fight, and was reinstated in 1975 –with tenure.

Aronson’s second film, First Amendment on Trial: The Case of the Detroit Six, chronicles how the federal government overreacted to dissent during the Cold War when it indicted and convicted Michigan’s Communist leaders during the McCarthy hysteria. “The film seeks to situate the story in its historical era and then consider it from the distance of 50 years,” says Aronson. “It demonstrates that the political system failed to protect dissent at a time of national crisis but that the judicial system stepped in at the highest level to ultimately confirm and clarify freedom of speech and assembly.”

Aronson has churned out a steady stream of articles and books: the latter include The Dialectics of Disaster, After Marxism and the groundbreaking Camus and Sartre: the Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel That Ended It, which was hailed by critics in both the US and France for uncovering the personal and political roots of the quarrel between the two gigantic figures of existentialism. Aronson’s easily digestible prose is remarkably free of academic cant; as the Times Literary Supplement has observed, his work combines “the highest level of scholarship with a lively and readable style of writing.”

But if Living Without God is an enjoyable read, anyone looking for a catechism of neat, formulaic, three-a-penny slogans of the prêt-à-penser variety in this volume will be disappointed. Taking as his starting point Immanuel Kant’s three questions – “What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope?” – Aronson wants above all to make us think.

He writes, “Instead of lending our power to a being above us and then asking for it to be lent back to us, we may be able to feel our power as drawn from, and connected to, all that we depend on.”

That interconnectedness commands us to assume a sense of absolute responsibility as beings for the world around us. For example, the coming to power of Adolf Hitler and the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust that flowed from it “required the active or passive consent of tens of millions ... many of the accomplices may have done very little or even nothing. Some only averted their eyes. But each did exactly what was needed” for the triumph of evil. And he brings his assessment right up to today by discerning the bulk of the American people’s similar responsibility for the war in Iraq.

But Aronson also insists that “ignoring that we are interdependent is ruining our society” because we refuse to tackle a different form of quotidian violence: inequality. “Inequality may be wholly impersonal, and we may have no intentional relationship to it, but by our failing to name it and confront it and do something about it, we wind up living by it. We make it ours. To condone and benefit from injustice is to become implicated in it.”

I asked Aronson what he thinks humanists should be doing to address inequality. “The struggle for equality, which has been not only going on but making slow, painful strides – and sometimes quick and exhilarating ones – is an essential part of the humanist identity,” he responded, “not tacked on as something that it might be good to do. We are responsible for ourselves and each other. For combating the inequality that keeps us from ourselves and each other.”

Is Aronson hopeful about how Living Without God will be received? “I’m holding my breath about the book,” he told me. “I say hopeful, not optimistic, inasmuch as I see myself as part of a long-term struggle to make the world more humane and more equal. I believe that social and political action is absolutely necessary to keep one’s sanity. It’s simply a matter of acknowledging and acting on our social and political identities: we are citizens, whether the powers that be like it or not.”

Two years ago, Aronson created a stir by publishing in the leading US progressive magazine, The Nation, an article entitled “The Left Needs More Socialism”. In it, Aronson argued that “The next Left will have to acknowledge, and even celebrate, the socialist spirit ... The socialist standards of fairness, democracy, equality and justice are as much a part of daily life as are capitalism’s values of privilege, unequal rewards, and power.”

When asked if he thought America could become more socialist, Aronson, as he does in his books, saw inextricable links between America’s political character and its religious inclinations: “I think about these together, because America’s retard in terms of the basic securities of advanced societies is connected with its status as the most religious of societies. As Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart demonstrate in Sacred and Secular, religiosity seems to diminish as security and equality increase. The most unequal and insecure of advanced societies, the US, is also the one that has the greatest presence and intensity of belief in heaven above and a transcendent force managing human lives.”

Even though the word “socialism” scarcely appears in Living Without God, Aronson’s new book represents the logical extension of his lifelong probings of how political commitment is constructed and of his untimorous socialist faith. In his refusal to think about religion and humanism outside the frame of the political, Aronson has extended the “new atheism” into regions it has often been reluctant to go. His challenge to humanists – to live up to their commitment to human equality – is both welcome and profound.

The Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci wrote from his prison cell in Mussolini’s Italy that “The challenge of modernity is to live a life without illusions, without becoming disillusioned.” In Living Without God, it seems to me, Aronson has admirably met that challenge.

Posted by Doug Ireland at 10:05 AM |

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pat Condell and the Video Removed From You Tube

Pat Condell will never win an award for tact. He has been accused of anti-Muslim bigotry. This is an accusation leveled at any free thinker who dares stand up to the medieval superstitions of the Muslim sky fairy worshipers.

I despise censorship, particularly censorship based upon blasphemy,the idea that pointing out the insanity of the teaching of various skygod cults is in and of itself evil and deserving of punishment and or silencing.

I suppose that given the attacks and fatwas issued on Salman Rushdie because of his book "Satanic Verses" or how Theo Van Gogh was murdered because he dared make a film critical of the Muslim treatment of women (Submission)

The murderer of Theo left a message to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the author of "Infidel" and Theo's collaborator on the film "Submission". The message in the form of a note pinned to Theo's chest with a knife through his heart that read, "You are next."

In that light censorship of a "You Tube" video may seem like a minor matter. Yet it is an act of silencing and unacceptable if one treasures the freedom of speech, especially when one treasures both hearsy and the challenging of oppressive superstitious beliefs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

When Sisterhood Is Suicide and Other Late Night Thoughts by Robin Morgan

Robin Morgan
October 1, 2008

I screwed up. I started writing this weeks ago as a Letter to Undecided Women Voters—especially those still scarred by the profound misogyny battering Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries. But headlines kept breaking and I kept adding stuff until the piece threatened to become the Black Hole that ate the Electoral College. By now, my short tolerance for willful ignorance is as spent as Wall Street while socialism-Republican-style tries to nationalize it. But it’s hard to know where to start. So many dolts and liars, so little time. So much to cover. This essay needs lists.

Since feminists are reluctant to criticize a woman (as much from a healthy fear of headlines screaming, “Catfight!” as from sisterly sanctity), I offer:

Ten Nice Things to Say About Sarah Palin:

1. She’s a lifelong NRA member and crack rifle-woman, but hasn’t yet shot a single person in the face.

2. She’s so unafraid of power that a majority-Republican legislative committee is investigating her abuse of it.

3. She’s broad-minded, willing to have evolution taught alongside creationism.

4. She gives “the personal is political” new meaning: Axing the public-safety commissioner for not firing her ex-brother-in-law (Trooper-gate); firing “foes” suspected of “disloyalty” (Library-gate).

5. She knows how to delegate, involving “First Dude” husband Todd in more governmental decisions than any male politician’s spouse has dared since Hillary tried to give us healthcare in 1993. (First Dude’s defying a subpoena from those meanies mentioned up in #2.)

6. She has executive experience: As mayor of Wasilla, then-constituency 5,000 souls, she presided over a population almost as vast as that of some urban high-schools.

7. She’s an existentialist: Bridge-to-Nowhere-gate, Highway-to-Nowhere-gate. She never “focused much on Iraq”—after all, “the war is part of God’s plan”—and she dismisses McCain’s reluctance to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as being like “Eastern politicians” about environment. (Check out Wasilla’s dead-Lake-Lucille-gate.)

8. She brings home the earmarked bacon—plus moose, caribou, wolf, and any other animal stumbling haplessly across her rifle-sight as she leans out of the ‘copter on another heli-hunt. But! Does she rely solely on godless government for her $500 million U.S.-subsidized natural-gas pipeline? No! Last June, at the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church, she declared, “God's will has to be done to get that gas line built!”

9. She displays refreshing curiosity, as when she asked, “What is it exactly the VP does?” (Don’t scoff: Are you smarter than a 5th grader?)

10. She’s multi-talented—studied journalism, tried sportscasting, can slickly scan a teleprompter (unlike her running-mate). She’s a jock (Sports-Complex-gate.) She was a beauty queen (as all of McCain’s wives were; how ‘bout that?) She’s patriotic—well, except for attending that secessionist Alaska Independent Party conference during the seven years when First Dude was a party member pulling down DWI convictions on the side. Best of all, she’s a born-again feminist, a “feminist for life.” Which I guess makes me a feminist for death.

Oh,the irony of it all.

We’ve lurched through a surreal looking-glass. Cheney advisor Mary Matalin smirks “we feminists have fought thirty years for this moment.” GOP Committee Victory Chairman (sic) Carly Fiorina—who sneered, “The glass ceiling doesn't exist”—steals my words from “Goodbye To All That #2” to support McCain. Conservatives now complain about “misogynistic” coverage of continually emerging political misdeeds by Palin—who herself denounced as “whiners” those millions of us livid at media sexism and Democratic National Committee (DNC) indifference to it in their joint political gangbang of Hillary last spring. The gall is breathtaking.

Never before have the words “sexism” and “feminism” sputtered their way out of so many hypocritical right-wing jaws, appropriated overnight by people who for—excuse me, 40 years—denounced anyone working for women’s rights, including calling us “FemiNazis.” Perversely, such outrageous annexation of our language means feminism is succeeding. These neo-cons need to claim it, to pretend they’re relevant. (Of course, the lack of respect shown by the DNC and the Left to those 18 million of us HRC voters helped facilitate the Right’s cynical appropriation.) Still, “thanks but no thanks.” The complexity and power of the global Women’s Movement is not interchangeable with Applehood and Mother Pie. You can’t have the rhetoric without the reality. Sarah Palin is to all women what Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is to African American women and men. With triumphs like these, who needs setbacks?

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis says this election is “about personalities, not issues.” But feminists don’t merely follow the person—we follow the politics. We’ve always been about supporting candidates who show commitment to the rights of all women. I backed Hillary for her stand on issues, and because I felt she was best qualified of all the candidates. But Hillary’s not running now.

Nor can you just slot one (qualified) woman out and slot a different (unqualified) one in: women are not building-brick toys. Regrettably, some of my colleagues in the media seem unable to grasp this. Having faced justifiable fury for their treatment of HRC, they now tiptoe crazily around Palin for fear that to criticize her at all will be—whoops!—“sexist.” Which brings us to:
Ten Blunt-Crayon Hints for the Media

1. Do investigate Palin’s opposition to listing polar bears and other animals as endangered. Do not call her one: no chick, bird, kitten, bitch, hen, cow. Also no produce: tomato, peach, etc.

2. Do not give more credence to McCain’s “maverick” myth. (By the way, a “maverick” is not a rebel; it’s just an unbranded steer.) Do expose how the real McCain surfaces in racist, ethnic, homophobic, ageist, and sexist “humor.” Do remind us that 1998, when Chelsea Clinton was only 18, McCain asked a GOP fundraiser audience, “Why is Chelsea so ugly?" and answered himself: "Because her father is Janet Reno."

3. Do follow up GOP accusations of media sexism regarding Palin. For instance, when Rush Limbaugh—who began pushing Palin for VP pick last February—exults, “She’s got nice-looking ankles . . . [plus] Guns! Babies! Jesus! And she's a babe!” do suggest the GOP confront him.

4. When adopting a reverential tone about McCain’s stint as a tortured POW, do report that the largest single threat women in the military face is the torture of sexual assault and rape by their own male comrades and superiors—plus threats of ostracism and “friendly fire” if they report attacks. While on the military, if you report McCain minion Fiorina claiming he “was one of the first to condemn sexual misconduct at the Navy’s Tailhook Convention in 1991,” do expose the fact that McCain participated in Tailhook drunken bouts and sexual attacks on women in 1987 and 1990, while a sitting senator. (He was warned a day early that the scandal would go public, so carefully denounced it first, claiming the assaults began in 1991—a brazen lie.)

5. Do not ask if Palin can balance work and parenting, unless you ask if McCain, Obama, and Biden can. Do report quotes like this, from Cindy McCain: “When I was alone with all these babies . . . did I get angry? Sure, [I was] a single parent except on weekends.” Or this, from Michelle Obama, quoted by Barack: “‘You only think of yourself,’ she would tell me, ‘I never thought I’d have to raise a family alone.’” But do challenge Palin’s claim of relying solely on relatives for childcare, since she acknowledged (in her church speech last June) having a nanny.

6. Do not crucify Bristol Palin for being a pregnant, unwed teen. Do note the irony that her mother opposes sex ed and funding for pregnant teens. Do point out conservatives’ vile, racist, double standard on teen pregnancy (imagine if an Obama daughter were in Bristol’s situation).

7. Do not laugh away impregnator Levi Johnston’s having bragged on his (swiftly removed) Facebook page, “I’m a f***ing redneck . . . I like to hang out with the boys, shoot some s*** and f***in' chillin'." Do follow up: Just what did he mean by “shoot some s***”? Deer? “Horse”?

8. Do not present more all-pale-male panels shamelessly unfazed by pontificating on gender and race. Do be embarrassed that all three presidential debates are anchored by white men. Gwen Ifill, a two-fer—female and African American--landed the VP debate. She’s great. Two-fer’s not. Be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

9. Do not keep humoring the tiny minority of woman-hating, lesbian-and-gay “curing,” science-denouncing, religious-fanatic troglodytes in this country. Do not dignify them by “equal time” 50-50 coverage when the reality is 6 (them)-94 (the rest of us). Do not fear condescending to people who deserve not just condescension but ridicule, because they insist everyone share their certainty that our galactic quadrant of dimensional fabric in the multiverse was thrown together in six days by a vengeful authoritarian old prick with a beard; people who believe women were born to shut our mouths, spread our legs, obey men, and drop babies like litters of, uh, say, pit-bulls; people who don’t fear wars but are terrified of same-sex lovers; people who are blatantly bigoted, deliberately superstitious, and proudly ignorant. Do not facilitate the further takeover of our republic by Snopses—and if you don’t get that literary reference, look it up (try Faulkner).

10. Do expose lowest-common-denominator politics as toxic to the democratic process. Do confront accusations that any thoughtful person is “elitist.” Do remind viewers and readers that intelligence, skill, and excellence are desirable qualities in those who would be our leaders. Do remind citizens that the Founders of this Republic were highly educated individuals who prized intellect, rationality, and science, who made damned sure religion and politics were firmly separated, who chose representative government over direct democracy because they believed that leaders should not be folks “to have a beer with” but people thoroughly educated on national and global issues and deeply prepared to deal with them. Despite corporate ownership of the media, do try to act like a free press.

Anyway, here’s where we are now.

Pollsters claim “disaffected white women,” including “unregenerate” HRC supporters, will make the difference on November 4. In fact, groups like PUMA (Party Unity My Ass), though linguistically ripping off big cats and sneakers, may have tried to play a meaningful role pre-Democratic Convention, but at this point are boding to become 2008’s Naderites. (Oh wait! There still are actual Naderites out wandering the desert, sighted somewhere near Roswell.)

Heads up: if you’re disaffected and unregenerate, this part is specially for you.

I’m also unhappy that Obama endorsed Bush’s faith-based initiative (Jefferson and Madison would puke in their graves). I’m uneasy when Obama declares “I let Jesus Christ into my life”—and if that offends any Born Agains, they really shouldn’t read Robin Morgan. But remember: HRC also danced to the Christian tune. And yes, I was incensed when Obama said women shouldn’t be able to get a late-term abortion because of “just feeling blue”—crudely insensitive to what any woman feels at any stage of pregnancy termination. When he chuckles admiringly about his wife and daughters being “beautiful, graceful, [and] highly opinionated,” he shows a lack of understanding that that compliment strikes a feminist as offensively patronizing the same way “articulate” was offensively patronizing about him. Why should it be a matter of note that black people can be articulate or female people can have opinions?

Bottom line: Obama’s book title: Dreams from My Father. McCain’s book title: Faith of My Fathers. Patriarchy? You think?

Neither one gets it. BUT. One doesn’t not get it much more than the other. So:

Ten Reasons You CANNOT Support McCain-Palin

1. Yourself. Do not cut off your womb to spite the Democrats. (Also do not sit this election out or play write-in-vote games. And tempting though it may seem, do not blow a vote for the Green Party.)

2. Iraq. McCain’s been a hawk since evolution made raptors.

3. The Economy. For years McCain chaired the Senate Banking Committee that brought us the current financial meltdown. He opposed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have made it easier for women and other workers to pursue pay-discrimination claims. (Come to think of it, why the focus solely on equal pay for equal work? Whatever happened to equal pay for comparable worth?)

4. The Supreme Court. McCain vows to stack the court with “clones of Alito and Roberts.” There goes . . . well, everything.

5. Choice. McCain has lodged 125 anti-choice votes. He boasts he’ll overturn Roe v. Wade. And as for the claim that if Roe is overturned it will “merely” throw reproductive rights back to the states, understand that McCain supports a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion outright, nationwide.

6. Realism. If you’re a young feminist, do not get disillusioned by Obama’s drift to the middle—depressing but standard for winning. Do consider running for office—politics is not a spectator sport. And if you still can’t grasp why older feminists zealously backed HRC, please read Susan Faludi‘s brilliant “Second Place Citizens” for context. It’s crucial.

7. Old Wounds. Remember that McCain’s answer to a supporter asking him about Hillary, “How do we beat the bitch?” was “Good question!” Remember that at the Sturgis motorcycle rally, McCain mortified his wife by saying she should enter the Topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. Remember that, responding to a comment Cindy made about his thinning hair, he guffawed, “At least I don’t plaster on makeup like a trollop, you c**t.”

8. Palin. McCain’s pick of Palin demonstrates contempt for American women and insults the intelligence of anyone who supported Hillary, since Palin is her (melting) polar opposite. It denigrates qualified Republican women (Senators Snow, Collins, Dole, and Hutchinson must be suffering silent apoplexy). It’s actually abuse of Palin herself, a sacrifice tossed to the ravenous fundamentalist base, now the butt of public humiliation for her abysmal lack of qualifications.

9. Feminism—remember that? McCain-Palin politics are antithetical to every feminist policy most U.S. women support. Palin is an anti-abortion-rights, pro-“abstinence only” enemy of sex education and stem-cell research who denounced as “outrageous” the state supreme court’s decision to strike down Alaska’s parental-consent statute; who believes survivors of sexual assault and incest should be forced to bear the attackers’ fetuses to term; who let Wasilla charge survivors for rape kits and forensic exams; who cut funding for teen-pregnancy services; who stated she’d oppose abortion for her daughters even if they’d been raped; who’s against same-sex marriage (because such love is “curable”) and against gun control—but apparently all for shotgun weddings (poor Bristol’s gonna marry that dork, like it or not).

10. Settling for Greatness. Sure, we wanted to vote for the right woman. Sure, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for her. Meanwhile, in Obama we can have a chief executive who reflects our politics, and who—especially since he may have both houses of Congress behind him—just might turn out to be one hell of a great president.

Finally, for those many of us still so hurt that we came this far (and this close) only to be told yet again: Sorry, you won’t make history this time—here are:
Five Ways To Still Make History

1. Do get involved in electoral reform. Have a real effect on the Democrats by working to end the unrepresentative caucus system in some state primaries. Because caucuses are held only at certain hours (usually night-time) in a few venues, they discriminate against lots of voters—late-shift workers, parents with young kids, older voters, and people without cars in areas lacking mass transit. A caucus vote is public, thus puts unfair pressure on some voters—wives voting differently from husbands, students vulnerable to peer pressure. It’s no coincidence that Hillary lost in caucus states: many of her backers were women, working-class folks, older people. This system, that supposedly “builds the party,” disenfranchises voters. Let’s change it.

2. Do not just inveigh against sexism in the media. Growling at your TV set is fun; action is better. Target sponsors of shows that offend, organize email blizzards and boycotts of their products. Join the anti-sexist, anti-racist media campaigns of The Women’s Media Center and NOW.

3. Do let’s learn from the primaries. HRC campaigned intrepidly. But her campaign was unworthy of her—and that’s her fault. Enough with listening to Mark Penn-type advisors and “Beltway feminist” gatekeepers who told her not to give “women’s issue speeches.” Whatever her future holds, it will be interesting, and I’m proud she’s my senator. Meanwhile, do let’s take advantage of the fire her candidacy rekindled in women. Do let’s start rebuilding the Women’s Movement with more audacious activism.

4. Do let’s take responsibility for what we ourselves failed to make happen in the primaries. The Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Netroots (via the Daily Kos), and the faith-based community (via Rick Warren’s event) all sponsored debates, so candidates had to address those communities’ concerns, and just as crucially, those constituencies educated the public about their issues. Where were women? The Congressional Women’s Caucus, the National Women’s Political Caucus? An ad hoc consortium of NOW, Feminist Majority, CODE PINK, BISA, NCRW, NCNW, NWSA, WEDO, and the other initials? Why didn’t women—the majority of the population—hold a debate, make the candidates answer to us, and in the process, inform the electorate that our issues are not reducible to “the glass ceiling,” which sounds as if all we want are more CEO jobs? Our agenda is vast, including national health insurance, the HIV epidemic among young black women, legislation and funding to address disability rights, sexual abuse, domestic violence, prostitution, and sex trafficking. Our global issues range from poverty and bride burnings to child marriage and protein denial, from female infanticide to forced illiteracy, from refugee suffering and genital mutilation to environmental destruction. Women, the majority of humanity, are the first affected by world crises and the last consulted about solutions. The glass ceiling? We must never again collaborate in our own invisibility.

5. Simple: Do not throw away your chance to help elect this nation’s first African American president. Savor that. That vote makes history.

Last, a purely personal note. Obama’s favorite authors are Graham Greene and Toni Morrison. McCain’s are James Fenimore Cooper and Hemingway. For me, as a writer? Honest-to-god, that alone does it.

Besides, I like arugula. I’ve even grown some.