Monday, December 29, 2008

Milgram Again! 45 Years Later

Having so often discussed the original Milgram experiment with friends, colleagues, students and teachers, I never thought the experiment would be repeated, but it has been.

From yesterday's New York Times, Adam Cohen provides the juicy details:
Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University replicated the experiment and has now published his findings in American Psychologist. He made one slight change in the protocol, in deference to ethical standards developed since 1963. He stopped when a participant believed he had administered a 150-volt shock. (He also screened out people familiar with the original experiment.)
Professor Burger’s results were nearly identical to Professor Milgram’s. Seventy percent of his participants administered the 150-volt shock and had to be stopped. That is less than in the original experiment, but not enough to be significant.
Much has changed since 1963. The civil rights and antiwar movements taught Americans to question authority. Institutions that were once accorded great deference — including the government and the military — are now eyed warily. Yet it appears that ordinary Americans are about as willing to blindly follow orders to inflict pain on an innocent stranger as they were four decades ago...The findings of these two experiments should be part of the basic training for soldiers, police officers, jailers and anyone else whose position gives them the power to inflict abuse on others.

I'd love to know a little more about the change in the research protocols and the new screening process, as well as what motivated the researchers this time around. I'll be checking out Professor Burger's article in American Psychologist...and don't anyone get any bright ideas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Christmas Present

My 20-month old son Noah just climbed on my lap, pointed to the monitor and said "A." Then he pointed to a soda can and said "Not A."

He repeated this a few times. That this was for my benefit was made clear by the expression on his face. When he was satisfied I understood, he lept off my lap and happily walked away.

May everyone feel love this Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

ecclecicism on steroids

Listening to the oddest mixture of ska, ragtime, folk, progressive and even medieval music tonight...

Mark Nichols' interpretation of three songs from Brecht plays

"I Been Around," Ruskabank
"My Friends," Ruskabank

"Oh Lonesome Me," Mary Chapin Carpenter

"Kiss Him Goodnight," The Regulators

"Pretty in Pink," The Dresden Dolls
"Lonesome Organist Rapes Page-Turner," The Dresden Dolls

"Stella Splendens," Cantus Firmus

"We Saw Jerry's Daughter," Camper Van Beethoven
"Good Guys & Bad Guys," Camper Van Beethoven

"Stockton Gala Days," 10,000 Maniacs

"Through to Sunrise," Girlyman

"Bolovan," La Santa Krudelia

"Ragtime Annie," Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers

"Kamielis varda Rasta," Voiceks Voiska

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Obama: Science Key to Survival

Dot Earth, the New York Times' science blog, has the skinny on Obama's time-for-a-change pro-science rhetoric:
For anyone who feels science has been disrespected in the White House of late, the language of change was all there. “Whether it’s the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bioterror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create 21st-century jobs — today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation,” he said. (The full text of the Obama message on science is on his news blog).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

incremental theological freedom, halleluja!

Over at Daily Kos, Gregory Paul delivers the Good News (pardon the pun)
Although still a small minority, nonbelievers are easily the fastest growing segment of the population. The rise of liberalism is more incremental, but they already make up a very large and growing minority that when allied with the often sympathetic moderates constitute the great majority. Basically, America is undergoing a delayed version of the sociopolitically progressive secularization that has already occurred in all other advanced democracies. To a certain extent this is because the conservative movement has always contained the seeds of its own destruction, and these seeds are sprouting.
This secularization is a good thing, even from the perspective of left-oriented believers, "liberal Christians" and other non-conservative and unorthodox believers. It means less dogmatism and orthodoxy, plain and simple. That makes it easier to practice open-minded faith and perhaps even save people from spending their lives being taught to be ashamed of their critical thinking skills and sexual urges!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dresden Dolls: War Pigs

This 2005 video of the Dresden Dolls covering the Black Sabbath classic "War Pigs" embodies everything I love about the Dolls, and also offers a unique, extended look at Brian Viglione's drumming skills. It's a unique, intense, compelling and fun piece of footage.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Anyone else thinking what I'm thinking?

The answer: of course they are...before I did, even...

"That really hurt! I'm gonna have a lump there, you idiot! Who throws a shoe? Honestly! You fight like a woman!"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Best comeback article of the year

Beth Myers, the executive director of STITCH, asking those worker-bashing Republican toads:
Have you ever wondered what Japanese bankers make? According to a November 28, 2008 Wall Street Journal Story, executives at banks in Japan make A LOT less than their US counterparts. The gap is huge...But at Morgan Stanley, in which MUFG acquired a 21% stake in September, John Mack, the chief executive, alone took home five times that amount -- $41.4 million -- in the year ended Nov. 30, 2006. ... On average, chief executives at Japanese companies with more than $10 billion in annual revenues are paid about $1.3 million a year, including bonuses and stock-option grants, according to Towers Perrin, a consulting firm, based on data gathered between 2004 and 2006. But chiefs in the U.S. are paid about $12 million, and chiefs in Europe are paid $6 million. ... Which bank do you think Senator McConnell should call first?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Writers, Editors, Ad-sellers Wanted


The intensification of local, national and global politics necessitates a forum for thoughtful political analysis; intense debate over visions, strategies and tactics; and the building of a pluralist progressive community of activists, scholars, and journalists. This necessity to seize the political moment and shape the coming political epoch inspires our decision to launch Shared Sacrifice: The Journal of Progressive Thought.

The journal will offer progressive dialogue as a new model for the exchange of political and cultural thought. In addition to enjoyable and thought-provoking essays, in-depth news analysis, and cultural reviews, our site will be unique in its facilitation of national and international dialogue between activists, progressive political candidates, and writers and critics. The site will feature an activist calendar and message board, and we plan on hosting robust and relevant debates as an ongoing feature of the site. Although our primary form of discourse will be written, we will supplement text with voice and image, including podcasts of essays, videos of commentary and events, and even editorial cartoons.

If you like to write, draw, think and/or speak, you should get in touch with us fast. Due to the success of our internet radio show Shared Sacrifice, the site will have an instant readership which will only grow with time. Today’s volunteer submissions and positions will become tomorrow’s paid work as the site becomes economically self-sustaining.

What we need:

Writers: We plan on posting ten or more new articles per week, including contemporary political analysis, policy and movement advocacy, reviews of movies, books, theater, music and more, economic analysis, and reports of political activity anywhere and everywhere. Writers may contact Matt Stannard to receive an assignment, or submit unsolicited manuscripts. Standard length for essays and feature articles is between 1,000 and 1,500 words; reviews, news briefs and shorter pieces should be between 500 and 1,000 words.

Editors: While we will not edit content once we have accepted a submission, we will edit for style and mechanics. Time permitting, editors may work with writers to improve pieces; in deadline situations, editors will clean up pieces for posting. Editorial experience is the edge for those seeking to break into the writing and publishing business, so this may be a valuable opportunity for many of you.

Advertising Sales Reps: We will offer a variety of advertising options for clients who are comfortable with the political and cultural perspectives of the site. Our goal is to make the site and its parent organization economically sustainable within six months. We seek confident people to help us sell ads for what will be an exciting, well-traveled site.

Exposure and Support: Listen to the radio show and, once the site is up, visit it and comment on the content. Send the links to the show and the site to as many people as you can. Help us link up to thousands of blogs, political sites, and message boards, to promote our model of dialogue and sacrifice across a wide spectrum of progressive-minded communities.

For more information, or to send submissions, contact Matt Stannard:

Monday, December 08, 2008


From CNN, a story full of antagonists. If we can call the Iraqis who died protagonists, we won't hear from them in the U.S. media. Undoubtedly some of those who died were innocent, while others, even if complicit in violence, would factually be alive today but for the U.S. occupation.

There is absolutely nobody to trust here. Those who criticize the Iraqi government as being the fruit of the U.S. occupation can't take the results of an investigation by the Iraqi government as gospel truth; Blackwater is in major CYA mode, the Justice Department is in a corner after eight years of misrule, and the defendants themselves most likely did some stupid stuff in a context where their prejudices and private interests asserted themselves above all else.

Aspiring for the rule of law is good; the colonization of the rule of law by this particular combination of characters is not so good.

"Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop."
--Abel Meeropol

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thomas to Obama: You've Been Punked?

Still some confusion, which may be cleared up by the time you read this:

KARK, Little Rock/, seven hours ago, refers to a much earlier Washington Times story:
The decision on granting a hearing challenging President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship is still pending.
The "Washington Times" reports that the U.S. Supreme Court held a private conference Friday morning to discuss whether to take up a lawsuit but it was not on the list of court orders for the day.
According to the "Times" a Supreme Court spokesman said the decision to hear the case will most likely be announced next week.
If four of the nine justices vote to hear the case, oral arguments could be scheduled.
The Daily Writ, 9 hours ago says that the absence of the case on the list for next week means they won't hear it:
The Supreme Court appears to have declined review in a case filed against the Secretary of State of New Jersey that sought to nullify Barack Obama’s election to the presidency. The case, which centers on Obama’s citizenship, was not among those for which the Court accepted review on Friday; thus, watchers of the high Court expect review to be formally denied on Monday.
Whatever the outcome, I'll bet you a quarter this was revenge from Clarence Thomas for Obama's casual dismissal of Thomas's intellect:
Obama said, “that’s a good [question],” and then explained: “I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don’t think that he, I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution.” Obama added that he wouldn’t have appointed Justice Scalia, and perhaps not John Roberts, either.
Nia-Malika Henderson agrees that it's at least a possibility, speculating on Politico:
Maybe Thomas is just returning the favor — putting through a case that questions whether Obama should be president, after Obama said he wouldn't have picked Thomas for the high court.
And, whatever the outcome, the fact that the SCOTUS even considered hearing it at all...well...that's a testament to the American dream: Any complete idiot with a poor excuse for an argument, given enough bitterness and enough money, can win the ear of a dimwitted Justice.


Compliments of Jeremy Scahill at AlterNet, we have a reading of the New York Times and other news reports on the collective sigh of relief from the war hawks concerning Barack Obama's Iraq plans. He has no intention of a complete withdrawal from Iraq, not in 16 months, not in two years, maybe not in ten years. This makes a few people happy: It makes the Bush administration happy because it won't appear as if Obama is really that out of step with eight years of Bush. It makes the corporate producers of military equipment happy, as well as the private contractors who are still making billions of dollars on this occupation, this occupation that was based on lies, misinformation and the politics of fear to begin with.

The plans to stay in Iraq are NOT designed to make a couple of important constituents happy: There's no consideration here for the approximately 60% of the American public who is opposed to the occupation of Iraq. And even more offensive, there's zero consideration here for the millions of progressive, anti-war Americans who worked thousands of hours, proactively, to get Barack Obama elected president. You worked for him because he promised to end the policies of the Bush administration. His reward to you was Robert Gates. You worked for him because he blatantly said he would get the U.S. out of Iraq. His reward to you was to kiss the bum of the military industrial complex.

Thom Shanker of the New York Times News Service puts in in starker terms:
On the campaign trail, Sen. Barack Obama offered a pledge that electrified and motivated his liberal base, vowing to "end the war" in Iraq.
But as he moves closer to the White House, the president-elect is making clearer than ever that tens of thousands of American troops will be left behind in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat forces out within 16 months.

Bill Van Auken over at the World Socialist Web Site writes:
...Obama's anti-war rhetoric was from the outset deliberately misleading, designed to con the millions of Americans who went to the polls with the aim of voting to stop the war.
As for Obama's 16-month deadline for withdrawing "combat" forces from Iraq, the Times reports that Pentagon planners are currently drawing up projections for up to 70,000 US troops continuing the occupation not only well past May 2010, but also long after the supposed December 31, 2011 deadline for a full withdrawal established under the recently concluded status of forces agreement reached between Washington and its client regime in Baghdad. It is generally believed that this deadline will be annulled in subsequent negotiations.

I'm with Joseph A. Palermo at the Huffington Post, who writes:
...the United States was not "invited" into Iraq by any Iraqi government, puppet or otherwise, so the occupation remains essentially unilateral in nature. It will therefore require unilateral action to end it. Iraq's government has nothing to say to the United States about when and how American combat troops are disengaged. The country has been under occupation for over five years, the regime is corrupt at every level, and it lacks legitimacy both abroad and with its own people. The United Nations "mandate" came after the U.S. had intervened. There is no "leader" in Iraq, or "parliament," that can tell the American people they must continue to spend $12 billion each month on Iraq's "security" until 2012. It was an American decision to go into Iraq. It will be an American decision to get out of Iraq. In the current context, the desires and demands of the fractured and dependent regime inside Baghdad's "Green Zone" matter little.

Perhaps the best sign that we have been bamboozled, and our election field labor and campaign contributions swindled by the Obama regime is that Obama now has a new fan: Henry Kissinger. In addition to being National Security Advisor and Secretary of State for both Nixon and Ford, Kissinger was an assassination coordinator, enabling various dictators to kill tens of thousands of people. Kissinger can't even travel abroad to many places in Europe or Latin America right now, because he will be subpoenaed (at least) if he does. Kissinger writes in the Washington Post that "President-elect Barack Obama has appointed an extraordinary team for national security policy." I think we should be concerned about Obama receiving such endorsements. I think they denote something that many of us failed to realize over the past several months: Barack Obama is a corporatist, militarist politician. He may not always have been, but that's what he is now. His social function is to continue U.S. corporate and military dominance, to give it a human face, to make the rest of the world like us so we can continue to do, basically, the same things we've been doing all along.
Okay, we can give that a moment to sink in.

The bottom line is this: Prior to the Obama phenomenon, progressives were poised to chart their own course. Now, in an understandable and laudable effort to break the stranglehold of white supremacy, our allies in the Democratic Party and the progressive movement have expended a great deal of money and energy to elect a black person president. That's been done, and in and of itself, in a very isolated and abstract way, sure, it's a good thing. But that person is determined to play it safe, because he doesn't conceive of politics the same way we do. It's not that he fears a backlash among conservatives. It's that, compared to the people who carried him into victory, Barack Obama IS a conservative.

Let me say that again so everyone understands what I am getting at. I said: compared to the people who carried him into victory, Barack Obama IS a conservative. I don't mean he's George Bush. But I do mean that he is too ideologically and morally weak to undo the damage Bush has done.

It's time to go back to charting our own course. This doesn't mean we need to enable the right wing crazies who are out to ruin Obama. The entire point in charting our own course is to change the way the majority of people in America conceive of politics to begin with. Obama has made this more difficult by using the veneer of grass roots political action in a process that ultimately culminates in...yes, Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, endorsements from war criminals like Henry Kissinger, and indefinite Iraq occupation. So we need to start over again. So let's review some facts and get back to the basics on Iraq: While we watch Obama's so-called "transition," remember this:

1. The war was justified to the American people, and to Congress, on the basis of WMDs being manufactured in Iraq. This was a lie.

2. The war was enthymematically justified by exploiting the misunderstanding that Americans had about Islam: many Americans believed that Iraq was behind the 9-11 attacks, and no Bush administration official did anything to correct that misperception. Instead, they exploited it by saying things like "we need to invade Iraq to prevent another 9-11."

3. The Bush administration literally destroyed the careers of people who questioned their policies.

4. The Iraqis are not, by any reasonable measure, "better off" than they were under Saddam Hussein, which doesn't make Saddam a nice guy, may he rot in hell, but it just proves that sometimes there are no heroes, and it undercuts even the post-hoc justifications used by the Administration to justify the invasion long after the initial reasons were exposed as falsehoods.

And most importantly: Barack Obama has questioned none of this, and there is no sign that he intends to.

I submit to you that a PROGRESSIVE position on war and military occupation is this: War is a sign of both political cynicism and a profound failure of creativity and ethics in policymaking. We will never know what its alternatives were because we accepted, from the beginning, the paradigms that dragged us into war. Progressive politicians need to invite open, deliberative exploration of those alternatives. In order to do this, we need to break away from corporate dependency, because corporations will ALWAYS profit from war.

Whatever his other virtues, and we certainly hope we see them, Barack Obama has not broken from corporate dependency, and therefore, he is unable to break away from militarism, and ergo, he is unable to break away from, or even condemn, the cycle of lies and propaganda that were used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Score so far: War 1, American People zero. The ball may be in Obama's court, but there is another ball, another court, another set of players, and that is us.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stephen Zunes on Shared Sacrifice

Our guest this week is Professor Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco and a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus. Professor Zunes was an especially prescient doubter of the Bush administration's claims of WMD in Iraq, doubting those claims as early as 2003, when nearly everyone else on the right and left believed such claims. He is the principal editor of Nonviolent Social Movements (Blackwell Publishers, 1999) and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003) and the forthcoming Western Sahara: Nationalism and Conflict in Northwest Africa (Syracuse University Press.) With Rachel M. MacNair, he edited Consistently Opposing Killing: From Abortion to Assisted Suicide, the Death Penalty, and War (Praeger, 2008). Most recently, he authored the Alternet article "Is Obama Screwing His Base with Rahm Emanuel Selection?" Professor Zunes joins us to discuss the challenges and opportunities for progressives during an Obama presidency. Our call-in number is (347) 327-9615.

Listen live or archived!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Throwing the Bedfellows Out of the Bed...

...without even a promise to call them in a couple of days...

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, two heterosexist groups who had joined forces to pass Proposition 8 are now on the splits.

...Other conservative groups that loudly backed Prop. 8 are being targeted as too extreme and off-putting by"We represent the people who got things done, who got Prop. 8 passed," said Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign. "An important part of defending Prop. 8 is eliminating arguments not helpful to our concerns." Pugno, for example, persuaded the Supreme Court last week to bar the Campaign for California Families from intervening in the court case over the validity of Prop. 8 and the same-sex marriage ban. "That organization represents the extreme fringe and is not representative of the coalition that got it passed," Pugno said. ... the Campaign for Children and Families, is run by Randy Thomasson, who for years has been one of California's most visible opponents of gay rights and what he bills as "the homosexual agenda." ... In 2005 and again in January, Thomasson and his allies proposed initiatives that not only would bar same-sex marriage but that also "voids or makes unenforceable" rights conferred by California law on couples, gay or heterosexual, registered as domestic partners, including community property, child custody, hospital visitation and insurance benefits. "It was like the nuclear option to obliterate the entire domestic partners law," Pugno said. "We were constantly hassled by that organization, who thought we weren't aggressive enough." ... A Field Poll released in May showed that nearly a third of California voters opposed same-sex marriage, but still believed gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to have civil unions granting them the rights of married couples. Surveys done earlier this year by GOP pollsters also showed that any measure attacking domestic partnership rights had little or no chance of passing in California. ... the disputes between the groups have grown in the past few days, with Thomasson launching an all-out attack against the Supreme Court for accepting the challenge to Prop. 8, a court decision Pugno and others from had welcomed. ... Pugno and others from the Prop. 8 campaign want to avoid such fiery challenges and threats to the court and keep matters on a quiet legal level until the court rules on same-sex marriage sometime after March.

...or perhaps they just needed better lubrication.

What is beauty?

What is normal?

What is obscene?

What is love?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lawless Law

In Myanmar this week, the military government sentenced a comedian to 45 years in prison for giving aid and speaking his mind.

But my editorial today doesn’t concern Myanmar. We have come to expect the opposite of justice—the embrace of absurd, almost satirical brutality there. But here? In the United States?

Welcome to the era of postmodern criminality, where the state can take advantage of unstable terms when it suits them, and ambiguity always serves the interests of power rather than justice.

Let me explain: In Saint Johns, Arizona, an eight year-old boy stands accused in the shooting deaths of his father and another adult male. Because he’s an eight year-old boy, he was interrogated by police without a parental unit, or a lawyer, present at the interrogation. The police argued with him, confused him, and eventually convinced him to confess to the acts. Now, the eight year old boy is being charged with the murders, but the Arizona prosecutors are attempting to have him tried as an adult.

Now wait—you’re thinking “they can’t have it both ways. They took liberties with him in the interrogation process because he’s eight years old, but now they want to try him as an adult.”

And you’re also probably thinking—if you have a conscience and a brain, you’re thinking—on what planet, in what world, in what moral and political and legal universe, are we talking about trying an eight year old as an adult?

Like I said, welcome to the era of postmodern criminality. Picture a funhouse mirror. In front of the mirror stands an eight year old boy. In the mirror image, a burly, threatening adult. But we have always been taught that the images in the law’s mirror are accurate. Apparently not.

An eight year old is an adult if the state declares them to be an adult. Moreover, an eight year old can be declared, by the state, to be an adult only in the instance of their criminality. Their criminality will be abstracted from the rest of their being. The eight year old, of course, won’t be able to drink alcohol as an adult. Why? Because an eight year old’s brain is still developing! And, because an eight year old cannot form the requisite judgment to drink alcohol.

The eight year old can’t vote in an election. Why? Because an eight year old cannot form the requisite judgment to decide between candidates. The eight year old cannot drive a car. The eight year old cannot get married. The eight year old cannot enter into a legal contract.

Welcome to the world of the state cutting and pasting our identities onto their matrix. That might be acceptable, if we could trust that the state had the same interests as we did. But in a society where inequality and lack of access to basic necessities is considered the price of freedom, it is of utmost importance that the Law –capital L Law—be able to step outside of itself, violate its own consistencies, create its own states of exception. Hence, we’re now talking about something which would be fodder for satire if it weren’t true: declaring, for the singular, abstracted purpose of a criminal trial, that an eight year old boy is all grown up.

I will pause while you contemplate the terrifying absurdity of this situation. I will help you contemplate it by painting a clearer picture. The eight year old boy is led into the courtroom in shackles and a jail jump suit that is too big for him. He is disoriented. He is scared. He looks for his mother, who is on the other end of the court room. She waves to him, blowing him kisses. She is dying inside, but struggles to appear brave and upbeat for him. Like everyone else, she doesn’t know what happened, and doesn’t know why he’s there. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judge talk in language the boy doesn’t understand. The mother’s heart is breaking, but not in the same, forgive the term, “standard” way that a mother’s heart breaks to see her offspring on trial for murder. Augment that heartbreak with a profound alienation, created by this very absurdity.

How did we get here? Contrary to popular conception, the United States, and most other countries, have never hesitated to turn children into adults for the purpose of locking them up or executing them. But while there are legitimate ethical and legal disagreements where trying a 17 or 16 year old is concerned, this case, this case of an eight year old, is the extremity that proves the absurdity. How we got here is by giving “law and order” politicians license to create lawless law. What is lawless law, you ask?

Lawless law is created and enabled by fear of criminality and deviance. Lawless law gives prosecutors and cops a green light to trample over people’s rights and interests, under the assumption that only bad people will get hurt, and we all know that can’t be us. Lawless law is what philosopher Giorgio Agamben describes as the “state of exception,” whereby the representatives and guardians of the law can step outside the boundaries of the law in order to purportedly keep us safe. Lawless law is intended to create fear: fear of the law. Fear of the law is like fear of God. Religions which teach you to fear God are intended to reduce you to your weakest denominators. Above all, lawless law is inconsistent, precisely because that is what we fear the most: If authority doesn’t have to be consistent, then that’s all the more reason for us to fear it, serve it, be subservient to it, kneel before it, hope we aren’t arbitrarily and capriciously punished by it, grateful that it passes over us, fearful that it will find us doing something we didn’t know was wrong.

All of which is not to say that an eight year old boy shooting two adults to death is somehow okay. But there is simply no world where such an action can be considered on the same legal plane as an adult’s responsible or intentional act of criminality. No world, at least, except the state of exception, where the state needn’t be consistent, where the state can interrogate a child and then declare the child an adult, deny the child the choicemaking rights of an adult and then declare the child to be a choicemaking adult.

Lawless law is based on fear. Fear trumps consistency. But consistency, ladies and gentlemen, is the cornerstone of democracy. And so if Arizona puts this child on trial as an adult, that inconsistency is as great a threat to democracy as George W. Bush lying about WMD, as voter suppression in an election, as public officials refusing to honor subpoenas, as corporations colonizing the deliberative process.

This week, the judge in St. Johns Arizona gave the prosecution two weeks to complete their request to try this child as an adult. I pray with every fiber of my being that they see the error of their ways and decline to do so. But if they do decide to try him as an adult, you haven’t heard the last of it on this show. We will fight lawless law. We will resist the drive of the state to practice its fragmented inconsistencies, its postmodern criminality, its exploitation of ambiguity, and its willingness to reduce itself to terrifying, fun-house mirror absurdity and exploitation of the politics of fear.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Randomness

A strange thing happened at the new Broadway revival of "Annie." The actor playing Daddy Warbucks inexplicably changed the lyrics mid-production, belting out: "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I HATE YOU, tomorrow" and subsequently guffawing in a resounding "HOHO" before the stunned audience.

The preceding account is false. Me and a childhood friend find it hilarious, for reasons too complicated to explain.

Will Peter Garrett ever play Warbucks down under? Wouldn't that be brilliant?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

they're missing something of that marxist rigor...

So thanks to the BBC, we find that the photo the DPRK has been using as proof of Kim Jung Il's health was clumsily photoshopped:

Maybe they should have kidnapped a South Korean photography expert or something...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

the best progressive internet radio show

Shared Sacrifice truly kicks progressive radio booty. Just look at our lineup for the next three weeks:

November 15: Dr. Judith Broder of The Soldiers Project discusses the psychological effects of combat and the free services provided by her organization to veterans and those who live with them.

November 22: Chris Rothfuss, Wyoming's 2008 Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate, discusses the past election cycle and the future of Democratic and progressive politics.

November 29: Professor Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco and a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, also the author of the recent Alternet article "Is Obama Screwing His Base with Rahm Emanuel Selection?" discusses the challenges and opportunities for progressives during an Obama presidency.

Truly a unique and stimulating lineup, eh?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama and Abortion Politics

I can't help agreeing with Damon Linker's suggestion that President Obama needs to paint an inclusive picture of the abortion debate: one that acknowledges the importance of choice in the present, but also recognizes the morally troubling nature of abortion and the desire of all sides (well, all reasonable sides) to build a society where abortion is not necessary:
...Obama could follow the lead of Bill Clinton in combining a stalwart defense of the right to choose with an acknowledgement that the decision to have an abortion is a choice that troubles the consciences of many millions of Americans--including many millions who steadfastly support abortion rights. Clinton's "safe, legal, and rare" served him well in this regard, but surely an orator as gifted as Obama could forge an even finer phrase or passage of prose to capture the often tragic moral complexities surrounding this most divisive of issues.

In taking such a conciliatory approach, Obama would not only contribute in an important way to fulfilling his stated desire to heal the cultural fissures that have fractured our nation since the mid-sixties. He would also help to ensure that the victory of November 2008 proves to be the start of a new era of liberal leadership, instead of merely the latest Democratic parenthesis in an age of Republican domination.
Well said, Damon!

Matt's Four Planks

We have a tiny bit of political space. It's time to begin work in earnest on projects that will open up more political space. I explain each of these below in "On Conditional Happiness in Politics," but here they are. Let's talk about them.

1. Build a coalition of progressive, socialist, left-libertarian, labor and green parties in an effort to form the largest new political party in a hundred years.

2. Demand universal health care.

3. Demand an Economic Bill of Rights.

4. Restore equality to the airwaves.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

More live election blogging: Proposition 8 leads in California

In slightly less edifying news...

California marriage amendment leads early
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Six months after the California Supreme Court sanctioned same-sex marriage in the state, voters Tuesday were repealing the landmark decision with 12 percent of precincts reporting.

live blog: Obama victory as seen in Laramie

Obama is giving his victory speech. There are several smiling faces here at the Wyoming Union; several faces with tears and many staring at the TV screens with a sense of wonderment.

Even my skeptical and cynical friend (and frequent political consultant) Pinto T. Ellsworth muttered "he's an amazing speaker" a few moments ago. I gave a brief invited speech which will be played on this weekend's show. All in all it's a thoughtfully happy night here for Democrats, an unhappy one for Republicans, and an interesting but uncertain one for progressive independents and those left of the Democratic Party.

quote of the election cycle

From WSWS writer Patrick Martin:

"A principal concern of Obama and his key strategists is that a large-scale Democratic victory will arouse popular expectations that they have no intention of meeting."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bradley effect? Meet the Che effect

Maybe the reason calling Obama a socialist, a communist, and a Marxist is failing as a political strategy is that people are no longer afraid, or unwarrantedly skeptical, about those terms. (Or maybe because enough people know he isn't those things, but go with me on this for a moment...)

Perhaps people have concluded that the vision of "free markets" touted by the right doesn't fulfill its promises, and rests on a moral foundation that has been worn away by its own hypocrisy. Perhaps people have concluded that there's really no such thing as the free market. Perhaps they have, at least, concluded that regulations are inevitable and acceptable and that it's ridiculous to try to scare us with visions of market intervention when we have just committed the largest act of intervention into the market since the Bolshivek Revolution.

Perhaps some people have even concluded that most people would be better off even under an antiquated socialist system than they are now, and they no longer buy the line that such a system would be inevitably despotic and totalitarian. Having seen the last eight years in America, can we really disagree?

Monday, October 27, 2008

the best they can do

Dick Morris, always a slime-bucket, has lately been living off of his unique role as the guy who keeps saying McCain can pull this off (not that I'm denying that possibility). Morris's latest blueprint includes the importance of getting the free market message out:
Under conservative, pro-capitalist Republican management, we can, presumably, trust these institutions to exercise their power benignly and to turn control over to the private sector as soon as possible. We can count on their taking a hands-off policy toward the investment of the banks and financial firms in which they acquire an equity position. Except to control abuses like subprime mortgages and making marginal loans, we can expect that these federal institutions will act in our interest.
I wanted to say something really profound about the dementia and pathological denial that characterizes contemporary conservatism. But this quote left me speechless. Nobody believes this anymore. Even Morris's tone carries a sense of "none of this is true, I realize, but we have to say it." Similarly, and less forgivable, is the following:
But if Obama's appointments take over the Treasury and the Fed, can we be as sure? McCain needs to point out that it was political meddling by liberals that led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to encourage subprime mortgage loans in the first place. Were it not for the pressure in the Clinton Administration to expand home ownership to poor people and minorities, Freddie and Fannie would not have relaxed their down payment policies and would not have been willing to guarantee mortgages without proof that the borrowers had sufficient income to repay the debts.
More reassertions of flat-out lies, as we've discussed before. I reiterate that it's really important to answer these lies whenever possible, and there is ample data with which to do so. The real repugnant thing is that they keep repeating these lies, after the lies are repeatedly refuted, because of their desperate need not only to explain away the failure of the market, but to do so in a way that negatively implicates poor people. This is the ideological corner the ruling class has painted itself into. And with all their money and power, the best they can offer is half-assed apologetics from second-rate intellects like Dick Morris. Or as Barry Grey recently wrote, "In the figure of George W. Bush, the semi-literate scion of a wealthy and politically well-connected family, one sees the political personification of the criminality that has come to characterize so much of the corporate-financial elite. But it is impossible to find figures of much greater intellectual or moral stature in any section of the American political establishment."

"Yeah, I'm really, really dumb and I make so much money! HAHAHAHA!"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Service

Two things about revelations that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is behind 80% of the funding for the "Yes on 8" campaign in California:

1. Anyone, no matter how otherwise intelligent, kind, or politically-inclined, who votes to deny two consenting adults the right to enter into a legal covenant of marriage, has something seriously wrong with their conscience, their worldview, and their moral universe.

2. I say this with all due respect to my multitude of Mormon friends and family--and the love you all know I have in my heart for all of you: Your church is not only wrong on this issue, but underhanded, unethical, and unAmerican. I couldn't stay in such a church.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

On Conditional Happiness in Politics

I learned a lot last week from a brief conversation I had with a Republican colleague. I teasingly asked him why the McCain campaign wasn't going so well. He quickly shot back, saying I obviously hadn't seen the "Republicans for Obama" sticker on his car. He talked excitedly of Obama's new statesmanship, his worldwide appeal, the soft power he would raise, and the civic benefits of having a truly intelligent, nuanced, and mentally healthy President after eight years of George W. Bush. He said it was time to catch up to the rest of the world on providing health care, which is just good business sense. More than anything, I noticed how excited he was. I’d never seen him so excited about a political candidate, and the guy is a political junkie.

A relative calls and says he’s voting for Obama, first time he’s ever voted for a Democrat. Conservative figureheads from all walks of life, people who long ago abandoned the stupidity of the Bush administration and who fear Theoconservative Christian fascism, are voting for Obama.

Consider the following events, just in the past week: The humiliation of Alan Greenspan. The daily revelations concerning the shallowness and stupidity of Sarah Palin. The fiscal cynicism of the so-called Joe the Plumber. The time-machine characterizations this last week of Obama as a socialist and a communist. A communist! A fake story about a physical attack on a McCain campaign worker by an Obama supporter. (This one is off of the map, folks. Read about it at Talking Points Memo.)

I also visited a Democratic Party rally last night—mainly because I was hoping to track down the members of the Wyoming contingent there and also because it was a short walk from my house, over to the Lincoln Center on Cedar and Grand. The fever has even spread to conservative Wyoming. I didn’t get to meet up with Rothfuss, Trauner or Carter, but I did snap some pictures of hope. Look at them below and you’ll see what I mean.

Jerome Grossman at Daily Kos has this reasonable speculation:
Look for a shift in the McCain strategy, away from issues of public policy, away from attacks on Obama's associations, away from Obama's inexperience. The McCain focus in the last two weeks of the campaign will be his life story, his ancestors, his military service, his five year imprisonment in Hanoi, his bi-partisan initiatives in Congress, his embodiment of the American Hero and American values, making him the person who "deserves to be President."

Newsweek reports that Obama "now leads McCain in every age group, even among voters 65 and older, who choose him over McCain 48 percent to 42 percent. He leads handily among men, 52 percent to 42 percent, and among women, 54 percent to 39 percent. He now leads McCain by 46 percent to 44 percent among working class whites, a dramatic reversal from April, when McCain led him in that group 53 percent to 35 percent."

In a nation hungry for something to believe in, Barack Obama truly does represent manna from heaven. Call this sociological description, or a provocative revolutionary statement, but Marx and Engels did infer, in the Communist Manifesto, that capitalism basically renders us cynical. If I might extend that metaphor, and perhaps make it a little less provocative: The contemporary age has rendered us unable to believe in things like pure heroism, purely good motives, and simple good versus evil. But the contemporary age has not stripped us of the desire to believe such things. So we are a people with the desire to believe, but nothing to believe in. The world doesn't match our ideals. This is the source of things like negativity and scapegoating. We look for enemies to beat out the demons of our own unfulfilled ideals.

Obama also represents a profound threat, however. His Presidency threatens white supremacy. That's right, you heard it here first, folks (joke). Everyone knows his Presidency threatens white supremacy. Why is this important? Why does it make the next ten days both exciting and terrifying? Because white supremacy is still a powerful ideology, supported by a few remaining centers of institutional and ideological power. It's something the ruling class has, up to this point, been able to occasionally pick up and use when it's needed to, to keep people divided and to distract us. When Barack Obama takes office, white supremacy won't go away, but it will have to contort itself considerably, and in doing so, it may prove itself unable to really serve anything other than an oppositional purpose.

Some, but not all, facets of what I consider to be progressive politics, will be given a chance by Americans because they've been thoroughly disillusioned by the contemporary manifestation of conservatism. Unfortunately, this will all occur within the context of corporatized politics with few alternatives and options. Should Obama find it expedient to lurch rightward, we will not be able to stop him. Obama has my Republican friend. After a point, he doesn't need my left Democrat friends, and won't until there is a possibility they will go somewhere else. Whether such a possibility, at least, results in a less-cynical presidency, or at best, results in emergence of a genuine party of working people and conscious Americans, I remain committed to that possibility, and will vote that way on November 4. I plan on endorsing a candidate in the coming week and that candidate will not be Barack Obama.

But regardless of how I’m going to vote, progressives should be happy that things are going the way they are. But that happiness must remain critical and conditional. Three reasons, then, why progressives should be conditionally happy:

First, conservatism as a majority political movement – that is, conservatism with its neocon-theocon alliance, greasing the wheels of deregulation and tax cuts, while uncritically invading countries, that kind of conservatism – is as dead in the water as you could possibly imagine right now. Nobody’s defending it. Nobody should. The only genuine conservatism is the conservatism of the farmer and rancher, and that’s a nonconfrontational conservatism that can be accommodated. In fact, we should accommodate it. It’s good for the earth.

Second, it looks like we’ve bought ourselves some time. If Obama wins, Roe v Wade may enjoy another term of protection. There won’t be as many cuts in social programs. We’ll be able to negotiate a few treaties that just might make the world safer. It’s not a global anti-imperialist movement, but it’s a season of time which will suck less than the last eight years…maybe even less than the last eight years before that.

Third, as I’ve already mentioned, racists in America are really upset right now. They’re in a panic. They deserve it. And because they’re upset, some of them will come out of the woodwork…or out from under their rocks, and will thus be confrontable, questionable, answerable.

And to answer the three happy things, here are four things, additionally, that progressives should immediately do after the election:

1. Begin work in earnest on a coalition of progressive, socialist, left-libertarian, labor and green parties in an effort to form the largest new political party in a hundred years.

Because we can build a so-called "Third Party" that is more dynamic and influential than the first and second parties. There are millions of activists around this country, each of whom could do the political work of a thousand complacent Republicans or nervous Democrats. If all these left groups and coalitions and subgroups and working groups and committees came together, we would be unstoppable. We would win five Senate seats and thirty House seats. We would change the entire direction of American, and global, politics.

2. Demand universal health care.

Because it's the right thing to do no matter who you are--unless you're a rich bastard who enjoys seeing poor people get sick. Universal health care, even single payer health care, makes more sense, at its worst, than these hairbrained, self-serving private insurance schemes. It equals economic growth. It equals increased productivity, creativity, and solidarity. It equals fewer people dying in emergency rooms or getting dumped out on city streets. It equals fewer bankrupcies. It equals fewer epidemics. It equals less teen pregnancy. It equals more consumer spending. It equals more people owning and keeping their houses. It equals better grades in school for poor kids. I don't know how to stop this list, so I'll just stop. It just makes sense. And it's just. It's right.

3. Demand an Economic Bill of Rights

Because when ordinary working people, whether upper-middle class, lower class, poor or unemployed, suffer for other people’s mistakes and missteps, that’s tyranny. What we need is something similar to the Second Bill of Rights proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944. A job with a living wage. Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies. Homeownership. Medical care. Education. And even recreation. FDR believed these things would make us a more secure nation. William Sinkford, the President of my Church, the Unitarian Universalists, believes that economic security is a prerequisite to the search for truth that everyone is entitled to. It’s time to put human needs above profits, and in doing so, end the age of crisis economics.

4. Fight to Restore Equality to the Airwaves

Because the airwaves belong to the people. As Val Limberg writes:
The FCC took the view, in 1949, that station licensees were "public trustees," and as such had an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance. The Commission later held that stations were also obligated to actively seek out issues of importance to their community and air programming that addressed those issues. With the deregulation sweep of the Reagan Administration during the 1980s, the Commission dissolved the fairness doctrine.
It's time to bring it back, and I propose that we devote an entire edition of Shared Sacrifice to this topic very soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fact-Checking Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell has an unusually bad column in today's usually bad Washington Times. After careful analysis, we have concluded that the following sentence is the only completely accurate sentence in the whole piece:
"Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

market as hungry god...

"The lenders of last resort have come into save the day," said Scott Richter,portfolio manager with Fifth Third Asset Management. "It's what the marketwanted."

Vancouver Sun, "U.S. stocks rally on bank plan," yesterday.

Fetishism: ...the belief that commodities possess human properties.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Update: Debunking conservatives' housing crisis lies

David Goldstein and Kevin G. Hall of McClatchy Newspapers do a great job debunking the lies that have been propogated in recent weeks by the Ann Coulter-types (including an idiot nicknamed "Ozone" who always calls into our radio show). This article should be spread far and wide. Some excerpts:

a conservative campaign that blames the global financial crisis on a government push to make housing more affordable to lower-class Americans has taken off on talk radio and e-mail. ... Federal housing data reveal that the charges aren't true, and that the private sector, not the government or government-backed companies, was behind the soaring subprime lending at the core of the crisis. ... The "turmoil in financial markets clearly was triggered by a dramatic weakening of underwriting standards for U.S. subprime mortgages, beginning in late 2004 and extending into 2007," the President's Working Group on Financial Markets reported Friday.
Conservative critics claim that the Clinton administration pushed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make home ownership more available to riskier borrowers with little concern for their ability to pay the mortgages. ... Fannie, the Federal National Mortgage Association, and Freddie, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., don't lend money, to minorities or anyone else, however. They purchase loans from the private lenders who actually underwrite the loans. It's a process called securitization, and by passing on the loans, banks have more capital on hand so they can lend even more. ... Fannie and Freddie were subject to tougher standards than many of the unregulated players in the private sector who weakened lending standards, most of whom have gone bankrupt or are now in deep trouble.

... Conservative critics also blame the subprime lending mess on the Community Reinvestment Act, a 31-year-old law aimed at freeing credit for underserved neighborhoods. Congress created the CRA in 1977 to reverse years of redlining and other restrictive banking practices that locked the poor, and especially minorities, out of homeownership and the tax breaks and wealth creation it affords. The CRA requires federally regulated and insured financial institutions to show that they're lending and investing in their communities. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote recently that while the goal of the CRA was admirable, "it led to tremendous pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — who in turn pressured banks and other lenders — to extend mortgages to people who were borrowing over their heads. That's called subprime lending. It lies at the root of our current calamity." Fannie and Freddie, however, didn't pressure lenders to sell them more loans; they struggled to keep pace with their private sector competitors. In fact, their regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, imposed new restrictions in 2006 that led to Fannie and Freddie losing even more market share in the booming subprime market. What's more, only commercial banks and thrifts must follow CRA rules. The investment banks don't, nor did the now-bankrupt non-bank lenders such as New Century Financial Corp. and Ameriquest that underwrote most of the subprime loans. These private non-bank lenders enjoyed a regulatory gap, allowing them to be regulated by 50 different state banking supervisors instead of the federal government. And mortgage brokers, who also weren't subject to federal regulation or the CRA, originated most of the subprime loans.
In a speech last March, Janet Yellen, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, debunked the notion that the push for affordable housing created today's problems. "Most of the loans made by depository institutions examined under the CRA have not been higher-priced loans," she said. "The CRA has increased the volume of responsible lending to low- and moderate-income households."
So spread this article far and wide, and tell the conservative race- and poor-baters to shut their crapholes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Just keeps getting better and better and better and...

From an L.A. Times report on a recent campaign stop:

Before McCain spoke, a Christian pastor offered a prayer that seemed to ask for divine intervention on his behalf. "There are millions of people around this world praying to their God -- whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah -- that [McCain's] opponent wins for a variety of reasons," Pastor Arnold Conrad said. "And, Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they're going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens."

The McCain campaign said it did not condone the prayer.

It's not over, folks...

Not only is it not over. The mainstream media will invent a McCain "surge" in the next two weeks. "Legitimate" talking heads will declare that Obama's past associations are fair game; that his meeting with Iraqi government officials constituted dirty politics; that his economic plans will exacerbate the recession. Less-legitimate pundits will spin race enthymemes designed to scare already nervous whites into reconsidering their choice. McCain will appear fully rehabilitated, lucid and reasonable (by comparison to earlier McCain) on Wednesday's debate, and the mainstream media will declare that a victory for him. People will begin to say that Obama peaked to early, and remind us that he's always had a hard time "closing the deal." Perhaps some of Biden's flaws will be highlighted for good measure.

Then, the purging of voter rolls will begin. Already, millions of minority voters are receiving fliers from mysterious sources telling them that they'll be intimidated by cops if they show up to vote. Many will find that they can't vote at all. In many precincts it won't matter if they show up, because their votes will mysteriously disappear. All this could happen and Obama could still win. But I would be surprised, nonetheless, if many of these things did not happen.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


The following is the editorial I read today on the show.

In 1964, Herbert Marcuse wrote the following in his classic social criticism, One Dimensional Man:

"A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress."

Fast forward to 2008. Still unfreedom, to be sure. But no longer smooth. No longer comfortable. For the materially comfortable are worried right now, and the masses of the materiallty uncomfortable are angry, with eyes towards the privileged.

And transcending the question of material comfort, we are all spiritually uncomfortable. Almost everyone senses the alienation we feel from ourselves, one another, our various conceptions of a creator, our governments, our communities, and the products of our labor and craftsmanship. We are uncomfortable, distraught, and angry. We don't trust each other; don't trust the other side, politically. There is even some truth to the notion that all of this is mere projection, meaning we really don't trust ourselves.

Indeed, what is there to trust, anymore, about ourselves or our leaders? The economic crash is not merely a series of mistakes (although it probably is that). Rather, it's a real phenomenon that exposes an illusion so deep and embedded in our consciousness that it's not likely to be seen as "exposed illusion" for quite some time. This illusion cannot be summed up in just a few words. Part of it is the assertion of the fundamental "correctness" of global neoliberalism. Part of it is the myth of self-reliance, of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" that has always justified blaming the poor for being poor. Part of it is a less definable, more imaginable world inhabited by folksy father figures like Ronald Reagan, and uncomplicated stories of good and evil like the clown prince of crime Saddam Hussein or the Tolkeinesque War on Terror. Part of it, a vital part of it, is the mandate we've been under for the last eight years to feel rather than think, hate and fear rather than study, engage or listen. University of Texas rhetorician Dana Cloud put it best in a 2003 essay that still rings true today:

"There is no separation between grief and policy, emotion and reason here. The only way to adjust appropriately to the shock of U.S. vulnerability is to resolve to act against those that targeted us for terror. Any other adjustment – for example, the desire to study the history of U. S. foreign policy to discover what abuses have generated the terrorists’ desperation – is suspect."

In other words, the illusion, the one that has finally been bursting at the seams these last several months, but which threatens to reassert itself if we are not careful, is: trust capital, trust the president, hate the enemy without thinking about it, become lost in the fantasy, and become lost in emotions.

But somewhere in the transition from 2007 to 2008, things started to fall apart. The stage walls collapsed. The facades began to tear. Only somewhat coincidentally, my colleague Gary Barkley returned from Iraq, struggling, with his new-found breathing room, to put the things he'd figured out into words. Knowing that these were things he could not figure out or express solely on his own, he started this radio show.

More than anything, "Shared Sacrifice" has been an attempt to chronicle the bursting of that flat-earth, distopian illusion of the right. Let’s be honest here: The tragic, unwarranted events of September 11, 2001, were the best thing that could ever happened to conservatism. Those events justified a new (actually very, very old) way of thinking: the closing of the universe of open discourse. The condemnation of all critical and independent thinking. War hawks and economic Manicheans circled their wagons and said to themselves: “Now, finally, now, we can crush dissent, prop up capitalist orthodoxy, and demonstrate that the only alternative to our hierarchical, exploitative power-grab society is a bunch of people who fly planes into buildings and do all other atrocious things too. It’s us or them, folks.” That’s the flat-earth distopianism I’m talking about. It’s what we’ve been against, what we’ve struggled against with every fiber of our being on this show.

The conclusions which best respond to the events of the past eight years are progressive conclusions. Conclusions that say America is special because we are capable of criticism, self-reflection, and change. Conclusions that say people all over the world have more in common than not. Conclusions that say we need not be slaves to the so-called free market, or the barrel of a gun, or a barrel of oil. Conclusions that say we can do better.

Because of this conviction, we’ve interviewed the most dynamic and influential progressive candidates and activists in the nation on this show, from Cynthia McKinney to Gordon Clark to Jeff Key to Brian Moore, and a whole lot of others. Although their perspectives are diverse and their conclusions rich in their own life experiences and knowledge, they have a few things in common, a few main points that form the basis of what progressivism means in the 21st century. Let me try to synthesize those thoughts into a coherent blueprint for the ideology of progressivism, the political message and mission of “Shared Sacrifice:”

First, human beings have rights. Corporations don’t have rights. Governments don't have rights.

Second, your rights, your social and spiritual importance, don’t hinge on your financial worth. We believe in “one person, one vote” not “one dollar, one vote.”

Third, although many of our brothers and sisters in uniform are heroes, those who have deployed them on their last two missions are not heroes. Support for our brothers and sisters in uniform requires a ruthless and constant criticism of the ruling class of this country. Opposing ill-conceived military adventures, and the use of the military as a first resort rather than a last resort, is not a failure to support the troops; it’s a prerequisite to supporting the troops.

Fourth, we must purge from our thoughts, our politics, and our social vision all vestiges of old-world prejudices. We categorically reject racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. We look with disgust on a McCain campaign that silently accepts racism in its futile struggle to beat Barack Obama. We look with suspicion on an Obama economic circle that includes corporate executives. We look forward to the success of progressive third parties who will help shape a future beyond prejudice and hierarchy—a future where my children will grow up and be judged not by the content of their wallets, their sexual preferences, or their skin color, but truly by their character.

Fifth, and finally, we need more heroes from all walks of life who are willing to stand up to unequal power—not merely to rebel against it, but to deny its inevitability.

It’s in that light, that call for new heroes that I want to conclude this anniversary editorial by reading from an Associated Press story. The story concerns Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart, who is refusing to evict renters whose landlords have had their properties foreclosed. These aren’t people who have failed to pay their rent—they’ve paid their rent in full, but due to the economic and housing crisis; their landlords have defaulted and have lost the properties. I’m going to read the story in full:

Chicago's Cook County won't evict in foreclosures
By DON BABWIN – 2 days ago

CHICAGO (AP) — The sheriff here said Wednesday that he's ordering his deputies to stop evicting people from foreclosed properties because many people his office has helped throw out on the street are renters who did nothing wrong.

"We will no longer be a party to something that's so unjust," a visibly angry Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said at a news conference.

"We have to be sure that when we are doing this — and we are destroying some people's lives — we better be darned sure we're talking about the right people," Dart said.

Dart said he believes he's the first sheriff in a major metropolitan area to stop participating in foreclosure evictions, and the publisher of a national foreclosure database said he's probably right.

"I haven't heard of any other sheriff unilaterally deciding to stop foreclosures," said Rick Sharga, senior vice president of the Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, Inc. He said the sheriff in Philadelphia helped push a moratorium on foreclosure sales, but that involved owner-occupied homes and not renters.

Dart said that from now on, banks will have to present his office with a court affidavit that proves the home's occupant is either the owner or has been properly notified of the foreclosure proceedings.

Illinois law requires that renters be notified that their residence is in foreclosure and they will be evicted in 120 days, but Dart indicated that the law has been routinely ignored.

He talked about tenants who dutifully pay their rent, then leave one morning for work only to have authorities evict them and put their belongings on the curb while they are gone.

By the time they get home, "The meager possessions they have are gone," he said. "This is happening too often."

In many cases, he said, tenants aren't even aware that their homes have fallen into foreclosure.

This week, an attorney asked that Dart be held in contempt when his deputies did not evict tenants after determining they were not the owners and did not know about their landlord's financial problems.

A judge denied the attorney's request, Dart's office said, and Dart said that after talking to the Cook County state's attorney's office, he is confident he is on solid legal ground.

"My job as sheriff is to follow court orders, absolutely," he said. "But I'm also in charge of making sure justice is being done here and it is clear that justice is not being done here."

The state's attorney's office said it would not comment on conversations with Dart because his office is a client.

Foreclosures have skyrocketed around the country in recent months and Dart said the number of foreclosure evictions in Cook County could more than double from the 2006 tally of 1,771. This year the county is on pace to see 4,500 such evictions, he said.

Dart warned that because the eviction process on foreclosures can take more than a year, the number is sure to climb even higher.

"From all the numbers we have seen, we know (they) are going to be exploding," he said.

Sharga said there are more than 1 million U.S. homes in foreclosure — with about a third of that number occupied by someone other than the owner.

"That number will continue to get bigger," he said.

Dart said he believes banks are not doing basic research to determine that the people being evicted are, in fact, the homeowners.

He said that in a third of the 400 to 500 foreclosure evictions his deputies had been carrying out every month, the residents are not those whose names are on the eviction papers.

Nor, he said, are banks notifying tenants that the homes they're renting are in foreclosure. He added that when banks do learn the correct names of those living on foreclosed-upon property, their names often are simply added to eviction papers.

"They just go out and get an order the next day and throw these people's names on there," Dart said. "Whether they (tenants) have been notified, God only knows."

Evictions for nonpayment of rent will continue, Dart said, explaining that those cases already have gone to court, his office is confident the people being evicted are who the landlord says they are, and there is no question the tenants are aware of what is going on.

Dart said it's only fair for banks to give occupants of a foreclosed property adequate notice before forcing them out.

"You are talking about a lot of people in rental situations living paycheck to paycheck," he said. "To think they are sitting on a pool of money for an up-front deposit, security deposit, is foolishness."

Now, Gary and Jason, and all you folks out there listening: I submit that Tom Dart is a hero, a new hero for a new age: the age of Shared Sacrifice. He refuses to implement or enforce a law that unjustly hurts poor people. He can’t do any more than he’s doing. A mass movement against evictions or foreclosures of any kind would be appropriate. A moratorium on foreclosures, sure, I’d vote for that. But Tom Dart is doing everything he can to help people rather than hurt them, and that makes him one of us. We need more Tom Darts, just as we need more Jeff Keys and Jacob Lynns and Lydia Kadishes and Chris Rothfusses and Adam Kokeshs.

The conclusions that are most correct, most appropriate, fresh and relevant to our age, are progressive conclusions: We are better together than apart. We must cooperate rather than ruthlessly compete. We must measure the worth of humans intrinsically rather than economically. And we must have true democracy, not fake “vote-with-your-dollar” democracy. These are the principles that we’ve been hearing from our guests for the last six months, and will continue to hear until they no longer need to be said. We will no longer accept “unfreedom” in exchange for material comfort—because we know that’s a false promise. We will no longer hate or fear simply because we are told to.

George Orwell wrote that “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” We hope that “Shared Sacrifice” continues to commit such treason every week.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Answering Financial Crisis Slander

I don't have much time, but this is too important not to post. Right-wing liars from Ann Coulter to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) have been arguing that the left, along with minorities, are to blame for the current financial crisis. I just wanted to put a few resources at your control to fight that back if people bring it up in conversation (you may not be able to convert bigots, but you can at least keep them from multiplying).

Go here for thinkprogress's report on Bachmann's lie, and why it's a lie.

Go here for the Center for American Progress's systemic refutation of the "liberals caused the sub-prime crisis" myth.

That should get you on your way to even more good research on the question (send me the links if you find especially good stuff). If you care about answering racist slander as much as I do, I know posting these citations was not in vain...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the end?

McCain's maneuvering (if you can call it that) on the presidential debates marks a turning point that is palpable. For the first time I am thinking this may be the death knell of the McCain/Palin campaign, not that it wasn't imploding already. Shoot, I'm out $50 bucks, and Obama is imperialism with a smiley face, but I've certainly had my fill of Commander McBragg and Evangeline Crazypants.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fernando C'DeBaca out of context

I'll give Fernando C'DeBaca the benefit of the doubt. He explains that he was quoted out of context by the BBC reporter who quoted him saying Hispanics were superior to African-Americans. His apology is solid, while emphasizing that he was misunderstood:

I sincerely apologize to all the members of the African American community, and of course to the community at large for any misunderstanding my comments may have brought about.

C'DeBaca has had a contentious career as Bernalillo County GOP chair. Even outgoing Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Heather Wilson opposed his re-election to the position. He's gotten in his share of fights. Even if this was a serious gaffe and an insensitive remark, his explanation is believable, and I hope the blogosphere acknowledges it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Political Economy of the Palin Pick

Nobody has done a better job than Rick Wolff just did explaining the relationship between the decline of capitalism, the role of the religious right in squeezing productivity out of workers while keeping them preoccupied with the next life and the apocalypse, the complacency and ultimate futility of the Democrats' search for capitalism with a human face, and the choice of Sarah Palin to give hope to the McCain campaign. He brings it all together lucidly and calmly. This is a masterpiece of the current election cycle.

...the more "liberal" or even "leftist" Democrats -- could never go very far along these lines because the Democratic Party also needed the money and support of capital to pay the huge costs of political campaigns. The Democratic Party fears that alienating capital would assure Republican victories...the Democratic Party has basically offered the mass of US workers nothing real or concrete to significantly change their deteriorating social and personal situations. ...nothing is likely from the Democrats that could alter the basic components of the workers' deepening crises -- their wage and job prospects, the extent of state programs and supports they can obtain, their collapsing families and personal relationships, their dwindling self-confidence and frightening loneliness....Palin, as packaged, is the concretized fantasy of "home town family values" carefully combined with "personal flaws" to be identified with, enthusiastic patriotism, aggressive celebration of capital's agenda, and status as maligned victim of elite and media hostility. By naming her, the Republicans aim yet again and more dramatically to be seen as the best hope American working people have that something, rather than nothing, may possibly be done for them in this time of looming economic catastrophe.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Divide-and-Conquer-style-Racism dept. (UPDATED BELOW)

This certainly makes the ruling classes happy: the Republican Party chair of Bernalillo County, New Mexico, on why Hispanics shouldn't vote for Obama:
"The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors," he said. "African-Americans came here as slaves. Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president."

His name is Fernando C'de Baca. The Republican Party web page is here.

Who, in this day and age, says something so mindlessly insensitive and stupid? As the race continues to be tight, look for more and more blatant examples of this kind of thinking and talk. Look for whites explaining why it's okay to feel uneasy about Obama's blackness, and look for other identity groups to trade solidarity for hierarchy in the service of Republicans. Don't look for Democrats to have unapologetic and coherent strategies to deal with it, either. We saw many of those Democrats' true colors in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.


Friday, September 19, 2008

small reprieve for democracy

Happy to hear this news, that charges have been dropped against Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar of Democracy Now, who along with nearly 40 other journalists, were arrested during demonstrations at the Republican National Convention.

This account of what happened more or less says what you need to know:
Goodman was arrested while asking police to release Kouddous and Salazar who had been violently arrested while reporting on street demonstrations. After being handcuffed and pushed to the ground, Goodman reiterated that she was was a credentialed reporter. Secret Service then ripped the credential from around her neck.

Times Online: Palin linked electoral success to prayer of Kenyan witchhunter

If anyone is voting for the McCain-Palin ticket, please explain your choice in light of this.

If anyone wants to know why I think this is relatively important, rather than an ad hominem, I'll be happy to explain. Just ask.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sarah Palin: The View from Alaska

Justin Racette, a lawyer up in Fairbanks, and a longtime friend, has this to say about the Governor-cum-Veep candidate. Thanks for guest-blogging, Justin!

First, I'll not spend much time on Alaska political culture, but suffice it to say that I think the corruption scandals that have resulted in convictions of several oil industry types, an indictment of Uncle Ted Stevens, and an ongoing investigation of Don Young have barely scratched the surface. The energy and mineral extraction industries have had a stranglehold on the politics here since before Alaska became a state. Ironically, even though Alaska is a national leader in energy production, people here have dealt with crippling energy costs. Our gas prices have been the highest in the country, and along with that food and other necessities have spiked in price and they were already much higher than the national average. It wasn't just a master stroke of propaganda when Hugo Chavez sent foreign aid in the form of heating oil to Alaska villages last winter - people in remote areas really needed the help. By the way, I'd like to correct a huge and somewhat disturbing misconception that liberal types are using to criticize the Palin selection: Alaska is NOT lily white, it's almost 20% Alaskan Native and there are also more black folks than people realize mostly due to several military bases. A much more valid criticism would be to examine how Palin or any other Alaskan politician have mostly ignored the needs of native villages and tried desperately to destroy their lands with mining and drilling.

Anyways, its against this backdrop that Sarah's time as governor must be evaluated, because energy has dominated her policy focus. She's really spearheaded two main initiatives in the realm. One is the "gas pipeline," which she mentioned in her RNC speech. It was a huge issue in Palin's campaign against Murkowski - probably even more so than the ethics issue. People of all walks of life here are clamoring for a pipeline to be built from the North Slope to get natural gas to market, and it has to do only with the boom (of questionable size) that would come about if it were built. The oil pipeline made a lot of people rich and a lot more working folks made money hand over fist and think that the gas pipeline would be a second coming of the halcyon days of the mid 70s. It's hard to overstate the importance of the original oil pipeline in the collective consciousness here. It's been documented elsewhere but it's worth mentioning here: Sarah totally misled the public in her speech about the pipeline. Construction hasn't started and won't for several years, if at all. All she did was promise a bunch of money to a Canadian company if they figure out how to build the pipeline. That's it.

The other energy related initiative she has pushed was a plan to reduce energy costs for Alaskan citizens. The ultimate plan gave all Alaskans $1200 in an "energy rebate" and changed some regulations regarding cost equalization so that rural Alaskans hopefully don't have to pay 2-8 times as much for their electricity as they do in urban areas. The final plan is pure populism, but the original plan was all voodoo economics. She originally proposed giving Alaskans a monthly debit card to spend on energy only, and the plan also included huge subidies to oil and gas companies so that they could "pass the savings on to consumers." The final plan is nothing but a bandaid. The costs of gasoline and heating oil are so high and many poor and working poor Alaskans depend on their PFDs for so many other necessities, and this plan doesn't do anything to address the broader issue of creating an economy that isn't dependent of fossil fuels for energy and economic livelihood.

So overall that is the big problem with Sarah Palin from a policy standpoint when you just evaluate what she's done in her time in office: She's just another Republican oil crony who lacks the vision to take real action to move an economy beyond fossil fuels because the oilmen are the ones who pull the strings. Sound familiar?

I have to say in fairness that Sarah did raise windfall taxes on oil extraction, and so in that sense it is true that she "stood up to the oil companies" or whatever she's trying to claim. On the other hand, she wants to drill f*****g EVERYWHERE, which really tells me where her allegiances are. She's basically saying to the oil companies, give us a little cut of the action and I'll get you access to every possible oil field in the state.

And while we're on the environment issue, she has sued the Bush administration over the EPAs decision to consider polar bears endangered. Yes, that's right, the Bush administration is really too protective of the environment for her tastes. She also denies that humans have any part in global warming. These are all interesting stances for someone who also believes that the earth is 6,000 years old. She seems to have an even greater disdain for science than even W.

The big picture problem with Sarah on the energy/economy issue is that she doesn't even pay lip service to the need to transform the economy to a post-fossil fuel one. Most people on some level recognize that oil won't last forever. That's an extremely important fact in Alaskan life - if we don't figure out what is going to drive this economy once there isn't any more oil, this place will collapse. That sort of shortsightedness is even more problematic when we're talking about the national economy. The GOP heads are all talking her up because she's been an executive of a state that is a linchpin in the energy economy but to me that is what is so scary: She's been in office here for a year and a half and the best evidence I have is that she has no clue what a post fossil-fuel economy would look like, no vision of the future that doesn't include continuing to drill for oil and gas in every conceivable location.

Other things about Sarah that have been documented elsewhere but bear repeating as much as possible so that people know exactly what we're dealing with. She is a ruthless authoritarian who does what she can to purge opposition to her points of view. If you disagree with her she'll take it personally and get rid of you if she can. I refuse to believe that this is a person who will help the country get beyond "bitter partisanship."

When she was mayor of Wasilla she tried to get the librarian to ban some books, and then fired her when she said no. It took a movement of outraged citizens to get the librarian reinstated. I mean, Jesus H Christ, she tried to ban books from the CITY library, not even the school library where most of the culture warriors focus their attention.

I know Obama has said families are off limits but I disagree - she's parading her kids up there on stage as props every chance she gets, and those cynical jackasses even flew the father of Bristol's kid out to the RNC to get on the stage. I mean, really, if you're going to be so brazen as to make your daughter's shotgun groom-to-be a stage prop, you at least deserve to get the obvious smackdown on your idiotic abstinence-only stance on sex ed. How did abstinence-only work out for YOU, Sarah? This should be fair game as far as I'm concerned.

She cut funding by 20% by way of line item veto for Covenant House, which is an outfit here that services troubled teens and is the number one support system for teen mothers in Alaska. Beautiful. If all teen mothers were as privileged as Bristol Palin I guess that move would be justifiable.

She's flat lying about the "Bridge to Nowhere," I can't believe the GOP machine is stupid enough to let her claim she opposed it. I guess McCain didn't really click on all the links when he did his Google searching. She was absolutely in favor of the bridge until it became a punchline in Washington and everyone else started wondering why Alaska got so much more federal money per capita than any other state as it was. There's even photographic evidence of this fact. Even after the bridge got canned by the feds she still took what money they did give her and built a road right up to where the bridge was going to go.

She's also lying about the "pork" issue in general - as mayor of Wasilla she hired a lobbyist that was affiliated with Abramoff to scare up $3,000 per citizen of Wasilla in federal money.

She has demonstrated no actual competence in managing a budget - she inherited a balanced budget when she took office as mayor of Wasilla, raised tax revenue (in part by way of a sales tax), and left office with Wasilla $22,000,000 in debt, mostly in the form of bonds to pay for things like a sports complex instead of truly necessary infrastructure projects. And she was also the first Mayor of Wasilla to hire a city manager, so she apparently didn't even feel comfortable doing the day to day work of running the city.

There's plenty more stuff out there about Sarah for those who want to look for it but I'm tired and I think I've hit the high points. She's probably to the right of Bush, certainly not to the left of him. And that's based on what limited knowledge we have regarding her stances on the pressing national issues of the day. I can't really fathom the idea that she is this close to the White House, it scares the shit out of me. To say that she isn't qualified to be president isn't even really accurate. She's totally unfit, and all the experience in the world won't change that.

The preceding analysis was from Justin Racette, not from me. But even though I'm not from Alaska (my mom is...) I couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks again, Justin!