David Sirota, The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington . Crown Publishing, 2008, 385 pages, $26.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Summer - Allegro non molto.mp3 Summer - Adagio - Presto.mp3 Summer - Presto.mp3 =Vivaldi= * I Know I Am But Summer To Your Heart I know I am but summer to your heart, And not the full four seasons of the year; And you must welcome from another part Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear. No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing; And I have loved you all too long and well To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring. Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes, I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums, That you may hail anew the bird and rose When I come back to you, as summer comes. Else will you seek, at some not distant time, Even your summer in another clime. =Edna St. Vincent Millay= * Before Summer Rain Suddenly, from all the green around you, something-you don't know what-has disappeared; you feel it creeping closer to the window, in total silence. From the nearby wood you hear the urgent whistling of a plover, reminding you of someone's Saint Jerome: so much solitude and passion come from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide away from us, cautiously, as though they weren't supposed to hear what we are saying. And reflected on the faded tapestries now; the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long childhood hours when you were so afraid. =Rainer Maria Rilke=
Thursday, July 30, 2009
July 30th, 2009 · No Comments
We would still like healthcare reform legislation to succeed this year — but we are not nearly as enthusiastic about it as we were just a few short months ago.
For starters, the Obama Administration isn’t calling it “healthcare reform” anymore. Now it’s “health insurance reform.”
Reformers have lowered their sights. They aren’t trying to fix Big Pharma’s stranglehold on the American consumer anymore. All they are trying to do now is to offer a public alternative to Big Insurance. And even this small measure of reform may not become law.
If it doesn’t, and so-called “universal health care” passes, it will simply be another handout to corporations, paid for by taxpayers, just as Medicare Part D was. The government will simply pay to have everyone “covered,” but won’t fix the underlying problems that make America’s healthcare system so overpriced and inefficient.
What a shame.
I haven’t given up hope that the public option will succeed. But I have given up all hope that the bill will include meaningful improvements in prescription drug prices.
As Ralph Nader explains:
Obama invites (drug companies) to the White House, where they presumably pledged to give up nearly $300 billion dollars over ten years without any specifics about how this complex assurance can be policed.
No matter, in return Obama and his aides agreed not to press Congress to authorize the federal government to negotiate drug prices with the drug industry. Don’t worry: the taxpayers will pay the bill.
At a meeting on July 7 at the White House between drug company executives, Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), the industry, according to The New York Times, was promised that the final legislative package would not allow the reimportation of cheaper medicines from Canada or other countries even if they meet our drug safety standards.
Do you see anything odd about the pharmaceutical industry promising “X dollars over X years” in lower prices to consumers? Does that sound like a free market process to you?
In other words, if I had a business selling apples, and I sold them for 25 cents each, you would assume that this price would be based on what the market would bear. That is, if I sold them for 30 cents, I would not sell them all and some of them would rot. But if I sold them for 20 cents, I would sell them all too fast and not make as much money as I could have. That’s the market setting the price.
Big Pharma doesn’t operate by such rules. It has a friend — the U.S. government — that decides how much money it can make on the drugs it develops.
The government decides this by giving drug companies patents, and then extending these patents again and again, so that they can have a monopoly on the drugs they sell.
If I’m the only one in the world who’s allowed to sell apples, I can probably get a lot more than 25 cents an apple, can’t I?
In fact, I can start marketing apples as a sweet, juicy alternative to Russian caviar if I want to. I can sell them for $100 each if I want, right?
And what would be even better is if your doctor informed you that, for your health, you had to have an apple every day. Then you would have to find a way to get one, whether you could afford it or not, wouldn’t you?
Gee, it’s great to be in the apple-selling business, isn’t it?
So here I am, selling my apples at an outrageous profit, buying G4s to fly me around, spending billions of dollars on TV ads to ensure that consumers “ask their doctors” whether they need to eat more apples, when all of a sudden President Obama calls.
“Hey,” he says, “what would you say about selling your apples for $95 instead of $100 for a few years? And maybe selling them for $50 to seniors in the Medicare Part D doughnut hole? That way we could say that you have contributed $X billion in cost savings to our healthcare reform bill.”
“Hmm,” I think. “Why not? It’s good PR — and how funny that people will think they’re actually getting a bargain by paying $95 for an apple.”
If you want to pay $95 for an apple, you can wait for the benefits of Obamacare. Otherwise, you should seek the immediate benefits of licensed Canadian pharmacies.
Read this brilliant and humorous chapter from Chris Hedges’ new book and marvel as the Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent makes sense of reality television.
Adapted from “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle,” available from Nation Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Humane Society Teams Up With Michael Vick: The Humane Society of the United States says Michael Vick wants to work with the group on a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens. Society president Wayne Pacelle tells The Associated Press that he met with Vick at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., and that the meeting came after Vick’s legal team approached the animal-rights group.
(Photo and caption from ABC News.com May 19, 2009)
Essay by Steve Best
Republished on 7/28/09
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Karl Marx
The modern animal “rights” movement is only a few decades old. In a relatively short time, it has clearly made its presence felt in society. There are many promising signs of evolution in the social attitudes and treatment of animals, ranging from increased legal penalties for animal abuse to the growth of the animal law field and growing popularity of animal studies in higher education. Nonetheless, it would be a serious mistake to conclude that we are “winning” or making “progress” in a truly significant way, or that we can ride into the future on the wings of the mainstream organizations and their legislative-based tactics.
Fallacies of the Mainstream
Consider this: after over three decades of growth and advocacy, the US environmental movement has not accomplished any major goals and easily succumbed to eco-fascists such as Ronald Regan and George W. Bush. No amount of protests, demonstrations, lobbying, or mass mailings has been able to stop the mounting global ecological crisis which plays out in global warming, rainforest destruction, chemical poisoning, species extinction, and countless other ways. As Mark Dowie shows his must-read book, Losing Ground, the situation, in fact, has steadily deteriorated and has reached crisis proportions, despite the emergence of huge environmental organizations and growing popularity of the environmental cause.
Similarly, whatever PR gloss one cares to throw on the last few decades of the animal advocacy movement, one has to confront the startling facts that ever more animals die each year in slaughterhouses, vivisection labs, and animal “shelters,” while the fur industry has made a huge comeback. Similarly, after three decades of activity, the animal advocacy movement remains overwhelmingly a white, middle-class movement that has gained few supporters in communities of color or among other social justice movements.
So if we are counting the number of casualties in this war of liberation, to single out one criterion, our side is hardly winning. Over the past two decades, Americans have dropped $40 billion on animal protection issues, some $2 billion a year, as 3,000 volunteer organizations worked billions of hours. And for what? More death and bigger cages?
As activists lounge around swank hotels preaching to the choir in endless conferences and Ego Fests, the enemy is growing in number and strength. Meanwhile, the key tactics that have truly proven their worth and work where others fail – the methods of the ALF, SHAC, and direct action in general – have been rejected and reviled by vast swaths of the movement. Mainstream ideologues are under the spell of Gandhi, King, and “legalism,” the system-created ideology that urges dissenters to seek change only in and through non-violence and the pre-approved legislative channels of the state. As the opiate of the masses, legalism disempowers resistance movements and leaves corporations and governments to monopolize power, deploy violence at will, and flout the laws – created by and for them — whenever necessary and convenient.
Many individuals and organizations – none more aggressively than the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — in fact have unctuously adopted the murderous voice of the corporate-state apparatus and denounced direct action as violent, terrorist, and antithetical to the values of the animal advocacy movement. The lethal virus of McCarthyism has infected our own movement. The moral purists and legalists implore direct action advocates to purge the “violent and extremist” element so that the voices of reason, compassion, and moderation can prevail. And prevail they will, we are asked to believe, with enough professionals, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and lawyers filling the hallways and chamber rooms of Congress, persuading our “elected representatives” who — of course! — serve only the interests of the people, and never the will of corporations.
It is unfortunate that such naiveté still impedes social movements today, for the entire history of state repression, political corruption, and corporate hegemony belies this bullshit at every turn. In the accelerating phase of ecological crisis, it is now do or die and we do not have the luxury to wait for change to unfold in the long march through the institutions.
Lessons from the Environmental Movement
The animal advocacy movement is poised for ever greater failures as it replicates the mistakes of the environmental movement. At the turn of the decade in 1970, the future of the new environmental movement seemed bright. Riding the crest of 1960s turmoil and protest, environmentalism quickly became a mass concern. The first Earth Day in 1970 drew millions of people to the streets throughout the nation. The 1970s became “the Decade of Environmentalism,” as Congress passed new laws such as the Clean Air and Water Act and the government created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Environmental organizations planted roots in Washington, DC, grew vast membership bases, spewed out expensive mass mailings, and walked side-by-side with the rich and powerful as they lobbied for a better world.
The movement’s recipe for success, however, quickly turned into a formula for disaster as large environmental groups increasingly resembled the corporations they criticized and, in fact, themselves evolved into corporations and self-interested money-making machines. Behemoth organizations such as Friends of the Earth, the Wilderness Society, and Nature Conservancy formed the “Gang of Ten.” They were distinguished by their corporate and bureaucratic structures whereby decision-making originated from the professionals at the top who neither had nor sought citizen input from the grass roots level.
The Gang of Ten hired accountants and MBAs over activists, they spent more time and energy in mass mailing campaigns that actual advocacy, and their money was squandered on sustaining their budgets and bureaucracies rather than protecting the environment. They brokered compromise deals to get votes for legislation that was watered-down, constantly revised to strengthen corporate interests, and poorly enforced. As an entrenched bureaucracy with its own interests to protect, they not only did not fund or support grass roots groups, they even fought against them at times. They formed alliances instead with corporate exploiters and legitimated greenwashing/brainwashing campaigns that presented polluters and enemies of the environment as friends of the earth – as when the Environmental Defense Fund bragged that something significant happened when they partnered with McDonalds to end plastic foam containers, as the rainforests continued to be pillaged for Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. The EPA became a farce that protected the interests of corporations over citizens and the earth, while lulling the populace into thinking that there was genuine “regulation” of corporations and environmental hazards.
The significant gains in the environmental movement came in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the emergence of thousands of grass roots organizations not beholden to patrons, corporations, and politicians, along with the direct action tactics of Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Earth First!, and the Earth Liberation Front.
Problems in Our House
Looking back on the last two decades of environmental politics, it is clear that mainstream organizations are an impediment to the radical changes necessary in society to stop corporate ecocide. With ecological crises mounting, an ever-growing division between the world’s rich and poor, and transnational corporations gaining increasing power and control over all nations, it is clear that tactics of compromise, reform, and moderation cannot stop the juggernaut of capitalism and speciesism and that more radical and confrontational methods are necessary.
Unfortunately, the same problems and pathologies that crippled the potential power of a mass environmental movement are replicating themselves in the animal advocacy movement. As Gary Francione, Joan Dunayer, and others have complained, it is hard even to find a consistent animal rights philosophy and politics in the movement, as most campaigns in fact are corporate-compromising, welfarist campaigns dressed up in a rights language and seek a reduction in suffering rather than the abolition of the root causes of exploitation.
Through the influence of the ALF and SHAC, a militant direct action presence has entrenched itself in the animal advocacy movement (the ALF beginning in the 1980s and SHAC in the late 1990s), but in most cases direct action is either shunned or vilified for fear of state repression or losing the almighty funding and patron dollars through contamination with controversy.
The New Goliath
HSUS, in particular, has distinguished itself as a divisive force by pulling out of national and regional conferences that include direct action speakers. Rather than evince respect for diversity and debate instead of run, HSUS not only has withdrawn into its own insular conference world, it has publicly attacked the ALF and SHAC. In a recent interview, Mike Markarian, HSUS Executive Vice President of External Affairs, crossed a clear line when he demonized ALF activists as criminals and applauded the FBI for going after them (see Volume I Number 4 of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office newsletter at: http://www.animalliberationpressoffice.org).
HSUS is a vast, global empire unto itself, with offices throughout the world, 10 regional offices in the US, and tentacles in a web of other organizations and affiliates. While it has no relation to local humane societies and animal shelters anywhere in the US, HSUS does control dozens of legal corporations throughout the world, such as Earthvoice, the Wildlife Land Trust, Earthkind USA, and the UK World Society for the Protection of Animals. Like other transnational corporations, the HSUS conglomerate survives through endless expansion and growth. In 2002, it took over Ark Trust, producers of the Genesis Awards for animal-friendly TV and film. It absorbed the Fund for Animals in 2004, and in 2005 it snapped up edgy activists Miyun Park and Paul Shapiro from Compassion Over Killing, a pro-open rescue group willing to break the law to rescue animals, a clear no-no for HSUS.
From its 30,000 members and annual budget of $500,000 in 1970, it has morphed into a body of 9 million members with an operating budget of nearly $100 million in 2005. Such a behemoth has a homogenization effect on the movement whereby it monopolizes donations to animal causes, commands ever more media, disseminates welfarist ideology, co-opts activists useful to its programs, and maligns direct action approaches, all the while staying disengaged from local humane societies and animal shelters as a whole (unless they are willing to pay HSUS a fee for services and advice).
Certainly, HSUS has helped animals in various ways and helped to chalk up a number of legislative victories against cockfighting, horse slaughter, and other atrocities, and under Pacelle’s leadership it progressively advocates a vegan agenda. But it also is a vast bureaucratic organization with its own interests and needs (such as paying Pacelle’s $300,000 annual salary) that has adopted many of the unfortunate characteristics of mainstream environmental movements.
No such empire and bureaucracy can be sustained without its lifeblood – money – and fundraising, patron satisfaction, and forging corporate ties thereby occupy a good deal of HSUS time and energy. In 2003, HSUS had $116,205,882.00 in total liability and net assets, yet spent around $3.5 million on the crucial problem of animal sheltering (far better than in 2002, when they gave less than $150,000 to local humane societies and shelters). They did, however, spend over $15.6 million on fundraising and accrued $6.3 million in administrative costs.
HSUS acquired over countless millions of dollars in donations to aid animals gravely affected by hurricane Katrina. They worked to save many animal lives, but also came under intense fire from activists on the ground who claimed that they were inept and inefficient. One has to wonder if a more flexible organization structure would not have been more effective. And how much of that largesse supports its bloated bureaucracy and fundraising needs, and how much goes directly to the animals? Would such funds not have been better utilized by shelters and rescue organizations at the grass roots?
In 1994, Pacelle told Animal People that his goal was to build “a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement,” suggesting he seeks a powerful organization dominated by single-issue politics. Such an approach means in practice the kind of compromise politics that vitiated the environmental movement, such that HSUS is prepared to bargain with or support nearly any politician (however right-wing) or corporation for a vote. This was evident in their recent support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, a neo-liberal economic policy modeled on NAFTA), whereby they gained tenuous support for some animal issues, but lent their support in turn for a “trade agreement” that threatens small farmers, violates the rights of workers, promotes factory farming (and thus greater meat and dairy consumption), and favors transnational corporations that grow wealthy through the plunder of Southern nations.
Do or Die
If the animal rights movement is ever to become more than just another “interest group,” if it is to achieve it goals of animal liberation, and if it is to realize its potential for radically transforming human identity and society, it will have to study past social movements and learn from their successes and failures – the environmental movement in particular — in order to draw the right lessons and not repeat the same mistakes. Activists need to be critical of large mainstream organizations, fight to maintain philosophical and tactical diversity, and demonstrate the vital importance of grass roots, direct action, and underground approaches.
As frustrated as activists become for far greater degrees of progress, it is also true that we need patience, foresight, long-term vision and strategies, and use of non-violent tactics where these are viable. Where legal and non-violent tactics are not viable, however, where they are not enough to stop exploiters from killing innocent animals, it is our duty to use stronger tactics to bring this violence against animals to an end. As we would not argue any differently if we were defending human beings against violence and terrorism, we should apply the same arguments to animals who have equal rights to life and freedom. As with past human liberation struggles, any and all tactics that prove themselves effective in the field of battle must be used for animal liberation, thus demanding a pluralist and non-dogmatic approach.
For a long time, the direct action community has tolerated the opprobrium of mainstream organizations like HSUS, which claims that direct action approaches have discredited the values of the movement and impeded its progress. As we consider the level of radical tactics necessary to defend animals and the earth, and ponder the fallacies that have guided the animal advocacy movement for too long, maybe it’s time to turn the tables and expose the fallacies and hypocrisies of the mainstream.
The message of the animal rights/liberation movement has nothing to do with profits, corporations, and fundraising, and everything to do with a revolutionary transformation of human consciousness and all existing social institutions.
Dr. Steve Best is TPC’s associate editor. Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.
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There are certain simple steps that can be followed, whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, whether the condition is one of poor health, a stressful personal involvement with another, a financial dilemma, or whatever.
These steps seem very obvious, and perhaps too easy—but they will bring an immediate sense of ease and peace of mind while your inner reserves are being released and activated.
I have mentioned these steps many times, because they are so vital in clearing the conscious mind, and bringing some sense of relief to the frightened ego.
1. Immediately begin to live in the present as much as possible. Try to become as aware as you can of present sense-data—all of it. Often, while you are in pain for example, you concentrate upon that sensation alone, ignoring the feelings of ease that may be felt by other portions of the body and unaware of the conglomeration of sounds, sights and impressions that are also in the immediate environment. This procedure will immediately lessen the pressure of the problem itself, whatever it is, and give you a sense of refreshment.
2. Refuse to worry. This fits automatically with step 1, of course. Tell yourself you can worry all you want tomorrow, or on some other occasion, but resolve not to worry in the present moment.
3. When your thoughts do touch upon your particular problem in that present moment, imagine the best possible solution to the dilemma. Do not wonder how or why or even when the ideal solution will come, but see it in your mind’s eye as accomplished. Or if you are not particularly good at visual imagery, then try to get the feeling of thanksgiving and joy that you would feel if the problem was solved to your complete satisfaction.
These steps will allow you breathing time, and actually help minimize the pressure of your situation, whatever it is. Then quieted, you will be able to consider other more suitable steps that may more directly address your particular solution.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
The U.S. military command is considering contracting a private firm to manage security on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, even as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says that the Pentagon intends to cut back on the use of private security contractors.
On a Web site listing federal business opportunities, the Army this month published a notice soliciting information from prospective contractors who would develop a security plan for 50 or more forward operating bases and smaller command outposts across Afghanistan.
Although the U.S. military has contracted out security services to protect individuals, military bases and other facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, this contract would award a commercial company unusually broad "theater-wide" authority to protect forward operating bases in a war zone. ...
God of merchandise
God of entertainment
God of food
|START DATE:||Saturday August 15|
|TIME:||11:00 AM - 6:00 PM|
|Event will be held at an outdoor space in San Francisco. Location specifics will not be released until the night of August 14.|
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Ralph Nader sez: "A great problem of contemporary life is how to control the power of economic interests which ignore the harmful effects of their applied science and technology."
Nader (b. 1934) has been called "the most vigilant citizen in America," and citizen Ralph’s first high-profile salvo against the automobile industry was a 1959 article called "The Safe Car You Can’t Buy," in The Nation. Nader wrote: "It is clear Detroit today is designing automobiles for style, cost, performance, and calculated obsolescence, but not - despite the 5,000,000 reported accidents, nearly 40,000 fatalities, 110,000 permanent disabilities, and 1,500,000 injuries yearly—for safety."
Six years later, in 1965, Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile and the consumer movement was born. The book meticulously detailed how car companies sacrificed safety in the name of profit, e.g. General Motors' Chevrolet Corvair had a suspension that made it liable to roll over.
The response from GM made Nader a folk hero. Private detectives were hired to trap the consumer crusader in a compromising situation, but they failed. Nader caught wind of the plot and sued the auto giant for invasion of privacy. The fallout was swift and far-reaching. GM President James Roche was forced to appear before a nationally televised Senate subcommittee and apologize to Nader; GM improved the Corvair's suspension; and Congress passed the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
Nader used the majority of his $284,000 settlement to lay the groundwork for a long-term consumer rights movements. Public Citizen, the NGO founded in 1971, has been credited with helping to pass the Safe Drinking Water Act and Freedom of Information Act and prompting the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and spawned divisions such as Citizen Action Group, Congress Watch, Global Trade Watch, and Tax Reform Research Group. Non-profit organizations created by Nader include the Corporate Accountability Research Project, Disability Rights Center, National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, and the National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest.
"Nader’s accomplishments have become part of the fabric of American public life," Karen Croft writes in. "He works harder than any president or member of Congress," says Croft. "He has affected your life as a consumer more than any man, but you didn’t elect him and you can’t make him go away."
Croft asked Nader how he wants to be remembered, to which he replied: "For helping strengthen democracy, for making raw power accountable and enhancing justice and the fulfillment of human possibilities."
Sounds like a template for all green activists, huh?
*There's a new Patriotism brewing in America, and it's got green written all over it: Patriotism 2.0.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
This is disappointing:
Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul. ... The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the "presidential communications privilege." ... Having promised transparency, the administration should be willing to disclose who it is consulting in shaping healthcare policy, said an attorney for the citizens' group. In its letter requesting the records, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics asked about visits from Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans; William Weldon, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson; and J. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Assn., among others.
There's not much excuse for this. During the campaign, Obama loudly derided closed-door governing. In fact, it's still on his website:
- Lobbyists Write National Policies: For example, Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force of oil and gas lobbyists met secretly to develop national energy policy.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan
Bring Americans Back into their Government
- Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.
- Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.
Back in primary season, Obama attacked Hillary specifically on healthcare reform transparency:
During one of the recent Democratic debates, Obama, criticizing the secrecy of Clinton's 1993 effort to reform healthcare, talked about how he would open up the entire process -- "Not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN ..."
To be sure, Barack Obama isn't Dick Cheney - the current White House isn't crafting policy with industry executives exclusively. But it's painful to see such an obvious gap between an inspiring campaign promise and a cynical governing reality.
The Bush Administration increased the power of the presidency while pushing public accountability farther away from that power. And given the enormity of the challenges Obama inherited, I'm sure there's temptation to retain at least part of that expanded authority...our new president needs all the help he can get.
But the long-term damage isn't worth it - Bush's abuse of power can't become precedent.
Watch the video of the Dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix on "The Ascendancy of Obama... and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation" To hear the full evening, including Q&A session, click here.
Don't miss one minute of this discussion....!!
W.E.B. Du Bois' classic 1903 work "The Souls of Black Folk" opens with "The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line." Du Bois helped form the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., who directs Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, knows much about the color line -- not only from his life's work, but from life experience, including last week, when he was arrested in his own home.
Gates' lawyer, Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, said in a statement that the arrest occurred as Gates returned from the airport:
"Professor Gates attempted to enter his front door, but the door was damaged. Professor Gates then entered his rear door with his key, turned off his alarm, and again attempted to open the front door. With the help of his driver they were able to force the front door open, and then the driver carried Professor Gates' luggage into his home." Both Gates and his driver are African-American. According to the Cambridge [Mass.] Police report, a white woman saw the two black men attempting to enter the home and called police.
Ogletree continued: "The officer ... asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. Professor Gates said that he could, and ... handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver's license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates' photograph, and the license includes his address." Police officer James Crowley reported that Gates responded to his request for identification: "Why? Because I'm a black man in America?" Despite his positive identification, Gates was then arrested for disorderly conduct.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, more than 60 mostly African-American and Latino children attending the Creative Steps camp were disinvited from a suburban Valley Swim Club, which their camp had paid for pool access. Suspicions of racism were exacerbated when Valley Swim Club President John Duesler said, "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club." The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation.
The Senate Judiciary hearings on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor were permeated by the race question, especially with white, male senators questioning her comments on how a "wise Latina" might rule in court. If confirmed, one of the first cases she will hear will be that of Georgia death-row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis, an African-American.
As it moves into its second century, the NAACP is, unfortunately, as relevant as ever. It is confronting the death penalty head-on, demanding Davis' claims of innocence be heard and asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the case of Pennsylvania death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Another new NAACP initiative asks people to record instances of bias, discrimination and police brutality with their cell-phone cameras, and upload them to naacp.org.At the group's centennial, longtime board chair Julian Bond said, paraphrasing Jay Leno: "When I started, my hair was black and my president was white. Now my hair's white, and my president is black. I hold the NAACP responsible for both." While the Cambridge Police Department has dropped the charges against Gates, his charges of racial discrimination remain. W.E.B. Du Bois' color line has shifted -- but it hasn't been erased. *
Police Accused of Bias After Arresting Harvard Scholar Inside His Own Home
One of the nation’s most prominent African American scholars, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has accused police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of racial profiling after he was arrested in his own home late last week. Gates is the head of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and American Studies. Gates arrived at his home in Cambridge last Thursday afternoon to find his front door jammed. As he tried to pry it open, a neighbor called the police department and reported that a robbery was in progress. Gates grew frustrated when an investigating officer did not believe he was the owner of the home despite proof of residence. According to a police report of the incident, Gates called the officer a racist and said, “This is what happens to black men in America.” Eventually Gates was handcuffed and taken to the police station. Gates was charged with disorderly conduct.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I / The Illusion of Literacy
John Bradshaw Layfield, tall, clean-cut, in a collared shirt and white Stetson hat, stands in the center of the ring holding a heavy black microphone. Layfield plays wrestling tycoon JBL on the World Wrestling Entertainment tour. The arena is filled with hooting and jeering fans, including families with children. The crowd yells and boos at JBL, who has had a long career as a professional wrestler. Many chant, "You suck! You suck! You suck!"
"Last week I made Shawn Michaels an offer, and I have yet to hear back from the Heartbreak Kid," drawls Layfield. Michaels, another WWE wrestler, is a crowd favorite. He is a self-professed born-again Christian with a working-man persona. "So earlier today I made Shawn Michaels an offer that was a lot easier to understand," Layfield continues. "I challenge Shawn Michaels to a street fight tonight! So Shawn, I know you're back there. Now what's your answer?"
"HBK, HBK, HBK!!!" the crowd intones. A pulsing rock beat suddenly shakes the arena as action shots of the Heartbreak Kid flash across the Titantron, the massive screen suspended over the ring. The crowd cheers, leaping up as Shawn Michaels, in jeans and an army green shirt, whirls onstage, his long, blond hair flying. Pyrotechnics explode. The deafening sound system growls, "I know I'm sexy ... I got the looks ... that drive the girls wild...."
Michaels bursts into the ring, fists pumping, stalking back and forth. The ref steps in to begin the match.
"HBK! HBK! HBK!" chants the crowd.
"Hold on, hold on, referee," Layfield says, putting his hand on the referee's shoulder. People in the crowd begin to heckle.
"Shawn," he says, "you got a choice to make. You can either fight me right now in this street fight, or you can do the right thing for you, your family, and your extended family, and take care of them in a financial crisis you never dreamed would happen a year ago today." Michaels stands silently.
"You see, I know some things, Shawn," continues Layfield. "Rich people always do. Before this stock market crashed, nobody saw it coming, except, of course, my wife, but that didn't help you, did it? See, I was hoarding cash. I was putting money in gold. While most Americans followed the leader—blindly, stupidly followed the leader—I was making money. In fact, Shawn, I was prospering while you were following the herd, losing almost everything, right, Shawn?"
"Fight!! Fight!! Fight!! Fight!!" urges the crowd. Michaels looks hesitantly back and forth between the heaving crowd and Layfield.
"You lost your 401(k). You lost your retirement. You lost your nest egg. You lost your children's education fund," Layfield bellows into the mic, his face inches from Michaels's. "You got to support your extended family, Shawn, and now you look around with all this responsibility, and you look at your beautiful wife, she's a beautiful lady, you look at your two little wonderful kids, and you wonder: 'How in the world ... am I going to send them ... to college?' "
Layfield pauses heavily. Michaels' face is slack, pained. Small, individual voices shout out from the crowd.
"Well, I've got an answer," Layfield goes on. "I'm offering you a job. I want you to come work—for me."
"No! No! No!" yells the crowd. Michaels blinks slowly, dazed, and lowers his eyes to the mat.
"See, there's always alternatives, Shawn. There's alternatives to everything. You can always wrestle until you're fifty. You might even wrestle till you're sixty. In fact, you could be a lot like these has-beens who are disgracing themselves in high school gyms all over the country, bragging about their war stories of selling the place out while they're hawking their eight-by-tens and selling Polaroids. Shawn, you could be that guy, or you could take my offer, because I promise you this: All the revenue that you're goin' to make off your DX T-shirts will not compare to the offer that I ... made ... to you."
He tells the Heartbreak Kid to look in the mirror, adding, "The years haven't been kind to you, have they, Shawn?" He reminds him that one more bad fall, one more injury, and "you're done, you're done."
The crowd begins to rally their stunned hero, growing louder and louder. "HBK! HBK! HBK!"
"What else can you really do besides this?" Layfield asks. "You get a second chance in life."
Layfield sweeps off his white Stetson. "Go ahead," he screams into Michaels's face. "Ever since you walked out here . . . people have been wantin' you to kick me in the face. So why don't you do it? I'm gonna give you a free shot, Shawn, right here."
The crowd erupts, roaring for the Heartbreak Kid to strike.
"HBK!! DO IT!! DO IT!! HBK!! HBK!!!"
"Listen to 'em. Everybody wants it. Shawn, it's what you want. You're twitching. You're begging to pull the trigger, so I'm telling you right now, take a shot! Take it!"
The Heartbreak Kid takes one step back, his stubbled face trembling, breathing rapidly like a rabbit. The crowd is leaping out of their seats, thrusting their arms in the air, holding up handmade banners.
"HBK!!! HBK!!! HBK!!!"
"Do it, Shawn," Layfield hollers, "before it's too late. This is your second chance, but understand this, understand this—"
"HBK!!! HBK!!! HBK!!!"
"—Listen to me and not them! If you take this shot ... then this offer is off the table ... forever."
The crowd stops chanting. Different cries are heard: boos, shouts to attack, shouts to stop. There is no longer unity in the auditorium. Layfield holds his head outstretched until the Heartbreak Kid slowly turns his back. Layfield leers. Shawn Michaels climbs through the ropes out of the ring and walks heavily back to the dressing room, his dull gaze on the ground. "Lookin' forward to doin' business with ya, Shawn," Layfield shouts after him.
The crowd screams. Layfield, like most of the wrestlers, has a long, complicated fictional backstory that includes a host of highly publicized intrigues, fights, betrayals, infidelities, abuse, and outrageous behavior—including goose-stepping around the ring and giving the Nazi salute during a wrestling bout in Germany. But tonight he has come in his newest incarnation as the "self-made millionaire," the capitalist, the CEO who walked away with a pot of gold while workers across the country lost their jobs, saw their savings and retirement funds evaporate, and fought off foreclosure.
As often happens in a celebrity culture, the line between public and fictional personas blurs. Layfield actually claims to have made a fortune as a stock market investor and says he is married to the "richest woman on Wall Street." He is a regular panelist on Fox News Channel's The Cost of Freedom and previously appeared on CNBC, not only as a celebrity wrestler but as a savvy investor whose conservative political views are worth airing. He also has written a best-selling book on financial planning called Have More Money Now. He hosts a weekend talk-radio program syndicated nationally by Talk Radio Network, in which he discusses politics.
The interaction between the crowd and Layfield is vintage professional wrestling. The twenty-minute bouts employ the same tired gimmicks, the same choreographed moves, the endless counts to two by the referee that never seem to get to three without the pinned wrestler leaping up from the mat to continue the fight. There is the desperate struggle of a prostrate wrestler trying to reach the hand of his or her partner to be relieved in the ring. This pantomime, with his opponent on his back and his arm outstretched, can go on for a couple of minutes. There are a lot of dirty shots when the referee is distracted—which is often.
The bouts are stylized rituals. They are public expressions of pain and a fervent longing for revenge. The lurid and detailed sagas behind each bout, rather than the wrestling matches themselves, are what drive crowds to a frenzy. These ritualized battles give those packed in the arenas a temporary, heady release from mundane lives. The burden of real problems is transformed into fodder for a high-energy pantomime. And the most potent story tonight, the most potent story across North America, is one of financial ruin, desperation, and enslavement of a frightened and abused working class to a heartless, tyrannical, corporate employer. For most, it is only in the illusion of the ring that they are able to rise above their small stations in life and engage in a heroic battle to fight back.
Excerpted from the book Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges. Reprinted by arrangement with Nation Books (www.nationbooks.org), a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.
July 22, 2009
I HIGHLY anticipated David Sirota's book The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington. So highly that I went out and purchased a hardcover edition hot off the presses.
The book was billed as one exploring the history of social movements in the U.S. and their recent revival. I thought immediately of the contrast between Hillary Clinton's comments on the campaign trail (how the civil rights movement wouldn't have been successful, but for Lyndon Johnson) and Barack Obama's (that "change doesn't come from Washington--change comes to Washington").
With that in mind, I eagerly set about reading Sirota's book. I was greatly disappointed.
Sirota's book reminded me of a SocialistWorker.org article by Todd Chretien, "The case for a socialist alternative,"  in which he contrasts, among other things, liberalism from above with liberalism from below. By contrast, Sirota makes the case throughout his book that liberalism from above (putting one's stock in the Democratic Party) is the way to go, and liberalism from below (grassroots social movements independent of electoral politics) is a waste of time.
Sirota's lead chapter is emblematic of the book's approach. Instead of looking at a particular social movement, he details the exploits of a Democratic senator he happens to work for, Jon Tester of Montana.
His next chapter on the antiwar movement frankly made me sick. Sirota attends one antiwar demonstration (as if going to one event is enough to dissect and analyze an entire movement) and apparently sees only "freaks"--or as he puts it "twenty-somethings with Goth-style black T-shirts, lots of earrings, cheek rings and other assorted piercings. Interspersed in the crowd are people in various costumes. A guy on stilts is wandering around as a 15-foot-tall Abe Lincoln."
No doubt there are people like that at antiwar protests. But the questions that Sirota doesn't ask are: (1) Is there anything wrong with wearing "lots of earrings" or even dressing in costumes? and (2) Is walking on stilts characteristic of most people who attend them?
I suspect those who dress weird in Sirota's eyes are only distasteful to the people Sirota is trying to please--Democratic Party politicians.
But Sirota doesn't stop there. He turns his hostility on everyone else at antiwar protests (or at least the one he bothered to go to). He states that those who blame Dick Cheney for everything are "mildly mentally unstable"--and then writes, "which, frankly, is what I think of a lot of people at this march when I talk to them."
I was shocked when I first read this statement, since Sirota comes across as a progressive who at times has had sharp criticisms of establishment Democrats. But his clarification brings out his perspective. He doesn't think antiwar protesters are "mentally unstable" because they're antiwar, but because "this group doesn't look, dress or even talk like two-thirds of Americans who oppose the war."
If Sirota had checked his history, this tracks almost word for word a comment made by Nixon about antiwar demonstrators in the 1960s.
Sirota supports his case by claiming, "By the time the Vietnam War was really raging, the federal government stopped listening to marches based just on the size of the crowd," and "the establishment discovered it could basically ignore hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall."
Any history of the Vietnam era--at least, any one that's remotely sympathetic to the opponents of the war--refutes such claims.
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SIROTA ALSO goes on to make a number of other misstatements regarding social movements of the past. For example, he claims that only recent protests that "officialdom" reacted to were those at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization meeting.
Sirota caps off his tirade against protest with the comment, "At least half the folks who marched voted for Ralph Nader"--and therefore "bear some vague, indirect responsibility" for the war.
So there you have it! At the end of the day, Sirota turns to the tired, old and entirely false complaint that Ralph Nader--because he dared to stand up to both Republicans and Democrats--was responsible for Al Gore losing the 2000 election, and George Bush winning.
Never mind that in 2004, after Bush invaded Iraq, the Democratic candidate John Kerry was prowar, and greeted the Democratic National Convention with the words "John Kerry, reporting for duty"--while Nader made opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq a centerpiece of his independent campaign.
The International Socialist Organization even gets a mention in Sirota's book. He claims that one of the ISO's signs at the antiwar protest declares our desire for "the overthrow of the U.S. government in the name of 'regime change.'"
Sirota also spends time with one of the anti-immigrant Minutemen groups. It's another telling choice--instead of analyzing the rise of the immigrant rights movement, which put millions of people on the streets for the May Day marches in 2006 and after, Sirota devotes an entire chapter to a borderline-neo-Nazi group as further evidence of his "uprising."
The only illuminating portion of the chapter is a conversation he has with a Minuteman who admits that border-crossers are motivated by poverty, and that what should be done is to lobby Congress to support global antipoverty initiatives--but he doesn't "know how we'd do that."
In another thoroughly boring chapter, Sirota interviews Lou Dobbs as another representative of "the uprising." Dobbs' immigrant-bashing, right-wing populism is the polar opposite of a progressive agenda.
Finally, Sirota discusses so-called "shareholder activism," in which activists buy stock in companies like ExxonMobil in order to show up at meetings to protest. He gives no evidence for how widespread this tactic really is. But more importantly, these activists are investing their hard-earned money in corporate polluters rather than in building social movements.
But doesn't this just fit with Sirota's apparent philosophy--grassroots social movements are secondary (if that), and the inside-outside strategy comes first?
For a much better book on the history of revolt from below in the U.S. I'd recommend Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States --and for a good book outlining why the inside-outside strategy doesn't work, try Democrats: A Critical History .
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-  http://socialistworker.org/2008/12/19/the-case-for-socialism
-  http://www.haymarketbooks.org/product_info.php?products_id=1598
-  http://www.haymarketbooks.org/product_info.php?products_id=1603
-  http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FUprising-Unauthorized-Populist-Scaring-Washington%2Fdp%2F0307395634%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1248233262%26sr%3D8-1&tag=socialistwork-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325
-  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0
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