Tuesday, June 29, 2010


(Terry Allen)

This is from Juarez, an album which has garnered incredible critical praise.

I feel just like a dogwood tree
Yeah somebody come carved a cross outta me
Carried me down to Jerusalem
People they gave me to the carpenter’s son

Yeah they carried my weight up on the old gotham plain
Sky turned black and it started to rain
Police with this a hammer drove his white hands into me
Made him a part of the dogwood tree

Yeah he may be gone far away from here
Sun may shine bright, the sky might be clear.
But the eye that they used to nail him to me
Remains dark in the bog of the dogwood tree

Monday, June 28, 2010

One Year Since Honduran Coup

Keeping Honduras at the Forefront of Our Thinking

From Bill Van Auken, some clarity on Honduras one year out:
In justifying the coup, its backers within the Honduran oligarchy accused Zelaya of launching an extra-constitutional power grab for a third presidential term. This accusation, dutifully repeated by the media in the US, was nonsensical on its face, given that no vote to convene a constituent assembly could be organized before the ballot to choose Zelaya’s successor.
Both Honduras’s ruling “10 families” and the Obama administration in Washington had other reasons to seek Zelaya's overthrow.
The native oligarchy had begun to view Zelaya, himself a wealthy landowner and timber baron, as a traitor because of minimal reforms, such as an increase in the minimum wage, which threatened a slight infringement on fortunes built through its collaboration with the transnational corporations in the super-exploitation of low-wage Honduran labor.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

bad company

This is a worthy flashback to 2007: In "US Economy Leaving Record Numbers in Severe Poverty," Tony Pugh puts some perspective on how little the U.S. allocates toward poverty reduction:
With the exception of Mexico and Russia, the U.S. devotes the smallest portion of its gross domestic product to federal anti-poverty programs, and those programs are among the least effective at reducing poverty, the study found. Again, only Russia and Mexico do worse jobs. One in three Americans will experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in his or her adult life, according to long-term research by Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Friday, June 11, 2010

there's nothing more American than the original Socialist movement

I've been chatting with socialists over the last several days.  Tonight, we'll be podcasting my interview with Dan LaBotz, SPUSA candidate for Senate from Ohio. 

Last week I talked to Billy Wharton, co-chair of SPUSA. 

Both Wharton and LaBotz emphasized left unity and solidarity with workers as the basis of political vision and strategy.  Socialists are joining forces with Greens; many small socialist organizations are suppporting LaBotz's candidacy, and in general, there's hope for convergence rather than fragmentation on the left.  Refreshing.

quote of the week

From David Grossman's editorial on new evidence demonstrating IDF soldiers executed Mavi Marmara Victims. Grossman is expressing his disappointment in Obama's weak response to the incident:

"There are times when ineffectual leaders with good intentions can do even more damage than those like Bush who never had any good intentions to begin with."

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Good, they deserve it

More later maybe, but small justice is better than no justice.

Mormon Church Fined for Prop 8 Spending :: EDGE Boston

Glenn Beck loved that Nazi's book so much before he forgot

The Book Glenn Beck Loved So Much - Norwonk - Open Salon:

I'm talking, of course, about the 1934 classic The Red Network: a 'Who's Who' and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots by Elizabeth Dilling. Glenn Beck was very enthusiastic after reading it, although he can now, a couple of days later, barely remember mentioning it. I know how he feels; I have ADHD, too. But one should not judge a book by its Nazi author.

And I contend Beck truly believes this passage from Dilling's book. I'm not kidding:
The colored people are a sincerely religious race. As long as they stayed in Africa un-Christianized, they remained, as did pagan white men, savages. Their pagan brothers in Africa today are savages, while in a comparatively few years, under the opportunities of the American government and the inspiration of Christianity, the American Negroes have acquired professions, property, banks, homes, and produced a rising class of refined, home loving people. This is far more remarkable than that many Negroes are still backward. The Reds play upon the Negroes' love of their own people and represent them as persecuted in order to inflame them against the very white people who have in reality given the colored race far greater opportunities than their fellow negroes would give them in Africa today. Only recently the U. S. government was protesting slave holding by colored officials in Liberia. The Reds look upon the Negroes as their greatest hope. They want them to do their dirty work in stirring up bloody revolution and to bear its brunt. Then whether the Reds win or lose the Negroes will be the losers, for Sovietization is slavery.
That's just a start...read the article!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Higher Vision

Jewish activist Michael Sussman explains why he is leading flotilla protest: "since we commenced organizing this protest, some have called me and warned me that my political career is over for co-sponsoring this rally and forum and that I am associating with anti-semites, etc. i wanted to address those issues briefly. from an early age, my vision of Judaism was a vision replete with social commitment and activism. the rabbis who influenced me were active in the civil rights movement and deeply involved every day in promoting social justice. my own inspiration comes not merely from my own family, but from these individuals. as a jew, I cannot accept the notion that 'my people' have superior rights to others and 'my state,' Israel, can act in any manner it wishes, contrary to international law."

Monday, June 07, 2010

Columbia Elections Update

News is trickling out concerning the runoff in Columbia between status quo candidate Juan Manuel Santos and Green Party candidate, former Bogota Mayor and unapologetic progressive Antanas Mockus. Mockus is behind in questionable polls (they're all questionable) and some say he has trouble expressing himself, touts "unpopular" policies like taxes, and stumbled on security issues.

Even if he loses (and mainstream media says he probably will), Mockus has already done something very special for Latin American politics:
even if Mockus does not embody all the hopes and aspirations of environmentalists or indigenous peoples, this political maverick has inspired nascent green parties across South America. Even if he does not win the second round and goes down in defeat to Santos, Mockus will have demonstrated that parties like his may have a political future in a region hardly known for its adherence to green principles.
Both the Greens and their opponents, Partido de la U, have approached third-place finisher Gustavo Petro in hopes of forming an alliance with Petro's Polo Democratico party, and he has rejected them both.

The Polo Democratico leader reiterated that his team will not support either Mockus or Santos in Colombia's second round presidential election, which means his party will advise followers to either abstain from voting, or turn in a blank vote.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"Really, Arizona" Update! Rationality Prevails!

The dumbass talk show host/council member in Prescott has been canned.  And the mural will not be "whitened" after all.

To everyone hatin' on Israel right now

First, as Cindy Sheehan saw fit to publicly say the other day, anger at the state of Israel (I would even go further and say the ruling class of Israel) should never transpose itself as bigotry against Jews.  Never. 

Second, I agree that the Israeli ruling class is arrogant and that Israel functions as a colonial settler state. But Iran's ruling class is also arrogant, and Ahmadinejad is a hateful, opportunistic, steaming pile of s**t and both the Israeli and Iranian ruling classes don't care about their people, and even less about other peoples. I'd just appreciate it if you'd acknowledge that the Netanyahus and Ahmadinejads (and the Bushes) grow from the same patch of fungi.

If you want a world where nations and ethnicities and religions are no longer threatening each other, the only way to get there is by forging common interests and solidarity between the workers, parents, children, teachers, clergy, bureaucrats, athletes, artists, scientists, and soldiers inhabiting those nations.  There's no other way.  Taking sides ain't gonna do it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Really Arizona?

A few blogs are starting to pick up on this story. Mural painted for a Prescott, Arizona school results in mountain of racial slurs and campaign of derision by conservative radio guy (who is also on the Prescott City Council). Then, this shocking combination of spin and something far more nefarious than spin.
After facing weeks of racial slurs hurled from passersby, the artists painting the mural have been asked to lighten the children's faces, although the principal insists that it has nothing to do with race. [emphasis added]
If true and accurate, Prescott is at least guilty of profoundly bad decisionmaking and aesthetic taste, but is likely guilty (and completely unaware) of caving in to racism in a racist way. Thus, if true and accurate, this could well be the third-times-a-charm turning point in Arizona's long white night: not the end, but possibly the beginning of the end.

I'll update this story faithfully. I am also trying to find a public domain or otherwise accessible picture of the mural if anyone can help with that.

Mavi Marmara Incident: more questions than answers

The evidence emerging from autopsies conducted in Turkey is making it more difficult to maintain a balanced perspective on this week's Gaza aid boat incident. CNN reports that the autopsy results reveal five of the nine shooting victims on the Mavi Marmara died with bullet wounds to the head. One casualty had bullet wounds to the head and multiple bullets throughout his body. Another appeared to be shot in the head at a range of two to fourteen cm.
The story also gives details concerning the Humanitarian Relief Foundation's side of the story, one which is at least partially and indirectly confirmed by Israel, concerning the treatment of captured Israeli soldiers on the boat.
In remarks to the press, [IHH chair Bulent] Yildirim said his colleagues fought Israeli troops in self-defense aboard the Mavi Marmara. He added that in the early stages of the clashes, his activists captured several Israel commandoes, as well as their weapons, and took them below decks. The Israeli troops were given water, Yildirim said. He insisted none of the activists fired the captured Israeli guns.
Now, Israel legitimately responds with video evidence of an IDF commando being beaten with a chair, and evidence the ship contained small weapons; the former argument is more convincing than the latter; it can be argued that even if the objects in question were fully intended to be weapons, they were weak defensive weapons at best, and if the craft was truly a terrorist transport, wouldn't Israel have found guns on board?

In fact, some of the participating activists made no qualms about the crew and passengers being prepared to defend the ship.
"The defense of the boat was quite well organized," said Espen Goffeng, a 38-year-old activist from Norway who sailed aboard the Mavi Marmara. "There was a plan to keep soldiers off the boat." Goffeng said passengers aboard the lead ship Mavi Marmara at first successfully repelled Israeli troops on boats. Then, he said, soldiers began their helicopters assault on the vessel. "They started off with some kind of paintball bullets with glass in them that left terrible soft tissue wounds. And then rubber bullets. And then live ammunition afterwards. And that's when things started to get really dangerous," Goffeng added.
So, if you're still trying to be objective and fair like I am (and therefore willing to incur the wrath of folks on both sides form whom the issue is always already cut-and-dried), the questions that remain are: 1. What did international law require of the Mavi Marmara? Is there an expectation or requirement that a vessel carrying humanitarian aid through a blockade passively allow itself to be boarded?  2. Why the heavy-handedness of the IDF? There were choices made at every juncture that were unduly aggressive rather than practicing a rationality and willingness to use force tempered by calculated restraint. Why the shots to the head? Conceding the possibility that Turkish Medical Examiner Haluk Ince is deliberately describing his evidence to sound like the IDF executed nine men, why did the IDF make it relatively easy for him to do so? 3. How much does Israel get to defend its actions in the first place if the blockade itself is morally dubious and illegal under international law? This is a question whose answers are likely to rapidly degenerate into each side's remaining in their respective trenches. But sometimes it's possible to learn things from listening carefully to what each side says from within those trenches.

Other news, courtesy of Al Jazeera: Israel is releasing the remaining activists detained from the Mavi Mamara by the IDF. Why? Aren't they terrorists?  Also, a Greek activist said that he saw Israeli troops using laser-guided weapons to shoot people aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Haretz reports that PM Netanyahu is "prepared to consider" easing the naval blockade. The same article reports Israel's assertion that "International law permits defensive operations on the high seas" (a partially accurate and partially question-begging position), and this interesting argument:
...the use of force was reasonable and proportionate. Had the soldiers not been attacked by the Mavi Marmara's passengers, no casualties would have occurred ¬ just as none occurred on the other five ships.
The use of sticks and rocks by the Mavi crew and passengers may have justified their detention and some shooting. I am not convinced it justified the things revealed in the autopsy. The argument that the other ships' passivity demonstrates that the use of force against the Mavi was reasonable and proportionate is fallacious; at best it demonstrates that the other ships were being prudent (I concede that) while the Mavi was acting belligerently. That doesn't establish justification for the actions of the IDF.

Finally, the U.S. ruling class and intelligentsia is clearly irritated by the blockade and this week's events, and is pressuring Israel to make concessions.
Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, suggested that Israel could now be a "strategic liability" for the US. Officials in the Obama administration stressed that they had called for Israel to exercise "restraint" before the raid on the flotilla. The aftermath has complicated the US drive to secure approval from the UN Security Council for new sanctions on Iran.
Those interested in the right-wing Israeli take on this should read Jonathan Spyer's scathing attack on the IHH in the Jerusalem Post:
IHH is openly and unambiguously opposed to the existence of Israel, and is keen to assist Islamist organizations seeking to destroy it. IHH has read the zeitgeist of the early 21st century well. It seeks to combine a superficial commitment to “human rights” and the mantle of victimhood, with support for Islamist militancy against the West. These aspects, and the contradiction between them, have been very much in evidence this week.
I particularly noted Spyer's observation about the relationship between "hardcore" Turkish "militants" and naive Western activists. The latter, Spyer reports, were "afraid and depressed" by the presence of people openly committed to violence against Israel. At the very least, I have to concede that those are some pretty unlikely and unwilling bedfellows, and this entire episode highlights the fact that "peace" is not necessarily a shared goal, particularly when the leaders of militant anti-Israeli groups have the same power-based stake as the Israeli right, and international arms merchants, in perpetuating the conflict.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

18 U.S.C. § 600 : US Code - Section 600: Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity

18 U.S.C. § 600 : US Code - Section 600: Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity:
"Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment,
position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit,
provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of
Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such
benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any
political activity or for the support of or opposition to any
candidate or any political party in connection with any general or
special election to any political office, or in connection with any
primary election or political convention or caucus held to select
candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this
title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

Is this what the Obama administration did to Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanov? Should he be impeached? Should Obama apologists argue that because Bush wasn't tried for war crimes or numerous other instances of breaking the law, Obama should not be targeted? What then, of the ability to deploy the rule of law as a tool to fight imperial executives?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

They say the darndest things...

Tennessee Guerilla Women has this Hillary Rodham Clinton quote:

This is my opinion; I’m not speaking for the Administration. . The rich are
not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment
issues [America currently does] — whether it's individual, corporate or whatever
[kind of] taxation. . Brazil has the highest tax-to-GDP rate in the Western
Hemisphere and guess what — they're growing like crazy. And the rich are getting
richer, but they're pulling people out of poverty. There is a certain formula
there that used to work for us until we abandoned it, to our regret in my